In my small and very unscientific poll about the “root of a good mood,” nearly half of you said that a “sense of accomplishment” was a great source of happiness. Though popular culture often defines ultimate happiness as the absence of activity (think woman lying motionless on the beach, relaxing into a massage chair at a spa, or reclining on a chaise eating peeled grapes), I tend to agree with the popular vote. It’s not that I have anything against doing nothing. I don’t. In fact, I think doing nothing is an essential part of creating a sane and balanced life. However – big picture here – doing something is usually much more fulfilling.
This photo is a quick snapshot my beau took of me a couple weekends ago. On an impulse, I decided to scale the impressively high “Whale’s Jaw” boulder at the Gloucester park called Dogtown. You can’t really get the scale of the thing from the picture, but I was a good forty or so feet up in the air. That may not sound like much, but when you’re scaling a slippery, steeply angled, smooth rock face; it sure seems high enough.
There was no reason for me to climb this boulder. No one asked me to do it, and I’m actually slightly put off by heights. I had to ditch my socks and shoes to get enough traction to make the climb. I’m honestly not sure what came over me; but, I have to tell you, I felt pretty damn good when I got up to the top. It wasn’t about doing it entirely on my own. (I didn’t. My beau provided some great on-the-ground coaching and also spotted me on my somewhat less-than-graceful descent … going down is always harder than going up.) It was just about doing it. Why did the man climb the mountain? Because it was there. Sometimes, it’s great if you can stop thinking long enough to just do something. I didn’t ask myself why I wanted to climb the boulder or whether I should climb it. I just had an impulse, and I went with it. I DID something.
And the accomplishment – however small or irrelvant to my everyday life – was just as sweet as if I’d completed some task I’d been planning for months. It may have even been sweeter on some levels, because there was such a sense of play about the whole endeavor … the “just because” part of the equation.
Yesterday, on November 1st, I started another “just because” project. Alongside about 140,000 other wannabe writers, I started writing a 50,000-word novel for the 30-day National Novel Writing Month challenge. Though I am full of self doubts and second guesses, though I have only the glimmer of a storyline and a hazy sense of my overall theme, though I have an entire chorus of inner critics foaming at the mouth inside my weary head; I am just going to go ahead and do this. There’s no big prize at the end. Busting my ass all month to write what is sure to be the crappiest of crappy first drafts does not have any moral, business, or financial benefit. I’m doing this just because I want to see if I can do it.
And, each time I push myself to do something – anything – just to see if I can do it, I’m amazed at what I can do & that makes me happy.
How about you? Have you ever done something “just because?” Have you ever surprised yourself by doing something you didn’t think you could do?