Lately, it’s become apparent that I’m always wishing for things to change. It’s ingrained in my psyche, this constant, consuming need. It’s frustrating and confusing, and I wish it weren’t so.
As far as I can tell, it started early in life, in the evenings on our scraggly carpet, where I’d sit watching television, jealous of those make-believe families living perfect lives. It sounds absurd, but I was mesmerized by the pretentiousness. Their lives were wholesome and better in so many ways, even inspirational at times, and so I wished to have the same.
Though naive and irrational, I wonder if those days of feeling less than have left lasting scars. I wonder if that’s why I’m always longing for a different life, why I’m never happy with the one I have. I often find myself around the house, mulling over all the things we would have, if only things could change. I constantly think of cashing out and moving, maybe leaving the state. All the while, I’m contemplating different roles in faraway places, knowing all the interesting people we’d meet, and the stories we’d tell.
It’s selfish, I know, but it’s not something I consciously weigh. My more rational side knows I should appreciate the things we have, that I should relish the routines and benefits of stability. But I find that almost impossible, so I continue telling myself that things will change.
I certainly wasn’t born into privilege, but life is good now, and we have the things we need. I’ve seen what success looks like, and through the twists and turns, have managed to put together a pretty comfortable life. My girls are happy and healthy. I have wonderful parents close by, and all the friends I’d ever want. It’s nothing pretentious or fancy, but it’s a life most folks would love to have.
So then, what’s there to change?
Recently, I read a book by Charles Duhigg about “The Power of Habit” and why we think the way we do. It got me pondering over this change problem I have, and the first thing that came to mind were those damn television shows. They always had me wishing for more.
Duhigg believes that habits are started when a routine is triggered by a cue. Following through with that routine generates a reward. And, as that process repeats itself, our brains begin to group those components together, forming what’s called a habit loop. Cue. Routine. Reward.
Take our phones for example. Whenever there’s a buzz or notification, we’ll almost always pick it up. It’s because that buzz cues our brain to anticipate a quick distraction from life, and the potential for something interesting. Of course, we all crave that, and can’t help but routinely check, knowing the reward is a chance to reset our minds and make things right. Otherwise, the temptation just burns, distracting and consuming us, until we’re finally able to sneak a peek.
So perhaps what I’m wanting to believe, is that my endless need for change could actually be the result of a habit formed long ago, in front of the television, on that scraggly carpet. Maybe I was just conditioned to think this way, and it’s actually something I can work on, given this deeper understanding of behavior and life. The outcomes could prove tremendous.
The question then becomes whether I truly believe things need to change. Is this an internal voice that’s motivating me to carry on, and shoot for the stars? Or should I take another look at the person I’ve become, admitting that happiness is essentially everything that’s already been achieved?
The implications are huge, but I really don’t believe there’s a right or wrong. What I do believe is that the answer comes only from a life that’s lived, and an awareness that we’re all limited in one way or another. So long as we pursue our journey with the best intentions, it stands to reason that things will work themselves out, that life will continue and change as it should.
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