I kept my gaze forward, knowing that even a slight sideways glance meant that I’d witness the suffering of my neighbor. From behind me, there was a grunt. In front, a slight groan.
And then, when we each thought we could bear no more, the woman who caused this pain gave us our next assignment.
She told us to rest.
With exhales, slaps and grunts, all arms in the yoga class collapsed out of the pose.
Then she gave us one of those blissful yoga-teacher looks.
Calmly she encouraged us to use that moment to do the opposite of what we were each doing.
She told us to smile.
She said that in life, when you’ve completed something challenging or painful – whether that challenge is exercise, yoga, firing an employee, losing a client, or your first time speaking on stage – to take a moment to break out into a huge celebratory grin. This teaches your body to associate challenges with good feelings.
In other words, when you keel over panting and groaning, you are essentially telling your body this:
“Omigod! That sucked! We barely made it by the skin of our teeth!”
And your body says in response: “Hated it! Let’s never do that again!”
So, when the next challenge shows up (which it always will), your body makes that same association, which may or may not look like one of the following:
(I added that last one for a special friend of mine.)
But when you smile?
You train yourself to love the process and embrace the challenge.
And even though it feels 100% goofy, it kinda makes sense, no?
That’s because when it comes right down to it, happiness is a lot about training.
People seek happiness. And it’s always this big holy mother-ship nebulous idea of happiness. Have you noticed?
But what always kicks the butt of the big holy mother-ship nebulous idea of happiness are all these simple practices that do one elegant thing:
Shift how you’d normally think about it. Change the culturally-accepted way of looking at it.
Implement all the habits you can to trick the ego into telling a whole different story than the heavy serious painful story it wants to believe.
Think about your business, for instance.
At first, you dream and dream of crossing the $75,000 mark.
Then you do.
Then you tell yourself that $150K would be awesome.
Then you reach that.
Then you think, well $500K would REALLY be hip. Then, it’s been there done that.
In other words, there’s always another goal to reach. Your ego will always focus on where you are not.
But the thing is – no matter how fast you walk towards the horizon – you’re never going to ARRIVE at the horizon. That line where earth and sky meet will always be out in front of you.
In spite of what my desire-resistant Buddhist friends tell me, I happen to think that this is the coolest thing about goals. There is no “there!” (And, oh yeah, if there were? I can tell you one thing, friend. You’d be bored out of your mind within 3 hours of arriving.)
So, then, as world-changing, passion-craving, bright-shiny-object-loving, wealth-creating, idea-coming-up-with, crazy ass entrepreneurial types — how do we be happy?
Well – for starters – it’s that dumb little smile.
(Try it right now. Seriously. Stop reading for a second. And just smile real big. I promise no one will post a photo of you doing this on their Pinterest page .)
It’s a daily gratitude list.
(Quick. List five things you’re grateful for right now.)
Or it’s practicing mindfulness.
(Take a moment to feel yourself breathe deeply.)
Then there’s celebrating milestones.
(I’ve celebrated everything from breaking the million-dollar mark in my business to getting rejected and getting up the next day to try again. Oddly enough, the bigger triumph was the second one.)
Now, as you read over this list, you might not feel all that excited. That’s fine. If you’re having a grumbly day, then one kicky article isn’t going to rock your world by making you inhale deeply. Okay. So be it.
However, when you do it again tomorrow and then again the next day and then again the next?
Well, that’s when it gets interesting.
That’s when you start to experience this build up of mojo mastery, and you notice that your usual reactions have evolved into something much more profound. You notice that you are happy. And – dare I say – more successful too?
Which is why, as I stood there in that raging hot yoga room that smelled like feet, I smiled like a crazy person while my arms throbbed and my heart pounded nearly out of my chest.
My own personal happiness formula is a cumulative melding of large intentions, big ass leaps, new translations, focused attention, thinking clearly, thanking everything, and an unending willingness to look goofy.