What Makes You Really, Really Happy?

girl-in-waterWhen my son, Scott, was about 18 months old Santa brought his father a fun toy gun that shot ping-pong balls. We still have the video of me hitting him with the ping-pong balls and the sheer joy and laughter flying out of his little body as ball after ball flew toward him. Every time I or anyone else watches it we just start laughing. It is a great example of how often the simplest things can make us so happy, especially when we see others happy.

I thought back on that video twice this week. First, when I observed this little unknown girl and her sister and brother jumping for joy through this water fountain in Curacao.

The other time was when I was listening to Radio Lab as they explored “Bliss.” What caught my attention was their interview with Aleksander Gamme, a polar explorer, who is the star of a 500,000 hit Internet video. In this video we get to see his pure joy on day 86 as he discovers special treats he stuck in the snow on his way to the South Pole. Like many explorers before him, including Amundsen and Scott 100 years ago, he left survival packs of food and other materials on his way to the South Pole for discovery and use on the return trip back to the base camp.

What he discovers were fun food treats like Cheez Doodles and sugar candies he had forgotten he packed away. We can each imagine what it must be like to discover those treats after so many hard days. The video is only three minutes and 22 seconds long, so go ahead, make your day!

For over 10 years I have been connected to some very good friends who have worked together on an important project. Recently they reminded me of a very compelling poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson, that really helps us center ourselves on the joy of our daily lives. Here it is:

Write it on your heart
That every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in,
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
Begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
To be encumbered with your old nonsense.

This new day is too dear,
With its hopes and invitations,
To waste a moment on the yesterdays.

These words from Emerson help us start every day. Happiness and joy are one of the special gifts we humans can experience. When was the last time you were really, really happy? Don’t forget that when you are really happy, others around you will be too. A good lesson for all leaders.

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