From Scott Thompson. Follow Scott on Twitter @foureyedblond or email him at thompson[AT]@borderstan.com.
Like most Washingtonians, I feel as though my molecules changed the moment fall weather broke last week.
Gone were the mornings of arriving at work looking as if I had walked through a car wash, or the evenings spent walking awkwardly through Rock Creek Parkway because only one mile of a three-mile run was physically possible. In their place arrived enthusiastic anticipation about everything that makes fall the best of all seasons. The pumpkin spiced lattes. The butternut squash soup recipes. The layers upon layers of cardigans, ties and Gap receipts.
My response to the change of season was simultaneously surprising and unsurprising. Surprising, because in many ways it really did feel as though my brain cells had re-calibrated themselves, and I felt happier. Unsurprising because it exemplified the sentiment of a quote I recently discovered in the “Daily Quote” space at the top of my work planner. The quote now ranks as one of the simplest yet most meaningful quotes I have read in some time.
“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.”
The quote was said by Charles Kingsley. After doing a little research, I learned that Charles Kingsley was a 19th century Englishman — and in many ways, a Renaissance man. During his lifetime, he served as a priest with the Church of England, a university professor, a historian, a novelist and an early supporter of Charles Darwin.
Given his curiosity and diverse career, it’s easy to assume that Mr. Kinsley could have been quoted in my planner on a multitude of intellectual topics, ranging from natural selection to predestination. But the quote I discovered was the opposite — it was a simple, precise summary of a lesson each of us has experienced in our daily lives but perhaps have never been able to pinpoint. It’s the fact that enthusiasm — regardless of what it’s for, or who it’s about- is the single engine behind what drives us, what sustains us, what makes us successful and what makes us happy.
My enthusiasm for fall immediately made me excited about even the most mundane activities – waking up, walking to work, getting an afternoon coffee. It’s the same physiological sense of enthusiasm that can make every late night or early morning at work worthwhile if a project excites you and taps into your passion. The same enthusiasm that puts a skip into your step after a great first date, that makes pressing “complete purchase” on Expedia so thrilling, or that makes planning a wedding, a trip, or a party almost more exciting that the event itself.
Deep down, I suppose I was already aware of the lesson in Mr. Kingsley’s quote – but I had never seen it spelled out so succinctly. Like everyone, my parents and mentors have always advised me to pursue work in a career field I love, or have warned me that money can’t buy happiness. Those statements are correct, but that don’t dig down into what really does and can make us happy on a day to day, moment by moment basis – what helps us overcome the cyclical problem the French call “metro, boulot, dodo” (metro, work, sleep).
By identifying the people, the places, the projects, and the plans that enthuse us — and by seeking them out — we can make every day feel like “the first day of Fall.”
And Mr. Kingsley, I can’t think of anything to be more enthusiastic about than that.