Have you ever found yourself saying “once I’ve achieved x (graduated, gotten the promotion, found my soulmate, etc.), I’ll have the time, money and success to really enjoy life”?
I have. I knew it was a lie, and I listened to the liars anyway.
It’s easy, especially in today’s fast paced culture, to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and believe that savoring life is for ‘later’. No one has taught us to slow down and appreciate the value of the small moments, the moments that actually feed our souls and allow us to make the most of the life we’re creating.
What if you could feed your soul and shift your entire life paradigm with just a moment each day?
The truth? It’s not the weekend (#TGIF), the vacation that you’re planning, or even the retirement you’re anticipating. Living well is an everyday practice woven by the millions of moments that we experience throughout our lifetime – we simply need to shift our focus a teeny bit.
Recognizing the Simple Pleasures
In my years of coaching highly successful achievers I’ve found several common themes, like:
- singular focus to the point of ignoring anything that seems trivial or mundane
- a need to control all aspects of daily life
- deferring living fully into some idealized version of life later on
Does this sound like you? The challenge is the toll that it takes. Mentally, physically and yes, even spiritually.
Put bluntly, you’re forsaking the joys of life today so that someday you can enjoy even better ones. (Have you ever listened to the Harry Chapin song, Cat’s in the Cradle?)
It doesn’t work.
You’ve been sold a LIE! The only way to actually have a meaningful, joy-filled life later is to practice having it now. Did you know that embracing and allowing joy in your life is a practice?
It is. And the earlier you start, the easier it gets. Delights start to seek you out.
A beautiful example of this is Ross Gay’s “Book of Delights” which is an amazing chronicle of his personal assignment to write about a ‘delight’ every day for a year. One of his observations in the book was:
“It didn’t take me long to learn that the discipline or practice of writing these essays occasioned a kind of delight radar. Or maybe it was more like the development of a delight muscle. Something that implies that the more you study delight, the more delight there is to study.”
My favorite line in the book is when he says, “A month or two into this project delights were calling to me: Write about me! Write about me! Because it is rude not to acknowledge your delights, I’d tell them that though they might not become essayettes, they were still important, and I was grateful to them.”
Delights started seeking him out! This was my biggest take-away from the book; what you seek seeks you. So if you are busy being ‘busy’, busyness will be your modus operandi and you will find it everywhere. You’ll keep deferring joy and meaning.
If this is not a powerful reminder of the importance of slowing down and finding meaning and joy in the everyday moments that often go unnoticed, I don’t know what is. Yes, his book delves into the beauty of the small joys in life that we often overlook amidst our busy schedules. It encourages readers to take a moment to appreciate the ordinary wonders around us like: the beauty of a sunrise, the sound of laughter, the feel of a cool breeze on a warm day, and the many other simple pleasures that make life worth living.
I decided to experiment with Ross’ practice of finding delights and – it worked. The busyness in my life decreased and the meaning and joy increased. I, too, now have joyful moments that vie for my attention.
I’ve chosen to invest the time to appreciate the little things, cultivate my sense of gratitude and invite the joy that I know will sustain me through even the toughest of times. This one practice has also increased my ability to be present in my life – without stories, judgment, or the need to fix – just experiencing what is.
Cultivating the Habit
Imagine confidently carrying out your daily tasks with a sense of purpose and fulfillment, joyfully learning from each experience with love and gratitude. Shifting from thinking “ugh, it’s only Tuesday” to “ah, another Tuesday, I wonder what’s in store for today.” When you take the time to appreciate the small moments, you, too, can discover a newfound sense of peace and fulfillment in your daily life.
But how do you learn to appreciate these small moments when life seems so busy and overwhelming?
One way is to establish a daily practice of mindfulness, like consciously choosing to find the delights in your day (one version of a mindfulness practice). Set aside a particular amount of time each day to focus on the present moment and let go of distractions and worries about the past or future. There is no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness, this practice can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths and observing your surroundings, reflecting on and writing the delights you’ve noticed, or taking a few moments to sit in nature and appreciate the way the wind moves the trees, bending them without breaking them, or feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin.
The important distinction here is that we’re not dismissing the difficult times in our lives when we adopt this tool. In fact, in his book, Ross Gay does an excellent job of acknowledging the polarity of the simple delights of life with the hardships of life, like loss and violence.
Ultimately, the small moments during your day are like a magnet, drawing you to one polarity or the other and tempting you to label a moment, or even an entire day, as right or wrong, good or bad. The power of presence is acknowledging the duality, the coexistence of both. By learning to process and accept both sides as a part of life, we can find a sense of peace and joy in every moment.
Making it Practical
So the next time you find yourself rushing through your day, take a moment to pause and appreciate the beauty of the small moments that make life worth living. Embrace it with love and gratitude, knowing that it is a part of the rich tapestry of life, AND that you are practicing a very valuable life skill. You’ll not only discover a newfound sense of fulfillment and joy in even the most mundane activities now, you’ll transform your ability to create and enjoy your future.