Do me a favor, would you? Off the top of your head, write down five things that make you smile. Five things that make you light up at just the thought of them. Seriously, take a minute and think about it. I’ll be right here.
Okay…now I’ll go. The first five things that come to mind that make me wildly happy are…
1. My husband’s incredible sense of humor.
2. My dog wagging her tail excitedly at me.
3. Playing with my nieces.
4. Fresh vegetables. I LOVE fresh vegetables.
5. Dancing like a fool to 90s hip hop.
Now look at your list and observe what you wrote. Are your items simple, complex, expensive, free, accessible, hard to come by? For me, my list reveals a well-known yet under-appreciated fact… life’s simplest pleasures bring the greatest joy. When I laugh hysterically with my husband or witness an incredible sunset or open a perfectly ripe avocado I smile from ear to ear and think, it really is the little things in life that make it great. But…if that is indeed true, if acts so small have the power to bring us so much happiness, then why do we get so caught up in all the big stuff? Houses that are bigger than we need filled with stuff that has cost us more paychecks than we’d like to admit. New cars that we maybe didn’t need. Toys, big and small, that rarely get used. The money that has to be earned to buy, maintain and pay off these things brings with it an unacknowledged stress that only prohibits us from enjoying all the little things.
For the last year I’ve lived on the road honing my enjoyment of life’s simple pleasures. Now that Mark has accepted a dream job offer, I find myself on the brink of moving back in to a house. The weight of filling that house with furnishings I don’t yet own and thinking I need to present it in a way that will make me feel accepted among new friends is daunting. The way in which my home is decorated does not facilitate any of the items on my list. So as I transition back to a traditional lifestyle that I worked so hard to get away from, I’m fiercely steadfast in remembering to build this new life around all the simple things that make life so great.
We work our asses off for the big things. The promotions and vacations and retirement funds and tuitions. Working hard to earn big is a respectable and admirable pursuit. But I’m here to remind you (and me too) that it’s the acts and the gestures so small you don’t even recognize them that make up a satisfying life. Giving your kids the gift of your undivided attention, engaging in a meaningful conversation with your spouse, honoring your body with exercise, being present and admiring the beautiful planet all around you, getting lost in a good book, reconnecting with an old friend, dancing around your house for no reason…these things are accessible to all of us and they hardly cost a thing.
So in your pursuit of all those great big dreams, try not to lose sight of the power that the little things hold. While the big things bring big, exciting emotions, the little things are what offer us sustained enjoyment in our everyday lives. And life is too short to not find joy in the everyday.