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George Foreman is a two-time heavyweight boxing champion and Olympic gold medalist, inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997. Throughout his career he has endorsed products for many major brands including McDonald’s, Nike and Doritos. In addition, Foreman is well known as the face of the George Foreman Lean Mean Grilling Machine, and is often hailed as “king of the grill.” Pastor of his small Houston congregation and author of Going the Extra Smile: Discovering the Life-Changing Power of a Positive Outlook, Foreman talks about his experiences and what helps him lead a happier life.
What mindset do you have to have in order to be happy?
It doesn’t matter what you have to face. Most things you have to face at a hard level. You’re not going to change what has happened, but you can change how you feel about a certain thing. For instance, my mom died. I couldn’t change the fact that I am going to be sorry. But I just had to change my mind about how I felt about losing a loved one, something I feared more than anything. I had to change my mind about fearing it because it already happened to me. So, that’s what I can do now. I get people ready to smile. It’s happened to you, and now you have to move on.
Why is it so important to learn to live a happier life?
I think that because after a certain amount of years, you’ve achieved so many things and you know so much about life. I think it’s very important that we impart to our kids the wisdom of appreciating life. That’s why some of us live so long—to get that message [out]. You don’t want to be in this world getting another million, waiting for the Dow [Jones] to go up and down again. What about being happy? What about smiling? At some point we have to realize our lives are about giving [young people] the message about being happy.
How do you find within yourself the ability to smile even though you have been through some tough times?
I think that all of us—especially [if you’ve] who’ve had a good mom or a good father or even a grandfather—owe it to each other to smile continuously because most people have sacrificed. We’re alive. They made the sacrifice. We should continue to smile about what they gave us in our life.
In your book, you talk a lot about the importance of gratitude in living a happier life. What has your experience with gratitude been?
I had this experience over 30 years ago where I was in a dressing room fighting for my life after a boxing match, and I knew I was going to die. In a split second, everything I had ever worked for crumbled before me like ashes as I was sitting in this dark emptiness. And I just said, “I don’t care [that] this is death, I still believe there is a God somewhere.” I was given a second chance to live, and I realized it meant a second chance to make things right in my life. I am so grateful to be alive, and I will never forget that moment was when things could have gone really bad.
Do you think there’s a reason why people are so unhappy? Or do you think they just forget to be happy?
Most of us forget to be happy. That’s all. A lot of us are unhappy only because we forget to be happy. Most of us remember our bills have to be paid, we have to get to work on time, some of us remember we have to get to church but most of us forget “today I have to be happy.”
What advice do you give people who are maybe going through a time when they are just finding it really difficult to smile?
The most important thing is not to center your life around what’s going wrong for you. You can start looking for things that are going right in your life. If you sit and meditate for awhile, you can find a lot of things to be happy about.
What role does forgiveness play in living a happier life?
I wrote something down for all my children. It says forgiveness is that subtle thread that binds all the love and friendship. There are so many people who wake up and say, “I don’t have any friends,” and mostly it’s because they haven’t forgiven someone. And so forgiveness is the most important thing to have—you must have lots of forgiveness.
What is the belief you personally go to during times of change?
That God loves me.
The best thing about change is…
…it’s still life.
What is the best change you have ever made?
The best change that I’ve found [is] that human beings are the greatest invention ever.
For more information on George Foreman, visit www.georgeforeman.com.
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