Last week I wrote this post “What Does Your Happiness Depend On?”, essentially saying that I sometimes catch myself making my husband responsible for my own happiness. When I had zero expectations of him doing something for me when he was physically not around, I noticed that I created my own happiness, totally independent from his behavior. Some of my kind readers left comments, suggesting that it is essentially our choice to feel happy or unhappy. This past week I thought more about this concept and observed myself when I do feel happy.
One example from life’s ordinary routine; I drive my sons to their preschool almost every morning, and in the past weeks my older son’s favorite song to listen to has been “Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – you know that soothing Hawaiian tune –. My husband and I originally played this song one day when we got tired of listening to kids songs, and after a few times, our son started singing along. He now sings along throughout the entire song, and usually asks for an encore. I also sing along too, but I sometimes just listen so I can hear how well he sings – how well he picks up the words, melody and the rhythm. Sometimes his younger brother who is barely two joins the chorus. There is a part that says “I hear babies cry” and he waits for that part and sings “Ba-by-Cry-in” as that’s the part he knows and can sing. I can’t look back at him when I am driving, but I know that he is smiling proudly as he sings along that part with his brother. These are the moments that I cherish, and no matter how many times in a row I have to play this song, or how many days in a row I have to repeat this routine, I never get tired of it. I can’t help feeling happy when my sons cheerfully sing this tune – or, I’d never not choose feel happy about these moments.
Now, here is another example, this time not-so-ordinary event; I went to a Meetup where a famous wine & social media guy, Gary Vaynerchuk was the guest of honor. It was at this wine bar in downtown San Diego. I am not much of a wine drinker, but he is very unique in his style and is passionate about what he does, and I resonate with lots of what he says about personal branding, being authentic and transparent, and caring about the customers, so I decided to attend the event. I knew there would be more than 100+ people, so I put lots of business cards into my card holder which I put it in my purse before I left home – or so I thought.
Once I got there, I was overwhelmed by the atmosphere and just how many people were there – I knew a few people including my good friend & mentor Angie Swartz, a very successful business owner and founder of Square Martini Media, and Six Figure Moms Club, but before I found her and a few familiar faces, I felt so awkward and didn’t feel comfortable at all. I was not drinking that evening so I wanted to get some soda, and it took me over 15 minutes to get it at the bar as it was so crowded. I watched myself feeling a bit out of place and not wanting to be there. Finally I found Angie to my relief, but when she introduced me to the person she was talking to, who then gave me her business card, I searched mine only to realize that I left them at home. After I stuck the extra business cards into the card holder, I left it on top of the shoe shelf which was by the door. I felt so stupid and disappointed – there were 100+ tweeple (people on twitter) I could have met, it was a networking event and I forgot my business cards? How unprepared and unprofessional! At that point I really just wanted to go home and crawl into my bed. But I stayed on – I decided, okay, things couldn’t get any worse, and I paid $39 to be there so I should at least get my copy of his book autographed (it was also Gary’s book signing event). Once I decided to stay, I felt strangely liberated – I felt like all the pressure was off. Now that I don’t have business cards, I didn’t feel compelled to start talking to random people just so I could thrust my cards onto their hands. I felt like I’m just there to observe and enjoy myself. The funny thing was, as soon as I decided that I would stick around and see what would happen, someone who recognized me from my picture on twitter approached me and we started talking. Then another guy joined the conversation, who also forgot to bring his business cards (I no longer felt that stupid!). Actually, he had his iPhone and immediately found me on twitter so we could connect right away. Moreover, he and I decided to get closer to Gary and we made our way over to him to get our books signed. We managed to do more than that – we got our books signed, we shook our hands and said hello to Gary, and we even took turns to take pictures with him. I even held a wine glass for Gary at one point. It was a little bit surreal – Gary was very caring and personable, and I had a very similar impression as the time I met with Chris Guillebeau a few weeks ago – they both really care what his fans are up to, and in Gary’s case, what motivating and fueling his passion is his love for wine and that he wants people to know more about it so they can enjoy more. I also connected with Angie later on in the evening and had a much needed catching up time. All in all, I felt really happy and accomplished. I was glad that I chose to make the best of the situation.
This past week, I realized that when I felt happy, I didn’t really take the time to think the reason I felt happy. I don’t know many people who stop and think about why they feel happy when they are happy. But it might be helpful to stop and think why you are choosing to feel happy – there might be some hints to help you feel happy more often. As described in my 2nd example, you could take almost any situation and try to find something good about it. I could have chosen not to change my attitude about that evening and just returned home, feeling defeated and sad. Just like Pierre and Henry commented to my last post, it takes some practice and sometimes will power to feel happy in any situation, but again, how you choose to feel is within your power. You can decide to use your prefrontal cortex if you want to change the negative feelings you are aware of having.