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Super focus

Dora the Explorer: she makes someone happy.

Dora the Explorer: she makes someone happy.

A buddy of mine and I have a saying that some people are so desperate to remain unhappy, they'll search for the proverbial needle in a haystack, just so they can jam it in their eye ...

I said this recently to another friend, who'd just taken a new job overseas. When I asked if he was excited about leaving, he launched into a laundry list of the problems associated with an international move and tying up the loose ends of his life.

He sounded miserable, so I said to him: "You know you just said seven negative things about moving overseas to a fabulous new job in an exotic, unknown city?"

I'm able to spot this habit in others from a mile away because I'm prone to it myself, dwelling on negative crap, rather than blissing out on the fact I'm incredibly fortunate to live the life I do.

I bring it up today, however, because I've noticed my daughter does the exact opposite (WARNING: NEW FATHER BLOG POST) ... she is focused, in fact super-focused, on the stuff that makes her happy.

It cracks me up continuously.

We can be in a supermarket isle, 15 metres from the Band-Aids and she'll spot the a minuscule cartoon character on a box of plasters and scream "WIGGLES!" in the most joyful of voices.

We'll be walking down the street and she'll yell "BALLOON!" and it will literally take me 30 seconds scanning the area to track down the Lotto balloons tied outside a newsagent 100 metres away.

We'll be doing 50km/h down a city street in my car, she'll shout "LION!" and, it'll only be sheer coincidence that I happen to glance in the right direction and see said bronze feline slouching above a doorway on Maquarie Street.

Of all the stuff competing for attention in her still-forming 27-old-month brain - fundamentals such as balance, walking, speech - she still chooses to see lions and balloons and the Wiggles because they make her happy; reaaaaaally happy.

If you have children, I'm not telling you anything new; in fact, a kid's super-focus on stuff that makes them happy, be it popcorn, pancakes, Dora the Explorer or your iPad can send some people batty, as they chant: "Want popcorn, want popcorn, want popcorn, WANT POPCORN!"

But give the kid this: they know what makes them happy and they stick to it.

The point I'm making is that most of us also know what makes us happy, be it exercise, family, eating well or group sex, yet too often we stray from that prescription and a week or month later, wonder why we're feeling blue.

Currently, my daughter is stuck on living in a garbage can, inspired no doubt by the Greek philosopher, Diogenes of Sinope, (or more likely Oscar the Grouch).

She wants me to move in with her.

Last week, we saw a waitress at a new restaurant in my neighbourhood taking out bags of trash and my daughter waddled/ran up to her and said: "Daddy lives in a garbage bin!"

I reflected later that, at times, I really do live in a garbage bin, overwhelmed by the imagined refuse of life, crabbing on like Oscar at all the other bright puppets around me when, in reality I have it all, I just have to focus on it.

There's a photography exhibition on at Kings Cross's Wayside Chapel at the moment called Some Place Else, which features pictures taken by visitors to the church and drop-in centre.

"Participants were given two disposable cameras and were asked to take photos of 'good' things in their lives with one camera and 'bad' things with the other camera," writes the Reverend Graham Long.

The photos are brutal reminder we all have good and bad in our lives and we also have a choice which we focus on. If you'd like to check them out, go here.

Sam de Brito's latest novel Hello Darkness is in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter here. His email address is here.

26 comments so far

  • Fantastic piece, Sam

    "WIGGLES!"

    Commenter
    Fluellen
    Date and time
    July 19, 2012, 6:11PM
    • I wonder whether we are focusing on the negative or not wanting to anger the good luck gods in singing about our luck?

      There is always the chance that something good will fall through and we don't want to be seeking commiseration from the world when it does.

      I don't know your friend but I was all set to move to a new (and very functional) place a few weeks ago...my hesitation in being outwardly too excited about it paid off when it didn't happen and I could go on with a smile. No blessing comes without disadvantages and if we keep the good with the not-so then we may find our reactions are tempered appropriately.

      This could be read as pessimistic, but in fact it is a way of looking at all sides of a coin. I am now happy to be staying where I am, whereas I would have been sad to leave...better than putting all my happiness eggs in one basket.

      As for your little girl's lesson? Yes. We should all be on the look out for balloons.

      Commenter
      far away
      Date and time
      July 19, 2012, 6:54PM
      • Most men keep their eyes out for balloons, can spot them from a mile out and seeing them usually brings a smile to the face. There are associated risks, however, as looking too closely can be akin to staring at the sun

        Commenter
        hired goon
        Date and time
        July 20, 2012, 11:31AM
    • Every now and then I read something that makes this great mystery they call life a little clearer. The opening paragraph of this fabulous article did just that. A perfect summary of the whackers in this world who insist on being glum - no matter how much joy and opportunity surrounds them. Snap the hell out of it!!! I love 'happy' - it's the reason for living... and children can 'be it' better than us jaded adults. I hope this article inspires your readers to get joyful. By the way, I'm a huge fan of the Rev Graham Long - and I'm sure he wouldn't mind if I said... find and do what makes you so happy, you get horny just thinking about it... and you will make a million dollars. Love, light and joy everyone - please! Px

      Commenter
      Phyllis Foundis
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 19, 2012, 8:07PM
      • When you really listen to your kids, they can be a beautiful philosophical foil as they cut to the nub of all the big issues with the most honest and straight forward questions and insights. Often they make me laugh, regularly amaze me with the simple thought links that build a complex chain and always give pause for reflection before answering.

        I've come to believe that people are as happy as they choose to be, but even when considering the natural happy states of children, you can see how the real world creeps in to provide its own speed bumps on their blissful journey.

        Over the last couple of weeks, my 7 year old daughter has been grappling with the concept of death - her mothers, mine, hers, her friends and even strangers. It is at times heart-breaking to see those realisations weigh on her. We talk a lot about it and her questions force me to reconsider my own positions answers carefully before I answer. I never sugar coat, but I do strive for compassionate honesty.

        The most powerful insight from those discussions for me is that the only thing she is really afraid of about dying is not getting to spend more time with the people she truly loves. It sure cut a swathe through the complex meaning of life constructs that I have built for myself. Out of the mouths of babes...

        Commenter
        SmartMonkey
        Date and time
        July 19, 2012, 9:19PM
        • Ah, that's awesome. What an important message.

          Although - I went to a Buddhist Dharma talk the other day where the monk talked about different types of happiness. Your list of potential happiness bringers e.g. group sex, reminded me of this. Some types of happiness, for example getting drunk or gossiping, lead to a loss of clarity and hangover, where as other types, like playing with your kids, being kind to your spouse, inevitably lead to non-remorse and clarity of mind, which will naturally lead on to deeper and deeper states of contentment and bliss if cultivated.

          I found this very useful as I'm often confused about what sort of happiness I should be pursuing.

          Another monk, Ajahn Brahm, tells the following parable which I related to my 8yr old son recently when he was getting really frustrated at his team losing at soccer:

          Once upon a time, there where two chicken farmers. One of them went into his chicken shed every morning to collect the chickens’ shit in his basket and took it home. The other farmer collected the eggs in his basket, .

          Lots of people tend to collect chicken shit instead of eggs. The meaning of the parable is:

          When you look at your past, what do you collect? Do you collect negative experiences and hang on to worries? This is only collecting chicken shit. Or do you collect the eggs by remembering the good, successful and happy times of your life?

          Commenter
          Heidi
          Date and time
          July 19, 2012, 9:53PM
          • Your assumption in thinking that most folk innately know what makes them happy, might be a littIe generous. I blame technology for this. There is too much choice. Everywhere you turn, there is a screen. I rarely watch TV and I've put myself on a digital diet because I can't cope with choice. If I look at my interent history from the 20 minutes Ive allowed myself tonight, Ive hovered over a couple of Groupon deals, made some trades on my NRL dream team squad, youtubed the Models song " Hold on", then Peter Gabriels "Solsbury Hill" - got tired of that and moved on to Katie Upton doing the Cat Daddy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCUnWIs88CQ - pretended to do some work related stuff and now I'm here....I mean thats not really a healthy brain in action.

            During the day I like to feel integrated and connected and I'm sometimes saddened to see passers by with their ipods, walls up and disengaged. But I guess this is there coping mechanism for a world of too much choice.

            I was recently introduced to Franklin Coveys 5 Choices book. It really helped me quantify what happiness looked like in an idealistic form and a practical guide on how to achieve it through neurological rewiring.

            Commenter
            Missionary Man
            Date and time
            July 19, 2012, 11:25PM
            • Sam - good post!

              Commenter
              Joel
              Location
              Canberra
              Date and time
              July 20, 2012, 8:12AM
              • Your description of your daughter's behaviour is very evocative, and, yes, there is something of a lesson for us in what we choose to focus on and why.

                I would be wary of idealising children's perception too much, though - they are often highly mercurial in their temperaments. if they have 'one of those moods' you could dangle all four Wiggles in front of them and they would not snap them out of it - much to the parents' frustration, of course.

                I think that is the real poignancy of childhood

                Commenter
                mike88
                Date and time
                July 20, 2012, 8:20AM
                • Please, someone take all 4 Wiggles and dangle them over a cliff... and then drop them. The world will thank you.

                  Commenter
                  David
                  Location
                  Sydney
                  Date and time
                  July 20, 2012, 2:31PM

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