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Back in the days (and maybe they still do it today) we use to have a year book in which we get to express our wishes and aspirations for the future.  Although many wrote their real wishes, some were more humorous in their last words. I came to realize however that most of us did not get to be or have what we wished for at our youthful age. And that includes me of course. I remember writing ‘to be satisfied with what I have’ as a last word. Sometimes I wonder how I was able to think at such a young age that being satisfied (and I mean truly satisfied) with what you have is something to be actually wished for, and also something that is not so easy to achieve. 

But is satisfaction with what we have something that we should actively seek and wish for? You might say that if one is satisfied with what they have, they would not have the drive to keep the momentum of change going. Being satisfied with what you have can even be seen as a sign of laziness, of not wanting to do more with your life and not being able to dream big. When you are not satisfied with something, you think and believe that there is a much better life than what you have now and that that there is a much better way of doing things than is currently being done. The lack of peace of mind that comes with not being satisfied with the status quo fuels our drive for change and pushes us to act towards a positive change. In a way, not being satisfied can give us a sense of purpose in life, because if we believe that we already have it all, what would then be our reason for us to live?

However on the other side, a lack of satisfaction with what we have takes away our happiness from us. One thing that I observed we Ethiopians have and which I did not observe with people from other nationalities is our thankfulness with the little that we have. The word ‘temesgen!’ literally meaning ‘thank you God’ is a word that many Ethiopians utter not only when they actually get something of value in life but also when they are faced with an unfortunate situation. And what they imply in the latter situation is that something worse could have happened to them and that they are thankful that the worse did not happen. In spite of the large extent of poverty and misery that we Ethiopians face in our lives, we have a culture of seeing the good in the unfortunate situations that happen to us. Could that maybe be the reason why our rates of suicide and depression is much less than those observed in developed nations such as Japan? It may be true that our sense of satisfaction with the status quo may be one of the reasons for our limited drive to bring a speedy and positive change to our economy. But sometimes I wonder if the stress, sense of confusion and depression that comes with a lack of satisfaction is really worth the positive economic change we expect to get from it. Maybe we need to pause once in a while, look back at all the things that we have achieved so far and at the things we are blessed at, and say to ourselves, ‘temesgen!’, I am satisfied with what I have!


Contributed by Tsion Taye
Contributed by Tsion Taye