Good Leadership

We are all leaders. I am not talking about being a lead hand, supervisor, manager, executive or c-suite level person at work.  I mean that we all set the agenda for others around us in absolutely everything that we do. In doing what we do, we are “directing “ others to do what we want them to do.

Please give yourself a short break today to think a little bit about what you are about to read. Schedule it. Ten minutes – no distractions.

What is it that sets our approach to any situation? In work settings we tend to focus our approach to match the outcome that we want. Even if we are having a bad day or are annoyed at the cafeteria for getting our order wrong a short while ago, we adjust our mood and approach in order to have an interaction that has a better chance to get us to the result we want. Usually that mood and approach will be calm, pleasant and co-operative. If we “loose it” the outcome won’t be good.

Any time we are interacting with others our mood and approach will hugely affect the outcome. If I rant at a driver who does something that I think is stupid, the outcome is a feeling of rage that is just internal to me! The idiot does not correct his/her stupid move. But when I get to my destination and park, I may take out a bit of my “rage” on some innocent person I come in contact with. That is not good leadership. It is the same in any situation that sets me on a path of anger. Similarly, if something has disappointed me or made me feel despondent I will probably “act out” in some way. 

Conscious Control

Good leaders learn fairly early on to control their own emotions and interact with others with the end in mind. Sort of sounds manipulative but it isn’t really. It puts the interaction first. What about our personal interactions? Do we do the same? Can we? Will we feel better?

Notice the key is keeping the end in mind. It’s like we have been told many times – count to ten! Think before you leap. What is the outcome you want? Will what I am just about to do lead to that outcome? Of course, we need to immediately adjust our mood and approach. Lashing out gets only negatives. Contempt gets only negatives. Anger only begets anger.

Naturally we all feel the whole range of emotions in our everyday lives. Think for just a minute about what happens when you see someone doing something amazingly helpful. When you see something crazy funny. When something just works out in your favour through no actions on your part. Your mood and feelings immediately switch, even just for a moment. We can achieve this change of mood and approach at will. Just choose. Just for the interaction with that person, choose. And then, when you walk away from that interaction, you will feel good because it was positive.

As I said earlier, set aside a few minutes to give this some thought on a very personal level. What sort of “leader” do you want to be? Keep in mind that we are all leaders all the time. Our actions impact absolutely everyone we come in contact with. And, finally, keep in mind that how we act and interact has a huge impact on how we feel. Act good, calm, reasonable, interactive, pleasant, and happy. That will then be how you feel.

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

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!!!!

Learning Life’s Lessons

“Life’s really important lessons are learned only one way – alone and with personal suffering. They are never easy, but, once learned, they are yours forever.”

That is a quote from a book I was reading this past week: Sherlock Holmes, The Hidden Years edited by Michael Kurland. It might seem a strange source for inspiration but after all, inspiration strikes when you are ready. My inspiration here is quite straight forward. This is how we see most of our life’s lessons learned. Through the school of hard knocks. That leads me to wonder what the role is of these sorts of blogs and the whole “self-help” industry.

I was talking to a good friend and lamenting that I could not write a book I had in mind because I could not answer the question: Who will read it? In other words, who would I be writing it for? What audience? She made a few suggestions after asking what the subject was that interested me and I came to a realization that there were two things to keep in mind. First, I had something to say to an audience. Second, I could not control whether the audience I had in mind would ever read it or not. My friend’s admonition was to write it anyway! If the intended audience did not read it now, it may later, or another unintended audience may read it and take inspiration.

Now I come to the opening quote. I think that there are indeed other ways to learn lesson of life. However, the best learned lessons when they are internalized and we apply the lesson to ourselves (and our experiences or beliefs). We learn early not to touch a hot stove element, usually not by direct experience but by someone telling us the danger and we see something burn and apply that to ourselves in our imagination. Don’t touch! However, some lessons are a bit esoteric and the effects are more distant. In those cases, if we can find no way to internalize the ideas, we are condemned to not learn and it is only when we suffer the downside that we “learn” the lesson we heard earlier.

I write these entries even if there is no learning taking place all the time. I know from my own experience, that someone may well be inspired in some way to a positive outcome. That turns my crank. I write them to have as a resource for others in times of need. The lesson appears when the student is ready. However, that lesson can only appear if it is “out there” somewhere to be able to appear.

To be sure, we all learn academically from lessons we read and study. That is how we get on in life. We learn stuff and “believe it  in theory”. When we can actually experience it, we then develop a fundamental knowing!! It is in this knowing that the lesson is yours forever. Read widely, learn lots and find ways to try to apply them to your own life whenever you can. Increase your “knowing”.

A basic knowing is that everything is a transition. No matter how bad, it is a transition. Placed in the perspective of time and the role it plays in our lives, you can be happy anyway. More to come.

What to Believe?

The internet is a great place to learn and research ideas. But, what should you believe out there? There is so much information and much of it is just plain crazy! Some is just wrong and some is dangerous. So what should you do in your “due diligence”?

To my way of thinking it comes down to your thinking skills. How do you take information in and how do you determine the veracity of the ideas that are presented to you? I don’t mean on the internet, but in everyday life. Do you accept it as true if it fits with your preconceptions and prejudicial beliefs? Or, do you test the ideas against your own experience or knowledge or observations?

The latter is the way to test all information that is presented to you. I have had teachers say to me: “don’t believe me just because I tell you, see for yourself! Then believe it.” These lessons formed the basis of questioning authority in all areas of life. Not in a confrontational and negative way but in a way designed to gain understanding of the information or point of view. Then, I apply that to my experience, my knowledge and the logic that I can see. Only if I see for myself will I believe! If it sounds ok but I can’t see it for myself, I take it as a good idea or theory until it is proven to me.

Logic has to play a great role. We need to think analytically. These days there are lots of theories about why we are getting fatter and our kids are getting fatter. If we look logically at our species, we can understand that when we evolved thousands of years ago, the ones that survived were the ones who were quick,  and very fit. They were able to store energy in the form of fat to get them to the next “kill” or meal. So we are predisposed to be active and to store fat because we don’t know when we will eat again. The theories really don’t amount to much except babble. We simply need to train ourselves and our kids that we have food and we do not need to eat as though there is no more. Then, we need to be more active. Don’t just sit or lay and watch TV or your computer screen, get up and do something!

I know there is more to it than that but you get the idea. Analyze, decide what makes sense given your experience, knowledge and observations. Keep you mind open to understand other points of view and then you will really know what you believe! As always, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. A good thing to keep in mind with online offers and opportunities. Look and understand, then act if it makes sense to you.

Let me know what you think!

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!

I’m Back!

You won’t know I have been away for some time but I am happy to say that I am back and ready to move ahead with my project. I have a passion for helping people to be happy anyway. I do not mean that there will be no down times or problems or even disasters in our lives that should be ignored. Rather, I want to help develop a world of people who learn from and support others in how to react to events in our lives in a way to help us move forward and find contentment anyway.

I want this to be a discussion site so feel free to weigh in. The only thing I ask is that you keep comments positive and helpful. Debate is great but please, no flaming!

Look around. Check out the past entries in the Blog. There are going to be lots of changes in the next little while as I restart and modify the site a bit. Grow with me. As I have said before, all we can really control is our own attitude and how we react to events. Let us learn together how to react with love and learning.

“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.

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.