Why Can’t We Enjoy Life’s Simple Pleasures?


Addicted to Extremes

Turn up the volume.
That’s our answer to every need.

Why are we addicted to extremes?

Look around.
Our senses are assaulted daily by a mountain of sensations, and our minds are overloaded with information.

And it’s not simply the quantity of sensations, or the speed with which we encounter them.
They’re competing for our attention.

In the midst of this chaos, our minds respond with the simplest solution.
Dull the senses, dull the feelings, ignore the information.

And why not?
So much of what surrounds us is trivial, fake, or irrelevant.

Here’s the problem.
Life’s simple, wonderful experiences are also tuned out.

When we ignore the noise, we start to ignore what’s precious and valuable around us.
We ignore information that is important to us.
We ignore the people who are important to us.
We don’t feel.

Sure, we know that something is wrong.
And we try to compensate.
We search for powerful experiences that will break through our filters and dullness.
We want to feel alive again.

If real life can’t reach us, then we’ll shock ourselves awake.

Music has to be louder than a jackhammer.
News, drama, books, and movies can’t focus on everyday feelings and events.
They have to focus on the extreme, and sometimes, the twisted.
And we can’t enjoy anything unless it’s new.

Our friends, spouses, children, jobs, possessions aren’t good enough.
They’re just too familiar.

Holding On
There’s no question that we’re subjected to a mass of sensation and information that would have been unthinkable a century ago.

Some people say, that human beings can’t handle so much information.
I don’t believe it.

We’re far more capable and adaptable than we care to admit.
But, we might have to change our attitudes to keep up with our busy environment.

On the surface, at least, our world is a world of things.
And we like to have things, and control things.

There is a certain satisfaction in collecting stuff.
It makes us feel good.
It makes us feel secure and important.

So we get use to holding on.
When we’re being buried in sensations and information, and we try to hold on to all of it, what’s going to happen?

Well, what would happen if you never threw out anything (including garbage and junk snail mail)?
Before long, your house would become unfit to live in.

Your mind isn’t that different.
Sometimes we face the world with a frantic attitude, as thought we might be facing our last thought, emotion, sensation, or bit of information.

If you try to hold on frantically to every thought, emotion, and sensation that passes by, you won’t be able to think or live.

And you won’t have enough attention to deal with the next sensation.
Your brain helps out, and dulls your sensitivity, and reduces the input.

Sensitive, not Sensational
There’s an alternative.
Instead of being dull, and looking for the sensational, we cultivate sensitivity.
We look at all the wonderful details of the good moments. We find the intensity in life’s simple moments, and simple pleasures.

One second.
If we focus on being more sensitive, we’re going to drown in information.

Not necessarily.
Not if you selectively pay attention to what interests you, what’s important to you, what’s wonderful around you.

And remember it all, if you want.
Remembering it is not the same as holding on to it.

Enjoy the experience, but when it’s done, let it go.

The color will come back into what you see.
The beautiful feelings and thoughts will come back into your relationships, as well as other areas of your life.

And you’ll eagerly wait for the next wonderful experience that life brings you.

You may have to be thoughtful about where you put your attention.
But you know how to sort through junk snail mail, and junk e-mail, don’t you?

Isn’t the rest of life worth a little sorting, as well?

6 comments to Why Can’t We Enjoy Life’s Simple Pleasures?

  • Absolutely, throw out a whole heap of “things” and I’m sure you won’t even notice it!

    Better yet, stop buying the “stuff”

  • Mel

    It’s all life. It is up to us as individuals to filter out the noise and determine what is real to us. That is what makes us who we are. A thought provoking post. Well done!

  • J

    This offer a great message. Attempting to enjoy life’s difficult moments would be helpful to all, instead of running away from discomfort with food, alcohol, drugs or shopping.

    This also has marketing implications. Seth Godin’s book Permission Marketing talks about how the old industrial revolution typ mass marketing is dying because every company is competing for a smaller and smaller piece of consumers’ attention, so personalized, permission marketing is going to be what works now.

  • When I was younger, I was extremely driven. One year for my birthday, I got books, decorative plates and wall placques, framed posters, etc. from all my loved ones. The message was the same on each one. “Take time to smell the roses”

    Obviously, they had either conferred on what to get me, or they each recognized on their own that I was driving myself too hard. It was almost an “intervention” for me. I had to stop and think, and really evaluate why I was pushing myself so hard.

    Too many times we don’t realize the unconscious needs, fears and motives that lead us to unhealthy lifestyles. We keep racing against those fears and fill up our lives with “buffers”.

    Thank you for a well-written article and the excellent reminder that we are responsible for the quality of our own lives. A little introspection and self-awareness goes a long way.

  • Beautifully written, Joel…as always… :)

  • […] took Joel’s advice to forget the sensational and look for the simple pleasures. We look at all the wonderful details of the good moments. We find the intensity in life’s simple […]

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