Your 90 Second Challenge...


The Art and Science of Being Happy     by Leslie Villelli

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “If the stars should appear only one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance…”

We would be ecstatic, delirious, in awe…don’t you think? No one would sleep that night, of course. We’d be infused with the vibration of celebration. Instead the stars come out every night, and we relate to them… how?

Innocently, over time, we came to think that rare equals valuable, and everyday/ordinary equals mundane, ignorable, and somehow worth less. We got in the habit of thinking that we have “all the time in the world” and that things like stars shining will always be there so why give them our attention? I’m not saying we don’t ‘happen’ to notice them, but, really, why get enthusiastic about things that occur every day? Why deliberately and fully experience what seems like it will be around forever?

I’ll tell you why. To be happy. Yes, to be happy. Get excited about the next breath. Revel in the sun coming up. Jump for joy when someone succeeds. Delight in the experience of warm water on your hands as you wash them. Deliberately express you wonder and marvel at the fact that you get to be with your partner, child, co-worker, parent…be exuberant about the fact that you have the capacity to get frustrated… Even the sound of discord or upset can be a source of great joy when you realize that the very reason you’re hearing it is because you are alive!

Anyone who has grown old, lost a loved one, or raised a child knows that moments are what are extraordinarily valuable. Individual, irretrievable moments. All moments, because all moments are “once in a lifetime” occurrences.

Tender words are extraordinarily valuable, but we can even rejoice in having irritation when moments are what we cherish. I once worked for a client who regularly complained about her husband’s snoring. After he was killed in a car accident, she told me she would give anything to hear that sound just one more time.

What would happen if we valued what is all around us all the time? What if we treasured what is abundant, prevalent, commonplace, and easily accessible? What if, for instance, burping, the scent of a loved one, someone singing off key with gusto, mopping the floor, a TV show, mail being delivered, using a simple switch to turn on a light, were all highly prized?

Think about this:  What if we only got 90 seconds once every ten years to say, “I love you,” and someone said it to you? Do you think you’d take it for granted, ignore it, wave it off?  Or do you think you’d savor it, relish it, thoroughly enjoy it? Look forward to it eagerly? Feel moved by the privilege of hearing those words? And how would you relate to your 90 seconds? Do you think you’d put it off till later? Wait until the time felt exactly right? Hold back until they did something special to deserve it?

Of course you wouldn’t. We love to give. When we’re being generous we’re happy. That’s just the way we’re wired.  It feels good. And it sends a subtle, very clear message to ourselves that, “There’s more where that came from.”

Clearly, our generosity gets expressed in many more and varied ways than giving things or money to others. We can be freely expressing our joy so that they, too, can participate in it, be giving someone the benefit of the doubt not because they earned it but because we can, be silently listening intently to the words someone else is saying. No matter how many times we do those things, we can always do them again!

Though they are as easily accessible, readily available, and prevalent as the stars, our focused attention and joy are the most precious gifts we have to give.

 On your mark, get set, go! Your ninety seconds starts…NOW!





The 90 Second Challenge... Ready, Set...