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Griffin and friendThe picture to the right was taken after the game-winning, adult-beating goal for the kids’ team during a soccer playdate Griffin had recently with a boy who will be joining Griffin’s class this year. (Thanks in part to their shared victory, they’re now fast friends.)

I’m the “Parent Mentor” to help new families make a smooth transition to Rainbow Community School, and when I heard this boy also had an interest in soccer, Griffin (my “Student Ambassador”) and I made sure the first meeting happened on the playing field. As a follow up, we’ll host a Pokemon Go Party at our local park this weekend.

So I’m going to keep this note short because Griffin goes back to school in two weeks and it’s more important than ever that I spend less time at the computer and more time with him enjoying simple summer pleasures, things like swimming, and playing soccer, and eating fresh, local sweet corn. (By the way, seeing his face light up when I tell him we’re having corn for dinner is priceless because we don’t eat it any other time of year!)

With summer’s end fast approaching, I want to give you a strategy for feeling happy in record time—good for any time of the year!

There has never been any better advice than Joseph Campbell’s “Follow your bliss.”

As I’ve mentioned before, all events are neutral, but the stories we tell about them create the happiness or suffering they bring. So why not make things easier on ourselves? Today, let’s choose to take the direct route to happiness—and simply be happy.

Ah, yes. Be happy. And how do you do that? The only honest answer is to follow your bliss. In other words, make sure that you focus as much as you can on the 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, more pleasing things will come to you.

That is the Law of Attraction at its finest.

But if it’s that easy, why are so many people so unhappy so often? My theory may surprise you, but hear me out. The biggest barrier to happiness—the one thing that stops more people from following their bliss than anything else—is that people think they should enjoy certain things when they actually don’t.

There are many “fun” things that I don’t enjoy, like watching sports, or going to hear live music or shopping. I try to avoid them.

On the other hand, I love to do many things that other people dread doing—cleaning, de-cluttering and organizing, for example. I get a huge happiness boost when my mom lets me take over her closets or her garage.

change focus and mood in record timeIt has taken me years to work all this out. Sometimes folks have no trouble following their bliss. They know exactly where it is and they keep it in sight at all times.

But sometimes—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.

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:

  1. 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?”)
  1. As a child, what did you do in your free time? (The most important years are age nine to eleven–in other words, fourth through sixth grade.)
  1. When was the last time you laughed really hard? What were you doing? What was so funny?

(A note here about that last question: I find a lot that is humorous in daily life and I laugh quite a bit, but I really remember those big belly-cramping laughs because they are rare and so delightful.)

The answers to these questions will give you the clues that will get you back on track for following your bliss. If you still come up blank, 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.

The Exercise:

Create a list of the times when you were most joyful, and remember as you do so that therein 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. Because once you do, it’s almost guaranteed that your world will transform around you, and you’ll see your familiar landscapes with new eyes.

A Super-Charged Shortcut:

Research shows that you really can fake happiness until you make it. Acting the way you want to feel is a super-charged shortcut to feeling good.

Smile at the barista making your coffee and then tell him you want to pay for the next person’s cup. Ask a coworker what really lights them up when they do it and then excitedly share what does it for you. Play Slap Jack with your child, or offer to play with a friend’s child.

Even if you don’t want to leave your home or interact with anyone, you can still increase your happiness quotient by using your body to influence how you feel. Hold a pen between your teeth (but not with your lips—that would have the opposite of the intended effect), raise your hands above your head, and sit up straight. Or just breathe as if you were in the middle of a hearty laugh (this is called Laughter Yoga).

Try it and you’ll see: 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 in record time.

How to Get Lucky

Griffin and PokemonThe photo to the right was taken at our local park after a fruitful day of Pokemon catching. If you haven’t heard of the PokemonGo craze, I encourage you to go to your local park and check it out.

One of the very cool things about PokemonGo is that there are no published instructions, so you have to learn about it from others who are playing. The game attracts very friendly people and Griffin and I have really enjoyed the social aspect.

Of course, the Pokemon characters you find are determined purely by chance. Regardless, many Pokemon come in eggs that can only be “incubated” by walking.

In other words, the more you walk, the more you’re likely to find and hatch desirable Pokemon. So Griffin and I are logging between 5-7 miles every day in order to hatch and catch them, and Griffin has already collected rare and “legendary” Pokemon that put other players in awe.

Griffin’s good fortune reminds me of the quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson: I’m a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.

I think we all have the tendency to look at happy and successful people and think they are somehow luckier than the rest of us.

But if you scratch the surface of their seeming good fortune, I think you’ll always find a willingness to work hard and a willingness to take great risks.

I’ll never forget a day almost 6 years ago when one of my former coaching clients requested prayers for her friend, Abby Sunderland, who at the time was lost at sea.

Abby SunderlandAbby was a 16-year-old girl whose dream of sailing around the world ended when a massive wave snapped her mast in a remote region of the Indian Ocean. (That’s a picture of Captain Abby at right.)

Abby was rescued the next day by a French shipping vessel and made her way back home to California where her family was waiting – as was rampant criticism about her journey.

She began her voyage in late January to little fanfare, but as she wrote in her blog, “Everybody is eager to pounce on my story now that something bad has happened.”

It seems like there are plenty of people who would castigate Abby and her parents for being reckless, but I want to celebrate Abby for her courage to pursue her dream and her parents for supporting her.

Studies actually show that being happy involves a great deal of risk. The evidence from these studies even suggest that if you’re prepared to take risks, you’re likely to be happier, even if you fail.

John Tulloch and Deborah Lupton, professors in Cultural Studies and Cultural Policy at Australia’s Charles Strut University, have linked risk to “self-improvement, emotional engagement and control.”

So, if risk is a good thing, why do we fear it? Obviously, something can’t be risky if there’s no chance for loss – after all, risk involves putting something at stake.

As researcher Barry Schwartz explains it, “Loss hurts more than gain feels good.”

At the end of the day, losing something of value – like our feeling of competence, money, or an opportunity – feels emotionally bad, and often so bad that we avoid taking chances even when the payoff would be what we want most in life.

This is called risk aversion, and many of us are risk averse.

But Tulloch and Lupton believe that risk-taking is about self-improvement in a world that is restricted and offers limited opportunities for challenge.

Think about it for a moment: Many of us go to unfulfilling jobs day after day, go home after work, watch television before bed and wake up the next morning to do it all over again.

I remember telling my husband Abby’s story and how he reacted. “I can’t believe her parents let her do that!” I responded by saying, “Oh, I hope our son will want to do something like that…and will let me go with him!”

I believed then and I still believe now that encouraging our kids to be their best selves, even if it involves risk, is the most important job we have as parents.

Many say it was foolish of Abby’s parents to allow her to sail at such a young age, but by all accounts she was an able sailor. In Abby’s own words,

There are plenty of things people can think of to blame for my situation; my age, the time of year and many more. The truth is, I was in a storm and you don’t sail through the Indian Ocean without getting in at least one storm.

It wasn’t the time of year, it was just a Southern Ocean storm. Storms are part of the deal when you set out to sail around the world.

As for age, since when does age create gigantic waves and storms?

I’m delighted that I can point out for my son another example of a young person attempting to achieve her dream in spite of the risks involved. But Abby’s final comment, about age, struck a different chord.

You don’t have to go back to being a kid to hear voices telling you what you are and are not good at.

In every endeavor, at every stage of life, you will find people on the sidelines warning you of the dangers involved and how your undertaking isn’t a very good idea at this moment – heck, many of those voices may be coming from inside your head.

Risk a much of your savings to start a business at 40 (as I did), and you’ll hear almost the same things you might if you risk your life circumnavigating the globe at 16.

The fact that the predictions of disaster might come from yourself or those closest to you, as opposed to the world at large, doesn’t make them any less daunting: quite the opposite, in fact – Abby probably had an easier time dealing with the criticism she faced because she believed in herself and her parents were squarely behind her. It’s often harder to face risk when nobody – not even your inner voices – has your back.

So I honor Abby’s parents for supporting her. Because my son, and people of every age and stage can use all the examples they can get of people following their dreams, in spite of the risk. Those are the examples we need to silence the voices of doubt and fear, especially when they’re coming from inside our own heads.

Examples like Abby’s provide us with the encouragement we so desperately need to follow our own dreams and define for ourselves what it means to be happy and successful.

How to Change Your Focus – and Your Mood – in Record Time

August 9, 2016

The picture to the right was taken after the game-winning, adult-beating goal for the kids’ team during a soccer playdate Griffin had recently with a boy who will be joining Griffin’s class this year. (Thanks in part to their shared victory, they’re now fast friends.) I’m the “Parent Mentor” to help new families make a

Read the full article →

How to Get Lucky

August 2, 2016

The photo to the right was taken at our local park after a fruitful day of Pokemon catching. If you haven’t heard of the PokemonGo craze, I encourage you to go to your local park and check it out. One of the very cool things about PokemonGo is that there are no published instructions, so

Read the full article →

Stephen King’s 5 Killer Life Lessons

July 26, 2016

The photo to the right was taken during a sweet moment cuddling on the couch during our family vacation. It was a blissfully low-key, fun-filled week after what seems like months of one crisis after another. My husband Doug professes that his favorite vacations are all about “reading and eating,” and although I love vacations

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What’s really bothering you?

July 19, 2016

The photos below show Griffin with his BFF – yesterday and 5 years ago. They became fast friends in first grade when Will’s family moved to Asheville, but then they moved away two years later. (Long-time readers may remember that we visited them on their yacht in Greece two years ago!) Even though the family now lives

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What’s Your Love Language?

July 12, 2016

That’s a pic of me enjoying some quality time with my brother a few days ago. I went up to Cincinnati last week to help take care of him after his heart surgery. (In my ezine last week, I talked about how Randy, my older brother – who is a 48 year-old super fit, vegan

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How Stress Signals That Your Life Is at Risk

July 5, 2016

I consider my body my most-trusted advisor. I think it assimilates information from the Universe that I can’t understand fully at first. You see, I know the Universe wants me to live my best life, but sometimes I don’t heed its advice – I’m convinced that sometimes I don’t even hear it. It’s like Oprah

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How to trust yourself to make the right decisions

June 28, 2016

The photo to the right shows me and Griffin eating some campfire guacamole and generally having a blast during our annual “off the grid” camping adventure. We were at the gorgeous Lake Santeelah. The spring-fed lake features the most beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, and the pristine water made for VERY refreshing dips, given

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It’s not your fault, but it is your responsibility

June 21, 2016

The photo to the right shows Griffin working through a difficult mountain bike course in preparation for some serious mountain biking and camping over the weekend. One of the things I often tell Griffin is “We can do hard things.” And I’m so glad he’s embraced it as his own personal motto as well. What

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