The Creative Cafe
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The Creative Cafe

20 Small Beautiful Things About Life That Make You Feel More Joy, Peace and Contentment

The big moments of life capture all the feelings. Getting married, graduating, getting hired at the new job, signing up to run the marathon, moving across country, having your first child, starting a business. These things have a way to excite the brain and thrill the heart in ways that have no rival. These moments of life are all paths to something new, something different, something exciting.

But soon enough, the electricity in our blood from these moments fade and we are back to the everyday of life.

The question of course is then, “Now what?”

It seems to be that big moments only happen once in a while, and that everything in between is assumed to be boring, mundane or dreaded.

I don’t believe it has to be this way.

Recognizing the small beautiful things that happen in our lives is a kind of tai chi for the soul. However, it’s a skill that needs to be cultivated. Sometimes life is just too much and we don’t have the emotional energy or mental bandwidth to notice the good things right under our nose.

Growing up as little boy I heard this message over and over again: “Be thankful for what you have.”

There seems to be a resurgence of this way of life. Perhaps its because the most wisest use of our time and energy is to drop everything we are doing — even if it’s only for a minute or so — and temporarily walk away from the commitments, deadlines, and projects. We don’t get points for creating false urgency.

They will all be there when you get back.

It is undoubtedly an exaggeration to suggest that we all should prescribe ourselves a life with a careless approach. Instead, taking time to notice good things that normally get overlooked is an act of responsibility; it implies that we can take pride in being adults while still indulging in a childlike wonder.

It’s not an either or kind of thing — it’s both. We can work hard towards our personal goals while we enjoy the journey.

Doesn’t that sound fair, good and honest?

When I remind myself of the small beautiful things, I feel less anxious and more joyful. That nagging rush in the back of my mind dozes into a nap and the Center of my soul shines a little brighter. It reminds me that I can flourish right where I’m planted rather than comparing myself to a future version of me.

Here are 20 ways you can notice the small beautiful things about life to feel more joy, peace and contentment.

1. You did good enough today

My mailman delivers the mail Monday through Saturday. He doesn’t do anything else. I have no heroic stories to tell of him. But he does his job consistently — and that’s the beauty. Maybe your job isn’t cathartic and all you’re required to be is good enough. No shame in that.

2. You have decided to stop postponing your joy

Americanism in its cavalier posture, teaches us to build until there is no more land. This has conditioned us to strive to a finish line that doesn’t exist. Our default programming is “I’ll be happy someday.” But you’ve decided to go rogue on that mental framework and are choosing joy right where you are. You’ve decided to flourish right where you’ve been planed.

3. You have a dog that gets happy every time they see you

Whether you’ve been gone for 10 minutes or 10 months, they greet you with a pure love.

4. You feel thankful for Grace

Love is built to be unexplainable. If you had it totally figured out, then it wouldn’t be romantic. It would feel more like a credit card bill with an exact amount due. Somehow you’re right here, right now, living your life and you feel thankful for everything that is without the pest-like desires of wanting to be somewhere else or want anything else.

5. You decided to stop the mindless hustling (because you found contentment)

Normally, we sweat and work to get somewhere. And when we do, the next step is to set another goal. Or whatever. But what if we stopped all the mindless hustling after we’ve achieved our goal? Maybe allowing ourselves to recognize the fruit of our efforts will help us discover joy and happiness (rather than tumbling into another chase to perpetuate the hustle to nowhere). While mainstream media is concentrated on highlighting the external aspects of life, you’ve redefined what progress looks like for yourself.

6. You have at least one friend who keeps it real

It’s hard to see the whole picture when you’re in the frame.

7. Your last words were “I love you” and a kiss

This takes seconds but lasts forever. During the fast pace of a workday, saying I love you to your partner and sending them off with love is a subtle but significant act.

8. You were patient today

It’s an undeniable feeling — being in the presence of patience. Recall the last time you were treated with patience. It’s infectious, right? Exercising this virtue in the margins of life — on the highway, at the grocery store, or with a client at work — is the impetus to a nicer world.

9. You have access to clean water

1 in 10 people don’t have access to clean water. If you don’t think twice about your water, you’re blessed.

10. You’ve clawed your way through a heartbreak

We’ve all been here. The human through-line can be found in the shattering of the heart. For a while it was an open wound, but with time, it’s turned into a scar and you’ve made it to the other side. You’re stronger. You’re wiser. You’ve proven to yourself that you can take a hit and bounce back.

11. You are focused on something

Because nobody can sharpen all of their axes at once. Seasons dictate life.

12. You exercised today

Exercising displays you have disposable resources like time and money. It’s really a luxury when you think about it.

13. You have (or had) parents or guardians who looked out for you

Can you explain the ROI (return on investment) for a parent or guardian who raised you? No. It’s priceless. Write them a letter and thank them. Now.

14. You have a functioning brain

In college I had a series of concussions from playing sports. There was a point when I didn’t recognize my Ma or Pa (from what they told me). Looking back, it has made me appreciative of my working brain. The brain is what makes us human and allows us to experience joy, peace and love. Be thankful for your brain.

15. You had a barista who made your drink just the way you like it

It’s absurd. But the difference is appreciated. When your drink slides across the counter and it hits your lips with perfection, it makes you feel good right?

16. You have a computer, laptop or cell phone (or all of them)

These tools allow us to learn, connect and create.

17. You have a ritual

The morning coffee with a novel. The evening run. The Thursday night dinners with Ma and Pa. The hot shower before bed. Rituals are nuanced but all of them carry a life-giving power. Because rituals never change it’s independent of your life’s circumstances and can be repeated in times of despair or happiness, in poverty or wealth, in times of busyness or stillness, or in youth or old age. Your rituals provide a spinal fortitude to your inner life in a world when things changed all the time.

18. You prayed or meditated today

Pascal said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” A still mind is like a flowing river of peace.

19. You are beginning to value time over stuff

You realized that the vapid cycle of consumerism, massive debt, and burn-out is not the only path. You’re learning that with some stewardship, you can pare down to the essentials to free up more of the non-renewable asset in your life: Time. Minimalism isn’t about deprivation. It’s about more time.

20. You recognize your own interdependence

If you’ve lived for more than two decades, you’ve got tons of people to thank. Our default posture is that everything we’ve experienced on our own is ours. But this is terribly entitled. Every step we’ve taken up until this point has been reliant on the work or help of somebody or something else. Perennial wisdom across many traditions support the idea that man is a steward of his life and possessions rather than the master of his own world. We all rely on each other to keep the world going.

Hi, I’m Brian.

I wrote Upgrade Everything originally as a guide for myself. Once I discovered how well it worked, I figured it would help my fellow creatives too. My aim for this course is to simply help you do better work faster.

Upgrade Everything is the 7-day email course for creative professionals. You’ll learn how to change your body, upgrade your health, skyrocket productivity, and boost creativity. Click here to enroll in the course.

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