In the movie, we repeatedly hear the main character, Tevye, reasoning with himself: “On the one hand … on the other hand.” He can always see it both ways. That’s much the way I feel about satisfaction.
On the surface, of course, satisfaction is all good. It’s what we want to find. It’s where we want to be. But at the same time, our very natural desire to achieve satisfaction can also lead to some very real ills.
The first potential challenge is rooted in our constant desire for more. A ceaseless drive to achieve and control may pay off in lots of rewards and successes, but if those rewards aren’t really the things we most want, or if they cost us too much of ourselves, we can wind up feeling cheated. This tendency can also lead us to a habitual, “grasping” mindset that robs us of the pleasures of the moment and leaves us feeling desperate and unhappy. Plus, even when we get what we thought we wanted, many of us have a hard time actually experiencing the satisfaction we’ve earned.
The second potential challenge lurks in the risk of allowing ourselves to be satisfied too easily – settling for situations, standards and behaviors that don’t reflect our highest choices or most authentic values. We may be “keeping up with the Joneses” and achieving goal after goal, but if we are ignoring other important areas of our lives, letting our health suffer, avoiding intimacy in our relationships or failing to walk our talk in matters of integrity, our superficial satisfaction with “just OK” can wind up costing us a great deal. We may lose our sense of passion and joy, become bored and depressed, or feel that life has somehow lost its meaning.
I believe the key to satisfaction, like most other things, lies in balance.
It comes out of finding the truths that exist somewhere between “the one hand and the other.” To that end, it’s important for us to ask ourselves on a regular basis: Am I pleased with where my life is headed? Am I clear about what I really want, and why? Are my expenditures of energy in sync with my priorities? And perhaps most important: Am I taking time to appreciate and enjoy what I already have?
Summertime is such a great time to look around and see how much bounty and beauty surrounds us. There are so many satisfying experiences to be pulled seemingly out of thin air: from the smell of fresh-cut grass to the taste of cold watermelon, from the feeling of the sun on our skin to the enjoyment of watching our kids have fun. The days are long, and we have more opportunity than at any other time of the year to just appreciate the pleasures of being alive.
While you read this issue of Experience Life, which is dedicated to helping you discover and enjoy more satisfaction of your own, I hope you will also take the opportunity to share in the satisfaction of others. If you can find one small way to make another person’s day, to help him or her more fully appreciate a great moment, or to celebrate even a small achievement, it will increase your own happiness in surprising ways. And that’s a great thing – no matter how you look at it.