Recently I was fortunate to travel with a great friend of mine, and a very inspirational man to the Chicago marathon to watch him compete. Being there with him I witnessed a lot of the emotions he feels in the lead up to a big event, and I found myself empathetically experiencing all of those emotions with him. Being so close with him, I knew that should he have success in that race, I would feel the joy for him as if it was a race I had won myself, and on the flip side if he was to have disappointments then I would share in those with him.
This experience got me thinking about a Buddhism philosophy I discovered a few years ago, and it motivated me to share with you all one of the hacks I’ve found for being genuinely happy, more often than not. This hack is known as Mudita.
So…… What is Mudita?
Mudita is also known as vicarious joy. It is delighting in other people’s successes or well-being. Mudita is a different feeling to pride in that the person feeling the joy may have no direct gain from the other person’s success other than a sense of happiness which is devoid of any self-interest or gain.
How does Mudita increase your happiness?
The easiest answer to this is that by feeling joy for other people’s success, it provides you more inputs and potential sources for your own happiness. If you rely solely on your own achievements and successes for your happiness, then unfortunately sometimes these can be few and far between. Especially if you are a harsh marker on yourself, or set really lofty goals which can be hard to realize. If you open your happiness sources to friends, family, and colleagues etc you have an additional pool of sources from where you can gain delight.
I have a very tight-knit group of friends that has been together for more than half our lives now and personally I know we all celebrate each other’s successes in life as if they are our own. Fortunately a lot of my friends are doing some great things with their lives, and I now have a large group of people whose personal achievements can boost my happiness at any time. But it doesn’t just have to be large achievements, we need to learn to celebrate the seemingly small accomplishments and take joy from these too. If we open ourselves to celebrating small, medium and large achievements, from friends, family, co-workers, colleagues or whoever it might be, our opportunities for happiness are endless.
Mudita in Health and fitness
I’ve observed the benefits of Mudita in our studios on many occasions, and have also seen the flip side to this, where people display resentment to others for their achievements. This adverse side of the coin is very damaging to relationships and also to your own likelihood for success.
I’ve seen mothers and daughters training together in pairs, and experienced the mother walking away from the scales in disgust and jealousy when the daughter lost weight and she hadn’t. Think about the feeling for the daughter in this situation. The one person who is supposed to be most proud of her, and instead, the injured ego of the mother spoiled what could have been a joyous moment for both people.
More often though, I’ve witnessed the opposite side of this situation where Mudita is in full effect. Clients who have become friends through their training have shown more excitement with positive results for their friend, than the person actually experiencing the result. The difference between these 2 outcomes is overwhelming, and I say without doubt that the clients experiencing Mudita for their friends, go on to achieve greater results for themselves in the future.
The negative example above shows the result when people have a scarcity mindset, or a zero sum belief system. There are not too many situations in life that are completely zero sum, which means “If I win, you don’t”, and when it relates to health and fitness there are absolutely no zero-sum equations. If your friend, family member, training partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, or whoever it might be enjoys success, it has no negative bearing over whether you can or can’t achieve your own goals. You should rejoice with them for their hard work and use their success as a motivator for yourself and what is possible.
One of the things I’m most proud of in our studios is the sense of community among the clients and trainers. The vast majority of our clients are sincerely happy for each other when they enjoy victories both large and small. And for us as trainers, we have an entire client base from which we can extract joy from their accomplishments. It’s a pretty great job when it comes to that. A nice quote taken from Buddhism is,
“To show joy is to celebrate happiness and achievement in others even when we are facing tragedy ourselves”.
With Mudita we are seeking to cultivate more joy in to our lives. The far enemies of joy are envy and jealousy which we must endeavour to extinguish. Learn to be genuinely happy for other people’s successes and multiply your own sources for bliss.