Five years ago, I met Gianna, a woman who ran away with a circus, 21st century style.
By day, she was a translator for a cardboard packaging company. By night, she went to hula hoop classes at a circus school in London. One day, she got a call that a professional performer with the circus had an accident and they needed someone to step in. Could she do it?
Gianna is now a professional hula hoop performer.
After seeing her perform, I realised that I took myself far too seriously in many parts of my life. I approached it with an understanding that “I’ll be happy when…”. I held a belief that if I worked hard enough, I’d be able to have this intangible thing that would make me happy. But I was a hard worker, I’ve been working since I was 14. I’ve been working very hard for most of my life.
My approach to life had to change.
Two words that hold expectation, hope, and tension. And for what? For a definite measure of happiness or success?
In her book The Five Regrets of the Dying, Bronnie Ware shared that one regret was “I wish I had let myself be happier”.
Is there a way to become happier?
I am learning how to juggle. That dream of joining a circus in the twenty-first century never left me. I went online and found videos. I had to master throwing one ball first, which sounds easy, but it has a certain pattern it has to follow mid-air. (I have aimed high with the technique I chose). Today, I tried to move onto two balls and I ended up flinging the balls sideways instead of up and over. It takes five minutes practice here and there during my day. I forgot how great it feels to learn something new and to see the progression, even when it’s minutiae.
By learning something new, our brains fire off different synapses and connections. Old knowledge that might be of use sparks up, and new information welcomed with joyful abandon.
Learning something new is also a core need for our psychological well being. When we immerse in the experience, we are in a thing called FLOW.
According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi flow is:
“a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it”.
His work explores, “in everyday life, in our normal experience, do we feel really happy?”
The good news is, indeed, we can. We can feel happy in the flow state and work from there. Which is all well and good, but can we feel happy with an overflowing basket of ironing to get through? I believe so, and here are three ways to help you get some things done, feel a sense of accomplishment and a sense of happiness.
1. Make a Get to Do List.
· A list can be great but it can seem daunting. When we change the wording around a task, we see that this is something we can control and we have a choice over.
· Draw a line down the middle of the page. On one side, write what you Get-to-Do and on the other, what are you working towards. E.g. – Ironing – more clothes to wear. Exercise – a healthy heart
· Writing down the long-term benefit helps shape your self-talk towards the activity.
2. Pomodoro Technique
· A time management technique developed in the 1980s. It breaks tasks into chunks of time. You set a timer for 25 minutes. You are only allowed to do the task at hand for 25 minutes.
· When the alarm goes, set it for 5 minutes and take that as a break.
3. Develop child-like curiosity
· Become open to learning about what you don’t know. It is liberating when you realise that you will never know everything, and nobody out there will either. That means, we can learn from each other and learn new things all the time.
I am a long way off a career in juggling, yet, there is a bounty of pleasure in learning something new, for fun and just for me.