More than ten years ago, I embarked on an odyssey that, like all good odysseys, completely changed my life. Here’s what happened.
It was August 2012, and I was moping around the house, convinced that everyone — yes, Every. Single. One. out there — had a better life than I did. Comparison truly is the thief of joy, and when I measured my life against the picture-perfect lives I saw in my social media feed, I knew I came up short.
Oh, look! There’s a photo of someone’s breakfast, complete with magical, made-from-scratch lemon poppy seed muffins. And me? I just cut a moldy crust off the last slice of bread then proceeded to burn my toast.
How lovely! There’s someone else counting down the days, hours, and minutes until they leave on their second vacation of the summer. And me? My vacation was cancelled, and I spent last weekend cleaning the house and mowing the grass.
Just livin’ the dream here, folks. And that’s precisely when my odyssey began.
There I sat, grumpy and out of sorts, when our cat tore through the house like her tail was on fire (it definitely was NOT on fire). When she left the area rug and ran onto the hardwood floors, she slid headfirst into the wall. As she got up, she had one of those embarrassed cat-looks on her face that said, “Nobody saw that, right?”
I laughed. Then I looked down to see Facebook asking, “What’s on your mind, Gina?” so I typed:
ThisDay’sJoy: Watching the cat run through the house and try to turn a quick corner on hardwood floors.
As I reflected on what had happened, I realized if I’d been away on vacation, I’d have missed this moment. And, as it turned out, this moment was rather a good one. Somehow, I felt better about my life.
Could it be things weren’t quite so bad as I thought?
The next day, I took a spontaneously proactive approach and looked for something joyful and lovely.
Behold! There were butterflies bouncing all over the zinnias in the flower bed.
ThisDay’sJoy: A butterfly café in the zinnias!
If I looked, could I catalog something joyful every day for a whole week?
I did look, and I found the answer to my question was “yes, I can find something good every day for a whole week.”
I kept going and set my sights on an entire month! Could I find 31 joyful things? Again, the answer was yes!
Soon I’d logged a whole year – 365 daily joys – then one year became two became ten – 3,650 joys – and still the search for joy continues every single day.
When I do keynotes presentations or workshops, one of the questions I’m asked most frequently is “How do you FIND something joyful every single day?”
My answer has been consistent over the years.
Remember Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the eagle? The tortoise complains it can’t fly, and an eagle volunteers to take the tortoise on a flight. Once aloft, the eagle drops the tortoise, and its shell shatters upon hitting the ground. The moral of the story: be careful what you wish for.
I take Aesop’s advice a step further. I think it’s equally important to be careful what you look for… because you’ll find that, too.
My children’s book Joy! You Find What You Look For comes out of my own experience with my son.
As a little boy, he often looked for red vehicles as we drove down the highway, and we were always astounded by just how many red cars and trucks we counted. But I also noticed when we looked for white or black or yellow vehicles, we seemed to see bunches of those, too.
In short, we do find what we look for, so be careful what you LOOK for!
Because you just might find it.