Are you happy at the moment?
Most definitely. Wow, it feels great to say that. I think for many years I was a happiness saboteur! I followed a very conventional path as set out by what I thought I was “supposed to do” and often let the opinion of others drown out that of my own. It’s taken me a long time to learn how to quiet my mind and bring clarity to that little guiding voice from within. That voice that makes it clear who I am and what I am capable of doing. And now that this inner voice has been unleashed, it seems to blare often and emphatically! It’s driven me to give up my tech career and enter a life of coaching, teaching, and learning from others. It’s helped me find love in many different forms. It’s helped me find purpose and meaning. In all of this, I am happy.
If you could go back and say anything to your 16-year-old self now – what would it be?
At 16, I was tough on the outside, but riding an emotional tidal wave on the inside. I never learned to cope with adversity – not properly, at least. I was the queen of exaggeration… little molehills in my life regularly blew up into mountains of pain and sorrow. I often suffered in silence clutching onto my motto, “No one gets it!” I learned much later that people do indeed understand what kids go through when they feel anxious, depressed, misunderstood, or just plain stressed out. I learned there are effective methods to cope with problems and increase one’s resilience. I also learned it’s possible to find deep purpose and meaning in life. I would go back and say, “Little, Renee, ride the wave for a while. Trust me, you are not only going to survive, you will learn the skills to truly thrive.”
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned this year?
Imbalance is okay. Motherhood, marriage, and my beloved profession necessitate constant mental and emotional output. Sometimes this leaves me feeling a bit off-kilter. This year, I’ve learned that instead of always trying to strike that perfect “balance” with everything, it’s fruitful to just accept the imbalance without self-judgement. I feel that instead of eliminating my challenge, I have changed my relationship with it.
What do you most want to achieve in the next 12 months?
I have this crazy idea that not only can we reduce anxiety and depression in children, but we can also prevent it. To this end, I create programs that teach kids, parents, and educators skills of resilience and well-being. In the next 12 months, I hope to expand this programming beyond the US to provide it a global voice.
What’s your secret to happiness?
Hmmm… great question. Honestly, my secret is practice. It’s ironic (or appropriate) that although I have a degree in positive psychology (a.k.a. the science of happiness), I am a natural pessimist. Fortunately, I’m also a real life example that training the mind can change the way the brain perceives the world. I practice optimism. I practice gratitude. I practice mindfulness. I practice savoring. I’m happy each day because I do happiness workouts and flex those muscles that were collecting dust over the years. Over time, these practices have provided me a viable (and practical) path to happiness.
What one ritual or practice keeps you grounded?
A 10-minute daily meditation. No matter what the circumstance or what kind of manic day I am having, I take ten minutes to quiet my mind and body. This keeps me grounded.
What’s your biggest regret?
My biggest regret is believing for so long that there was a definitive roadmap to happiness. My roadmap looked like this: get good grades, get into a good college, get a good job, find a good man, have 2.2 kids all by the age of 30 and then BOOM! Happiness. It didn’t quite work out that way.
My plan derailed in the midst of the “good man” bullet point and I was devastated. Here is what made it worse – instead of picking up and moving on, I lamented over my broken roadmap (for years). I believed by a particular age, I should have accomplished a particular goal. This flawed assumption caused me extreme pain. Here is the reality I later learned: you can do anything you want, at any age you want to do it. You can start over at any time in your life, and sometimes the unexpected brings in more meaning and purpose than you ever originally conceived.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve taught your kid(s)?
Well, I’d like to think in her nearly eleven weeks of existence, I’ve had tremendous influence on her life. 🙂 I’ve taught her how to look incredibly adorable even in the midst of a shrill cry, how to wrap anyone around her iddy biddy finger with a slightly crooked smile, and how to always, always give daddy a charming gaze when she has a poopy diaper.
What bad habit would you most like to change about yourself?
I have become a texter – almost to the complete exclusion of actually speaking on the phone. It’s become so bad that when my phone rings, I literally scowl and wonder why the person didn’t have the courtesy to just send a text. I mean, who still calls people?!
Aside from motherhood and marriage what are you most proud of in your life?
I am proud that I have taken the shadows from my past and made them the strengths upon which I’ve built my life work. I was a non-resilient child; so I teach kids skills of resilience. I am proud of this path.
When were you happiest?
I would have to say now. So, I guess I am happiest at this precise moment. Oh wait, the moment has passed… now I’m happiest. Wait, wait, I mean now. No, now. I mean, now… 🙂
All kidding aside, I am genuinely at the best place I have ever been in my life, and the path ahead continues to excite me.
What ten words best describe you?
Genuine, empathetic, daring, simple, complex, humorous, gritty, clear, loving, unexpected.
Renee Jain is an award-winning entrepreneur, speaker, best-selling author, and certified life coach. Renee is also one of less than 300 people in the world to earn her Master’s degree in Positive Psychology – the scientific study of optimal human functioning – from the University of Pennsylvania.
She has been personally mentored and trained by some of the top depression prevention experts in the world and is a gifted life coach who has coached over 5,000 clients in the science of resilience.
Today Renee is focused on equipping parents, schools and physicians with ground-breaking social and emotional learning programs for kids. This year she is using her influence to bring awareness to the important issue of anxiety relief for children through her www.gostrengths.com and www.GoZen.com programs.