I woke up this morning feeling a little grumpy, completely lacking in motivation, and with not much to do besides send out a few emails and go to the gym. In other words, it was a fairly ordinary day. I dallied around the house for a few hours reading meaningless tech news and leaving comments on Facebook until I came across an article in the Washington Post that made me realize how much I, how much all of us have failed to appreciate the everyday joy in our lives.
The article was about women and careers. But what struck me, what made me think about how unappreciative we are of everyday wonder, was a story the author told about her then six-year old daughter:
My daughter came home from school one day and announced that she’d had the best day of her life. When I asked what had happened, she said it was just an ordinary day. I pressed — certainly something different must have occurred? She shook her head. Intrigued, I called her first-grade teachers and asked if anything special had happened in class. No, they repeated, it was just an ordinary day.
“Just an ordinary day.”
I let that thought roll around in my head for a moment and realized this child had a far better understanding of life than the rest of us. She appreciated the joy, even the perfection, of a simple day without the need for something special to happen.
What did she see that we could not about, “just an ordinary day.”
I imagine very few of us appreciate ordinary days. Entrepreneurship is essentially driven by people who are unhappy with the status quo. We see things that need fixing and dedicate ourselves to making them better. Most of us plan our happiness on some imagined future after the big exit or when everyone is using our product. Today is for the grind.
When someone asks us, “How is your day?” the question seems almost contrived. We usually don’t even think about it as we mumble back an obligatory one word answer such as, “good,” “fine,” “shitty.” We think there isn’t anything to describe because it’s just an ordinary day.
Instead, we build our lives around chasing highlights, a night here, a weekend there, at best a moment of victory that we tell ourselves is the fulfillment of some lifelong dream. We label these fleeting moments the best days of our lives and assume the rest is empty time to be filled until the next flash of excitement or glory.
But it is the whitespace of ordinary days that forms the fabric of who we are. And it is in this whitespace, in the commonplaces, and in the familiar routines of our ordinary days where lasting happiness is found.
Most of you reading this are incredibly fortunate. But I also suspect most of you never think about what you have, only about what you don’t have. Like most people, you probably spend your ordinary days dreaming about some extraordinary time when you’ve reached various milestones that you think will make your life perfect. You tell yourself that your best days are yet to come. Perhaps you’ll reach your goals. Perhaps you won’t. But as you make your way, you would do well to remember the wisdom of a six-year old. The best days need not be distinguished by anything remarkable. If we could only learn to appreciate them, there is happiness and even joy to be found in the simplicity of just an ordinary day.
[Image courtesy Patrick Q]