There’s a nasty internet meme that’s been around for a while that characterizes the look on someone’s face when they’re relaxed or resting. While the label ‘Resting Bitch Face’ (RBF) has an obvious and horribly offensive sexist tilt, scientists using facial recognition technology confirm that it’s equally present regardless of gender.
The software they used compiles 500 points on the face to analyze facial expression and detect the emotions that are being communicated. The one that’s communicated most often with RBF? Contempt.
While it’s nice to have empirical confirmation, it doesn’t take a scientist to notice that the faces of just about everybody you encounter are expressing something far from happiness.
Why is everyone so miserable?
There’s no shortage of people who are quick to explain that our collective gloom is in response to the horrible world in which we live. Terrorism, climate change, raging partisanship, rising xenophobia. And now let’s throw in coronavirus just for fun!
It’s easy to conclude that anybody who isn’t miserable or frightened is either not paying attention or too dumb to realize what’s going on.
And yet there are some very smart, very attentive people who refuse to play along.
I’ve recently met a new friend, Michael Ray. He lives in Louisville and life hasn’t exactly been handed to him on a silver spoon. He suffered the death of a child, a divorce and his 21-year-old daughter, Maddie, has Down Syndrome and has been non-verbal her entire life.
It would be so easy to wallow in self-pity.
While Maddie’s never been able to speak the words, “I love you,” that doesn’t stop her from letting Michael know how she’s feeling. The smile that radiates from her face lights up everything in a way that mere words could never convey.
So Michael took his cue from her smile and started the Smile Project Louisville. Now his mission is to change attitudes and behaviors by spreading love through smiling. He says, “It's the simplicity of a smile, it doesn't cost anything."
My late Mother never seemed to get the memo either.
Despite painful and embarrassing skin problems, blindness and Parkinson’s Disease, you’d never see her without a smile on her face. That joyful expression, however, was a choice. Just as it is for all of us.
Mom decided to be happy. And so she was. She didn’t wait around hoping for happiness to arrive, she went looking for it, created it, plucked it out of thin air. And then she drank it up, delighted in it, splashed around in it and shared it with those who were lucky enough to be around her.
While there was (and always will be) plenty of ugliness around, she deliberately chose to see the joy and the beauty instead. Whether it was a bird at her feeder, a new flower blooming in her garden or the notes of some music that delighted her, she consciously chose to look for and see only those things that she wanted to see.
There are plenty who would call this refusal to face reality naïve or stubborn. But our reality is made up of what we choose to see regardless of what we’re looking at.
Take Mother Teresa for example. Here was a woman who gave up everything to spend her entire life serving the dregs of humanity in the most horrible surroundings. But I dare you to find a picture in which she’s not smiling or her eyes aren’t glowing with some mysterious inner radiance that I’d love to know more about.
Nelson Mandela’s another one who didn’t get the memo. He spent 27 years in prison and then, when he got out, worked hand-in-hand with the people who put him there to fix what was broken in his country. Instead of seeking revenge, he formed a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to heal the wounds of apartheid. Just try to find a picture of him when he’s not smiling.
If you’re still not convinced, search for a photo of the Dalai Lama or Pope Francis that doesn’t just glow with happiness.
I always wonder why the pictures we see of Jesus have him looking so glum. I never got to meet Him in person but I’ve got to believe that He, just like His buddies the Buddha, Mohammed and all the other great teachers were a riot to hang out with. Laughing, joking, smiling all the time. And making those around them feel so darn good!
Imagine trying to take a selfie with the Buddha. He’d probably be laughing so hard you couldn’t hold the phone still. And I bet Jesus and Confucius would have photobombed it if they’d been close by.
They created their own realities by focusing on the joy they found around them. And that joy radiates from the faces of everyone who also finds joy in their world. It comes out through the eyes. It radiates from the smile. It positively glows through the skin.
But let’s get back to that resting face.
Our faces have no choice but to reflect what’s going on inside. Try it yourself. Think of something that makes you really happy and see if the corners of your mouth don’t start to turn up, even just a little.
So what’s going on inside you? What are you choosing as your reality? What are the emotions you’re feeling when you’re simply at rest? What will the rest of us see reflected in your eyes and on your face?
Is it contempt? Or is it contentment?
We all know what joy feels like.
It feels like we’ve been wrapped in a sense of calmness and bliss that’s a world beyond the giddy pleasure of mere happiness. It’s as if we’ve been injected with a potion made from equal parts warm bath, fresh snowfall and puppies that’s now glowing from the inside, out. It’s the ultimate in mindfulness because it holds us fully in that moment in which all is right with the world.
And damn, it feels good!
Then it’s gone.
Most of us only experience joy when the circumstances around us are just right. Everyone is cooperating, the sun is shining, there’s no pandemic and the planets have aligned. But our hold on joy is tenuous. Change the circumstances, let someone say a wrong word or have the rain begin and joy runs down the drain.
Now, we’re all smart enough to know that real joy comes from the inside, out. But knowing it and living it are two different things. Despite the timeless wisdom of Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad and every other great teacher who’s ever walked the earth, the world keeps insisting that joy, happiness and serenity migrate from the outside, in.
Wear these clothes. Drive this car. Travel to this place. Be like these people. Most often, we put the responsibility for our joy in the hands of everyone else and the world around us. If and when that crowd chooses to cooperate, your day’s going to be great. If not, you’re screwed.
Reclaiming responsibility for your own joy takes practice. Just like piano lessons, the more you work at it, the better you get.
How do you practice for joy? It begins with basic brain training.
Most of our thoughts are reactive. In other words, we re-act the same thoughts and the same actions that we’ve adopted as habits. Traffic gets snarled (again) and, without giving any thought to our thoughts, we get snarly right along with it (again). Instead, we need to retrain our minds to think again, to think differently.
For example, you’ve been enjoying your regular Wednesday lunches with that old friend for years. Now the city is in lockdown and the restaurants are closed. Our habitual thought is to be disappointed, upset, even angry. Certainly not joyful. But since disappointment and anger neither feel good nor help the situation we’d be better served with different thoughts and different emotions. This is an opportunity to practice those differences. An opportunity to re-train your mind.
The moment you feel the pivot from delightful anticipation to disappointment and anger, recognize the switch in your thoughts and your feelings. Then decide to take control.
First, accept and honor the current feelings. After all, you are disappointed. But only for a moment. You don’t want to let it ruin your afternoon.
Then decide that you’d rather choose a better feeling thought. You might choose to spend a few moments re-living some of the delightful lunches you’ve shared with your friend in the past. Recall the joyful experience and re-feel the positive emotions you felt at the time. Don’t simply remember the event, allow yourself to go inside and deeply feel the friendship, the delight and the happiness you felt in the moments you were together. Then watch as your mood swings back to the bright side of the dial in response.
We all have deep mental grooves that have been worn in our thought apparatus over the decades of our lives. It’s way too easy to fall back into them without being aware.
It’s vital to begin forming new mental habits. But rather than waiting for a stressful situation, start training your brain with daily practice. When you first wake up, develop the habit of listing five things for which you’re grateful in the coming day. Alternatively, you could list five of your favorite things or five accomplishments of which you’re particularly proud. The point is, begin your day by insisting that your mind focus on things that feel good. That gets it off on the right foot. Repeat the exercise several times throughout the day.
Of course this won’t be easy at first. But neither is playing the piano. Work at it diligently, though, and it will soon be second nature.
Does it serve you to have your mood and mental state in the hands of others? Is it useful to have your emotional strings pulled by the outside world? Are you pleased to be put off your game whenever you’re thrown a curve ball? If not, you can choose to reinvent the way you think. After all, the joy belongs to you. Shouldn’t you be the one who gets to control it?
When you grant other people and outside conditions the power to annoy you whenever they want, you give up the ability to experience joy whenever you want.
You don’t need a reason or excuse to be joyful. Nor do you have to justify your joy to anyone else. You can choose to experience it any time you’d like simply because it feels good. You also don’t need to wait around, hoping for the right circumstances that will allow you to feel that emotional high.
It will take practice to overcome this habit of re-acting in tired old ways to outside events, people and circumstances. But slowly, then more quickly, you’ll get better and better at it. Eventually, you’ll be completely in charge of your own joy, which you can then call up whenever it pleases you.
For the last couple of weeks, and likely for the foreseeable weeks to come, we’re inundated with minute-by-minute updates on our current Armageddon. And right alongside we’re being given no end of advice about how to deal with the widespread anxiety that’s accompanying this pandemic.
Most of the guidance I’ve seen offered is focused on coping strategies – basically, how to distract yourself from the racing thoughts that keep you tossing in the night and fretting through the day. I’ve seen suggestions that range from guided relaxations, to cooking and baking, journaling, exercising with a YouTube video and making a photo album for grandma.
These are all delightful activities that are likely to be helpful in the moment. But like tossing a bone to distract an angry dog, they’ll only work for a little while. They won’t change the fact that anxiety has control over you. Will grandma get a new photo album every time there’s a crisis?
Anxiety is anxiety. Whether it’s over coronavirus or your dwindling followers on Instagram. And when you find the secret to permanently overcoming it you’ll be able to apply it no matter what the cause.
Begin by asking yourself if you enjoy your anxiety and whether or not it’s serving you.
If you find it pleasant and useful, there’s nothing more to be done. If, however, you think you’d be better off without it, then you’ll have to tackle the roots of the issue, not mask the symptoms by distracting yourself.
There are three fundamental principles that can make a difference for you today, in the midst of all this uproar. More importantly, they can make a difference for you every day for the rest of your life.
1. Decide that you are going to take full and complete responsibility for everything that happens in your life. While it’s easy and tempting to find culprits and complain about how bad things are, neither of these will change anything. Even if there is someone or something that’s responsible, pointing the finger won’t change your situation one whit.
You’re stuck at home, you’re running low on toilet paper and you’ve been furloughed from your job. Got it. Now, write down five ideas that occur to you immediately that could help relieve each of these situations. Here are a few suggestions to get you started: Read three new books, use wash cloths and launder them, register yourself on one of the freelance work websites. Now it’s your turn…
Doesn’t it feel empowering when you start to actually solve a problem instead of merely stressing about it?
2. If there are absolutely no good actions to take, and the choices in front of you amount to Bad, Really Bad and Awful, remember that you ALWAYS have the ability to choose your mental and emotional response.
I was making dinner the other night and discovered that I was short of an ingredient. While normally I’d dash across the street to the grocery store, this time I was tempted to whine about our current lack of mobility. I thought I was due a little pity-party until I remembered our visit, last summer, to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. For 25 months she and her family hid in an attic, relying on the bravery of friends to keep them fed. If you haven’t read her inspiring diary, or if it’s been some time, this would be a great time to read it again.
As Viktor Frankl, another prisoner during the Holocaust, wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
3. Realize that peace is not the absence of external turmoil or discomfort. No matter where, no matter when, if you look around you’ll be able to find something with the ability to distress you: You’re lying by a babbling brook, fluffy white clouds floating overhead and warm, gentle breezes rustling the leaves. How many people do you know that would point out the mosquito?
Instead, let’s model those who, in the midst of pandemonium and panic, will always notice and take delight in the flower growing up through the cracks in the concrete.
It takes desire and it takes practice. But anyone who truly wants to can do it.
Let’s face it – life occasionally hands us a sour one. There have always been and there will always be external events that challenge our ability to remain calm, centered and at peace.
But the more you fight against, complain about or live in fear of what might be going on, the harder you push against it, the more whatever’s going on will push back. The more you protest that it’s not fair or right, the more you’ll discover that whatever’s going on is bigger and stronger than you.
When you relax and accept what’s going on for what it is, though, you regain the power to choose your response and influence your outcomes.
No, serenity is not the absence of disorder and chaos. Serenity is a choice you make regardless of what’s going on around you.
Ya gotta love the holiday season! Regardless of whose team you play for, or how sacred or secular you choose to be, the final month of the year is all about joy. And heaven knows that we could all use a lot more joy in our lives!
But why aren’t we more joyful? It’s easy to claim that it’s hard (even foolish?) to be joyful when the world is such a dreadful place. How can anyone be joyful in the face of terrorism, climate change, raging partisanship and uncertain economies? Well, it turns out that the secret to joy is simply choosing to be joyful. And there are plenty of role models if you need some coaching.
Take Nelson Mandela. The guy spent 27 years in prison. What did he do when he got out? He worked arm-in-arm with the people who put him there to fix what was wrong with the country; his thoughts on reconciliation, not revenge. Here’s a guy who had plenty to be pissed about, but have you ever seen a picture of him when he wasn’t smiling?
How about Gandhi? He didn’t exactly have it easy either. Born into and living under an oppressive and brutal occupation by the British, he decided to turn logic on its head and fight violence, not with more violence, but with its opposite. His non-violent approach resulted in him taking a lot of flak, but it also led to Indian independence, not to mention successful civil rights movements around the world. Like Mandela, though, just try to find a photo of him where he’s not brimming with joy.
Or Mother Teresa. She hardly spent her life in the lap of luxury. In fact she spent most of it in the gutters and hell-holes of Calcutta, tending to the lowest of the low, in the most decrepit and disgusting conditions imaginable. But find a picture in which she’s not positively glowing? Can’t be done.
I never had the privilege of meeting them in person, but I bet Jesus, the Buddha, Mohammed and all those other greats were total cut-ups. Laughing all the time, joking, enjoying their friends, enjoying life. And, yes, smiling and joyful. Why don’t we ever see pictures of these guys smiling and laughing? Why do we interpret them as being so somber, solemn and serious? I think they would have been a hoot to hang out with! And in the midst of the joy, they’d teach me how to be a better, more joyful person myself.
The angel over Bethlehem was not recorded as saying, “I bring you somber news of great seriousness that should make you all dismal and subdued.” We’re told that it said, “I bring you good news of great joy.” And that message isn’t restricted to the Bible either. You’ll find it in every great, inspiring book we’ve got.
One of the holiday season’s wonderful movies is 2003’s Love Actually. Created by British screenwriter Richard Curtis, it opens with actor Hugh Grant narrating what I think is a joyful sentiment that puts it all in perspective for us.
Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love, actually, is all around.
Our flight was delayed an hour and we had to run like maniacs through the airport to make the connection.
Our internet service has been spotty lately and I had to endure high blood pressure, severe annoyance and likely additional hair loss as I dealt with the service rep on the phone.
I took my car in for some repairs last week and $600 later there’s still a leak in the cooling system.
Oh, I could go on.
But when I catch myself wallowing in the problems that plague my life, I like to stop, do a little mental pivot, and see this disaster from a different perspective.
We made the flight and, somehow, the miracle-working baggage handlers got our suitcases onto the next flight in four minutes flat! The aircraft mechanics had ensured the plane was flight-ready, the ramp crew loaded it with fuel, the pilots got us safely home and the flight attendant asked if I’d prefer red or white. Thanks, Delta!
The tech support actually fixed the problem quickly and I can again reach every corner of the globe from the lazy comfort of my couch. Thanks, Apple, Google and Xfinity!
I have a comfortable, reliable (and even slightly indulgent) car that I can drive anywhere I want in comfort and style. I have a conscientious and skilled mechanic who is more upset than me that we have to take a second look. Thanks BMW and Autobahn Service Center!
I’ve got problems all right.
I also have blessings. More than I could ever begin to count. And the blessings I enjoy so staggeringly overwhelm whatever I might label as a problem, that I’m ashamed when I catch myself complaining about anything.
To even describe them as ‘First World’ problems would give my so-called trials more weight and importance and give myself more self-indulgence than either of us deserve.
I think about the fires in California. I think about El Paso and Dayton. I think about children around the world who are hungry, thirsty, lonely and scared.
I have no problems. Only gratitude. And obligations.
I recently had occasion to remember a meeting with the accountant some time back.
His view: We’re all gonna die!!
Do you realize how much you’ve spent on travel? Have you even looked at the tax liability that’ll be due next April?! And don’t get me started on the ridiculous amounts you’ve been spending on marketing this past quarter!!
My view: We’re crushin’ it here!
Our revenues are up more than 25% over last year. We’re profitable! We’ve initiated some amazing relationships this year that promise to open new doors and create new opportunities. We’re getting ready two launch two major new initiatives this year.
How can two people, looking at the same set of facts, see two so dramatically different sights?
On the spectrum of pessimism-realism-optimism, I’ve always been off the charts on the Polyanna, sun’s-gonna-come-out-tomorrow, side of things. And I’m proud of it. Oh, I’ve taken my share of heat from the ‘realists’ of the world who claim that I have to face up to reality and stop ignoring the facts. But I let it run off my back.
Here’s another fact: Right now, my kitchen is a mess. Haven’t emptied the dishwasher since yesterday and there are dishes piled up in the sink from last night. I could stare at that ‘fact’ and get depressed over my terrible housekeeping skills. Or I could smile as I recall the great dinner we had last night, decide that I’d like a tidier kitchen and spend the next 20 minutes cleaning up.
The only ‘fact’ is that I’m in charge. And if I don’t happen to like ‘reality’ the way it is right now, I can do something about it.
The state of ‘what is’ is nothing more than a snapshot of a particular point in time. If you don’t happen to like ‘what is,’ then do something about it. Spending your precious energy regretting what you failed to do, yearning for what hasn’t happened, and worrying about what might be going to happen is a total waste.
The late, great Wayne Dyer, one of my favorite inspirational writers, liked to say, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” I could have looked at that financial report and seen doom and gloom. Trust me, it was there if you wanted to find it, just ask the accountant! Or I can look at the same report and see progress, possibility and an amazing future. The choice is completely up to me.
You can climb a tree looking up at the next branch to grab, seeing the blue sky above and thinking about the incredible view you’ll have from the top. Or you can look down and see how far you could fall and the nasty splinters you’ll pick up on the way down. The choice is completely up to you.
How full is your glass?
Isn’t it great to be really pissed at somebody? Doesn’t it feel righteous and justified? Ain’t it grand to feel all superior and right? After all, what they did (or didn’t do), or said (or failed to say) is unforgivable. So we carry a grudge.
Interesting how they call it “carrying” a grudge. Kinda like carrying a heavy weight. Or hauling a big load around. Sounds like hard work! And that’s the point – carrying a grudge is hard work. Like most hard work, it saps your energy and is usually best avoided.
But if heavy work must be done, shouldn’t the guilty one be doing it? If they committed the unforgivable offense, doesn’t it make sense that they should do the carrying? More often than not, though, they’re walking around, happy as a lark and you’re left with the heavy grudge.
Why is this this grudge-carrying business so important?
“He offended me! She insulted me! I can’t let them get away with that! From this day forward, I’m going to punish them by holding a grudge. They will forever be deprived of my good opinion, my friendship and my affection!”
The problem is that, from now on, every day when you wake up, you’ll have to remind yourself to pick up that grudge. Everywhere you go you’ll have to carry it. Because, if you forget, even for a moment, that you’re carrying that grudge-load, you might slip up and think kindly about him. It’s a load you’ve chosen to carry forever.
Of course, you could always forgive.
Our first instinct, when we think about forgiveness, is to recoil from the idea. “What have they done to deserve my forgiveness? They haven’t apologized! What they did was wrong and it hurt me!”
But that misses the big, delicious secret of forgiveness: You don’t forgive someone for their sake. You do it for yourself.
Most people think of forgiveness as the act of deciding that, whatever was done to you wasn’t so bad, so you’ll just let it go. “Maybe I overreacted. I guess I misinterpreted or I’m just being stubborn. I guess I was the one who was wrong.”
Nope! What they did to you WAS wrong and is still wrong. It won’t ever be right. And your forgiveness can’t, won’t and isn’t supposed to make it right.
Forgiveness isn’t changing your mind about what they did to you. It’s deciding that you don’t want to lug that load around anymore. It’s relieving yourself of the hard work that’s required to carry that grudge. So you set it down and walk away.
Not in an, “Aren’t I so superior!” kind of way either. That brings its own kind of debilitating load. You simply set your offense down, leave it behind, and feel the lightness, the freedom, the joy that a grudge-free journey brings.
Resentment and anger are lead weights that drag you down, constantly crashing into the toe-stubbing obstacles that inflict a recurring pain every time you pick them up. Forgiveness, though, is a helium balloon, weightless, floating you effortlessly up to your own marvelous freedom to choose joy.
Albert Einstein once said, “The most important question you can ever ask is whether or not the world is a friendly place.”
What he meant by that is, do you wake up in the morning expecting to have to fight? Do you believe that the world and those around you are trying to steal from you, cheat you, hurt you? That walls are necessary and you’re a sucker if you don’t strike first?
Or do you wake up expecting that, at its core, the world and the people who inhabit it are well-intentioned, kind, and that beauty, abundance and benevolence are the default conditions?
My mother passed away a couple of years ago at the age of 91. Throughout her life, Mom truly believed that the universe is a friendly place.
No, she KNEW, in the deepest recesses of her soul, that it is. And there’s a difference between belief and knowing. And because she knew that, her life was filled with joy and she always responded to the world in an equally friendly way.
To go back to Einstein, his work led to today’s understanding of quantum physics where scientists have discovered an amazing phenomenon: As we conduct experiments with the universe’s most minute particles, we discover that the results of those experiments actually depend on our expectations. Odd as it may seem, if a researcher expects one result, she gets it. If she expects something different, she gets that. Our thoughts and our intentions truly do create our reality.
Now although my Mom was endlessly curious, she did not study quantum physics and she wasn’t a student of New Age philosophy. But throughout her life, she expected good things to happen. And they did. She expected to be happy. And she was. She expected to have love in her life. And she did.
None of us can control the circumstance that surround and befall us. And those who try frequently end up angry and bitter. Or violent.
But in every moment we have the ability to choose how we respond to the circumstances that we encounter. My Mom always chose happiness. She always chose joy. And in the process of expecting joy, like those scientists, she influenced this grand experiment and experienced a life – a very long life – that was filled with happiness, peace, love and joy.
Getting back to Einstein once more, the further our scientists climb up the mountain of knowledge, the more they discover that the philosophers and gurus have been sitting there, waiting for them. And they tell us that the secret to happiness is not health, it’s not wealth, it’s not power, it’s not knowledge.
No, the secret to happiness is – happiness. Simply choosing, regardless of circumstances, to be happy.
My Mom was the Master of Happiness. In her prime she would revel about the sunshine, a blossom, a beautiful song. She would delight in a conversation. With anyone. About anything. She would be gleeful about a long trip. Or a short trip. About a meal, or a snack. About the day, or the night.
Even as her faculties began to cruelly abandon her, she chose wonder and joy. At the end she couldn’t remember what she’d had for breakfast, but every time you would share some news with her she’d always say, ‘I’m so pleased!’ And she meant it.
With her life, Mom answered Einstein’s question. I doubt she’d even think it was a question worth asking. With her life she showed us that the universe IS a beautiful, a wondrous, and indeed a very friendly place.
I was out for the regular early morning walk with my beautiful wife the other day. It was one of those perfect Georgia spring mornings – warm sunshine, blue sky, low humidity, birds singing and the magnolias beginning to blossom.
About halfway through the walk a man crossed our path. We called a ‘good morning!’ greeting and he came back with a huge smile and called out, “It’s a beautiful day in our neighborhood!” That made us both smile as we instantly recognized the reference from the beloved Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood TV show that brought delight and comfort to so many from the late, great Fred Rogers.
Our newly encountered friend obviously made the connection too as he quickly followed with, “Won’t you be my neighbor?,” which made us both giggle.
But then the judgmental, disapproving grown-up in him took over and he said, “Did I actually say that out loud?” and went on down the sidewalk.
Personally, I was both impressed and delighted that a 60-something man would come out with such a warm and friendly greeting to a pair of complete strangers. I didn’t find it strange, inappropriate or silly at all. Instead, I found it heart-warming and uplifting. Yet, his reaction showed that he was a little embarrassed by his spontaneous and joyful outburst.
Why do we judge ourselves harshly for being joyful?
Gail and I spend a lot of time in airports, and they provide some of the best people-watching opportunities around. When it comes to classifying those we observe, we have two favorites – the under-seven’s and the ‘Joyful Ones.’ Both are rare species.
The under-seven’s are those sparkly children who are so full of life and joy and wonder that they’re completely oblivious to those around them. They skip and jump and dance down the concourse, jiving to some happy music that the rest of us only wish we could hear. I watched one the other day who was practicing cartwheels in the boarding lounge! I laughed out loud with delight!
The Joyful Ones also make us feel great. These are the folks whose faces, body language and general vibe give away the fact that there’s something going on inside that has chosen to tune out the incessant CNN sadness blaring from the monitors. Could be an elderly couple holding hands as they make their way to their connecting gate. Could be a person walking alone, but with an unconscious smile on her face. Or a couple of businessmen, laughing as they share a joke.
Why does a grown man feel embarrassed by calling out a joyful greeting? Why do I never see anyone over seven practicing cartwheels in a boarding lounge? Why do I have to look so hard to find someone who is actually smiling? Why do we feel so self-conscious about being spontaneous and joyful?
It’s easy to claim that it’s hard (even foolish?) to be joyful when the world is such a dreadful place. How can anyone be joyful in the face of terrorism, climate change, raging partisanship and uncertain economies? It’s easy to quote Thomas Hobbes who claimed that life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
Well, Tom was just plain wrong because the basis of life is joy. But you have to choose it. In every moment we must consciously, courageously choose to stand out from the crowd and be joyful.
So here’s your challenge on this Fearless Friday: Smile. When you walk down the street, think about something that makes you happy and see what happens to your face. Think about someone you love and feel your mouth start to turn upwards. Think about a time when you accomplished a big goal and feel that pride swelling in your chest.
I’m not asking for cartwheels in the boarding lounge, but I’d love to count you among the Joyful Ones today.