As the artist Thomas Kinkade said, When we learn to say a deep, passionate yes to the things that really matter, then peace begins to settle onto our lives like golden sunlight sifting to a forest floor. Marci Shimoff has been like golden sunlight in the lives of many.
Marci Shimoff, one of the bestselling female nonfiction authors of all time, is the woman’s face of the biggest self-help book phenomenon in history, Chicken Soup for the Soul. Her six bestselling titles in the series, including Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul and Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul, have met with stunning success, selling more than 13 million copies worldwide in 33 languages and have been on the New York Times bestseller list for a total of 108 weeks.
In addition, she’s a featured teacher in the international film and book phenomenon The Secret. Her new book, Happy for No Reason: Seven Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out, was recently released and went to the top of the charts. It was number one on Amazon, number one on Barnes and Noble, and number two on the New York Times bestseller list.
It’s a great book that offers a revolutionary approach to experiencing deep and lasting happiness. As an acclaimed authority on success and happiness, Marci has been on more than 500 national and regional television and radio shows, and has been interviewed for over 100 newspaper articles nationwide. Her writing has appeared in national women’s magazines, including Ladies’ Home Journal and Women’s World.
Marci earned her MBA from UCLA and holds an advanced certificate as a stress management consultant. She is a founding member and is on the board of directors of the Transformational Leadership Council, a group of 100 top leaders serving over 10 million people in the self-development market.
JANET ATTWOOD: Thank you so much for being with us tonight, Marci.
MARCI SHIMOFF: I am so happy for good reason to be here with you, Janet! This is just thrilling! Out of all of those things, I consider you being one of my dear friends to be at the top of the list.
JANET ATTWOOD: I just have to add, for everyone listening, that the thing that I love about you, Marci, is that you really live this. You really embody the knowledge that’s in your book. For as long as I’ve known you, your whole point in being alive is to really be grounded in truth and in what is the purpose of life. I really think you’ve found it. I want to tell everyone that over a year ago Marci told me about her book that she was going to be writing.
Right when she said ‘happy for no reason,’ I said, Okay, that’s it! It’s going to be one of those books that’s going to end up on everyone’s bedside table, and it will stay there. I was right, Marci, and I’m really proud of myself; I just want you to know.
MARCI SHIMOFF: Thank you, Janet. You were always one of my best cheerleaders. I really appreciate it.
JANET ATTWOOD: Marci, how did your passions, the things that mean the most to you, lead you to the work that you do today?
MARCI SHIMOFF: I actually saw my first professional speaker when I was 13 years old. It was a man named Zig Ziglar. It was in the early 1970s; I saw him speak, and I just immediately knew that that’s what I was supposed to do in this life. It was just an epiphany. Of course, it didn’t make my parents all that happy because back in the early 1970s, nobody knew what ‘professional speaker’ meant.
I went home and told them I was going to be a professional speaker. They’d wanted me to be dental hygienist because my father was dentist. My mom said, Honey, you sure talk enough. You might as well get paid for it. At that early age, I saw myself standing in front of audiences speaking. I did start off speaking about teaching success, the Law of Attraction, and things like that.
The reality is that what I cared more about than success was happiness. I was not born happy. I tell people that I did not win the happiness jackpot at birth. I came out of the womb with existential angst. I was the five-year-old who was brooding in the corner about the condition of the world while all my friends were watching Romper Room. Yet, I was very fortunate, because I had a father who was the happiest person I knew.
He woke up every morning with a smile on his face. His motto was, Any day that I’m breathing is a good day! I remember when I was 19, we were driving down the road one day, and I looked at him and said, Dad, what’s your best advice for life? He looked at me and he said four words. He said, Honey, just be happy, at which point I threw my arms up into the air, and I said, Dad, that’s so easy for you to say. You just are naturally happy.
How do I do that? At that point, he said four more words, Honey, I don’t know. It was at that moment that I decided that I was going to spend my life finding out the answer to that question: How do I be happy, and how do other people be happy? For a long time that remained a mystery, but in recent years what’s so thrilling is that we’ve actually cracked the code on happiness.
We really know what it is that it takes to make people happy. This passion of mine that began long, long ago is thrilling, because I now feel that I’m able to answer those questions and share those answers with many people through Happy for No Reason.
JANET ATTWOOD: You wrote the first sequel to Chicken Soup for the Soul, Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul, and you’ve written seven others that have sold over 13 million books. You’ve been a New York Times bestselling author multiple times, so will you tell us the story of how you got to write those books? Did you always plan to be a writer?
MARCI SHIMOFF: I definitely did not always plan to be a writer. In fact, I thought that I was writing-challenged, but I always knew that I wanted to inspire millions of people around the world; that was my intention. I love telling this story because, Janet, this story you’re a part of. You and I both have a mentor who we’ve worked with, named Bill Levacy, who’s taught us this great formula for success, which is the Three Steps: Intention, Attention, and No Tension.
What I like to say is the reason I was able to write Chicken Soup for the Soul or Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul was because of those three steps-intention, attention, and no tension. I’ll explain why. The step of intention is being clear on what you want. As I said, when I was about 13 I became very clear that what I wanted to do in this life was to inspire millions of people around the world through knowledge and inspiration about what could make their lives better.
My intention was clear. The second step is attention; whatever you put your attention on grows stronger in your life. I certainly spent a lot of time putting my attention on that goal of inspiring people. In fact, I got an MBA in training and development. I taught corporate training programs, and Jack Canfield became my mentor-Jack Canfield created the Chicken Soup for the Soul series-well before Chicken Soup ever came about, in the late 1980s.
I was doing a lot in the area of teaching self-esteem for women, and things were going along well in my career, but I felt a little bit like I was hitting up against a wall. I was kind of stuck. I wasn’t inspiring the millions of people who I knew I was to inspire. This was in 1994, and the first Chicken Soup for the Soul book had just come out. I was feeling stuck in my career.
A lot of people, I know, can relate to that feeling-stuck feeling. My normal tendency is to just plow on through, push through; but I was burned out, honestly. At that time, I decided to go on a seven-day silent meditation retreat. Now I hadn’t been silent for more than two hours in my life before that, so that was a real, real challenge. You know it well because, Janet, I went on that silent meditation retreat with you.
You were really good at this silence thing. I, on the other hand, had to write little notes and things. It was so hard to be completely silent, but I didn’t say a word during that time. That was the third step, this no-tension step of that formula-intention, attention, no tension-where you just let go. You relax. You take your attention off of what you’re trying to accomplish and just go into a state of inner peace and well-being.
That’s what I did. In the middle of the fourth day of that retreat, in the middle of silence, I was meditating, and a light bulb went off in my head that said, Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul. Now at the time, none of the specialty Chicken Soup for the Soul books had been conceived, but as soon as I saw those words ‘Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul,’ I knew that was it.
I knew it was a great idea. I knew it would really hit, and it was fantastic. There was only one problem. I had to stay silent for another three days. I had just had this epiphany of my life, and I couldn’t tell anybody. As soon as the three days were over, I ran directly to the payphone. I don’t even think I went to say anything to you; I went right to the payphone and I called up Jack Canfield.
I said, Jack, I’ve got it: Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul. He said, Oh, my gosh! What a great idea; 90% of our readers are women. He picked up the phone, called the publisher, and said, We’ve got it: Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul, and the publisher said, Oh, my gosh! What a great idea. Within a few weeks we had the contract in the mail.
A year later Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul came out and was a number one New York Times bestseller. Janet, I know it only happened because of all three of those steps: intention, attention, and no tension. Do you know what I’ve found? It’s that most people in our society are fairly good about the intention step, about getting clear on what they want. Certainly, the Passion Test is a great tool to help them with the intention step. Then many people are good with the attention step. They put their attention on it.
What we’re not so good at is the no-tension step, that letting go, relaxing, being at ease and trusting that the highest good will be done. That’s what I’m so grateful for, that I went on that silent retreat at your urging, and that’s where Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul was born.
JANET ATTWOOD: Marci, I just want to share with everyone that you also did the same thing when you cognized or downloaded-or however you want to put it-Happy for No Reason, isn’t that true?
MARCI SHIMOFF: Actually, it is. About five years ago I was feeling a little stuck again. I knew that I wanted to write a book on happiness, but I knew it needed a name. From my Chicken Soup for the Soul experience, I knew that a name is really important. I made all kinds of lists, I put my attention on it, and it wasn’t coming to me. I decided that years ago, when I went on that silent meditation retreat, I came up with Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul.
Let me try it again. Five years ago I went, but this time I only went in silence for four days. I figured the first time the answer came to me in four days, so maybe all I need is four days. Sure enough, on the fourth day of silence came the name Happy for No Reason. As soon as it came to me, I knew that that was the title of the book. It was at that point that really the whole book and the whole concept of ‘happy for no reason’ started to really fall into place. I’m a big believer in this silence thing.
JANET ATTWOOD: Yes. I’m so thankful to you for sharing this story, because it’s such a lesson for everyone to stop, step out of your busy life, and to just take the time for yourself. Wouldn’t you agree, Marci, this is a really important step of self-love, just letting go?
MARCI SHIMOFF: It is. I know that there are many people listening for whom taking off for four days of silence might not be practical. If you’ve got children who are needing your attention it may not be practical, but do you know what? Everybody can take a day. Everybody can take one day to just relax, let go, take your mind off of everything, deeply rest, and see what happens.
This step of no tension, by the way, doesn’t need to be taken in even a day; you can take 10 minutes and relax on a regular basis. I’m a firm believer in that. In fact, it’s one of the seven steps to being happy from the inside out; on a regular basis, plug yourself into spirit.
JANET ATTWOOD: You’ve studied and you’ve taught about the success principles, self-esteem and the Law of Attraction for over 30 years. In the last 10 years, why did you decide to study the field of happiness?
MARCI SHIMOFF: I’ve certainly known a lot of people, and I know you do too, Janet, who are very, very successful, but they’re not really happy. Success does not equal happiness. The bottom line of what we all want, and what people have wanted for time immemorial, is happiness. In fact, ask yourself why it is that you’re doing anything. The three goals that you have right now, why do you have those as three goals?
The only reason you have those as goals is, ultimately, because you think that they will make you happy. Aristotle called happiness the goal of all goals. It’s really what we want more than anything. I decided to cut to the chase and study happiness. I certainly knew and understand very much the principles of success and the principles of the Law of Attraction; but ultimately, they’re not really the bottom line of what we want. The bottom line of what we all want is happiness.
What’s so thrilling is that for the first time in history, science actually knows what makes people happy. There’s this whole field called the field of positive psychology that researches happiness. This one thing that we’ve all wanted since time immemorial, for the first time ever, science knows how to get. To me, that should be headline news, that we’ve cracked the code on happiness. Everybody should know about that.
JANET ATTWOOD: Happy for No Reason suggests a whole new paradigm of happiness. What exactly do you mean by ‘happy for no reason’?
MARCI SHIMOFF: Happy for No Reason is a whole new paradigm of happiness. Before I go into what that paradigm is, I want to also say what the deal is about happiness these days in our society, because it’s hugely hot. Everywhere you turn, people are talking about happiness. It’s been on the cover of Time magazine. Publishers Weekly said in an article recently that every once in a while a new trend comes along in publishing, and the trend of today is happiness.
In fact, they called it the ‘new black’; it’s the in-fashion thing. Part of why I think people are talking about happiness right now so much is that we have an epidemic of unhappiness in our society. One out of five women in America is on anti-depressants. That’s just staggering; one out of five women on anti-depressants. Twenty-five percent, one out of four people, in America say that they are depressed.
We really have a great need. We’re working harder than we ever have, we have more than we’ve ever had, and yet we’re unhappier than ever. I’m really very heartened to know that people are now starting to look for happiness in the right places. This epidemic of unhappiness, I think, stems from us looking for happiness in all the wrong places, and I’ll give you two examples.
We have these two myths. One of them I call the Myth of More; that is that the more I have, the happier I’ll be. Science and research have shown that that’s not true, that once you’re above the level of poverty, no amount of money will make you happier. In fact, of the wealthiest people on the Forbes wealthiest-people-in-America list, 40% of those people are less happy than the average American.
JANET ATTWOOD: Marci, say that again. That’s huge.
MARCI SHIMOFF: That was 40% of all the people on the wealthiest list that Forbes puts together are less happy than the average American. Having more doesn’t make us happier. There was a great interview with John Paul Getty a number of years ago. He was the wealthiest man in the world at the time. They asked him, How do you know when you have enough? His answer was, Not yet. He didn’t have enough yet.
Here’s the wealthiest man in the world, who didn’t have enough yet. If he didn’t have enough yet, then we’re all in trouble. Do you know what? It’s never going to work, looking for happiness from these outside things. The second myth that we have is what I call the Myth of I’ll-Be-Happy-When. It says, I’ll be happy when I get a raise, or I’ll be happy when I find the right husband or wife.
JANET ATTWOOD: Here’s mine: I’ll be happy when I lose 10 pounds. That’s one I’ve had for years.
MARCI SHIMOFF: That’s the biggie!
JANET ATTWOOD: It is, isn’t it?
MARCI SHIMOFF: It is, and it’s a myth. First of all, it’s always putting happiness off into the future, and it’s never going to be found there. Secondly, they’ve actually done research that shows that we have an inability to tell what’s going to make us happy in the future. Once we get that thing that we thought was going to make us happy, within just a couple of days or weeks we become acclimated to it, and it’s not what brings us lasting happiness.
The answer to your original question about ‘happy for no reason’ being a new paradigm is this. Here’s the deal. Most people are looking for what we call ‘happy for good reason.’ Let me get all the good reasons; let me gather up all the circumstances and things that I think will make me happy: the right house, the right partner, the right body, and all of these things.
The reality is that will bring you only a certain amount of happiness. It’s not lasting. ‘Happy for good reason’ only takes us so far. What we’re all really looking for is something deeper, and that’s lasting happiness. That’s what I call ‘happy for no reason.’ Let me define that. ‘Happy for no reason’ is an inner state of peace and well-being that doesn’t depend on our circumstances. It’s just an inner backdrop that you carry with you wherever you go, of peace and well-being.
People ask, Does this mean that you’re walking around with a silly grin on your face 24/7? No, it doesn’t mean that. It doesn’t mean that you’re in denial. People who are happy for no reason still can get angry. They still may experience grief or sadness, but in the midst of all that they carry with them a backdrop of inner peace and well-being that allows them to get over those things more quickly and easily.
Then they just carry that joy with them wherever they go. I like to say that when you’re happy for no reason, rather than trying to extract your happiness from life, you bring your happiness to all of your experiences.
JANET ATTWOOD: I love what you said: the inner state of peace and well-being that doesn’t depend on our circumstances. That’s definitely it, isn’t it?
MARCI SHIMOFF: That’s it. That’s really what we all want most deeply in our heart. It’s what we’re put here on the planet for, to experience that state. It’s possible, and that’s what’s really exciting.
JANET ATTWOOD: What’s the most important thing you discovered? You did all this research on happiness. What was the most important thing of all that you came up with in your search?
MARCI SHIMOFF: The thing that really just turned everything around for me was the discovery of what’s called our ‘happiness set-point.’ We all have a happiness set-point, and no matter what happens to us, we tend to hover around the same happiness level. For example, they found that for people who won the lottery-and a lot people think that’s the golden ticket to happiness-within a year of winning the lottery, they’ve returned to their original happiness set-point level.
Shockingly, the same was also true of people who became paraplegic. Even when bad things happen, within a year they had returned to their original happiness set-point. The really important thing is our happiness set-point. That set-point is 50% genetic, so you’re born with that. It’s only 10% based on your circumstances, and the other 40%, which is the part we can really do something about, is based on our habits of thought and behavior.
Just like you can raise the thermostat at home to get warm on a cold day, you can actually raise your happiness set-point to become happier, and you don’t have to become thinner, richer, or smarter to do it. That is the thing that everybody should know, because it’s all about your happiness set-point, and we know how you can raise that.
JANET ATTWOOD: I love that. Forty percent is a big place to play. Do you know what I mean?
MARCI SHIMOFF: It is, and do you know what’s really also quite amazing? It’s not just the 40% that I think gets changed by our habits of thoughts and behavior. There’s research done by people like Bruce Lipton, who wrote a book called, which shows that even when you change your thoughts, beliefs, feelings and behaviors, that you can actually change your DNA-the 50% that’s genetic-as well. There’s some research done to indicate that, too. There’s just a whole lot that we can change through our habits.
JANET ATTWOOD: I know the big question that everybody is probably chomping at the bit for me to ask-I am, too-is what can a person do to raise his happiness set-point?
MARCI SHIMOFF: I interviewed over 100 unconditionally happy people-I call them my Happy 100-and, Janet, you’re one of them. What I found is that the only difference between people who have lasting happiness and everybody else is that they have different habits. It’s as simple as that. I uncovered 21 core happiness habits that anyone can practice to raise their happiness level.
An interesting thing is the line in the Declaration of Independence that I’m often quoted when I tell people that I’m writing a book on happiness. It is Thomas Jefferson’s line that we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We’ve really misinterpreted that phrase. Back in Thomas Jefferson’s day, the word ‘pursuit’ didn’t mean to chase after.
We all think that we’re supposed to chase after happiness or pursue it. Back in his day, the word ‘pursuit’ meant to practice. We were supposed to practice the habits of happy people, of happiness, not chase after happiness. Really, the thing that we can do to raise our happiness set-point is to practice these habits of happy people. It’s really quite simple to do.
JANET ATTWOOD: What can we do? Can you give us a couple of them? You talk in the book, I know, about your ‘inner home for happiness,’ building your inner home for happiness. Can you tell us about that? I’m sure this must be the foundation, right?
MARCI SHIMOFF: It is. What I decided is this. I have these 21 habits, and they actually fell into seven different areas of life. That’s why I call it them the ‘Seven Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out.’ There are seven steps, and in each step there are three different habits. By the way, I know some people are saying, Oh, my gosh! I can’t learn 21 new habits. I have found that even practicing one or two of these has had a tremendous impact on raising people’s happiness set-points.
You don’t have to start off with all 21; just one or two. What I did was I created what I call the ‘inner home for happiness,’ building your inner home for happiness, because I found that people can’t remember seven steps very easily; I know I can’t. If I created a model or an analogy, then it would be easier to remember. I created an analogy of building a home.
There are seven main components of your home: there’s a foundation, there are four pillars or four corners, there’s a roof, there’s a garden. Those are the seven steps: the foundation, the four pillars, the roof and the garden. Let me just briefly give you an overview of what those seven steps are. The foundation is step number one, and that is to take full responsibility for your happiness. Take ownership of your happiness. Many people go through life as a victim.
They blame their circumstances; they blame their past for their unhappiness. As long as you’re in victim mode, you’ll never find happiness. The first step is to take full responsibility and ownership of your happiness. I go into very specific steps and ways to do that. The next four steps, the four pillars, are the pillar of the mind, the heart, the body and the soul. The pillar of the mind is not to believe everything you think.
I’ll just go through these really quickly, and then, Janet, we can talk about more of them later. The pillar of the mind is not to believe everything you think. The pillar of the heart is to let love lead in your life. The pillar of the body is to make the cells of your body happy. I talk about ways that you can make your cells happy, foods you can eat that are happiness foods, and ways you can breathe, exercise, and sleep to make you happier, to help increase your happiness.
Then there’s the pillar of the soul, and that’s to plug yourself into spirit. People who are happy for no reason have ways to regularly plug themselves into an energy that’s greater than themselves and recharge. Then there’s the roof, and the roof of your house is your purpose, your passion, to live an inspired life. That, Janet, is where I have your story on the Passion Test and living an inspired life.
JANET ATTWOOD: I know, Marci. Thank you, by the way. I’m so honored that I’m there.
MARCI SHIMOFF: I love your story! It’s a great story that everybody needs to read. It’s really, really a great story.
JANET ATTWOOD: It’s an honor.
MARCI SHIMOFF: The last step is the garden, and it’s the step of surrounding yourself with support. Who do you have in your garden? Is your garden surrounded with a bunch of weeds, or toxic people, or is your garden full or roses and gardenias, people who will support your own happiness? That’s a general overview of the seven steps. Within each of the seven steps, as I had mentioned, I’ve got three habits, so there are 21 habits in the book. Each habit has a story from one of my Happy 100.
It has the research behind the step, because I wanted to make sure that we had the research for everything. Then, also, one of the most important pieces it has is a tool or a technique that you can use to put that step into practice in your life. What I found is that I loved the inspiration of the stories, and I love the explanation of the step; but until people can put it into practice it doesn’t come alive in their life. That’s why I made sure that we’ve got these fabulous tools and techniques that people can use immediately.
JANET ATTWOOD: What I really love about this, Marci, and I know you’ll agree, is that this was your college that you went through yourself. All of these things that you have put into this book were tools and techniques that you had practiced yourself and found that they worked for you and in everyone else you knew. Is that correct?
MARCI SHIMOFF: Absolutely. There’s a great saying that we teach what we most want to learn. I wrote the book that I would want to read. What I did, as you know Janet, and you have too, is spent the last 30 years really finding out what is out there that works. What’s the best of the best? That’s what I included in Happy for No Reason. What is it that works that will absolutely help each person live the life they are here to live, live the highest life that they are meant to live? I’ve tested all of these tools, and I’m really very, very certain. I’ve seen them work over and over again in people’s lives.
JANET ATTWOOD: I love what you just said, that you wrote the book that you wanted to read. I’ll tell you that it’s definitely the book that I want to read. Obviously, since it’s a New York Times bestseller and number one on Barnes and Noble and Amazon, there are a lot of people who will agree with both you and me. For those of you who are ready to go out and buy the book no matter where it is, here’s an easy link to it: www.HealthyWealthynWise.com/HappyForNoReason.
I know this is only the middle of our interview, and yet I can feel through the airwaves that people want to know, Where do I get this book? Where do I get this great book?
MARCI SHIMOFF: I want to say something about this. Some people say, Can’t I just decide to be happy? What I say is …
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