It’s easy to understand why Danica Patrick’s new book is called Pretty Intense. As a professional race car driver, Patrick is an athlete who competes primarily against men, and she’s also an influential model. Her book tells the story of how she stays on top of and in shape for both. We love that it spans three major topics—mind, body, and food—while acknowledging the connections between them. We also love that she kicks off the entire thing with finding happiness, which she says is at the core of how she’s able to do it all so well. “I try to be happy every day—happy on my own terms, without needing anybody else’s praise or affections,” she says. In this excerpt, she shares the three ways she makes that happen.
Three Rules of Happiness
I’m not going to lie and tell you it’s easy. Like I said, I try like hell to be a happy person every day, but it’s tough. It comes through a lot of practice, and it comes from creating rules for myself, rules that inspire me to be better every day.
RULE #1: Flow in the right direction.
Remember, your thoughts are extremely powerful. We are creatures of habit—I know I am, for sure, and I work every day to promote good habits (eating right, going to the gym, meditating, calling friends and family) and avoid the bad ones. That includes habits of the mind; I don’t want to be thinking negatively about myself or others, or letting resentments, jealousies, and insecurities get hold inside of me. Positive thinking is a habit; practice it, and it will start to become natural. Be light. Be positive. Keep your mind river flowing in the right direction.
RULE #2: Start by assuming the best.
I try and see the good in people, and move through my day with the expectation that pretty much everyone is doing their very best. Sometimes, no matter how positive you may be, you’ll get blowback. But we all have moments when our best isn’t very good at all. Maybe the person you’re having a tough time with has a lot of really awful stuff going on in their life, or they were given some terrible news, and they can’t help those dark clouds from rolling out. I’ll talk a bit about how to confront negative energy in a later chapter, but right now, let’s start with what you can control.
RULE #3: Do the next healthy thing.
You don’t have to master these skills all at once. You don’t have to completely change your outlook on life in an instant. Just do the next healthy thing. With the next decision you make when you close this chapter, make the choice that moves you toward your dream. Then, when you’re faced with the next decision after that, do the same thing. That’s all you need to do. Take it one decision at a time.
That’s why I hate the idea of “resolutions.” When we make a resolution, we try to plan out the next month or the next year. It’s a total trap. We can’t control what’s going to happen down the road; pledging to go to the gym four days a week or never eat chocolate cake for a year is just a recipe for failure. So forget the future; just make the next healthy choice for yourself right now. When you choose to follow these approaches, you’ll find they become easier as time goes on.
Reprinted from Pretty Intense by arrangement with Avery Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2017, Danica Patrick.