Happy People Help

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Unless you live under a rock, you don’t have to look very far before the realities of the suffering of so many around the world crosses your path in some form or another. Whether you’re following the current stories of the Ebola breakout in West Africa, the oxymoronic war for peace in Gaza, or the siege being staged on Ukrainian soil, there is much for us to understand politically, economically, religiously, culturally and ethically before we can then process all of it through our own lens of humanity. The world can feel downright overwhelming — and those are just a few examples on the global front. We haven’t even touched domestic issues. And we won’t. Not here. This isn’t a political post. Not by any stretch.

It’s easy to get caught up in universal suffering, though, isn’t it? To forget to remember that behind all those bazillion stories all bleeding together into one giant cesspool that there are individual people, families, lovers, musicians, students, children, employers, puppies, goldfish bowls and dreamers living amongst the chaos we call being human. (Please check out the remarkable work of photographer Brandon Stanton, who puts faces and stories and life together in one accessibly beautiful package.)

And when we are guilty of being in “that forget about it place,” we are depressed for others’ plight, sad for the suffering, worried about the future, focused on how unfair the world is, and we feel trapped and so we do nothing, and likely move on with our normal activity, relieved it has nothing to do with us and grateful it isn’t us on the other side of the story.

But our lives aren’t all lemons or lollipops. Despair or exhilaration. Misery, just like happiness, is a choice. And while bad and horrible things do happen, our response to them is a choice.

When I was a little girl I loved singing “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and coming up with all sorts of crazy actions to insert at the chorus line to show how happy I was.

There’s a simple message here: happiness begets action!

We can DO SOMETHING to benefit others when they are suffering. We can DO SOMETHING when we, ourselves, are hurting. We can DO SOMETHING to express on the outside the joy we feel on the inside because we know that happiness is never a destination in life; it is the way to live from the inside out. And rather than become bogged down and depressed by life, allow your happiness to positively impact others.

Steve Chandler, my remarkable coach, puts it this way in his book Time Warrior:

Happy people help more people than “concerned,” “caring,” “sensitive” people who over-emphasize “feeling empathy” instead of actually rolling up their sleeves, getting their hands dirty and helping.

Recently our social media news-feeds have been bombarded with videos of friends, colleagues and celebrities dousing themselves with buckets of ice water to raise awareness and money for the worthy non-profit ALS Association. We’ve each got our personal favorite videos and while seeing others get startling wet is entertaining, this campaign is a wonderful reminder to choose action over passivity. Don’t get wet to simply have fun and be part of a worldwide water game. Choose to get wet because you choose to make a difference.

Maybe ALS isn’t your thing and it’s not a cause you want to support. Maybe there’s another cause that calls to you more loudly. Answer it. Create it. Choose it. Be about the business of DOING, rather than sorrowing.

Let this year’s #IceBucketChallenge be your personal call to action to share the happiness inside of you, to get outside of your own perceived suffering and to remember that happiness begets action and when we act we impact life.

But only every time.

Bicycles & Ego

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Whether or not we like to admit it, we all have egos. Some larger than others, but we all have them. Our egoistic self thrives on its own significance. And because it thrives on indulgence of self, it pushes us and prompts us and persuades us to seek out praise and attention and validation. Constantly.

And we believe we need those compliments because they are what fuel our forward movement.

Or are they?

Oftentimes we get caught up in our own thinking and believe our approval-seeking is something other than what it is:

FALSE.

VICTIMHOOD.

We become rather adept at covering up our ego as a ruse in the name of serving others, such as the manager “running an idea” past upper management even though she’s been given full support and prior permission from said executive team.

In our selfie-obsessed culture you might argue there are many not even trying to hide the fact their ego drives their behavior, in spite of their claim to self expression.

What drives your behavior? What is your inside-out position?

When you learned to ride a bicycle someone likely assisted you. They held the bike steady while you got comfortable in the seat and felt the  bike move and tilt underneath you as you shifted your body weight. They walked alongside you, keeping the bike steady while you learned to pedal and to steer simultaneously. And they ran behind you as you increased your speed. Then they let go because you found your inner balance to keep yourself on the bike without any outside assistance.

That moment you heard them cheering from somewhere behind you was when you realized you were on your own. You were riding a bike!

Granted, you may have faltered. You may even have fallen because you immediately got caught up in your thinking, believing you needed someone right next to you, giving you support, without which you would fall.

But you got back up, put on a couple of band-aids and found your inner balance; it was still there and easier to find the second and third and each consecutive time until you no longer needed any assistance. The cheering was nice, but not really necessary. In fact, by the time you really connected to your core the idea of someone cheering your every bike ride seemed a bit silly.

For you, the internal thrill and the exhilaration of balancing yourself on the bike while moving forward was sufficient praise; it’s that sense of self — generated from the inside of you — that drove your repeated bike riding behavior, not the accolades of onlookers, your peers, or more experienced bike riders.

Contrast that to ego.

Ego would have had you believe you were only capable of riding a bike if someone constantly praised your efforts, told you how impressive you looked perched on your bike, suggested other bikes would probably be a more suitable ride for someone like you, pressured you to choose bike routes with people from whom you could seek validation as a rider, and so on.

You don’t need ego now any more than you needed it after learning to ride a bike.

Honestly look at yourself and your behavior and identify what’s driving you? If you seek to please others, are anxious for their approval, worry what they might think, and craft conversations to corner someone into validating your behavior then ego is driving and your internal position is non-existent. You are relying on external sources and circumstances to determine your outcomes. You are a victim.

In his book Straight-Line Leadership, Dusan Djukich states that

Approval seeking is a toxic addiction. It is the one thing of which a person must be cured if they are going to do anything worthwhile in life.

The alternative is to remember what it feels like to ride a bicycle and to create your own path because your internal position is one of ownership. You recognize you are responsible for the creation of your world and which bike path you ride. And any bumps along the way are just part of the ride. You are the driver.

And that exhilaration you feel? It’s coming from inside of you and is never dependent on someone else. Forward movement is always dependent on you. Own that.

Choose you. Choose happy.

Stained-Glass Windows

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My friends Anna and Alan owned a stained-glass window, which hung suspended on the inside of their large front room picture window, which window conveniently faced the street. If my timing was right I could walk past their place just as the late afternoon rays of sun brushed those colored panes and pause for a moment to take in all that charming.

One afternoon I happened to be inside their front room when the afternoon sunshine stretched its long golden fingers all the way through the glass to where I was standing, suddenly surrounded by thousands of dancing prisms. The entire living room was bathed in miniature rainbows and I’m pretty sure I heard tiny bells tinkling their joy (that tinkling sound was probably just in my head).

Driving down the street one evening I casually glanced to my left as my car slipped past Anna and Alan’s place and unprepared for what I saw, my heart caught in my throat! My right foot slowly pressed the brake and checking to be sure no one was behind me, I carefully backed up, put the car in park and turned off my headlights to absorb every rich detail of that stained-glass window, now lit from a lamp within. I savored the moment in silent reflection before quietly resuming my drive down the road.

The first time I read the following quote by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross it resonated within me so deeply as truth and I was immediately transported back to Anna and Alan’s window on 7th South.

Read slowly:

People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.

This describes you. This describes me.

Our world is full of remarkable people, each of us beautiful and unique, sparkling and shining and sharing our individual light with those around us.

When someone is drawn to you it is your inner light they see and seek, not your outward appearance.

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Beauty is the byproduct of creating your life in such a way that allows thought to flow through you, emotions to have credence only when it truly matters, remembering that no feeling is final, and that you are wired for happiness. Your light will only increase in brightness and will cause others who see it to catch their breath, pause and back up so they can be in your presence because you are that beautiful from the inside out.

Just Keep Going

Rainer Maria Rilke Quote

There was a period of time in my life when I felt broken emotionally and couldn’t see through the density of my situation to a better tomorrow. I knew only to take one step at a time, placing one foot in front of the other. So that’s what I did. One foot and one step at a time. Step by step I filled an entire day and then a second day and eventually a week and all of my steps added up to my forward movement.

One night in a moment of uncertainty, confusion and deep anguish, my dear friend Bea called to check on me and she taught me something I’ve always remembered and carried with me as truth:

You never have to go back to yesterday; it’s over. Where you are is here. Now. And nothing that happened in a string of your yesterdays can hurt you today. Or tomorrow. Or ever.

I understand now what I was incapable of seeing then: the past and its cacophony of emotions born of experiences (some of which we choose and others chosen for us) have power over us today only if we choose to give those emotions a place in our heads and in our thoughts.

What matters is what we think because our thoughts, which flow through us and can sometimes be really loud in our heads, determine our state of being.

Your feelings are real to you. Your adventures in life will generate a wide range of thoughts, which will create emotional responses that will inform your journey. And you get to make the choice every single day about how you interact with those emotions.

When it seems as if the voice in your head is too loud and your thoughts are negative and the accompanying emotions feel too heavy to carry, please remember

You never have to go back to yesterday; it’s over. Where you are is here. Now. And nothing that happened in a string of your yesterdays can hurt you today. Or tomorrow. Or ever.

Take a deep breath. Let the chatter and emotions come to a resting place inside your head. And then choose to embrace a different emotion.

I am grateful for the knowledge that I’m wired for happiness, as are you.

I’m also grateful to have lived through enough of life to reiterate Rainer Maria Rilke‘s profound wisdom:

No feeling is final.

No amount of hurt, joy, heartache, euphoria, stress, pleasure, pain, delight, grief, happiness, trauma, enjoyment, agony, amusement, sadness, entertainment, anguish or diversion will last forever. I promise.

That’s not to say we won’t be faced with all of these emotions, to varying degrees, at some time or another throughout our existence. I believe we should experience this broad range of emotions. How else can we possibly learn and understand and grow into better humans if not through these very personal moments that add up to a lifetime?

Just keep going and when you think you can’t, just take one more step and then another.

I’m cheering for you.

Choose you. Choose happy.

What’s In a Name?

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I’ve always been a goal-setter, a planner keeper (not to be confused with a Trapper Keeper because I don’t think I’ve ever been that cool), and am currently attached at the hip to Google calendar.

Spontaneity and Arminda haven’t traditionally been synonymous. My college boyfriend laughingly assured me any children I brought into this world would likely arrive sporting matching Franklin planners.

I’ve even taught classes on goal-setting, its significance and how to achieve more than your neighbor through better techniques and the adept use of colored pencils on a grid (I haven’t actually taught that part about the colored pencils; I’ve mostly kept that trick to myself).

But yesterday I read something that rocked my calendar a little bit. Okay. A lot.

Supercoach Michael Neill thinks there’s an inherent problem with goals:

  1. they’re future-based (always ahead of us like the carrot on the stick)
  2. they’re results-focused
  3. they’re successful only upon completion (meaning failure is your only option unless, or until, you reach it)

I haven’t stopped thinking about this. I can’t stop thinking about this. And after my obsessive thinking spree, I believe he’s right.

This is a game changer for me. Remember when I wrote about the definition or meaning we attach to words? This is one of those moments for me. One of those words.

What’s in a name?

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet; (Romeo and Juliet, II, ii, 1-2)

Or would it?

If what Michael Neill says about goals is true, and I believe it is, then my focus on setting and achieving goals is misplaced effort and energy. In fact, based on the above list of problems, it’s a wonder any of us goal setters ever accomplish anything. This could be the very reason February is consistently guaranteed time for me to have the entire gym to myself. Every single year.

I don’t want to suggest I never accomplish anything or that I fail before I even get out of bed in the morning. On the contrary, I think up until now I’ve successfully checked many many things off my ever-lengthening list of goals.

But the point isn’t about what’s in my past. It’s really about what future I’m creating.

Because when you really want something, the question isn’t “How will you get it?”; it’s “What could possibly stop you?” (Supercoach, Neill, 74)

With this question in mind, and a determination to shift my thinking in order to create a new definition I realized I only need substitute a different word with its own meaning intact: project.

Again, Michael Neill provides the structure for this mind-shift toward project-based behavior:

  1. they’re in the present (happening and being worked on now)
  2. they’re action-based
  3. they’re always successful until you fail

Here’s what happens in my world, and probably for many of you, too: I set goals, I create timelines, I tell someone else about my goal so I feel accountable, and I write it down. And then something happens. Or comes up. Or I get tired. Or I slip up for a day. Or I don’t feel like it. Or company comes for a visit. Or my daughter needs something. Or I need to walk the dog. Or whatever.

These are called excuses. And they consistently pop up into the space between us and our goals. We’ve all used them. They’re always in abundant supply when we need to justify our failure to achieve our goals (remember #3 in the first list?).

Projects feel different to me. A project is in motion from the moment I say “Go,” and if I’m an effective project manager I will look ahead at what barriers might stand in my way of completion and figure out how to minimize, work around or even eliminate them before they arrive so that the project stays on course.

Juliet’s rose would still smell as sweet given another name, and perhaps goals are just another word for projects, but I’m abandoning goals and the false belief that I will only be successful if I achieve them in favor of projects through which I can create my future from the future, rather than from the graveyard of abandoned attempts and faulty restarts in my past.

If you really want what you want, there’s always a way for you to create it (Supercoach, Neill, 77).

Choose you. Choose happy.

Miss Bossy Pants

Leadership

A few days ago I was in the midst of some lighthearted texting banter with a friend when he casually threw a handful of descriptors my direction, charging me of being the following:

  1. high maintenance
  2. pushy
  3. bossy
  4. high fashion sense
  5. fabulous

I immediately countered with a reference to Sheryl Sandberg and her #banbossy campaign:

Sheryl Sandberg is advocating for the removal of “bossy” from our vernacular as it sends the wrong message to our female population about their true leadership capabilities.

I then sent a text message with a rewrite, suggesting I’m certain he meant to say the following about me instead:

  1. I maintain high expectations of myself and those around me.
  2. I’m assertive and know what I want.
  3. My leadership skills shine in every circumstance.
  4. I pay attention to details, particularly with myself and when I dress it is a reflection of my personal standards of excellence.
  5. I am fabulous. Thanks for noticing.

This is not a post advocating for banning the word bossy, although I am an advocate for every single person reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In.

This is also not a post to denigrate my friend for his comments, which I have taken out of context to share here with you. (He fully endorses and supports my rewrite.)

This IS a post about knowing yourself.

Sometimes we hear something said about ourselves and we choose to internalize that message as truth. Perhaps that something was said years ago or perhaps it was just last week.

Words are just words. Your thoughts apply meaning to them, and once you’ve attached meaning, you start generating emotions around those thoughts and before you realize it, you’ve created a belief. A false one.

Remember the childhood rhyme?

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words (or names) will never hurt me!

Maybe we should repeat this more often as adults than we did as children. Attaching meaning to names and words is a habit and habits are meant to be broken, at least the bad ones!

Who are you?

Know the answer to this question unequivocally. Without hesitation.

State your list out loud to yourself so you can hear it. Attach your meaning to those words and the emotions you generate will be positive because hearing those words will resonate an inner truth deep within you and you will smile from the inside out, and a new belief will have been created.

Now if anyone (yourself included) throws you a label or a name or a title that doesn’t fit your personal description, you’ll be prepared to deliver an accurate definition back.

Choose you. Choose happy.

Create Tomorrow Today

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Creation has been a lot on my mind lately. The creation of our lives. Our futures. Our realities. Our now. And how our beliefs create the world around us.

We have within each of us the power to create whatever present and future world we wish to inhabit. We are the creators of our today and of our tomorrow.

How do we create something that we don’t believe exists?

Start believing it does.

Shawn Achor (my happiness crush) says:

Studies show that simply believing we can bring about positive change in our lives increases motivation and job performance; that success, in essence, becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy (The Happiness Advantage, 75).

Coach Michael Neill says you can make believe anything:

. . . we can change our experience of the world (and ultimately the world itself) by changing the way we choose to see it. . . . instead of always trying to align your beliefs with “reality,” it’s possible to align your beliefs with what you most want to create in your life. And when you consistently make believe in what you want, you can begin to create some pretty unbelievable results (Supercoach, 15,16)!

The greatest athletes and performers in the world will tell you they weren’t born talented; they created their talent by believing they could and in his bestselling book Wealth Warrior, Steve Chandler corroborates that sentiment with his reminder that “practice creates talent (115).”

Creating a new belief can be intimidating, or even scary, for some of us. You’re not alone.

Even Alice, from Lewis Carroll’s classic Through the Looking Glass, challenged the very notion of believing what Alice deemed an impossibility when the Queen chided her:

I daresay you haven’t had much practice. . . . When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

Impossible only exists if you believe it does. You define impossible.

Me? I’d rather eliminate that word from my personal dictionary altogether.

Let yourself give in to this new belief. This creation notion. It’s very liberating.

Perhaps practicing believing the impossible before breakfast as the Queen suggests is a great idea, and before long you’ll recognize you’re no longer chasing after your dreams; you’re manufacturing them.

Choose you. Choose happy.

First World Problems

Ice Storm 2014 -- Greensboro, NC

Sometimes it’s hard to remember to be grateful, especially when we feel like we are being inconvenienced. One glance in the last 24 hours at any number of social media platforms confirms I’m not the only one forgetting this simple and critical component to our sustained happiness. It’s March 7, two days away from our annual spring forward for Daylight Savings Time and what feels long past when we normally feel the welcome effects of springtime on its way here in the south.

Instead of daffodils, we got ravaged by an ice storm that pummeled us without reprieve for approximately nineteen hours, give or take. There are homes and businesses scattered across the region without power, trees down everywhere, horrible road conditions, schools are cancelled (again) and I’m out of flour so couldn’t make pancakes this morning (sigh).

Before I ever left the comfort of my warm covers early this morning, I reached for the current book of historical fiction I’m anxious to complete: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. (Fellow bookclubbers: I am hurrying to catch up to this month’s selection so I can participate in the conversation; I promise.)

As I opened to my bookmark, it was only a moment for me to remember I was in Tarragona, Spain, in 1492, and the Spanish Inquisition, having started in 1478, was well underway. Captivated and horrified I read through the unconscionable tortures inflicted on a young man, the brutal beating to death of his father, the frightening and lonely labor and delivery of his wife, the courageous escape of his sister with his newborn son and the systematic expulsion of all Jews from Tarragona. All in the name of God.

Earlier chapters took me to Venice in 1609, where my heart ached as hundreds of precious books were summarily burned for their supposed provocative and heretical text, and to Sarajevo in 1940 just prior to a 1941 German occupation, when Anti-Semitism caught everyone off-guard in a city that prided itself in one city block hosting home to the synagogue, the mosque and the Orthodox church.

This is not a treatise on religious atrocities over the centuries; it is a gratitude reminder.

My Gratitudes Today

  1. I am a single mother thriving on my own without forced dependency on a man for my living or my home.
  2. I believe what I believe and do not live in fear that anyone is going to seek me out, forcefully enter my home, harm my daughter, threaten the lives of my loved ones, or in any way disrupt my life because of my religious affiliations.
  3. I own and have access to more books than I will ever read in this lifetime (sigh) and I am privileged to know how to read, have always been encouraged to think and to challenge what I learn so that I can gain truths and knowledge for myself.
  4. I have a pantry full of food and am less than 24 hours from purchasing more flour, but am confident that in a bind I can always walk next door and my cup will be filled.
  5. I wasn’t required to go or to be anywhere today and could work from the comfort of my own home knowing my daughter was safe and cozy and all of our basic needs are being met today. And every single day.
  6. I laugh, love and live the way I choose.

I am looking forward to spring with its colorful display, but until it arrives I will remember the daffodils from springtimes’ past and the gratitudes today.

Choose you. Choose happy.

Daffodils by William Wordsworth, read by Jeremy Irons

 

Factory Default: Wellness

Cheeeze

Recently I facilitated a group discussion on the topic of life’s challenges and how we choose the way in which we encounter said obstacles. I made it clear then, and I wish to state loudly in this platform, that life comes complete with some doozies, curve-balls and turns in our paths that we can never anticipate. Not ever. And these are hard things we go through. Each and every one of us. No one is exempt from these experiences. To think otherwise would be naive. Yet even in the midst of the tough times I sometimes find myself questioning the fairness of it all, the rightness versus the wrongness of my situation, as if such variances existed. (They don’t.)

Gratefully, I don’t stay down long, and I would venture to suggest that neither must you.

Last week I happened upon Dr. Amy Johnson, a social psychologist, master certified coach, author and public speaker, and I am extremely grateful to have found such a trove of information and insights.

Dr. Johnson has a philosophy that I am now officially adopting into my vernacular because it explains my own cyclical relationship to difficulty over my lifetime. I’ve always wondered how and/or why it is that I “bounce back” so quickly when something knocks me down and I tended to write it off as “the way I’m wired.”

Here’s what I love: I was right! I AM wired to bounce back AND SO ARE YOU!

Dr. Johnson suggests that our factory default setting is wellness. You didn’t know you had a default setting, did you? Yup. Just like your mobile phone can be reset if something goes awry, so can you with a little bit of effort on your part.

We (the proverbial we) have a tendency to overthink our circumstances or weigh ourselves down with negative thinking or burden ourselves with frenetic self-talk that serves only one purpose: more stress and more negative thinking, which lead to heavier and heavier hearts, which heaviness repels joy.

I am one of the happiest people I know.

I am not always happy.

When I am unhappy or feeling burdened with what might seem the impossible, I do a factory reset and remember to express gratitude for the highs as well as for the lows, and that gratitude provides an undercurrent of peace that runs throughout my life.

Dr. Johnson puts it this way:

  • You are well. Your default nature is peace of mind and clarity. Always. Even when you don’t feel it.
  • When you don’t feel peace of mind and clarity, it’s only because your own personal thinking (inner dialogue, habitual mental chit chat) is in the way.
  • When your thinking settles down, as it always does, you’ll be bounced back to your peace and clarity.

Understanding that we possess this default setting doesn’t preclude us from life’s adversities, but embracing this outlook allows us to get back to our place of emotional wellness that much faster.

Beware your thoughts getting in your own way; they’ll work really hard to be heard, but remember our thinking creates our feelings. Take control of your thoughts and what you believe and you will bounce back to wellness and a state of peace faster than the rug can get pulled out from under you!

Choose you. Choose happy.

Opposable Thumbs

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Happiness is such a lovely gift we choose to give ourselves each day.

This morning I was dragging my feet just a bit as I suited up to walk Eli. It was really cold outside and I don’t very much like cold anything. But Eli has that amazing canine sixth sense about him and he knew it was time to go out. His wagging tail creates its own current and I wonder sometimes if the movement is sustainable. And if so, for how long? This is a really happy dog so that tail wags a whole lot of the time.

But back to my cold weather gear. I layered. And then layered some more. I grabbed my monster mittens and added them as my final salute to the cold and walked out the front door.

Before too many minutes had passed I was feeling extremely energized as I breathed in the crisp morning air filled with scents of the last leaves falling and cold asphalt contracting like me from the cold.

And then I looked down at my hand holding the leash and I smiled outright and then laughed.

I love mittens! I love MY mittens! I love that they’re purple and fleece and warm! I love that when I look at my bemittened hands I am actually a Muppet! (Anyone else as jazzed as me about the new Muppet movie?! Tina Fey, people. Tina Fey.) And as soon as I’m transformed into a Muppet I wiggle my thumbs and remember one of my favorite lines from the stage production of Steel Magnolias, delivered by Clairee to Ousier with just the right amount of Southern charm: “Whitey Black is a moron. I’m not even sure he has opposable thumbs.” And the next thing I know I’m laughing and saying out loud to no one in particular, “You know, the funny thing about shaking hands is. . . you need hands!”

I crack myself up.

Okay. Okay. I’ll end today’s happiness flow chart before I quote the entire script from The Emporer’s New Groove. But just one more from Yzma before I go:

Ah, how shall I do it? Oh, I know. I’ll turn him into a flea, a harmless, little flea, and then I’ll put that flea in a box, and then I’ll put that box inside of another box, and then I’ll mail that box to myself, and when it arrives. . . I’ll smash it with a hammer! It’s brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, I tell you! Genius, I say! Or, to save on postage, I’ll just poison him with this.

Choose YOU – Choose HAPPY

Last week when I published the Happiness Crusade something fantastic happened. Fantastic for me.

Shawn Achor visited my website. SHAWN ACHOR!!!!

He came. He read. He linked. He read some more. He left a comment!!!! (that’s how I know he was here)

Sometimes when I need to laugh I watch Shawn’s TED Talk all over again for the grins and giggles effect.

Like today – I watched it five minutes ago. And here’s what hit me:

90% of our long-term happiness is predicted by the way our brains process the world and if happiness is always on the opposite side of success, our brains will never get there.

This is a REALLY important concept to grasp:

If you want to be happy, choose happiness.

Simple? Not for everyone, apparently.

You must consciously change the current formula you are subconsciously using to view the world around you.

1. Identify 3 New Gratitudes daily to scan the world for positive, and not negative.
2. Journal daily about one positive experience you’ve had in the past 24 hours.
3. Regular exercise teaches your brain that your behavior matters.
4. Meditation allows us to get over the “cultural ADHD” we’ve been creating by trying to do multiple tasks at once, and by focusing on the task at hand.
5. Deliberately perform Random or Conscious Acts of Kindness once a day.

Glass half-full? or Half-empty? Do you have a glass?

Do you choose YOU? Because in so doing, you are choosing to flood your brain with dopamine, which triggers happiness AND ignites the learning centers of the brain altering the way we adapt to and view the world. And through this new world view, you will be able to predict your own long-term happiness because your current state of being will be set.

It’s not done overnight – using this new formula. You’ve got to make it a habit.

You CAN do this: Form the habit over the next 21 days and keep track of your progress. Set your intention and before long, the rose-colored glasses you may have mocked others for wearing will be your new lenses!

And please be careful not to mistake others’ ability to choose happiness with naivety or ignorance.

As a happiness promoter I can assure you this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Now, about Shawn Achor, do you think it’s too soon for me to propose?

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Happiness Crusade

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On February 13, 2012, I started a 21-day “dopamine challenge” here on this blog titled Creating Positive. Many of you joined me in that initiative (and it’s not too late to get started) because happiness is year-round and a lifetime journey. While there have been many changes in my life since I first penned that post, one thing is for sure: my heart is still full of gratitude. It’s so full that I keep writing out more and more. My list is growing and I’m filling up notebooks. Pages and pages of things for which I’m grateful and/or that make me smile and bring me happiness. My list is very personal and unique to my life, as is your list. This is the reason I can pick up one of my notebooks and open to any page and start reading through my list and immediately begin to smile as I am instantly transported to another day, place, and moment in time that ignited a spark of joy in my heart.

gratitude |ˈgratəˌt(y)o͞od|
noun
the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness

happiness |ˈhapēnis|
noun
the state of being happy

Shawn Achor (whose TED Talk inspired me to start my own challenge) writes in his book The Happiness Advantage that

“. . . our attitudes and behaviors don’t only infect the people we interact with directly — like our colleagues, friends, and families — but that each indivdual’s influence actually appears to extend to people within three degrees. So when you. . . make positive changes in your own life, you are unconsciously shaping the behavior of an incredible number of people. . . . [T]here are nearly 1,000 people within three degrees of most of us. This is a true ripple effect — by trying to make ourselves happier and more successful, we actually have the ability to improve the lives of 1,000 people around us” (p201).

That’s empowering. To me, at least. And I love that by embracing the life I live I have the potential within me to positively impact the lives of thousands of other people. Thousands.

I can’t wait for happiness to find me like some elusive carrot forever dangling at the end of its proverbial stick. You will never reach it if that’s your aim. Your “I’ll be happy when _________ ” will forever evade you.

“Waiting to be happy limits our brain’s potential for success, whereas cultivating positive brains makes us more motivated, efficient, resilient, creative, and productive, which drives performance upward” (Achor 4).

Motivation? Efficiency? Resilience? Creativity? Productivity? Yes, please!

Happiness is now. Happiness is your choice. Happiness is within you.

Come on my happiness crusade and create positive in your life today, tomorrow and always! Will you join me?

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