Some time ago my son inspired me to write a post I called “The Boy with the Biggest Smile in the Room”. He had just endured a major health challenge and had not only powered through it but had done it with such grace. And although almost two years have passed he hasn’t changed a bit (except when he’s possessed by the “terrible twos”!). He constantly reminds me of the magic in our sense of wonder and how our willingness to “dance” through life is what makes our time in this world worthwhile.
Every time a song plays Alec just gets up and starts dancing. And not only that. He makes sure I get up and dance with him too. Although at first I have to admit I don’t really feel like it, once I’m up and dancing, I remember how the little things in life are actually the ones that make all the difference. I remember the person I used to be once and realize how much I miss her.
I had forgotten how much I used to be like my son. I could dance for hours, laugh incessantly about nonsense, and endlessly watch in awe life’s wonders. I would sit outside just to watch the rain, go to the roof to look at the stars at night, and tried making shapes out of clouds in the sky. I would marvel at the beauty of the universe every time I had a chance. I would dance even when no one was dancing. Crack up even when it wasn’t that funny. And always pursued my sense of curiosity trying to discover as much as I could about the world and seeking adventures to explore it.
And then life happened. I got so focused on being an adult that I forgot the free and wild spirit inside me. I started taking life too seriously and working very hard on achieving what I thought adults were supposed to accomplish. Challenges that gave me a sense of direction but that stopped me from enjoying the life in front of me. Without realizing it, I stopped dancing. I stopped laughing. And I stopped living the moment.
Many of us go through life so focused on accomplishing “great” things that we forget along the way to enjoy the ordinary. We are fooled by the idea that happiness is only possible once we reach whatever goals we’re after. And suddenly our life is all work and no play. We start working harder thinking the harder we work the happier we’ll be. Looking aimlessly for happiness in all of the wrong places.
Some years ago I wrote a post about happiness and an 80-year old woman reached out to me. She mentioned how she had pursued various careers throughout her life, lived in different countries, been in a number of marriages, and despite it all, she still at her age had not found the key to happiness. She kept looking for it but just couldn’t find it anywhere. And that was exactly the problem! She was looking for something that was nowhere to be found. It was something she had to build for herself. And after everything she’d been through, she just still couldn’t see it.
Unbelievably so, our life’s circumstances only account for 10% of our happiness. We can move to a paradise, make more money, and establish a thriving career, yet after a while our happiness level won’t be much different. With time we adapt and these circumstances that at first made such a difference, don’t make a difference anymore.
So what does? The day-to-day decisions and choices we make. Connecting with the people we love. Engaging in passions our soul is thirsty for. Being present enough to notice the wonders of the world around us. And feeling grateful for all that which we tend to underestimate but that is actually so magical if we could only open our eyes to notice it.
Now, I’m not advocating for a purposeless life filled with only passive enjoyment. I don’t believe true happiness is possible that way. We all need a “why”. A reason to get out of bed every morning and seize opportunities we find meaningful. Yet as much as we need to find goals and dreams to aspire to, we need to learn to find contentment along each step of the way. Enjoying the small wins and realizing it may not even be about winning at all. It may just be that we’re here to make the most out of our journey as we mindfully build every step with meaning and purpose. Cherishing the moments with those we love and having a hell of a time while we’re at it.
So today I hope you have the courage to create a life that you find rewarding. A life that you feel proud of and that reflects your soul’s deepest yearnings. But above all, I hope you find it in you to actually enjoy it. To let yourself get carried away by every moment. And when you get a choice to sit it out or dance. I hope you dance.