How To Find Joy In The Little Things Posted in: Happiness Think not lightly of good, saying “It will not come to me.” Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise, the wise one, gathering it little by little, fills oneself with good. ~ The Dhammapada Edwin walked into my office with a heavy cloud of frustration leading the way. He told me the ways his company was being unfair in the assessment of his work. He was probably right, and in his “rightness” he was unable to see anything else. I asked him what was going well in his life and he gave me a quick list of all the things he is “supposed” to be grateful for: kids, wife, and being alive. I asked if the gratitude helped and he was crystal clear in his answer, “No, not at all”! He looked at me as if I had sprouted a horn and inquired if I had listened to how bad his situation was? Didn’t I understand what a big deal this was in his life? Yes, I was listening. Yes, I understood. Edwin had not learned how to let the little bitty moments of goodness of his life become a big deal. Edwin isn’t alone. We are rarely taught how to do this and it can seem like you either have this skill in your DNA, or you don’t. I have good news! This is a learned skill. So, how does someone learn to let the little joys in life become as important as any large negative event? Are you familiar with the work of Drs. Julie and John Gottman? I have such respect for the work they do. Their research is considered a leading theory in marriage and couples work. In Seattle they have what they call a “love lab”, where they have studied thousands of couples to figure out what makes a relationship work, and what makes it crash and burn. I encourage you to follow their work. Their findings are rich with data. One concept the Gottman’s talk about often is how successful couples are masters at the little things, meaning they pay attention to the details and the small moments of each other’s day, the way their partner likes their coffee, their preference in music, and all the other zillion small opportunities for connection. John Gottman has gone so far as to say that “every positive thing you do in your relationship is foreplay”. That’s a powerful endorsement for paying attention to the little things! They acknowledge the power of large events like vacations and holidays, but with hands-down-certainty assure us that intimacy and connection are built on a random Tuesday, right in the middle of the daily grind. Positive Psychology, my favorite theory in psychology, finds that happy people savor the smallest moments in life. Not only are they able to notice them, they also linger on the enjoyment. They don’t just notice a blue sky and sunshine, they pause, close their eyes, notice the sun on their skin, and breathe in deeply to ground into the moment. In other words, the moment is fully experienced. They may even have conversations later to revisit the enjoyment, and the reminiscing about the experience extends the pleasure. Even more, they repeat this act of savoring often. And, let’s be clear… folks who do this aren’t unicorns. They have learned how to do this. You can too! On the other side of the coin, when we don’t notice the little things, you’ll find extensive articles from business writers illustrating the many ways this can destroy a company. No matter the brilliant idea and flawless planning, if a company misses the little things, folks do not buy from them. Think about it, do you continue to do business with a company that doesn’t remember your name, despite the fact that you are there on a regular basis? Or, how do you feel about a hotel that might ask the obvious “are you checking in” when you are at the front desk with your suitcase? How about when customer service promises to call back today at 2 and finally gets back to you the next day at 5? We don’t keep doing business there. All of those tiny little things feel HUGE on the side of the consumer, and are mistakes that are easily and innocently committed by a busy business. The little things matter a great deal to our success and satisfaction. Yeah, yeah, but what if I have lots of negative things going on, you might say. Just looking up and noticing a blue sky does not do much for me. I’m more like Edwin up above. And, my kid is supposed to clean her room. That’s just the way life should be. How could this possibly help? It’s the end result of this practice that offers the massive gift. Here’s what happens…. When you are so focused on the present moment, seeing the joy in your son’s smile, feeling the strength in your legs you take for granted, the smell right before the rain, the humor of your co-worker (who knew?!), and every other pleasant, and tiny, sensation you are having, you find that you don’t notice the massively difficult things you used to think about nearly as much. Say what?! It’s true. The details of your life don’t change, but YOU change. And that’s where all the magic happens. That’s your power. When you change, all the details don’t have to change. Still not sure it’s worth it? I hear you. There’s something else you should know. You cannot completely understand this, or any concept, until you begin trying it out in your life. The way this transforms your life is only understood when you stand on the other side of practice. I worked with a woman who once told me she would never be able to stop regretting her past behavior. Never. Ever. I didn’t argue or insist she could. We simply began the work of learning to let go. One magical day (following tremendous effort and practice) she told me the wildest thing had happened. She realized she wasn’t beating herself up for past mistakes. Somehow, she was able to let go. What was impossible before we began, became easy after she did the work. This concept is learned and understood the same way. You don’t have to understand how it all works in order to begin. Simply begin. You will find that the big things become actually quite small and the smallest of things can truly become the biggest things. You will learn this as you practice. I am including a worksheet with some ideas to get you started. Practice.