Nudges and defaults
Driving into town the other day, I heard a really wonderful interview with Dan Buettner, a writer who has just published a book about his experiences traveling and studying the happiest people in different communities around the world. And while the rest of the interview is definitely worth checking out here http://www.npr.org/2010/11/24/131571885/how-to-thrive-dan-buettner-s-secrets-of-happiness&sc=fb&cc=fp, I found one of his ideas to be particularly striking: He suggests that, in order to maximize happiness, we should identify, create, and implement the specific “nudges and defaults” in our own lives that might help to tip the balance in favor of joy.
Because I’ve always been a planner (and a worrier), I’ve come to rely on the defaults. I believe in savings accounts, insurance policies, and backup plans, and I’m moderately certain that a general feeling of safety and security can help to make difficult times worth working through. But I spend a lot less time thinking about—and feeling grateful for—the nudges. Fulfilling work. Family time. Great meals. Exercise.
And cold, wet noses that let you know it’s time to face the day.
This morning, when Charlotte–in need of a cuddle–found her way under the comforter, I thought about how much better she has made our lives. Dmitri and I agree that it was Charlotte’s arrival three years ago that really made us feel like a family, and she’s taught us that enthusiasm (for all things, but especially bacon), daily runs, and plenty of sleep are key components of happiness. Most importantly, she’s helped us to understand that patience, understanding, and lots of praise can transform even the most scared, aggressive pup into one you’d gladly share your bed with.
I am so very grateful for the big stuff. But I’m also grateful for the nudges.
Especially the cold, wet ones.