2014-02-10

U-Max

Here's a tip to making your day a little bit better. This might seem a little simplistic, maybe even stupid, but it really pays off. The idea is to take whatever recurring or unpleasant task you might be faced with on a given day, and to make small changes that result in major improvements to your level of satisfaction.

I'll give you an example from my own life: It's typical for me to come home from work, throw on my running shoes, and head out the door for a run. The benefit is that it's quick and convenient; the main drawback is that the surrounding neighborhood is not a very good one to run through. There aren't many trees, there isn't any water, traffic is heavier than I'd prefer, and I have to run at least a mile in any direction before I arrive at any sort of pleasant scenery. Even then, what scenery actually is pleasant is relatively fleeting, and I soon find myself running next to a home improvement store, or a freeway, or road construction, or something.

Well, a few weeks back, I took a wrong turn on my way to the store, and ended up on a little turn-off right before a highway overpass. As I made my way back to my point of origin, I noticed a little parking lot and a drinking fountain. I'd stumbled on an inlet into the local trail system in town, only about a three-minute drive from my home.

Since then, I've been running there. The trails are well-maintained, pleasant to run on, there is plenty of wildlife and fellow runners, and the scenery is about as great as you're likely to find around here. Almost instantly, I found my running pace had increased and my overall satisfaction with every run was much more than it had been.

Such a small, easy change - finding better scenery - translated into a big satisfaction gain.

Similarly, I recently loaded my phone up with a lot of mp3s, and I now plug my headphones in and listen to some of my favorite music, even when I'm caught somewhere that I don't usually get to hear anything.

Of course, these two examples are no-brainers for many people. The point isn't that these two actions in particular will change your life, but simply that there must be dozens of things you go through every day that you could make incrementally better by simply doing things a little differently. Add them all up, and it will make for a much better day. Really.