Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Defining Moments...

Years ago, while attending college, I took a class called Development through the Lifespan. As you might guess, it was all about people and the stages of development that we go through throughout our lives; being a "people person" who loves to analyze and investigate I found this to be one of my favorite classes.

I remember so clearly that classroom. The chairs were not of the same level; the farther back one went, the higher the chairs got. It was like being in a mini stadium. In most of my classes I would be found sitting in the front row, but in this class I sat in one of the springy chairs towards the back of the class near a friend who enjoyed sitting near the back. I was delightfully surprised to find that the classroom design made for an excellent "people watching" experience; I loved it! Not only could I sit and learn about people in lecture... I could also play the part of a social scientist - and learn about people through observation.

One day the subject of discussion was happiness. The instructor talked about a research done on  the attitudes and thoughts of people in their final breaths of life. She talked about the stage of Reflection which all humans seem to go through when they know they are about to leave this life. They examine their lives and create mental summaries along with a concluding attitude about the life that they lived.

I remember being extremely intrigued as the instructor talked about the conclusions people drew about their lives. The researchers doing the study hoped to find some kind of consistent themes among the happy, and the sad; among those who concluded that their lives were good - and left resting in peace; and some kind of contrasting theme among those who were unhappy with their lives - and left feeling troubled or discontent.

Themes they may have expected to find include themes like... having a substantial income, a prestigious job, a stable home environment growing up, a life void of particular stresses and tragedies, climbing the ladders of success in one's area of business success etc. among others. Surely, they thought, certain life situations and experiences were guaranteed to generate happiness.

But the results were not as expected. People who lived very similar lives by these standards drew very different conclusions about the value of their lives. Some with very high stations in life, nice homes, much money, great success in their careers etc. were very unhappy with their lives. Many who were very poor and seemed to leave no mark or name for themselves left their life journeys feeling very happy. Many who experienced overwhelming circumstances and great emotional difficulties got through them, moved on and never looked back with sadness or despair; they were just experiences... not worth dwelling or focusing on. Moments of sorrow and tragedy were the "My goodness... I forgot about that" moments; they weren't the moments that stood out in their minds.

In short; It wasn't what happened, but the attitude and degree of focus one had about what happened that made the difference in determining whether a person was happy or not. Happiness can be a very unpredictable thing.

Taking this concept a bit further... I wonder if the moments we choose to focus on tend to define or outline our views in life. When we think about a person, do we tend to generalize an image about them which stands as the backdrop in our minds of what that person is like... a backdrop of who they are? Do experiences they went through tend to color all of our thoughts, memories, and images of that person? Or do we think of them simply as children of God / as people just like us who are also going through experiences which do not at all define who they are?

I also wonder if we do this with our own lives. What do we focus on? What are the memories that we come back to repeatedly ~ which create our views, our perspectives and thoughts?

Hopefully our views are not cluttered with disappointment over unmet or unrealistic expectations. Hopefully the perspective lenses we see life through are colored with memories of moments which have lifted us up and made our lives happier. Moments... not of shock, tragedy, or loss... but instead, moments of happiness, surprises, goodness, gain, and of good solid happy memories - even if all we can say from some memories is that they made us better people or helped us to grow.

As I examine my life and consider what I may reflect upon at the close of my life I can't help not examine my own perspectives - on life - and on people - and ask myself what moments in time I have filed away in my "focus on and remember well" file.

What are the moments that define your image of your life?

What is it that paints your colored glasses of perception, which affect how you view life, yourself, other people... the rest of the world?

Have you ever looked at the files of your memories and done any re-categorizing?


  1. This is beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing!! Life truly is what we choose to make it. ♥

  2. Glad you liked it, Michele. :D You're so welcome... and so right! Thanks for stopping by. :)

  3. What an interesting, thought-provoking post, Corine. Love this.

  4. Lori - I was just wondering today if it was boring... Thanks so much for the comment. :)


There is a ripple effect in all that we do; what you do touches me, what I do touches you...

THANK YOU for your comments; you add so much insight and brighten my day! :)