Happiness: It’s The Little Things

This past January at a film festival, I got to chat briefly with big-mountain skier Chris Davenport. He’s a big deal (among other things, he’s skied the Lhotse Face on Everest, Denali, all 54 Colorado 14ers in one year, first descents all over the world, et cetera), as well as a businessman, author, husband, and father of three, and somehow holds it all together without at all looking stressed any time you see him.

We talked briefly about the idea of “balance,” which many of us will tell you we’re seeking these days—better work-life balance, more balance so we’ll feel less stressed, more balance between the importance of our careers vs. our families. A consistent level of everyday happiness. I said I didn’t think there was such a thing as balance, at least lately, for me.

Chris said, “For me, it just means being on the mountain every day.”

When he says “the mountain,” he means Aspen/Snowmass, where he lives. Which sounds like quite a lofty idea for most of us, who don’t live in Aspen. But I don’t think he literally means skiing at Aspen—I think he just means doing something that makes him happy every day. In my limited experience hearing Chris speak or chatting with him, I think he’s excited to hike and ski Highlands Bowl almost any day it has enough snow cover to do so, whether it’s a bluebird day with good snow, or 10 below with 40 mph winds. He’s a hero to some folks because he skis huge terrain in the world’s highest mountains, but he’s also a hero because he’s permanently stoked on clicking into skis, even on the local mountain he’s skied a bajillion times.

Psychologist Dr. Jeremy Dean says many small pleasures beat fewer larger ones. As he wrote on PsyBlog: “If you keep doing lots of small, different pleasurable things, you’ll get more pleasure overall and you’ll feel happier. This is partly why many small pleasures beat fewer larger ones. … Small pleasures also take advantage of the fact that eating twice as much cake in one go isn’t twice as nice. It’s a bit better but not twice as good. It’s certainly much better to have some cake than no cake, but not twice as good to have double the cake.”

Most of us don’t live at the base of a world-famous ski resort, or 15 minutes from Smith Rock or the Red, or the trails in Fruita, but we do know what things make us happy in our everyday, or every-week, life—a certain trail run, bike path, session at the climbing gym, weekend cragging trip. We fixate more about our big trips, or big goals for the year—our ski vacation somewhere, a trip to Europe, the weeklong backpacking trip—but what makes us happy?

Just some cake. Or “being on the mountain” every day, as Chris says.


Tags from the story
, ,
11 replies on “Happiness: It’s The Little Things”
  1. says: sarah uhl

    Oooooohhhhh Yeah!! It’s the tiny moments… the beauty-wild. Nice Post Brendan- this is the most universal and awesome message ever! love it.

  2. says: Mike

    Small point of clarification, CD skied the Lhotse Face *on* Everest. “Skied Everest” implies a descent from the summit.

  3. says: jim

    Nice to see this perspective with some professional insight (from both an athlete and scientist), an excellent goal to drive towards on a daily basis.

  4. says: doug moore

    Good post Branden.
    The way I approach this is that every day is a pie. Each day I get a slice of outdoors. Then a slice of family then a slice of office. Usually in that order. If I’m lucky my outdoor and family slices are twice as big as my office slice. Even if my office piece seems too big, I make sure I get some outdoor time and family time anyway. Over the course of weeks and months the balance works out and so does my happiness.

  5. says: Justin Gio

    Great topic! I’ve recently played with the reinvigoration of running your routine trail/snowshoe loop(s) backwards. The scenery may be the same, but the fresh perspective feels like I discovered something completely new. The joy of having a simple brain!

  6. Forever grateful to have such a, mentor, partner and father to our son in my life – MK, he just gets it! Awesome post Brendan, JK
    “Balance is the hardest to achieve; we all need to maintain our own emotional, physical and spiritual health while giving enough to family and friends so they can do the same. That giving has to be done freely, without regrets. One last thing to remember is that you’ll never get back time, so use it wisely.” Michael Kennedy

  7. says: GaryG

    As the character David in “Vanilla Sky” says, “The little things… there’s nothing bigger, is there?”

Comments are closed.