Q&A with Elliott Robertson, author of Say Yes to Life

1. What is your book Say Yes to Life about? 

You can think of this book as providing seven different lenses through which to see yourself and the world. For example, the first chapter, “Say Yes to Your Expansiveness,” invites you to see yourself as glorious and magnificent–to behold the beauty of your essence. It also invites you to notice that blaming, shaming, and complaining can get in the way of seeing yourself through the lens of expansiveness.

2. You write about being happy even when you don’t have any reasons to be happy. What would you say to someone who is in a perfect storm, someone who just got fired from his job a few days ago and whose wife announced her wish for a divorce the next day, and then the next day his dog got sick and needed to go to the vet?

No matter what’s happening in your life, whether it’s big or small, it’s always important to feel your feelings. If the guy who is in a perfect storm is feeling frustrated and angry, then he needs to feel the frustration and anger course through him. And not just part-way but with totality. The journey to inner harmony always begins with experiencing your feelings. And inner harmony is one of the pillars of the house of happiness, so I encourage everyone to prize inner harmony.

3. Have you had any experiences of depression in your life?

I was certainly unhappy in my youth. I was miserable, but I never sought out any counseling or help and never diagnosed with depression. Looking back, I think I may have been mildly depressed, but I’m not sure. When I was in my 20s and living in New York City, I had low paying entry-level jobs that barely paid the rent and I would walk round the city seeing people dressed to the nines or enjoying expensive food at outdoor cafes and I would get jealous. Jealousy and bitterness defined my life. It as the soup I lived in. I was always thinking “Life is unfair–I deserve better.” Eventually I realized that I would continue to be miserable and unhappy unless I took ownership of my life and my experience. It finally sunk in: if I wanted to live the life of my dreams I would have to give up jealousy, bitterness, blaming and shaming. And I gradually made a u-turn.

4. Are there any compelling examples of somebody who experienced loss and yet didn’t let the loss rob them of living a happy life?

One of my mentors, Marci Shimoff, has interviewed dozens of people about happiness as part of her research. She tells the story of a middle-aged lady who lost her eyesight when she put eye drops in her eyes right after purchasing them. The lady spent almost a year in bed having a pity party day after day. Eventually she got in touch with her love for life–she caught hold of the awareness that life is for living. She began exploring how to live a fulfilling life as a sightless person. Now she has an active life. She’s even skiing. She says she’s happier now that ever before and looking back she’s grateful for the journey.