With apologies to Richard Carlson, I just see things a little differently

The older I get the more I value small stuff.  Simple pleasures like a good cup of coffee in the morning, spending some time in reflection and a plan or project that comes together like I envisioned (this almost never happens, so maybe that makes it a big deal).  These little things give me joy far beyond their outward significance.  I also increasingly recognize how these small things, strung together and realized, make for a happier day and a brighter outlook.  I have grown to value my proactive over my reactive skills knowing that if I do enough of the former, I’ll be much better equipped to carry out the latter.

I have begun to realize with age that filling up my bucket is an important thing.  I need down time.  True, the challenge is to make this down time something which benefits me rather than hurts me.  Think: taking a walk versus watching t.v. or calling a friend as opposed to social media surfing.  The people that research things like willpower and personal growth seem to agree that we don’t have an endless supply of gumption (where does that word come from?) and that we need to frequently replenish our stores.   Personally I think they’re late to the party.  I harken back to a scene from MASH where Colonel Potter, criticized for taking naps, steps in to defend his chief critic who’s in over his head.  His sideways preamble: “Now you’ll see why I need so many naps” is one that’s stuck with me.  Just like a good cup of coffee, this small comment has built part of my philosophy.

I have become more and more convinced that we are a mathematics problem.  We are the sum of the things we have experienced.  Part of my quest on a daily basis is to bring together a succession of small, good events or at least small, non-bad things that don’t subtract from me.  The additive effect of regular, measured, dare I say “engineered’ wins, is what I’m about.  It’s why I resolved to quit leaving my bed unmade, gave up being a spaz and decided to ditch the things that bugged the crap out of me.  The physical habits aren’t always easy but often times accomplishing them, leaving good things in your wake, can have the desirable effect of self-satisfaction.  In addition, these little things often have the double-edged benefit of being nicer things to come home to (a made bed) rather than a living space littered with odd jobs and chores.  Because, like most everyone else I know, I have no idea how full or empty my tank will be down the line.

Being proactive, setting things up for my own success or good feelings is an immeasurable byproduct of these small things.  The fact is so much that happens to us in our daily lives is beyond our control.  We have no way to keep someone from cutting us off in traffic.  We cannot ignore a call at work because it may mean we have to deal with an unreasonable, irate or ridiculous person.  We can’t determine the attitudes or opinions of friends, family or co-workers.  We are stuck in reactive mode in all these circumstances and they all drain our bucket and deplete the reserves we have tried so diligently to build up throughout the day.  By the time we step in the door after work the little thing we did before we left like running the dishwasher or folding the basket of clothes, may be the small lift we need to get us out of subtraction mode and encourage us to again start adding to our happiness.

We’re all pursuing happiness in one way or another and I think it’s kind of sad that many people pursue the big things: vacations, retirement, the corner office, the hot chic/dude or the cool stuff and miss the opportunity to enjoy the little things that are literally everywhere along our paths.  I encourage you to take a breath and some time to reflect on your day to see how you can infuse it with small points of light.  We’re all in search of a brighter day and sprinkling it with gratitude or good habits or good things can mean that our small stuff is huge.  And worth sweating (sorry Richard).

I think the journey we’re all on that we call life goes best when we look for the good things along the way.  Often these aren’t very big but they still have the capacity to give us joy and they should be appreciated.  I hope you see a lot of them.

Every week I write about big things and little things.  If you want to read more, head over to my blog by clicking this.  While you’re there you can subscribe or you can do that right here by clicking this.  Subscribing is free and means you’ll receive an email on Saturdays with links to my weekly posts.  Please don’t worry, I never sell or share emails, so you won’t get a bunch of spam.