Happiness is a state of mind, but it’s also a choice. Most people become unhappy and unfulfilled because they live their lives according to the expectations of other people. Author and international speaker Maura Sweeney says you have to be true to your core expectations in order to live happy and fulfilled. Also known as the Ambassador of Happiness, Maura spent several years feeling very unhappy. At the young age of nine, she realized she didn’t like the way she was feeling and had to learn and teach herself to think anew. She now helps individuals find their voice, entrepreneurs develop their brand, and leaders emerge into their most authentic, influential, and highest versions of self. In this insightful episode, Maura shares her backstory and how she was able to let her inner GPS become the rudder for her life to find and follow her happiness.
Listen to the podcast here:
How To Live Happy with Maura Sweeney
The Ambassador Of Happiness
I am honored to have Maura Sweeney as my guest. She’s a New Jersey girl where I was born. She’s also known as the Ambassador of Happiness. She’s an advocate for all and an energetic voice for a better world. She’s an author, international speaker, frequent media guest and creator of an eCourse on emotional intelligence. Maura helps individuals find their voice, entrepreneurs develop their brand, and leaders emerge into their most authentic, influential and highest version of themselves. Thank you, Maura. I can’t wait to get into this conversation. We’ve had a little bit of pre-stuff but her and I are going to hit it off. We’re going to have a lot of fun with this. Tell us your story.
First of all, I want to say thanks for having me on and you’re right, we already both realized we came from New Jersey. We both have Italian backgrounds, Costello. My maternal family was Corella and there was some others in there and I thought, “Who knows, we might have relatives that have met somewhere in Jersey.” My background is in New Jersey. I grew up being able to see Manhattan right on the Jersey side of Hudson River. Oddly enough, as much as I could see the skyline of what would be considered the Empire City, the center of the Earth and so much going on, I always felt as this child that I was living in a very small place. It was one square mile. This is my perspective in town, I felt like everything that happened, happened in Lyndhurst. If it didn’t happen in Lyndhurst, it’s not important, yet I was always a dreamer.
My earliest recollections was out lying on the grass. I loved being outside. I must have loved the scent of spring and freshly mowed grass that I would stare up at the clouds, but most importantly I would look at airplanes. This is back in the early ’60s and not everybody flew. All I could think about is where the airplane is going. I had all of these imaginary pictures in my head of people who flew on airplanes being people from foreign countries. I was thinking about Chinese people, the different hats. I could remember thinking about the people in Holland, that wore wooden shoes. I was thinking about people in Africa and their African garbs. I wanted so much to literally get up in the atmosphere and to fly among the clouds, but mostly to connect with all of these different kinds of people around the world who live differently, dress differently, spoke differently. I used to view them as if they were my unmet relatives.
Those were my expectations, going out, meeting the world, having fun and being in wonderful places of happiness. I would say, brotherly love, yet the reality as I perceived it as a child was very much the opposite because I was this free spirit. I wanted to go out and play with friends and dance, yet I was very groomed, controlled, almost contrived as a child. Not that any of it is bad, but in some ways for the person I was and the expectations I had in life, they were running contrary. That was a great experience I had of looking up in the sky. The other fun experience is the early 1960s growing up in a cul-de-sac with kids all playing right in front of our house and they were all around the same age.
To me it was fun, but my mother used to have my brother and me as she told it. I didn’t realize what time was back then, but in the summertime, 4:00 or 4:30 in the afternoon, I have memories of being at our front door, looking through the screen and seeing right outside my house on the cul-de-sac, all of my friends were playing, it was tag at the time. Remember people would play tag and hide and seek. I wanted to be out there with my friends, but there was this screen door separating me from my friends and I was wearing my baby doll pajamas. I was crying on the inside of the screen wanting to be outside and yet being indoors, the sun is shining, kids are laughing and I felt confined and unhappy.
I spent several of my early years in that place where I felt I was not able to be free to do the things I want to. I’ll give you another funny thing from my background. You’ll appreciate it because we’re from the same era. One Saturday morning, my mother was ironing in the rec room. As she’s doing it, she’s got something on TV. I see a microphone, a handsome man and all these high school kids, teenagers and they’re moving to music. They’re talking about the music. I may be two to three years old. I said to her, “Mommy, what is that?” She said, “They’re dancing.” I said to her, “That’s what I want to do, I want to dance.” You could see, we’re looking at each other, I’m smiling and excited. All I could see was poetry in motion, fun, frivolity and everything about it was party and the enlivenment, yet my mother did take me for one dance class.
I remember it vividly, two and a half years old. I spent the whole time looking in the big giant mirrors, making funny faces. A half an hour later, I didn’t learn how to dance. She took me by the hand, we went home, I never had another dance class, but she enrolled me in piano classes. Here I am once again in the house studying classical piano. This is interesting, it was a big bay window at the time in front of our house, also overlooking the kids playing in the neighborhood. It’s like, “Here I am indoors doing what I don’t want to do. I want to be outside playing and I’m learning the piano.”
That was my early life. To quickly move forward, I was always brought up in a specific way with certain expectations. Those expectations were that I would grow up to be very much geared to be a lady in nice places, very smart. I was supposed to be a lawyer, like my grandfather who had just passed away by the time I was five and a half. It was very much a lifestyle of being groomed. It all sounded good, but within me, it was like, “This isn’t me. I want to go out and do my own thing.” That’s a good stopping place. Why don’t you ask me the next question?
Lyndhurst, New Jersey is where the blimp blew up in 1939.
It’s Lakehurst. People always say that. Lakehurst is more like Central Jersey. We were ten to fifteen minutes outside of Manhattan, but that big Lakehurst is Central Jersey.
My mom was in Lakehurst that day when it happened. My mother saw it. She always told us about it. That was a big deal around our household.
It’s a tragedy. There’s a place you could actually go. When I’ve returned to New Jersey, I was not able to go, but on a future trip, I want to go because they have an area that’s dedicated to the event. That was epic.
I think it was the big first blimp tragedy ever in the world. The second thing that I want to address is I’m not Italian.
With a name like Costello? What are you?
Although not to say you look Italian, you’re Irish? My growing up name, Maura Anne Haggerty, couldn’t get much more Irish than that and I used to think, “This is not my name, this doesn’t feel like me.” I felt more Latin. It’s interesting, isn’t it? How about Art Costello was Irish.
In Northern Ireland, there’s a whole clan of Costellos. Actually, John Costello, I believe in the ‘50s was the premiere of Ireland at the time. My dad was born and grew up in Brooklyn. I’ve got an interesting story about it. When I was nine, my parents moved us from New Jersey to upstate New York. We moved to a very rural area. We were shunned. People didn’t want anything to do with us. It started my whole journey in life of understanding myself because I became very reflective. To make this story short, when we moved up there, I started school, I only had three friends in high school and that was it. Everybody else stayed away. My best friend, his parents were very elderly, so he was a loner. My other friend’s mom was single, so we were all outsiders.
When I went to my 50th reunion a few years back. My class only had twenty people in it. When we went, there were maybe fifteen of us there and I was off to the side. I’m so gregarious and outgoing, but I noticed everybody else was amongst themselves and here I am at the food table. One of the guys came over and he said, “Art, did you ever wonder why no one ever associated with you?” I said, “No.” I knew what happened but I’d never thought about it because I don’t think about the past. We moved there in 1959. He said, “When you moved here, we were told that your parents were running from the mafia and that you were in hiding. We were forbidden to hang around with you for fear that we would be caught up in a retribution thing, kidnapped or compromised.”
Because of the Costello name, wasn’t there a famous mafia guy who was a Costello?
Frank Costello was very big and at that time, he had just been murdered, and my dad was born in Brooklyn.
It was the news. It fits. You had an epiphany 50 years later to learn that. That’s curious to share. I’m probably jumping around, I didn’t go backwards, but this was interesting. If you did your research on my background, you may know that although I grew up with an Irish name and I married a guy with an Irish name. When we both attended an Irish Catholic Boston college, my husband ended up getting unwelcomely inmeshed with Henry Hill of Goodfellas. Knowing that my husband was the point guard, he figured he could convince my husband through whatever means to throw basketball games or shave and whatever, and this is my little connection with you.
This happened in 1979. My husband’s life was threatened. There were eight people murdered that year, including a young man who stayed with my husband in his dorm for a few days. That was part of the whole threatening thing. We graduated in 1981. My husband testifies in New York City in Brooklyn against this same mafia family that was trying to buy Boston College basketball. He’s part of a cover story in Sports Illustrated. What’s amazing is that he was never charged with anything and this is something he didn’t want to do. He did want to get up there and speak about what happened. As it turned out, these people were found guilty.
The amazing thing was because he was not allowed to speak to the press. 30 or 25 years later, I’m out down in Florida. We moved to Florida in 1983 when he had a wonderful management experience he was offered at a major corporation. We were thrilled to move to Florida. It’s where I always wanted to live. I’m having dinner decades later with one of the women I had hired to work in this corporate firm that I was working for. She had her second glass of wine and she said, “Maura, my husband used to play basketball several years ago with your husband Jimmy.” She said he came home one day and said, “You’re working for Maura Sweeney and she’s married to Jim Sweeney. You know they’re mafia people.” We both laughed about it because isn’t it interesting to talk about epiphanies?
I just laughed because you never know, sometimes people will hear something. This is a big lesson. You want to talk about epiphanies that I learned at the age of 23, when my husband was going to be a witness to testify, is that the power of the media, press, prosecutors to turn and twist the tale. Because of that, I learned never to assume anything of anyone else without sufficient amounts of information and corroboration. The other thing too is I never wanted to be a person that would presume evil intentions of another person. You could say that was an epiphany. I would say that was a life experience. I learned the power of the pen. I learned the power of power. I also learned even that at some levels people will use their position in ways rather than helping, but sometimes they are self-serving ways and they could be corruptive. That’s probably one reason why I do speak a lot on sustainable leadership. What is it to be a person of integrity and a leader who’s willing to be courageous enough to do the right thing, even it may cost you at some level.
That all resides in how you expect. In my book Expectation Therapy, it’s based on how I healed myself as a child after moving up to the farm, being left alone, not having very many friends, and losing the thing that was most dear to me, which was baseball. How we expect is so instrumental in how we perceive. I write a lot about emotional intelligence in my book because emotional intelligence is very important to how you learn to expect. If you cannot define your emotions, you will entangle them in your expectations. You’ve got to have that intermeshing of emotional intelligence with your expectations, to have the perspective of what you want and how you want to grow. It’s very intriguing when you get into it. I write about that a lot in my book.
It’s very interesting because you mentioned that you were reflective as a child, so was I. I never read your book, but I have checked into your podcast. We’re connected on LinkedIn and I listened to a few things you’ve said previously. I also was a very reflective person. As a young person, I spent a lot of time indoors. My mother was agoraphobic. I didn’t realize that. She was indoors and she would try to keep me indoors. I spent a lot of time around older people. Our great grandmother past away in her home. I would listen to her a lot but I was very reflective. Maybe this is a similarity between the two of us. I’ve never taken a class on psychology.
I’ve never gone to a therapist for my brain, mind, thoughts and emotions. I like to tell people as a joke, I went through life without novocaine. As a young person, I was spiritually inclined in that I would look at the world and I knew that there was a better life to be lived. I knew that there was something higher, a better form of life than maybe the common form of life that was in front of me. I bring this up to say that feeling isolated and oftentimes separated. Our town was more working class, blue collar, yet my family was more educated and more affluent with my grandfather being an attorney. My father at one point worked on Wall Street. I never felt I fit in. When I was about nine, ten, eleven years old, I felt very restricted and very unhappy. My grandmother used to say to me, “Maura, I’m going to call you waterworks. Every time I look at you, you start to cry.” Which was true, my emotions were very high because I felt captive in my house and even in my small body.
There were times I felt like a victim. When you’re a small child, getting from Monday in school to Wednesday to Friday to the weekend, it was like it might as well be forever. I’m feeling very much like, “This isn’t the life I want. I want to do this. I want to do that.” I remember making a choice and thinking, “I don’t have so much control over my life now. Even though I was being geared and groomed for this future career in law, I promised myself that I would grow up to be happy and free.” The operative word free meant, to be free and to be who I am rather than a construct of maybe expectations.
What you did as a child, when you reflected is you set your core expectation. Your core expectation became happiness and you’re going to live a fulfilling life. That’s what became it. When you expect something at your core like that, it becomes a reality in your life. It’s how you gravitate towards everything.
I agree. This interesting because I was the first child and I wasn’t perfect by any means, but I was a people pleaser, parent pleaser and I was always looking for approval, which always seems to be elusive. I was always onto my next thing. When I went to college, I was very grateful. My parents sent me away to Boston College. I felt very honored. I did not want to be a lawyer. I wasn’t called to that, but they were paying for it. There I was prelaw but here you talk about expectations. I write about this in my blogs, I speak about it in my podcast, I talk about it when I speak elsewhere, and I have it in my eCourse. Here’s what I used to do. I would do on the outside what family, society, etc. was expected of me, but always within me, and you talk about the course. I would find my own ways to pursue things that were of interest to me.
At twelve-years-old, I couldn’t go out of the house, but I got a book that taught me how to type. I used my grandfather’s legal secretary’s old typewriter. I taught myself how to type because I knew at a very young child, watching her type out a lot of legal documents, that the power of the written word to get other people to think about new ideas was what I wanted to do. I couldn’t even read or write at the time. Here I was at twelve years old one summer buying a book. When I was indoors, I would teach myself how to type, which became a way of making money and helped me later on. Here’s another thing, in college, I had a major in political science, my family was paying for the degree, but I took a second major in Spanish literature because I loved the language and I wanted to travel. I always would have the top level of what I was doing to please people and every bit of excess time I would have, I would pursue those things that were of interest to me.
I’ve done it over the course of my life. I put it together as this international speaker talking about happiness and how do we live fulfilled lives. I took all my previous life experiences and each one of them somehow have worked together to create what I’m doing, which at some level were the things I imagined as a young child. I wanted to go around the world and meet new friends. I want to be a goodwill ambassador and here I ended up getting this title from speaking at Nelson Mandela Day as the Ambassador of Happiness. I was so taken up with leadership and leaders that knew how to create positive cultures of inclusion. The leader back when I was in kindergarten was JFK. I remember that he would say, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you could do for your country.” He was exporting young kids out and he was bringing different people into the White House with music and guess what I talk about? I talk about leadership and influence. I’m doing it on a global scale and I’m a writer. All of these things you talk about intentions, I put them all together and I created it all into what I’m doing.
Getting back to what it is and I want to ask you a question after I make the statement. It’s all based in our expectations, how we learn to expect. When you were a child, did you ever have the expectation that this was going to become your reality or did you just sit back and say, “This is how I’m going to live and keep focused on what I want?” Because that’s the difference, you said that you set your expectation, deciding and making the choice. You were going to let the world see this, but inside you are going to be this way. When you’re true to your core expectations, that’s where your life gravitates to you. When you expect to be something, you become it if you will follow the path to it. If you don’t let the expectations of others dictate your happiness. What happens with most people, why they become anxious, depressed, unhappy, unfulfilled, is that they live to the expectations of other people. They do not live to their core expectations and that’s what I address.
I’m glad you brought this full circle. My husband always refers to my green chair moments and I thought, “What is that?” The green chair moment, I was halfway through law school. After graduating from college, I went to law school and I took out student loans to do this. I’m back in New Jersey, a state I didn’t want to live in. I wanted to live in Florida, but I was living with my parents, driving back and forth to Newark, New Jersey, close by Seton Hall Law School. You have to put yourself back in that era. I was preparing myself for a 40-year future career in a profession I had no passion for in order to please externals, my family, whatever. I was midway through and I was thinking, “I’m getting closer to graduation. I’ve got to take the bar.” I’m on this course until I’m old enough to say to everybody, “I’m retiring and moving to Florida to do what I want to do.” One day, I couldn’t get out of my green chair. It was an armchair that had a cushion you can put your feet up.
I would always read my law books there. I was supposed to be getting up one morning from that chair to drive myself to school and I was so exhausted emotionally, physically. I couldn’t lift myself out of the chair. I didn’t go to school that day. My husband came in from work. We were married at the time and he said to me, “Maura, aren’t you supposed to be at school?” I opened my mouth and nothing came out. That was my Waterloo moment because as much as I was a people pleaser, I had reached a point where my body would no longer go in that direction and I had to leave law school. This is how it was on the inside, I knew that the light within me of expectation, purpose, the happiness and joy was diminishing by the day. One day, I was too heavy to pick myself up. I want to agree with everything you’re saying is that we do need to follow after our expectations. That was my breaking point to say “I might have grown up a certain way, but I have to break off of this because I can’t go on any further.”
The thing that I share with people and it’s the way I’ve continued to live. I literally can feel within myself whether you could call it an inner smile, like an inner GPS. Am I smiling? Do I feel energized? Am I curious? Am I impassioned? Do I feel I want to explore more of this? It is a good thing. It’s the happiness. Follow this. Let this be the rudder of life. At the same time, I can’t tell you how many ways and how many times I’ve used that same internal guide, where I’m in something that sounds good and looks good. In my inside, the smile goes down. I feel constricted. It’s like my soul of intention is saying “Maura this is not what you called for. This is not going to bring you to where you want to go.” I’ve done different things. I spent seven days in a self-pitched tent on two islands in Lake Victoria in Africa and I loved it.
It was so totally outside my comfort zone because I knew I was called to do these things. I’ve been on a medical mission trip bringing medical supplies to coffee growers in the hills of Honduras. I have worked mentoring girls, fourteen to seventeen in jail. These are things that’s like, “What is this?” Guess what, my soul likes to connect with people and yet I find years later that all of these experiences somehow work together for what I do. When I go to other foreign countries and I speak, people know that I carry within me so much. Some people have said “Maura, even if I didn’t understand a word you spoke, I knew you understood me.” I literally convey things on a multitude of levels that help other people learn to set their own intentions and expectations after what’s important to them from within rather than to the outside world. I believe at that point, if people follow those kinds of things, positive intentions and the things they’re here for that they want to explore, they’d be happier. They contribute more to the world. We would have a better, happier and more harmonious society.
You look at a lot of these young kids that are doing these horrendous acts, like the synagogue in San Diego. What I wonder about sometimes is did they become askew because of the expectations of trying to live up to the expectations of others? They became susceptible to the expectations of others on the negative side, the evil side and they carry out these things. They don’t know their inner-self enough. They don’t know who they are and who they can be. They give up and they lose sight of what a beautiful life this is and what it can present to you. Life is beautiful. When you trust in your inner-self, you trust in your gut-feelings, you act upon them and you become a doer. You start doing the things that mean and matter to you, it becomes enriching and happy. I had another question for you and you may find this interesting. Where do you think happiness starts? Do you think it starts in the brain or the heart or the soul?
It goes back to childhood. I must have come into this world maybe slightly different. Who knows? I’m left-handed. I would always ask the questions nobody else would. Imagine when you’re a child, you might not even realize you’re in a house known as your body. I have a very early memory before preschool era of watching people or observing adults trying to get the attention and affirmation from other people around them. They’re looking for approval. I wouldn’t have used those terms in my head because I didn’t have that vocabulary. As a young child, this is what I thought. I wonder why they’re doing all of this moving around and all of this activity trying to get somebody else to like them or to get somebody’s attention, when all they need to do is to ask themselves what do I want?
What’s important? I as a very young child was aware that the soul within already knew the answers. The soul within was already a wise place, a happy place, a harmonized place. That’s what my mantra had become, living happy from the inside out. That was an early experience. To answer your question, I believe that happiness is a state of mind, but it’s also a choice. I always tell people, wherever you are, you always have to ask yourself this question. This is something I learned. Am I seeing myself as a victim in a dangerous world? Am I seeing myself as a beneficiary in a benevolent universe? This is all from self-practice. That’s why I think I’m relatable because I’ve lived through these things.
If I can first answer that question, am I envisioning or feeling like a victim or like a beneficiary? If I can answer to the latter, am I the beneficiary in a benevolent universe? I literally feel emotional after making that decision. I then feel emotionally in a much better place. Therefore my expectations change and things happen in life. Maybe not in that very moment, but I’m opening myself to all good possibilities and good outcomes. I won’t tell you my life has always been easy, but by choosing that path of being a beneficiary, forgiving myself, forgiving others, forgiving situations and expecting something better, I could look back and I’m like, “Even the bad stuff worked out for good.”
I couldn’t agree with you more. I just frame it a little bit different. When I was younger, I learned that everything for me was about learning new experiences. Every event in my life and everything that I’ve ever done, I’ve never looked at it as a disappointment or a challenge. Through the death of friends and through the death of my wife to cancer in 2006, everything that happens to us is meant to teach us a lesson. It becomes a learning experience. If you will change your mindset to think about everything as a learning experience, take that victimization away from it and make it benevolent, you gain so much knowledge out of it that you cannot fail because you learn. Nothing is a failure because as long as you’re learning from something, how can you ever look at something you’re learning as a failure?
Through everything that has ever happened to me that has been on the negative side, I have always looked at it as being a teaching moment. It is teaching me a lesson. Not only to learn sometimes not to handle it, but sometimes learning how to handle it and how to make good use of it. Learning comes in very different forms. It’s not about everything going into your head to register for some event down the road. Sometimes it becomes something that you learn that becomes part of who you are and how you react. Things happen all the time, what makes the difference in us all is how we react to it and what we take from it. That’s my take on that.
You must have been a highly evolved soul from when you came into the world because you knew from early on, it’s a learning experience. I will tell you where I was. As much as I came into the world with very high expectations, meaning that I didn’t see any limitation. I spent several years feeling very much the victim and feeling very unhappy. I had to learn at age nine, ten, eleven. I didn’t like the way I was feeling, so I had to teach myself to think anew. Beyond that, it worked out to my advantage as well because I can understand people who are brought up in an environment where things are skewed in a certain way. I can use my previous experience to relate to and also give them some of those tools. You must have come in as one highly evolved soul.
Let me tell you how it started and I hope the audience never get tired of hearing this story. When I was nine years old, feeling lonely and abandoned after my parents moved us to a farm, where there were no neighbors within miles. The one that I did have were in their 90s. I had lost baseball and everything. I went to the top of a mountain by our house. I laid on my back and had a conversation with God. I heard this voice that all you have to do is be patient and everything will come to you. I took that lesson and it has gotten me through. It has become who I am all of my life. It got me through Vietnam as a Marine in combat.
It got me through 35 years of owning my business and in 2006, losing my wife to ovarian cancer. It has always been with me because when I lost my wife, I’ve realized that expectations always kept me going. I believe that the one gift that God gives every single man, woman and child, regardless of your color, your gender, no matter what you are, is the seed of expectation. It is the seed from which we grow. We grow by asking questions, making choices and all of those things. I think that science has proved it. If you look at child psychology, sociology and all that, it’s a fact. We grow through our expectations, yet when we hear the word expectation, people cringe. They think negative.
I think that’s such a great thing because that’s what gives us hope.
There’s the other part of it, hope. It does give you hope and it gives you faith. If we look at our expectations only through two lenses, fear which stops and faith which moves you forward. Faith, not always being about religion. Faith, being in yourself, mentor, coach, spouse and parent. It can be in any number of forms. The greatest faith you can have is faith in yourself and the knowledge and faith that no matter what happens to you, you are always going to be okay. It’s how you perceive and how you look at it. That’s what makes the difference in us.
I totally agree. That is the undercurrent and the expectation of life. I believe there are many people, young people as well, not just middle age and older people who don’t live. They’re like the walking dead. You brought something up and I’m so glad you did. Did you say you were nine years old on the top of the hill?
Yes, nine years old.
This is my story. I’m going to share this with you and this has played an enormous role in my life. Did you grow up Catholic? If you are Irish, you had to grow up Catholic.
I grew up Catholic.
I grew up in a Catholic family. I started at a Catholic school. I wouldn’t say my family was super religious, but I grew up very aware of authority. What was the Catholic church? It represented God. This was thankfully to my grandfather, the late attorney. I sensed from him this presence of what was good, trustworthy, equal in all things, looked at everyone equally and treated everyone the same. I thought I know the man’s just a man, but whatever he oozed from his life, I understood that there are certain characteristics that I would attribute to an unseen father God in heaven. That’s childlike faith. He passed away, I was five and a half. When I was eight or nine, they had the Vatican too, and suddenly they changed the rules in the Catholic faith. I want you to think about this. As a young child, I naturally trusted an unseen God, unseen heaven, unseen benevolence and trustworthiness. When they change those rules, we’re suddenly okay to eat meat on Fridays. You could go to communion if you had breakfast as long as you waited an hour.
People who are not Catholic and not old wouldn’t know this stuff. Here’s how it affected me. This is pretty crazy, but this was an unbelievable moment for me. The unseen world upon which I trusted the power of God, the awareness of a father, a benevolent unseen father that was watching over the world and all of us, all of a sudden change the rules. I remember asking priests, nun, CCD teachers, parents. I was like, “Why did God change the rules? Why are some people burning in purgatory because they ate meat on Friday and didn’t get to confess it and now it’s okay.”
I had this picture like, “Is God mean? Does he laugh like, I got you.” I thought, what kind of a father would do this to his kids and treat them independent of one another and change the rules? It knocked my life off its axis and here I am feeling totally alone and nobody understood. Nobody processed that changed the way I did. One day, I was around nine years old. At that point, I was in public school, I was walking to my CCD class. I had my knee socks on, holding my books, a couple of girlfriends with me and all of a sudden, a voice went through my body and this is what it said, “I never change.” I didn’t even know that was a Bible verse until my 30s.
That voice stabilized me again. Nobody else understood where I was living, but the voice of God knew exactly where I was. In that one response of “I never change. My character, my presence, my wisdom, my intentions never change,” that leveled me off. All of a sudden my emotions were fine. I knew of that voice, that’s part of what is always been my guiding sense. It’s not religious because trust me, I’ve been in and out of it. I’ve learned to trust in the benevolence, the wisdom and the knowledge of that. There’s something in there that has been my guide that even when I can’t see things good, I know what I know. I know it will all be good.
It’s called faith. Believing in something that you can’t see, believing in its benevolence, goodness and trusting in the long-term outcome.
Having that in my life and constantly going back there, it also became an anchor for me. If the outside world was telling me one thing and I was getting a different kind of message, even if it requires faith, I would follow after that internal voice rather than going after what the world was telling me, “This should make you happy. This should make you successful.”
I preach it a lot about listening to your internal voice because it’s there. In my experience, I have failed it sometimes, but it has never failed me. That’s why some people end up saying, “I should have listened to myself.” They challenge it and do something that is not conducive to what is going on the voice inside of them. I can’t tell you the number of times in Vietnam, in automobiles and everything else where my inner voice says “Stop right here, make a turn and do that,” and then something will happen. Particularly in Vietnam, it was strong living by that. I was telling somebody about an experience I had in Austin. There’s a T-bone intersection. I was coming down the long straight end of it, the end is a stop sign. I stopped at the stop sign and I started to proceed through.
All of a sudden, a van came through, failed to stop at the other stop sign and was literally millimeters away from the front bumper on my car. If he would have hit me or I had gone one minute sooner, I’d be gone. There was no way that I could have taken that impact to the side of a car like that. I don’t know what made me stop. There was something that said, “Just stop and look left.” I saw them, brake in the middle of the hill. It was blind hill and I said, “They’re not going to stop.” I hit the brakes. I saw the look on the woman’s face in the passenger side of the car. When we listen to that inner-self, it will never ever fail us. I believe that you’d have to listen to it.
I do too and I think that’s a big disconnect we have in society. We are all programmed to conform to outside messages. I used to blame it on Madison Avenue, TV, magazines. It’s on our iPhones, it’s everywhere. Because my life was one of living happy from the inside out, having to always go within, get my soul’s perspective, spirit or God, always follow that internal compass towards happiness, freedom to be me and purpose, whatever you want to call it. This all comes from life learnings. I never realized how many people do not listen to their internal voice. What they do is they separate. They forget or deny that internal person and then they become a fragment of their real selves. They distance from their real selves. That’s when they get into all kinds of bad behaviors. They don’t even know who they are.
That’s sometimes when people get into overusing drugs, overbuying or getting themselves into places where they’re so unhappy or sick. I feel so strongly that if we could unify ourselves, follow our internal leadings, and learn how to exercise them on the outside, on our bodies or whatever it is that we’re doing, that not only would we feel more at home, at peace and at harmony. We would be telegraphing that life outwardly, so other people would get the message to be a harmonized person rather than someone who is running after the tail of everybody else, who also doesn’t know where they’re going. I always like to say if the human race knew where it was going, wouldn’t we have arrived by now? We still struggle with people that are competing in the wrong ways. They’re stealing from each other. They’re running after things that don’t even make them happy, rather than looking to harmonize with that internal voice and being a unified person.
It makes you complete. You don’t need somebody else to complete you. You complete yourself. Why do you think so many marriages break up? You’re living to the expectations of your spouse, you think you can change with people and you can’t.
It’s a no-win.
You become so unhappy that your life is miserable. You make your children’s life miserable, your husband, your wife’s life miserable or either way around you want to do it. Everybody becomes miserable and they stop living to their true authenticity.
We ended up with an overall society like that. That lack of harmony shows up everywhere, fighting, negative competition, backbiting, taking, stealing, profiteering in bad ways. I don’t want to say it’s quite simple, but I know there’s a path to get there. I look at a society because I’ve had several decades to observe, we may have become supposedly a highly educated society. We’re advanced in all kinds of technology, but unfortunately, the humanness in us has not advanced at the same rate. We’d be almost better if we were better humans rather than having faster internet service.
Because of the sharing that people like you and I are doing with this world, hopefully, one of these days people will see exactly what life can be. One of the things that I said on a podcast I did, “When I die, one thing I can die saying is that I have done everything in my life that I ever wanted to do. I’ve done it happily and with the best of vigor.” Everything has been the perfect life for me.
That’s so beautiful. People feel that when they’re around people like that or at least maybe I can. Those are the kind of relationships I like because there’s something that is reciprocal, is a good energy that comes out of it. It’s interesting you said you’re going to be 72 and I’m 61. Here’s what I remember. Do you want to talk about intentions? I always knew I was called to do something of an influential nature on an international scale. I knew at twenty, 30, 40, I didn’t have sufficient life experience, but there was more to it. We just talked about spirituality. When I was younger, even in college, I would keep my awareness to myself because I knew if I open up my mouth, people would be like, “What kind of an idea is that?”
Something has happened in the last few years where people of every age are looking at things through a different set of eyes and they’re open to new ideas. I was not orthodox in my thinking. People are much more free to share ideas that people intuitively knew but had been suppressed and oppressed by orthodoxy. It’s something that’s happening. This is not just in our country, it’s in other places as well. I would have loved to be in a society years ago that could talk this way, but it’s not a big deal. I think that that in itself was progress.
Yes, it is. Sometimes I think that we’re evolving for the better. Sometimes looking back on things, age has given me more perspective and more knowledge because I’m using everything as a learning experience. I’ve gained so much more knowledge and I agree with you. I couldn’t do fifteen years ago what I’m doing. I would have never dreamt that I’m doing this. I had the same feelings you did that I knew that there was greatness. I knew that from nine years old that there was something out there for me that was beyond my control. I had to understand it to get to the point where the good Lord would use it for his purpose. That’s why I think that God has put me here on Earth to teach the power of expectation because it can change lives for the better. With that being said, I want to give you the time. I want to give the audience the knowledge of where and how they can get ahold of you. I can promise you this. We will do this again.
Maybe next time I will interview you.
That will work.
When you were talking about when you leave this Earth, I thought that’s a perfect segue into the close of this because I once had that thought. I was riding my bike through a cemetery one day and I was looking at the headstones and I thought, “How do I want to be remembered?” You know what I came up with? Two words, “She loved.” That’s it. When I’m gone, I don’t even care if they don’t know my name. Imagine being able to be a vessel, vehicle, the very presence of people can feel and relate to of love.
I want people to know what you’re doing next, where they can get ahold of you and what social media platforms you’re on? All your basic info.
They can find me if they like podcast, Maura Sweeney: Living Happy Inside Out Podcast. They’ll enjoy a lot of the questions and the stories and the calls to action. Otherwise, connect and subscribe to me at Maura4U.com. I have stories, I have videos, I have books and I’m also a public speaker. I was in Tunisia. I’ll be speaking in Manchester, England and then probably several other countries. Anyone who needs an inspirational speaker to help people get unstuck and to grow from the inside out, write to me at Maura@Maura4You.com.
Shower Epiphany audience, this has been great. Maura Sweeney, it has been a pleasure. I’ve made a friend for life and I can’t say anything more than love is what binds us together. We have so much in common, not only where we grew up, but how we grew up. With that being said, people, I want to tell you goodbye. You can get ahold of me at ExpectationTherapy.com and I’m on all social media.
Also known as the Ambassador of Happiness, Maura Sweeney is an advocate for all and an energetic voice for a better world.
Author, International Speaker, Frequent Media Guest and creator of an e-course on emotional intelligence, Maura helps individuals find their voice, entrepreneurs develop their brand and leaders emerge into their most authentic, influential and highest versions of self.
Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!
Join the Shower Epiphanies Community today: