"Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." -- William Shakespeare
Today's message is especially dedicated to the great Arianna Huffington in New York, New York for inspiring me to write for The Huffington Post.
I am most known for my work with athletes, but to me, it is not about sports, it's about life. As I pondered the topic for my first post, I remembered my lectures at Whole Foods in Princeton, N.J. and how my most popular talk were about happiness. So that is where I will start.
One thing every human on this planet has in common is this: We all want to be happy.
Nobody is absolutely sure if the following story is true, but here's the version I've heard...
When John Lennon was a young boy, his mother often told him that the key to life is to be happy. When he got older, one of Lennon's teachers gave his class an assignment: "Write down what you want to be when you grow up." Lennon wrote down, "Happy."
The teacher handed little Lennon his paper back and said, "I don't think you understand the assignment." Lennon handed the paper right back to the teacher and said, "I don't think you understand life."
Working with thousands of people including elite athletes, business leaders, students, stay-at-home parents, police officers and juveniles in detention centers in the area of peak performance, I have found that we're all the same... we all get stuck in a funk sometimes. The good news is that we all have the potential to turn that around. Below are three principles that just might change the way you see happiness and the amount of happiness you experience in your life.
1. Happiness does not come from external sources -- material objects, status, the size of your bank account, the weather or the perfect mate. If it did, then every rich, powerful and successful person would be happy... but this just isn't the case. There are many depressed, rich people in the world. There are also many happy people who are in debt. If the weather could make you feel miserable then everybody would be miserable in the same climate.
Here's an example in the world of sports: A tennis player once spent his whole life trying to become No. 1 in the world. He amazingly achieved that goal, but once he got there, he said, "Is this it?" His happiness was short-lived. As a matter of fact, this player admitted that he looked forward more to mowing his lawn than playing tennis.
Many people live on an island called Someday Isle... Someday I'll have more money... Someday I'll find the perfect mate... Someday I'll lie on the beach in Hawaii... Someday I'll be the No. 1 tennis player in the world... Then, I'll be happy.
If we believe that external sources and things can make us feel happy, then we will spend our whole lives going from thing to thing looking for happiness, but we will never find it.
2. Happiness is innate. We were born happy. You don't believe me? Look at small children; my 10-month-old daughter, Ava, exudes happiness. She doesn't search for happiness, happiness is her true nature. As we get older, it's not that we lack happiness but that we block happiness by believing the distracting thoughts that pop up in our heads. Thoughts are not real, but they sure feel real. Have you ever woken up from a dream sweating, heart-racing and body tight? I know I have. You had a real-life experience all while lying in bed. That's how powerful thought is.
There's only one thing that can make you feel anything, including happiness... thought.
What we think, we feel. Period. We can't feel anything else. Happy thoughts give us happy feelings. Sad thoughts give us sad feelings. If I plant strawberries, I will get strawberries. If I plant raspberries, I will get raspberries. Can I get raspberries from strawberries? Definitely not. Happiness works the same way. You cannot get happiness from sad thoughts.
3. The quickest way to happiness: Do nothing to try to be happy. I know what you're thinking, "I get it. Happy thoughts give you happy feelings, and sad thoughts give you sad feelings. Now tell me how to make myself happy."
My answer? You can't. Do you think my daughter took a class to be happy? Happiness is our true nature. If I'm holding a basketball under water, and I want it to float to the surface, what do I have to do? Let go, or just let it be. Do I need to use positive thinking, affirmations or visualization? No. A basketball naturally floats to the surface. Our minds are the same way. We naturally float back to happiness when we just let go of the thinking that pops up in our heads.
When our minds are clear, the sky is the limit. When our minds are cluttered, we feel weighed down. It takes a lot of energy to keep thinking pessimistic thoughts. Once you let go of those pessimistic thoughts, you feel better. And when you feel better, you do better.
What we are thinking in the moment is just one of an infinite number of ways to see the same situation. Thinking is always changing. (Can you remember the last five thoughts you had? That's how quickly thinking changes). As quickly as our thinking changes, our experience changes. In other words, we're never stuck. Even when it's cloudy outside, the sun is still behind the clouds and can peek out at any time. When we feel stuck in a funk, all it takes is one happy thought to change everything.
That Lennon story (factual or not) had truth to it, but what it didn't say was that we don't have to wait to be happy. Happiness comes from us, and we all have the potential to be happy.
How do we access that potential?
Remember that basketball rising to the surface, and remember the John Lennon song... "Let it be."
Connect with Ed:
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