Your ego is this unrealistic jerk that always talks to you as though you exist in multiple universes with no limits to your energy. So if you’re playing guitar you’re comparing yourself to the best guitar player you personally know and you’re telling yourself how you would be better if you practised more, or if you were born with more talent, or if you started playing at a younger age. But you’ll do this with everything not just guitar. According to your ego, apparently you were supposed to be up 24 hours every single day, practising every single thing you’ve ever seen or done.
Your judgments will be about both the frivolous and the important. If you play cards you’ll compare your arithmetic skills to the person who adds their score the fastest. If someone’s kid achieves something, you’ll compare that to whatever your kids have achieved and you’ll rate your ability to parent on that flimsy evidence. You’ll think of how well you’d know your material if you would have paid more attention in school. You think of how good your meal would be if you were just a better cook like your friend. Or you wish you got the promotion a friend got, or could sing like a friend can sing or dress like a friend can dress. Compare compare compare. You’re super aware of all of the resources you do not have.
But what about the ones you do have? I live in Canada. Using Canadian dollars (which are at the time of this writing, roughly equal to the US dollar), you only need to earn about $50,000 dollars per year to be in the top 1% of money earners on Earth. Yes that’s still sixty million people, but it’s still the top One Percent. And 96% of people are born into a life with drastically less earning potential than you. So we can imagine a massive number of those people would trade lives with you in a nanosecond. And they would love your life. Love love love it. So the important question is: why don’t you?
You don’t love your life because you’re blind to all you have. You forget you can see and hear, and many people can’t. You forget you’ve never starved and most of the world has. You forget you can breathe and much of the world can’t. Your police generally rescue you rather than perpetrate crimes on you. You can elect your political leaders and for many people that is a dangerous idea. Your children will likely live and many people’s won’t.
What would these people do if they got your life? Imagine if you were an innocent soul dropped into your life with no knowledge of what the previous you thought of it. You’d have all of your old skills but none of your memories or judgments. So you wouldn’t know who you were or what your attitudes used to be but you would know how to operate in the world. What would you do? Do you really think you’d sit almost completely still, repeating the same old patterns? Do you think you’d sit around half the day pining after an old love? Or re-living an argument with someone from work? Or in any way sit around complaining about your life?
You would be out and excited to see the world. You’d feel safe, your belly would be full, you would have a bit of expendable income and the world would seem filled with amazing things to do. You would love your job and your pay. You would love your food, your art, your clothes, your car, your home, your freedom—everything about your life would seem opulent and grand. You would feel fortunate.
Stop thinking the same unsatisfied person into existence each day. It is a choice and if you’re not enjoying it it’s a silly choice. Choose instead to see your life through new eyes. Look at it honestly and reveal its many good-fortunes. Revel in them. Own them. Experience the joy that goes with feeling grateful and strong and capable.
Your investment in your own life will be what builds the path to your future. So stop wishing for a different past. Instead, be grateful, take up your tools and stop thinking about another life in favour of digging deeply and fully into this one. Trust me, it’s a gold mine.
Thank you for joining me today. Enjoy your day.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.