I‘m flying down the freeway in my rental, the cool crisp Chicago breeze blowing in my window – and man am I in a foul mood. I’m only 5 minutes away but I can’t wait to get home. It’s cold, I’m hungry, I’m flipping through the stations and everything on the radio sucks.
A long day of errands and rainy weather has left me soaking wet and beat, and all I want to do is get out of these clothes and into a hot shower.
I flip through the stations for what feels like the hundredth time when suddenly I hear a familiar guitar riff and my eyes lights up. In an instant, my whole mood changes…
You get a shiver in the dark
It’s raining in the park but meantime
South of the river you stop and you hold everything
A band is blowing Dixie double four time
You feel alright when you hear that music ring
- Dire Straits, Sultans of Swing
Note: if you don’t like Dire Straits, then for the purposes of this article, pretend a song you liked came on the radio ok? Let’s keep my taste in music out of this =)
What Made Me Happy?
Why did this make me so happy? I can watch the on Youtube anytime, and yet for whatever reason I didn’t. However….
The surprise made me happy
Everything felt like it was going so wrong for me – the wet clothes, being hungry, that even something as simple as finally finding a song I liked on the radio brightened up my day.
I think this spreads far beyond just a simple song though. As I pulled into the driveway and sat in the car listening until the end of the song, I realized I had no right to be in a foul mood. We take so much for granted in life, because we have it happen to us every day.
Here I was – healthy, financially secure, spending time with my friends and family – and I was getting upset over being late for dinner and a little rain? I think some days we have it so good, but don’t realize how much we have in our friends, our families, all the little things we take for granted in our lives. We’ve got so much going well for us – and yet we instead get caught up focusing on the one or two negative things, when there are a thousand positive things that we take for granted.
Routine Is Boring – Even If It’s Positive
For me, I think what it comes down to is that if I have the same things every day, or every week – it eventually becomes part of my routine and I stop appreciating it. Even as I type, I can look out my window and see the ocean waves crashing on the beach. The weather is always perfect here in Hawaii, I see my friends and family every day, I have the guitar I’ve always wanted and truly there is nothing more I need to live.
How then can I make it so that I actually *notice* some of these things?
One common strategy I’ve heard about and used is I have been spending a few minutes every evening reflecting and being thankful for what I have. The problem is, while that has made me more mindful throughout the day as well, it’s mostly concentrated towards the times I have set aside to reflect.
So, in some situations where the choice is between two good options, I have begun introducing artificial randomness into my life. The results have been astounding. Mundane actitivies have become exciting for me – I never lose. Shall I eat a banana or a kiwi? Heads for bananas, tails for kiwis. Just knowing that there may be one I don’t get makes me much more appreciative for whichever ones I do get.
Some more examples:
- Walking to the store. When I head out for a walk to clear my head, I do one of two things – I either listen to audiobooks, or I just walk and reflect. Some days if I really want to reflect, I’ll intentionally do that – but my default aciton was the audio book. So now, I have a simple solution. I get ready to go, and then before I leave – I look at the clock. If the minutes are divisible by 3, it’s refleciton time – otherwise, I’ll listen to an audio book.
- Driving music. I no longer purposely pick which album or playlist to listen to – I just pick one at random and see how it goes (I don’t have anything on my ipod that I don’t like anyway)
- Going Out “Idea Jar” – This is something I’ve done on and off in my life. Basically, throw a bunch of ideas in a jar – names of bars, nightclubs, places with live music – and then randomly pick one out of the jar and do it. Sometimes I’ll even pick it out of the jar and not look at it until I’m in the car.
And the best part?
No matter what comes up, I always win.
And I am so much more thankful for even the little things I have now, because each of them is a victory unto themselves.
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