A few months ago I was visiting a hydropower plant in the Northwest. The people that keep the federal hydropower plants running throughout the nation are an incredibly smart and hardworking bunch. You would have to be to keep this aging infrastructure functioning in spite of dwindling budgets and increasing costs.
By their very nature, hydropower plants are generally located in some really beautiful places. Hydro plants overlook rivers, and the one I was visiting was nestled in the Columbia River Gorge. This gorge is the largest national scenic area in the US, and draws hundreds of thousands of visitors every year because of its natural beauty.
As a newcomer to the area I couldn’t help but admire the landscape: this place is one of the most scenic areas in the world! Our group took lots of pictures.
While we were touring the plant we came upon a large room with several adjoining offices. At the end of the room was a wall of windows looking out over the gorge. Only you couldn’t see out the windows: they hadn’t been cleaned in years! There was so much filth on the windows that it completely blocked the view of one of nature’s masterpieces.
The people who worked in these offices walked by these windows every day without noticing that they had slowly lost one of the most beautiful views in any government office I had ever seen. And they didn’t seem terribly bothered by it.
Why is that? How did it come to this?
This struck me as metaphorical: we get used to the things around us, and often take them for granted. This applies to the scenery, our workplaces, and the people in our lives. We start off with a deep appreciation for what is there, and over time life happens: we get busy. We get focused on other things. We “normalize” the unsatisfactory conditions like dirty windows or outdated work spaces. We don’t see that the smudges on our windows are slowly eroding our view. We take as normal that dirty windows are just there.
Not only do we miss the slow deterioration of the world around us, we too often miss the chance to appreciate the good stuff. Like great scenery. Or great employees. Or great people that enrich our lives. We assume that the good stuff will always be there, and we can pay attention to it later, when we have more time.
To fully appreciate the world around you and the people in it takes more than just “stopping to smell the roses” which, of course, you should do. It takes real effort to clean windows. It takes real effort to appreciate the people in your life that make it richer. Stopping for a floral sniff is great, but to truly appreciate life, you will need to put some effort into it.
This only works if you are deliberate about it. If you don’t put resources behind it (time, effort, money) investing in “appreciating the world around” you is just a nice sentiment.
If you want to know if appreciating things around you is high on your priority list, just check your schedule. If you don’t see anything on there that dedicates time to appreciation, it isn’t a priority.
So go get some Windex and some thank you cards. Schedule some time to clean the windows, and take time to look out them. Schedule some quality time with those people in your life that make your life what it is. Employees. Friends. Family. With just a little thought, effort, and some window cleaner our lives can be that much richer.