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Can You Really Have it All?

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Can you really have it all?

On a warm, sunny spring day my twin three-year-old grandkids wanted to go on a walk.  Between my warnings of “stop running” and “wait” there was a tremendous amount of joy.  They expressed wonder at rocks, stopped to sit on a big rock and then from their big rock perch hunted for small rocks that were, in a toddler’s world, pretty.  A yard had sprinklers on watering the grass. They stopped dead in their tracks and smelled the water as it hit grass, listened to the soothing sound of the spraying water, watched the “rainbow” that the color prism created by the water and, of course, had to get just a little bit wet in the cold water. The twins smelled flowers, gently touched their petals and gleefully called out the color of the flowers.  They smiled, laughed, questioned, learned and all of us had a blast just taking a walk. 

It made me consider when do we stop enjoying all of the little joys in our life and begin to ignore or just take them for granted?  While there are people who still embrace small joys, they are the exception.  Many of us don’t even see or embrace the small joys.  Our dog who greets us enthusiastically every night when we return home, our friend who cares enough to send us a silly joke or text, or our co-worker who wonders whether or not our weekend trip was enjoyable.  Appreciating the little joys is guaranteed to make you happier and more satisfied.

However, our world is currently moving very fast and the Internet has had a huge impact.  It impacts society both positively and negatively and perpetuates the myth that we can have it all.  It creates an illusion of what our life should look like and creates huge pressure for some.  It makes people indulge – and spend - beyond their limits.  Materialism has proven to not make people happy, rather it creates unhappiness and even depression.   For others, living their life on social media is the norm.  They spend hours each day on social media.  They chronicle every experience, yet miss the joy of the experience because they are so busy posting, taking photos, and looking for the place to take the next best photo.  Rarely is the posting the routine and even boring day-to-day of life.  It creates a false and unobtainable reality.   So, what chases us in our quest to have it all?   Is it ambition, never enough, if only, comparing, guilt, approval, self-esteem, desire to make the world better, leaving a legacy, living a mindful existence or something else? 

What having it all is – and even determining if that is possible - can only be defined by you and likely will change throughout your life.  There is always a balance and invariably a trade-off. And, some of those trade-offs are not easy and can be costly.   You may have to give up something that you enjoy to get something that you love.  Frequently there is delayed gratification.  And, in our life’s journey, there may be a misplacement of or a temporary loss of joy.  Life may just become the grind.  Several years ago, I started a list.  It isn’t a bucket list.  It is just a list.  I’ve written about things that I want to do to reduce regret such as calling my grandmother once a week or fully supporting my sister through her cancer.  There are experiences like traveling to Pasadena to see the Rose Bowl Parade and there are things that just fill my life with joy.  By writing things on my list it has become my definition of having it all.  Will I get everything on my list?  Certainly not.  Will I get closer? Yes.

I add things to my list as my life evolves and I’m willing to let go of things that don’t fit anymore.  Several years ago, when my mom passed away and I was struggling to find happiness, I cut out the word “Joy” from a holiday card and stuck it in my wallet.  Literally, I carry joy around with me.  It reminds each time that I pull out cash to look for, be open to, and appreciate the little joys in life.   What little joys can you find to embrace each day?


About the Author:  Brenda Edwards is the Executive Director of the Phoenix law firm of Jaburg Wilk.  She writes on management topics.