What do you find inspiring?  I think inspiration, and it’s cousins, elevation and awe, are over-looked sources of happiness in our achievement-crazed culture.  It’s kind of weird that things that make us cry can also be such amazing sources of joy—but it is true.  In honor of this weekend’s TEDx conference, which I know will provide a year’s worth of inspiration for me, I’d like to share with you some other things I find inspiring:

(1) Kids when they’ve worked hard to master something—especially when they are expressing their unique selves artistically—and you can see them experiencing their own success as it is happening.  The other day one of my daughter’s classmates dressed up as Stephen Tyler and sang “Dream On” in front of the whole school, as a part of the hysterical 4th grade musical comedy they wrote.  He was SO INTO IT, I was smiling so hard my face could have split open. 

Similarly, this video of girl offering the world inspiration does the trick for me.  (If you are reading this post via email, watch the video here.)

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(2) Email from my readers inspires me to keep getting better at teaching people how to raise happy kids.  Check out this email from Janine, creator of our fabulous Community Gratitude Journal:

I just had this great “I Must Be Good Mom” moment.

My 4yo daughter has worked “failure” into her imaginative play.  Last night she was pretending she had a candy store and when I went to make a purchase, she showed me her wares.  One basket was full of blocks, the other of Melissa & Doug play picnic food.  After explaining in excruciating detail the merits of the block candy, she pointed to the other basket and said, “This candy didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to.  I burned them a little and that’s why they look like [regular] food.”

I was so proud to hear her think through possible worlds in which the outcome was not ideal, but still an acceptable part of reality.  I know I shouldn’t really take credit for her fantasy play, but I do.  And I’m proud because it means that she is picking up the idea that “failure” is not a dead end.  It happens and we make the most of it.  Learning from it and moving on.  And the reason she picks it up is because I consciously try to model these reactions to failure.

However, that was yesterday.  Today she farted in the bed while we were snuggling and then stuck her head under the covers so she could smell it better.  That must be something her father models.

Please share your “I must be a good parent” moments with us in the comments!

(3) Poetry. Here is one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems.  When I see that photo of my daughter, below, I feel like Mary Oliver must have felt looking at the grasshopper: what a miracle our children are.

The Summer Day
Mary Oliver
from New and Selected Poems, 1992
Beacon Press, Boston, MA

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

It is a great question, really: What is it that you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? If you are needing inspiration, I hope you’ll join me this weekend at the Craneway Pavilion (there are still tickets, but if you can’t come to the Bay Area, it may be webcast live).  I’ll be talking about what I believe is the single most foundational skill for happiness. It is going to be a full afternoon and evening of short, engaging presentations and hands-on workshops from leaders in their fields. We will hear from scientists, world-changers, educators, artists, students, and musicians, each with a unique perspective to share on how to raise kind and compassionate children. JOIN US!!

© Blake Farrington

© 2011 Christine Carter, Ph.D.

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