On the show How I Met Your Mother, Neal Patrick Harris’ character Barney Stinton once said, “When I get sad, I stop being sad and be AWESOME instead. TRUE STORY!” It’s hilarious… partly because Barney’s somewhat of a Narcissist and partly because it’s preposterous to mentally go from zero to sixty by flipping a switch, right? If it was that easy, we’d all do it. Well, maybe it’s not quite as simple as that, but good old Barney might be on to something…
As Shawn Achor so brilliant explains in his book, The Happiness Advantage, people tend to think of happiness as being something that will happen sometime in the future, as in “I will be happy, when…” We imagine that all we need to do is get married, or get a promotion at work, or get that MBA, or whatever. It is only after that identified future event takes place or that one particular obstacle is removed that we will be truly happy. We’re just too busy, or broke, or tired, or lonely to be happy in this moment, now…or this moment…you get the picture. I read the most amazing quote this week by Christopher Paolini (Author of Eragon) that says, “Live in the present, remember the past, and fear not the future, for it doesn’t exist and never shall. There is only now.” Wow, that’s good stuff. There is only now.
Anyway, Shawn Achor posits that not only do we consider happiness to be relegated to the future; we also tend to skip it when the future becomes the now. No sooner do we reach the unreachable shore, do we sail away again. We’re off once more to some distant point, beyond the horizon. We have a new goal to reach, and this time, THIS TIME we’re really going to be happy when we get there. But, we all know what happens next: distant shore, anchor down, meet the natives, get supplies, repair the ship, get out the map, anchor up, and away we go. No celebratory dancing, no fruity drinks, no sunbathing, no contemplating the meaning of life from a hammock, no sumptuous meals by candlelight, no romantic interlude, no…happiness.
What does this mean? It means that success equals happiness is a flawed equation. We’ve got it totally backwards. It should read: happiness equals success. Positive Psychology suggests that we are more productive, healthier, more successful and live longer if we can learn to be happier. So, how does Achor think we should “get happy” now? Well, after studying this dilemma for ten years at Harvard, he came up with Seven Principles of Positive Psychology. To find out what all of them are, you’ll need to read his wonderful book. However, there is one thing that he suggests that will get you on the road to joy in this very moment. There is a way to train your brain to be positive: gratitude. As Achor says, gratitude is one of the most powerful ways to accomplish happiness, whatever your current life circumstances. You can always find something to be grateful for; your cat (love you Petey), your excellent taste in music (Phillip Phillips, woo-hoo), your best friend (who still lives in Hakensack). Gratitude helps you to recognize that the present can make you happy; you don’t have to wait for a future event to unfold.
With this in mind, as many of you are already aware (thanks for all your posts), we have started the Gratitude Zone on our Life Skills Resource Group facebook page. We invite you to join us and make it a daily habit to share what you’re grateful for or leave an inspiring quote for others in the Zone. Let’s work together to increase and spread POSITIVITY throughout Orlando (think: the scene in Ghostbusters II where the Statue of Liberty comes to life and walks through the streets of New York City to the tune of “Higher and Higher” as thousands of citizens cheer for her)! You can help the City Beautiful become the City of Joy!
So, to sum it all up, I like to think that’s what the Barney Stinson quote is really all about. He is successful because he is happy, not the other ways around. Barney is always in the Zone. On the rare occasion when his happiness is threatened, he remembers to be grateful for all he has, and BOOM…AWESOMENESS returns. TRUE STORY.