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Value what you have

As the proverb has it: “You only know what you’ve got when it’s gone.” Unfortunately, many people only realize the fortune they had when they lose it. We have become so accustomed to the blessings in our daily life that we take most of it for granted.

There are only a few that take the time to enjoy the beauty of the moment, make time for a moment of gratitude or try to discover the blessing that already exist in their lives. Most don’t even have the time to savor such a regular but totally mind-blowing phenomenon like a sundown.

Instead, everyone’s attention is primarily focused on the things they do not possess, from materialistic things (wealth and expensive tangibles), interpersonal relationships (finding the “right” partner) to various ideals of beauty. Most hope to fill the emptiness within them by the accumulation of materialistic things (that nobody truly needs). And why is that? Because most cannot value what they already have!

They do not realize the true blessings in their live – the regular things that are taken for granted. If a person grows up with a given blessing, it’s difficult to even notice it and most might eventually lose sight of its value as they grow older. From a very young age, advertising convinces us that we aren’t good enough, that we need perfection in every area of our life and thereby implants false perceptions about what the “true purpose” of life really should be all about: Fame, power, wealth, beauty, perfection, and consumption.

We hope for big, bright and fascinating miracles, but we have forgotten a long time ago to take notice of the small wonders that happen day after day. A society that continuously wants more without realizing that less can be the “added value” everyone tries to generate so desperately.

I believe that a lot of people are so preoccupied with the things they do not have that they overlook the beauty that is already in their lives. I don’t blame them. I speak from painful experience when I say that it’s rather easy to take everything you have for granted, as you will only realize what you had when it’s gone for good.

How to appreciate what you have?

Discovering the advantages of your life is not difficult. All it takes is the willingness to look at your life from a different perspective than you are used to. Normally, we try to estimate the value of our live by looking at the upper-echelons of society. We compare what they posses to the (“few”) things we have. Rather than this approach (that is leading nowhere), I recommend making oneself aware of people that have less and their unique capability to make much of less.

The following will assist you in valuing what you have and in discovering the true blessings in your life!

1. Discover the true treasures in your life

Sometimes it seems to me that people are too blinded by the fancy, shiny and glorious objects in the distance so that they cannot take notice of the true treasures that are present in their lives. Most of these treasures might not sparkle like diamonds, they cannot be sold and have no price tag, but more often than not they turn out to be the priceless things that make your life not only worth living, but you also a very wealthy person (in a non-materialistic sense).

To discover the most valuable foundations of your life – and yes, I’m convinced there is a lot of fortune in your life – starting from scratch can be really helpful. In my opinion, the basic requirements of life are:

  1. Shelter
  2. Food and water
  3. Health
  4. Clothing
  5. [Perhaps] belongingness & love and true friendship

If you have all of these basic requirements you’re not only very lucky, but you can already consider yourself a very wealthy person (again, not necessarily in a materialistic sense). These five elements are everything you’ll ever need; everything else is pure luxury!

Walk through life with open eyes and (re-) discover the true value of the things you’ve taken for granted. To most people in the western world, a constant water supply is completely normal, but one might only realize its virtue when considering that (for example) African nomads have to walk for hours to the next source of water.

Learn to appreciate the little things, like the hot meal you have day after day, to see how fortunate you are already. It takes no luxury or wealth to live an amazing life. The true bliss of life lies not so much in materialistic things, but in the wonderful moments you share with your family, beloved ones, and friends. Take notice of these fantastic moments, even if they have become totally ordinary to you and learn to appreciate the value of these moments.

2. Keep a gratitude log

That’s a very simple yet effective practice in order to value what you have! The next time you get up, have a shower or brush your teeth, simply go over the elements in your life you are grateful for. From your family, friends to your job, health, etc – there are no limits. Think about all the things that make you realize how blessed you are. If you face difficulties in the beginning, it could turn out to be helpful to start this exercise by writing down every treasure and everything you value in your life in a gratitude log. The advantage of putting your list down in writing is that you can always add new things to your gratitude log.

I sometimes forget how fortunate I am, thanks to the troubles of life that drag me down into less conscious spheres. But, whenever possible, I try to remind myself of everything that I hold in high regard, like being able to have a shower, for getting a meal each day, for the sun to rise in such an epic way, for having wonderful friends and family members that support me, but also for being able to freely express my thoughts on this blog – and for all the people who are interested in what I have to say!

These are regular things to some, but priceless luxuries to me.

3. Notice the triviality

It saddens me to see people complaining about the most trivial things one can think of! How they have to wait in a queue at the supermarket, how they missed the bus, how disappointed they are about not having a super fancy car and so forth. Let’s face it: In the grand scheme of life, all these things are really not important. It’s minor and trivial. The difficulty lies in realizing how unimportant these things really are.

Perform a “reality check” and question if it is even worth getting angry or complaining about it. Ask yourself if what you are furious about will really matter in 2, 5 or even 10 years. The astonishing thing is that most of it won’t even matter in the course of a month, so why wasting your precious time on complaining about it? It will only worsen your mood.

Why do I elaborate about reality checks when this article is all about valuing what you already have in life? The reason is simple: When you focus too much on the trivial problems that come with life, you might lose sight of the true foundations and fortunes in your life. Which brings me to the next point:

4. Appreciate the common problems in your life

I could also have named this caption “see the value that hides in a problem” or “transform an issue into a value”, but I think the headline I chose for #4 fits best. So what is my agenda when I say that it can be helpful to appreciate the common problems that come with life? It is all about putting your struggles into perspective! The daily problems that you and I encounter in life might be a pain in the neck, but there will be always people who can only dream of such trivial problems. Think about a minor, but annoying problem that you encounter every once in a while. I for instance am a student, so it goes without saying that I’m often confronted with examination stress. It’s not really pleasant but I would consider it a trivial problem in my life. Now from my “ego-perspective” the reoccurring stress at university during the examinations is joyless and exhausting, but when I put this problem into perspective I realize that I’m only facing this issue because I’m lucky enough to be able to study. The second step after putting the problem into perspective lies in realizing that there are millions of people world-wide who would LOVE to have some exam stress every once and again, but they haven’t the chance to go to school or university in the first place.

Short summary: How to appreciate common problems in life?

  • A) Put the problem you deal with into perspective; discover the reason why you can consider yourself lucky to face such an issue
  • B) Realize that many other people would be glad to encounter such a problem in their life (if they could)
  • C) Learn to value such minor problems by understanding how they are just a “by-product” of a very valuable part of your life

5. What would your life be like if …

… you lost everything that you have? Remember the saying that you only know what you had when it’s gone? Maybe there’s an easier way for you to really find out what is precious to you: just spend some moments thinking about what your life would look like, if you lost everything. Could you imagine a life without your family, friends and beloved ones? A life without a house or a car? Thinking about such a situation makes you realize and truly appreciate what you do have, even if these things are not as perfect as you wish.

Closing words:

Be happy for the very foundations in your life. From the air you breathe to the delicious meals you enjoy with your friends and family. Learn to discover the value of every aspect in your life, even if it has become mundane to you. Be thankful for what you have right now and use it as the fundament to built your future on it. Never stop dreaming about your goals and visions, but don’t worry about the things you currently don’t have. Always keep in mind that it is a waste of time to focus on what you don’t have – for it is time that could be spend in taking pleasure in what you have.

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  1. Linda on Nov 12, 2012

    Honestly this article was mind-blowing. I consider myself an expert on the subject of personal development so I can truly relate to what you point out and the effort you’ve put into this. Totally fantastic! I needed the reminder because I forget sometimes to value what I have! Thanks for that.

    This is in my honest opinion one of the most beneficial blogs I’ve come across. Please keep up the good work.

  2. Scorpio Sapien on Nov 12, 2012

    I just wanted to step by and say thanks for this one Steve! I’ll read it a couple of times this week, just to remember to be more grateful!

  3. Terry Thompson on Nov 12, 2012

    Inspiring post sir! I would also like to point out that by living for some time in a place where the people are in general less fortunate can totally shift your perspective. In doing this the hard way, you instantly learn to appreciate your life a lot more! Nonetheless it was a good read.

  4. Cat on Nov 12, 2012

    Steve that was a very thought provoking article. It’s a shame to see so many people being so concerned about problems in their lives that are not even worth mentioning.

  5. Jacky on Nov 12, 2012

    Thx for sharing. I quite forgot to be thankful for some time now.

  6. Pam Sallegue on Dec 6, 2012

    This article help me realize even more how blessed I am, and there are so many things to be thankful for, the fact that I’m still waking up every morning is a blessing, and that I should always value that moment when I am still able to do the things i want to do. I hope people will realize how great life is in this world, and there are countless things we should value NOW.

    • Steve Mueller on Dec 7, 2012

      You got it! Thanks for sharing your valuable insights.

  7. Blogger Whale on Dec 15, 2012

    Great post.The way you elaborated the whole point is commendable.Keep producing such marvelous posts.Cheers.

  8. Comelling Peter on Jan 24, 2013

    Learn to discover the value of every aspect in your life. This is one point I will strive to do. You know sometimes we do not place value to the simple things around us till we get to find out how important they are, may be due to illness. keep IT UP GREAT ARTICLE

  9. vi ki on Apr 23, 2013

    very nicely written…thanks for sharing this.