You’ve often heard me wax enthusiastic about making time for friends. Doing so provides many benefits to your mental and physical health, and laughing until your stomach hurts while you tell an empowering story of your thrilling triumphs and glorious “failures” is just one them!
If you take your health, happiness and success seriously, you’ll create your own version of a Girls’ Night Out and start practicing the other super-cool and research-based steps I outline below.
There has never been any better advice than Joseph Campbell’s “Follow your bliss.”
I know what you’re thinking: “easier said than done,” right? You may have tried this approach already. You may have set out to find that one thing that makes you ecstatically happy and at the same time gives your life meaning and provides constant rewards of pride and prestige. And, unless you’re really lucky, that may not have worked so well.
If that’s the case, then start by remembering that events are neutral, and that it is your story about them that creates feelings of happiness or powerlessness.
So as you go through your day-to-day life, looking for your bliss and dealing with those neutral events, why not make things easier on yourself? Here’s what I would suggest: why don’t we all choose to take the direct route to happiness – and simply feel happy and powerful.
That would skip a few steps, after all. But how do you do that? Once again, the only honest answer is to follow your bliss. But not bliss as some far-off, lofty goal. Instead, follow your bliss by making sure that you focus as much as you can on the day-to-day things that please you.
I hear you asking: okay, but how is that going to help me? Well, if you keep that in mind, and you focus on what is pleasing to you, chances are good that more pleasing things will come to you.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? But I hear you asking: “if it’s that easy, why do so many people feel so unhappy and so powerless so very very often?
Well, to tell the truth, most people are very undisciplined about how they focus their thoughts.
This is understandable because 80 percent of the thoughts your mind generates automatically – the ones you don’t have to will yourself to think – are negative.
So you can see that in order to just break even – to get to 50 percent positive thoughts – you’d have to be VERY disciplined about responding to those automatic negative thoughts with freely chosen positive ones, right?
Luckily, there are 2 shortcuts you can take that will make this easier.
The First Shortcut:
Take Joseph Campbell’s advice and Follow Your Bliss.
Sometimes folks have no trouble following their bliss. They know exactly where it is and they keep it in sight at all times.
But more often folks have been traveling away from their bliss for so long that following it – or even figuring out what direction to look in – seems impossible.
That’s too bad, because following your bliss doesn’t just make you happy. Following your bliss is the only way for you to get on the path toward a meaningful life.
But wherever you are on the “Bliss” scale – hot on the trail or lost in the briars – here’s a quiz that will help you get your bliss on your radar screen and keep it there for good.
Ask yourself the following:
- What lights you up more than anything? When do you feel filled with joy, or in the “flow”? (Or as my husband says, “What do you enjoy so much that it makes you forget to eat?”)
- As a child, what did you do in your free time? (The most important years are from nine to eleven–think fourth through sixth grade.)
- When was the last time you laughed really hard? What were you doing? What was so funny?
The answers to these questions are the clues that will get you back on track for following your bliss. If you go through them and you still come up blank, don’t worry. Just pay attention over the next couple of days.
After all, the best way to find something is to look for it, and I have no doubt that you’ll find clues if you just keep your eyes open.
Create a list of the times when you were most joyful, and remember as you do so that within those joyful moments lies your guide to creating an effortless, happy and authentic life.
The better you understand who you are and what you really love, the better able you are to make decisions – in work and leisure – that will make you happy.
Chances are that your bliss lies right in front of you – that there’s something you’re already doing that will make you happier, put you more in the flow, if you just do more of it.
All you have to do is find it, and it’s almost a guarantee that your world will transform around you, and you’ll see your familiar landscapes with new eyes.
The Second Shortcut:
Most people understand the importance of “body language,” especially with respect to how we perceive others or how they perceive us, but few people understand it in terms of how our body language affects the way we feel.
Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy gave a great presentation at TED about this.
Certain “power poses” don’t just change how others perceive you, Professor Cuddy says.
They immediately change how you feel by altering your body chemistry. They increase testosterone (the power hormone) and decrease cortisol (the stress hormone).
She uses the standard “Wonder Woman” pose (facing forward, feet apart, hands on hips) as her example, and I suggest you try it. Because her research shows that you really can “fake” feeling happy and powerful until you make it.
Bottom line? Acting the way you want to feel is a science-based shortcut to feeling happy and more powerful.
No, really. Wherever you are right now, stand up. Put your hands on your hips and your feet hips-width apart and tilt your chin slightly upward. (For an added effect, hold a pen between your teeth – but not with your lips, because that does the opposite of what you’re after.) See you feel.
Strike this pose before your next big meeting or potentially challenging interaction, and see how it changes things for you.
Keep doing this pose, and soon you’ll see for yourself: If you change how you direct your thoughts and how you use your body, you will change your mindset and how you feel about your life. And you will become happier and more powerful as a result.
How cool is it that you can always increase your feelings of happiness and personal power by using your body to influence how you feel?!
So you see, following your bliss isn’t that hard. Even just standing and looking as if you’ve found it has the same effect as actually finding it—and the more often you find it, the closer you’ll get to that far-off lofty thing that brings your life meaning.
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