Monday, April 19, 2010

About Last Night, or Not Really A Bucket List

As I said in a previous post I am not really thinking in terms of a bucket list, but I do admit that I need to make changes to my general health if I want to have a long life. I was actually thinking in terms of just making changes to my outlook on life, or rather, the way I interact with it. I had my first opportunity last night to implement these changes.

So several months ago I read a book called Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert (but for some reason I cannot find my post on it). In it Gilbert posits that we as human beings are absolute crap at predicting what will make us happy. We set these very narrow standards at what will make us happy and when we vary off that target we predict we will be unhappy. This sets us up for a lot of self fulfilling prophecy of sadness in which we end up missing opportunities for joyful moments. Please watch the video below where Gilbert discusses various extreme events (paralysis and winning the lottery) and which makes people happier).

Anyways an example from my own life is pears. My exposure to pears growing up was limited to fruit cocktail in the can. We had that for dessert about 3 times a month growing up and I absolutely detested the pears (favorites in order are cherries, grapes, pineapples, and peaches) in so much that I would pick them out. Now that was no easy task given their small size and very similar color to the pineapples. I hated the pears so much that I went 35 years purposely avoiding them because I DO NOT LIKE PEARS. It was part of my identity.

Then one day I saw some Anjou pears for sale in the grocery store. They looked so good I bought a few pounds for the kids, but then they tempted me. I tried one to confirm that my core being hadn’t changed; I hate pears. But major paradigm shift later and now I am the guy who checks the fruit section of store EVERY TIME I go shopping to see if they have any Anjou pears in stock. What is the point of this story? Well I wasted 35 years of my life based on the prediction that eating pears would be an unpleasant experience and thus make me happy. Or conversely I believed that avoiding pears would make me happy and I was wrong.

Here is another shorter example for you to mull over. More often than not are truly great moments of real happiness come from unpredicted, unplanned events. Assuming you are in a happy relationship, think back to how you met your significant other – planned or random? It was completely random set of events that led me to Lisa (and vice-versa) and that has led to twenty years so far of the happiest moments of my life.

So what does that mean for you and me? We need to spend a lot less time setting up all these arbitrary standards for us to be happy, and more time finding happiness in all the moments we get. Stuck in traffic – don’t worry, be happy. I was stuck in traffic on I35 driving to the Twin Cities a while back. It was very frustrating to have all the construction slowing us down. Now while I turned off to go to the St. Paul side, I have to wonder how many people who where stuck along side me avoided the bridge collapse that happened just a few miles up the road from where we were that same afternoon? If my clueless school counselor hadn’t have passed the buck on writing my recommendation to the one teacher I had had verbal altercations with (and even filed a complaint about), maybe I would have made it into the Coast Guard Academy and then I would have never met Lisa. (of course I had never been on a boat either I have since learned I get violently sea sick). I was angry at the time but what a blessing that has turned out to be. Ms Mayers where ever you might be – I owe a lot of my happiness to your crap teaching, man hating, personality disorder – who knew?

So long story longer, what did I do? Two things I believed would never lead to happiness, first is a choir concert, and second is a long bus ride with people I don’t know. These are things I have been avoiding since forever and I totally could have avoided again. But as I told Lisa I wanted to go just to see if I could give up my narrow views and to see if happiness could be found in any moment. So last night Lisa and I rode the parents coach up to Minneapolis to see Gunnar and the AHS choir participate in a 6 choir show. You know what, I had a good time. It was fun, the performances were great, the venue was beautiful, and we had a great conversation with our neighbors on the way up, and met another parent at the show. Plus our son was very happy for us to be there.

What are you avoiding? Reframe it; What moments of great happiness are you missing out on because you are too busy being unhappy?

1 comment:

Heather said...

I like this post.I f you think about it, a lot of our really happy times come as a surprise at supposedly inopportune moments. It is those memories that make the funny,scary, happy stories we talk about all the time.
I'm glad that Randy has brought me out of my shell a bit because every time I try something new that I feel like I'm going to hate, I end up really enjoying the experience. It reminds me of church callings too. There is no way in heck I would pick my callings on my own. I also think I will hate them...and sometimes I don't really enjoy them. But on the flip side, when you pretend to be happy about it or even just try to see the good in your calling, you do have a good time. you are also sad to see it go when something else comes your way.