You probably don’t know it, but when I started this blog, it was at one of the most difficult times of my life. We had just moved to Florida, with three boys ages 5, 3, and 1, with the fourth boy arriving soon after our move. If you want to know one thing about me- routine and order are the zones I thrive in. So the chaos and newness of the move combined with the unpredictability of my hormones at the time easily made this the most turbulent time of my life. I realized, only years later, that this blog was not as it may seem, a fun hobby. At the time, it was a survival instinct…a desperate act to maintain stability and order despite kids in new schools, months of a new baby’s sleep schedule, and feeling that I was living on the surface of the sun in the Florida heat. In essence, it was something I could actually control.
Ahhh… you may surmise. “You are on of those people.” You know…the ones who “act happy” when really it’s all contrived. But that never felt right either. I felt like I was drowning..but the happiness wasn’t a lie. I’ve always struggled to understand what that meant until now.
Recently we took a road trip from Ohio back to Florida and I was working through some night to drive by listening to Oprah’s “Super Soul Conversations” podcasts. I saw one titled, “Shawn Achor: The Life-Altering Power of a Positive Mind.” The title caught my eye but I initially scrolled past because seriously how many times can you listen lectures about positivity? Of course me being me and with the reality of hours more driving, I gave it a try. I’m so glad I did because it gave me the answer to the question that has been on my mind for years. How did I have the audacity to call myself happy when all mental signs were pointing to the opposite? Things were so rough that I had severe depression, I struggled daily with feelings of isolation, and I found a tremendous amount of solace in Logic’s 1-800-273-8255 lyrics. But if you were to ask me, I would have told you I was “happy” and meant it. Talk about a mental hurdle. What did this all mean?
Shawn’s podcast began by explaining that optimism is great for a lot of things but it won’t stop bad things from happening from us. We need to create rational optimism which starts with a realistic assessment of the present ~ both the good and the bad. We must know that our behavior matters and is linked to the people around us. There was the essence of the beginning of my blog. My realistic assessment was the catalyst for change – the change to elevate my environment by linking my life to the people around me. Shawn states, “What we are finding is it’s not necessarily the reality that shapes us, it’s the lens through which we view reality that changes our experience of it and our ability to create a better world for other people. Happiness doesn’t stop us from change; it gives us the belief that change is actually possible.”
The podcast continues, “Negativity, stress, uncertainty and anxiety we can pick up like second hand smoke.” Previous psychological research would have you believe that our personalities are based on both our genes and environment, but Shawn’s research has proven that happiness is an active conscious decision and even a life-long pessimist, making a choice to implement small choices to create happiness and gratitude, can test as an optimist.
The most defining moment for me was when Shawn stated, “Happiness is the joy we feel moving towards your potential.” There was the answer I had been looking for. It was the reason, despite being at the most difficult time in my life, I’d call myself happy. He went on to state, “Happiness is not pleasure, which is a short fleeting moment and then is gone. Joy is something you can experience even when life is not pleasurable. Joy makes us want to invest more deeply in the people around us, it makes us want to learn more about our communities, it makes us want to find ways to make a better external world for all of us. If we think we have to be successful to be happy, all we have to do is think about all of the times that formula hasn’t worked. Every time we have been successful in the past, we’ve just changed the goal post of what success looks like. But finding a way to be happy now puts us at an incredible advantage.”
Shawn concludes, “Social connection is the greatest predictor of long term happiness we have. Happiness is a choice, happiness spreads, and happiness is an incredible advantage in our lives, but most profoundly, change is possible.” As I heard these words I had tears in my eyes. I finally felt the meaning behind those questions I had for years. I’ve since listened to that same podcast three times and I’d encourage you to do the same. It may give you just a moment’s pause or it may cause you to re-evaluate the way you approach life. My heart felt full listening to it and I hope yours does too!
Here is the link to the podcast…enjoy!