In my defense, I only do it when I’m stopped at a red light. But still.
There is absolutely no good reason for me to be putting myself and everyone else on the road in danger. And make no mistake: that’s exactly what I’m doing when I check out of driving (even partially and temporarily) and into my phone.
I’m also distracting myself from a few moments of nothingness.
As a society, we’ve gotten really bad at coping with nothingness.
We never have to sit and do nothing. We have mental stimulation at our fingertips all the time.
I think having unlimited information, connection, and entertainment options literally in my pocket is pretty dang cool. I’m #teamInternet all the way.
One of the greatest blessings of my life is that I get to meet really cool people – people like Leah Lizarondo.
Leah is a fellow TEDx speaker, food writer, super successful blogger, public policy expert, former CEO of a non-profit, wife, mother, and fabulous dresser. I can’t think of anyone else I respect or admire more than her.
She also has a mega-watt smile that is frequently on display, so naturally I had to harass her into doing a happiness interview with us!
How do you define happiness?
This was a hard one for me and I think being older has really helped. Its like what you say — letting go of the “shoulds” — but really along with that is not giving a fuck about what other people think. Not to say I put my whole life out there in the open. But when you let go of the “shoulds” and not give a flying F, you suddenly realize that you’re free.
Freedom, the MANY definitions of it, is happiness.
I say many definitions because freedom is not one concrete thing. There’s a lot of self-consciousness in our 20s and 30s and with that we allow ourselves and our actions to be defined by what other people think–whether it’s society at large, your parents, your boyfriend, your friends. I think that’s why I moved to NY in my 20s; I wanted to be away from everyone who knew me and just be free to explore, do things, and make mistakes. And boy did I push the envelope. I made TONS of mistakes. But I would never trade it for anything else. I look back at it now and I think, well, that was fun.
Fast forward almost 2 decades later, I realize that freedom, happiness, all these things comes from our own energy and drive.
How do you fit what makes you happy into your day-to-day life?
First, whenever I hear myself say “should” its a signal for me to think again. Its a constant exercise. We are programmed by shoulds (I even find myself saying it to my kids!) so its take a lifetime to deprogram.
I also try to move towards happiness every day — even on the hard days. That may mean: pulling out my yoga mat even for a 15 minute practice no matter how tired I am, making sure I tuck my kids in and have a few moments of sweet conversation with them on a particularly busy day, doing one thing that moves a work goal forward no matter how small, eating something that makes me feel nourished.
What “shoulds” have you let go of to pursue your happiness?
I’ve had to balance my values as a parent and the pace that I want to have with my work. That’s the biggest thing — all the work shoulds.
I never changed a diaper or really ever held babies before my first child, but as soon as I give birth my whole life changed. That sounds like a cliche but its true. Before I gave birth I was 100% career at the expense of everything else. But after, I just couldn’t — and didn’t want to — do the same. From not holding babies, I became an attached parent in all its Dr. Sears textbook incarnations. I co-sleep, my kids nurse well into toddlerhood, and I like to spend time with them a lot.
Time is finite. Something had to give, and it was work.
That decision did not come without much hand wringing. Even just recently, I let go of a plum project that many people would give their right arm for. But, it would have required really long work weeks and being away too much. That decision was hard, but I have a little 21 month old who will grow up too fast (and I know that because I look at my 9 year old and think, wow, how did that happen?)
I’ve had to adjust my expectations — not in what I want to achieve work-wise (I’m just as goal-oriented), but in the time bounds.
I’ve also let go of a lot of relationship shoulds. I used to think that every relationship had to be fixed, to be just right, but really there’s freedom in embracing imperfections. And, some relationships require just walking away from. That is OK. Relationships also don’t have to be constrained within conventional definitions, social mores. Convention changes all the time — so I’ve had to set my own definitions.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about happiness?
From yoga, and the hardest to be mindful of:
That in itself is a meditation and really hard to understand sometimes. I’m still working on this!
What do you do when you’re feeling unhappy?
I drink and do drugs. Just kidding.
I go out, see my friends, be out in the world. I learned that when I am feeling unhappy, it’s usually a feeling of disconnection — whether its with myself, where I am, with someone.
If I surround myself with good friends, good people, HAPPY people, I reconnect. And, as you know, studies have shown happiness is contagious (all kinds of energy is) and good energy is very attractive (and sexy) so I seek it out. Pretty soon, I feel so much better. Humans were designed to connect and I am a voracious connector. I love people.
I also do things that I know are GOOD FOR ME but not necessarily easy. In other words, taking care of myself.
Women have a hard time doing that. Moms I think sometimes feel guilty.You know how in those airplane safety demos they ask you to put the oxygen mask on first? I used to think, well, that’s counter-intuitive, but hey you have to keep yourself alive to be able to care for others. So I do things that make me feel alive. I make myself do yoga, I drink a green juice or two, I get a massage, I go somewhere alone or with friends.
I think of “the greatest love of all” and I used to think, that’s selfish. But really, sing it with me, “learning to love yourself…”
Thank you, Leah, for making me google the lyrics to that song and discover that it is not about being pregnant but about loving yourself – only 30 years after it was released!
Your turn! What do you do that is GOOD FOR YOU but not necessarily easy? Tell us in the comments to inspire and encourage others.
There’s nothing simple you can do right now that will make you happy forever and ever. There are, however, lots of little decisions you can make every single day to help you live a happier life.
Being happy is a continual process, a constant choice to act in a way that reflects what matters most to you. Happiness happens when you bring to life your ideals.
Happiness, in other words, is very much about what you do.
So what can you do right now to be happier? I’ve put together a list of easy things you can do to be happier. They’re tiny actions that can yield big results – and none of them require more than a few minutes of your time.
This is the second time my friend Sam has given me a happiness interview. The first time, she asked me what the heck I was thinking – and her responses to my interview questions made me ask myself the same question. Turns out Sam was in “a bit of a funk-o-la” at the time even though she looked on the outside like she was doing all the right things.
That was three months ago.
Last week, out of the blue, Sam sent me another set of responses to my original interview question. The difference was like night and day.
The moral of this story: even funk-o-la is temporary.
What does it mean to you to “be happy” or have a happy life?
For me, being happy is finding an inner peace with what is and making the choice to live life with intention.
Whether it’s a big choice like not going to an event that I know will drain me, or a small choice like unfollowing someone on Facebook who is throwing negative crap at my day, I consistently ask myself, “Will this feel good? Will this energize me? Will this bring me peace?” If the answer is no, well, then the answer is no.
Choosing to do more of what makes me smile, makes me laugh, lifts my heart and gives me energy makes my life happy.
What have been the best ACTIONS you’ve taken in pursuit of happiness?
#1 is making the choice to be happy, to pursue happiness.
For so long, despite ups and downs, bad moments and good, I declared myself to just “not be a happy person.” Even on a smiley day where everything went amazingly, I would still say “This was a great day but I’m not a happy person.”
Once I realized that continuing to hold onto that belief was only getting in my own way, and simply feeding my fear of being happy, I made the conscious choice to do what I could to be happy, including acknowledging moments where I was happy.
Which brings me to #2. I swear Britt didn’t pay me to say this but seriously, my gratitude practice has been one of the most significant actions I’ve taken in pursuing happiness.
The primary benefit of my gratitude practice is increased awareness. Even if I don’t include every last little thing each day, I am consistently checking in with myself. “Ah yes, this feels great. I love this. I want to remember this. I want to do this again.” Or “This kinda sucks. Let’s not repeat this thing.” Another benefit is just seeing the patterns overtime of what makes me happy.
My top 3 things currently are spending time with my adorable pups, eating wonderful food, and spending time with friends. With that information, I’m armed with the knowledge to choose to do more of those things in the future.
What “shoulds” have you let go of in order to pursue your happiness?
The only “should” I’ve had to let go of in order to pursue my happiness is “You should (call, write, visit, apologize, etc) because she’s your mother.” My mother isn’t happy and blames everyone she can besides herself for that. My mother has made it clear she is not interested in having a relationship with me. My mother is emotionally abusive. It took me 30 years to free myself from the obligation of going back into that minefield, but finally doing it probably ranks as #3 up there with best actions I’ve taken to be happy.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about happiness?
The best advice about happiness I’ve received is that it’s not a race to be won and then left in the dust.
We hadn’t spoken since noon the day before when I had told him I was done.
“I’m not going anywhere,” I’d tempered my declaration to a slightly more reasonable level, “but I am done trying to connect with you!”
He opened his mouth as if to respond but closed it again without speaking. I watched him take a breath, clench his jaw, and shove down any signs of anger or understanding. And then, with a single word, he lowered the cone of silence.
Shortly after that he left to spend the afternoon with a friend, and I settled into losing myself in motherhood and housekeeping. When he came home we moved in our own wide circles around the kids, overlapping with restrained civility only when absolutely necessary. The next morning he left for work without saying goodbye.
My heart broke.
Yes, I’d technically been the one to use the D word – but he was the one who was executing it so easily. He was the one pulling away effortlessly. He was the one holing up and refusing to reach out when he knew that I was hurting. I was the one he’d rejected!
Our perceptions can be so, so stupid. And blinding. And fickle.
Just a few days earlier I’d been telling a friend of mine the story of our marriage. I’d told her all about the things I learned from almost getting divorced and the horrific behavior Jared had put up with and forgiven while I was “finding myself”.
“Wow. You can’t ever say he doesn’t love you,” she’d said.
“No,” I’d agreed, “he definitely has proven his love.”
But now I was saying I was done. Now I was saying he didn’t care. Now I was saying I was the only who tried and he was the one who needed to… to… to love me better?
You can’t ever say he doesn’t love you.
With my friend’s words echoing in my head, I struggled to make sense of what I was feeling and who was to blame. Finally, I summoned my courage and sent him a text.
“I know in my head when I think about our entire history together that you must love me. But when I don’t feel loved right now, it’s really hard to hold on to that.”
The standoff was over.
With that one admission I had reopened the lines of communication and we did, eventually, find our way back to each other.
There are few things scarier or more painful than thinking the person you love most in the world doesn’t love you back. Unfortunately – as my own recent marital breakdown demonstrates – it is surprisingly easy to find yourself thinking exactly that, no matter what your loved one actually feels or thinks about you.
But there is hope.
It’s never too late to turn things around and start feeling the love you need. These steps can be used over and over again to pull you and your relationship back on track.
1. Stop trying to guess how your partner feels.
One of the lessons I’ve learned repeatedly in my almost 15 years of marriage is that how I feel has nothing to do with how Jared feels about me. Whether or not Jared loves me (he does) is not the point.
I used to think that if Jared loved me enough he would automatically know what I needed.
Because apparently love makes us mind readers.
Except, it doesn’t.
The only way for our partners to know what they can do to make us feel loved is for us to tell them. The more specific we can be, the better chance they have of meeting our expectations and our needs.
Of course, this is also terrifying.
Hi, I’m feeling unloved and unloveable! Let me beg for your affection by telling you exactly what you have to do for me!
And a little embarrassing.
I really feel loved when you tell give me a specific list of things that you love about me.
It’s no wonder I tend to resort to my love-inspired-mind-reading theory.
In recent years, I’ve been able to use my history with Jared to bolster my courage in these moments. I also remind myself that I am absolutely loveable and so of course he is going to want to love me.
Ultimately, finding the courage to be vulnerable comes down to having faith that you can survive the consequences of that vulnerability – even if that includes rejection.
5. Ask the person you love how they feel love.
This serves two purposes.
First, chances are that you and your partner speak different love languages. That means that he is probably trying to love you in ways that are meaningful to him – and possibly wasted on you. It helps to be able to recognize these well-intended behaviors for what they are:
proof that you can trust this person enough to reach out.
The second reason to learn your partner’s love language is so that you can…
6. Practice loving them in their love language.
One thing I’ve learned from my own experiences and from coaching others is that we tend to turn inward when we’re feeling insecure. When we are too focused on ourselves, we become like blackholes where love and light go to die. No matter how much love someone is throwing our way, we are blinded by our self-centered perspective.
The solution is to turn our attention outward.
And when we do, we’ll inevitably see that loving someone else well helps us to experience love ourselves.
Bonus: the more loved your partner feels, the more motivated they’ll be to listen when you ask for what you need.
It’s like an endless, awesome loop of love!
And you can get it started.
But be careful. You can’t love someone well with strings and expectations attached. Avoid the trap of thinking that you can skip open and honest communication if you just make your partner happy. Remember:
You cannot make someone else happy.
Being happy won’t transform your partner into a psychic.
The best way to reconnect with your partner and recharge your relationship is to rely on personal responsibility, self awareness, vulnerability, and courage. It’s with those strengths that you’ll be able to identify what you need and ask for it.