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How many decisions would you guess you make in a typical day? A dozen? One hundred? Does one thousand sound a little closer? Get this. Each of us makes about thirty-five thousand decisions every day. More if you spend an hour in a candy store. Some decisions are mundane, and some are major. We decide where we will live, if we will marry and who we will marry, the job we will accept and the one we will quit. The car we will buy or the bus we will take. The cake or veggies we will eat. (Go with the cake for the win.) Who we will believe and who we won’t, where we will go and how long we will stay, the faith we will embrace or ignore, and countless other decisions.

Here’s a surprising thing though: Most of us never decide to be happy. I bet most of us think “happy” is a result of other choices, but that’s not all of it. Sure, circumstances can be truly awful, but feeling happy is a choice just like any other. It’s not that we don’t want to be happy; we just get distracted by so many unhappy things that we never get back around to happiness. Perhaps we think we need an invitation or permission to be happy. And what if we want happy feelings to transition into a deep and abiding joy with a longer shelf life?

Consider this. In stark contrast to our complicated decision tree, a child makes less than 10 percent of the decisions adults make each day. Maybe one of the benefits of the childlike faith Jesus said we need is that there are fewer decisions to make, and hence, fewer distractions to manage. Have you seen a kid with a pile of Legos? It’s like the rest of the world doesn’t even exist. They are lost in the beautiful singularity of creative joy and purpose they find in their play. They don’t care if they are early or late for the next thing. They are fully present and completely undistracted. All the while, heaven dances and celebrates the simple beauty of a child at play and invites us to do the same. Perhaps we should take a lesson or two from the children around us: get fully engrossed in something lasting we care about, eliminate some of the decisions we make, and find our joy again.

Most people hope they’ll find happiness at home, but the hard truth is, they aren’t around long enough to experience what’s already waiting for them there. Simple and complicated distractions take us away from the people we love. When this occurs, the result is both subtle and toxic. We start to settle for proximity rather than presence with each other. Know what I mean? You will know this is happening to you if you only listen for the highlights in our loved one’s conversations without taking note of the emotions and body language that are also present in the room. These distractions are masked in familiar disguises like career, appointments, and promotions. They invade our homes and come dressed as extracurricular activities, sports, and electronic screens. They look like business calls and video games and Zoom conferences and television shows and committees and meetings and sometimes even churches. If we want to live more undistracted lives, we need to get real and admit that busyness is actually hijacking our joy. Here’s the good news: We can fix all this just as easily as we messed it up. Get a couple of baseball gloves and talk to your loved ones about your day as you throw the ball around. If you answer your cell phone while playing catch, you’ll lose teeth. This is what it looks like to really get some skin in the game. Get some wood and light a fire. Find some chairs and fill them with people you haven’t connected with in a while, then watch the flames dance. Go ahead and get some smoke on you, and the next day your clothes will smell like a dozen great conversations.

Do this with some urgency too. You don’t have as much time as you think you have. Take it from a guy who’s been around for a while. There’s a saying that I have found to be generally true: The days are long, but the years are short. If you fill your days with trivial stuff, you will look up one day and a year or a decade or a half-century will have passed. Don’t wait until you are old to ask yourself: What have I done with all that time? Why not ask yourself right now? What am I going to do with all the time ahead of me? What do you want your answer to be? Once you decide what you want the future to look like, make a couple of moves like your life is actually yours to live—because it is. Quit the job, call the friend, make the apology, launch the dream, take the shot . . . Heaven is just hoping we will.

Disneyland office resident. Recovering Lawyer. New York Times-bestselling author. Nonprofit founder. Mr. Chief Balloon Inflator. Motivational speaker. These are all titles that can describe Bob Goff, who’s also known for printing his real cell phone number in his first published book turned NYT bestseller, LOVE DOES which sold over two million copies. And, he gave all the money away. A recognized lawyer for over 25 years, he left it behind to become the Hon. Consul to Uganda and founded Love Does in 2001, an international nonprofit that pursues justice for children in high-conflict areas such as Uganda, Somalia, Afghanistan, Nepal, and India. More on that here.

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Bob Goff

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