“To know and not to do is not to know.” Chinese Proverb
John glanced quickly over his shoulder as he was driving me to my speaking venue and asked, “So you’re the speaker? What do you speak about?”
Ah! Did he know that this is a professional speaker’s favorite question?! “My body of work for the last 25 years has been the study of humor’s relationship to profitability and health. This afternoon I’m going to share how to use humor as a competitive business edge,” I explained, delighted to share my passion with him.
I could see John’s smiling eyes in the rearview mirror. “Did you know that humor is really, really good for you?” he asked in all sincerity. (Yes, I knew that!) John then went on to tell me a somewhat fuzzy version of Norman Cousins overcoming his life-threatening illness by watching funny movies. It was fun to hear someone else extol on the benefits of humor—and I was encouraged that the word was getting out to the general public that humor has practical benefits.
As I got out of the car and headed toward my meeting, I thought about what John said. Everyone knows humor makes us feel better. Everyone knows it’s enjoyable. Everyone knows that “it’s good for us.” So making humor part of our daily repertoire should simply be common sense, right? But as integrative neuroscientist Dr. Heidi Hanna points out, “Common sense is not common practice.”
Just because we know something is beneficial doesn’t mean we act on that knowledge. I know eating a low-calorie-high-fiber kale salad instead of a piping hot slice of delicious pepperoni and sausage pizza would be better for my waistline—but my belt size can attest to the fact that I don’t act on that knowledge—at least not consistently! My inconsistent actions keep me from experiencing benefits I know to be true.
Just because you know humor can enhance your leadership skills, or give you a competitive edge in sales, or improve your health doesn’t mean that you’re actually experiencing any of these benefits. The truth is that the vast majority of people allow humor to happen by chance, rather than by choice. They stumble across something that makes them laugh in the midst of their busy day and then hurry on—places to go, people to meet. The good news is when you let humor happen by chance, you can still experience some benefits. But when you purposefully implement humor by choice—now you can really leverage the advantages and reap tremendous rewards.
Exercising on an occasional basis is better than no exercise at all, but you really gain the most results when you exercise consistently. It’s similar with humor. When you stumble across humor occasionally, it can elevate your mood, it can decrease your muscle tension, and it may even boost your immune system a bit. But to truly build your resilience, improve your creativity, increase your likability, enhance your communication skills, and reap other additional benefits, it’s best to practice humor consistently—every day.
Let’s say you make a commitment to run a 10K marathon. Would you wait until the day before the race to start working out at the gym? Only if you want to set yourself up for a huge fail! Instead you’d work out on a regular basis—increasing your strength and your stamina. Your commitment to run the race would be futile if you didn’t consistently prepare for it. Business development expert Mark Leblanc once told me, “Consistency trumps commitment every time.” If you want to experience humor as a competitive advantage, then set yourself up to succeed by practicing a bit of humor everyday.
There are many ways to practice humor on a regular basis. Below are three ideas. Pick one and practice it consistently over the next 21 days. (You get extra credit for keeping track of your experiences in a journal.) I promise you that you will begin to see a difference not only in yourself, but also in those around you.
- Seek humor from one other person. This can be a customer, a colleague, a friend or a family member. Ask them to share a joke, a funny story, or an embarrassing moment they can now laugh about.
- Set a goal to discover one humorous incident in your day. This could be something you read, something you hear, or something that you experience.
- Watch one funny video that tickles your funny bone. This might be a gif on your smart phone, a YouTube clip on your computer, or a sitcom on your TV.
Set yourself apart and ahead of the crowd. Give yourself a competitive edge. Practice humor not by chance, but by choice—Humor is power!
Karyn Buxman, neurohumorist, is the author of the book Lead with Levity: Strategic Humor for Leaders and creator of an 18 (or 30) day online program to help leaders authentically, consistently and strategically use humor to enhance communication, build resilience and boost engagement. Click here to listen to 3 sample lessons.
She can also be reached via:
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