We had dinner the other night with my good friend and colleague, Tom, and his lovely wife, Donna, an accomplished lawyer. Tom is a picture of success. When he was younger and had a substantial mustache, he was often asked if he were Tom Selleck—not a bad case of mistaken identity.
Tom retired early a number of years ago filling his time with a myriad of projects including a book of some renown, home renovations, and extensive travel. His children have attended some of the best universities, including Harvard and Duke, and he and Donna live in beautiful home on a ridge with a panoramic view from the Pacific Ocean to downtown San Francisco and across the Bay to Berkeley.
Tom always seems to be smiling. I guess he has a lot to smile about. But I’ve known Tom for over 40 years and he has always been happy with his life. Of course, he has had his share of bumps in the road along the way, but mostly he has done what he’s wanted to do and has enjoyed doing it—evidenced by that ever-present smile. The other interesting fact about Tom is that he does not present himself in a boastful way. He presents himself with a combination of humility and someone who, to use his words, “just bumbles along, taking life one day at a time.”
I asked him to share his “secret” for living such a bountiful life. His single word answer was acceptance. “I just put one foot in front of the other each day and see where it takes me and then deal with it.” I’m reminded of Fritz Pearls, a psychologist who was quite famous in the sixties. His mantra was, “Don’t try to push the river.” I’m also reminded of another friend of mine who said it this way: “Make a decision and make it work.”
So many of us allow ourselves to become frustrated, angry, or blaming when we encounter normal bumps in the road that each of us experiences from time to time. Perhaps a better, healthier approach would be to take what comes with a smile and embrace life with acceptance and gratitude. After all, let’s face it, most of our issues are “first world” problems and we are very lucky not to have to deal with the real tragedies that most of the rest of humanity faces.