Last weekend, it snowed here in Dublin. Not enough to make all the kids in the area drop their X-Box controllers and race outside, but certainly enough to make them walk to their windows and watch for a while, as the snow flurry got heavier and left a temporary (and thin!) white covering on things.
We knew it wouldn’t last long, so my wife suggested to our 2 youngest that they might want to go out and play in it. Of course they were delighted (our teenager, unsurprisingly, opted for the warmth and comfort of his own room!).
Out they went, with plenty of layers on and, after a bit of running around, soon decided to make a snowman together. But there really wasn’t much snow – not on the ground anyway. They asked if they could harvest their raw materials from the top of the cars and, when we said yes, they set to work, scooping the snow off and plonking it into a pile on the grass. It was slow progress. Really slow!
Nia (6) persevered for a while and, with the initial thrill of a (mildly!) snowy day wearing off, started to feel the cold. She came in and left Amy (9) to it.
And here’s where I started to pay closer attention.
See, in my head (being a bit older and more cynical than Amy), I was seeing all the reasons why a decent snowman wouldn’t be possible; it had stopped snowing, it was only a tiny amount anyway, she was left on her own, etc., etc. If I’m honest, I was thinking “Ah here, this is hardly worth her effort!”
But Amy didn’t see it that way. She worked away un-daunted. She dutifully traipsed back and forward to the cars, building her subject bit by bit, handful by handful. We left her to it, checking on her regularly, sometimes calling and waving to her, sometimes just quietly smiling at her independence (one of her very earliest phrases was “I do myself!”).
Well, she kept at it for 45 minutes! And in the end, had created more of a snow-MOUND than a snow-MAN, but she was happy enough with the outcome that she was ready to come in (and, anyway, she had used up most of the already-scarce snow!).
We greeted her with some hugs, some congratulations and, in my case, some photos! Ten minutes later she was tucked up in pyjamas, dressing gown and duvet in front of the TV with a glow of satisfaction, and cold air, on her face. And, whereas the snow had melted within the next hour, “Bob” was still bringing a smile to our faces right up until bedtime the next evening!
The father in me saw the importance of my children enjoying themselves and building happy memories. The extravert in me made me want to tell people about it. And the consultant in me saw a bunch of life lessons worth sharing.
So, here are 7 simple truths about success and happiness that I learned from Amy this week:
- No perfectionism.
She knew it wasn’t going to be the best snowman she’d ever built but she was willing to give it a go and see it as a challenge.
Lesson: “Good enough; done now” will make you happier and more successful than “perfect; done never”.
- Action & perseverance.
Amy wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty (literally!), she did the work that was needed, and kept on doing it until the task was done.
Lesson: Happiness and success come from the right actions repeated the right way.
She was open to help and happy to receive it, but was ready, willing and able to go it alone.
Lesson: It’s no one else’s responsibility to make you happy or successful – it’s in your hands.
- Fun / enjoyment.
Amy didn’t take it too seriously and was ready to laugh at the situation and even her own discomfort (see pic below of her dripping wet, freezing and, yes, mismatched gloves!). She was happy with her icy new friend and was glad she had spent her time like this.
Lesson: Successful and happy people enjoy the process and the journey, as well as the outcome.
- Flexibility & creativity.
She wanted to build a snowman, but changed the plan and thought creatively when she realised there wasn’t enough snow.
Lesson: People who find success and happiness see detours instead of roadblocks.
Amy hardly looked up at the house at all, she was so focused on her mission. She didn’t notice any of the people walking or driving by (all of whom smiled at her efforts).
Lesson: Success and happiness will elude you if you don’t keep your eye on them.
- DIFY (Do It For Yourself).
No one asked Amy to build a ‘snowmound’. In fact, she was mostly oblivious to us marvelling at her determination and enjoyment of her task. She did it because she wanted to do it. She consciously decided that, for her own reasons, this was how she wanted to spend her time.
Lesson: Enjoy praise and adulation when you get it, but doing things only FOR praise and adulation won’t make you happy or successful.
However you define success and happiness, I hope this has given you some food for thought. I know it’s not a perfect list, but at least it’s a DONE list!
Let me know your thoughts, or anything I missed in the comments below.
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