Happiness is in the Details

My closest friend called me last night.  He was stressed.  Probably the most stressed I have ever seen him.  The problem, he explained, is that he was unemployed, locked in a house with small children, and having a hard time with his wife.  His children are 0 and 2, he spends almost 24 hours a day at home, and right now his wife is the bread winner (as a waitress).  To top it all off my friend is finishing his MBA and waiting for his new consulting gig to start in June.  Until then – he’s stuck in limbo.

I started to look at my own life.  The areas I am happy with and the areas I am not.  For the most part I’m pleased.  I have a fair amount of free time, my wife and I have a great relationship, we have no kids (and plenty of time to be selfish), and I am happily settled into a career.  Those are staples of a happy life, but like anything of importance the truth lies in the details.  In this case, where we find happiness ultimately lies within the seemingly insignificant details of our daily existence.  Those details have made all the difference for me.

For example, I work in an office setting most of the day, but I love the outdoors.  I also travel a lot so finding time to get a little sun-shine on my face can be difficult.  I’m very deliberate about making time for fresh air though.  Almost every day I take a run outside – regardless of which city or town I’m in – and just enjoy the scenery.  I’ve really learned to appreciate a variety of cityscapes.  Over time I’ve learned that finding a good place to take a jog is as easy as asking the hotel receptionist where (s)he recommends.  I have found a handful of hidden gyms that I’m quite sure the average guy on business has never stepped foot – maybe even the average resident.  That little bit of effort goes a long way toward revitalization and ultimately my own happiness.

I have also found that happiness isn’t just about what you do physically, but it’s also a state of mind.  I could go on a jog everyday and view it as a chore, but instead I perceive it as a treat to explore and get some fresh air.  You can apply that same logic to almost any situation.  I love my job because I learn new things and interact with a variety of the most intelligent business people on the planet – on the other hand I’m stuck in the office and on the road Monday thru Friday many weeks.  I choose to look at the situation positively and in my mind it really is great.

Other details go a long way toward the overall satisfaction of your life too.  It’s easy to overlook a nice day, beautiful weather, nice architecture, a great lunch, etc.  It’s even easier for your weeks and months to become a blur – with nothing exciting or different between each day and night resulting in a few years or decades of grey.  Instead notice that beautiful cloud formation, notice the interesting architecture of the area, do something different for dinner, and make today noticeably different from yesterday and tomorrow. 

The thought comes to mind all the time that one day I may look back on my life with regret.  Regret that I didn’t bend the rules a little or didn’t go off the beaten path.  Why didn’t I take that trip to Europe or pay off my house a little earlier.  Why?  Avoid the “why” one day 10 or 100 years from now and do everything you can to live.


4 thoughts on “Happiness is in the Details

  1. mattsmithis

      ‘The only healthy way to live life is to learn to like all the little everyday things, like a sip of good whiskey in the evening, a soft bed, a glass of buttermilk…’
                    – Capt. Gus McCrae (Robert Duvall) – Lonesome Dove

    I’m slightly ashamed to say I try to live my life by a quote from a cowboy movie (one of my all-time favorites though). My grandfather said something similar though, so I guess it’s OK, “If you can’t learn to enjoy something small like a good piece of chocolate cake you’re going to be real disappointed in life.” The big things are few and far between.

  2. jon

    Nice post. It sounds like a pretty damned nice hand of cards you’re playing there, A.F. (including your good attitude toward life).

    Matt, I like your idea – both your grandfather’s version and Gus McCrae’s version. I agree with it completely.


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