3 PEOPLE, 3 LOCATIONS, 4 ADVENTURES

In the past, I have written a good deal about the walks in nature that I enjoy so much. It not only provides a good source of exercise, but stress relief, entertainment and spiritual fulfillment as well. In this post I would like to share with you the story of a few of these walks and the things I noticed they all had in common as well as what makes each on a unique adventure in its own right. I have noticed each walk contained four of the same elements. They each had people, places, exercise and conversation.

The first adventure in our story came on a Monday morning. There is a park that I drive past daily on my way to work. It is called Falk Park. It looks quite small from the side of the road. As with most natural areas I pass, there was a voice in my head saying “That looks like fun. I really should explore there.” I contacted my regular fellow explorer, who also happens to play the role of my mother. She wasn’t quite sold on the idea of exploring what could be a small park. Weeks went by and I kept driving past thinking the same thought. I eventually looked up the park on a map only to discover that there seemed to be a healthy bit of green behind that roadside entrance. I looked at a few photos and saw wooden bridges, creeks and a host of other interesting views. As I relayed this information to my traveling companion we decided to venture out that Monday, which is my off day from the Postal Service.

When it comes to walking with my mother, exercise is generally the main facet focused upon. We walk at a good clip not shying away from hills and valleys. This is good as it keeps us healthy and able to walk further. The sad part is that often we miss some things due to the speed. On this day it was a new place and we were both excited to walk. As we set out the scenery changed often from woods to prairie and back again. We discovered one trail ended up right behind an Ikea store. Soon, there was an unscheduled break for personal relief and refueling. Stopping by our local Valentine coffee shop, we were caffeinated and ready to explore some more. The conversation consisted mainly of observing all of the new scenes we were taking in. This included a stop and comparing of notes with a fellow hiker. Four and a half miles later we returned to the car having exhausted most of the trail possibilities.

The second walk happened the following day. I was joined by my good friend Nick. The journey again began at a coffee shop on the east side of Milwaukee. Regretfully, we were on a limited time frame because of Nick’s professional responsibilities. That was just fine as any time with a good friend is time well spent. We both grabbed a delicious beverage and began what was certainly a more leisurely stroll towards the shoreline of lake Michigan. As we walked the conversation consisted a great deal of ways of improving ourselves and the state of my next book. We strolled down to the lake and the turned and walked through the neighborhood surrounding it. Nick saw several people he knew and we exchanged pleasantries. The great thing about walking with Nick is the conversation is always positive and free flowing. I leave with a great deal of inspiration and ideas for writing. I do so hope he is as least half as blessed with the situation as I am.

Our third adventure took place the next day. I had such a good time with Nick, I decided to suggest the lake front for a walk with my mom. She was up for the stroll as she had just done ten miles the day before in a state park. I picked her up and we began our journey at the same coffee shop as Nick and I had. Carrying a full cup of coffee tended to slow our travel speed a little. As we began to walk the lake front we noticed people availing themselves to the brew pub and its refreshments. It was an unexpectedly warm day in early November and it appeared that everyone was trying to make the most of it. There seemed to be an aura of joy and easy-going nature in the air.

As we walked along the lakefront we took in visions of the downtown skyline, spoke with people walking dogs, noticed how many more people we enjoying this trail than the ones in the woods that we usually travel on. The pace was still brisk, but the conversation was plentiful. We talked about other places we have walked, the weather and were we should go next. There were brief strolls through areas covered by trees, but most of the time we found ourselves on paved paths shared by walkers, joggers and bicyclists alike. It was quite a different vibe than our walks in the woods, but still a very nice one. We walked along the shoreline for a little over two miles until it ended at the Milwaukee location of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We watched and marveled at the wonderful security measures in place outside the building and then turned around to make our way back.

The last of our adventures for this blog finds me joined by a very familiar companion – me. In other words, I was walking by myself. It was again an unseasonably warm day and I could not pass the opportunity to enjoy some time outside. Just about ten blocks from my house in West Allis Wisconsin, is a small park that has a very ‘neighborhood’ vibe to it. I decided that a quick walk around there is just what was needed. As I set out I started my health app to track my distance and pace to make sure I got a small amount of exercise out of this walk. It was indeed the slowest pace of all four walks. I have a tendency to stop and take in different scenes as well as explore different things just off the beaten path. On this day I discovered a wonderful painted rock that was places by a local rock-painting club that Margie and I belong to. Fittingly, it was painted with the word ‘Love’ as I was loving this stroll. (walk may have been a little bit ambitious on this day)

The conversation on this day was mostly internal sans a few greetings to passing neighbors. I noticed that while walking by myself I tend to be very introspective. I tend to be that way in general, but something about walking by myself in nature brings it out even more so. The idea for this very blog came about as I was overlooking the lagoon. As I continued on I was struck by how many of my community were enjoying the park on that afternoon. Then I recalled that living in a place where the weather can be described as nine months of winter and three months of very poor sledding, they were probably equally as excited to enjoy the day as I. The sun made every glance look like a scene from a jigsaw puzzle. I captured a few of the ones that I thought were the best and sent them to Margie who was busy at home.

The interesting point out of all of this is that you can do the same activity and have a completely different adventure. The people you share it with, the conversations you have and the places you go can make all of the difference. Even if they are completely different, they all serve their own purpose. You can get a good workout one day. You can stop and marvel at nature the next. Perhaps even ponder life and its great mysteries as you walk with a good friend. As for the conclusion of my last walk, I found myself a little disheveled, but very relaxed. If you happen to see me and any of my walking companions out on an adventure, feel free to say hello or even join us for a few paces. You might end up in my next blog post.

BE A PART OF THE NEW HOLIDAY!!

Starting now

With all of the craziness going on in the world, I am proposing a brand new holiday – UNIFICATION DAY. This holiday will be all about bringing the people of the world together.

We are all tired of this

UNIFICATION DAY should involve commitments by groups to do a better job working together for common goals. That could be different faiths setting aside the ritualistic differences and work towards common goals such as love and compassion. Reduction of violence between religions and many other common goals.

It should also include those of different political leanings. Work together for the good of the people. Help each other become more understanding. Work together to help small businesses and to educate those who may not usually have the opportunity. When we are all educated, the world benefits.

Love one another

Lastly, let there be commitment to work together as members of the human race. Let us refuse to be divided by race,economic standing, or any other issue that could divide us.

UNIFICATION DAY can be a day where we stand up to those that seek to divide us and do it with a spirit of love for one another. Host a UNIFICATION DAY party where you invite others that differ from you to celebrate, love and respect one another. Learn about a different faith. Perhaps give your time and effort to help those struggling with issues that you are grateful enough to not have in your life. If you have any ideas for ways we could celebrate UNIFICATION DAY feel free to share them in the comments below.

AN IMPORTANT ELECTION DAY REMINDER!!!

Let us all remember this

In the United States, today is election day. It seems every four years when we choose the leader of our country things get more tense and divided than the election before. Civility and respect tend to disappear and are all too often replaced by things such as insults and in the worst case violence.

Win or lose, this last year has been tough on all of us. There has been,of course, a terrible pandemic that has affected everyone in the world in some fashion. There have been losses, both financial and of life. Dreams have been shattered and lives turned upside down.

With all of these trying circumstances, you would think it would help feed feelings of compassion and a desire to help each other. I believe that is yet to come. Although we may differ greatly on the paths to take, I believe we all want the same things. We would like an end to the pandemic. We would like an opportunity to pursue our dreams and see our friends and family again. We would like to see the smiles behind the masks once more.

Our plan forward

While we cannot force things to change, there are certainly things we can do until that happens. We can fill our hearts with hope for s better future and for it to arrive sooner than later. We can pray, whatever our faith may be. We can pray for the health of the world. We can pray for the healing of our, and other’s hearts. In the meantime we can fill our lives and our world with as much joy as possible.

It is our love and compassion for each other than has not only helped us get through the most difficult times, but has lead to the greatest breakthroughs and advances in history. In a world that often seeks to divide us, let our love be stronger than their division.

ONE DAY AT A TIME

Is this you?

I found this picture rather amusing. As I looked at it I was beginning a run of 14 days in row of working. Just for good measure, 3 of those days had 2 jobs and one had a job and a seminar. It included driving at least 50 miles everyday and on one occasion, more than 100. I felt exhausted just typing about it!

While these words are being constructed, it is day 14 of those 14. I am just preparing to head out to DJ. I am looking forward to a nice day off tomorrow. My plans are to visit the Milwaukee County Zoo and go out to lunch with my lovely Margie and my mother. It is to a Mexican restaurant so I would think a quick nap might follow that. The evening calls for a nice dinner and movie at home with my love.

Relaxing with my love

As tough as the last 2 weeks have been, and as wonderful as tomorrow will be, I realize my meditation on the subject that I am wasting a great deal of my energy. Thinking of how challenging the upcoming working days were going to be had me feeling exhausted before the alarm clock went off on the first day. This made each day seem a little tougher than it needed to be. Keeping this thought in my mind had me mentally exhausted. Doing this daily lead to physical exhaustion as well.

Looking forward to my wonderful day tomorrow is certainly a noble pursuit. However, I must be careful not to dread the journey of arrival.

Both of these activities drain our energy and both have the same simple solution – live in the present moment. It is something I remind my life-coaching clients and seem to have forgotten myself. You can certainly plan for tomorrow. Lay your clothes out ahead, get the coffee ready and other such activities. Yet spending time worrying about the arduous day ahead will only steal the joy and energy from the day at hand.

The same can be said for suspending joy until a future event. It is great,and I feel vital, to always have something to look forward to. Supressing the joy of today in anticipation of the joys of tomorrow makes little or no sense. In this case, it makes perfect sense to be greedy. Look for joy every second of every day! Look for joy in the present, while being excited for the joy to come!

Living in the present gives us a great many gifts. One of those gifts is more mental and physical energy. Next time you feel yourself thinking “Next week was exhausting!” Slow down, and remind yourself to take one day at a time!

1 THING THAT IS NOT HEALTHY

The art of conveying our emotions in a healthy way can be a tricky thing. To make sure that your feelings are heard while giving proper respect to others can be a difficult thing. It is also an ongoing lesson. It is not something we get right once and never have to worry about again. You could have a healthy discussion one day and the next make a bad situation worse by saying something the wrong way.

This fear can lead many people to do something even worse – hold everything inside. This can not only lead to a great deal of misunderstanding, as you can imagine, but also lead to a great deal of hurt and resentment.

These emotions are not only felt by those holding everything in,but by those in their lives. Let us say that you are deeply hurt by something your friend has told you but you don’t want to start a disagreement so you don’t say anything. This friend may continue to say this thing again and again. This can cause you to resent your friend. There you are feeling hurt and resentful.

It goes a level deeper. Should you true feelings come out, be it in a fit of rage or some other way, your friend will feel bad that they were hurting you all this time without knowing. They may even resent the fact you did not let them know what they were saying hurt you. There they are feeling hurt and resentful.

Lastly, holding your hurt and pain inside can cause a lifetime of physical and emotional pain. What the stress of repressed emotions does to the body can lead to issues such as heart disease, ulcers and other lifestyle driven conditions. It can also leave a trail of broken hearts and ruined friendships.

If you have issues trapped inside of you, invest in learning how to express them in a healthy manner. While you are learning these skills it may benefit you to share them with a professional such as a life coach or therapist. They can also help you find healthy ways to deal with these emotions.

However you choose to share your emotions, whether that is learning to do so or with a professional, make sure you do so. Because keeping your feelings inside makes as much sense as farting in a wetsuit and can be a lot more harmful.

DO NOT LET YOUR EMOTIONS OVERWHELM YOUR DECENCY

In this crazy world we have many issues dividing us. Wear a mask verses don’t wear a mask. Open the economy verses quarantine. In the United States we can also add an election.

It is more important now than ever to remember we can disagree and still respect each other. Even issues that have our passions and emotions running high, we must understand that is often the case on the opposite side as well.

Many crazy things have happened in 2020. Let us add one that we choose. May it become one of the first times in recorded history that we managed to stay united as humans despite our differences.

There is no need for name calling. That is something we should have learned in elementary school. When someone differs in their views there is no need to insult their character or them as a person. There is certainly no need for violence and destruction of property, especially that of innocent people and children.

Let us rise above our basic and primal instincts to show how good humanity can be in the face of grave challenges. We cannot control the news,we cannot, and should not try, to control our neighbors. We can, however, control ourselves. Let us hold ourselves to a higher standard and carry ourselves and treat each other with dignity and respect. It is not easy, but it is our only way forward.

My wish for all of us this week – may we hear more compliments than political ads.

FINDING JOY WHERE THERE WAS NONE

Above is a picture of a trail I was walking on this past Monday. As you can see, the trees are turning colors and many of them have already lost their leaves entirely. It is fall here in the city of West Allis Wisconsin where I live. This means temperatures are starting to dip, birds are packing their bags and flying south for the winter ( I am a little bit jealous but I will get over it ) Snow will soon cover the ground and there will be a few days when even stepping outside will be hazardous to your health. This is truly not the climate for me. I suffer from a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is where feelings of emotional depression and hopelessness can creep in as the seasons change. In short, my mood tends to drop with the temperature. This has something to do with the bodies reduced exposure to sunlight they say. All I know is, for me, winter sucks.

As I continue to further my plan to become a best-selling author and move to San Diego, I am also on the lookout for ways to make living in a northern climate more bearable. My beautiful Margie bought me a “Happy Lamp” which mimics the sunlight. As a matter of fact, I am using it as I write this blog for all of you. I make sure to exercise daily, take vitamin D and do all of the other things they recommend. Still, at times especially after the holidays, I can find myself in a serious funk! As I was walking on this breezy fall day watching the leaves fall from the trees I noticed something off to the side of the trail – a mushroom growing right out of a tree!

As you can see in the picture above, it almost looked fake. My mother, who was walking with me at the time, laughed with me as we marveled at the strangeness of it. About a mile further down the trail I saw something else, a sign in the middle of some tall grass. This indicated there was some additional side trail we had not known about earlier. Although we choose not to explore it that day due to an over consumption of coffee prior to heading out on this walk, we certainly made a note of it. Here is the funny thing, neither of these things would have been noticeable if the leaves had been on the trees or if the grass had been full and green. It was only through the ‘death’ of the season that we discovered these things.

I began to ponder as we walked along. Thinking as I walked, which I so often do. This is true for the passing of the seasons, but it is also true in many other areas of our lives. When we lose a job, we not only develop a sudden appreciation for the reliable income that comes with a job we must go to everyday, but we also are forced to be creative in our search for new employment. We brush up both our resume and networking skills. Perhaps we consider taking a new course or starting that side business. We may even have an opportunity to pursue something more in line with our passions. It is only with the loss of the job that all of this is usually made possible.

Even the sad situation of losing someone we care about brings many things to light. Memories and things you may not have appreciated about that person. Love for, and the importance of, life itself. The value of the relationships we have with others. Making sure that we live our lives in such a way that we give the most to others while we are here. All of these very important, and often positive, events seem to occur after we lose someone close to us.

Could any of these things happen without the loss? Perhaps. I could venture off the path while I am walking and see what I find. We can always start our passion based business or brush up our resume while still employed. Perhaps there are also ways to more fully appreciate the fragility of life without losing someone who means so much to us. These things are possible, but are often only brought to light through a loss. It is a great lesson the change of seasons can teach all of us. Even a future best-selling author in a state with 9 months of winter and 3 months of very poor sledding could come to appreciate some aspect of winter.

The point here is that in many situations that we feel a loss of joy, there are gifts to be found. In every challenge there is the seed of equal to or greater opportunity. This winter, in addition to the steps I am already taking, I will look for additional gifts the cold weather reveals. Snuggling closer to the beautiful woman I have in my life. Appreciation for the wonderful meals I can enjoy without leaving my house. The simple pleasures of a hot cup of coffee on a cold winter day. That is not to say that I would pass on that ocean front villa in the islands, but until then I shall look for the joy where there once was none.

THE 1 SIDE EFFECT THAT I OVERLOOKED

Last post we discussed lists and how valuable they can be. Today we are going to focus on one of those lists and how a strange side effect of keeping that list can add an unexpected positive element to your life. This list will change your life for the better quicker than almost anything else I know. It is a list that I recommend to everyone. It is also one of the first steps that I advise making to your life to increase your happiness and improve your outlook on your life. It also has what seems to be a magical effect on the lives of all who try it. In my own life, it completely changed the person I was for the better! All of this may sound like hyperbole, but it is 100% true. This list? A list of things you are grateful for every day and why.

I recommend everyone try making a list of 3 things they are grateful for and why each night and then read that list the following day 3 times a day – morning, noon and night. Do this for 30 days and I promise you life will never have felt more amazing. You add the why to make it more compelling. You are grateful for the sunshine, that is fine, but why? Maybe the sunshine gives you feelings of hope? Perhaps it reminds you of pleasant vacations taken with family and friends? You were grateful for the good service you received. Wonderful! Why was that so important to you? Did the kindness and courtesy of a stranger lighten the load of a stressful day? Did it reaffirm for you that there are good people in the world? I promise you reading and remembering these moments will change the way you experience life.

Here is something fun and interesting that I did not notice before. Not only will utilizing this secret to an amazing life change your mindset to one of living life in a state of gratitude, but it will also give you a great look at what you tend to focus on. This side effect can be very enlightening. If I review my entries in my gratitude journal, I see that there are several references to things in nature. The afore mentioned sunshine. Going for a walk in a new and exciting natural area, the smell of spring in the air, passing a herd of deer on the way home and several others. I discovered that nature and natural things not only instill a feeling of gratitude in my heart, but bring me a great deal of joy.

The same can be said for thoughtful actions of others. When Margie knew I was going to write at home today as all of the coffee shops are closed, she prepared a little area for me including plugging in my ‘happy lamp’ because it was a very gloomy day. I was very grateful for this. If she had bought me a pizza or a bottle of rum I would have been grateful for that. Not because of the material aspect, but because of the thought behind it. When strangers hold doors for me or smile and share a kind word, these things mean a great deal to me.

Learning these facts were useful because I could now make it a plan to spend more time in nature and with thoughtful people. It is ironic because I learned this by keeping track of what I was grateful for, but by putting these two items into action it will make it easier for me to achieve and maintain my grateful mindset. An interesting, but very helpful side effect I never noticed!

Begin keeping a gratitude journal today! Write 3 things you are grateful for every day and why. Then review those things at least 3 times the following day, morning, noon and night. Do this for 30 days. At the end of those 30 days, go back and see if you can see any patterns of things, people or situations that have you feeling grateful. Do your best to put more of those into your life and before long you will be walking around with a grateful heart!

1 EASY ITEM THAT WILL TRANSFORM YOUR LIFE FOR THE BETTER

Everyone is looking for something simple and quick to change their lives for the positive. I can’t blame them. We live in a nanosecond world. We can look up just about anything and find answers to it on the internet. There are ‘quick fix’ pills for weight loss and even feeling happy. Most of these are just band-aids and offer quick fixes that treat symptoms but do not address problems.

I have found there is one thing that I do that touches on every area of my life. Having one of these can positively impact my emotional well-being, my productivity, my fitness journey and my life in general. The best part about this tool is that there are many customizable options. It can involve nothing more complex than a pen and piece of paper. It can also be portable and be in your phone, laptop, tablet or any other device. This secret to an amazing life can be had for little to no financial investment but can literally be worth millions of dollars over your life time. It requires very little stress or work to put into action, and what little work is involved is actually quite fun, but the returns can bring you inner peace and joy. As you grow and evolve this tool can grow and evolve with you.

To recap, this tool is inexpensive, takes very little time, requires very little effort, the effort it does require is enjoyable, it is customizable to the individual, it is portable, it can bring you inner peace and save you millions of dollars over your life time. One additional item I forgot to mention is it can cut the amount of time it takes you to reach a goal in half. Interested to know what this simple, yet powerful tool is? This secret to an amazing life that can do all I described and more is – a list.

A list may not sound all that sexy when it comes to changing your life, or that powerful for that matter. Let me assure you it is. Let us take the area of happiness as an example. In our lives there are lots of things that bring us joy. How many of you have a certain movie you like to watch because it makes you laugh, cry tears of joy, or just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy? I know I do. In fact, I have several of them. Do you know what happens when I come home feeling depressed, angry or just in need of a lift? I cannot remember any of those damn movies! Lucky for me, I have created a list of them. I regularly workout 5 to 6 days a week. There are also about 4 to 5 days a week I do not feel like working out. Guess what? In my phone I have a list titled ‘Workout Motivation’. It is a collection of videos that get me fired up and ready to go. I also have a playlist titled ‘Workout Music’ which is music for, you guessed it, working out. In my book A Happy Life for Busy People, I advocate that people create a ‘Happy playlist’. That is simply a list of songs that get you feeling good. Having this stored in a YouTube playlist or on your Ipod will make quick work of getting out of that funk you are in.

If you are anything like myself, we have days that can be extremely funky. We might need to call in several tools to help improve our emotional state. I have just the thing! This occurred to me as I was typing this and I think can be a great help to all of us. Create a Happy Journal. A what? Get a small notebook (or fancy journal if you like) and put your lists in there. Movies that make you happy. Meals you particularly enjoy. Spots in nature that just bring you peace. Pictures of vacations. Books you enjoy reading. Places you go because the service in friendly, the view is nice or because there are more dogs than people.

Why is it important to create these lists? Why the sense of urgency? When your in a negative mindset it can be next to impossible to think of things to make you happy. As I tell many of the people whom I have the pleasure of speaking with, the time to learn to swim is on the shore, not when the ship is sinking. If I waited to look up something to motivate me to go to the gym, I would never make it to the gym and end up watching videos of panda bears learning to walk or something similar. If I have my handy ‘Happy Journal’, I can sit in my most comfortable clothes watching a movie that makes me smile while ordering my favorite pizza and drinking my favorite rum. All of these would be listed in my ‘Happy Journal’. Here is the great part about making these lists – they are fun themselves!

The lists are ever evolving. My ‘happy playlist’ started with 12 songs. It is now up to 215. Every time I hear a song I enjoy, I add it to the list. Same holds true for many of the other lists of things that make me happy. If I put them all into a handy book of “Things that make Neil happy” it would be a very valuable resource. Not only for increasing the joy in my life, but think if you had a list such as the ones we mentioned for someone you cared about? Then, if you wanted to make them happy you would know places they would like to eat, what wines they enjoyed, what movies they like to watch, places they like to go and a million other lists of things that make them happy. How much easier would it be to go shopping for that perfect gift? Knowing this information could be priceless when you are doing your best to cheer up the one you love after a tough day.

Make your lists today. Tough days always surprise us. This time be ready! Be equipped with your secret to an amazing life, your Happy Journal. A book filled with lists of different things that bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart! Start today and tomorrow you will know what to do to increase the happiness in your life!

YOUR INNER TREASURE

Here is a photo that is worth a thousand words. Don’t worry, we will be well under that today.

Your happiness. What makes you happy? Think of how many things you can rely on to put a smile on your face and joy in your heart? You noticed the word in italics? That is because there is really only one source we have control over that we can rely on to make us happy and that is ourselves.

It is true that seeing a smile on my lady’s face melts my heart and puts a smile on my own face. It is further true that I have a good deal of influence on that. If that is what I rely on solely to bring me happiness, I could be very disappointed. There are days when I do the best I can and due to situations beyond my control her smile is fleeting at best. This leaves me frustrated and sad, although determined to find a way to bring her joy.

There are other simple items that bring me joy outside of myself. I enjoy relaxing in a coffee shop enjoying a steaming beverage. Right now they are all closed here due to the Corona virus pandemic. I enjoy warm sunny days. As you read this the high temperature where I live is slightly above freezing with a possibility of snow.

Not that enjoying many things outside of yourself to increase your happiness isn’t good, it is great and we will discuss that in greater detail coming up in the next few posts. What I am recommending is that you find a few things inside of yourself that bring you joy. These should be things in which you have control over. A few examples are meditation, reading, going for a walk in nature, singing a simple song you enjoy, whistling or even just daydreaming.

These are a few of my personal happiness hacks. I would love to hear what you do that makes you happy. What internal activities bring a smile to your face? If you don’t have any, now would be a great time to come up with a solid list.