What Happiness Looks Like: inBetween Magazine’s Rachel Naud

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Rachel Naud is the co-founder and editor of inBetween, an online magazine for parents of teens and young adults. I was thrilled when she reached out to me last year to tell me about this venture, because parenting a teen can feel lonely.

But this post isn’t about raising teens. In fact, Rachel doesn’t even have a teenager yet.

This post is about a woman who works at home, building a business while parenting a son and nurturing a marriage. This is what happiness looks like for Rachel.

rachel-inBetween

What makes you happy?

Having conversations with my seven-year-old son, Tristan. When you look at him, he’s just this cute little boy with missing front teeth, big blue eyes and a mop of wavy hair. But when you sit and talk to him, some of the things he comes up are so profound, it amazes me. He’s insightful beyond his years and can hold his own in a conversation with a roomful of adults. He’s sweet, thoughtful and really funny. He has a heart of gold and I am so proud to be his mom.

 I also love spending time with my family and friends. My husband, Chris, still makes me laugh (most days) after 12 years of marriage and my sister, Rebecca, is my best friend. We see each other every day. I also love going to movies, shopping and trying new restaurants.

Spending time with my fur babies – my two old english sheepdogs – also makes me happy. It’s so easy to please a dog. All they want is love, some exercise and a bowl full of food. It’s so simple. We could all learn a lesson from our four-legged friends.

Speaking of food, surprisingly, I find happiness in cooking. I’m not sure how this happened because I’m not a great chef or anything. But when you make a meal for someone, I really do think it’s one of the greatest ways to show someone that you love them. And when they enjoy it and thank you for your efforts, it’s nice to receive that acknowledgment and appreciation. I just have one rule: If I cook, I don’t do the dishes. That also makes me happy.

How do you find time to do what makes you happy?

I’m a work-at-home mom, so I’m lucky enough to be able to walk Tristan to and from school and that’s when we have some of our best conversations. Other than that, I just make family time part of the daily routine. Every night we eat dinner together and talk about our days. And after dinner, I take the dogs for their nightly jaunt and watch them run, play and smile.

I try to go out for girls’ nights with my friends every once in a while. And when the timing works – and we can find a sitter – the hubs and I will catch a movie or dinner.

There's nothing more important than happinessAre there any “shoulds” you’ve had to let go of in order to pursue your happiness?

Before I had Tristan, I was very focused on my career. I was hell bent on climbing the corporate ladder. The plan was to keep working until I landed my dream job or dream salary. In fact, when I got pregnant, I was only going to take 10 months of maternity leave and return to work early (we get a year in Canada).

And then I met my baby boy, fell in love and quit my job.

And although I probably should have stayed in the corporate rat race (because lord knows I’d be making more money than I am now!), it was the easiest decision I have ever made. And the best. I’ve never regretted it. Not once. Thanks to that decision, I’ve been able to freelance, travel and now, even start my very own online magazine.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about happiness?

There’s nothing more important than happiness. So chase it, seize it and never let it go.

Read more happiness interviews.

What I Learned From Yoga About Making Massive Changes (Or Not)

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

yoga sort of

I love yoga. I love it because it feels easy to me – or at least, I think it feels easy.

I’m never scared to go to class. I’m never nervous about failing or taking on too much. I don’t fear hurting myself.

A couple weeks ago I fell on my face in yoga.

Literally.

I was trying to get into crow and I got too much forward momentum. My head slammed into the ass of the poor girl in front of me and my face smacked into the wood floor.

It hurt – my pride and my head.

But the next week I still had no apprehension about going to class.

I have never fallen on my face running, but running scares the shit out of me.

Before I even begin I am thinking about the certain wheezing and the burning in my legs and how hard it will be to haul my body up and down the hills that surround my house. I won’t be able to finish.

So I don’t start.

Yoga tricks me into working hard. Yoga asks me to start slow and then go a little less slow.

And then maybe push, just a little.

And then a little more.

And inevitably I find myself thinking, “holy crap every single muscle in my body is flexed and – is it supposed to be this hard to stand here like this? How did I get like this?!”

Inevitably I do more than I would have imagined I could, more than I thought I would be doing.

I realized on the way home from yoga last week that I like this form of exercise because it lets me focus on the most immediate step right in front of me. I am not intimidated by one small step.

It occurred to me that I often get overwhelmed in other areas of my life when I am focused on more than the next small step.

The big picture is important. It’s easy to drown in the immediate next step, to become obsessed with the details and lose sight of forward motion – especially when you don’t have a teacher standing by to tell you when it’s time to move on.

But the big picture is useless if the magnitude of it stops you from making any progress.

Like maybe, just as an example, you’ll decide to just stay home and watch another episode of The Good Wife instead of tackling all of the goals and all of the tasks and all of the changes.

Hypothetically.

Don’t get tangled up in the immediate details, but find a way to focus mostly on just the next manageable step. That’s my intention.

Funny how it always comes back to balance.

Why Are Your Friends Judging You?

Monday, April 7th, 2014

No One Likes to Feel Judged

That’s why one of the two rules of helping I share in An Amateur’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness is don’t help unless asked. Unsolicited help – or advice – usually feels like judgment.

Judgment – or even the perception of judgment – is bad for our relationships.

I felt judged by a friend recently.

She jumped in with unsolicited advice when I was talking about how I was feeling, and I immediately felt defensive. I wanted to push back and tell her I was just fine, thank you very much (even though I’d just been explaining that I was not exactly fine.)

I thought she was smug and self righteous and a know it all.

And this is my friend!

But then I remembered why I was feeling so judged:

Unsolicited help feels like judgment.

Her methods were misguided, but her intent was rooted in wanting to help. She was trying to love me.

This revelation made me slightly less annoyed and gave me the perspective I needed to step back and let go.

Are you being judged – or loved?

Is it possible that the people in your life who tend to hit your “stop trying to fix me!” button are acting out of love?

Would remembering that make it easier for you to pause and act intentionally rather than react?

You could respond with patience, compassion, and confidence instead of reacting with defensiveness, anger, or resentment.

An intent to help doesn’t make unsolicited advice any less intrusive. It doesn’t make them any less wrong or you any less entitled to feeling hurt.

But relationships aren’t about who is right, wrong, or entitled. They are about connection vs. disconnection.

Unsolicited help hurts because it creates disconnection. Empathizing with the intent, recognizing when a desire to help is rooted in love, can reconnect – if you let it.

What Happiness Looks Like: Alli Worthington

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Alli Worthington and I have a complicated history.

We used to work together, and then we didn’t, and then we didn’t get along, and then I apologized for being an ass (because I had been). We’re not super tight, but I admire the crap out of her – and that’s why I asked her to do a happiness interview.

Alli has taught me not to sit around hoping for an invitation to the big event. Throw your own party.

Alli didn’t wait for people who organize conferences to notice and elevate her. She started her own.

In fact, I’ve never seen Alli beg for scraps of recognition from others or work to be included in some very important group of influencers. She has carved her own path in business and in life, and that requires a ton of confidence and faith in one’s own intuition.

That confidence and self trust is evident in her happiness interview.

Alli Worthington

Photo by Malie Wilson

What makes you happy?

1. Perspective. Sometime after I turned 35, I realized that I finally felt comfortable in my skin and I managed to quit taking everything so seriously all the time. I started saying yes to more adventures even if I risked looking silly in the process. I also began saying no to things that drained my energy even if I let some people down. Perspective is my key to happiness.

2. Purpose. It means so much to me that what I do everyday helps make life better for others. Lately that means helping business owners grow their businesses and enjoy life more. When I was hosting BlissDom, I waited all year to peek out at the crowds of attendees and see everyone so happy. It sounds so cheesy to say, but it’s an honor to get to do something that makes people happy, that helps them and has a positive impact. Whether it is events, or business coaching or what ever else in the future- having a clear purpose of helping others is really awesome.

3. People. Relationships with family and friends are key for me. My husband has a way of looking at me across the room, and in the middle of whatever chaos is going on in the house, I feel loved. When I see one of my sons share some nugget of wisdom with his brother instead of harassing him. When I talk to a girlfriend for the first time in months and we pick up where we left off. I keep a small circle of close friends and have a zero tolerance policy for drama/passive aggressiveness/hurtful behavior, so my close friends are a source of real joy.

What steps have you taken to incorporate what makes you happy into your day-to-day life?

I’ve developed a best practices framework for things that help me feel my best:

1. Protect the Morning. Before I begin my work day I make time for music, prayer and reading. It all depends on how much time I have. Sometimes it is only 15 minutes and sometimes I spend over an hour with a great book.

Happiness isn't based on living a life that is easy.2. Stay off Social Media. I limit my time on social networks during the week. It was too easy for me to waste my time or to fall into a comparison trap with other people and lose focus on my goals. Unless I have a very good reason, I limit social media activity to under 30 minutes a day. This is especially important if I’m feeling down and am tempted to go online to say something just to get positive feedback. I used to catch myself going on Facebook and Twitter as a distraction and a way to get ‘likes’ or ‘retweets’ to try to put me in a better mood. It wasn’t healthy. Likes will never replace a call with a friend or a prayer or a walk when I’m in a funk.

3. Appreciate the Small Things. I love photography and use pictures as a way to celebrate little moments every day. The habit of capturing the little moments helps me to slow down and appreciate life. Sometimes the picture is of my husband and our boys, or of a sleeping dog in a messy quiet house or the moment the sun first escapes from behind the clouds in the morning, the act of capturing moments helped me learn to slow down and enjoy life.

Are there any “shoulds” you’ve had to let go of in order to pursue your happiness?

The biggest stumbling block for me was the idea that things shouldn’t be so hard. Whether it is learning a new skill with my work, being a parent or any number of things that pop up in life. Happiness isn’t based on living a life that is easy or stress free but about living a life that is lived purposefully. The idea that life shouldn’t be hard when we are doing things that do make us happy long-term just works to keep us from ever enjoying life.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about happiness?

For me, really accepting that the world won’t end if I fail at something and that no one is really paying attention to me if I look foolish was life changing. Happiness comes from a million little moments: the warm coffee mug, the happy sigh you let out at the end of the day, the feeling that your work makes the world a little better. That, to me, is real happiness.

Read the rest of the happiness interview series.

5 Ways to Reconnect with Your Intuition

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

My relationship with my intuition – or my gut, as I’m more likely to call it – is similar to my relationship with anyone else: it ebbs and flows. We wind closer together and further apart in a predictable rhythm, like figure eights or strands of DNA.

When I’ve reached the outer limits I know I have to turn back to center or risk losing the status of relationship completely. I have to make the effort to reconnect.

When this happens in my relationship with my husband, I reach out using his love language. I guess that’s pretty much what I do with my gut.

5 ways to reconnect with your intuition

1. Do a gratitude practice.

A gratitude practice is just making a list of what makes you happy. And typically you do this alone, away from the chorus of what “should” matter to you.

Your gut doesn’t use the word should, and neither does gratitude.

Spending a few minutes every day recording what you’re grateful for is a practical, hands-on way to spend time with your intuition. No chanting needed.

2. Meditate.

I mean, there’s nothing wrong with chanting. Or sitting quietly. Or lighting incense and putting a few “ohms” out into the world.

Not that meditation requires any of those things.

When the noise and pace of out there gets too loud and hurried, meditation gives my inner voice a chance to be heard. It also just gives me a break from the myth that I must be constantly doing.

3. Do yoga.

Yoga is my favorite form of exercise. It doesn’t scare me, because I always know there’s a variation that even my body can handle.

When I do yoga, I get more connected to my body. I pay attention to parts of me that are important and yet usually ignored. And all of this happens in a quiet, non-threatening way that makes me want to keep going.

Hands… arms… shoulders… collar bones… sit bones… spine… belly button… gut.

The mindfulness chain always makes its way to the gut – the inside one that guides me – eventually.

4. Walk outside.

This is a tool I discovered when we were on our Great American Road Trip. I love being outside in the fresh air and sunshine. I love walking around on city sidewalks and seeing a mix of people and flowers in planters.

Something about being more connected to what’s out there helps me reconnect with what’s in here.

make something

5. Make something.

My gut speaks in the language of creativity. Making something from nothing always strengthens the bond between me and my creative source.

This could be writing, knitting, cooking, painting, building. The final result doesn’t even have to be good; the process is the most important part.

How does your gut speak to you?

I suspect that intuition is as universal as happiness – which is to say, there are broad strokes in common but the details come in many shades.

A member of the Happiness Tribe said that she reconnects with her intuition through alone time. That didn’t even occur to me, because I spend a ton of time alone and I’m just as likely to take that opportunity to reconnect with escapism.

I suppose it’s possible that someone could reach their intuition through cleaning. I cannot even pretend to wrap my head around that, but I acknowledge that the possibility exists.

I feel exactly the same way about running.

What brings you back to center? When does the world fall away, even if it’s only for a few minutes? How do you turn down the outside noise and turn up the sound of your inner voice?

And when was the last time you did it?