Subway Angels & The True Meaning of Happiness

June 12th, 2014

PressureIf you follow me on social media you know that I’ve been busy traversing the continent teaching and speaking over the past 8 weeks. It’s been such a profound honor and privilege to speak to literally thousands of men and women about how to create gender-intelligent leadership and teams (code for: learning how to play nice together and motivate others). It’s remarkable when people finally understand that a motivated and productive team is always made up of happy, healthy and heard individuals.

One of the stories I tell at the end of just about any platform speech given is on the importance of choosing happiness. Happiness IS a choice. Conflict, resentment and disagreements can oftentimes be overcome solely by the willingness to let go of 1 critical character flaw.

Today I’ll share that story with you.

7:15am and I’m running for the subway. The doors close behind me and I slink into my seat. Another day in the big city on my way to my job. Dressed head to toe in black – the uniform of NYC – expensive boots, matching purse and a pair of large Prada sunglasses. I don’t want to be engaged at all; I have my red Chanel lipstick on as a sign to the world: “don’t mess with me”.

As the train trundles down the tracks I spy an older couple standing in the doorway. Within minutes they melt my façade and I offer to help them get where they want to go. Quickly I realize they are hearing impaired.

She smiles at me and mouths “talk to him, he reads lips.”
His kind soft blue eyes melt my resolve to isolate, and I smile back. Something warms inside me. Satisfied with the directions I provided them, I turn and look out the window.

He taps me on the shoulder and our eyes lock again. He asks me “Where are you going?” I explain, “To work, although I wish I could stay in bed.” I laugh. He nods with concern and serves up the 20 million dollar question: “Are you happy?” I felt like I had just been hit in the stomach.

My mind flashed – yes, happy, yes. After all, I have a family that loves me, as crazy as they are, I own my own home in a great neighborhood, I have great friends and a job that many aspire to have. I make good money etc. The list ticked through my mind in rapid-fire succession. I smiled at him and said, “Yes, I am.”

He put his hand on my arm and looked deeply into my eyes; “That’s good. Because the secret to life is to always do whatever it takes to be happy.”

The pit of my stomach dropped out. I thought that I meant it. I thought that it was real. The subway doors opened, I found a seat on the platform and spontaneously burst into tears.

It took years for me to realize that I was not happy. Happiness is not external. Yes, external things bring comfort, but they do not bring happiness. There’s an important difference.

Happiness is an internal state of being eternally grateful, appreciative and generous. Happiness is the belief that one is always taken care of and that everything works out for your highest good. When you are and know these things, you will stop looking outside yourself to create your happiness because it is inside of you. It always has been.

Happiness also means giving up the need to be right all the time. Think about it.

These two sweet subway angels, as I call them, changed my life. Their message of kindness and compassion towards our selves and others can do the same for you. Remember, the key to life is to always do whatever it takes to be happy

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