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.

“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.

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!

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!!!