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!

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!

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.

Four D’s Lead to Happiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, the four D’s are:

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

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

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

Succes Can Be Happiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feeling down? Need Energy boost? read on …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baby Steps

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

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

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

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

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

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