There’s a general malaise one gets when they’ve forced themselves into the world of lofty goals. For anyone having a “5-Year Plan”, or anything of that variety, the tiny miracles that exist in the passing moments often get missed. As humans, our brains can only devote energy to so many things. When we devote our active energy to our difficult goals, we’re placing our priorities in the future. This is important! Anyone striving to build for themselves something larger than they previously had imagined should place priority on these goals. It just should not be the only priority. How do we go about administering priority to our various goals – short, mid-term, and long?
I like to look at these ideals as a “confidence poll” – very similar to what you would see passed out in the office during football season. It goes like this: There are a dozen match-ups on the slate. For each match-up, you must select the winner and assign a number to each. The team you are most confident in gets the highest number. You don’t need to pay much attention to this game because its some behemoth team versus a puny or under-performing one. You put down the number 12, giving it the highest value towards your total, but it is actually the game you are least stressed about. You move on down the line until you find the match-up against the two teams that are both play-off-bound and you meekly circle one (the home team), and place a one in that blank column to the left. At the end of the weekend, you tally your points and weigh them against the rest of the players in the office pool. You accumulate points and the winner gets a gift card, or whatever small prize your office has selected for the victor.
I look at the breakdown that way. My biggest goals are assigned value based upon not just their importance to me, but the needs I have in attending to them. If my goal is, lets say, to write a blog post every day, I assign that total to be just under performing my job that day. Performing my job has a big total. There’s a lot riding on it. But I also know that the habits I’ve formed over the years create conditions where I do them implicitly. This is not to say that I stress any less about it, or that there won’t be items that pop up during the course of the day or week that require my uninterrupted attention. At those times, my brain is in hyper-drive and I’m working only on that. Personal calls aren’t answered – hell, sometimes even the other aspects of the job have to be momentarily suspended until I get this thing right. But when I’m done with that, I move down the line to my other priorities, in the order in which I’ve placed the most value. This gives me an opportunity to attend to most, if not all, of my priorities during the day.
Playing with my kids has a high value on my daily “confidence poll.” There are three main reasons. First, they’re my kids, and they’re only going to be young and that type of adorable for so long. There’s an expiration date on the terms of their play and the level to which they offer me engagement in that play. Second, it’s a de-stresser. When I am teaching my son how to hit or catch a baseball, or helping my daughter learn how to pump her legs to propel the swing by herself, I’m solely focused on that aspect of my life. Sometimes, maybe most times, happiness is derived from simplicity of an event. The closer that event brings me to my childhood memories, or to witnessing their belly laughs, the happier I am. Third, and most importantly, my children stop in wonder on a regular basis.
They’re truly amazed when they unlock a new piece of information, or figure out how one idea fits in with another. They find ants to be fascinating. At the lake last weekend, my daughter caught a small ring snake because it was upside down and she thought it was a worm! I mean, how thought-provoking and satisfying a process! To watch her transfer knowledge that if a worm is harmless and an animal looks like a worm, maybe it is harmless, too. I promise you that I took the time to educate her on the difference between certain snakes, but we did that after we marveled at the miracle of the variation of animals in the world! My son has a book called The Mighty, Might Construction Site. There are ten different pieces of equipment in the book (two of them are mis-labeled, but we took care of that) and the book provides context into how each one is used. My son stares at that book every single night, as I read it to him, and studies the differences in form before he lists them off to me. He knows each of them, two months before turning three. He can tell you the difference between a front-end loader and backhoe; between a pump truck and a crane. These things in isolation aren’t going to gain him admission into Harvard – but they are building blocks in the process to studiously differentiating different things. The byproduct is all of these minor miracles being noted and categorized into various departments of information.
All of this to say that happiness is found in balancing the big, burdensome plans we’ve devised for ourselves while taking the time to smell the roses. I rarely smell actual roses, however. My roses take the form of my children, my wife, baseball, reading, writing, Saturday’s with the Boys (had to), my parents and siblings, and all of the minor miracles and tidbits of information the unveil to me and unlock for me along the way. I take happiness from being a part of their processes, and hope that they derive the same from mine. It is my hope to keep gauging these confidence polls, to take the time to rearrange which I value most, and to keep my mental and spiritual direction moving in positive directions – to achieve goals – both grand and minute in scale. For sometimes it is the smallest thing that unveils the greatest pleasure.
Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,