My father is an unusually cheery person, and he enthusiastically embraces any proposed plan—and what’s more, he’s also willing to pitch in whenever someone says, “We’re going to make Swedish cookies this afternoon. Will you go to the store to pick up some eggs?” or “We’re out of batteries for the toy vacuum. Will you go to Costco?”
I’ve always taken this aspect of his character for granted (though my work on the Happiness Project has helped me start to appreciate it), but lately I keep thinking about a seemingly unremarkable conversation between my parents when we were home for Christmas.
“We’re having pizza for dinner,” my mother told my father when he walked in the door after work.
“Wonderful! Wonderful!” my father answered immediately. “That sounds great. Do you want me to go pick it up?”
I’m trying to adopt that attitude. When the Big Man makes a suggestion, like “Let’s go out for lunch,” or “How about going to the park this afternoon?” I’m trying to answer with an eager “Great idea!” and “How can I help?” instead of tepid “Okay” or “Sure” or “If you want.”
Enthusiasm is a source of energy, and by not responding with enthusiasm, I’m draining energy out of the moment.
By nature, I think I’m a pretty low-enthusiasm person. I don’t much like adventure, or inconvenience, or novelty, or even being too hot or too cold. Nevertheless, I’m trying to remember my commandment to “Act as I would feel.” And it does work—by acting more enthusiastic, I begin to feel more enthusiastic.
Also, because enthusiasm is catching, when the Big Man and I both act enthusiastic, our two girls start acting more enthusiastic, too. And it’s just much more fun to live in that atmosphere than in an atmosphere of, “Well, if you want, I guess we could…”
I like checking out Penelope Trunk’s blog Brazen Careerist, so I was curious to read her new book of the same name. The book, like her blog, is written in a snappy, conversational style — and is quite funny.
I’m particularly interested in her work, because she incorporates a lot of the happiness studies. She actually picked up and moved to Madison, Wisconsin, because the research predicted that she’d be happier there. That shows a real dedication to living by your own advice. I was impressed with myself when I did the five-day drawing course, just eight subways stops from my apartment.
Some of her more provocative arguments: “Being likeable matters more than being competent,” “Blame yourself first,” “Don’t be supportive,” “How to manage a boomer boss,” “A messy desk makes you look incompetent,” “Use harassment to boost your career,” “Typecast yourself.” A lot of these are counter-intuitive, which is what makes them interesting — you have to read the book before you can decide whether you disagree.