Whenever I misplaced something growing up, my dad would always tell me that, “it will always be in the last place you look.” Gee…thanks, dad! After all, who would keep looking after they found what they were seeking? What about the person who is searching for something nowhere near where they lost it just because it’s easier? It doesn’t make much sense, does it? This is what is known as the Streetlight Effect.
This can best be described by a short story about a drunk man who has lost his keys. He is standing under a street light trying to find them when a police officer walks up and asks him what he is looking for. Upon telling the officer what he lost, they both begin searching together for the keys. After several minutes of looking, the officer asks the drunk man if he’s sure he lost them there. The drunk man points across the street into the darkness and tells the officer that he lost his keys over there in the park. The police officer asks him why he’s searching here, to which the drunk man replies, “This is where the light is.”
I pondered this for a while and wondered why is it in life we try to find the easy way out? Why do we search for answers in the wrong places? Why do we want the “get rich quick” scheme to work instead of focusing our efforts towards the target we’re trying to reach? It feels lately as if someone has discovered me crouched under a street light searching for what I seek most – happiness.
Sure, trying to be happy with what you have and what you’re already doing is a good thing, but trying and being are two completely different things. After all, wouldn’t you rather spend time doing some real soul searching if it meant you would find what you seek? Wouldn’t it be worth it to step away from the view and safety beneath your street light in order to find your keys to happiness? Remember what my dad said – you’ll always find what you seek in the last place you look. It’s a good thing I’m smart enough to grab my flashlight.