What gets you to laughing? We don’t always have to wait for something to strike our funny bone. We can become proactive laughers, by noticing the ironies and beatitudes of life. There’s always something to discover, celebrate, and enjoy. Laugh lines are so important that I went back and reviewed some of my own from the past 10 years worth of Provisions. It was a fun reconnaissance of my own material and I hope at least one item strikes you that way as well. Enjoy!
Since I started writing Provisions in 1999, some themes have surfaced more frequently than others. One, for example, is gratitude. Another is mindfulness. And still another is laughter. All three qualities have much to do with the good life that we seek to bring forward with our clients and in the world. Our motto • celebrate the best to bring out the best in life and work • speaks not only to our approach but also to our understanding of how the universe works. It’s no more complicated than the old adage, “What goes around comes around.”
If you want more laughter, joy, and happiness in your life, there’s no better place to start than to laugh out loud. Once we start laughing, sooner or later we get the idea that we must be happy. And happiness is its own reward. Without claiming to be a comedian, I decided to track down and reprint some of my own, best laugh lines from the past 10 years (don’t you just love search engines!). I hope you enjoy the recap as much as I enjoy the memories.
There’s no way to move into wholeness without at least a few good laughs on a daily basis. Children laugh easily and often; adults get bogged down with the serious side of life. If that sounds familiar, then it’s time to start laughing.
I had to laugh at Ben Franklin’s account of his early interest in and practice of vegetarianism. At the age of 16, after reading a book by Tryon, Franklin made the countercultural decision to follow “a Vegetable Diet.” “My refusing to eat flesh occasioned an Inconveniency,” Franklin notes, “and I was frequently chid for my singularity.”
Notwithstanding the chiding of his peers, Franklin continued in this practice because he found that it saved him money, gave him more time to read, and increased his aptitude for his studies, since he gained “that greater Clearness of Head and quicker Apprehension which usually attend Temperance in Eating and Drinking.”
It wasn’t long, however, before Franklin found himself unable to maintain his vow. He was traveling for the first time by ship from Boston to Philadelphia when the crew caught and fried a large quantity of codfish. “Hitherto I had stuck to my Resolution of not eating animal Food,” Franklin observes, “and on this Occasion consider’d, with my Master Tryon, the taking every Fish as a kind of unprovoked Murder, since none of them had, or ever could do us any Injury that might justify the Slaughter. All this seemed very reasonable.”
“But I had formerly been a great Lover of Fish,” Franklin continues, “and, when this came hot out of the Frying Pan, it smelt admirably well. I balanc’d some time between Principle & Inclination, till I recollected that, when the Fish were opened, I saw smaller Fish taken out of their Stomachs: Then thought I, ‘If you eat one another, I don’t see why we mayn’t eat you.’ So I din’d upon Cod very heartily, and continued to eat with other People, returning only now & then occasionally to a vegetable Diet. So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable Creature, since it enables one to find or make a Reason for everything one has a mind to do.”
In 1998, my mature body finally got the attention of my immature mind. Within six weeks of leaving my job, I was having chest pains, shortness of breath, and numbness in my right arm. Two days of distress finally sent me back to the doctor with a new sense of urgency. Was I having a heart attack? Had my family history of cardiovascular disease caught up with me at the age of 43? If it had, I certainly had no one to blame but myself.
Following multiple tests, the news was fortunately the same as my doctor had been telling me for years: there was nothing wrong that losing weight and getting in shape wouldn’t cure. This time, however, the doctor issued an ultimatum: “I want you back in six months. If your blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides are no different than they are today, we’re going to start medication.” With that, he sent me home to wonder and wander through the maze of an emerging midlife crisis. Who was I? How did I want to live? Why did I want to live? What did I want to do? It was a daunting and troubling time. But it was also an incredibly creative, inventive, and fertile time.
Six months later I returned to the doctor 65 pounds lighter. All my health indicators were not only in the normal range, they were optimal. “What did you do?” asked my doctor. “I just did what you told me to do,” I said. “None of my patients do what I tell them to do!” he exclaimed. After a good laugh, he sent me out the door as a new man with a clean bill of health. It was a heady, intoxicating, and exhilarating moment that has irrevocably shaped who I am.
After finishing the 2005 Boston Marathon in a time of 3:57, I had to laugh at myself. Five years earlier I had run the Boston marathon in 3:46; I was demoralized during that race by the number of times I had to stop and I was upset with myself for not running faster. Now I look at that time and think, “Wow! To run that hilly Boston course in 3:46 is great!” How perspective and the passage of time change things.
Unfortunately most of us stop using our imaginations after childhood. Ask a young child to play a pretend game, and they’re likely to plunge in with gusto. Ask an adult and you may get a groan. We would do well to heed the words of Dr. Seuss. “I like nonsense,” he said, “it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living; it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. (It’s what) enables (us) to laugh at life’s realities.”
When was the last time that you woke up your brain cells with nonsense? When was the last time that you imagined, in vivid detail, the perfect day, the perfect vacation, the perfect life, the perfect world, or the perfectly impossible? It’s really not hard to do, if you give yourself permission and take the time.
At one point I was in a restaurant having lunch with a friend. Engaged by the conversation, I reached for something across the table, knocking over my water in the process. As the wait staff came over to help clean up the mess, one of the waiters quipped, “Some people ask, ‘Do you see the glass as half-full? Or do you see the glass as half-empty?’ But I ask, ‘Do you see the glass?'”
The man’s point, which got an immediate laugh because I had obviously not paid attention to the glass before I had knocked it over, was, perhaps, more profound than he knew. How often have we been encouraged to see the glass as half-full? It is almost axiomatic in the self-help literature to encourage positive thinking. Don’t look for the deficits, we are told, but focus on the assets. That will give us a better experience of life and may even nudge things forward in a positive direction.
Who better to call that axiom into question than someone who fills glasses for a living? I’m sure I was neither the first nor the last person to spill a glass of water in that restaurant. And it really didn’t matter whether I viewed the glass as half-full or half-empty; by failing to pay attention to the glass • by failing to pay attention to what was there • I still made a mess. And then there was no way to not pay attention to the glass. How fascinating!
In the classic Christmas tale by Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge was set free for life when he came face-to-face with, and chose to abandon his fears. Suddenly he discovered a zest for life • a well-being of soul • that animated his body, his generosity, and his relationships. He became, Dickens notes, “as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a person, as anyone in the good old world” knew. And the change was palpable.
“Some people laughed to see the alteration in him,” Dickens writes, “but Scrooge let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset. And knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eye in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed, and that was quite enough for him.”
Consider the following factoids:
- The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
- The Mexicans eat a lot of fat and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
- The Japanese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
- The Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
- The Germans drink a lot of beers and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
Conclusion: Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you.
Laughter is in short supply in our world today, and yet it is an essential part of life and work. Those who do not laugh do not live. Understanding the integral nature of laughter, coaches laugh regularly with our clients during coaching sessions and assist our clients to laugh more on their own. The work we do may be very serious, both as to its importance and as to its intensity, but that does not mean we have to take ourselves seriously. By laughing at ourselves and the funny things we do, the load becomes lighter, the challenge becomes brighter, and our sense of community becomes tighter. Sometimes, in coaching, we encourage clients to laugh for no reason at all. Just do it and things will start looking up.
Provision 509, devoted to laughing out loud, made three simple points: (1) if you don’t feel like laughing, do it anyway. Laughter is a healing balm that lifts the spirits and restores the soul. (2) if you feel like laughing, do it out loud. A quiet, inward chuckle has nowhere near the fitness benefits of loud, boisterous laughs. (3) if you want a fitness regimen, do it often. Young children laugh 400 times per day; adults laugh 17 times per day. So become like little children, and live! You can read the whole Provision in the archive section of our website.
Enjoy the day and don’t forget to laugh. 🙂
Coaching Inquiries: What gets you to laughing? How could you become more of a proactive laugher? Where could you look for humor, goodness, and grace? How could you more fully express your appreciation for the good stuff? Who could become your laughter buddies in life and work? Why not start right now?
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LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..
I just wanted to ‘thank you• for your latest Provision, Stepping Out. I found it to be perfect advice for trying to sort out this global mess we find ourselves in but more importantly it provides great advice for us individually. Making choices is a constant throughout life and it is easy to get so bogged down in making the •right• choice that we lose sight of the benefits of simply moving forward and experiencing that fully . It’s ALL good when viewed with an open attitude and perception. Hope your week is one of putting one foot in front of the other and stepping out….
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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