SerenDestiny #9: How Can Changing Our Default Change our Life?

“You can make more money and more friends, but you can’t make more time. That’s why it’s the greatest gift you can give someone.” – Captain James Key

A couple summers ago, I was so immersed in writing a book, the weeks flew by, September came, and I never went swimming once.

Yikes. I promised myself that wouldn’t happen this year. I’ve vowed to swim at least 4 times a week – either in the lake or in one of the 22 (!) community pools in our community of Reston.

So, yesterday, I wrapped up a day of consults and went “pool shopping.” I found myself driving past an inviting pool, tucked back under some shade trees. I impulsively parked and went in, armed with my goggles for some lapping and a towel for some napping.

As soon as I walked in and saw the fountain in the shallow end packed with kids, moms and a few dads, I knew I’d found the “family” pool.


Family cooling off in a wooden pool

As I settled in on the only available chaise lounge, a father walked in, still in his business suit, and was met with a thrilled chorus of “Daddy” from his 3 kids who ran-walked (lest the lifeguard tweet her whistle) to greet him.

He walked over to the woman on the chaise next to me, gave her a peck on the cheek and went to change into his trunks.

Five minutes later he was in the pool, surrounded by his adoring brood, playing Marco Polo. (How comforting to know kids still do that.) The mom watched with a proud smile, probably ready for a break after a day entertaining three kids under the age of 6.

The kids all vied for their Dad’s attention, “Look at me, look at me,” showing their progress in the strokes they’d obviously learned from their swim lessons.

It did my heart good to watch this Walton-like tableau unfold in front of me. This happy family cavorting together and basking in the innocence of a summer afternoon brought back fond memories of my sons Tom and Andrew growing up and our days at the beach at “golden hour,” that magical hour before the sun set and the Maui trade winds died down and we had Keawekapu Beach to ourselves.

The father paused for a moment and looked at his wife as if something had just occurred to him. He said, almost in a state of wonderment, “Hon, Why don’t we make this our default? Why don’t we just meet here after work every night and fix dinner when we get home?”

I have to admit. I held my breath.

I looked at her, thinking, “Please say yes.

Please recognize there’s nothing better than what’s happening right here in front of you. An hour ago, your husband was at his corporate job, brokering deals, commuting in rush hour traffic. Now, he’s standing waist deep in a pool, giving his kids rides on his shoulders and tossing them into the water, much to their delight.

What’s happening here, the innocent bliss of being contentedly, playfully absorbed in each other will be one of the purest experiences of your life. Right now, all is right with your world. The ‘outside’ world might as well not even exist – all that exists for these few fleeting moments is familial perfection.”

She looked at him, smiled in agreement and said, “Why don’t we?”

That simple decision, which took 5 seconds to make, could turn this into what everyone remembers as “the summer we met dad at the pool every afternoon.” The summer of no Blackberries. The summer of rapt attention, glorying in each other and the gift of time.

What’s your default? What do you automatically, mindlessly do – that’s not serving you?

What could you replace it with – a new behavior – that could reap a summer, a lifetime, of fond memories?

Maybe you could change your default to go for a walk every night after dinner instead of sitting down to watch TV. Enjoy the fireflies instead of a FOX reality show.

Maybe you could change your Saturday morning ritual and go the farmer’s market to support local vendors and have fresh, off the vine, off the tree, fruit that tastes like fruit should. This could be the summer you have watermelon that tastes like watermelon, huge sunflowers adorning your living room table and warm, ripe tomatoes that are a taste explosion.

Choosing to do one thing new, instead of automatically indulging in a routine behavior, can have dramatic and enduring impact.

Next time something resonates with you and feels viscerally right, ask yourself, “How can I make that my new default? How can I bring more of that into my life on a regular basis so it’s an ongoing vs. occasional thing?”

Substituting an inspiring behavior for an autopilot behavior can serve as a stepping stone to SerenDestiny and jump-start a life you love now, not someday.

When is a time you changed your default? What inspired that? What impact did it have?


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