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Tap Into Your Joy -- And Become Happier, Healthier and Smarter

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When I was a little kid, my best friend had a pool. We'd swim from early morning until dusk, and it was almost impossible to get us to come in for lunch or dinner. I'm especially water-driven, so splashing around brought me hours of happiness. I also loved the constant challenge of learning new techniques and strokes -- and of course, racing and then strategizing to win those competitions.

When September rolled around, I never mourned the end of summer but, rather, I'd be ready and looking forward to school. No amount of home work was too much and no problem was ever too big.

I'd often go through the entire year without even so much as a sniffle. My mother was convinced it was because of all the fresh air, sunshine and exercise -- but looking back, I insist it was from always being around my joy.

I also think it was why I excelled in school. I had two months of challenging myself, not just about swimming, but also about interpersonal communications. Even entrepreneurship and finances came into play when we decided to produce a synchronized-swimming show.

I still head to the water whenever I'm stressed, frustrated, distracted or have some giant professional or personal problem to solve. I always return refreshed, focused, calm and ready to tackle anything. Or I go to another one of my joys, yoga, where I can learn a new arm balance or perfect my head stand. It's still amazing to me how those creative ideas can really start to flow after the mind has to go in some different direction!

Here's the thing. Everything feeds us, whether or not it's on the plate. As adults, every one of us hits the wall at one time or another. You can be the most positive, happy, calm, determined and successful person but, at some point, you might feel like you've lost your mojo, energy and confidence.

That's exactly when you need to lean into your joy, whatever that is for you. It will help you stretch, grow, get out of that comfort zone. You'll ignite the spark that we all have -- but often remains dormant.

Since you'll need to put all your attention and focus on that activity, your mind will get a rest from all other matters.

Most importantly, you just might learn things that are transferrable anywhere, whether it's in your house, the conference room or the boardroom.

No one knows this more than Patrice Tanaka. She's the founder of a hugely successful public relations firm, one that's well known in the industry for outrageously-creative marketing campaigns. She's been through a lot these past years, from leading an employee buy back from the advertising behemoth Chiat/Day (now called TBWA/Chiat/Day) to living through the prolonged illness and death of her husband. Throughout the years, there were also recessions, mergers, acquisitions and the trauma of 9/11.

Patrice's joy is dancing. In fact, many of her childhood photos show her wearing a pink tutu -- but, as John Lennon said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans" -- so she forgot about it. Until one day an executive coach asked her pointedly, "So what's your joy?" Without blinking an eye, Patrice responded "dancing." So she took lessons and began dancing competitively.

Many things she learned in dance lessons are things she applied to her personal and professional life. Here are two takeaways from her book, Becoming Ginger Rogers: How Ballroom Dancing Made Me a Happier Woman, Better Partner and Smarter CEO.

Always stay fully present. Sometimes we focus so much on our worries about the future or past mistakes that we aren't really putting the concentration needed on the present. Patrice found this out when she realized that in her fear of being late for the next dance step, she'd often rush through the current step and ruin it. "Focus on the present step, and do it full-out, because your present step is what's going to produce the next step," reminded Emmanuel, one of her dance teachers.

It's not necessarily just about balancing your life but rather, aligning it.

One of Patrice's dance teachers once said, "It's when you're not dancing that you take care of your dancing," meaning that everything -- even posture and everyday walking -- supported her dancing. In life, we tend to compartmentalize our responsibilities and then carefully stack them -- then juggle like crazy to keep them from toppling.

Ask yourself, "What's my mission?" What are my long- and short-term goals? Get clear on this and arrange the parts of your personal and professional life so they support each other.

For more by Irene Ross, click here.

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