If you prefer to listen, here's the podcast version of this post:
Happiness is a thought-habit that for many of us, requires constant maintenance and deliberate focus. Though there are many reasons to feel grateful for our life – they’re all around us all the time - in order to be capable of feeling that value, we need contrast. Contrast meaning the complimentary opposite of gratitude and appreciation: pain or difficult striving. In other words, a constant state of awareness of value (happiness) often arrives from a true understanding of its absence (pain). Without that contrast, it’s easy for life to get stuck in a middle array of emotions – a permanent state of “so-so” or “okay.” When you live in this state for long enough, powerful emotions like gratitude and happiness are assigned to a set of general milestones (birthdays, weddings, getting a promotion etc.) but outside of that it can be frustrating to find a true sense of joy. The real kind – that moves you to tears, or sticks in your memory for the rest of your life.
So that kind of joy is what this blog is all about. You have the power to create that range in your life, minus the negative contrast. You can actually manufacture the other half of life’s good/bad contrast by pushing yourself beyond what you say you are capable of, beyond what is normal and expected of you in your everyday life. By pushing yourself to be excellent and great: for friends, strangers, and for yourself. This manufacturing of the positive extreme is also how you create genuine greatness in your person. It is where you change yourself rapidly and change those around you because they are witnessing your example. You become walking inspiration.
For example, let’s say you receive a bitter email from someone clearly in the wrong- you respond with a kind one. That affects you in dramatic ways as well as the other person. It’s hard to do, but not that hard. It just takes a conscious decision to act in this way. “Extreme Positive.” Another example is perhaps with a problem that you don't want to address – something that you are dreading, but that you are not being expected to address by anyone else. Let’s say you decide to tackle it and over-deliver with great efforts. You create a new reality with that action because of your activation of “what could be” instead of accepting “what is.”
Your awareness of positive possibility is unique to you. That is your gift to use every day of your life. You are very much the omniscient narrator of a film in that you could treat your life just like a movie that you steer beat-by-beat one scene at a time. You can have dramatic score and make the most profound and beautiful emotional arc ever, with epic and memorable speeches delivered straight from the heart. The best success montage, the best adventure montage, or the best cliché romantic surprise for someone you love - full of roses and candles and soothing music. It’s all in your power to create, for no other reason than to make this movie better. Until you claim this power you likely don't know what it's capable of – and that’s awe-inspiring beauty.
By stepping out of your normal – and upping your bar for everything, you gain a new capacity for your personal growth. Plus, when you approach your life in this way, you expand your capacity to feel love, gratitude and happiness. It’s a form of wisdom and intelligence to act in this way. Once you get used to it, it’s like an increased aliveness that grows your appreciation and thirst for life. You have a new scale for valuing time once you step out of the bounds of your well-tread routine and the definition of “normal.”
So what does that mean for you now, reading this? Try it out for one day. Step up to the plate in a bigger way than you normally do. Go beyond and listen to the little nudge that whispers something wonderful you should do, if you had more time or if it didn’t cost money. Decide you will go for it in all of those if’s. Just commit to saying ‘yes’ to that voice, as a rule.
Because if you live as that person, always, you become extraordinary. You affects on others are profound and you grow vastly deeper. You will touch the deeper levels of this existence that you might only reach if you had the benefit of organic contrast.
So in closing, I invite you to be 'ultimate.' Be profound. Be brave. Be selfless. Be beyond what is asked or expected from you in all ways. Choose to act kind and loving toward others at all times. Be even more generous and work even harder expecting nothing in return. Go big demonstrating your love to others and showing them their value to you. Show up and bring flowers. Surprise people with real, genuine consideration. Give people you care about your undivided time – because of the immense value of being together in that moment. Be humble and accept kindness from others, no matter who they are. Practice embodying greatness of character in every moment of your life, and you will experience echoes in the form of the unexpected gifts they bear. All of it starts with a decision to do so; to create this positive half of contrast, without a need for reciprocation or reaction.
That is my invitation to you, today. As you go about your day, seek an invitation from your surroundings to be greater and decide now – ahead of time- that you will listen to that tiny voice inside of you that says, “It would be great if…” Listen intently and push yourself to show up as your greatest self. See how long you can stick to that habit. I believe you will find you are not only happier, you are greater.
Smile lovely friends! And if you haven't yet - please enter the Headspace contest to win a year of free meditation! xo