Tiny Wins

“Happiness is a journey, not a destination.”

It’s one of those sayings that’s so frequently repeated that I lose track of it easily. It’s simple, solid advice, but more often than not I let it slide through me without comprehension. For whatever reason though, on this ordinary Tuesday, something about that phrase stuck.

It started when a friend of mine told me about her first weekend on the job as a RA. The stories reminded me of ones I heard all too many times when I lived in a dorm – students getting too carried away, starting the night off just fine and ending up with a meeting in the hall director’s office…or a hospital bracelet.

On the flip side, she told me about how great her own residents are. One of them has a board posted on the door, entitled ‘tiny wins.’ The residents put anything that goes right that day on the board, or something that made them happy, no matter how insignificant it is. I was intrigued. For the rest of the day, I felt more open to seeing the tiny wins going on around me.

As soon as my friend and I parted ways, actually, one came along in the form of an older gentleman who wandered into my office where I work. He was on his way to a history class, one he takes for free and for pure enjoyment through a special “60+” alumni program. His pride in Ohio State and love of learning were so genuine and contagious.

Less than three minutes later, a tiny win came again. On my way back from work, I heard a snippet of a professor leading his students through the Oval with measuring instruments. “If you can’t have fun doing what you do, don’t do it. I’m having fun,” he announced matter-of-factly without a hint of irony or sarcasm. I smiled to myself, marveling at the comment I heard at just the right moment.

The tiny wins kept coming. A field hockey player taking a blind girl’s arm and leading her to class, both of them happily chatting. A class I felt so interested in that I felt dejected when we were dismissed. Plans with a new friend to go to yoga class later this week. Unreal, perfect weather, sunny and golden with the smallest beginnings of autumn.

“I’m so good today, Mom,” I said on the phone when she asked how things are going. The openness to those tiny wins, the willingness for a few hours to seek out the good things in motion around me, had made such an impact.

On this ordinary Tuesday, I felt startling clarity. Happiness can feel based in achievement sometimes, in hitting precise marks or awards or formal accomplishments. But as I treasure hunted for tiny wins, those pure moments of the best things life has to offer, happiness came in observation. It came in silence, in appreciation, in reflection and simplicity. I didn’t “arrive” anywhere; I just looked. I was already there.


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