Some people are good at telling stories and I love to listen to them. Some stories are about vacation, the incredible places they visited and exciting things that they’ve seen or done. Once, while listening to one of these stories, I heard something weird. It goes like this – the story teller was in Italy, during her vacation with her family. It was summer. I don’t know about you, but when I picture Italy during the summer, I imagine fountains with sparkling water, opera music, amazing art and delicious food, gelato, wine… However, the story teller focused no so much on these good things as on other people who were enjoying their life. Which sounded surprising to me. The question on my mind was – why weren’t you one of these people? Why weren’t you enjoying your vacation, being in Italy, with your family, in the summer?
Then I started thinking about my own experiences and times when I would observe others enjoying themselves and it would strike some kind of envy. I think it has to do with the fear of being accepted by society or other kids early in life. When I was 9, I was sitting home and hearing other kids play outside, and the sound of a basket ball bouncing off the playground made me feel both happy and unhappy. It’s not like I was home for any special reason – I was healthy, I could walk and I obviously could play outside. I chose not to. Instead, I would envy the kids who were outside and their joy would make me unhappy because I was the one at home. It does not have to be this way. Happiness is a choice. In fact, if I would focus on enjoying my life instead of focusing on envying others, I would probably call some of my friends to see if they could also go outside.
Enjoying life requires a different mindset. You need to be willing to choose happiness, even if it means leaving your comfort zone, because participating and being a part of the fun will only make you happier (as well as positive emotions and confidence once you leave your comfort zone). So with regards to the person who went to Italy – she could change the situation by doing something she likes instead of choosing to notice others enjoying themselves and thus envying them (because at this very moment she wouldn’t focus and acknowledge her needs and desires for doing things differently since they didn’t bring her joy). Instead of quietly walking and observing others dancing and sitting in cafes, she should have acknowledged that walking did not bring her as much joy as dancing or sitting in cafes would, and thus have changed her behavior.
Be a part of the picture, instead of observing the picture from the outside. People tend to envy others when others do something they would like to do. Gretchen Rubin, the author of Happiness Project, used to work as a lawyer but she caught herself envying writers, until one day when she quit law and began working on her book. When I was envying kids who were playing outside, it was because I wasn’t being honest with myself and didn’t acknowledge that what I was doing wasn’t what I wanted to do.
So next time you observe and envy someone, step outside of your comfort zone and get in the picture that you’re idealizing. Participate. Join the conversation. Ask for a dance. Enroll in a writing course. Create memories today, now. Knowing what makes you happy and actually doing it is the recipe to enjoying life. Live your life now.