A few years ago, I sought out an executive coach. Before she would even take me on, she asked me to complete an exercise on values and sign a contract committing to show up for the work ahead. That’s when I knew I’d found the girl for me…
The values exercise was a simple one: pick from a long list the ten features you value most in life. Simple in concept, not necessarily in execution. Forcing choices helped focus thinking. Which did I value most? What didn’t matter at all? It wasn’t on the list, so I added whimsy.
The list, of course, was just the start. The heavy lifting came in testing what I was actually doing against what I was claiming to want. Whimsy struck me as deeply true in spirit, but not in action. I started to pay attention to the little, silly things that made me smile, looking to put more of them into my day, celebrating when others had done so as well.
A carved bear stands under some trees in an empty field along my route to the Adirondacks. Away from the road which is already in the middle of nowhere, he’s easy to miss. Someone put him there for the fun of it. I watch for him every summer.
We ordered new wine glasses without realizing their size. (Gargantuan. Olivia Pope sized. Way too big for any wine I could ever consume.) I’ve made one my water glass and spend the day drinking delightedly from the ruby red orb atop its slender stem.
When a New York Times piece resurfaced about Harvard’s effort to have first year students focus on values, I was reminded how happy I had been to see it the first time. How wise to build the habit early. How utterly essential.
I’m guessing not a lot of those freshmen are putting whimsy on the list, though. Too bad.
Life Lesson #42: “You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.” ― Mary Oliver,