A New Kind of Yardstick for Life

Images in this post: Shape and Light and Moment in Madrid

Did I do something to relax today?

Did I take it slowly instead of rushing at some point today, just once?

Did I do something playful and purposeless today, perhaps reading, biking, playing with the kids?

Did I look after my body, even doing something nice for it for 2 minutes, today?

Did I smile at someone today? To myself?

Did I wish myself happiness, ease?

If I did any one of those things I can count this as a wonderful day. And if I didn’t, and I notice, and I smile at myself for noticing and think, ‘doesn’t matter at all’, then I can still call it a wonderful day.

None of this was taught to me as being important, I was taught to look at other yardsticks in measuring my success in life: ladder-climbing, being recognised as being incredible in some way or another, getting on in the world, earning lots and having lots, striving away tirelessly, on and on and on.

This left me with a peculiar sense of ‘purpose’, a need that can drive me into turmoil, wanting to do great things, wanting to do more than ‘enough’. A sense of purpose that I can also be very grateful for, as it’s helped me enormously to achieve things that make my life wonderful in so many ways. Without our purposeful striving and effort, my wife and I wouldn’t have our business – Notes in Spanish – that pays the bills and makes lots of people happy as we help them to learn Spanish. Without the hard work and skills and yardsticks I learned at school, I wouldn’t have the free time to write this post.

But my purpose-yardstick is way out of proportion to a happy life. It always asks too much of me, which is what leads to the inner turmoil. I think I can calm it down enormously, so it looks more like this:

Did I do something that fulfils even in the tiniest way my need for meaning and purpose today? Perhaps work a little on our business, write a little, share something wonderful, do something for the family or be a good husband or dad? Just put one foot forward in any of those directions? Any of the above will do, even just 2 minutes of a single one of them. That’s enough. And if I didn’t, I can smile at myself again for noticing and think, ‘doesn’t matter at all, you are only human’, or ‘it’s fine, you’re on holiday!’ and I can still call it a wonderful day just for having been alive in it, and to have experienced this great life passing by.

6 thoughts on “A New Kind of Yardstick for Life

  1. Interesting. I was reading some excerpts from the Power of Now over breakfast this morning. Then I sit down to start working and see your email with this post. Just what I needed today. For some strange reason, I hear your last paragraph being spoken in the voice of Fred Rogers when he testified before the US Senate Subcommittee on Communications in 1969. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKy7ljRr0AA


    1. Hi Ken,
      That’s funny! I’d never heard Fred Rogers before – I don’t sound much like him but I can see that last paragraph works well in his voice! I’m glad you liked the post.


  2. I took a few minutes during my work day to read this post, and I’m glad I did. We say we are slowing down as we get older, but I think it has to do more with getting wiser! I enjoy so much your photography as well, the unique angles and lighting of Madrid, a place that I love very much.


    1. Thank you for your kind comment Anne. I hope we get wiser, yes, I think we do. I don’t think I was all that wise in my twenties – spontaneous yes, which is good as well.


  3. What an inspiration you are Ben the way you investigate and share things. How good it is to be kind to ourselves if we don’t do the good things we thought we would do each day. Smile and recognise it. Notice it and move on. Thank you for the reminder.


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