My friend Neil makes an interesting point about happiness: those “peak” moments in life — the big achievements and big releases that we imagine to be exactly what happiness is made of — will never amount to more than a tiny proportion of a person’s life. They are infrequent and quickly give way to the ordinary again. We invest a lot of energy getting to those exceptional highs, but they are exactly that: exceptions to the normal course of life.
In between these “violin crescendo moments” life unfolds without much fanfare, in its familiar way. But within these ordinary stretches of life lie frequent, intensely gratifying moments that arise out of the most mundane activities: waiting in line, parking your car, watching a TV movie.
Even in the context of a really bad day, there are humble little details that seem to hit some kind of “smile” button in the brain, and for those moments, life is unfettered. It’s great. Life is great just knowing that each day will contain them no matter what else the cat drags in.
Other than Ben Franklin’s two dreadful certainties, nothing in life is guaranteed — except (if you’re paying attention) that there will be a steady stream of these humble little awesome things, regardless of your situation, as long as you live. This is a powerful thought and even throughout the worst days I’ve never been able to forget it for long because the reminders come along so frequently.
Ever since I included him in a quick piece on three extraordinary blogs two years ago, Neil has been a friend of mine. I love his perspective on gratitude — it recognizes that the present moment really is the place to find everything you look for in life (and not just “in theory”), yet doesn’t stray into ego-dismantling, self-mortification or Stuart Smally-like affirmations. It takes playfulness, rather than determination.
I am not his only fan. Neil’s blog, 1000 Awesome Things hit its stride pretty quickly in 2008. He won the Webby Award the following year for Best Blog, leading to his first book The Book of Awesome, which became an international bestseller. Its sequel, The Book of (Even More) Awesome launched Tuesday.
There is something about couch cushion forts and the other side of the pillow that huge numbers of people seem to be able to identify with. I don’t recommend many (any?) products on this blog, but I’m all over this one. In terms of a practical, non-striving approach to cultivating quality of life, it’s hard to do better than to learn to celebrate these very things, just for what they are. Read More