“La vie est faite de petits bonheurs.”
Life is full of small pleasures!
Do you long for a slower-paced, saner, and more sensual life?
You often hear Italians comment about “la dolce vita,” or “the sweet life.” The joy of a day for them is taking life at a leisurely pace: enjoying long lunches, a coffee, evening strolls, a picnic in the park, and conversations on the street with the neighbors. Europeans are less focused on efficiency and more focused on enjoying their lives. To them, efficiency dehumanizes. A personal touch is lost. They ask, “Would you ever treat someone you love efficiently?” Joy, empathy, and caring cannot be done efficiently. While Americans strive for happiness by doing, Europeans find it by being.
With everything closed on Sundays, half of Saturdays, Mondays in France, and every afternoon in Spain, relaxation is viewed as a right, to be enjoyed by all. It may seem inconvenient to us, but they’ve learned to plan their lives accordingly. It’s no secret that workers in Europe enjoy the shortest work weeks and the longest vacations in the world. It’s the culture of life: living, not working.
Europeans love their food, drink, and leisure. They are also about the healthy balance—there is time to work hard and time to relax. Americans often have this guilt about taking time to relax and care for themselves. In Europe, it’s a given. You work. Then you rest. Always. Downtime and self-care are not luxury, they’re necessity. It’s not about feeling constantly depleted, it’s about replenishing your resources so you can be and do your best when you’re “back to business.”
Are you enjoying the fruits of your hard labor, or are you just spinning around on the work wheel? There is pride in living in a land of such great opportunity. However, are you enjoying your dreams once you reach them, or just moving on to the next project right away? Jorgen Ronnest, director of international affairs at the Danish Employers’ Confederation, said, “The main difference with the US is that we spend more time enjoying life. And if you look around, maybe we don’t need more refrigerators and more cars.”
THE AMERICAN DREAM VS. THE EUROPEAN DREAM
The American dream: It is the promise that anyone can succeed through hard work. While the American dream emphasizes material gain, the European vision emphasizes community, culture, and quality of life. The average person might be skeptical, then, of how much work Europeans are able to accomplish. With Europeans claiming time for fun and leisure, they must get nothing done.
Europeans produce nearly the same amounts per worker hour as Americans. Productivity rates per person are comparable to (and in some places exceed) the US, and GDP per hour in the EU is less than 10% below GDP in America. Their per capita income, however, is about one third less. This is because they choose to enjoy more of their time, working fewer hours. They choose to work less, earn less, and in exchange live more simply with time to enjoy what they feel is valuable. And what’s the result?
According to surveys by the World Database of Happiness, while measures of happiness in work-burdened countries such as Japan and the US have been flat over the last thirty years, they have been steadily rising in most Western European countries.
Instead of rushing all the time, remember—each day is a guaranteed twenty-four hours, and it’s up to you to carve out time for something you love and enjoy. You are the designer of your life and you create time.
How can you create a life that’s richer, more balanced, and more exciting, where you feel you’re truly living?
TIPS AND STRATEGIES
-Enjoy mealtime as a celebration: Time for socializing, relaxing, and letting go.
-Declare today the day of rest: You will be more productive if you’ve allowed your body and mind time to recharge.
-Get outside: Play and experience nature.
-Practice joie de vivre (joy of life): spend a few minutes a day doing something just for the sheer pleasure of it. No guilt involved.
-Start planning your next vacation! What new place is calling your name?
Monotony and routine can dull your soul… Have FUN! Be adventurous! Do something you enjoy, even if it’s small.
Name one thing you love to do but don’t do often enough. Then do it—today!
Laugh with friends, enjoy a glass of wine, dance, listen to live music, take an art class, do something you’ve never done before…
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