This is one of my favorite images of myself, ever. It was taken by my dear friend, Gina Zeidler, while we were in Mexico photographing a wedding together.
You know why I love this picture so much? It’s not because it’s incredibly flattering (it’s not), nor is it because it’s so technically astonishing (again, its not. . . it’s an iphone picture, after all). No, I love this image because of the way it makes me feel. I’ve never seen such a sincere belly laugh captured anywhere in the history of photography! When I look at this, I’m transported right back to all the hilarity (and joy) of the moment it was taken.*
A quick grammar lesson, just for fun:
When we’re discussing happiness as an adjective, it’s all about how we feel. It’s no secret that we all want to feel happy. I mean, really, how many people do you know whose goal in life is literally to be unhappy?
Yet interestingly, many people (myself included) often make decisions in the name of seeking happiness that actually bring the exact opposite into fruition in their (our) lives. When you really give it some thought, it’s easy to see how and why this would happen.
Since happiness is an emotion (as we discussed in Happier Today: part I), it’s so easy to confuse it with other emotions that produce feelings similar to happiness. Thus, people find themselves (aka I find myself) making decisions that they (we) sincerely believe are leading us toward greater happiness, when in fact, the opposite may be true. Let me give you an example:
When I was young, I was a dancer and a choreographer (I actually earned a dance scholarship at the University level). During my college years, I had the opportunity to be involved in many wonderful productions both at my university and in my community. However, when it came to auditioning for some of the larger productions (national/traveling shows), I would always convince myself that I was simply too busy. I sincerely believed that I was “happier” participating in the smaller shows that were easily accessible to me—my feeling was that these shows were less stress and pressure and that they allowed me to have time in my life to pursue other things in tandem with following my passion for dance. At the time, I thought my decision not to audition for these larger shows was born of a desire to be truly happy. In retrospect, I can see that my decision was born of a desire to feel safe. If I didn’t audition, I didn’t run the risk of being rejected, thus I could maintain a feeling of safety and control (not happiness, mind you, but safety and control—really not even close to the same emotions when you lay them out side by side)! I chose to play it safe and missed out on the opportunity for sincere happiness—the tragedy is that I had myself absolutely convinced that the opposite was true!
I can think of a million examples from my life where I confused happiness with other emotions! I think it’s likely that you can too. Take a look at this list of feelings that could easily be confused for happiness and see if any of them potentially ring true for you (ps this list could easily be three miles long, but we’ll keep things simple by including only a few).
What do you think? Is it a little eye opening when we see these emotions displayed side by side like this? How many of our day to day choices are potentially driven by a different emotion than we allow ourselves to believe? It’s worth some real introspection, I think. . .
There’s an old country ballad by Clint Black called, Something That We Do. I don’t think I’ve heard the song even once in at least the last 10 years, but this week, as I’ve been focusing more and more on the art of happiness, a line from the song keeps popping into my head. It’s a song about all things love, and of love, Black sings, “but it isn’t something that we find, it’s something that we do.” (As an aside, I think Bob Goff might agree.)
We’ve all heard it said that love is a verb. It’s something we DO. Our actions surrounding love are what keep love alive. Love without action is simply an idea. Love WITH action . . . is power. Love, coupled with doing, increases both the love others receive from us as well as the love we feel for the people we share it with (as well as the love we feel for and from God and the love we feel for ourselves).
We’re merely dancing adjacent the true depth of the concept here, but you get the picture.
And so it is with happiness. Happiness isn’t something that we find, it’s something that we do.
Happiness, friends, is a verb.
Putting it all together:
What happens when we put all of this together?
1. What happens when we get really clear about the decisions in our lives . . . and more importantly, the true driving emotions behind them?
2. What happens when we turn happiness from a feeling into a verb—something we DO?
Could these decisions transform the way we think (and feel)? Could these decisions revolutionize the way we live?
Happier Today Experiment:
Allow me to remind you of the Happier Today Theory (from part I):
The Happier Today Theory maintains that when we are feeling unhappy, we have two choices:
1. We can seek out ways to avoid our unhappiness.
2. We can seek out ways to increase our happiness.
Assuming (as I am) that choice number two is the superior option, I’ve got an experiment for us. Let’s try approaching happiness as a verb. What do happy people do? How do happy people live? How do happy people respond to uncomfortable emotions? How do happy people manage themselves in their relationships with others?
I’m willing to bet my bottom dollar that as we mindfully approach happiness as a verb, we can legitimately become happier, TODAY! . . . and tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, but most importantly, I believe this decision will increase our happiness in the here and now (and I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty appealing to me).
“Game on,” you say? Good. Me too.
PS Happy Halloween. Is The Great Pumpkin coming to your house too?
*Background on the image referenced at the beginning of this post: I was sitting in the tiniest hammock in the world, posing for a picture, and as I adjusted myself in an attempt not to fall out of said doll house hammock, I may or may not have released the most robust. . . um. . . well, let’s just call it what it was, FART in recorded history. (You can tell I’m a mother of boys, because I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in my life.)