“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
― Abraham Lincoln
I turned 37 a couple weeks ago and every year on my birthday I get a bit reflective. Looking back, this past year has been one of my best years yet and I have no doubt that it was because of a few changes that I made. It’s interesting to see that while my 20s were all about exploring my freedom, figuring out my career, and making new friends, my 30s now are distinctly about growing my family, experiencing life through my kids, and have a more deliberate set of friends whom I choose to keep close. It’s been about being much more intentional, practicing gratitude, and finding peace / acceptance with who I am.
On the flip side, I had a big disappointment last week that I will admit set me back. I remember sitting in my car after work as I was parked in the garage for a good 10 minutes in just silence, It was a time when I was questioning whether I had made the right choice in my career as well as people that I had chosen to trust. While I felt disappointed and even betrayed, it was also a time when I had to decide how I would react. Would I let it get me down? Or would I look for the good, learn from the experience, and come out stronger? Needless to say, I decided to choose the latter. I had myself a good conversation the following day and can say that even in this situation where I felt like so many factors were out of my control, I’ve been able to change aspects where I could to make it such that I’m still not far from where I would like to be. Attitude can be everything. Choosing how I respond to disappointments can play just as big of a role in determining who I am as do my successes.
And so as I get older and reflect on the good, the bad, and the ugly, I wanted to share a few things that I’ve come to realize about the question what is happiness? Frost had the amazing idea of launching an Opt For Optimism campaign — more details below but I’d love for you to sign up and join me in the challenge!
What is Happiness:
1. Happiness is in the little things.
I’ve mentioned it before, but my kids and I have a nightly ritual where we ask each other “what was your favorite part of the day?” Initially I started the practice just because as a mom, I wanted to know more about my kids’ day when they were in school and wanted them to start a daily practice of gratitude. I didn’t expect my kids to turn the question around on me and ask me what my favorite part of my day was, but when they did and I got to thinking about it, the best memories that always stuck out to me day to day were always the small moments: the first 30 seconds when I pull into the driveway to see my two little kids bursting in energy and excitement as they come to welcome me home from work, or those 2-3 minutes after dinner when the kids have finished and it’s just me and Adrian catching up over our day.
A common response from Dylan whenever I ask him about his favorite part of the day is actually “right now”. At first I didn’t understand (and was surprised when he didn’t mention an accomplishment at school or something involving his friends), but what I realized is that he was basically saying that his favorite part of the day was actually these moments when were all just laying in bed together as a family, talking and reflecting together on our day. It’s funny how you learn the most from your kids when you least expect it and I realized that for me as well, it was these little moments where I found the most happiness.
2. Don’t wait and expect happiness to come to you.
We all go through tough times but happiness isn’t found by waiting for those times to get better. There’s a famous quote that goes: “life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass… it’s learning to dance in the rain.” Life of course has its setbacks and even when it feels like so much that is out of your control, just waiting for circumstances to get better on their own translates into you taking a backseat to your own joy. I’ve known a couple people who, every time I see them, they are always incredibly happy. In my early years, I thought they just were really lucky and had all the good things happen to them. But what I’ve come to realize is that they just choose to focus on the good and find happiness even it can be tough. Happiness doesn’t always come naturally — it’s something you have to fight for, to strive for, and to choose. But the best part is, the more your practice happiness, the easier it becomes.
3. Success doesn’t mean happiness.
As a child, I thought successful people would be happier. It was implied that it was the reason I had to work hard in school,to be at the top of my class, and it definitely was the motivation for many sleepless nights in college. Success is a moving target — you may get that job, marry that dream guy, and buy that big home you’ve been wanting. But none of these things can guarantee your happiness. Instead, I’ve found that happiness is doing what fulfills your soul. Meeting your full potential and serving others.
I couldn’t be happier to see that Frost Bank is taking on an initiative to have people embrace happiness with their latest Opt For Optimism campaign. Optimism is a powerful force, the self-fulfilling spark that turns challenges into opportunities and the impossible into the inevitable. I know personally that just being optimistic gives me a sense of resilience, a feeling that I am strong enough to find a solution yet also flexible enough to handle obstacles.
I just signed up for Frost’s 30-Day Opt for Optimism Challenge and absolutely can’t wait to get started. Every day for 30 days, the campaign will provide participants with a daily act of optimism. Each act will be different but will align with one of the thee tactics for inspiring optimism:
- Fostering Generosity
example daily act: do a favor for someone without them asking.
- Building Community
example daily act: write a thank-you note to your mail carrier.
- Changing Perspectives
example daily act: leave your phone behind as you go on a 20-minute walk
While most are small in nature, it’s the impact we have as a group that has the potential to be massive. The vision is to form an army of optimists — one that believes anything is possible when we all work together. Being optimistic and sharing that with others, especially when we’re bringing our collective energy, has the ability to make change for the better.
JOIN ME and sign up for the Opt for Optimism Challenge. Day 1 starts on August 6 and every day for 30 days, you’ll receive an act of optimism in your inbox! There’s also a Facebook group where we can all connect with one another, share our stories, and support each other as we go through this experience. I’d love for you to sign up with me as we find out just what optimism can do for all of us!