One year ago we put out a post about how our Big Trip started with a New Year’s resolution. We encouraged everyone to think up their own “Something Big” and go for it. We also posted some tips we hoped might help turn dreams into reality.
Here we are a year later and I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what this whole adventure, this fantabulous Big Trip, has meant to us. (Spoiler alert: A LOT!) In my quest for a future career as Chief Happiness Officer of some fine company, I’ve read a lot about positive psychology (don’t snicker…it is a real science). There is a constant refrain that runs through most of our brains, “As soon as I achieve this one thing I really want, then I’ll be happy.” As in, “Once I’ve made partner, all this sacrifice will be worth it and I’ll be happy.” Then, once we make partner, we think, “Oh, once I’m senior partner….” It becomes this horrible Sisyphean thing where we never reach what we feel is the summit and that never lets us be fully happy. If you Google, ‘Do big accomplishments make you happy?‘ the answer is a resounding ‘No‘.
Yet this trip, a pretty big accomplishment if you ask me, has made us happy. From the second we opened a trip-devoted savings account and decided to go for it, we’ve been happier for it. I think the reason why is that the entire process of dreaming, committing, saving, planning, and finally packing our bags and going has made us happy. The process has been the goal. I think also it’s that the outcome depends 100% on us and not on anyone else. We didn’t have to earn a promotion or sell enough gizmos. The trip came from within us. I’m not sure we’ll be as happy once it’s all over (um, which would be consistent with what Google said), but for the past three years of planning/saving/exploring/adventuring/loving, we’ve had a skip in our step and that’s why I really wish everyone would do Something Big. Don’t you deserve a skip in YOUR step? I think we all do! Trust me: you’ll only regret the adventures you don’t attempt.
It’s the act of taking control of this piece of our lives, instead of being swept away with other people’s expectations, that improves our happiness. It’s choosing what we really want to do, rather than letting others (or even ourselves, sometimes!) define what we’re supposed to do. Taking that choice back…wow…we felt happier the moment we did! Sure, scared a bit, but happier and WAY more excited!
This trip has made us delve into untold numbers of challenges, from figuring out how to talk about money (no small thing in most relationships), saving, goal setting, getting up the courage to quit our jobs (so much harder than we expected), finding our way when we don’t know the language or customs, dealing with stolen credit cards, ceilings caving in and apartments flooding…on and on. There’s always something. The end result of dealing with those constant changes and challenges is that we know, flat out KNOW, we can do anything. It’s hard to overestimate the amount of confidence this trip has given both of us. I’d say, “look out world, here we come“, but we’ve already done that. HA!
Now that the trip is almost over — weird how a month left feels so short!! — we have to start thinking about life back at home. And what are we thinking? BIG! Aaron has this HUGE, really cool art project, a whole gallery show really, that he’s been noodling on since Africa. Me? I cannot wait to dive into a really over-my-head brand new job. Don’t know what it’ll be yet, but Bring It! We also plan to make big changes to our house and Aaron’s studio. Stuff we used to just talk about and now we are pretty sure we’ll do it…all of it! Why not? We CAN do anything.
Stop and think what it would be like if more people felt this way; this Superman feeling of being able to do anything we set our minds to? I wish more people could/would make Something Big a reality in their own lives. What if employers gave more time off so folks could really sink their teeth into something totally different? Bosses, are you listening? Yes, a few people would not return to work, and that’s okay, but probably many more would go back re-energized and with a Think Big mindset ready to take on the next big challenge. What would that do to the work place? People would be less afraid of trying new things; in fact, they’d be inspired to bring up new possibilities! You know that would go straight to the bottom line (would love to write a dissertation on that someday). That’s what I think. I think the economic multiplier effect would be enormous and great for business. Even more importantly, the human happiness multiplier would be off the charts! Folks would be happier because they made their dreams a reality instead of just wishing they had. Regret is one of the worst things, isn’t it?
Sooooooo, let us take this opportunity to invite everyone to join us in doing Something Big in 2016. Run that marathon. Write your novel. Start a foundation. Fund a scholarship. Build a house from the ground up. Re-build that old car. Create a better cupcake. By the way, we know someone who is doing every one of these things. Everyone has their own version of Something Big and we hope you’ll take the plunge and see what your adventure has in store. What Something Big do YOU want to do???
Best Wishes for a very Happy New Year everyone!
Anner (future CHO) and Aaron (present day amazing artist)