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He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.

– Socrates

“I wonder if they’re happier than I was?”

This question was asked by a lady seated next to me on a flight. Judy – proudly 72 years of age – was referring to the iPhones, iPads, headsets and other devices being fought over by the two little ones in front of us. 

It got me thinking how much things have changed since I was kid… and how massive the change has been since the woman next to me was a child in the early 1950s. Consider this:

  • The average television was 10 inches, black and white, boxed in real wood. If the antenna was working, you’d get both channels. Today the average television is 47 inches. And if a show we want to watch isn’t on, we can stream it.
  • The average family had one car. It had no radio, no airbags, no power steering and no seat belts. Today, we average more than two cars per family. They’re jammed with safety features, navigation, concert-quality sound systems and voice-activated commands.
  • The average home size was 932 square feet. Today we enjoy an average of more than 2,700 square feet.
  • And my personal favorite is that the total number of storage units in the world was zero in 1950. Zero. If they had stuff, it was stored in the basement or given away. Today, there are more than 50,000,000 storage units! That is 50,000,000 units to enclose the stuff that doesn’t fit in our houses, even though they’re three times the size!

All relevant indicators suggest we’re in a far better place. We have more wealth, health and longevity than at any time in the history of civilization. Unemployment is historically low, stocks remain historically high and we enjoy historically unmatched personal freedoms.

And yet.

We have far higher cases of suicide, depression, anxiety and stress. According to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center, more than 50% of us report being pessimistic about the future. Nearly 65% consider themselves generally unhappy.

It makes you really consider Judy’s question. I wonder if we’re happier than she was?

As a speaker, I’ve traveled to some of the most luxurious properties in the world and to some of the most impoverished communities. It amazes how unhappy and miserable people can be while sipping wine at a 5-star hotel, and how utterly joy-filled people can be with absolutely nothing monetarily, but a willingness to share the little they have with one another.

Frequently, those who have the most affluence become accustomed to it and choose to celebrate so little… while those with little choose to rejoice in everything. With far greater reliance on family, dependence on faith, engagement in nature and connection as a community they overflow with contentment, joy and peace.

My friends, I’m not encouraging you to quit your job. Don’t sell all belongings, take off your shoes and return to the woods.

Instead, open wide your eyes to the truth that the greatest joys in life aren’t purchased and aren’t only for you. No, the greatest joys are free, are accepted and shared with those around you. [Click to tweet.]

Want more happiness? Crave greater joy? Desire more from your life? Me too. 

Let’s start by being content with who we are, all we already have and the limitless possibility still present.

This is your day. Live Inspired.

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