Another Year. Make it Happy!

This is a magical time of the year and it has been for thousands of years. The crops are all in, the fields have been readied for winter, food stores have been set aside. Supplies have been brought in to survive the winter months. The days have been getting shorter. Now, the days are getting longer and we look forward eagerly to the future once more!

This has been going on forever. Peoples have been celebrating this time as a time to review our past, to be grateful for what we have and to plan with eager anticipation our future. Take some time for this. Put your feet up and think for a while.

The stuff about crops and supplies for the winter and so-on is no longer literal in our society but it is in many others (and was in ours not all that long ago!). Our current calendar puts this time of the year at the end of the year so it is a great time to reflect and set goals for the coming year.

Be gentle when you reflect on this past year. Some bad things happened and you may feel guilty at even thinking about being happy or making plans. Acknowledge that, reflect back to the better times and seize on those as the better memories to hold in mind. Think also about all the good things that happened. Keep them also at the front of your mind. How did you do on your goals/resolutions from last year? Mentally celebrate the achievements and decide what to do about the ones you did not quite achieve. Let got the ones that don’t matter and plan what to do about the others (if any).

Here is a quick side note. Do you have a store of little things that bring a smile to your face or make you laugh? I have a little “fun things” file that I put stuff in as it touches me. When I am feeling a bit down and want a lift, I turn to this file and just “reach in” randomly and see what comes out. It is always good to at least shift my mood. Like the fellow who was marvelling at how a thermos can keep things cold or it can keep things hot. “How does it know?” 🙂

After you have reviewed the year, putting the good things in the front of your mind, let’s now be grateful for all that we have. I keep saying that we were so smart to choose this time and this place to be alive. We, in North America, are better off than the vast majority of the rest of the world. I personally have a great family around me that care about, and for me. Great friends to share ways to change the world for the better. Comfortable surroundings and time to do things. I have people around me that let me help them ( a true blessing). What about you? What are you grateful for?

Perscription: Live on purpose in 2011.

Now, look ahead to the coming year. Call them resolutions or goals or whatever, but, decide what you want to get done in 2011. Just go ahead and set down in writing for yourself what it is that you intend to do. It can be a give up goal or a get it done goal. Be specific. Then be sure to write out in as much detail as you can the reason this is important to do in 2011. If you cannot do this, you are not convinced so you might as well let it go now. Which is the most important to you right now? What can you do right now to start? Do it!

Repeat often during the year and have a wonderful 2011!!!!

What Do You Really, Really, Really, Really, REALLY Want?

Dr. Wayne Dyer asked this question in one of his talks and I think it bears considering here. Let’s try to illustrate the ideas a bit with a couple of examples after we think about what this might mean.

The idea is that what we REALLY want can only be revealed by digging down about 4 or 5 levels of our consciousness. What we want when first asked is usually something quite simple and direct. I want that idiot to wait their turn! I want bags of money. I want others to love and acknowledge my greatness! However, in each of those cases, is that really what we want if we dig down a bit?

In these days of “road rage” we seem to become a different person when we get behind the wheel of a car. We become “warriors”. If someone tries to cut in front of you, the tendency is often to close up the gap and keep the person out. Why is that? What is it we really want? We want the person to not cut in! Really? We want to teach the person a lesson by showing that cutting in is not permitted. Really? We want to not be late and we might be if everyone just cuts in so we will not let that person in. Really? If people would just wait their turn or for a safe opening, we would all be happier. Really? I think it is finally getting to the point. We want peace and respect which is a way to define happiness. So, just go straight to happiness. Control what you can, your reactions, and realize that you will get there anyway and you will get there with no feelings of anxiety or overloaded adrenalin that has not had an outlet.

Money! We all want lots of it and we believe that it will make us happier. To a certain extent, it does. But after a certain amount, it does not add to happiness. That is because we need to look a few levels down again. We want money for security. We want it to be able to buy all the neat things out there that we would love to own. Or to travel lots. When we search a bit deeper we realize that we want money to be able to help others. What we really want, when we get right down to it is to feel happy because of the things that we can do with the money. That feeling of worth and love and recognition.

Which brings me to the next one. What we are really looking for in recognition and approval is happiness. That glow of contentment.

So, when you are thinking of what you want, dig down a bit. Find out what is REALLY important and use that in making decisions and adjustments to your actions and approaches to life. Think, consider the impact of your actions, act when all is in congruence!

Live Well

As far as I know, no-one gets out of life alive. We all die. We all hope to live for a very long time before we die. Do we give it much more thought than that?

It is very helpful to think about our own mortality once in a while. I have mentioned in other posts that it is useful to think about how you want to be remembered. It is essential to think about what you are passionate about and make sure you build that into your life. We should set aside time each day to focus on what it is that we are grateful for that day. Remembering that what we think about grows, we should think about what we want, not what we don’t want or fear. When bad things happen to good people, look for the good and lessons that we are being given. Look up and forward.

There are lots of cliche’s in that paragraph but cliche’s are useful because there are truths in them. We live our lives mostly in stages. I think there are three main stages that keep us moving through life and sometimes result in us being so busy that we loose focus on living well. The first third of our life is developmental. We are busy learning to be independent and acquire knowledge and skills to be able to excel in life. We acquire the tools to “make a difference” and we can’t wait to get out and apply them.

The second third of our life is achieving. We are busy applying our knowledge and skills to achieve great things. We are having a family and teaching our kids how to be just like us (or better!). We are developing great relationships that help us in our ventures, whether business or raising our families. Some continue to learn but mostly to enhance our building a good life. Sometimes we are so busy building the good life, we forget to live it (too busy to travel, too busy to enjoy outings with family and friends, too busy to spend a quiet evening with the love of your life – all of those things can be done a bit later!).

The third stage of our life is the time we start to review what we have done and to think about leaving some sort of legacy behind so we will be well remembered. These are the sunset years. This is when we usually reap what we have sown during the previous parts of our lives. Often we have regrets that we feel are too late to do anything about. We should have spent more time with our kids. We should have paid more attention to our spouse. We should have stopped more to “smell the roses”. I should have gone hang gliding when I was younger.

I want to tell you that it is never too late or too early to learn to live well. What I mean by that is to live your life in the full knowledge that you get only one chance to live your life. Make choices that lead to contentment and happiness all along the voyage. Do not fall into the trap of living a “very safe” (boring) life so that you can live a very long time. Always remember that it is not the years in your life that are the measure of happiness, but it is the life in your years. LIVE! NOW! CARPE DIEM!

I am not advocating recklessness. Rather, I am saying, don’t put things off. Find ways to do them now. Live today while still planning for tomorrow. That also means you need to know what it is that you really want to do. Check out your dream list. Make plans. Act!

The Nature of Happiness

I have been pondering the nature of happiness for years. What can be defined as happiness? How does one know if one is happy or not? Can one be happier? Is there a limit? Is happiness fickle? Can you lose happiness once you tell yourself that you are happy? Lots of this sort of thought.

Do any of these sorts of questions really matter? Isn’t happiness an individual and internal thing? How I might define happiness is very different from how a person living on the streets might define it. Different from how a person living in the jungles of the Amazon might define it. Different from how a teenager might define it. Different from how a person who has been diagnosed with a terminal disease and has months to live might define it. Happiness is a very subjective thing indeed.

BUT! There are certainly some basic similarities in all cases. People generally want to feel like their existence makes a difference. That there is some purpose to life in general and in their life in particular. What many of us do during our lives is motivated at least in part by this generality. What is missing is an idea of what you want the picture to turn out like. I will address this again a bit later.

Remember Maslow? His depiction of the hierarchy of needs? People strive to fulfil needs in a hierarchy that he described in his works. The most basic needs are food, water and shelter. Then social needs and so on. I think that when one feels one has met the absolute basic needs, only then can happiness be considered. In other words, even homeless folks living on the streets can, and do, enjoy periods of happiness. It may be a brief period of time but they experience it and aim for it when the absolute basic needs are met. A good argument for addressing basic needs for everyone. We all want to live in a state of general happiness.

So, what can we do to live in a state of general happiness? It has been a secret that has been revealed once again. The Law of Attraction! Not a secret at all. It has been studied and written about lots in the past hundred years or so. Before that it was written about and shared amongst the leaders of the world (political, business and religious). Now it is widely disseminated. Do we get it yet? Napoleon Hill wrote about people becoming what they tink about. Earl Nightingale popularise that in his ground-breaking recording “The Strangest Secret”. Even the Bible says that “as you sow, so shall you reap”. What you think about expands and grows. Focus on what you want – not what you do not want.

I said I would come back to the idea of how you want things to turn out. Happiness becomes a state of living if you are living a life congruent with your view of living a worthwhile life. How can you feel secure in that unless you know the end from the beginning? If you know how things will turn out, you make choices along the way that lead to happiness during the voyage and certainly near the end when you look back. Let there be no regrets. Think about what you would like people to say about you at your funeral. What would you like friends, family, business associates, employees and so on, say? What do you think they would say if you were to die today? See a gap? Make the changes you need to make so they can say what you would like to be remembered for and be happy anyway. Live a worthwhile life incrementally achieving worthwhile goals.

How can you be happy anyway after something like this?

I just read a story in the paper about the suicide of a young man (17 years old). He was a great son and brother and friend who seemed to be lively and full of living. He joked around lots and was a great person to be around. Yet, there were signs that there may have been problems in the background. This young man decided he had had enough and chose to hang himself the day after the wake for a friend who had also committed suicide. The note he left behind was moving and upbeat. He said that he had just had enough!

The suicide and whether it could have been averted are not the issues I want to dwell on right now. This story seriously challenges my premiss that you can be happy anyway! How could you be happy anyway if you were the parent or brother or friend who had to face the reality of this loss? The short answer, of course, is that you could not! Not in the short-term. Time has to be allowed to grieve. Time has to be allowed in order to feel the remorse that you did not personally stop it. Time has to be allowed to think about all the things that will not happen now and to fondly start to remember the wonderful things that were a part of this lost life.

Only then can you start to turn towards happiness again. The plea of the young man was for those he left behind to have only fond memories of him. Good advice. It is what we choose to focus on that will determine how we feel. If we stay lost in the grief, we have only grief in our lives. Start as soon as you can to think of the good memories. Bring them to the front of the mind.

But what if there are no good memories that you can call up? Wow. That is a lesson right there. Focus on what can be learned. In a time-line of eternity, perhaps this life was lived just to teach one lesson. What was it? Do you see the thread here?

Look forward again. Remember the good things but look forward. There simply are not enough tears in the world to bring back the lost. Recall the good. Learn the lessons that may present themselves. Then, look forward to do things that will continue to focus on happiness. It may be to take care of others at risk. It may be to take care of yourself and get help for your depression or what ever may be bothering you right now. It may be to start a new activity. It may be to go for a walk in the park!

Grieve, of course! Remember the good, of course! Look forward and enjoy planning to live well, love always and to laugh out loud every day, of course!

Just for the joy of it!

I heard a couple of interesting things this past week or so. First, the vast majority of people in North America are basically happy. In another story, people with disabilities have been studied and those that have made very good adjustments are also basically happy. So why does it feel like people feel that something is missing and they want to achieve happiness still?

My theory on that is that we are so wrapped up in every-day things that we actually forget to be happy. When we sit and think about it for a while, we realise that we are basically happy. Something seems to be missing but we are happy overall. Let’s break out once in a while and do something very child like and bring back some joy into our lives. Joy that we feel and can recall when we get busy with everyday life again.

Create a huge Joy List. Remember when you were a kid and what it felt like to run out into the rain on a warm summer day? What it felt like to see a puddle and just go over to it and jump up and down, splashing all over the place? Remember the joy of taking a walk on a clear, cold day in winter along the edge of a frozen river? These are a couple of my joyful memories. Write a huge list for yourself of things that bring you joy. Sitting on a patio with friends enjoying a libation. The music you love to listen to (not just have on as background music but that you really like to listen to).

Did you write it down? Please do write it out because you need to post this in a few places where you will see it often. Be sure to include activities that bring you joy that you can make time for when you feel like you need a small boost. Kids are spontaneous. Be spontaneous in doing some of these things on your joy list. Just do something! Laugh about it while you are doing it. Luxuriate.

Most of us are happy overall. We just forget that fact in the hectic lives we live. This is different than events happening that bring us sadness and despair. Those are dealt with in different ways. But, day to day we just get wrapped up in living and forget to be consciously happy. That is when it is great to bring out the Joy List and pick something that appeals and do it right away. Make your list. Post it. Do stuff! Enjoy!

Yin-Yang. Up-Down. Happy-Sad.

Many say that it is not possible to be happy all the time. Of course we cannot be happy all the time. That is not what I am saying at all. Rather, when we feel badly, when we feel pained, when we feel sad, when we feel angry or dissapointed – we can be happy anyway! Happiness is just around the corner.

Many say to me that it is not possible to be happy all the time. What I am trying to say and do is wrong and impossible. This actually heartens me greatly because we are getting somewhere. Of course we cannot be happy all the time. That is not what I am saying at all. Rather, when we feel badly, when we feel pained, when we feel sad, when we feel angry or disappointed – we can be happy anyway!

Think about it. We could not really understand the idea of light if there were no darkness. If it were always the same level of light, we could not wonder at the brilliance of a clear day with bright sunshine glinting off the water. It wouldn’t mean anything of interest to us. It is only because we have darkness or storms that darken the skies that we understand that we enjoy light.

Can you imagine living in a world with no gravity? How about living in weightless space a few light years from earth? Because we are weightless, we have no reference points that indicate up from down. Down is generally where gravity attempts to pull us. Up is the other way. Because we are in a weighted environment, we enjoy the feelings of being “up”. Whether that is flying or just jumping in the air, it feels good. We are happy usually when we are “up”.

Similarly, we can not really experience happiness if we do not know what unhappiness is. We cannot know real joy if we have not experienced real and deep sadness. Do you see the pattern? There can be no ups without downs. There can be no light without darkness.

When you are feeling sad, angry, upset or any of the unhappy emotions, feel them and learn to feel relief also. Soon you will feel the opposite. Look for the lesson of the experience or loss. Remember the good. Focus on the good memories and/or the opportunities that can be before you. Change your focus to the “up”. Take the next step that will be the first on the journey of being happy. That is what it means to “be happy anyway”. Embrace the bad stuff as a sign that the good stuff is just around the corner. You just have to get up and go around the corner to meet it. Act! You can be happy anyway!

GIGO – Remember that?

In the early days of computers and computer programming, there was a popular expression – Garbage in – Garbage out – GIGO. I recall this being particularly appropriate when building data bases that needed to be able to generate useful reports.

GIGO is a term that very much applies to our everyday lives as well. Imagine all the stuff we see and hear each day as input to our brains, and therefore, to our feelings of happiness. It is not much of a leap to see that if you are constantly focusing on bad stuff, negative news, violent games or shows, fear and the like, you will feel those emotions. Why not shift focus?

We are reflections of what we experience and put into our minds. If we follow good mental nutrition, we will be healthier and happier. We will be able to weather downturns and keep a good perspective. The downturn will also pass!

Just for a week or two, turn off the news. Don’t read the headline news reports in the papers. Unplug. Play with the kiddies. Go for long walks in parks. Smile for no reason at all. Concentrate on how you are feeling. Enjoy it.

Yes, I know that you have lots of problems that will not go away or get better if you don’t pay attention to them. Of course, you need to work on those at the same time! But, work on them with an outlook that it is going to get better. You can and will make the necessary changes and adjustments that will move you to where you want to be. You can develop a plan of action much better when you block out the noise of the world out there and just focus on what it is going to take to improve your own life. Smile!!

One more time, I am going to remind you that a goal with no action plan is just a dream or wish. An action plan with no real action on your part is just delusional. Develop you plan and act! Now!

Block out the noise of the frantic and apocalyptic world for a while. With the 24/7 news channels around generating panic on every little thing, you don’t need to worry. There will still be lots to panic about when you look at the news again in a couple of weeks. However, you will have a better perspective and will see it as the industry generating interest to capture viewers so the advertisers will pay them to air more panic-inducing items – and the circle continues. Stop putting garbage into the brain for a while. Give it a chance to clear out the garbage.

Feed yourself good things and pay attention to what makes you feel happy. That is your own personal happiness GPS at work. You KNOW what makes you feel happy and at peace. Go there.

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.

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!