I have spent the past week talking about the reasons for living that Gerontologist Dr Karl Pillimer compiled from talking to 1200 elderly people. People who have lived their lives and looked back and realized what contributes to a happy, fulfilling existence. Some of us may realize that the path we are taking through our lives does not correlate with what those that have experienced life and might have a greater panorama about how life works. We have talked about the importance of connections with others in relation to our wellbeing, we also talked about how travel is a wonderful way to open us up to situations and worlds that we might never have experienced if we had not left our couches. The first day we talked about the importance of looking after ourhealth at a young age it will matter a lot once we get older and how worryingabout what most likely will never happen only taints our present experiences negatively.
All our lives we have been thought to think big and there seems to be something wonderful about the imagined possibilities that we can achieve once we dream. The huge house, the sports car, the overburdened bank account, the super dooper yacht, the life of leisure, or life as a celebrity or oil magnate.
But what would happen if suddenly…. you were to think.. small. If you were to find wonder in the small things that life has to offer, the beautiful sight of sun dappling through your windows on a sunny morning, the softness of your pillow when so many in the world do not have them. The smell of freshly brewed coffee, the smile from a passing stranger or the scent of fresh-cut grass at the start of summer. The list could go on and on as it regularly does in my classes .It is when we value the beauty and intricacies of the small wonders in life that the outstanding moments become even more memorable.
A good example of this is Denmark and its people. The Danish people over the past 30 years have time and time again polled as the happiest nation on the planet followed by countries like Norway, Finland, Sweden and Netherlands.
A Danish Professor Kaare Christensen decided to look into why the Danes always polled so high in the World Happinesss report. He noted that ” In countries like Italy and Spain people have much higher expectations for what the coming year will bring, but they are not especially happy or satisfied with their existence”.
He suggests that Danes take a more realistic view of life ” Year after year we’re just happy things didn’t go as badly as we feared”. In truth Danish expectations are pretty modest. They don’t seek to change the world or dominate it. They are just Happy to be.
The Danish football team had not made it to the 1992 European cup they were beaten into second place by Yugoslavia a team that was to be withdrawn from the tournament ten days before it started due to international sanctions. Denmark quickly had to reassemble their players many who were now on holiday with their families. They arrived at the tournament and proceeded to advance from their group ahead of France and England. Beat the Dutch in the semi finals and then win the final with a 2-0 result against the mighty Germany. The country was ecstatic no one expected this to happen which made it all the more glorious.
As Kaare Christensen says” If you are doing pretty well and once in a while your outstanding you’re pretty happy about it but if you’re starting point is you should be outstanding that’s not good”.
By having low expectations one is rarely disappointed. We live in a world where our expectations are very high all the time “If a job is worth doing it’s worth doing well” we hear. We set targets for ourselves were we say that failure is not an option or that until something is perfect we are not happy about it. We constantly have to be a 10 when most of the time a 6 or 7 is ok . It is important that we understand that it’s ok to be ok. Because when we strive to be the best all the time and don’t achieve it what do we feel?
We have seen the joy on the faces of the Olympic athletes who have won gold and the desperation on the faces of some that have won silver to the delight at those that have won bronze. Studies have proven this. Those that won silver are feeling the disappointment of being so close to the worlds greatest. Those that won bronze ( like the Danish football team) might not have expected a medal at all and are ecstatic with their result.
Sometimes when we strive for goals in life we fail to see the wonder or the awesomeness of our life in the present for a feeling in the future. If you achieve your goal that is fine if you don’t achieve your goal that is also fine. Enjoy the journey.
We all know of examples of business that were very successful that turned over a profit and kept their staff with a comfortable salary who decide on World domination only to fold completely within a few years.
Remember that life is more than achieving goal after goal and feeling that perfection should always follow you and everything in life must be a 10. As I tell all people who attend my workshops…. sometimes it’s ok to be just…ok!