The Jar of Life

A new month is about to start. Let’s try something different.

This month, get a giant jar along with a notepad and pen. Put it somewhere where you’ll see it all the time.

Whenever something good happens in your life, write it down on a piece of paper. Fold it up and put it in the jar. Make it your goal to write down at least two things each day.

At the end of the month, dump out the contents of that jar, mix them up, and go through the notes. You’ll see how many points of light shine through.

During the month of March, I did this very thing. I wound up with about eighty little notes on folded up slips of paper.

When I looked through them, I realized most of them were pretty mundane things, but they each made me smile. Some had to do with my wife; others, my children. Some had to do with interactions with friends, often involving playing games with them. Quite a few had to do with observing nature. A couple had to do with exercise. A few revolved around observing other people doing kind things for each other.

Sometimes, we need a new perspective on our life to see how many good things we already have.

One thing that really stood out to me was that none of those things had anything to do with buying anything. Quite a few – about half – had to do with interactions with people I care deeply about, which didn’t cost anything. Several had to do with how I internally felt after exercise or after seeing how other people interacted with each other or after viewing a beautiful example of nature. None of these cost a dime.

I bought quite a few things during the month of March, but none of them were really memorable. The closest I can come to pointing to purchases with that list of things was that three notes had to do with board games (that I already owned) and the joy of playing them with friends and acquaintances, and two had to do with reactions to books that made me feel good or made me think (one was a library book, the other was a book I’ve had since Christmas).

The jar of life isn’t about stuff. It isn’t about the money you spend on things.

It’s about experiences, both little and small.

Those experiences usually don’t have a cost involved with them. Of course, they do every once in a while, but most of the good little experiences in our life – the ones that you’ll find yourself filling up your jar with in the next month – come from things we already have.

Our thoughts. Our feelings. Our little achievements. Our family. Our friends. Nature.

I bet that your jar ends up being filled with notes that hit upon at least some of those things. I bet that most of those notes describe things that have nothing to do with money.

Fill your life with that joy. At the end of the month, step back and look at the things that filled up your jar and strive to make them a bigger part of your life – and reduce the impact of the other things, the things you tell yourself are important to you but never really show up in your jar.

You’ll have a more fulfilling life and, likely, a less expensive one, too.

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