Yesterday, I wrote a 5,000+ word email to a friend of mine.
The impetus for the email and the thoughts it contained are largely irrelevant to the topic of this post. I mention it because usually when I write something that long, I end up finding, upon a re-read, numerous areas I would change if I could write it again.
But not this time.
In The Zone
Save for a few typos (picture me shaking my fist angrily at the keyboard), I would not change so much as one word in that email.
It may be, in my entire life as a writer, the most in tune I’ve ever been with a set of thoughts and emotions because I expressed them with a precision, and even an eloquence, that made me really proud upon reading it again.
In sports you hear athletes talk about being “in the zone.” I think I was in the writer’s version of “the zone” last night. I attribute it to: giving the thoughts and feelings several days to percolate before sitting down and writing; choosing to write out on my porch beneath a gorgeous Dallas evening sky; the wine.
Whatever the reasons, it came out perfectly. And I’m prefacing this post by telling you about it because I want to reinforce, for myself as much as for you, the humility that made it possible.
My focus, the entire time, was on my audience. In this case, it was an audience of one. And my only goal was to deliver to this person the most honest and engaging email I possibly could.
And this person’s reaction suggested that I did just that. How do I know? The reaction included phrases like “Thank you for being wonderful” and “You always make me happy.” Just seeing those words directed back at me made the effort and focus it took to craft the email worth every single second.
And it leads me to the overall point of this post.
Bored With My Own Happiness
While re-reading the email today, I came across the following passage:
I’m bored with my own happiness, wishes, and desires. I’ve had 31 years to indulge them. I now get my happiness from having a hand in bringing it out in others. It’s 1,000 times more rewarding anyway.
I wrote this somewhere towards the middle of the email. I don’t recall thinking it was in any way extraordinary or special when I wrote it, but it struck me as such today when I read it again.
Because my first reaction when I re-read it today was, “Whoa, whoa, wait a minute…are you serious?” The answer is yes, I am.
And it is perhaps the biggest shift I have seen occur within myself over the last year or so.
I no longer get much satisfaction out of experiences or achievements or things that involve only me. But I get satisfaction in spades when I can share a great experience with someone else, when an achievement positively impacts someone else, or when I am giving a thing to someone as opposed to being on the receiving end.
It is in seeing the happiness of others that I find myself experiencing the most happiness myself, which is why I have sought out such opportunities so much more often lately.
A Tale of Two Smiles
For example, if you asked me to list out the five most enjoyable days I’ve had in the last calendar year, the day I’m about to describe would make it somewhere on the list:
A friend of mine posted a blouse/shirt/top-thing (whatever the correct term is, hell if I know) on Pinterest and in passing conversation lamented not being able to find it online. For some reason, I got it in my head that it would be fun to turn it into a Friday night scavenger hunt and see if I could find it for her.
Sure, the adventure itself sounded like a fun, spontaneous way to spend the evening (plus I had no food at home, so I had to go out anyway), but what really drove the excitement was picturing the surprise and happiness sure to wash over her face when she opened it.
So off I went, driving to several different locations of this particular clothing store, armed with only the Pinterest pictures but no names or descriptions.
To make a long and far-more-entertaining-than-I-anticipated story short, I ultimately found the exact blouse/shirt/top-thing, in the exact size, hiding out in a section of one of the stores where it had no business being. And I found it right about the time I was ready to give up on it.
It was one of those moments where I got the goosebumps-and-hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck-standing-up feelings like I was supposed to find it, as if the universe had somehow conspired to make it happen as a reward for my genuine intentions and effort.
I kind of wish there was video of that moment. It surely had to look really weird for a 31-year old man to smile super wide and exclaim in delight in the middle of Forever 21 clutching a small blouse/shirt/top-thing by its hanger. But that’s what happened.
I drove it down to my friend the next day, and the shock and appreciation in her reaction was even better than I’d imagined it would be. It didn’t just make the effort and expense worth it; it actually made the effort and expense not even feel as if it were enough.
And I remember thinking, while driving away from her apartment later that day, how nice and mature it felt to be able to extract such genuine enjoyment and happiness for myself simply by seeing it in someone else.
A More Rewarding Life
Because I don’t think I’ve always been that guy. I think for most of my life I’ve been more concerned with my own happiness first, then others’ second. But now my own happiness pretty much bores me. Legitimately.
Happiness itself doesn’t bore me, of course. Not at all. Pursuing happiness is what life is all about. But in subtle ways, over time, what gives me happiness has shifted.
It’s now much more outward than it is inward. And as I said in last night’s email, the happiness extracted from having a hand in bringing it out in someone else is 1,000 times better and more rewarding than finding ways simply bring it out in myself.
I know that, at 31, I’m supposed to be lamenting getting older or wishing I could go back to my 20s. But I don’t feel like that at all. Quite the contrary.
I feel like I’ve grown and matured more in the 15 months since I turned 30 than in my first 30 years combined. (That may or may not actually be true, but it sure feels that way.) And this growth, which manifests itself is ways like I’ve described in this post, has made every precious day of life so much more rewarding.
We’re all on our own daily paths to happiness. And no one’s path is necessarily any better or more genuine or more pure than anyone else’s. But I will say that I sure do appreciate 31-year old Jerod’s daily path to happiness a lot more than 20-year old Jerod’s, or even 29-year old Jerod’s.
Because I finally learned that the best kind of happiness for myself is bringing it out in someone else. And it’s made all the difference in my world.