Introducing Happiness, Brought to You by Small and Simple Things

“Joy lies in the fight, in the attempt, in the suffering involved, not in the victory.” –Mahatma Gandhi

Ken Prince, one of my best friends, authored the following post:

Last Monday I had lunch with a friend who is both a mentor and a personal growth partner. We discussed our goals for the year, the general directions of our lives and the things we are (or are not) accomplishing.

During our discussion I realized that often I get hung up on trying to achieve an “end goal” instead of simply enjoying the process. But it also became clear to me that I’m never happier than when I slow down enough to enjoy life’s “small and simple” things.

Case in point: My past Valentine’s Day / President’s Day weekend won’t be recorded in the world’s history books and taught to succeeding generations, but for me it was a great weekend.

Friday I surprised my girlfriend at work with flowers and chocolate covered strawberries.

I spent time with my kids enjoying the Lego movie. Afterward we stumbled upon some amazing gelato popsicles at the RV show.

Monday we caught the last day of the Ice Castle exhibit in Midway, then star-gazed with the Star Walk app on our phones.

I’ve resolved to live a more meaningful life by consciously creating traditions, memories, moments, and making connections, and by having tangible experiences.

And I appreciate that I can do that every day— that I don’t have to take a trip around the world to do it.

Something that’s been helpful in doing this is a simple but powerful process I found in a discovery journal called “Building the Best You.” As part of my daily routine, each day I fill in the following blanks:

What did I do today?

What did I feel today?

What am I grateful for today?

What challenged me today?

How can I overcome that challenge?

What did I savor today?

When I focus on today, on enjoying the process, the “end goal” seems easy and more enjoyable. It’s then that I realize that life’s small things are often its most significant.

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The Night the Jazz Beat the Heat (Again): Jessie’s Winning Experience

A few weeks back I posted Be My Guest to Experience 14 Things I Love about Utah Jazz Games. When I wrote it I had no idea that it would be read and shared thousands of times.

I don’t know if I was more surprised that it resulted in hundreds of positive comments where people shared fond memories of following the Jazz over the years or that it had exactly zero negative comments. I wondered if I’d slipped into a parallel universe where people on the Internet are as polite and conscientious as they are in real life.

I invited one of the post’s commenters— Jessie VanDreew Jackson, along with her husband Dallin— to sit on the front row of the Jazz / Heat game February 8th. I am grateful that I was able to do things that I enjoy— writing and sharing my experiences— and to have those things result in fun and enjoyment for others.

What follows are Jessie’s own words about her experience as my guest at that Jazz / Heat game.

The evening began when we drove up to the side of Energy Solutions Arena. We drove down the VIP ramp, feeling like celebrities and were able to park about 15 feet away from the entrance! It was extremely handy since it was a rainy night.

We met up with Bryan, his wife, and some of his other guests at the door. We were immediately impressed with how awesome and kind Bryan and his wife were. [Bryan’s note: Thanks for the kind words Jessie.] When we arrived at the Lexus Club we were given our cool plastic tickets that had lanyards attached to them.  We immediately were welcomed with the smell of seafood, beef, chicken, and other fabulous foods. The chef served a specialty entrée concoction of shrimp and bananas, two ingredients that you would never guess to put together, but the mix of sweet with the shrimp was to die for!

After eating Bryan guided us through the tunnels to find our seats, on the front row across the court from the Miami bench. We were able to watch Lebron James and company warm up before the game started. We were close enough to hear Lebron belt out part of the song that was playing from the rafters and practice his signature dunks. All the while, my husband and I were thinking about how he wasn’t taking the game seriously and that he was totally going to lose!

We saw that the Lexus Club offered people earplugs, which we thought was strange at first, since we’ve been in the lower bowl before. However, during the game, we noticed that the sound resonates even louder off the floor making the arena deafening.  Being so close to the players and being able to taunt the players and refs and yell support at the Jazz players made us feel like we weren’t just watching the game, but were part of it.

During half-time we went back to the Lexus Club for a quick treat of ice cream sundaes with brownies! After a taste, we ran back for the second half of the game. The game was really loud at the end. It was almost like feeling electricity after Trey Burke and Marvin Williams made their clutch shots. We could feel the energy of the arena and of the fans. It felt so real.

Bryan was a super nice guy; it was fun to meet and get to know him and his wife. This was the perfect game to go to gain the full experience of what it means it be a true Jazz fan.

Seeing Jessie and Dallin have fun at that game reinforced my belief that when we do what we enjoy and what comes naturally to us, as I had done by writing the 14 Things blog post, that we can elevate the experiences of those around us.

The Jazz victory over the Heat was a very special experience for me as well.

Thanks Jessie!

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A Motorcyclist’s Advice That Changed My Life

Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

When I began planning my first major motorcycle journey two summers ago— an 18-day, 4,000 mile ride from Oslo, Norway to Geneva, Switzerland— it quickly became clear that motorcycles don’t have much room to pack a lot of stuff.

The parts manager at a local dealership, a seasoned motorcycle journeyer, offed the advice, “If there’s even a chance you won’t need something, don’t take it.”

His words ran contrary to the philosophy that I’d lived and traveled by up until that point: “It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.”

By necessity, I ended up packing lightly for my motorcycle trip. I didn’t expect to discover just how little I really needed to get by, but I did. I had heard the saying before, “The things you own, own you,” but I had always figured that it applied to big things like mortgages or automobiles— large purchases that obligate us to make payments over a period of years.  

But over time I came to realize that everything we acquire comes with its own sort of psychic attachment, and some of these attachments can keep us tangled and stuck.

I’ve learned that giving away or selling something can produce a triple benefit. First, we release our attachment to that thing. This is particularly great if it was an energy sucker or impediment to the flow of energy in our lives, like the guitar we’re never really going to learn to play, the car that we’ll never get around to fixing up, or the clothes that we haven’t worn in years.

Second, we might unlock or reclaim some cash by parting with that thing. We can then use that money on something that expands our joy, or the joy of others. Third, if that thing goes to a person who will use it or benefit from it, we’ve just raised the world’s net happiness and energetic flow, and all we had to do was let go of something that no longer served us anyway!

Of course, it would be better to avoid developing these unnecessary attachments in the first place. The article 9 Intentional Ways to Challenge Consumerism in Your Life provides some great insight on how to do this.

Whether you travel by motorcycle or simply through life, I challenge and encourage you to heed the motorcyclist’s advice, “If there’s even a chance you won’t need something, don’t take it.”

Travel lightly.    

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Congratulations, You Can Speak – Now What?

“Words are weapons. They blast big bloody holes in the world. And words are bricks. Say something out loud and it starts turning solid. Say it loud enough and it becomes a wall you can’t get through.” ―Richard Kadrey

As late as the 16th century it was commonly believed that an Angelic language existed. Supposedly, God used this Angelic language to create the world and to name all things in existence. It was the same language that Adam used in Eden to speak with God and angels.

As the story goes, the Angelic language was lost after Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden. It wasn’t until many generations later that the Angelic language was restored to Earth when the patriarch Enoch was allowed to record it in a book. Very inconveniently, this book was lost in Noah’s Great Flood. 

I can’t help thinking that hope for us humans to communicate perfectly with each other disappeared with that book. Most days it seems that all we have is our feeble intellect and our imperfect language to make sense of existence and to relate with one another.

Professor Leonard Rubenstein knows this: “Language does not describe the world we see: We see the world language describes.”

… …

Scriptures contain many stories regarding the power of words. The first chapter and verse in John tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

I’m not sure what that means exactly— the Word was God— but it sounds significant, and it points to the reality that words have tremendous power.  

It aligns with a Hindu teaching that each word contains power to create, sustain or destroy.

As children in Sunday school we’re taught many other examples of the power of words— Jesus commanding the blind to see, the lame to walk and the dead to rise. The account of Jesus commanding stormy seas to calm, or sending demons from a man possessed into a herd of swine.

But very often we forget the power and value of words. We would do well to practice Gandhi’s direction, “Speak only if it improves upon the silence.”

Jewish mysticism teaches that our souls have three garments— thought, language and action— and that God has given us the faculty of language specifically in order to put our thoughts into words and to then use those words to serve and uplift others. 

Think for a moment about how amazing that is— that’s why we have words— to carry our thoughts to bless and assist other people.    

Author Molly Friedenfeld tells us, “There is great power in our words, because they are thoughts to which we have given additional energy by speaking them aloud so another person can know them.”

May we recognize the power and potential of words and always strive to use them to improve our own lives and the lives of others.

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