Overall, life has been very good to me. That’s not to say it has been without trials and tribulations, but with perspective I can see it has been very good. Perspective it is what keeps my thoughts positive, clear, and based in reality. Working at the San Diego Velodrome with kids that participate in our San Diego VeloYouth programs, I see great kids who are doing very well and great kids who are struggling. For these kids, the beauty of our VeloYouth programs is that as they fly around the track, all is left behind. If only for a few moments, they shift their position in life, change their perspective, moving from what is, to what can be. In that moment, they pedal and smile. You can see the weight of life and the troubles of the day being lifted off their shoulders and replaced with fun, laughter and learning. Watching kids shift perspective and then anchor that perspective by making new friends who share the unique cycling bond is part of what we offer. During these classes, I have the opportunity to share parts of my life that seem relevant and/or timely to the discussion or topic we are on. One theme that is recurring in our discussions has been finding ways to be happy. This is a tough one; many adults I know still struggle with this daily.
There are many parts to the puzzle of happiness. The two most important pieces are inner happiness and outer happiness. I can say now (after much practice and training) that I have found inner happiness, and all the things I was doing to cultivate outer happiness, while fun, are much less important. The shift from making yourself temporarily happy to feeling true happiness only comes from within. I have learned and share the reality of “Play then pay vs. Pay then play” with the kids, and I have used my own life examples as illustrations.
Another view on happiness comes from a story related by Tony Robbins about changing your picture of happiness. Originally, I thought the story was more for adults than our VeloYouth kids, but as I shared it with them, I realized that it is an ageless example, as is most wisdom. I will paraphrase it here ... Tony met a lady who held an idea for her whole life that being married and having kids would make her happy. Well, this lady is now in her fifties, childless and twice divorced. If she held on to her original picture of happiness, her chance of being happy was dwindling. However, if she makes a few small shifts and allows herself to change her picture of happiness, then she can set a new path toward a new picture.
This leads to my final thought on finding true happiness, and maybe the most important part following a path of honesty and integrity. Over the years, I have struggled with this, too. After years of looking inward, I realized the person I was most dishonest with was myself. This can and will lead to losing focus on what is truly important, as well as taking you farther away from finding your happiness. I found a tool to help me practice honesty and integrity. I find it very powerful to share with our VeloYouth kids. They don’t all act on it immediately, but knowing I have planted the seed and that they will use the tool when they’re ready, is a great feeling.
So here is the tool. Like many great tools, it is inexpensive and simple in theory, but it takes thought and work to create the benefits. It makes you be honest with yourself and leaves a footprint, not to look backwards, but to help you not repeat the past. You need two things to start: 1) a note pad and 2) a pen. On the front of your note pad, write all the things that make you feel good: compliments received, good choices or decisions made that day. Every good interaction, write it all down. Now take your note pad flip it over to the back and write down all the things that made you unhappy: the not-so-good choices and decisions, every negative interaction, the things that took you away from the path toward your goals.
After a while of daily entries, you will see your book grow. If you have been honest, you will read all the things that have made you happy and you will also see the things that did not. Now the challenge is to take all the entries from the back of your book and read them, own them, and change them. Take the time to absorb all that you have written and make the positive choice to eliminate them.
Today, for me, the front of my book is filling up and the back is getting smaller and smaller. This alone helps me stay on my path. Even when the path changes, you are still living a life of happiness and integrity.
If you can do that, you will find your bliss; you will find you are surrounded with people who contribute to your wellbeing and help you grow.