How my Cat Taught me the Secret to Happiness With her “Never Stop Exploring” Mindset

Adventure cat riding on his owners bike | Gearminded.com

It all happened in the master bathroom of my small beach condo. I had just finished lunch (vegan quesadillas, if you must know) when I decided to freshen up with a quick face rinse (no, I will not apologize for working from home and adopting the stereotypical lifestyle that comes with the territory). As I finished, turning to my towel for assistance, my 1-year-old cat, Gidget, jumped onto the counter, coming face to face with the trickling stream of lukewarm faucet water.

(Certainly this is what she was thinking.)

(I am NOT a spokesperson for Whiskas.)

Surly she had previously seen me interacting with the sink in a non life-threatening manner as I did time and time before. But then again, I had never left the water running long enough for her to explore without my supervision. I assumed she had little interest.

However, her reaction to this seemingly ordinary drip resembled the reaction I gave my dad when seeing Old Faithful burst in all its glory during my first outing to Yellowstone National Park. It was sorta like this: (Dad! Hold my Cheetos!)

Cat with surprised look on its face

A straight shot 90-plus feet into the sky and I was beside myself. Just as Gidget couldn’t grasp the fact that water flows through thin air from faucet to drain. But as I stood there glowing from the entertainment — much like a proud father witnessing his son play ball for the very first time — I thought to myself, why does Gidget find this water so amusing? And why does it have the power to distract her from typical lunch-time activity of shredding curtains?

As I pondered the circus-like activity turned amateur boxing match — with kitty in the blue corner and running water in the red — I identified a few factors that could be implemented in my life to uncover greater feelings of happiness and experiences that bring the same joy my cat receives from discovering running water. I’m confident these factors can provide a similar benefit to your life.

Seek New Experiences

Even when life is good the day-to-day can be mundane. And when it’s not so good… it can feel downright unbearable. We have all been there before: sitting at a desk, watching the clock crawl between minutes, asking ourselves if this is real life or where were went wrong. I imagine it’s not so different for Gidget — the 950 square foot condo is all she gets to experience. But, just like all of us, she has a window into the outside world, and when she takes the time to look out, life feels better. This is the power of new experiences — novelty, as it’s properly referred to. It’s the intangible reward received for engaging with something new, and boy does it feel good.

We all need novelty in our lives, even if it’s short-lived. Newness. Freshness. Originality. If we don’t get it we get bored — just like Gidget. We stop learning and life becomes stale. But the frustrating thing about novelty is that we must seek it. It rarely find us. We must change what is current by taking action for “new” to happen. As Trello, the clever web-based project management application explains it, “Your brain seriously loves novelty.” In fact, for many of us who are considered remote employees, simply changing location (from the home office to a coffee shop) can significantly boost productivity. Because it’s new!

For some, this means skipping the gym for a new exercise activity or purchasing a shiny new bike to ride on the local trails. And for others, novelty may take shape as a new lunch routine or seeking a new job altogether. A piece of advice from my journey to find this feeling of novelty, getting outdoors can make an immediate impact on stimulating your senses as well as adding more purpose to your day. You know, the punching-the-faucet-water type of stimulation Gidget so desperately needs every now and then.

The North Face Said it Best: “Never Stop Exploring”

As humans, we are hardwired to pursue what we love; cats are no different. Whether it’s food, the touch of a human hand or running water, Gidget can’t and won’t stop until she has explored herself to exhaustion. Case in point, now that Gidget has discovered her newest joy of “boxing” with running water, she looks forward to this daily activity and is conditioned to pounce on the sink when it’s in use. This behavior is replicated by humans as well. We see something that interests us and pulls on the heart-strings of our passions to the point where we must explore it. Why? Because we believe we could love it!

But this love can’t be developed without the pursuit, the premise for The North Face iconic tagline, “Never Stop Exploring.” Whether it’s weekly or biweekly, identify something new to explore. Or better yet, create a list of activities and topics that get you excited, and research how you can get involved. Then jump on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook and search for these topics in your local area. I’m certain you will find plenty of examples to help get started. Not long ago, I developed an interest for the craft-coffee scene in my area. I discovered over ten interesting cafes and have been exploring them ever since. It has offered me that little something new during the work week, and I absolutely love the experiences gained; often meeting new people and finding inspirational spaces.

Of course, this process may or may not always pan out, either way you successfully sought out something new and learned from the experience — this is what Gidget would do. Last month Gidget met a dog for the very first time; her curiosity to explore this little pooch was too much to resist. But all it took was one snap of the jaw and two loud barks to realize that she didn’t love dogs. At least she learned what not to pursue anymore, right? Confined to the same 950 square feet of space day in and day out, she constantly reminds me that something new is just around the corner (or hallway, in her world). And until we learn to explore more our scope remains narrow and experiences mundane.

Keep It Simple, Life is Better That Way

The excitement and joy felt from discovering running water combined with the tenacity witnessed to create new experiences in her 950 square feet of living space reinforces the belief that the simple is better. In other words, whatever you do, be it searching for something new or finding new ways to do what you love, keep it simple. This couldn’t be more applicable to seeking new experiences and finding ways to explore. No activity that’s interesting is unworthy of your time or effort because it could be just what you needed. For example, an expensive cat condo now collects dust as Gidget spends the day in the sink as though it’s a waterpark. All I had to do what introduce her to new features of the condo but instead I went out and tracked down the most awkward and unattractive cat-tree known to mankind. That’s what I get for adding complexity to the situation.

As German author C.W. Ceran once said,

“Genius is the ability to reduce the complicated to the simple.”

The takeaway from this quote: by simplifying the process or thought used to seek new experiences and continue exploring your surroundings, you will more easily understand what makes you happy and what you are good at.

For example, if you desire to exercise by bike (an activity proven to release endorphins, making you happier), borrow one from a friend or rent from a local shop and spin around your neighborhood. There’s no need to research “the best bike for you,” map out a challenging route, and purchase all of the gear you thought you needed. Just find a bike and ride. The simplicity of this experience will likely provide the satisfaction you were looking for, and the newness will refresh your mind and body. Then you are free to continue exploring the activity and maybe even fall in love with it — all thanks to keeping it simple.

And to think, I have learned more about happiness and joy from my 1-year-old cat than any book I’ve read within the past ten years of school. In theory, what I’m saying here is, look to your cat for “advice” on how to find more happiness and joyful experiences in life. Seek out something new on a regular basis, even put it on your weekly calendar. Once you start seeking, never stop! Keep exploring, even if it simply entails visiting new coffee shops or restaurants. And finally, please, please, please keep the process simple. As simple as water dripping from the bathroom faucet into the drain… Thanks Gidget!

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