Something to Look Forward To

Spend any time on the internet and you often stumble across memes and news stories and social media posts about happiness and what it takes to achieve it. They seem to pop up every other week, and if you read enough of them, you find commonalities.

We’re told happy people exercise and they enjoy the outdoors, they are generous, grateful and spend time with loved ones. Always in list form, they include valuing experiences over things, meditating, living in the moment, having a coterie of close friends rather than legions of acquaintances, accepting failure and learning from it and, always, having something to look forward to.

There are sometimes a few other behaviors and traits mixed in, depending on what outlet published the story, but more often than not, each of those stories, memes and posts ends by pointing out that happiness is not a destination, but deriving joy from its pursuit. I have never seen owning a good dog on those lists, but I think that would be a valuable addition to any of them.

In looking at those metrics — and if you are reading this, you can probably see where I’m going — it seems pretty clear that, for the right people, racing and high performance driving are key contributor to our mental well-being. So many of those metrics appear in the course of a NASA member’s life.

There is no shortage of irony that we value and need lots of things — a car and the requisite equipment — to have those experiences at a NASA weekend. In the same vein, you need clubs to enjoy golfing, gear to go camping and a boat to go boating, so call it the price of admission.

As drivers, we can sometimes be found meditating before a race, either in the car or in the solitude of the trailer. Meditating allows us to focus so we can live in the moment. I read somewhere a while back — I don’t remember where — that you have never lived more fully than when behind the wheel of a racecar, and wrote about it in a past column. In the context of this discussion, driving a car quickly around a racetrack is, I think, the pinnacle of living in the moment. In fact, it is a requirement.

When we fall short of greatness or even good driving, accepting failure and learning from it is a must. A shunt into a tire wall or a big spin or worse — a bad crash — is a benthic low, but we drivers must accept them and mine them for all the lessons they have to teach us. That is the only thing good about them, and the only thing we can use to move on.

Of course, we all know what happens at NASA events, especially if it is our first. We find a place in the paddock, usually near a car like the one we’re driving, and we immediately begin meeting a coterie of like-minded people. We see them out on track, establish trust, socialize with them in downloads and meetings, and before long, you realize you’re surrounded by the best friends you never knew you had. Pretty soon you’re helping them work on their cars so they can make it to grid for the next session. There’s the generosity mentioned in so many of those lists.

Without fail, all of those lists and memes and posts point out the importance of having something to look forward to. Once winter begins to loosen its grip — usually about now, early March — thousands of NASA drivers all around the country can turn their attention to their cars and begin to look forward to their first events of the season. That should make all of us happy. Enjoy the pursuit.

Image courtesy of Brett Becker

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