Too many times we chase happiness. We look for those fleeting, external moments of joy to build us up because we ultimately are not finding fulfillment in our lives. This idea reminds me of how I use to describe weather and climate to my students when I was teaching Earth Science in my first years in the classroom. I tried to help the students remember the difference between the two by using the analogy that weather is what we get from day to day and climate is what we expect. Happiness is much like weather, where fulfillment is more like climate. Happiness, like weather can be temporary and fleeting. It is moments of sunshine, followed by periods of rain. While it is raining, we just want the sun back again, but that sunshine and warmth when it does return does not seem to last. Climate is our fulfillment. It is what we expect to get overtime. Although there are many moments of rain or gloom, there are usually many more moments of sun, and beautiful skies. But sometimes, when we get caught in those rainy moments we forget about all the sunshine in our lives. We are searching for happiness rather than finding fulfillment in all the things and happenings in our lives.
I recently watched a video from Mike Smith, former Atlanta Falcons head football coach, where he mentioned that he decided many years ago that he was never going to have a bad day. He said there might be bad moments in each day but on the whole he was always going to focus on the positive to ensure he never considered the entire day as “bad.”
Great moments come and go, just like bad moments. All the moments in the day, good or bad, matter. We need to stop chasing just good moments and find ways to rejoice in the bad moments as great opportunities for learning. Sometimes the bad moments, in the long run, end up being better for us than the great ones. Like a dog chasing its tail, seeking fleeting moments of happiness will never bring fulfillment. Superficial moments of joy, are just that, superficial moments. Fulfillment comes from our purpose in what we do, the individual moments and being full of intent in what we do, are how we get there. What we do with our allotted time each day will determine where we go, and how we feel along that journey.
These ideas remind me of a David McCullough Jr. quote, “Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.” Happiness is chasing a place to plant your flag so you can show the world what you have accomplished. If this is you goal, you will constantly be looking for newer, higher, mountains to climb to prove your worthiness and feel good about yourself. Whereas, embracing the challenge and enjoying the process of doing those same things creates fulfillment. The top of the mountain is not the end goal, but a place for you to reflect and see the world.
I feel like this is the time of year when I need this message the most. A lot of people would argue that they often get bogged down and feel this lull in contentment in February or March, but I always find my toughest time of year in the second month of school. I get excited about the start of a new school year, but as that initial excitement fades and the honeymoon ends, I find myself struggling a little to keep my energy levels high. Instead of letting the stress and weariness of the current happenings get me down, I need to constantly remind myself to focus my energy on reflection and improvement for the year. I need to remind myself why I do what I do each day. If I do not know why I am getting up each morning and coming to school, then it may be time to find another profession.
I challenge you to think about these ideas as we start the second month of our school year. Remind yourself at beginning of each day that the kids in front of you deserve your best today and everyday. Let your purpose give you inspiration and focus to keep the new school year momentum going. Rejoice in all moments, good or bad- even when celebrating is the last thing on your mind. How we handle each moment can change our lives and the lives of others around us. Sometimes, the smallest moments can make the biggest difference.