Are we there yet?

Anyone with kids knows this expression! It usually starts coming from the kiddies after about a minute on the way to some place. “Are we there yet?” “Are we almost there?” And no matter what you say, the same question will come again in a short time. They are anxious to arrive at the destination they were told about as they started out. They know where they are going and they want to be there now!

Don’t we all do this? We want to be there right now. I happen to think this is great. It sets us up to be sure we do what needs to be done to get to where we are going. Here is the however that you have been waiting for. However, if you do not know where you are going, it really does not matter how fast you go because you most likely won’t get there. In fact, if you do not know where you are going, the faster you go, the “loster” you get.

Remember, success is the incremental achievement of a worthwhile goal or objective. That means that you must first decide what you want to achieve (where you want to go). True happiness can only exist if we are living our lives on purpose with some purpose in mind. The purpose will shift in accord with your stage of life and needs/wants along the way. I want you also to remember that it is OK to want to be, have, do, earn whatever you decide. Understand your own values and mission in life and set goals that are congruent with those values and your life mission.

In other words, get your “life map” out and figure out where you want to go right now. Put that destination into your own GPS system and start going. Set your goals, focus on the outcome you want, develop your plan of action, and start out towards your destination right now. Your internal GPS will make adjustments along the way to help you keep on track. As you get close to your destination, look ahead to the next one and set new goals and keep moving. It is the voyage that is happiness.

Are we there yet? Not yet but we are on the right route. Enjoy.

The Law of Re-enforcement

This is a term that I have just come across again. In essence it says that if you re-enforce any action (or thought) it will become ingrained. It makes me think of the idea that Earl Nightingale developed all those years ago. “We become what we think about”.

Other similar sorts of homilies are: what you focus on grows in importance and fact, you reap what you sow and so on. In other words, what you are focusing on is very important. It sets you up for more of whatever you are focusing on.

Note: it does not work in the negative. The human brain does not process negatives. A negative is a concept that our brain just does not deal with. If you tell yourself not to think of a pink elephant, guess what the first thing to come into the mind is. Yep, there is that pink elephant. In other words, if you try to focus on not having or doing something, you will actually be reinforcing the exact opposite. You will get more of what you do not want.

As we know, life is all about choices. Choose carefully what you choose to focus on. It is perfectly fine to think about a problem but we must be careful not to focus on the problem and how terrible the effects are on us. Rather, identify the problem, think briefly about the terrible consequences, and then move ahead to what outcome you really want. If you have financial troubles, shift the focus onto having sufficient funds. If you have poor health, shift the focus to better health and feeling happy anyway. If you are sad about a happening in your life, shift the focus to how you can find things to be grateful for and be happy again.

There is a sort of gyro-scope in your brain that will work hard to notice opportunities to fulfill your goals and re-enforce whatever it is that you are focused on. Focus on what you want more of. Your brain will point out opportunities that you might have otherwise missed. When you see those opportunities, act on them right away. Remember the law of re-enforcement. If you do not act, you are re-enforcing the behaviour of seeing opportunities and taking no action. Eventually, you will not even see any opportunities and you will convince yourself that you really cannot change anything in your life. Take action!

DO Stuff!!

I just heard about the findings of a study done by a Dr. Diamon(d?) and it struck me that it has lots to say about being happy. She put some rats into a sterile and separate environment; some in an environment where they could watch the next batch of rats; and finally some rats in an environment where they had lots of toys to play with and the toys were changed rather regularly. The idea was to see what the difference would be to the development of the brain. It turned out to also indicate something about longevity as well.

The rats were all treated exactly the same except for the specific differences in their environments. Same food, same temperatures and that sort of thing. When the rats died, they had their brains examined to see what areas developed and the relative size of their brains as well. No-one was particularly surprised to see that the rats that had the toys had larger brains and they were more advanced in the “intellect” areas of the brain. It was no surprise to find out that the rats in the sterile environment were much less developed. There were two surprises however.

It was a bit of a surprise to find out that the rats that could just watch the rats that had the toys did not show much difference in their brains and “intellect” areas from the rats in the sterile environment. In other words, just watching does nothing to develop brain function. You have to do stuff and learn from actual experience and interaction.

The other surprise was that the rats that were in the highly stimulating environment that had the toys lived considerably longer than the other two sets of rats. That has an interest for us because it indicates that those that are doing interesting things live healthier and longer.

Therefor, I come to the conclusion that we must be human doings, not just human beings. We need to get out and interact with others. We need to try stuff out for ourselves and learn from our own mistakes. We can learn from the mistakes of others but then move on and advance the ball more by allowing ourselves to try different things and if mistakes occur, at least they will be new ones and we can learn more from them and move on yet again.

Don’t just watch others (TV and the like), don’t stay inside away from all contact, get out into the world and “play with the toys”. Experience and enjoy. DO stuff!!!

Four D’s Lead to Happiness

Have you paid attention at all to how you feel after you have checked your e-mail or in-box at work? You quickly looked at what was there and then started to do your regular work or duties. In the back of your mind you were feeling a bit pressured by all that you needed or wanted to do but felt you had to do something else right then. Then the next time you checked your e-mails or in-box, the same things happened and it accumulates! This leads to living very much in the “urgent-urgent” quadrant of life.

You need to take control of e-mails and in-box stuff. I suggest applying the 4 D’s. But, before that, plan when you are going to check those areas of your life. You do not have to do it every second or when you here the “ding” indicating new e-mail. Turn the alert off. Set a time or two each day to check e-mail. Then apply the 4 D’s.

The first thing you need to decide when you open an e-mail is can I Dump it? Is it just garbage or general info that needs no action? Dump it if you can.

The next thing to decide , if you cannot dump it, is can you Delegate it to someone else? I don’t mean just send it for info to someone else. I mean, can you really refer it to someone else to handle? If you can, will you be able to just let it go or will you need to keep track of progress or completion? If you can let it go, should you tell the originator that you have given it to someone else to handle? Then, delegate it if you can and mark when you need to take any further action on the matter in your calendar. Don’t forget to indicate where the information resides.

Some stuff takes time. You need to consult with others, gather info or wait for others to let you have what you need. You are going to have to Delay this item. But, again, delay it to a specific time in your calendar. Set aside time in your calendar to deal with this item and leave a note about where the relevant info resides.

If all else fails, Do what you should do right away before looking at any other documents or e-mail. If a short note is required, do it. Resist the temptation to copy the world. Just respond and file or delete it.

So, the four D’s are:

  1. Dump it!
  2. Delegate it!
  3. Delay it!
  4. Do it!

You have taken control of a large chunk of uncontrolled input to your days and this leads to feelings of comfort, contentment and happiness. Even if you have lots coming at you, you can be happy anyway. Just take control and handle input once when you first touch it.

Live well, love always and laugh out loud every day.

Succes Can Be Happiness

We are often caught up in wondering what happiness is. I have written a little about that elsewhere but I have been thinking just lately that it is pretty hard to feel happy if you do not feel successful as well. So, what is success?

One of the finest definitions that I have come across was espoused by Earl Nightingale in the 60’s. He said; “Success is the incremental achievement of worthwhile goals.” That is a fairly simple and straightforward concept. When you consider it closely, it applies to all facets of our lives. “Worthwhile goals” is the central core. So, what would be considered worthwhile goals?

We have all had drummed into our heads that we have to have goals so that we can achieve something. Most us think of goals as related to work stuff only. Some of us might have vague ideas of what we want to achieve outside of work but rarely does this translate into goals. We almost never consider whether the goals are “worthwhile”. If it is a goal we have set, we consider it worthwhile by definition. So, what would be worthwhile?

Worthwhile things are those that resonate with your core values and your life’s mission. They are happenings or achievements that are in keeping with your view of why you are here on this earth at this time. Your reason to get up in the morning. There will be a congruence between your goals and your values and your life’s mission. So, what are your values and life’s mission?

This is a really important and large area that deserves special attention. For now I will just touch lightly on a way to look at what you think your values are right now. What are your guiding principles? To think about that a bit, consider what people might say about you. Would they say that you are an expert in your field? Helpful? Caring? Fearless? Aggressive? … and so on. That is what you feel your friends, colleagues bosses and family would say. What would you like them to say about you? Be honest with yourself here. What would you really like them to say about you? Bingo! You are now a bit more aware of your values. So, now that you have an idea of your values, how do you work towards the achievement of worthwhile goals?

Obviously, you need to have goals. They should be written down clearly in a way that it is easy to measure when you have achieved the goal. It should also have a time frame to indicate by when you will have the goal achieved. You should have goals in each area of your life. Work, relationships, family, finances, social, recreation and so on. Now, look at each goal carefully. Is it in step with your values? The values that you want to live by? If not, alter the goal or change the priority. The higher priority goals will be the ones that are in the most important part of your life right now. So, now that you have worthwhile goals, how do you achieve them incrementally?

This, it seems to me, is the key. It is not the actual achievement that is happiness. It is the journey. The journey to the achievement of the goal is where the happiness resides. It is a way of life that leaves you feeling worthwhile and contented. Happy. For each of the goals, you must write out a full plan of action steps that you will need to take to arrive at your destination. Assess the actions each time to be sure they are congruent with your values. So, you have your action steps all written down, now what?

ACT! Do something right away. Don’t wait until you feel like it or the time is right, take action of some sort right away. Right now. Then, as a matter of course, fit the action steps that you must take into your schedule. Put a date or time that you will perform each action step. Then, at the end of each day, look at what you have done, consider what you have not done that you were supposed to have done, and consider the results so far. Is the plan working out OK? Do you need to make any adjustments? Make the adjustments that you need to make and decide what you will do the next day towards your goals.

As you keep moving along this path, you will feel better and better. You will end each day considering the neat stuff you did. You will be looking forward to the next day and the neat stuff you will be doing then. You are working incrementally towards the achievement of worthwhile goals. You are living on purpose!

I’d love to hear your successes. Good luck. Always remember, knowledge of how to do something means nothing at all if you do not apply it and actually do what you have learned. ACT!

Feeling down? Need Energy boost? read on …

We all have times when we are feeling a bit down and we need to get ready to do something important. We want to approach the activity (or even just our day) with energy and a positive feeling of happiness and confidence. Yes, I have those days as well!

Try a little exercise with me. Right now, while reading this, think of something that makes you feel down or sad. Focus on it for a bit and really feel down. Observe carefully what it is like. Your body is slumped. Your shoulders are hunched forward and your head is hanging down. Your mouth is down-turned. You may have a tear in your eye. You don’t feel like you could do any sort of physical activity. You just have no energy.

OK! Come back gently to the here and now. Quickly throw your shoulders back, sit up straight hold your head up high and put a great big old wide smile on your face. Throw your hands up in the air and smile. Laugh out loud if this makes you laugh. While you are sitting up straight with the smile on your face, again observe! You are sitting up straight, your head is up, you feel a ton of energy. The world is suddenly a brighter place. Your shoulders feel like they can support more weight than just you. You feel vibrant.

What just happened? You have just shown yourself that it is your mind and how you act that really controls your feelings and energy levels. Things do happen to us that make us feel down. Some days we just feel down for no apparent reason. It may be a dull day (following several other dull days) and we do not think we can face another one! You have just demonstrated to yourself that you can turn it around instantly just by controlling how you act and think. It is simple (not always easy but simple). Just change your state!

When you notice that you are feeling down and you have decided that you would rather not feel that way any more right now, do something dramatic and then assume the big silly smile pose! Throw a pillow onto the floor! Crumple a piece of paper and throw it at the door! Clap your hands twice and say – ENOUGH! Then – the silly smile pose.

You CAN be happy anyway. Just do something with your own mind! Smile.

Baby Steps

Have you ever noticed that it sometimes does not work to set goals? We are often exhorted to set goals and work towards the achievement of worthwhile goals. The working towards worthwhile goals is one idea of a successful life (Earl Nightingale). We are told to set big goals! Reach!

Our brain has a regulator devise installed that keeps us from getting too far ahead of ourselves. This regulator develops with experience early on in life and gets firmer and more controlling over time. We don’t like to fail so we try less and less over time to do things that are new or a stretch. Here we are being told to set big goals but we find that we really can’t achieve them so we eventually stop setting the big goals. Then drudgery sets in!

Is it wrong to set big goals? I don’t think so at all! We do need to find our passions and set big goals that give interest and meaning to our lives. So what can we do to address this seeming contradiction?

Take baby steps. Go ahead, if you want to, and set big goals. However, then break it down to smaller goals. And then, even smaller ones. Our brain has to really believe that we can achieve the goal that it is going to be actively working on. So make it small. Really small at first.

This is just like building up muscles or stamina or any skill. We start by doing something at the level that we can do it and get used to success. The brain then learns to accept this way of working towards achieving goals that we want in our lives. When that is working well, stretch a bit and make the goals a little larger. Like adding weights in your workouts or running a bit further or doing a more complex task. Step by step we build up our goal achievement ability.

So, start setting small goals, achieving them, and then making larger and larger goals and achieving them as well. Good luck. Don’t forget to enjoy the process! The voyage counts!!

Universal Guidelines to Live By

My two Universal Guidelines:

  1. Do no harm to others.
  2. Help others who need and will accept help to the level that you are able to help.

The sages through history have espoused some version of “treat others as you yourself would want to be treated”. That is perhaps the higher form of both the Universal Guidelines. You should stop to think before you do anything and ask yourself – “what do I want the outcome to be as a result of this action?” When you do this, you must look far enough out in time in examining the outcomes to see just how they will relate to the two Universal Guidelines.

This seems so basic and straight forward that it is difficult to write about. Yet, I suspect that there is no one alive who can live absolutely consistently in accord with the two Universal Guidelines. We have world strife and wars. We have enslavement. We have huge poverty while we have huge concentration of wealth. We have theft. We have murder. We have one person striking out in anger at another. People leave garbage where ever they please. On and on it goes. All of these are anti-social and create divisions, discord and unhappiness.

My thesis is quite simple. If enough of us will try to live as close to the standards of the two Universal Guidelines as we can, the trend will grow and eventually prevail in a group of people, a location, a region, a country, a group of countries and eventually the world! I liken it to “phasing” in quantum physics. At a certain critical point it will take on a life of its own and line up together so that we are all in concert with each other and the two Universal Guidelines.

Understand, I am not speaking about a bland, vanilla world of sameness. Not at all! There will be plenty of room for difference. Ideas should still be challenged. We will still organize in societies with governments. Everyone at every level will just always work in consideration of the two Universal Guidelines.

Reflect on life lived.

Edward Kennedy has just died. Life goes on but sometimes a death of a public figure is significant enough to cause us to reflect on our own lives a bit. Remember, a life unexamined is not lived as well as it can be.

The Kennedys of Teddy’s generation have lived lives of service. This has been a reflection of their mother’s exortation that “to whom much is given, much is expected”. They had their warts but overall, they lived a life of service to others who were less fortunate than they were.

When we look at our own lives, are we living lives that our mothers would be proud of? Are we taking the time to do things now instead of always putting them off until next year? Are we really annoyed at that idiot who just cut in front of us during the drive home? Do our inner thoughts reveal our real personality? Are we happy with that real inner personality?

It is a good time to reflect a bit. Examine what is really important and focus more on that. Calm down and look around at this amazing world. Live well, love always and laugh out loud every day!

Organise and Choose

I hope you have a huge dreams list by now. I also hope you did not edit or limit the list in any way. Did you enjoy the process? If you study the list a bit I know you will see some common themes in the items on your list. So let’s organise the list a bit before we do much else.

Look for items that have commonalities. Group together those items that relate to family, social, material, finance, spirituality and any other main heading that you may want to group together. We are not limiting the list here at all. We are just putting items in an organised system. OK?

Now is where we start to really get excited and put a plan together for a life that has happiness as its central theme. Looking at the main groupings that you have identified and filled with dreams, which is the most important to you right now, at this very point in your life? This will change through the journey you take in life but one of the main headings will be the highest priority right now. Do not think about what others think it should be or what you think they expect. Focus! What do YOU think?!

Great. Now, what is number two for you right now? Three? And so on ….

I bet you can guess what comes next. Right. Do the same exercise in each heading to prioritise each dream in each heading. You have now done something that most people never do. You have built a true dreams list, organised it and made decisions about which are more important TODAY. What will you spend spare time on now?

Next time we will actually focus even more and develop plans that will very naturally lead to a happier life.