On Simplicity

May 6, 2008

Finding Satisfaction in Small Things

Filed under: Simple Living — Serendipity @ 2:36 am

A large part of finding pleasure in a simple lifestyle is finding satisfaction in small things. Like Pablo Neruda and his odes to socks and lemons and whatnot, we all have the capacity to take pleasure in the everyday. The trick? Trying things and letting yourself truly experience them.

My latest thrill is pulling weeds in the garden. At first, I did it just to help my husband. Our first effort was not fun. The ground was hard, the roots didn’t want to come out, and I was exasperated after just a few minutes. In all, it was not a promising start. (We ending up spraying everything in sight with weed killer and hoping for the best.)

But then I tried it again. I wanted to help and I wanted our yard to look less, um… crappy. (Dead weeds are so unattractive…) So I tried again. This time, I had low expectations. I prepped ahead of time, making sure that the soil would be softer after a little watering. I also plugged in some good music, found some gardening gloves, and went to work. Three hours later, I was hooked. The fresh and crunchy sound weeds make as they’re coming free, the visible results, the challenge and conquest, the variety of sizes and shapes to experiment with, it all contributed to a wonderful day. Now, I can’t resist heading to the yard each day and snagging whatever nasties have popped up. (Seriously, cashmere, snow flurries and freshly painted fingernails have yet to stop me.)

What changed? A few key things:

  • Expectations: I knew I didn’t have to do it, but was willing to try anyway. Having to do something almost always sucks the enjoyment out of it.
  • Environment: The problem was ready to be attacked–the looser soil gave me a much greater possibility of success.
  • Experience: I paid attention to the entire experience: the sights, sounds, smells, and enjoyed all of them as a result.
  • Reward: The music elevated my mood in a big way, as did the promise of hot chocolate when I was done.
  • Freedom: I let myself attack whatever part of the problem caught my fancy and stop whenever I wanted, not at some predetermined goal. I was highly inefficient, hopping from one side of the yard to another and back again, but the motivation I gained from this freedom more than made up for that, and I got a ton accomplished that second time out.

So, if you’re looking to enjoy some of what your everyday life has to offer (think cooking, gardening, cleaning, childcare), try keeping these habits in mind. If you set yourself up for success, you may by surprised at how much pleasure lies in the seemingly mundane.

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