Happiness Interview: Food Mood Girl Lindsey Smith

Friday, June 6th, 2014

This week’s happiness interview features Lindsey Smith, a fellow Pittsburgh resident who’s currently touring the country to spread her Body Love message.

Lindsey Smith is one of those women who makes you think, “how in the hell has she already accomplished so much?”

She’s young, successful, and confident.

I’m convinced her confidence is one of the reasons she’s achieved as much as she has: published author, health coach, motivational speaker, shows up on TV and in national magazines on a regular basis.

Whenever I talk to her, she inevitably ends up teaching me something about life. My favorite Lindsey Lesson is to “launch and learn” – which means to always assume what’s happening right now is part of the prep work for what’s coming next, and remember there is always something coming next.

Trust me when I say you want some of whatever it is this chick has.

Lindsey Smith Food Mood Girl

How do you define happiness?

Happiness is a feeling from within. It’s a constant state of gratitude and an ever-flowing abundance of joy and peace. It also just feels really, really awesome.

What makes you happy?

{Feelings} Freedom, expression, and authenticity.

{Food} Tea, green smoothies, dark chocolate, almond butter, and kale.

{People} My family, my husband, my friends and my community.

{Purpose} Writing, speaking, rapping, sharing and getting to create my life’s work.

Are there any “shoulds” you’ve let go of to be happier?

I’ve let go of a lot of “shoulds,” but the biggest one is the idea of normal or the “American Dream.” I always thought, “I should” be the way everyone else is or expects me to be. But when I tried it, I realized I was never happy.

The more I can authentically walk in my own skin, the happier I am. The more I define my own normal, the happier I am. I no longer look at societal norms as the sole reason for my happiness.

I enjoy living my out-of-the-box lifestyle because it makes me happy. I encourage others to do the same and surround yourself with people who are doing what you want to be doing.

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

I love this because it is a great reminder of the WHY behind what you are doing. I always make sure I ask myself, “Will this make me happy?” If the answer is no, I simply don’t do it.

There are many things that come our way and we have to make a decision. Many times, we choose to do things because of societal pressures, family pressures or internal pressures. And when we do that, it usually causes us grief rather than happiness and sways us further away from our truth.

I say choose to be happy and you will always be fulfilled.

Thanks, Lindsey!

What Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto Can Teach Us About Troubled Pasts

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto

Photo Credit: Rob de la Cretaz

Last month, I got to hear Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto speak at Creative Mornings.

(Creative Mornings, by the way, is a kick-ass breakfast lecture series that is 100% free. I highly recommend checking it out if you have a local chapter.)

Anyway, Peduto.

Bill Peduto is like Pittsburgh’s version of Barack Obama – the Obama of 08 that everyone was excited about. He’s our Cory Booker.

He does appearances at local drag clubs and sings karaoke and set up a twitter account for reporting potholes. He is as beloved in this town as our old mayor was loathed. He’s a very popular guy right now.

He’s also, as it turns out, pretty smart. I only discovered this myself at Creative Mornings when I heard him talk about Pittsburgh’s past, his vision for the future, and his plans for bridging the two. The details of all that are only interesting if you live in Pittsburgh.

But something he said jumped out at me as universal.

“The lessons of Pittsburgh’s past are what got us to where we are, but we also need to let them guide us to do better in the future.”

For those who haven’t studied Western Pennsylvania history, Pittsburgh’s past includes a lot of successful industry, economic growth, and expansion. It also includes a lot of environmental pollution, economic disparity, urban sprawl, and institutional racism.

In other words:

There has been good, and there has been bad.

There have been achievements to be proud of and decisions that were destructive.

And that’s exactly my life.

I suspect it’s the same for most people.

I was inspired to hear Mayor Peduto talk about good and bad decisions made by former city leaders; I was impressed that he was willing to acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses.

Acceptance is an essential part of any plan for growth.

And acceptance sees the good and the bad.

Acceptance knows that all the lessons contributed to where you are right now, and therefore all of it deserves at least a moment of recognition.

Remember this when you think about your own story.

You can be both proud of where you are and determined to do better in the future – and you can do it without shame.

Acceptance has nothing to do with shame and everything to do with constantly learning.

when you know better you do better

Are you hiding from parts of your past?

You don’t have to wear a t-shirt announcing your biggest regrets to the world, but accepting your mistakes as part of your ongoing story can be very empowering. It may even make you more compassionate towards yourself and others.

The world can always use more compassion.

What if we stopped looking at our pasts as a series of good and bad decisions? What if we could see all of it as progress, as plot points in our ever evolving stories?

I believe that perspective could set a lot of people free.

Free from guilt. Free from shame. Free from making the same mistakes over and over again in the future.

Because you can’t learn from what you ignore.

Face your past. Learn your lessons. And then, move the hell on.

How to Find Your Purpose: 4 Questions to Ask Yourself

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Video not showing up properly? Click here to watch How to Find Your Purpose on YouTube.

Fair warning: I don’t believe in discovering one all-inclusive purpose, one big achievement for which your entire life exists.

Instead, I believe in discerning what your purpose is right now. I’m certain that if you do that, you’ll be helping to make the world a better place.

So, how do you find your right-now purpose?

Ask yourself:

1. What did you like to do as a kid?

2. What would you do if you won the lottery?

3. Who and what are you jealous of?

4. What crazy idea won’t shut up?

Watch the video to find out how the answers to those questions can help you choose your next best step.

Do you have an idea or suggestion for an upcoming video? Share it in the comments!

This One Time at Yoga Class

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014


I walked into my local library with my yoga mat and very few expectations. I didn’t even know if the library was closed or if I’d be parading my stretch-cotton clad body through a group of unsuspecting readers. (No and yes and no one noticed.)

The moment I stepped into Room A the expectation void was filled with a flood of assumptions.

Most of the other people gathered for Yoga with Phyllis were significantly older than me, well into the category of Old People even. Almost no one wore proper yoga gear; instead I saw an assortment of scrubs, pajamas, and casual wear more suited for a stroll through the food court than an exercise class.

“I’m not going to fit in here”, said my first assumption.

A woman who appeared to be in her seventies sat on a chair at the front of the room. I suspected from her turquoise capri pants and functional vest that she was an administrator of some kind, perhaps taking a head count to keep the library abreast of the success of their community programming.

“Let’s come to a sitting position to begin,” she said, using her hands to position her legs more squarely on the chair.

“Great. This must be a class for people who can’t move very well,” muttered my next assumption.

I felt stupid for trying to take advantage of a free yoga class and for having imagined a gathering of barter-loving hippies who would wear ‘I’m Here for the Savasana’ t-shirts. I was annoyed and smug knowing that the heavily modified poses we’d be led through would offer no challenge for my young and agile body.

It was fun for a moment to by the most physically gifted person in a room.

And then class started.

It turns out it’s entirely possible to bend, fold, and stretch wearing walking pants.

And age, it seems, does not make one more or less capable of doing a back bend or balancing in eagle.

Or of teaching a yoga class.

The elderly woman perched on the chair quickly transformed into a happy yogi who often laughed out loud while demonstrating how to move one’s toe into one’s ear. She giggled. She made us sing “Take Me Out to The Ballgame” while we squatted in chair. She sounded fierce instead of reverent when she talked about the energy we were pushing up, around, and into our bodies.

I wondered while I was in downward dog (which we only did once!) if my shoulders were properly rotated, and I wished for a moment that she was the kind of yoga teacher that did adjustments. But most of the time I just wondered about my own body and what it was trying to teach me from pose to pose.

At the end of class Phyllis guided us through a lengthy meditation that was both relaxing and invigorating. The guy beside me fell asleep. I decided I’d be coming back.

This was the first time I’d experienced a yoga class that felt like yoga in real life. It was natural and flawed; it was completely unpretentious.

Of course there are many lessons I could point to here. We could talk about ageism or yoga as a workout for everyone. I could hit you over the head with the reminder that perceptions are not facts. I could chide myself for judging.

Instead, what I choose to take away with me is gratitude for an amazing experience, one that was unexpected and exactly what I needed when I needed it.

What was your last right-time-right-place experience?

From Not Enough to More to Give

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

2014-03-06 09.27.38

“I think it was Lynn Twist who said that the first thing most of us think when we get out of bed in the morning is this: “I didn’t get enough sleep.” So we start off the day with this feeling of not enough-ness. And then it grows into not enough time, not enough money, not a good enough mom, not a good enough friend… it’s endless!”

Those words from Andrea Scher’s happiness interview hit me hard. I recognized myself in them instantly.

It’s not that I don’t know better.

I know all about scarcity thinking and abundance mindset and reframing and blah blah BLAH. But I can still get sucked into that not enough spiral.

Maybe it starts with being tired one morning. Or when one of the kids needs $75 for a field trip right now and I have no cash on me. Or when I realize I forgot to fit dinner into the evening schedule of appointments, practices, and games; and then my daughter’s baseball gloves breaks – and I didn’t even know that was possible! – right in the middle of a game.

I can’t say exactly when I slipped down the slope of not enough. I just know that I looked up one day and I was hoarding.

Hoarding dollars. Minutes. Sleep.

I was thinking about how to hang on tighter to what I had instead of dreaming up ways to give, make, and do more.

And the tighter I clung, the less I had.

That’s how Not Enough works; it morphs into Never Enough.

I was clenched around my meager resources when I read Andrea’s interview. “Living in a world of not enough doesn’t allow for much joy,” she said.

“No shit,” I said to myself, bitterly thinking of all the joy I was missing out on because I didn’t have enough in my life.

But then something happened. I don’t know exactly what. Something switched in my brain and I remembered all the ways I know better.

I remembered that practicing gratitude shows me I have more than enough.

I remembered that I have experienced so many things that make no sense in the logical world – things like swimming with dolphins and traveling for a year and dancing on stage at a Prince concert.

In Gabrielle Bernstein’s TEDx talk she says when she was freaking out about not having enough time for her talk, she was reminded to “speak your truth, and time will expand.”

As crazy as that sounds, that seems to be how the world works: it expands in completely illogical ways.

But it can only expand if you aren’t bear hugging the snot out of it.

So I let go.

I unclenched. In the literal sense that means I relaxed my muscles, stopped grinding my teeth, unfurled my fists, and breathed in and out as deeply and slowly as I could.

In my head, I lowered the walls that were trying to keep everything in.

Really that’s just a tiny shift in perspective. It’s looking out and thinking how instead of caving in and thinking not enough.

And do you know what happened next?

I slept better.

Time expanded so that I could work and play and love all in one day.

And I got my car fixed for free.

No shit.

I dropped my car off at the mechanic shop because it was shaking horribly and the check engine light was flashing. I said a little prayer of gratitude that we have savings and a back-up vehicle. A few hours later the mechanic called to tell me the problem was so easy to fix – the “massive misfire” was caused by something that just needed to be tightened – that he wasn’t going to charge me.

A weight has been lifted and I feel like myself again. And this version of me knows that I always have more than enough to give.