In Grimms’ Fairy Tales, there’s a story entitled “The Fisherman and His Wife.” In the tale, an enchanted fish grants wish after wish to a fisherman and his wife. But ultimately, nothing ever seems to be “enough.”
[For those unfamiliar with the tale, here’s an online version you can read.]
It’s easy to recognize from the outside that they should have learned to be content earlier in the process. But how many times do we do the same thing? We think if we just had that one thing, then we would be happy, we would finally be content. But after obtaining it, we quickly find out we’re still not content, and there’s still another thing we think we need.
Instead of focusing on what we already have, we focus on what we don’t have. As Seneca once observed,
“What difference does it make how much is laid away in a man’s safe or in his barns, how many head of stock he grazes or how much capital he puts out at interest, if he is always after what is another’s and only counts what he has yet to get, never what he already has.” –Seneca, Letter II
And if we find ourselves in this state—where we only focus on what we don’t have—we’ll never be able to be content.
But if we take a moment to reflect on what we do have, we may find there’s more to be thankful for than we initially realized. And gratitude is one great antidote to the temptation to always be hankering for more.