“I Used to Think That Cheery, Regularly Happy People Were Too ‘Lite’…”

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Happiness interview: Danielle LaPorte.

I heard about Danielle LaPorte several years ago, when I read a Domino magazine article about her work. I found her ideas so interesting that I got in touch with her, and over the years, I’ve gotten to know her better and better.

There’s tremendous buzz around her latest book, which hits the shelves next week. The Fire Starter Sessions: A Soulful + Practical Guide to Creating Success on Your Own Terms is a terrific resource for anyone who wants to get clarity on what they want and how to get there. Passion and purpose! And making ideas real. These are Danielle’s big themes.

Gretchen: What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?

Danielle: Impromptu kitchen disco. (Note: cooking is not required, especially at my house. Just clear the floor, crank the tunes and get down ON it.)

What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

Happiness is a choice. Often, some “rising above it” is required, or some rigorous re-framing of a perspective. But you can intentionally shift your psycho-spiritual gears into a genuine state of happiness.

The most profound thing I’ve figured out about happiness, is that it’s the clearest indicator of deep wellness. I’m much less broody and moody than I was when I was in my twenties (one would hope so, right?) So happiness is, like, hipper to me than now than it used to be. I used to think that cheery, regularly happy people were too “lite,” too…in denial of something. But I get now that happiness is the result of our core vitality and resilience. Peace is my new cool.

Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?

Other than staying up too late? Which I do. All the time.

Well, I’m pretty righteous when it comes to customer service—the cell phone rep, the waiter, the gum-poppin’ cashier…I get inordinately peeved with lame service and get myself into a tizzy about how half the world needs to pull up their socks and be more polite. I could definitely lighten up and send some loving kindness instead of prickly posturing.

Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”) Or a happiness quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful? Or a particular book that has stayed with you?

Motto: My true nature is joy.

Quote: Turn as the earth and moon, circling what they love.—Rumi

Book: The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have by Mark Nepo

Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?

Happiness boosters: One of my dearest friends runs triathlons. She tells me the endorphins are like a bliss drug—and she proves that by being incredibly positive most of the time. I won’t be doing any triathlons soon, but I can personally attest, as can my athletic and yoga-practicing friends, that moving your body is the surest way to feel better.

Happiness detractors: My heart breaks for people who obsess about the past. Chronically replaying how you got wronged is putting a fat wedge between you and true fulfillment. Face forward.

Have you always felt about the same level of happiness, or have you been through a period when you felt exceptionally happy or unhappy—if so, why? If you were unhappy, how did you become happier?

During some excruciatingly difficult times in my life, it came down to this declaration / mantra: I will do whatever it takes to be happy. That resolve and devotion opened my life up so much wider. The expansion wasn’t entirely comfortable, of course. It meant I had to walk away from some things (brutal). It meant I had to find my edges, go to places I’d avoided, examine if my dreams were still the right size for my soul.

The learning brought me so much sweetness. I found new things—new theories, foods, cities, yoga poses, ideas, friends, new ways of seeing old friends, that brought me to new depths of happiness.

I made happiness the sacred priority. It worked.

Do you work on being happier? If so, how?

Always, every day, constantly. (Except when I’m happy being miserable.) I try not to work on being happy, as much as I try listen for it. It’s usually there, chillin’ out in my psyche, waiting for me to stop and takes its cues.

Have you ever been surprised that something you expected would make you very happy, didn’t—or vice versa?

I can hardly believe it, but our new guinea pigs are joy-balls. I had a strict no-rodent policy, but my eight-year-old son ran an impressive birthday campaign (I promise I’ll love the guinea pigs forever and ever!) and we now have “Jack Black” and “Bruno Mars” in the house. They’re smart. And soft. (Two of my favorite qualities in people.) We adore them.

As for things that I think would bring me great happiness, but wind up being less than incredible…I consistently convince myself that a new pair of shoes will revolutionize my entire life. The high of high heels is fleeting—but I’m committed to keep trying. Like I said, I will do whatever it takes to be happy.