Today’s challenge: Be happy!

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…

In the interviews of people all over the world in the movie Happy (shown as part of the Environmental Film Festival a few months ago), the attainment of happiness was consistently among the top goals of life.  Unfortunately, people from developed countries vied for other goals in higher priority -riches, fame, and success.

It is a common belief that a person must have a sense of security through possession of money, a house, a car etc to be happy.  If that is the case, a majority of the people in the United States and other developed countries should be happy.  In reality, these countries have the highest rates of depression.  Conversely, people interviewed in developing countries, who did not have much possession and worked for unsteady daily income, declared with a grand smile to the camera that they are indeed very happy.  How can that be?

The documentary explained that, while things like fame or materialism may bring an intense level of happiness, it is also transient.  True, long-lasting happiness was not derived from any physical object that one could possess.  Instead, the origin of true happiness is the relationships that one has with others.  Humans are social creatures, and it is our natural inclination to relate to other beings.  I believe that today people are subtly taught by media to always want and are too distracted by what they do not have to truly appreciate the value of all that they do indeed have.

So what are we to do?  How can we be happy when we have  not yet accomplished our career/educational/personal goals?

I can certainly say that I wish I didn’t have school loans or had figured out my calling in life or was traveling around the world while getting paid.  But I can also say that I am happy to have parents who trust me, to live with great roommates, and to have friends all over the city and the world.

Happiness and gratitude go hand in hand.  I bet everyone has a lot to be happy about – your job, your courage and openness to have explored new activities, your friends and family, the wonderful weather outside, your feet for being able to support your body as you walk….

Perhaps today, Sundays, this hour, is not the best time.  Maybe something tragic has happened.  Or you feel ill. Or you have an incredible hangover.   Maybe that’s not the case and today is simply a blah day.  A day when asked “How are you?” you would reply as my former boss always did: “I can’t complain.”

Everyone will have days that do not elicit or conjure happiness.  On these days, take Andy Warhol’s advice.

A print my friend got me from the National Gallery of Art

You have to be willing to get happy about nothing

– Andy Warhol

The narrator explained that happiness is all about perspective.  Train your mind to experience things from a positive perspective and happiness will gradually find its way to immerse your everyday moments.

Easier said than done, but why not give it a try!  What’s the worst that could happen -you might be happy most of the time??? How awful

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Today’s Challenge: Laugh!

The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.

-E.E. Cummings

May 19th marked Day of Joy, the first of three events for the In One Day project.  My two friends and I traveled through three parks in DC with volunteers leading the public in laughter exercises.  I think everyone who participated (including myself) was initially self-conscious at first at this organized, raucous, public display.  However, after the first minute, people began to let go and genuinely laugh! It was a great way to spend a Saturday!

I meant to post this before this event, but it doesn’t really matter because you should laugh everyday!

Plus, science has proven the benefits of laughter with chemical responses in your brain through release of endorphin and yadda yadda yadda.

The point is, unless you decide to do it at a funeral or some other socially inappropriate moment, laughing only has benefits.

So, go on! Laugh!

Today’s challenge: Grow younger!

To a young heart everything is fun.

-Charles Dickens

Working with elementary school age kids in the afternoon, I am always fascinated to discover their imaginative minds.  Whether I am a shark with chomping arms waiting to “eat” kids who fall off the monkey bars before reaching the other side or I am a customer at their new diner serving up vegetation from the schoolyard, I admire how naturally creativity comes to them.  I often found myself wondering if the world from my childhood was ever as whimsical as it is for them.

The answer: yes.  My brother is two years younger than I am, and back when we lived in California, we had played in our backyard everyday.  Sometimes, we were African villagers hunting for game (cars passing our house) with our rifles (branches we found and used as walking sticks on a hike).  Other days, we created homes for our pet rolly-pollys.  Of course, we also played the classic games of school and house with our older sister of six years difference with me.

I’m not sure when this all stopped.  Maybe it was when my sister started attending high school.  Maybe it was when my brother had become friends with boys on our block to go play video games at their houses.  Maybe I got bored.

I suppose that, with age, we are more inclined to see things as they are.  Leaves are leaves, not bread slices for sandwiches.  There are no “bases” in the office.  Play money has even less monetary value than a sheet of blank paper.  In this sense, seeing things as they are makes the world seem really dull and lifeless.  I love working at the school because the kids inspire within me a new enthusiasm for the world -the potential for the world to be just as you wish it was.  So, leaves are indeed bread slices, peers cannot tag you when you’re sitting on the bench, and you are a millionaire that can buy a restaurant.

As Pablo Picasso famously said, youth has no age.  So, go ahead and channel your youth! Go ride on a swing! Go paint! Go personify inanimate objects! Go make up a game!  Maybe delving into your creativity is all too challenging.  Then, for you, I have a fail proof method – go spend time playing with kids.

Youth is, after all, just a moment, but it is the moment, the spark, that you always carry in your heart.

-Raisa Gorbachev

Enter this challenge with all of your skepticism and doubt of the outcomes but also with your willingness to try.  I think you’ll be surprised.  Maybe you will reawaken a surge of new energy.  Maybe the world will once again become a wondrous place full of possibility.  Who knows? Maybe you will reach a moment where you don’t even have to actively seek sources of this energy anymore because you begin to exude it, at which point, you embody Picasso’s wise words.  You remain young at heart, and then everything becomes fun.  That is the ultimate goal of youth that no Botox, creams, or surgeries can give you.

Today’s Challenge: Gratitude through One Day Without Shoes

Image from toms.com

Tomorrow’s  (TOMS) shoes is the entrepreneaurial creation of Blake Mycoskie.  The concept of the company was born during Mycoskie’s travels through South America where he observed many children walking around streets with no shoes -making their feet prone to injury and disease.  Once back in his California home, he designed a shoe modeled after the traditional Argentinian alpargata.

The company’s One for One initiative established the pledge that for each shoe purchased, they would donate a pair to communities in need.  While Mycoskie’s original goal was to donate 250 shoes, the popularity of his shoes surpassed his expectations.  Recently, One for One project celebrated the donation of its one millionth pair.

One Day Without Shoes is an annual event held on April 10th where TOMS shoes encourages the public to forego donning shoes and serve as a living campaign for the cause.

[A video about the event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4VN34iCi2Q]

While the achievement of one million donations is commendable, a debate exists on the effectiveness of the company.  One concern is that TOMS is invading on the patronage of local shoe businesses. The more pronounced criticism is that this project is not addressing the root of the problem in these communities: poverty.  The argument lies in that TOMS shoes is simply satiating a first-world country’s desire to pat themselves on the back by providing only immediate and transient relief for the beneficiaries.  Companies like Oliberte comparable to TOMS are instead recognized and praised for going one step further creating jobs and business for the locals, allowing them to rise from poverty.

Nonetheless, the motive for TOMS is admirable.  An individual had an idea rooted from compassion, worked for his unwavering vision, and succeeded to translate the message to the world about caring for issues beyond geographic borders, if not create lasting change in small communities.

Regardless of whether you decide to go barefoot today, the challenge is this: have gratitude for the life, people, and things that you have.  If you feel inspired enough, work with love to give others what you are lucky to have.

Image from toms.com

Today’s Challenge: Dream!

Quote

A couple of my friends and I went for an evening beer at Tonic in Mt. Pleasant on Sunday.  We all have rough plans of moving out of DC later this year, so we came up with a bucket list of things to do before we leave.

(If you have any must-do suggestions, please comment below!)

My personal list includes:

  1. spend a day riding the metro to all of the stations and document it (Just found out this guy beat me to the idea!)
  2. eat at Founding Farmers
  3. get a photo of me sitting on the Big Chair
  4. tour The White House (and maybe meet the Obamas!)
  5. watch the sunrise sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial

After brainstorming items for the list and thinking about how much we love DC, we came up with an incredible project for this summer!

That is all I can say for now!!!!  I know I’m being quite a tease!  We are already hard at work on creating the foundation for the project. The big reveal will come very soon. Look out for the official announcement! PS- Who knew happy hours were so productive?

I will leave you with this quote:

“Yesterday is but a vision, and tomorrow is only a dream. But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, and every tomorrow a dream of hope.” 

-Anonymous 

For today, I challenge everyone to dream and dream big!  You will only find happiness with optimism, hope and admiration for the world.