When you think about the things that most excite you in life, what comes to mind?
Do you imagine a holiday, a job promotion or a new home?
These big events are of course very important life experiences, but do you find yourself holding out for them? If so, you could be at risk of missing out on the slightly less extravagant parts of your life.
Many of us are guilty of waiting for the big moments, however life is predominantly made up of lots of smaller moments. If you’re constantly looking to the future, you may forget how to enjoy today.
So why do we live our lives looking to the next big thing? Is it possible to feel joy even if the big moments are few and far between?
It’s the little things
The little things are important, as they are what make up the bulk of our days. Whilst the momentous occasions are, for the majority of us, more fleeting, we can be quick to put them on a pedestal. This can lead to always feeling like you need more and cause a tendency to overlook the little things that have the ability to spark joy.
The fast pace of life we have become accustomed to has certainly contributed – having everything on demand has driven us to constantly look for something more, something new and shiny. Instagram feeds are full of posts reminding me to ‘Enjoy the little moments, for one day you will look back and realise that these are the big moments’, so I can understand if you might feel that this is a little bit of a cliché – but there is some truth to it.
Bonnie Ware’s book ‘Top Five Regrets of The Dying’ looks at the regrets of those who are in the last weeks of their lives. One of the most cited regrets is ‘I wish I had allowed myself to be happier’. One of the greatest ‘aha moments’ I get to witness with my clients is when they realise that they have full control over their happiness. That they don’t need to rely on their friends, job or holidays to bring them this feeling.
Here and now
If you’re at a loss as to what even constitutes a little thing you’ll be relieved to know that it can be anything. That first sip of coffee in the morning, a bright sky, a stranger’s smile or a funny video. For me, a catchy song (that I play on repeat until I’m sick of it) and a good belly laugh with those I love are some of the things that evoke feelings of joy for me.
Rather than always looking to the future and searching for the next big thing, it can be useful to try and direct our attention to the here and now. We are surrounded by thousands of stimuli each day, all vying for our attention, so it is easy to let moments pass you by.
Slow down, take a moment to notice your surroundings and check in with your senses. What can you see, hear, and smell? Introducing this intentional reflection a couple of times a day (or a week) will give you time to pause.
Whilst this might be an odd experience the first few times, it should become more natural and automatic as it becomes familiar.
Bringing this awareness and control to your thoughts provides you with the opportunity to feel gratitude for the smaller things. Write the thing you’re noticing down or just notice it in your mind – and once you’ve done this a few times, challenge yourself not to repeat things. You really can open your mind to endless little things that can create feelings of happiness.
Poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson refers to ‘always getting ready to live but never living’. In this context, don’t weigh everything on achieving your final goal.
Instead, make a conscious effort to find these simple moments of joy throughout the journey. This will ensure you are welcoming joy into your life irrespective of whether your larger goals change or take longer to achieve. Remember, many little things can add up to one big thing.
Today I’m appreciating getting lost in a new book. Now, what about you?