Experiments in Relentless Optimism

As I pursue happiness, I'm struck by how many lies there are about happiness. In the past couple of weeks, I've made a brief mental list of the commercials, ads and ideas I've heard that supposedly make you happy in America. Here they are.

You will be happy if:

  • you are rich
  • attend the right schools
  • what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas
  • you make the sale
  • you are skinny/physically attractive
  • you drink the right alcoholic drink
  • you own a home
  • you are successful at your job

Can you identify the common characteristic in these measurements of happiness?

They are all EXTERNAL.

Happiness in America is largely defined by external success.

Here's what I'm discovering: external success is not indicative of true, long-term happiness.

I remember the first time I had an article published in a national magazine. I was happy. For a day. And then it went away. It literally just disappeared. Why? Because all I could think about was: when/where will I get published again?

I was forever moving the external goal post of happiness beyond my current state of being.

This is no way to live. This is no way to pursue happiness.

Alternatively, as I've been studying happiness experts and working on a sustainable theory of happiness for myself I'm realizing something HUGE:

True happiness is an internal state of being.

I don't care if I have to trick my brain into a state of happiness, I'm going to do whatever is necessary to create a positive, happy brain.

To this end, I've coined a phrase (because I use my words to help me in every area of my life).

Relentless Optimism

Relentless optimism is my new way of seeing the world. It's a way of filtering everything that happens. It's a way of seeing. In other words, I put on the glasses of relentless optimism and everything that happens, I view positively.

I realize this sounds TOTALLY cheesy. But I don't care. You wanna know why?


Let's take exercise, for example. Since starting bootcamp, I've committed myself to 60 minutes of physical pain each day. It is very hard work. It is painful. BUT! BUT! I've discovered that it is good, efficacious pain. It is not bad pain.

This pain works for me an eternal weight of glory. Or, at least, a rockin' body. Now, the trick is getting through the pain of the workout. Here's how I do it:

  • I think of how I'll look in a swimsuit this summer
  • I remember: better sex!
  • I tell myself that I can enjoy my dinner tonight without guilt
  • I give myself little pep talks
  • I set tiny little goals to keep myself going; ie. "just 2 more minutes!" or "just 5 more leg lifts!"
  • I crack jokes in between sets
  • I workout in a group---doing hard stuff TOGETHER in COMMUNITY eases the pain of the task

And when I'm done, I feel fabulous for the rest of the day. Exercise substantially increases my happiness which makes it easier for me to view everything else in life through a positive lens.

I'm also listening to myself. What words come out of my mouth? If words shape reality, why am I allowing myself to utter words that foresee doom instead of glory?

One phrase I seem to say a lot is: "I can't do this!"

So, here's my first sacrifice in the pursuit of happiness and relentless optimism. From now on I will say: I CAN DO THIS!

Someone sent me a link to this TED talk on happiness and I thought I'd share it here with you. It's absolutely fascinating!