Jeremy is a genius at motivation. His gift is one we can all take to heart: Lighten up.

Three times a week, during an early morning YMCA Pilates class, he inspires me and about 40 people of all ages. And he’s been doing it for more than 15 years. No one ever wants to miss, because the day is always better with a dose of Jeremy.

Filtering into class at the crack of dawn, no matter how glum when we arrive, we leave brighter. A blues guitarist, boxing coach, and Pilates instructor, he teases, cajoles, praises, and jokes. He might croon a spontaneous verse, between sets of leg lifts, strumming an imaginary guitar. His terrier Willie’s escapades or reciting a boxer’s eccentric stage name while playing the Rocky theme keeps us wondering what will come next.

He loves to play, “Guess that Breakfast,” pretending to have psychic visions of someone’s breakfast. Of course, his answers of cold pizza and donuts are usually wrong, but we still like hearing the routine. Best of all, we like the banter about our fellow classmates such as a recent running joke that started with the class’s resident marathoner.

“Hey, guys, check out Jan’s strong plank. She’s training for that ‘bearathon’ up there in Alaska.”

“Jeremy,” someone shouted out, “what’s a bearathon?”

“That’s a special Alaska deal,” he replied. “Every mile or so, see, up there, they release a bear cub to chase the runners. Then, they release the mama bear to chase the baby bear. No one ever gets eaten, though.”

The class erupts into belly laughs. Bang! Jeremy just hit our reset button. The inevitable image of our elite-runner Jan being chased by baby bears across the Alaskan wilderness popped into our minds. For a split second, we forget our huffing and puffing. Grimaces melt into smiles.

We perform better, put more effort into it. Jeremy has a genius for binging out the best in people.

When challenged in our daily comings and goings, most of us hunker down instead of imagining baby bears chasing us. Our breathing contracts as the day progresses. But what if we could embrace more whimsy? We just might relax and solve our problems more easily. In fact, research bears this out. (I had to do it, the pun, I mean.)

A Durham University 2007 paper Humor in Organizations: No Laughing Matter, points out the positive and negative aspects of workplace humor. At best, humor energizes people, cuts across boundaries of status and authority, and can illuminate contradictions. There’s also a dark side to the funny stuff. Workplace humor can be dysfunctional when mean-spirited or sarcastic.

Thanks to Jeremy, bearathon is my new favorite word. Although not officially in any dictionary, my definition is “a way to make difficult events more pleasant using charming, whimsical, and G-rated humor.” I even like it as a verb as in, “Who can you bearathon today?”

In honor of Jeremy Fuller and his bearathon spirit, I dare you to do the following every day for a week:

  1. Write “Bearathon” down on a post-it note, and put it near your computer. This reminds you to laugh at least two times every day. Look for humor. If you look, you’ll find it.
  2. Next, inspire at least one other person to laugh or smile. (Hint: You can start by describing Jeremy’s Alaska bearathon to someone.)
  3. Caveat: No put-downs, meanness, four-letter words, politics, or sarcasm allowed. (You are smarter than that.)

This morning, I bearathon-ed a friend in tears about a family illness. She laughed and said, “I feel like a huge weight was lifted from my heart.”

No matter what the status of your day is, imagining bear cubs chasing after you is a great way to start the day.

I’d love to hear your results.

PS Today in class, Jan was back. She won her division, and guess what else? The marathon had to pause, because….a bear cub really and truly interrupted it! Bearathon!