Happiness Before You

Some days I will search and search for “misplaced” sunglasses or keys or some such only to find the item right before my very eyes. I call the phenomenon “displacia”, an affliction caused by a crowded mind.

The search for happiness is similar. We think it isn’t “here” so we search and search for it elsewhere only to find (if we’re lucky) that happiness has been right before us all along. In fact, happiness cannot be pursued (although the Founding Fathers in the United States would have us believe it is our right to pursue it). It can only be discovered from within.

Perhaps it is the privilege of getting older, but I find sustained happiness to be easier now that I have found the secret to it. It has nothing to do with material gain or wealth or external adoration. It has everything to do with cherishing our innate joy with which each of us was born.

We receive the ticket to happiness the moment we arrive in this world. For some the road is long, the journey agonizing, the destination just ever so slightly out of reach. For others, who may experience similar things, the road is bumpy, yet instructive, the journey is challenging, but manageable, the destination irrelevant.

Resilience is essential to maintain that joyful equilibrium in the face of anything. Self-care ensures we remain centered in a state of abundance regardless of the circumstances. A sense of curiosity about the world provides a richness that no bank account can fulfill.

Happiness lies before you. Or better said: within you. There is no need to chase after that which you can create in the workshop of the heart.

Declutter the mind and happiness will follow.

Done, Not Perfect

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”   — Maya Angelou

Beloved creativity. It can be an angel or a monster. It can haunt dreams – and fulfill them too.

Many of my friends are what I term “Creatives”. They see life — no — feel life in a remarkable way. They see beneath the surface of things, sense the pulse of the Universe that pushes blood through veins and capture the very essence of being. It is humbling to be friends with such people. In honor of their talent, I strive to do my own creative impulses justice.

Nothing gets my creative engine revving more than a walk through the woods. It is my oxygen tank, my life support system, my place of solace when the words just won’t come. Actually, I know they are there. They are always there. But sometimes the layers of life’s distress cover the thoughts needed to express that inner world just crying out to be unleashed.

A stressed Creative is uncreative. And there is nothing more frustrating than creative constipation.

Perhaps that is the real reason why I advocate The Power of Slow. Without allowing for our customized pace, life’s creativity would wither on the vine. Existence would be flat, accompanied only by the squeak of the hamster wheel we’re on.

Sound dramatic? Consider how many great ideas go unrealized because we say “I don’t have time”. In essence, we do. We just divert our attention to certain things while ignoring others. We prioritize to fit in that which we think we should be doing, all the while forgetting what we are meant to do.

If you want to unleash your inner Creative, the first step is to silence the inner Critic. We all know that voice inside that tells us lovely things such as “You don’t deserve it. You’re not good enough. Who do you think you are?” Prepare some canned answers when that voice shows up. “I so deserve it. I am more than enough. Who am I? Watch, and you will see.” In reality, that inner Critic is our fear, like a well-intentioned parent trying to protect us from harm. The trouble is most of what we imagine is harmful is imagined harm.

If you don’t try, you’ll never know. And who would want to be in the dark about their own potential?

One of the best lines I ever learned came from my sister who helped me see perfection wasn’t worth striving for. “Done, not perfect.” Call things complete. Move on. Enjoy the ride. Do what you can in the time that you have. Trust me. It’s not worth stressing about.

So go out there and create. The world will be richer for it. Truly.

That Special Kind of Crazy

If there is one thing I’ve learned as a creative professional, you must always nurture your special kind of crazy.

I deal with business people. A lot. The ones who have been successful have never conformed. They’ve danced outside of the box – and sometimes danced outside of time — to create new things. I get a kick out of tapping into their crazy just as much as I do tapping into my own.

New things can’t come from old things. They can only come from that deepest part of ourselves, like Middle Earth, that is always burbling with energy. If we put a cap on that place, we will never access our fullest potential. And we will be doomed to doing what everybody else does.

That’s like signing your crazy’s death certificate.

A sad thought indeed.

Being a little crazy fosters creativity. Laughter keeps it loose. Being dead serious is a sure-fire way to clamp down on that uniqueness.

Dangle from a limb every once in a while. See what happens. Imagine what life would resemble if everyone lived out their creativity, like a life-long series of Burning Man moments.

Surround yourself with people who spark up your joy, but know that your joy always comes from within. In fact, if you show your inner joy every day, your crazy will shine through too. And it may just set off a new kind of revolution by engaging others in their special kind of crazy too.

I see it. Do you?

 

Google Head

It was an innocent mistake. Really. And I swear I’m a good listener. Except when I’m not.

At lunch the other day, my son was trying to explain the latest video game that has captured his attention. He mumbled something about Zombie Apocalypse, only I heard sun eclipse, which prompted me to correct him with “solar eclipse” and a lengthy explanation about planetary movement and how the sky goes dark when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth.

My son patiently waited for me, wannabe astronomist that I am, to finish my in-depth scientific explanation before he said: “Talking to women is like doing a Google search. You put in one word and bam! 1,000,000 search hits come up immediately.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. He’s right. We hear one word, then we go off on a million different explanations as to the why and where to. Our minds work like that. In my experience, women tend not to be so linear in their thinking. We analyze, synthesize and sympathize, all while cooking a great meal for, well, everyone.

And all he wanted was to tell me about some video game to which I had absolutely no reference.

Therein lies the problem, perhaps, in the communication between Mars and Venus. I don’t know about you, but I’m helpless in a conversation if I don’t have a point of reference. My eyes glaze over and I’m completely lost. Sometimes I make up my own reference just to keep up in the conversation. But I know it’s a reality of my own making.

It’s Google Head at its best. As a wordsmith, I get a million hits a second in my mind, all begging for attention whenever I hear a snippet of conversation, experience something extraordinary, or talk with my eleven-year-old son whose patience with me is remarkable.

Taking time to truly listen is an art form I am doing my best to perfect. I have a ways to go. Thank God for Google. Now that’s a place to find reference when all else fails.

The Progress Principle

Being at a standstill can be the most frustrating experience for a recovering speedaholic like myself. Although I know there is power in slow, there are moments when setbacks make it feel like the world is going to end.

Apparently, I am not alone in this. According to Harvard’s Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, authors of The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work, setbacks are one of the major causes of ennui and disengagement amongst workers.

People need to feel they are moving forward with things, even if it is slow-going.


Collaboration helps. According to the authors, deep engagement and creativity stems from a collaborative work setting in which you don’t feel alone. I know I always feel better when my team is sharing the burden of the work, not just me.

Real progress triggers positive emotions like satisfaction, gladness, even joy. It leads to a sense of accomplishmnet and self-worth as well as positive views of the work and, sometimes, the organization. (page 68)

Poor managers forget the importance of giving meaning to the work people are doing. In fact, most still think people are motivated mostly by extrinsic rewards such as higher pay, bonuses or other benefits. People are actually more accutely motivated by a positive inner work life; that is, when they feel they are contributing to something greater than themselves, feel recognized for it and can have fun while doing it.

The book outlines four ways to negate meaning:

  1. Dismiss a person’s work.
  2. Take away ownership from the person.
  3. Doubt that the work will ever come to fruition.
  4. Menial tasks for which the worker is overqualified.

The progress loop, on the other hand, requires, well, progress, a feeling that you are getting somewhere and that your efforts are meaningful. That fosters a more positive inner work life, which, in turn, contributes to more progress and so on.

Setbacks are the major progress killer, leading to negative emotions and disengagement.

Great leaders are catalysts for positive change or even emotional nourishers.They recognize the human component and its importance in their organization.

Never underestimate the power of sincere acknowledgement. If someone in your life is doing something you appreciate, tell that person. It’s amazing how you will rock their world with your words.

The human connection is so valuable in our lives. If you feel disconnected from your job, consider how you might measure some progress in it. Reach out to a colleague. Exchange ideas. It can take you out of that vicious cycle into a virtuous one with more joy than you can imagine.

The Possibility in Imperfection

The other night I attended a Twitter party. For those of you unfamiliar with such things, it is a gathering on the microblogging social media platform Twitter to discuss a particular topic. This time we were a group of bloggers that convened on Twitter using a particular keyword to follow the conversation for thirty minutes. The topic was, of course, blogging, one of my favorite subjects.

One question the moderators posed was what’s more important: grammar or getting the point across. I have to admit I love grammar and respect all its rules because language is something I highly revere. And I am traumatized even now, thirty years later, by my English teacher Ms. Willis whose smoker’s voice and steely glare still permeate my brain when I even consider saying “There’s two things” instead of saying “There are”.

But language, like anything else, is a compilation of sounds that is fluid and ever-evolving. We bend the rules sometimes to fit the situation. Being a Southern girl, I respect rule-bending. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that, ya”ll. It gives life to new possibilities and ways of expressing ourselves.

You may have noticed I bend the rules on this blog a lot. Suddenly adjectives become nouns. Slow is one example. It is this very juxtaposition that challenges the reader to think in new ways.

So while good grammar is something to be preserved, let’s leave a little room for imperfection. After all, it is in that very place that we grow the most.

P.S. To my embarassment, I wrongly attributed yesterday’s image as Lower Elk Canyon, Arizona. It’s Lower Antelope Canyon. Apologies to all wildlife that has been offended. Imperfection at its best!

Desperation in the Age of Plenty

It has been four years since the global recession grabbed hold of the world. It seems in the United States a lurking pessimism has undermined the once unshakable can-do spirit of a nation I’ll always consider home.

Yet never before have we had the possibilities we have today. We are desperate in so many ways — informed usually by fear (of losing or getting a job, of finding the right spouse, of making the right decision, etc.) and yet fulfillment lies within our grasp.

If you’ve heard me say it once, you’ve heard me say it one thousand times. Abundance lies within.

When we are desperate for something to happen, we pine away the hours, hoping, wishing and praying for That Thing to occur. And then, when it finally does, it doesn’t have the flavor of satisfaction we thought it would. All that energy we wasted wishing for the very thing that would happen anyway! We would enjoy it more if we expected it less.

What would our lives be like if we allowed things to unfold in the divine scheme that is our DNA instead of pushing, wishing and wanting things into existence?

We would be much happier indeed.

Whenever I start to obsess about something, I ask myself what the origin of my yearning truly is. It is typically intertwined with a feeling of lack, as if filling the whole from the outside will finally quench my eternal thirst.

Not so.

Eternity is in each one of us. We share that common bond. Life is about a constant giving, receiving, allowing and releasing.

We live in an age of plenty. We needn’t grab at anything. We already have everything, and I mean everything, we will ever need because we are born with an entire package that makes living possible. Now is the time to uncover its mystery.

And that mystery, you will find, is you.

Regaining Your Sense of Wonder

Allensbach, Germany

If you have lost your sense of wonder, take a deep breath, close your eyes and remember the last time you had it. You might have to dig deeply to a place you haven’t visited in a while. It might span miles and years and acres of memory. But you had it once. It is still there,  slumbering in the eeves of your being.

Call it up within yourself. Rekindle its fire. Feel how it crawls through your body. Where do you feel it most intensely? In your arms? Your legs? Your back?

I keep my sense of wonder close to my heart, calling on it in times of sadness or remorse. It is my road map to inner peace and regained equilibrium. In troubled times, that source of creative power can be your saving grace.

When was the last time you danced in the sky to beat of your boundless heart? Don’t you want to go there?

And you can. Any time. Any place. Through the breathtaking beauty you keep inside. When you do, you will meet others who are doing the same. Your heart and soul will shift to attract the very people who have been waiting for this moment. You will touch them in unspeakable ways. And they will do the same for you.

When you regain that sense of wonder, your life becomes one big celebration of the divine that is you, that is me, that is everyone.

Blessings to you all.

The Value of Enchantment

My grandmother lived in a house she called The Enchanted Cottage. As a child, I considered it an enormous fairytale castle with secret passage ways (closets) and rooms that each had a name: the French Room, the Pretty Room, the Inn. She segmented her house into stories, in which you might encounter magic within the four walls of each one. Even her wildlife, the squirrels, had names. She fed my hungry imagination the right amount of fantasy that remains with me to this day. Thanks to her influence, I was allowed to preserve a child-like wonder from which I create every day.

Enchantment isn’t something we adults think about much. Intellectually, we know forests don’t have fairies (although of this I am not certain. Maybe one day I’ll tell you about an encounter I had with large trees and a giggling friend. And no, there were no mushrooms involved!). But every time I enter the woods, I half-expect a gnome or pixie to greet me. It’s the energy of the place that lulls me to that special place inside. The trees speak. I listen. And what I often hear is a calling beyond words.

Enchantment may be harder to find in urban settings. My grandmother was from New York City so her rural Connecticut home felt like a refuge from too many years in an urban environment. But even in a place as vast as New York, you can find enchantment if you’re with the right people.

Ultimately, enchantment resides within us. If you can cast a spell in any area of your life, whether it be work, a relationship or, like my grandmother did, a home itself, you will have created something sacred.

And who knows what influence that could have on the world?

Doing the Crazy

Not many people are talking about personal liberation these days. Maybe it’s because most of us feel trapped and think it’s a normal way of being. But I have news.

It’s not.

My friend recently called me to say she had lost her juicy, but that she knew how she could get it back.

By doing at least one crazy thing a day.

Crazy is, by definition, not normal. It requires you to move outside your boundaries to a new way of being that you, and others around you, might deem “unusual”. But it is in the very act of doing the unusual that we find that juicy space, which leads to flow, which then leads us to slow down and really enjoy life.

Everyone has their own personal definition of crazy. For some it might mean moving to a new place where you don’t speak the language (yet). For others, it might involve leaving a comfortable job for one that is ultimately more fulfilling. Or maybe it is acting out a scene on a street corner just to practice your art. Your special kind of crazy is what will get you out of your funk and back into joy.

And joy is something we could all use a lot more of.

Doing something out of the ordinary sets energy free that is trapped inside you. And that has a ripple effect on your surroundings that resonates with your energy. Who knows? You might even infect someone else to embrace their crazy too.

And then the world will sleep a little sounder, laugh a little louder and dance a little longer.

All in the name of personal liberation.

Are you with me?