By Ann Reily
---- — After making history in September as the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida, Diana Nyad said in a press conference that it was a lesson to herself to “be fully engaged.”
“Be so awake and alert and alive every minute of every waking day,” she said.
The look on Nyad’s face when she completed her swim and that speech are the first things that come to Newburyport resident Don Arnoudse’s mind when he is asked to define the word “exuberance.”
Arnoudse, a leadership coach and author of the upcoming book “Exuberance,” will give a free talk tonight at Newburyport City Hall titled “Choose Your Mood, Change Your Life.”
Through his more than 30 years of work as a management consultant and executive coach, Arnoudse said he has discovered just how important mood is, not only in the workplace but in all aspects of daily life. And as founder of The Exuberance Project, which this talk will help launch, he is hoping to change what he considers the primary mood of our times: fear.
“It’s fear, frustration, anger. Man, there’s a lot of that around,” he said. “I’m on a personal mission to shift fear to exuberance.”
It’s a shift that Arnoudse made in his own life after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer shortly after moving to Newburyport more than four years ago.
“That just stopped me in my tracks,” he said.
He made a promise to himself to change his life, becoming conscious of things that were on “autopilot,” like diet and exercise. He leaned on friends and family, including wife Colleen and his two grown children, Josh and Sara. And he tuned into his own mood.
“I’m great now, I’ve come through it,” said Arnoudse, now cancer-free. “I was already happy, but this has really focused me. What I’ve learned about mood is it really makes a difference, it matters.”
During tonight’s 60-minute talk and interactive discussion, Arnoudse will discuss how mood can change everything, how to choose a mood to fit the situation, how to sustain a mood and how to shift the mood of others. He will also offer several steps that people can take immediately.
His first piece of advice?
“Take responsibility for your mood,” he said. “Don’t blame it on circumstances, don’t blame it on other people.”
According to Arnoudse, research has shown that 10 percent of mood is directly linked to circumstances, while 40 to 50 percent of it is “truly under our control.”
Arnoudse recommends choosing a mood “that suits your circumstances” before going into a situation. For example, if you are collaborating on a project with a co-worker, you probably want to start with a trusting mood. If you’re a star athlete, you should make sure you’re “confident but not arrogant.”
Before choosing a mood, two good questions that Arnoudse suggests asking yourself are, “What do you care about?” and “What’s your purpose?”
Arnoudse is also careful to highlight the difference between emotions and mood.
“Emotions are triggered by events, but moods actually create events,” he said. “Usually when the event passes, the emotion passes.”
And the mood of exuberance that Arnoudse advocates doesn’t mean that you’re happy all of the time, it means that you fully experience everything, from sadness to anger to excitement.
“The mood of exuberance, it includes all the emotions,” he said. “It just means fully engaged. You don’t go numb on anything. It’s kind of this inability to be indifferent.”
Arnoudse recalls two very different moods that he experienced at Red Sox games this year. At the first one, an early season contest with the Yankees, much of the crowd seemed to be pessimistic and filled with hatred, loudly chanting “Yankees suck!”
A dramatic difference was in the air at a playoffs game at the end of the season.
“We’re all singing, ‘Every little thing is going to be all right,’” Arnoudse said. “I think that last mood is the mood we needed to win.”
Those two games are the perfect example of how moods, good or bad, can travel quickly from one person to another, Arnoudse said.
“That’s the other thing about moods: They’re viral,” he said. “You’re a virus walking around; what kind of disease do you want to spread?”
If you go
What: “Choose Your Mood, Change Your Life”
When: Tonight, 7 to 8. Refreshments at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Newburyport City Hall auditorium, 60 Pleasant St.
How much: Free