What makes life worth living?
When we look back on a given year, it’s easy to identify the massive oak trees and tall pines that stand as signposts: the weddings and the funerals, the epic vacations, and the major accomplishments.
But we often overlook the small blessings – the birds within the trees, if you will.
Our minds can only hold so much information, and in my experience, our hard drive space seems to dwindle with each passing year. The brain prioritizes the stuff it determines is important, discarding the rest. Those giant oaks and majestic pines take precedence.
I’ve been rescuing things from the discard pile through a simple practice that makes it easier to spot those aforementioned birds. I’ve written about it before, but it continues to grow in power in my own life.
Once a day, I write down one happy moment from the day before. That’s it. One moment. One line. No paragraph or story or context. Most aren’t even full sentences. It’s like a verbal Polaroid, a snapshot in time that describes a simple moment of happiness.
But in the same way that a picture is worth a thousand words, that simple snapshot composed of a handful of words contains within it a treasure trove of details, emotions, and story.
I do this in a Bullet Journal, with each Happy Moment taking up no more than one line on a page. One could adapt it by writing each Happy Moment on a Post-It note and dropping it into a jar with the intent of reading them when you need a pick-me-up.
The practice takes me less than thirty seconds a day. The payoff comes at the end of the month or the year, when I re-read them all.
Kim and I recently spent time reviewing the previous year. The publication of Wonderhunt stood out, as did our Escape Adulthood Summit in Utah and family trips to Key West and Washington, D.C. But my favorite part was reading all 365 of my Happy Moments for the year.
Here are a few highlights:
Playing catch with Ben amidst the kites at Leland Park.
The scallop dish with leeks and apple risotto at the Black Pig.
Ginny rolling a strike on frame 10 with no bumpers.
Staff dinner at the supper club.
Seeing the walls finally up in the studio.
Watching Lucy ride Chester with confidence.
Family time on the front porch eating push-ups.
As you can see, none of these rise to the level of “major milestone.” Frankly, they’d probably be forgotten had I not taken the time to write them down at the time.
But these happy moments become souvenirs of a wonderful journey. Perhaps even more than the achievements and milestones, they give me a feeling of aliveness and a sense that my year was spent well. They are reminders of what makes life worth living, and that I have been blessed in myriad ways, despite the defeats and sorrows that also populated the previous year.
It’s easy to overlook the small songbirds hidden in the forest of our life. But when we invest a few seconds to jot down one happy moment a day, reading them at the end of the month or year is magical. It’s like experiencing a sublime symphony, with each note harmoniously contributing its voice to a melody that slowly builds to a soaring crescendo of gratitude.
It becomes a hallelujah chorus, exulting the glorious gift of being alive.