Yesterday, I watched my child eat a slice of her favorite chocolate cake. She savored each bite and licked her lips clean, enjoying every crumb.

Today, I watched my child drawing, concentrating on perfecting her masterpiece with glitter and glue. Her face full of concentration, she was relishing every line, every gold glitter.

Not too long ago, I watched my child climb to the top of the tall, yellow, twisty slide. She giggled in anticipation as she climbed, and then laughed out loud with utter glee as she slid down. She loved every bump of her adventurous ride.

I watch my child’s face. I feel her emotions. She radiates an optimistic joy for life, a love for being alive, a gratitude for being here and being able to experience these moments.

Hers is not a narcissistic or self-serving pleasure. I watch her and see the same glowing joy as she prepares to present me with a gift of her work, or to “help” me with a daily chore.

It is a joie de vivre. It is simply a pleasure for the moments that life bestows on us, the opportunities and challenges that come our way. She isn’t trying to be a “somebody.” She is simply pleased to “be,” and in being, to grow as a person through her daily opportunities.

As we mature, we rob ourselves of this simple joy by turning our focus to our goals and ambitious achieving, to our successes and failures. We construct rigid parameters for how we define our success as people. We compete in our careers, we compete in our fitness centers; we compete with our colleagues, with our friends, and with the role models of our lives.

There’s always someone or something to make me feel utterly insignificant. There is someone who is doing something so much better—or more—than I. And when it’s not someone else, it’s myself, with a new, self-imposed goal that tells me I must fret over what I haven’t yet accomplished, or what I cannot do.

An urge for doing and achieving is positive if it drives us to bring more good into our world. But if that were really the incentive, we would welcome every opportunity—whether it leads to a promotion or future benefit, or whether it is simply an opportunity of serving G‑d in our world.

I remember how, years ago, my oldest son came home from school one day with a wistful look in his eyes. He must have been seven or eight at the time.

“I wish I didn’t have blond hair,” he confided.

“Why?” I asked in wonder.

“Because I don’t think blond is learned. I don’t think that Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) had blond hair.”

I remember feeling sad that his childhood optimism had begun to erode. It was the first dent in his inborn innocence of being able to “be the greatest you” through whatever unique character, talents, intellectual resources or outward garb one has been gifted.

In the unyielding, artificial boxes of defining achievement that our society has constructed, we lose not only our individuality, but also our optimism in forging our own path to make our world a better place—in our own unique way.

In the pursuit of this rigid form of success, have we perhaps forgotten that there are many paths to contributing?

The greatest path, I believe, is what we had inborn as a child: the simple joy in using each and every opportunity as a means for growth, and thereby serving our Creator in the manner that He has gifted us.

Not because of where it will lead us. Not because it looks good on a resume, or because it will improve our communal reputation or prospects. Not because it is considered important or held in high esteem. Not even because we take pleasure in doing it.

But simply because this is an opportunity that G‑d has provided us in our life, to use, like all other experiences, to discover some growth.

The next time your child is relishing the moment, in whatever pursuit she is engaged in, watch her face carefully. Watch how she uses her activity to bring greater joy into our world.

And then try to discover the radiant joy in her eyes reflected in your own.