Happiness lessons from a 92-year old woman

As a Consultant, I have noticed that my happiness is dictated by my Client’s actions (what they do or do not do). A Client signing a deal is a cause for celebration and losing a deal is equally painful. Happiness seems out of your control and this leads to unnecessary misery. My wife can accurately guess what has happened just from my demeanor (which probably makes me the ultimate Pavlovian dog). Slight grumpiness usually means a bad Client meeting. Full on grumpy mode typically means a huge opportunity gone sour.

I typically like to tell myself that one should focus on things that are in our control and not worry about events and circumstances that are not. Living this credo is hard. You need a strong mindset game to achieve a state where external events do not affect your emotions and outlook.

I have always wondered what it would take to achieve this mindset. The Universe has a way of bringing the right teachers when you need them.

During a trip to Minneapolis, I had the opportunity to sit next to a 92-year old woman. She was bubbling with energy and her interactions had a very positive vibe. She greeted me with a big smile when I approached my row (she was already seated on the aisle seat). I am an introvert and typically start looking at my phone during flights. This time was different. She immediately started chatting. She shared stories about her childhood and family. I was hooked. Her energy and authenticity led me to share my own personal details including showing her pictures of my daughter.

Her zest for life and energy levels were quite un-common. As you can imagine, she had gone through multiple surgeries and her mobility had taken a big hit of late. She showed me her beautiful arms and all the needle pricks that she had to bear. She was traveling from Florida and had to wake up early in the morning just to get ready for her flight.

When I asked her the reason for her trip, she mentioned that she was on her way to attend her sister’s funeral. This news stunned me a bit. I took the courage to ask her how she could have such an upbeat and positive attitude. In her same position, I believe I would have been extremely miserable with low energy. It felt like she had all the reasons to be unhappy. She mentioned that her positive attitude came from her parents who were holocaust survivors. Her response brought silence and appreciation on my part.

This experience continues to have an impact and I routinely think back to this lucky meeting. This wonderful lady reminds me that you can continue to exhibit positive energy regardless of the ebbs and flow of life.

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