I have been really loving Muay Thai lately, and it’s finally hit that point where I’m not just going to class but I’ve begun reading about different people’s techniques, watching videos, and trying to better understand the history of Thai Boxing. During this process, I came across a really fantastic blog by the professional fighter Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu. Her writing is really great and she has some really instructional videos too. If this is something you’re at all interested in, I highly recommend giving her site a look over here – http://8limbs.us/. She has a ton of interesting articles on gender, fighting, life in Thailand, and more.

Last night, I was watching a training video of hers, working on kneeing a bag (http://8limbs.us/muay-thai-thailand/sylvies-tips-improve-your-knee-bagwork-rounds-of-play-knees). As part of this video, at the 4:11 mark, she says “It’s important to breath”, and continues “and pretend you’re winning, it’s more fun” And she says it with a giant smile on her face.

I only watched that last night but the line has stuck with me ever since then. “Pretend you’re winning, it’s more fun”. I think this is something I want to adopt and take into my life in general. I think at some point in time we gave up pretending for practicality, but if you’re going to do some work that’s hard anyways, why not pretend you’re winning while you do it.

While this is particularly applicable during exercise (just during my regular run tonight I’m going to try this and see my experience. What’s it like to do your jog but pretend you’re winning a race while you do?), but I think any activity you can restructure the context of that activity in your mind to make it more fun.

Sure, maybe building yet another API design for your enterprise infrastructure or reviewing the 300th document of the week isn’t all that exciting, but what if you restructured that same activity into being warned by the president that someone is trying to hack YOUR company, and the attack will come in just 2 weeks. You need to do what you can in order to ensure the United States is safe!

I think trying to play pretend can increase our general happiness and satisfaction when participating in an otherwise rote activity.

This reminds me, in turn, of another friend who made a comment years and years ago that’s stuck with me until today, and that comment was “You’re always just about as happy as you choose to be”.

I know to a lot of people that comment sounds foreign and strange and maybe even patently false, but as I’ve tried to embrace this idea over the last several years of my life, I’ve found that it really sticks, and at the times when I’m at my most unhappy, USUALLY, it’s because I’m choosing to be unhappy.

Bad things will happen to all of us. Terrible, tragic, horrible things. And when they do we have to choose how much power they have over us, and what we do in response to them.

This year, a friend of mine, Rebecca who I haven’t talked to in some time was horseback riding in South Africa (Awesome right?) and had a serious accident. She fractured her arm and tore an artery. She had 6 hours of vascular surgery to repair things, then needed to go home and have her entire elbow replaced and got, of course, a giant hospital bill for all of this.

I mean my 2016 was bad, but it wasn’t that bad.

Despite this, Becky put on a good face. In every photo taken of her she’s got a giant smile on her face, and she’s got a killer attitude. She’s sad, but she’s choosing to focus on the positive aspects. She’s choosing to be happy at the love and outpouring of support she received and how well her treatment is going, rather than fixating on the negative aspects of that.

It’s particularly powerful for me since it was 8 years ago working at a rehab in Malibu that I met Becky, and it was there that I heard the comment she made that so positively affected my life. She said “You’re always just about as happy as you choose to be”.

I think that we have some crazy shit on the horizon and while we need to stay angry and fight against it, lots of people are allowing themselves to get anxiety ridden and feel the hard downward pull into sadness and feeling overwhelmed.

So while we’re busy resisting, living, and trying to find a way to make our lives better. Going through heartache and setbacks and all the potholes we can find. Remember that you’re always just about as happy as you choose to be, and pretend you’re winning. It’s more fun.