Flex Your Way to Happiness
I just returned from Key West, Florida, where I participated in and spoke at Possibilities in Paradise (PIP). My good friends Leigh Daniel and Jonathan Benjamin, the retreat organizers, chose to have the retreat in Key West for several reasons, the most important one being that even in the sweltering heat and humidity of July, Key West is a little slice of paradise.
This was the second time I spoke at PIP, and I was deeply touched when Leigh and Jonathan invited me back. So what did I speak about? What else? Happiness! That’s my favorite subjects. It’s what drives me forward. It’s what I teach. It’s how I live.
Best of all, I got to present with one of the most awesome people I know, Havalynn Russell. If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ve already been introduced to Havalynn (Fun is Ageless). What makes her so special to me is that we have a synergistic energy that ignites every time we talk, and that energy goes off the charts whenever we get together.
Havalynn and I were originally supposed to give our presentation Sunday afternoon, but some last minute schedule changes and a giant thunderstorm (the type you only get in a tropical climate) pushed us back to that evening. In a serendipitous twist, the last-minute schedule changes turned out to be a blessing, because all of the presentations flowed together so naturally, Leigh and Jonathan wound up with the perfect platform from which to end the retreat on a high note.
On my way home, I reflected on the schedule changes during PIP and how not so long ago I would’ve freaked out. I used to be an extreme planner, planning out every part of my life, down to the last detail. If anything happened to disrupt those plans, I would have a meltdown. I rarely showed my frustration publically, but the private display was pretty spectacular. Lots of expletives followed by major depression were pretty normal. But once I started to accept that surprises often disrupt my best-laid plans, my life got easier. I’m now at peace with myself, and I find that I’m also much happier. I discovered that flexibility is much more compatible with happiness than rigid attachment to a particular plan or idea.
I realize that for many people, being flexible isn’t a new concept. We’re exposed to the “need” for flexibility almost every day. So why is it that even though we know that flexibility is good for our emotional well-being, we still remain attached to our plans or beliefs? Truthfully, I’m not sure I have a good answer to that question, but what I do know is that when we become rigidly attached to a particular idea, belief, or path, those rigid attachments almost always lead to headaches. That’s because we become fixated on ONE thing. We fail to see alternatives or possibilities that can bring us even greater joy than what we envision for ourselves. In the most extreme cases, our inflexibility turns our lives into disaster zones.
I’m reminded of the consequences of rigidity from an experience I had in 2005. I lived in Coral Springs, Florida at the time (near Ft. Lauderdale), and that year was turning into the most active hurricane season on record. Florida had already been hit by 7 storms in 2 years, and we were about to be whacked an eighth time by Hurricane Wilma. Until that point, I had only been sideswiped by 3 storms (by Francis, Jeanne, and Katrina), but Wilma was a direct hit. The damage caused by the other hurricanes was significant, but what I witnessed from Wilma was epic. Everywhere I looked, giant ficus and oak trees were toppled by the category 2 winds. Many houses had missing roofs. Fences were blown away. Any plant or tree that stood rigidly against the wind was pretty much damaged or destroyed.
The only plants that survived were the flexible ones. Ornamental grasses and bamboo fared particularly well. But so did palm trees. Sure, many of the palm trees were stripped of their fronds, but the trees themselves survived. Why? Because rather than standing rigid and inflexible like the ficus or oak trees, the palms, the grasses, and bamboo allowed themselves to flex and bend in the wind.
Our lives aren’t much different. I often compare adversity (or contrast) to a hurricane. If we insist on standing tall, proud, and rigid, we’re going to get seriously damaged, if not completely blown over. And just like the aftermath of a hurricane, the cleanup and recovery can last weeks, months, or even years.
How does all of this tie into happiness? To put it bluntly, happiness comes down to a simple choice. We can choose to remain fixated on a single idea, belief, or path, or we can open ourselves up to the infinitely creative ways that Source has to bring us joy. Even when faced with a tsunami of contrast, we can choose to ride that wave, or we can choose to drown. If we choose flexibility and we go with the flow, the ride can be exhilarating. Sure, there will be times when that ride will scare the hell out of us, but the excitement far outweighs the fear. I can tell you from experience that when you go with the flow, you’ll find yourself literally laughing out loud and wanting more.
So what ideas, beliefs, or paths are you attached to? Are you willing to let go of your attachments – especially if it means that you will get what you desire more quickly? Which is more important to you? Being happy, or clinging to single course of action that, if thwarted, could lead to all sorts of trauma and drama?
If you choose happiness, then I also recommend choosing flexibility. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed.
About the Author
Appio Hunter is an author, speaker, spiritual guide, and self-described champion for living joyously. He uses his seminars and workshops to facilitate conversations about authenticity, alignment, and the daily experience of community, connection, and joy. Appio is also a weekly columnist with The Good Men Project and co-host of the Real Men Feel Show along with his good friend Andy Grant.