Nearly 20 years ago my wife bought me a Skagen watch for my birthday. It was all titanium, lightweight, and simple. I loved it. It was the exact one I would have chosen for myself. After moving to Tokyo, I wore it almost everyday as part of my business attire.

Unfortunately, the excitement soon wore off. It went from being a prized possession to part of my wardrobe. My appreciation for it dwindled. It was no longer exciting and new. I completely took it for granted. After leaving Tokyo and the world of suits behind, I stuck it in a box where it stayed for years. Just another neglected, unvalued item.

Until it stopped working. After moving back to California, I found the old watch and decided to have the battery replaced. I took it to a jeweler who opened it and informed me that the battery had leaked into the workings of the watch and essentially turned it into a bracelet.

All of a sudden, this watch which I hadn’t cared about for years, was extremely important to me. I asked if they could clean it or fix it. They tried, but to no avail. The watch was dead.

Now that it was gone, I realized how much I valued it. Why didn’t I take better care of it? Why didn’t I wear it more?

According to ancient stoic philosophers and William Irvine, the author of A Guide to the Good Life: {the ancient art of stoic joy}, we adapt. We get excited about something and eventually we adapt to the new item, new person, new romance, new activity. Once that thing no longer offers the same excitement we are off to find bigger, better things.

Is there anything we can do to stop this?

Negative Visualization

Ancient stoic philosophers practiced the art of negative visualization. That is the practice of visualizing losing something to make you value it more.

Anyone who has lost a loved one, wishes they would have spent more time with that person and told them they loved them more. The idea of negative visualization is to periodically practice visualizing losing things and people. Visualizing losing them helps make you realize how valuable they are to you.

Because we take things and people for granted, we assume they will always be there. We don’t spend enough time with our friends, spouse, or children because we can always make up for it tomorrow. But what if tomorrow never comes? What if you die? What if you lost your children or your spouse or anyone you love? Just thinking about it makes you realize how incredibly valuable they are to you.

It wasn’t until my watch broke that I realized how valuable it was to me. By then it was too late. Negative visualization helps you realize how valuable something is before you lose it.

The easiest way to happiness is to want the things we already have.

William Irvine

This idea brings you happiness now. It makes you more appreciative and helps you live in the moment. Happiness should be focused on today, not tomorrow.

The idea for this article is partly due to the new note system I started when reading books.

Books to Read

A Guide to the Good Life: {the ancient art of stoic joy}