It all started with a trip to New York City. During my travels, I visited a number of restaurants that specialized in my favourite meal of the day – breakfast! NYC excelled in this arena. I revelled in the broad spectrum of breakfasting from hole-in-the wall joints to greasy spoon diners to modern comfort food cafés to fine-dining restaurants. These episodes caused me to bemoan the lack of places dedicated to the morning repast in my home city of Vancouver.
When I returned home, I would complain to anyone who had the misfortune to listen, “There’s nowhere to eat breakfast in Vancouver.” Until one day it occurred to me that I hadn’t even really looked. I decided to challenge myself and the city of Vancouver to a breakfast adventure and then blog about it.
Each weekend, I would search out a new place to eat breakfast. With regard to my blog, I made a decision right from the beginning: I would only write about the aspects of my experiences that I enjoyed. My reasons behind this were less altruistic and more self-serving than I want to admit. I had chosen to write the blog anonymously because, at the time, I was also a student of a holistic nutrition program. I felt self-conscious amongst my peers to be promoting a blog about eating sausages and syrup-drenched pancakes, even though those foods brought me such joy. (Eventually I moved passed this limitation in my own beliefs, thank goodness.) But because I chose to hide my identity, I felt it unfair to present any negative commentary via the internet. My beliefs maintained that if I wanted to be critical, then I must also be willing to put my name in front of my words. And really, there were already enough people who were restaurant “critics”. So my intention was not to offer my opinion, it was simply to share my adventures. I did not then comprehend the impact this decision would have on my life.
For seven years, I ventured out into Vancouver (and other cities I visited occasionally) and, in total, I breakfasted at 247 different restaurants. That’s a lot of pancakes. It was also extraordinary fun. I eagerly anticipated each new experience and appreciated the creativity of the menus, the variety of decor, and the bounty of friends who joined me on the journey. My determination to look for positive aspects of my experiences netted me some interesting observations. The most important being that the more I remained steadfast in my stance, the more positive experiences presented themselves for me to observe. In other words, when I expected good things to happen – good things happened!
Here’s what else I noticed: my reporting of mostly positive aspects bothered some people. Some of the comments I received can be summarized as, “Umm, love your blog, but, really? Do only good things happen to you? It seems as though you are not telling the whole story.” I was rebuked for having a Pollyanna approach to breakfast. It was more acceptable to expect bad things to happen. I’m not going to pretend undesriable things didn’t occur. Sure, I had some bland food. Yes, I was the recipient of some lousy service. Yeah, every now and then the floor was sticky. But my point is that I gave so little attention to these things, that they did not become significant as part of my life experience. The more I focused on what I enjoyed, the more enjoyment I received.
My takeaway from this fable is this: what we pay attention to is what we experience. So if we want more good things to happen, the key is to celebrate what good things do happen, anticipate even more, and ignore the rest. What is the life experience you are creating for yourself? Are you expecting good things to happen? Go on, set your sights on magnifying joy and just see what comes into your life. And remember, if you are going to eat those pancakes – savour every bite. Anything eaten in a state of joy only brings more.