“Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.” — Jose Ortega y Gasset
1. The First Snowfall
The first snowfall symbolizes the passing of time and the beauty that can be found even when the day is cold and dark. A perfectly symmetrical snowflake, a comfy scarf, the loveliness of a world covered in white are all things we should reflect upon, savor, and smile happily upon, like a child, eyes alight, on Christmas morning.
2. Uncommon Kindness
It really doesn’t take all that much to make someone’s day. Sitting on the subway this afternoon, a rather old businessman got on at 51st Street and pointed to my copy of Lolita. “You like the classics?” “Yes,” I smiled, looking up from my book. “Have you read any of his other stuff?” “I haven’t, actually. What do you recommend?” “Here,” he said, handing me Nabokov’s Pale Fire. “I just finished it. Have a nice read. I’m getting off here.” And he hopped off — only one station later, at Grand Central — almost certainly never to be seen again.
It was a perfectly brief, perfectly serendipitous encounter that I’ve been thinking about all day, and it took no more than giving away an old book that likely would’ve just collected dust in a closet somewhere. We’re usually terribly reticent and reluctant to talk to other people, especially in big cities, and yet a pleasant conversation or a small kind act can shift someone’s day from dismal and mundane to happy and extraordinary. I guess what I’m trying to say is: be the guy who gives out Nabokov books.
3. That “Gut Feeling”
At some point we repress that little voice in our head, thinking it juvenile or irrational to live not by logic but by visceral feeling. And yet, our instincts can absolutely vital. When our abdomen tightens or our heart skips a beat, we shouldn’t merely brush it off. Often, we know something before we’re able to process it. If we slow down, reflect, and think through what we’re doing, often we can find a detail that’s awry, something that needs fixing, or merely something that merits deep appreciation — all things we would’ve missed had we ignored our intuition.
4. Your (Un-Instagramed) Food
A recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology found that taking photos of your food before eating makes your meal taste worse. The idea is that taking a photo of food (or even looking at photos of food in advertisements, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.) tricks your brain into thinking that you’ve taken a bite and therefore you’re already somewhat satiated by the time you actually start to dig in. Moral of the story: put the toys down and enjoy your meal sans technology, with a friend or simply in peace by yourself. Who knows, perhaps you could even try your hand at cooking something. Find your peaceful place and never give it up, which leads me to:
5. Your Calm Place
Appreciate your calm place. Maybe it’s looking up at the stars when you’re walking home, lingering just a little longer outside your door to take in the spectacle of the universe, or perhaps it’s a long afternoon in the cozy corner of a café, where you can tumble into a book like Alice falling through the Looking-Glass.
6. No-Reason Calls
Call an old friend because you have the time, not because you necessarily have something specific to talk about. Chances are, as you’re sprawled on your bed at the end of the night trying to go to sleep, you’ll be happy you did. And they will too.
7. Giving the Perfect Compliment
The right combination of specificity, originality, and genuineness make for a compliment that will be remembered for days to come.
8. Daily Routines
Try to stop and think about how far you’ve come in your life. Even if you’re doing something you don’t deeply enjoy, you’ve still accomplished so much. Try to notice the little things in your daily routine, appreciate them. Interrupt the usual dreary walk to work or the seemingly dull conversation you have with your boss, and think about the perfection all around you.
9. Impeccably Planned Evenings
Put together a dinner party for friends. Really think it out, down to the stemware and place mates. Or plan the perfect date, accounting for distances and weather and food preferences. Pay attention to minutiae because it won’t seem trivial to your guests; they’ll feel cared for, discovering your kind forethought in every detail.
10. The Insecurities of Those We Love
With siblings, parents, even long-term romantic relationships, we’re often so close with these people that we speak totally freely without much regard to their feelings. We’re certain that they’ll love us no matter what so we push the boundaries and say things that can sometimes be even cruel or simply unkind. Although they’ll likely love us unconditionally, there’s no need to subject people to this — especially those we love — so slow down and give some more thought to the little interactions you have with the people dearest to you.
11. Your Perspective in Seemingly Pointless Situations
“Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.” — David Foster Wallace