"Lighten up, just enjoy life, smile more, laugh more, and don't get so worked up about things." — Kenneth Branagh
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I recently presented my Positivity Magic Show, The Magic of Kindness for a local community outreach program. The presentation is geared specifically towards children and families to instill kindness values—listening to understand, helping others, and doing our best. It’s always a fun show with plenty of opportunities for comedy interactions, and after stepping off stage one of the volunteers made a comment to me and it’s one that I’ve heard so many times over the years that I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard it. She said: “You’re so patient!”
Kids can often get a little over excited while having fun, and this can sometimes get out of hand. That’s just what happened at my most recent performance. Kids were running up onto the stage when they weren’t supposed to, shouting out and disrupting the flow of the show, and generally being rowdy and rambunctious. And yet, despite the craziness, the show was a success and everyone truly enjoyed themselves—the kids, the parents, the volunteers, and myself included. Most of all, it was a positive experience for the kids, sowing within them a valuable message that has the potential to help them enjoy lifelong transformation.
From the outsider’s perspective, sure, it probably seemed frustrating to navigate their inane antics, but my response to the comment about patience was this: “They were such an engaged and interactive group!”
How was the program a success despite the craziness that ensued? Sure, I employed facilitation tactics and redirection techniques, but that’s not the point of this article. The point is this: we experienced success because the focus was on the desired overall outcome, rather being married to procedure.
Rather than getting frustrated that my well-made plans were getting thwarted, I recognized that there’s more than one to have a successful outcome and I boldly said yes to these new possibilities along the way to the goal.
Why This Matters
Whether it’s a marketing strategy, a lesson plan, a magic show, a vacation, or anything else, when things don’t go as planned it can be rather frustrating. And when things get frustrating we run the risk of either giving up or burning out, leading further to risks for anxiety and depression.
As General George Patton is quoted as says: “Do not try to make circumstances fit your plans. Make plans that fit the circumstances.” By addressing frustrations with an open mind rather than a narrow view you’ll be well prepared to experience more enjoyment in life, come what may.
We often put off our happiness until someday: until we finally get that job, lose the weight, get a spouse, buy a house, have kids, have hoards of cash in the bank, or any number of desires. Regardless of our desires, and regardless of the current state of affairs, it is possible to experience more enjoyment along the way—even with a bunch of screaming kids running around.
I’ve spoken about patience previously but what I have to offer here goes beyond mere patience. Sure, it may look like patience, but this dives even deeper. We can’t control the thoughts, feelings, words, and actions of others, but what we can control is how we respond to them, and this takes a commitment to empathy, adaptability, and excellence. Empathy to understand and accept where others are coming from, adaptability to changing your plan as circumstances change, and excellence to be better today than you were yesterday—and better tomorrow than you were today.
3 Practices For Experiencing More Enjoyment
To help you experience more enjoyment during this ride called life, here are three practices that you can implement starting today:
1. Choose To Be Fascinated
The next time something goes wrong, instead of getting frustrated, choose to be fascinated.
The key to choosing fascination instead of frustration is to be aware of your frustration triggers, and when you notice yourself slipping into complaining mode, consciously choose to be fascinated.
The key to practicing fascination is to be curious. Ask questions, remind yourself of your overall desired outcome, and look for possibilities among the chaos of your situation. Having an open curious mind will lead to new insights and inspirations that can motivate you into action along a new path towards the same destination.
I employ this all the time as a magician, facilitator, and presenter. When a workshop participant asks a particularly important question that everyone wants more insight into it would be careless of me to say, “I’m sorry, we can’t talk about that, it’s not in my notes.” When I remember what the overall outcome is that I’m headed towards (being a positive influence in the lives of others through engagement, empowerment, and encouragement) I’m able to take a confident step away from my plans with an eye for fascination and explore a new path.
This same technique works when performing magic for excited children. The overall goal is to give them a positive experience and communicate kindness—and that’s not going to happen if I yell at them and tell them to sit down and be quiet! Instead of being bound to a script I can confidently leave it aside from time to time to explore new pathways to our destination.
The key is choosing to be fascinated!
2. Do Something Fun Every Day
How often do you take time to do something fun in your day-to-day life? If you’re like many people, fun activities are regulated to weekends of vacations, and for those who work weekends and don’t take time off for vacations, these fun things never happen!
I enjoy hiking to the tops of mountains, and every year I make an effort to do just that. Last year it was a hike to the top of Mount St. Helens, and this year it’s a hike to Mount Adams in Washington. Of course it’s not practical to do extensive hikes like that every week or even every month, but that doesn’t mean I can’t hike a smaller mountain closer to home, or even just go for a walk down the street. Those activities touch on what I enjoy about mountains: getting outdoors, not thinking about work for a little while, and simply enjoying my own company.
For you maybe it’s reading, listening to music, singing, dancing, drawing, or anything else. Whatever it is, it doesn’t have to be big; it just has to initiate that part of your brain to enjoys the process. This is why I use magic in all of my presentations. Magic is such a powerful way to engage any audience—whether families, teenagers, college students, corporate executives, or senior citizens. When people are laughing and enjoying themselves they become far more open to the message that I’ve been contracted to deliver.
By taking time every day to engage in something fun you’ll be sure to experience far more enjoyment no matter the circumstances.
3. Brighten Someone’s Day
A quote making the rounds on social media says:
“Tip your server. Return your shopping cart. Pick up a piece of trash. Hold the door for the person behind you. Let someone into your lane. Small acts can have a ripple effect. That’s how we change the world.”
It truly doesn’t take much to brighten someone’s day, and if you ever get stuck on what to do, remember that it can be as simple as a smile. Smiling creates a chemical reaction that releases the happiness hormone dopamine and the anxiety reducing hormone serotonin. Research even suggests that this works whether it’s a genuine smile or not, because this kind of smile can be simulated by simply holding a pencil between your teeth, which engages the appropriate smile muscles.
Best of all, smiling is a free gift that we can give to others. When we smile it has a contagious effect on those around us, inspiring them to mirror our positive facial expression, thus releasing chemical reactions in their brains making them happy and reducing their own stress.
I employ this strategy every time I walk out on stage to deliver a keynote, workshop, or performance. Heck, I even use it when I’m walking through a parking lot. Putting on a smile puts me in the right frame of mind for engaging others, helping to brighten their day and bring more enjoyment to everyone’s lives. As Zig Ziglar reminds us:
“You’ll always have everything in life that you want if you help enough people get what they want.”
Leading with a smile opens more doors than a frown ever will, so brighten someone’s day and offer smiles freely and often!
It can be frustrating when things don’t go as planned, but by keeping the focus on what matters most we’ll find ourselves able to navigate new pathways to positive outcomes. To navigate those new pathways we can remember to employ these three simple practices:
By implementing these strategies into our everyday lives we’ll be empowered to experience genuine life enjoyment, come what may!
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Jonas Cain is a Positivity Consultant, Learning Experience Designer, and Facilitator of Fascination for Hashtag Positivity, a social entrepreneurship helping emerging leaders and their influencers stay alive, smile, and thrive through the development of social emotional skills.