Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Make Happiness Your Drug of Choice

Your brain contains some powerful drugs. That’s according to Joseph McClendon III, author of Get Happy Now: Get Happy in 10 Minutes, Feel Happy in 10 Days, Be Happy for Life (SUCCESS Books, May 2012). These chemicals in your brain can create feelings of happiness and euphoria, like dopamine or endorphins, while others can contribute to feelings of anxiety or depression. Sometimes people modify their body chemistry with drugs, alcohol or other chemicals in an attempt to get happy. Maybe you know someone who solves stress that way, or maybe that’s been you. The scientific truth is the body manufactures chemicals that mimic the way drugs like opium or valium affect your mood.

Just like morphine is a powerful pain medication that alters the way your brain perceives pain, your brain has naturally occurring chemicals that do the same thing and more, modulating your energy, emotions, ability to interact with others and ultimately, your happiness.

Inside your brain, you have a powerful drug that’s available free of charge, with no prescription and accessible any time day or night—it’s called happiness.

“Everyone wants to be happy,” McClendon says. “They seek it, buy it, chase it, medicate it and do everything possible to get it. I’ve spoken in more than 50 countries around the world and met all kinds of people in various cultures. I’ve seen people with every reason to be happy who are not, and I’ve met people with every conceivable reason to be miserable who are happy and content.”

But, he emphasizes, happiness isn’t complex. “It’s not distorted, a 12-step plan, or years of agony in counseling with some self-help guru. Happiness is the feeling of joy and excitement you get when you have hope, and move with positive expectation toward that positive dream, expectation, or goal.”

McClendon says, “Happiness is just an emotion.”

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Lean In

Seth’s life was a mess. After marrying a woman he didn’t love, he was divorced before he was 30. He’d lost half his friends and half his money. He hated the guy he’d become, and he felt like he was going nowhere. Without a clue as to how to tackle the huge problems that tormented him, he decided he would begin to change his screwed-up life by coping with a single problem.

Seth had always been afraid of heights. Sitting on a barstool practically gave him vertigo. So he resolved to break out of that fear by doing something he never thought he could. He decided to go skydiving. That’s how he found himself wearing a blue jumpsuit, sitting on the floor of a little plane that sounded like it was powered by a rubber band. This is the stupidest idea I’ve ever had. I can’t do this. I should just go home, he thought. If he hadn’t been strapped to the instructor, he would have called it quits.

When the doors slid open and it was time to act, Seth froze. “The $275 is for the ride up. The ride down is free,” the instructor said. “If you are going to do this, now is the time.”

Seth didn’t feel like jumping. He was scared to death. But with the wind whipping all around him, he wondered, What would I be going home to? The only things waiting for him at home were Chinese takeout and a job he didn’t want to go to on Monday morning. Did he really want to be that guy anymore? The guy who let fear and regret rule his life?

So he closed his eyes, adjusted his goggles, eased to the edge of the open plane door and shifted his weight. He didn’t leap from the plane like an action hero. He just leaned in to the open sky—to the chance that something might shift in his life—and let gravity do the rest. And with that tiny action, he stopped being the guy who was too scared to handle a risk, who never did anything interesting, who let his failures define him. He became someone else, someone whose life wasn’t over but was just beginning.

Leaning in to that open sky gave Seth a wild ride and one hell of a stomachache. But that choice to lean in, that small shift in weight and change in direction, changed his life forever because it put him in motion. That is what leaning in is all about: taking the small action that will let your momentum take over and carry you forward.

You think you have to figure it all out before you take a step. Instead, lean in. Send that email. Pick up the phone. Sign up for that class. Commit and do it. What matters is that you push through your feelings and start moving. Take action and lean toward what you want without regard for how it will look or turn out.

You don’t need to take a massive leap. All you need to do is lean in and see what happens next. Make that tiny push, and then let gravity pull you through.