“I walked into the office, stood before Soc’s desk, and said, “There are no ordinary moments”.
Soc smiled. “Welcome back.” I collapsed on the couch and he made tea.
After that, I treated every moment in the gym–on the ground as well as in the air–as special, worthy of my full attention.
Further lessons would be necessary though, for as Socrates had explained to me more than once, the ability to extend razor-sharp attention to every moment in my daily life would require much more practice.”
There Are No Ordinary Moments
…and there’s always something going on. That is what Dan Millman concludes after being challenged by his mentor Socrates to open his mind to his inner wisdom in his awesome book Way of the Peaceful Warrior (1).
People rarely miss an opportunity to record the highlights of their lives. This is especially prevalent on social media where feeds are constantly overflowing with holiday pictures, wedding videos, baby photos, party pictures and the like.
But what about all the other stuff that goes on in our lives?
New psychological research suggests we should pay attention to these apparently ”mundane” everyday experiences as well, as they can provide us with unexpected happiness down the line.
Why You Should Treasure Every Moment
A series of studies by Ting Zhang and her colleagues of Harvard Business School was inspired by the finding that we are surprisingly poor at predicting what will make us feel happy in the future (1).
In one study 135 students were asked to create a time capsule at the start of the summer containing:
• A recent conversation
• The last social event they attended
• An extract from a paper they’s written
• Three of their favorite songs
They were then asked to predict how they’d feel about these items when they were to open the capsule three months later.
The students turned out to heavily underestimate how surprised and curious they would be when they opened it. They also found the capsule to be much more meaningful to them than they’d predicted.
Ting Zhang commented on the findings:
“We generally do not think about today’s ordinary moments as experiences that are worthy of being rediscovered in the future.
However, our studies show that we are often wrong: What is ordinary now actually becomes more extraordinary in the future — and more extraordinary than we might expect.
People find a lot of joy in rediscovering a music playlist from months ago or an old joke with a neighbor, even though those things did not seem particularly meaningful in the moment.
The studies highlight the importance of not taking the present for granted and documenting the mundane moments of daily life to give our future selves the joy of rediscovering them.”
You may think that an ordinary picture taken today won’t be of any interest to your future self. But this is an illusion. The pictures you take today will in fact become more and more valuable for every day that passes.
Do your future self a huge favor and start creating memories like so:
1. Keep a journal – There are tons of benefits to keeping a journal. One of them is that you go to back and relive your experiences. This helps you put your life into context and understand yourself better.
Writing down just a few sentences about your day will in time become a valuable gift to your future self. It’s awesome to be able to go back and look at what I did on this day one, three or even five years ago. Bonus credit for keeping journals for your kids (this will make for a pretty amazing gift down the line).
2. Take one picture every day – They say a picture says more than a thousand words. If that’s the case you can save 1000+ words a day by adopting the simple habit of taking one picture every day.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to produce great pictures. That’s not the point. Remember, what seems mundane today will be extraordinary in the future. A random picture of yourself, your home or your surroundings is perfectly fine.
3. Save the good stuff – Not all of it, of course. You want to stay clear of clutter. But saving certain letters, drawings, pictures and even school assignments can become a great source of happiness. Digital good stuff like music playlists, email conversations, chat logs (if you’re into that kind of thing) hardly require any storage at all so be sure to save them for later.
Find a way to write about, take pictures of, and save your ordinary moments. Later on, you’ll find that these moments weren’t ordinary at all. They were the precious moments that make up your life.
Not a bad “present” to give your future self, friends and family. 🙂
“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”
– John Lennon