Las Vegas brings people from all over the world to enjoy its live shows, exquisite food and amazing pools. In addition to those things, people flock to the Neon capital to hit the casinos and gamble.
Years ago I heard a story about a man who was seemingly living the American dream – had a good corporate job, a happy marriage, and a robust retirement. From the outside, it looked like he had everything, but on the inside, he was miserable from working all of the time. He decided he had had enough and quit his job, sold his home, and bought an RV to travel across the US.
The first destination of the trip was Las Vegas. When they got there, the husband was tired from driving and decided to go to bed. His wife on the other hand was too excited to sleep and instead spent the evening gambling while her husband dozed in their newly purchased RV. When he woke up in the morning, his wife wasn’t next to him. He went into the casino to look for her and he found her crying uncontrollably. After he calmed her down, he learned that she spent the evening gambling away their retirement. The only thing they had left was their RV that they just bought.
You may know someone who shares a similar story. They spend many years working only to lose their savings in a matter of days, or even hours. This happens to many of us because it’s easy to make choices that have negative consequences. For example, we may find ourselves at a party and we have a few drinks. We decide to drive home anyway, but on our way, we get a DUI, or worse, we crash the car and injure someone. Life can change in a heartbeat. Especially when we make fast and rapid choices.
One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that happiness comes to those who make slow and steady choices, instead of fast and impulsive ones. You may have heard this phrase before, “the slow and steady win the race of life.” This particular phrase is from the story of the tortoise and the hare, where the tortoise who moves much slower, beats the hare.
In today’s podcast, I’m arguing that the tortoises of the world win the happiness race.
Let’s start with an example to better illustrate this theory. Let’s say a group of men go to Vegas for a Bachelor party. They drink heavily and make choices based on their intoxication. When we’re intoxicated, it’s more difficult to pause and think about our choices before we make them. We forget momentarily that our decisions have consequences, and sometimes these choices, like gambling when we’re down, have real-life consequences.
Growing up I had a distant relative who was drinking one night and decided to drive. He was driving his cousin home and ended up driving into a ditch and killed her. As a result, he went to prison. A decision made in the moment, such as drinking and driving can have life-long consequences.
These are extreme examples, but the general point here is that we make hundreds of decisions a day, and sometimes those decisions, especially when under the influence, have really terrible consequences. I believe that when we slow down and focus on each day as they come, we’ll crack the code to unlock our happiness.
But things are always easier said than done. Happiness takes work, effort, and a positive mindset. The last ingredient, a positive mindset, is oftentimes the most difficult to maintain. It’s easy to let our mindset be affected by external factors like the news, our work, our relationships, etc. People who develop a positive mindset practice every single day to maintain their happiness by watching their thoughts, changing their thoughts if need be, and understanding how to control their reactions. Over time, maintaining that mindset becomes easier, and leading with a positive mindset becomes their first instinct.
Ultimately happiness is based on a slow and steady pace throughout life. When we rush into things, we find ourselves in trouble. When we pause, take our time, and reflect on the pros and cons before us, we’re better equipped to make smart decisions. In other words, we want to channel our inner tortoise, not hare. This not only helps us make better decisions, but it can help us slow down our pace, savor life more, and enjoy all moments of our life equally.
In my experience, those who focus on living life at a slower pace put a greater emphasis on developing healthy habits like meditation, exercise, eating well, and limiting their alcohol intake. These practices create overall health, and it’s easier to create these practices when we have already discovered our joy.
I travel pretty frequently. When I’m not at home, I do my best to maintain the same practices – meditation, exercise, eating well, maintaining my positive attitude, and practicing gratitude. Of course, there are exceptions, but I place a very high value on my happiness and so I do my best to engage with activities that I know will bring me joy.
Happiness is not about impressing other people. In fact, it can have the opposite effect. From the outside it might seem bizarre to place a higher value on family time vs. working towards that promotion, or spending time alone meditating vs. attending a party.
It’s important to maintain the habits that bring us joy. People who are in good shape frequently work out. It’s the same idea when it comes to happiness. We must practice our habits regularly to feel that consistent feeling of joy. And we may not seek the thrills of life as much, like drinking, or gambling, but there are other thrills we’ll choose to partake in – listening to the birds, watching a sunset, or going for a walk.
There are so many ways we can find beauty and peace in life. I believe the best way is by putting a greater emphasis on our own happiness, which starts by discovering the things that bring us joy, and then practicing those habits every day. When we slow down, we’ll make better decisions, enjoy the little moments, and take the time to appreciate things. Slowing down takes work and patience, but once we master this skill we’ll win the happiness race.