Why Appreciating the Scenery Along the Way Is Crucial to Your Happiness

I hurt my lower back the other day while putting on my socks. Chiropractor! I must have bent down incorrectly. I never considered it until it happened, but I never sat down to put on socks in a hurry, at least not until this happened!

For the first time, my body reminded me that I’m 40. I don’t often mention my age because, to me, it’s all about how young you feel. But, seriously! I couldn’t believe I had hurt my back with such a simple motion.

That incident happened on a workday, and despite not realizing the extent of the damage, I went to work. Despite the fact that I was in pain.

Even with my ergo dynamic cubicle chair, I couldn’t stand sitting in my cubicle by lunchtime. I excused myself from the office and began the long trek back to the car. To put that journey into perspective, it takes me the same amount of time to get to my car from my cubicle as it does to commute home – a whopping five minutes!

Everything was in slow motion this time. I must have taken at least twice as long to get to my car that afternoon. Still, when I got home and sat down on the nice, fluffy couch, I felt instantly relieved. As I lay there, I realized that my life had abruptly come to a halt.

Wifey and I had planned to salsa practice that day, but it was canceled.

We had a salsa night planned with friends the next day, but it was canceled.

Exercise and basketball plans have been canceled.

That weekend’s plans to do minor repairs on the rental property were canceled.

The schedule had emptied, and all I wanted to do was go from the couch to bed and eat comfort food to forget about the pain and gradually await my recovery.

Life’s so fragile

This incident reminded me how fragile life is and how important it is not to take things for granted. We’re here one day talking about financial independence, and the next we’re having a “sock incident.”

We never know what will happen next, which is why I make every encounter count; feel every interaction with my loved ones; and treasure every hug and kiss as if it were the last.

Learn to enjoy the journey

I wasn’t always good at making the most of the experience. In the past, I had missed out on special occasions. I missed family gatherings and birthdays of nieces and nephews because I was working 80+ hours per week on my first business venture.

I now understand the significance of pausing and being present. This is why we took a break from blogging a few weeks ago to fully enjoy our recent vacation in the Dominican Republic, which was mostly unplugged.

We could have gone somewhere else because we’d been to the Dominican Republic several times in the last year, but we needed to see my parents again.

My wife suggested the trip, and it was the perfect combination of time away from the office and time with them. I was able to stay by their side, enjoy conversations with my father, and give him the impression that I was present.

My mother has been bedridden since late last year, and the experience has been life-changing for the entire family. I treasured the time we spent together sitting by her bed, cooking her delicious meals and watching her devour them with delight and appetite.

I can always write another post, but those priceless moments with my parents had to be savored right away.

Enjoy the world’s wonders without abandoning your responsibilities

At times like these, I think of great books that teach us valuable life lessons. “The secret of happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon,” Paolo Coelho wrote in The Alchemist.

In the book, a young man was given the task of strolling around a palace and returning in two hours. The only requirement was that he take a teaspoon with two drops of oil and not allow the oil to spill.

…The young man began to climb up and down the palace staircases, always keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. At the end of the two hours, he returned to the presence of the wise man.

“So,” asked the sage, “did you see the Persian tapestries hanging in my dining room? Did you see the garden that the Master of Gardeners took ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?”

Embarrassed, the young man confessed that he had seen nothing. His only concern was not to spill the drops of oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.

The Alchemist

“So, go back and see the wonders of my world,” said the wise man. “You can’t trust a man if you don’t know his house.”

Now more at ease, the young man took the spoon and strolled again through the palace, this time paying attention to all the works of art that hung from the ceiling and walls. 

He saw the gardens, the mountains all around the palace, the delicacy of the flowers, the taste with which each work of art was placed in its niche. Returning to the sage, he reported in detail all that he had seen.

“But where are the two drops of oil that I entrusted to you?” asked the sage.

Looking down at the spoon, the young man realized that he had spilled the oil. 

“Well, that is the only advice I have to give you,” said the sage of sages. “The Secret of Happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon.”

The Alchemist

That was a fantastic life lesson. It is vital to take in the scenery while not losing sight of your responsibilities.

What prompted you to pause and reflect on your life’s journey?


After dedicating 13 years of his career to Vanguard, José retired from the corporate world at the young age of 44. During his tenure at Vanguard, he expertly coordinated the production of both electronic and print educational materials for 401(k) participants. Now, he relishes in his early retirement, cherishing time spent with his family, indulging in his favorite hobbies, seeking out new experiences, and savoring meals in the comfort of his own backyard.

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Mrs. Goodlife
Mrs. Goodlife
8 years ago

I had a similar realization and it also came after a health scare. We are always so busy running around and working like the world is going to end if we don’t get something done today. I live way more mindfully now and take the time to breathe, to take it all in and appreciate the beauty in everything. I wish more people had this opportunitiy or didn’t need a “sock incident” to put it all into perspective. Our bodies are resilient, but they deteriorate and aside from the very few, we may not be climbing that mountain, running that race or seeing that beautiful place we dreamed about when we are older, because you may not even get there. Cheers to living fully today!

8 years ago
Reply to  Mrs. Goodlife

Cheers to that Mrs. Goodlife!

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