Made your resolutions for 2016? A good friend asked me that question this week to which I responded, “I’ve always had problems with resolutions, I do better setting goals.”
Honestly, my response was a lame way of dodging the fact that yours truly hadn’t made any resolutions yet. And as long as we’re speaking honestly, that’s because keeping resolutions has never been one of my strong suits. For me, resolutions are just something that goes in one year and out the other, in a manner of speaking.
However, after popping off to my friend, I felt as though resolving to something was in order. So, goals it’s going to be for 2016.
Goals, so the experts say, are supposed to be well defined, have a time line and a target date, and include a reward for attaining them. Check back with me this time next year for a progress report, and we’ll try to answer the proverbial question, “So, how’s that working for you?”
In fact, I think I’ll make my first goal: being here this time next year for a progress report, and we’ll try to answer the proverbial question, “So, how’s that working for you?”
Certainly, most of us desire to enjoy as many years as possible while we’re here. Personally, I’ve always favored what comedian Groucho Marx said on that topic. When reportedly asked in an interview what he hoped people would say about him a hundred years from now, he responded, “Boy, doesn’t he look good for his age?”
Getting the maximum mileage toward reaching a ripe old age and looking good along the way begs an entirely new set of goals altogether, the primary one being a positive and happy outlook on life. Marx had something to say about that as well, possibly one of the very few serious Groucho Marx quotes recorded. “I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”
So, if we seek a longer life, my question would be why would we want to live it being unhappy? Hopefully, we would not, unless you’re like one of my relatives about whom I jokingly say, “… was in a good mood last time I saw them, but was able to get over it.” Funny? Yes, unless you know my relative.
Two of my favorite theories on how to be happy were put forth in a book entitled The Upward Spiral by Alex Korb. The postdoctoral researcher in neuroscience at UCLA says listening to music from the happiest time of our life is one key to happiness. Korb, says that we love our favorite songs because they’re associated with an intense emotional experience in our life, adding that the music we enjoyed when we were around the age of 20 is the type of music we will probably love for the rest of our life.
If you know me, you know that I’m walking, talking, living, breathing proof of that premise. The happiest memories of my life have always been centered in music. Listening to music, studying music, making music, thinking about music—makes no difference. I can’t be involved with music and be unhappy.
As for music being rooted in an intense emotional experience in life, let me tell you about my Uncle Bill, my mom’s baby brother (no, he’s not the crabby relative, he’s likely the happiest family member we have) who taught me a great game many years ago. It works like this: get a bunch of friends together and a bunch of tunes from the time period Korb suggests. Start the first song and have everyone shout out (1.) the name of the first city that comes to mind, (2.) the car they were driving at that time, and (3.) the name of the girl or guy they were dating. Guarantee a happy person won’t make it through the first verse of any song, which makes me pretty sure my aforementioned crabby relative has never played the game.
The next thing you’ll notice when you play the game is that everyone is all smiles. When a favorite song and the memory of an emotional experience collide, you can’t keep me from smiling, even around my aforementioned crabby relative.
And, this gives credence to another of Korb’s happiness factors that I like. Smile. Smile when you are happy. Smile when you’re not happy. Smile all the time. “Why would I want to do that,” my aforementioned crabby relative might ask. My mom had the answer for that. She said it makes everyone wonder what you’ve been up to.
Korb has a different theory, though. He says, “The brain isn’t always very smart.” His explanation is that the brain tries to sort out random information by looking for clues on how to react. He says that when you smile, even when you aren’t happy, it fools the brain into thinking you must in fact be happy. So, it therefore sends out happy signals counteracting how you really feel. I think Korb is on to something there as well because aforementioned crabby relative never smiles.
So, there’s my goals, aka resolutions, for 2016. I’m going to keep on enjoying my favorite music and relishing in those intense emotional memories it evokes. That will make me smile which will keep my brain thinking that I’m happy all the time and make everyone keep wondering what I’ve been up to … especially, my aforementioned crabby relative.
The reward will be living another year to do it all again. Then, as Groucho Marx also said, “Getting older is no problem. You just have to live long enough.”
Happy New Year! My wish for 2016 is a happy, blessed and prosperous year for us all, even my aforementioned crabby relative.