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!!!!

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.

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!

Choose to try

I have written in an earlier post that even making a small difference is good. Yet I still see that many are so overwhelmed by what is going on in the world that they just give up and adopt an attitude of “Well if the world is going to blazes, I might as well at least enjoy myself and take what I can.” Feelings of dispair and uselesnes abound.

Let’s look a bit closer at reality. What is that we all want? I mean really, really, really, REALLY want? Happiness. What helps us with feeling happier? I know for me, I feel happier when I do some little thing that might help another. Even a little gesture like letting someone move into my traffic lane even if there is no room or apparent advantage. There is a neat commercial on TV that shows how infectious it is to see someone do something kind for another. A person sees one person help another. Then in the next scene we see the observer do something kind and so on. Sort of like the old Acts of Random Kindness idea that was in vogue.

But what can I do you might ask. Simply do what you can. Don’t focus on what the rest of the world is doing. Just focus on what you can do where you stand with what you have! Will it make a difference? Sure it will.

Remember the story of the little boy who throws a starfish that was stranded on a beach along with hundreds of other starfish back into the ocean? He could not save them all but he made a difference for that one.

Scientists overwhelmingly agree that the climate change is happening and that at least a major contributor to this is human activity. Even if you are a business person with a vested interest in denying this, or a politician who does not want to make the changes required in legislation, we all have to admit that the world is heating up. Who cares why? It is also a given that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere acts as a greenhouse. Further, carbon has been captured in the form of trees, oil, natural gas and so on. Changing it to gaseous state will increase the greenhouse effect, therefore increasing heat, therefore increasing capacity for the atmosphere to hold water, therefore increasing the frequency and intensity of storms around the world.

Wow. What can one person do to have any sort of hope at all and therefore, some degree of happiness? Turn off a light. Turn the air conditioner up one degree. Turn the furnace down one degree. In other words, use just a little bit less energy. Don’t worry about the folks who focus on the one thing you do that you could change to use even less. Do what you can. Only after you have done what you can, then focus on doing a bit more. Just you! You cannot control others. Just take action yourself. Ignore the jibes of others who have given up already.

Apply this same approach to anything at all that you find that needs improvement. Choose one thing to do that you can do – and do it consistently. You will feel better. Even though the world around you is tough, you can be happy anyway. Just do what you can with what you have where you stand – and do it now!

No Happiness in Haiti – Let’s Help!

There has been a devastating earthquake in Haiti. Likely the number of dead is unknown but will surpass 100,000 easily. There is such widespread destruction, it will be years before people have any semblance of normal life. This was already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. That makes the effects of this devastation even more unimaginable! When you have nothing and even that is taken away, what do you do?

As I said, I cannot imagine what those folks are dealing with. The idea that you can be happy anyway seems so far off the mark that we have to look at the whole concept. Can the survivors be happy anyway? Certainly not right now!

Maslov, as I have reminded in an earlier post, pointed out that we move through levels into our human development during our life time. The very base level is survival. Food, clothing and shelter. Without that, we cannot consider anything else at all. We remain focused solely upon securing what is missing from the very basic needs we all have. Right now, the people affected by the earthquake in Haiti are dealing ith the very basics of life. Shelter, food, and water. Many are dealing with injuries too hard to imagine! There is absolutely no room fro happiness. And yet, some will be putting a “happy face” on in order to help others.

I think that it is only when we get to the second level of Maslov’s hierarchy of needs that we can be happy anyway. We see and hear of stories from the quake zone that show us that people are resilient and are just looking to find peace and happiness. First they need to secure their shelter, food and water supplies.

I want to encourage each and every person to look into their hearts and consider what we can do to help put these folks on a road that will eventually let them look around to see what road they want to take to reach where we all want to be, and that is a state of being happy anyway. In this first week, give money to reliable agencies that already have a presence in Haiti. In the coming weeks, clothing and the like will be needed, but wait until the agencies say they can handle the shipping and distribution logistics. There really is no infrastructure right now in the stricken zones.

We can be happy anyway, but first we need to meet our basic needs. Let’s help Haiti. It will help to make you feel better.

“A life unexamined is a life wasted.” – Socrates.

“A life unexamined is a life wasted.” – Socrates.

It is the first day of a new year and the first day of a new decade! That makes this quote very timely. Let’s look at it a bit more closely.

When I first heard this quote I paid little attention because I thought it meant that my life should be examined near its end to take the lessons and record them for future generations so they can learn and not make the same mistakes that I made. That is such a narrow interpretation.

What Socrates was really telling us was that we can apply this to our whole life. Rather than just setting out lessons learned for future generations to move on from, we can do the same for ourselves. What does that mean?

Just look back at the past year. How did it go? Did you get everything done that you wanted to? What exactly did you achieve that you actually set out to achieve? Actually take the time to write these down and feel grateful for these achievements. Now, what did you set out to achieve that did not get done? List them down on a separate sheet. Before you do anything else, consider for each one if it is still important and you still want to achieve that particular goal. If the answer is no, cross it off and simply forget about it altogether. If the answer is yes, copy it onto another sheet that will outline the goals and achievements that you want for the coming year. When you do that, think about what occurred that got in the way of this being achieved as planned. Are they things that were in your control? Can you identify answers to the blocks?

See? You have just examined your life and will make adjustments that will lead to greater movement towards the overall objectives and mission of your life. You cand learn and move forward yourself. You will not be doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. Rather, you will find new ways to do things and the results will be different.

Do this same sort of exercise monthly, weekly and daily. Live a “life examined” and adjust as you discover you must. If you are going to make a mistake (and we all do) at least make it a different one each time.

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.

Positive Affirmations or Action?

It’s a trick question! As many of you know, I am a vigorous proponent of positive thinking and affirmations that inspire one to focus on what is really important to ones’ happiness. Many of us who have been following along the path of self-sustaining success applied the teachings of the 80’s and 90’s that said that we needed to be sure to have positive affirmations as part of your daily life.

I know I had many affirmations written down and referred to them daily for years. This had the very positive effect of keeping me positive and with a happy outlook on life. It also had the effect of revealing that things do not simply happen because we have a positive affirmation written in current terms as though it already exists. I realized fairly early on that an essential element that was not spoken about was missing. The gurus of the day were intent on giving us what was wanted by all baby-boomers. A very easy and simple “pill” that would take no effort and would get us what we wanted NOW!

I know that most of the writers and speakers of the day knew that simply having affirmations was not enough. Most assumed that we would not be so simple-minded and would naturally take actions based on the affirmations. Well most did not really understand the action part so a disillusionment set in. People became cynical and tended to turn away from “positive thinking”.

Taking the time to set down your positive affirmations is a very good step to get focused on what is important to you in your life and for your happiness. It has the effect of setting worthwhile goals for your brain to work on. However, you must also set in place plans for action to put these affirmations into effect. You simply cannot achieve goals with no action steps.

Have your affirmations. They are very important o a positive outlook and approach to life. Then be sure to figure out what actions need to be taken or are congruent with your affirmations. Then, DO STUFF!