“I am so frustrated with this job. It doesn’t spark my passion. It’s eating my soul,” I told a colleague last week. “I feel the same way,” he admitted. “But we should just be thankful we have a job. The economy is bad. Things could be a lot worse.” I felt myself shrinking in response.
He’s right, I thought. What right do I have to dream of more? So many people are worse off than I am. I should just be happy with what I have. I felt selfish and ashamed. I walked away like a puppy who had just been slapped. I told myself I didn’t deserve my dreams. I put a lid on my fire.
Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something wrong with this logic.
I was sudsing in the shower the other day, absentmindedly singing to myself when out of nowhere, the answer struck me upside the head: the problem is the word just.
Yes, we should be thankful. Oprah said it best. “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” I am thankful I have a job. I’m thankful it gives me cash to spend on my apartment and my cats and cooking delicious food. I’m thankful for the security and the insurance. Dreaming of more doesn’t automatically mean you’re not thankful for what you’ve got. It doesn’t mean you’re selfish. You don’t have to put a lid on your fire. You don’t have to be ashamed of having dreams.
My job allows me to survive and I am truly thankful, but I’m not just thankful. Being told that I should just be thankful made me feel like I was shrinking. This revelation makes me feel like I am expanding: It is possible to be thankful you are surviving AND still dream of thriving!
If you plant a flower in a dim room it can survive. But if there is a window letting in a sliver of sunshine, the flower will grow towards the light out of a natural impulse to thrive. The same is true for humans. The desire to thrive is innate in us. Thriving means something different to everyone, but we all have the impulse. Trying to squelch this will prevent us from ever reaching our deepest fulfillment. Consider this my permission slip to myself and to you: it is not just okay, but necessary, to dream of thriving.
The beautiful irony is that simply allowing myself to want to thrive makes me feel more like I am thriving.