There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.
I have said many times that we are meaning making machines, we make meaning out of everything. What if we can’t see the meaning until days, weeks or even years later? Might our immediate reactions be uncalled for, or even down right wrong? Is it possible that everything happens for a reason, exactly the way it’s supposed to and we are here to just enjoy the ride? I have given this concept a lot of thought over the past few years, especially as our travels have shown me some of the happiest people in the world, and material possessions are not what brings them joy.
Not only do I believe we react to situations in ways that don’t make much sense, but we value things in life that I don’t believe bring us happiness or joy. I have taken the time to review so many TED Talks and other videos online about what brings us happiness. The Harvard research over 75 years studying human behavior clearly found that the most important ingredient for long-term happiness is the quality of our relationships. Is that what we value in our society? Aren’t we building bigger homes with taller fences so we can isolate ourselves even more?
Over the next few years, while our kids are still in high school, we plan to build our life right here in San Diego. No more plane rides for only business purposes. No more long drives for business, there are enough clients within a 30 minute drive of our home. We are going to purchase an electric car so I can only drive up to 100 miles in a day. I will attempt to attend every sporting event that our kids participate in and entertain couples at our home at least once a week. This is all focused on building a life with the desired end result of happiness and joy. We are aiming to have our family become a fixture in our community, to personally be a dedicated Rotarian and someone who integrates work, family and community into my life. I believe that this is the ultimate key to happiness so that is the direction I choose.
So, the next time something happens in our life that seems overwhelming or just down right wrong, I aim to see it through the lens of the farmer and the answer will be “maybe.” In addition, I will stay true to my learning and focus on the activities that will bring more happiness and joy in our life, which will bring us ultimate wealth and success.
To connecting the dots ….. one dot at a time!