Note - the following post was written by Chelsea, our Chief Mindfulness Officer and creator of "ARC: mindfulness for children."
When you take something for granted, you underestimate its importance. If you intentionally devalue the things that are important to you as a way to "let go," not only are you cheating yourself out of enjoying them to the fullest, but you are coping through avoidance.
The question (in reference to Why we take things for granted (and how to stop).:
"I understand how taking things for granted can be a bad thing, but isn’t it healthy sometimes? If we’re laser-focused on everything all the time, wouldn’t it make us take things too seriously and worry even more about losing them? It seems to me that taking things for granted every once in awhile would help us let go of all that and enjoy the present moment."
First, it’s important to understand that taking life too seriously and worrying are directly related: if you’re doing one, then you’re doing the other. To further illustrate what I mean, I’ll use myself as an example:
Once upon a time, I used to play co-ed slow-pitch softball. The team I joined was terrible for the first two seasons - our skills were reminiscent of The Bad News Bears, and we had to find at least two substitutes each game because we couldn't keep a full roster. That was okay, though, because we were just there to have fun.
By the third season, our lineup became consistent and we seemed to finally learn where each member of our team belonged on the field. We came in fourth at the end of the season, which was a pretty big deal considering our last-place finishes in the previous two. We continued to improve, came in first a few times, and were eventually forced to move up to “D” league.
That’s when things started to change.
It seemed like a switch had been flipped and the fun had been sucked right out of the game. We yelled at each other when we made bad plays and quickly moved batters to the end of the lineup if they hit a slump. We challenged calls, scrutinized the batting orders of opposing teams, and got picky about who we let sub on our team.
Despite the outward appearance of focus and concentration, our solemn dispositions weren’t caused by being focused on the present moment and the game at hand - quite the opposite, actually. We didn’t feel like we belonged in a competitive league, so we overcompensated because we were worried that other teams would know we didn’t belong there. We allowed our actions and behavior to be guided by our insecure egos and an undercurrent of anxiety.
This yanked us out of the present moment and sabotaged our enjoyment, but going to the opposite extreme by taking the game - and the time spent with friends - for granted wouldn’t have changed things. The method would have been different, but the end result would have been the same - our attention would be elsewhere and our experience would be dulled.
When you take something for granted, you underestimate its importance. If you intentionally devalue the things that are important to you as a way to "let go," not only are you cheating yourself out of enjoying them to the fullest, but you are coping through avoidance. Nothing lasts forever and no amount of pretending otherwise will make it so. Deluding yourself doesn’t solve the problem - it merely postpones it.
The healthy alternative is to pause, focus your attention on the present moment, and accept things as they are. Let go of expectations and delusions, not appreciation and care. This will keep you from getting caught up in worry and leave you wide open to real, in-the-moment experiences.
You can’t get any more carefree than that!
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