HAPPINESS HOW-TO

Cheering each other on

 

Happiness Idea: Toss Your Eraser!

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

If you struggle with making any of ‘em—from what to wear to work to whether or not to give love another shot—then today’s little happy life idea is for you!

The art of life is not that you take the clear path in front of you, it's that you set off on one and just see where it leads. (Image: Amy Spencer, Montauk Path)

My husband Gus and I can be pretty bad at making small decisions. It takes us 20 minutes to choose what to eat for lunch and 15 minutes to actually eat it. It takes us 45 minutes to pick a movie to watch, and Gus is asleep 10 minutes in. And our next vacation? My word, we’ll be debating the options until March. But I know we’re not alone.

With all the decision-making our modern world allows, sometimes we get so caught up in making the right choice that we paralyze ourselves from making any choice at all! In his book Paradox of Choice, author Barry Schwartz writes, “Choice no longer liberates, but debilitates.” What’s really behind all this? Well, I think that with all the information at our fingertips to help us make a perfect decision, we’re now terrified of now making the wrong one.

But here’s the thing. No matter how many pros & cons lists we make about a choice, sometimes it won’t work out. Sometimes the lunch place has stale bread, the movie stinks, the second date is a disaster and the job makes us miserable. And that’s okay! Becuase that’s how life works. We’re moving forward all the time. Like John W. Gardner once said, “Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.” No, you don’t have an eraser, but you have a huge, bright, empty piece of paper in front of you to draw in whatever direction you want to go next.

Try this: Give your brain’s decision department a break. Be bold! Imagine taking a permanent marker to draw your sign on the one piece of posterboard you have left. Just trust your gut, listen to your heart, and go for it. If you find yourself feeling along the way that it’s just not working out…redirect! There are very few decisions or mistakes in life that can’t be fixed. A wedding can be called off, and a called-off wedding can also be called right back on. Money can be mostly refunded, jobs can be quit, movies can be walked out of. And that piece of posterboard, it has a backside, too. Sure, maybe you end up with a little headache trying to fix it…but weren’t you giving yourself as much of a headache in struggling over the decision in the first place? Free yourself my making any choice at all, then see where it takes you next.

Gus and I have another trick that helps: We have an app called “The Decider” on our iPhones. And when we find ourselves torn between two great options, we declare, “Let’s let The Decider decide.” We type in the choices, watch the arrow spin, and see our future chosen for us. Really, it’s a relief. And so far, it’s worked out just fine.

Let’s not spend 30% of our lives debating what to do with the other 70%. What a waste of our spirit! Be fearless. Put the pencil to paper and just draw. Let your hand and heart guide you (or a Decider decide for you) and see how free you feel just making a choice so you can get back to living the brilliant art of your life again.

Big love,

Amy

 

Happiness Challenge: Change This *One* Word to Change Your Life

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Did you know that if you change just one word in your life, you can make a huge impact on what comes to you in life? With just one word, you can affect what comes your way in love, in work, in friends and in fun!

People build cities on top of mountains and dreams because they believe they can. No buts about it. (Machu Picchu windows, by Amy Spencer, 2010)

See if you remember this quote from Star Wars:

Luke: “I can’t believe it.”
Yoda: “That is why you fail.”

Yoda’s right. (Well, duh, Yoda was always right, wasn’t he.) And the message is clear: If you can’t believe you can do or have something, you’ll never do or have it. Ever. You just won’t.

When I was single, I went into a shop for a friend of mine to pick up her fixed engagement ring. And when I saw all those other rings under the glass, I thought, “I can’t even imagine myself ever having one of those.” And that, I realized, was a big problem. So I started to picture it. To believe I would one day have a ring like that—I wasn’t focusing on the flashiness, but on the idea that I’d meet a partner who would give me one as a symbol of wanting to be with me forever. I have a ring like that now. And an amazing guy who has vowed to be with me to go along with it. But I didn’t meet him until I believed I could. And it wasn’t an easy road.

Oh, trust me, I tried to believe. I wanted desperately to believe. I begged the universe to help me believe. There was just one word that kept getting in the way: the word but.

Recognize it? It usually sounds something like this:

• “I want to meet someone but there’s no one good out there for me.”

• “I want the job, but they’ll never hire someone without the right experience.”

• “I want to own a house with a pool someday, but there’s no way I’ll ever make enough money for that.”

Those “buts” are the biggest thing standing in the way of you believing you can do, have and be what you want. So…

Try this: Say out loud the thing that you want most in life right now and come up with the “but” that is keeping you from achieving it (or the “buts” if there are a few). Then, replace “but” with “and…because” and change the outcome of your sentence and your life. Battle the but! So now, you’ll sound more like this:

• “I want to meet someone and there has to be a good person out there for me, because I personally know a lot of people who have found love for themselves!”

• “I want the job, and even though I don’t have the exact experience they require, I know I’m capable because I have skills that could do even more for their company.”

• I want to own a house with a pool someday, and though I can’t afford one today, I know I’ll have one in the future because my appetite for success, my perseverence and my desire to swim my summers away won’t let me settle for anything less!”

If you can’t believe it, you will fail. This Yoda know. So get started on the road to believing by not letting your buts get in the way! Change that one word and you can change your life. And I know this because it’s worked for me. :)

You can have everything you want. Please, believe that and be on your way.

Big love,

Amy

TRY THIS HAPPINESS TRICK: Look…you’re in it.

Friday, June 15th, 2012

We spend a lot of our lives planning. A recent week, for instance, I made a To-Do list that included everything from “Drop clothes off at the Salvation Army” to “Book hotel for trip.” For many of us, it can feel like we’re on a conveyer belt rushing to the next thing—to the place where the fun and joy is. But here’s the thing: There’s fun and joy where we are right now.

Life is bursting with good stuff every second. Don't be so focused on the future that you miss it. (Image: Alofaaga Blowholes, Samoa by Amy Spencer)

That’s why I loved hearing Richard Webber (played by James Pickens, Jr.) telling the young surgeon Karev that in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. As Karev was racking up routine hours on his way to bigger surgeries, he needed the reminder that the day-to-day is where the joy is. Here is what he said:

“Sometimes you can’t see the joyful part of your life until it’s over. This is it, Karev, it’s right now. You’re in it.”

There are far more regular days than big occassions and exotic vacations. So if we’re just saving the joyful moments for one night out a week or two weeks away a year or the one spectacular day we get our big promotion, that’s about three hundred days a year left over. And those are great days!

Try this: Think about what you were doing before you started reading this post and what you’ll be doing next, and appreciate it. Were you emailing a co-worker? Writing up notes for a meeting? Cleaning the dishes? Driving to the store? Catching up on with your friends on Facebook? Well guess what: This is a special moment in time. A year from now or five, you might have a different job, office or computer. You might be going to new meetings or none at all. Even if you’re driving the same path to the same store, you’ll be wearing different shoes, chatting on your phone to different friends. And Facebook? Who knows what that’ll look like in five years.

Our lives are like time capsules that we never seem to open until years later. Don’t wait. Don’t put it off until ten years from now to say, “Oh, wow, remember that email system we used to use?” and “Aw, look, that cute bush that used to flower by my front door,” and “Man, I’ve felt loved in my life.” Don’t wait to see the joyful part until it’s over. Appreciate those things right now.

This is it. It’s right now. You’re in it.

You might also like:

Put On a Pair of Happy Glasses

Big love,


How to Make a Monster Trap: Why Expecting Failure Will Make You Happier!

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Have you ever had a friend say, “Oh my God, you have to see such-and-such a movie, it’s amaaaaaaazing. You’ll die. It’s so, so, so good!” But when you see it…eh. Then, you see a movie simply because it’s close to your house and has good popcorn (oh, or is that just me?) and you think it’s absolutely amaaaaaaazing.

 

This little birdie expects that finding food in the sand will be tough. And that makes a big difference.

Why is that? Well, because we build our sand castles on our expectations. In movies. In meals. In dates. In dreams. In life. We forget that at some point, the wind might pick up, the sand grains might blow, or a child might come stomping right over the foundation. Just because we sat down ready to build a perfect sand castle doesn’t mean the process will go perfectly. But as much as we know this, we’ve all done it anyway.

You know, we think…

…as soon as we get our dream job, we’ll be happy to wake up and jump out of bed every morning!

…as soon as we start to date, we’ll find a connection and fall in love!

…as soon as we write that book or screenplay or business plan, we’ll be millionaires!

…as soon as we marry the right partner, we’ll live life like a cotton commercial, snuggling and laughing our way through the day!

…as soon as we start trying to get pregnant, we’ll be those people who say it happened on the first try!

But that’s not how life works, right? Because no matter how much we love our jobs, there are days we’ll hate it. And no matter how much we love the people we meet, there are days we’ll butt heads and argue and wonder why we ever thought each other was so darn great in the first place! The issue is those expectations. Because if we expect things to be perfect and we smack into the wall of reality, it hurts like heck and we’re devastated. But if we expect to meet with a little failure along the way, reality will just be a speed bump in the road that we roll right over in an average day.

In other words, all it takes to be happier is to expect failure. And all we need to do that is a Monster Trap!

Make your own mental "Failure and Success" chart for life!

Watch this video of Audri Clemens, in which he explains how he made a monster trap—complete with a “Failures and Success” chart and his hypothesis of how many tries it would take him to succeed. “I think it will have ten to twenty failures and two successes,” Audri says, “that’s my hypothesis.” We then get to see him try out his trap, starting with “Failure #1.” And we can all learn from his plan.

When you plan for failure, it won’t hurt as much when you hit it. When you know there will be dark days in your job, your love life and the path to your dreams, you won’t be tempted to throw down the plans and stomp on them. If you’re out there dating, make your own “Failures and Success” chart and mark down the awful dates in the expected category.

Like those movies our friends—and movie companies—like to shout about, don’t get so hyped up by your own expectations that every date or every day at work will be amaaaaaaazing. When you know things might not go well, the failures can be spectacular and interesting and hilarious!

Expect failure. Plan for reality. And then hope for some fun surprises along the way. When you can appreciate the crooked journey along the way—failures included—you give yourself the chance to be so much happier every single day.

Big love,

 

Try This Happiness Trick: Add To Your Applause Meter

Monday, April 16th, 2012

You know those applause meters they use at big basketball games or during live TV show tapings—the ones that show how loud the crowd applause is reaching? I was I-don’t-want-to-say-how-old when I realized that those aren’t “measuring” anything but how well someone was hitting a button behind the curtain. Sigh. But I do know one thing: We should be applauding more in life. Which brings to mind this great quote:

“If you can give your son or daughter only one gift, let it be enthusiasm.”
—Bruce Barton

Even palm trees can groove with enthusiasm. What works for you? (Image by Amy Spencer, Upolu, Samoa)

Now, I don’t have a son or daughter, so I like to say, instead, If you can give yourself only one gift, let it be enthusiasm. Here’s why: The more passion we put into something, the greater the chance we’ll succeed and get more out of it, right? But you can only get enthusiastic about something that’s in line with your authentic self. You can only applaud the things you enjoy doing from the heart.

It’s why it’s so hard to come up with any fresh ideas for a job you hate, or why you don’t feel like getting dressed up for a party you’re dreading. Your heart’s just not in it. But if your heart’s not in the things you’re doing in your day, how can you expect to feel happy in your life? If you want to feel good in your life, you must align yourself with things that make you want to clap.

What if you can’t work up enthusiasm for what you’re doing? Then you have three options: 1) Drop it and replace it with something you love. 2) Find one thing to be enthused about within it. Or 3) Suck it up and do something elsewhere you’re enthused about. Only you know what’s within your power.

Try this:

If you’re miserable in a situation, a job or a relationship…

…remove yourself. Quit. End it. Give yourself a chance to experience something or someone you are passionate about. As I talked about with Jillian Michaels for Redbook magazine, I once cried while putting on my pants for a job one Monday morning, and that’s when I knew it was time to go. I didn’t have a job at the ready, so I went off on my own and I’ve never looked back. As Jillian said, sometimes you have to let go of one monkey bar before you can free a hand up to grab the next one. Free yourself. Give yourself a chance to grab the next one.

But if you can’t quit or move on…

…find something within your experience that ignites some sparks. Ask to trade desks or take on a different task at work, take your kids outdoors and away for the weekend so you can get a fresh perspective, or sign up for a rock climbing class with your partner to challenge yourselves together. Seek your own original way to do what you have to do with a new sense of energy and excitement.

And if you simply can’t change a single thing…

…find something to applaud in another area of your life. Use your time after work or community service to turn off the TV and read a great book, listen to music you’ve forgotten you had, or to make an iMovie video from your last vacation photos. Or take one day on a weekend to ride a rollercoaster for the first time in forever.

Enthusiasm matters. So find something that sends your applause meter skyrocketing. What will make you want to get out of bed in the morning? What will make you countdown the time because you can’t wait to begin? What have you been meaning to try or taste or do or sign up for that it’s high time you gave a shot? Find something you want to applaud and do it. You deserve a happy, enthusiastic life. So give yourself a big hand in getting there.

And if you want to talk more about enthusiasm—tell me what works for you or ask me a question about what’s notconnect with me here at Bright Side Up on Facebook. I love to chat and connect and that’s one of the best places to find me!

You might also like:

A Positive Rant: You Are a Catch, You Know

 

Big love,