Day 9! We are almost through our 10 day journey towards happiness. I hope you have enjoyed it so far. I have come across some great new ideas myself. Today’s post, as so often happens, fits what is going on in my life right now. It also reflects one thing that may be preventing us from getting our full amount of happiness out of life – worry less, dance more.
Why would I be worried lately? Well, today my neighbor informed me there was some spots of something dripping underneath my car. For any of us who own automobiles, the not knowing is always in the back of your head. As I busy myself with thoughts of positive things that it could be, I am also doing my best not to worry. When it comes to the subject of worry, I am always reminded of a saying I once heard, “Worrying is like rocking in a rocking chair, you get really tired, but you don’t actually go anywhere.” This is quite true. Worry only gives us a host of physical and emotional ailments. Upset stomach. Maybe a little sweating? Oh, and nerves like you are playing one of those fun childhood games like ‘Perfection’ or ‘Operation’. If you have never played either of those, you really should. Does wonders for your nerves.
So we should dance more? If you seen me dance, it resembles another problem more than it does a solution. Dancing, however, can be quite healing and at the very least take out mind to a different place away from our worries. It is physical, which is good to get rid of stress and calm the nerves. Dance can be expressive. It can be artistic. In my case it can also resemble a severe muscle twitch. Either way, dancing more and worrying less will not only help us get to happiness quicker, it will help us stay a little more physically fit!
Day 8, you can almost see the top of the staircase now! If this is your first day joining us, a quick reminder we are starting from the bottom and climbing up the stairs. That would mean that today’s step to happiness is Take less, Give more. It is ironic that today’s lesson revolves around the effect that giving has on happiness. As happens every so often, this idea was actually in my head today before I knew I was going to write about it. It was a sunny and 90 degree day. If you know anything about me, this is just my kind of weather. I was riding around on the lawnmower and pondering material for my next book. It was then I began to muse on the thought of the power of altruism. Let us look a little deeper at that subject.
Altruism is loosely defined as doing something for others with no return for you. I do not believe such a situation exists. Here is why. Doing something kind for someone else has within it a reciprocal aspect. When you so something kind for another soul it makes both of you feel good. When I was at some of the lowest points in my life it was this very skill that brought me back up. Being able to give to others. If we spent an entire day doing nothing but trying to do nice and helpful things for others, there would be two guaranteed outcomes. First, we would feel great. Seeing the smiles on the faces, hearing the thank you and just knowing in our hearts that we did something good for someone else will have our vibrations high. Second, that good will come back to you. It may not come back in the same manner or even from the same people, but it will come back to you. It is the law of reciprocation. You put good out and good will return. It will do so at its own pace, but it will do so.
The next question that people often ask me is, “What can I give?” They may worry that they don’t have enough time, or as so often happens in the crazy world, enough time. There is one single thing that is not only one of the easiest to give, but also has the greatest impact – giving of yourself. I spoke of this is a not so distant post. What the world needs is people who are in living their passion. This can be difficult to do in the job market. I am still searching for that elusive talk show host job. Where it can be easy to do is in giving. Everyone is good at something. When you use the skills that come naturally to you, that is when you give the greatest. Some people are great listeners. That is something everyone needs these days. With everyone trying to be heard, having a friend to really listen is rare and a great gift. I happen to be on the opposite end of the spectrum. I am a good talker. When I give, I tend to do so by talking to the lonely and those left out. When I helped at the homeless shelter I was told my greatest gift was taking time to relate and talk with the people there.
What is your skill? How have you used it in the past? How can you use it more in the future? I can promise you from my own experience, the more that you give in life, the more that you will gain. Not only in a material sense, but your inner peace and joy will explode. I would love to hear your stories of when you gave and the effect it had on your life.
We are going to make this a quick and fun blog today. One, because these days it seems we all could use some quick fun and because as I write this it is almost one o’clock in the morning and I am up listening to Warrant’s Down Boys instead of in bed acting on that song. I am genuinely excited to bring you today’s post. It is something that I do regularly and I can promise you in brings me more joy than I can convey. The lady in my life lives by this secret to happiness and it is where she derives her major amount of happiness. (With, of course, the exception of the time she spends with the charming and suave man in her life) It works for me, it works for her and tonight we also found out it works for my mother as well. I promise it will bring happiness into your life. What is it?
Today is day 7, and remember we are climbing the stairs from bottom to the top. That makes today’s step for happiness Consume less, Create more. My writing that I share with all of you is what brings joy into my life. My love, Margie, is a creation machine. If she had the time I would be willing to bet we would not have a single purchased item in our house. She makes cakes and cupcakes which most of you know. She also arranges flowers, draws and paints. She creates jewelry, and even made me a blanket once. She is happiest when she is creating. Tonight we had my mother over and all three of us painted rocks for a local community page. Everyone on the page paints rocks and then hides them in the community for others to find and do the same. All of our rocks had fun images or words that would inspire and bring joy to those who find them. Not only will the people be happy when they find them, but we had a great time creating them.
Although we might not win any art contests for our rocks, I have to say they all turned out very well. When you create something their is a sense of pride. A feeling of “Hey I did that!” Even if your rocks looked like mine, you still know that you created that. Creating something with a group of people, or creating something for other people to enjoy only amplifies that feeling of pride and joy. Whether that is a painting, a short story or even a shortcake, creating gives you both a sense of pride and accomplishment. Creating with others adds a sense of togetherness. Going out to dinner with Margie can be a fun and romantic escape, but it is nowhere near as fun and being in the kitchen together making homemade pizza listening to Dean Martin.
Consuming can leave us feeling exhausted and bloated. When we create we are bringing a bit of ourselves into the world and sharing it. Sure, that can be scary, but it is also very rewarding. As children we are forever drawing pictures and giving them to adults. Who doesn’t appreciate a drawing from a child? As adults that can fade unless we have a glass of wine in our hand at a paint and sip. Even if the painting we create doesn’t really stack up to the one the love our life did right next to us (We were drinking different wine. I believe that was the problem) you still have fun and create one of the best things you can – memories.
Today’s post is one that is simple, not complicated. It should be easy to do then, right? I have learned in my over 2 decades of work in the self-improvement field you should never confuse the word simple with the word easy. Sometimes the simplest things in life can be the most difficult to do on a regular basis. Even if we know what to do, having the strength and will to do so can be a different story all together.
That brings us to today’s step in our ’10 steps to happiness’. That step is Frown less, smile more. There are many studies from some of the most prestigious universities that prove the physical act of smiling can go a long way to improving your emotional state. There is even one study where they took clinically depressed individuals and had them do nothing but smile in a three-way mirror for a scheduled amount of time and the results they experienced either rivaled or surpassed the prescription medication they were on. Of course, the economic ramifications of this will reduce the chances that we will see more such tests.
The results are there. From a personal standpoint, how do we feel when someone smiles at us? Even if they have the audacity to do that to us when we are trying to remain in a bad mood, it will, if only for the moment, bring us a certain amount of joy. Often, the act of receiving a smile will cause us to return one of our own. Get one from a puppy dog or small child and you can all but kiss that bad day goodbye! How does it feel when you receive a genuine loving smile from that special person in your life? I can tell you that nothing gives me a greater sense of pride or accomplishment than to see a smile on Margie’s face and knowing I had put it there. (Not to mention her beauty shines through the most when she smiles. It is like a ray of sunshine)
If all of these smiles feel so good, if there is even scientific evidence to back up the physical benefits of smiling, why do we not smile more? Some of us are self-conscious of our smiles. Maybe we even have dental reasons to feel so. Keeping that in mind, you don’t have to flash your teeth like you are a used car salesman or a star on an infomercial. Although, it does bear mentioning that a smile can even be an effective business tool. Even an upturn at the end of our lips and a little sparkle in the eye can be joy to anyone’s soul. Someone who smiles is automatically more attractive. Don’t believe me? Think of those weight loss commercials. The have a before and after picture. Guess which one is smiling? The one after they have used the latest miracle pill.
Sometimes the act of smiling takes effort. There are many people, myself included, who when concentrating or otherwise involved have a stern look on their face. If we were to take a deep breath and smile, it would not only undoubtedly make us feel better, but would also refresh our brains so that we may better concentrate on the task at hand. Whatever you are doing today, make sure to take a few moments out of your day to offer a smile to as many folks as you can. it will help increase both your happiness and theirs. That is what you call a win/win situation.
Here we are, halfway up the staircase. It is a great chance to stop and look at how far we have come. It is also a good time to see although we have made it halfway up this staircase, there is still another half to climb. Unlike the office stairs after taco Tuesday, climbing these steps will not cause us to be winded, but put more wind in our sails and happiness in our lives. Without further anticipation, let us get to day number 5!
Today’s post is another good struggle for me. I say ‘good struggle’ because although it is something I have to work on, that means there is more joy to be had in my already joyful life. Talk less, listen more. This is great advice. In fact, it is the first piece of advice I give someone looking to improve any relationship in their life. You can learn so much by actively listening to the other party in your life. They will tell you what they enjoy. What makes them happy, sad, angry and a host of other emotions. Listen long and careful enough and they just might share their hopes and dreams with you.
Here is another great thought to ponder. When we talk we are only repeating what we already know. When we listen is the only time we have an opportunity to learn something new. That one really caught my attention. Even reading, which I love to do, is a form of listening. You are really just listening to yourself.
Here is why this is such a struggle for me. I love talking. I am good at it. 23 years as a bartender. 30 years in customer service and now 7 or so as a DJ. I am good at talking and relating to people. Sometimes I even feel rude if I don’t ‘keep the conversation going’. Especially with people who are not so good at talking. While this can be done with caution, you will still only get to know even a person who is very shy by listening. It may be a struggle for them, but by listening you give them room to express themselves.
Lately, I have even learned somethings listening to our friends in nature. I am learning which call matches up with which bird. I am listening to know the sound a deer makes in the woods long before you see it. Listening has added so much to my world. Please feel free to share how listening has added happiness and joy to your world.
Fear less, try more. Ooh…this is a good one. Another area that I struggle with. Everyone deep down wants to try more, I believe. What is stopping us then? What prevents us from trying for that new job we really want? Why not approach that person you find so attractive and start a conversation with them? These certainly would be good outcomes, would they not? Why do we not at least attempt those things that we know have the potential to lead us closer to an amazing life?
The answer is one simple word we are all too familiar with – fear. There used to be many areas of my life that fear seemed to rule the day. There were many things that I wanted to try, but didn’t because I was full of fear. What exactly was I afraid of? This may sound a bit vain because…well…it is. I was afraid of looking stupid. Whenever we start something new there is a period where we are not so good at it. I think of things in my life I excel at, take being a bartender for example, and I recall that when I started there was a growth period. It may even seem hard to imagine not knowing some of what I do, but let us not get ahead of ourselves.
The idea that there is a learning curve to everything we do is not a complex intellectual thought to grasp. I know that I will look foolish at something for a while until I become good at it. I even realize that others know and understand that I will look foolish when trying something new. The key here is that I know these things intellectually. Emotionally, that is a completely different story. Raise your hand if you enjoy looking foolish. Although I cannot see you, I bet most of you do not have your hand raised. It can seem almost physically painful to some.
So how did I, and more importantly, how can you overcome this hurdle? I am going to share some things that worked for me and they may just work for you. In the comments below this post I would love to hear what tools you use to overcome fear and try something new. I am going to go back to my example of learning to be a bartender. My very first day I was told it was easy that most people order beer or common drinks whose names tell you how to make them (think rum and coke) I was told that if they ordered something unusual that all I had to do was keep up the banter while I looked the recipe up in a book we had behind the bar. (This was before cell phones and Google) Confident in my skill of conversation I approached my first customer. I greeted them and inquired what they would enjoy. I will never forget the drink – A Quick Carlos. There is no liquor named Carlos that one could serve quickly, so I opened the book as I continued my conversation with the gentleman. Not many recipes that start with ‘Q’. Then my worst fear – there was no recipe!! I ran back to the skilled bartender who was teaching me. We will call him ‘Jimmy’ for the sole reason that was what his name was. I explained the dire situation as Jimmy looked at me as if I were 3/4 stupid. “Well then ask them what is in it.” I had not considered this course of action as I did not want to look like what I was, a new and not so knowledgeable bartender. 23 years and millions of drinks later I wouldn’t hesitate to ask someone what is in the drink they want.
Starting at the Post Office was the same. When I was being trained I was told, “Don’t worry most people just buy stamps or mail a first-class package.” My very first customer, I cannot make this up, said “I would like to send this international registered with a return receipt to Mexico.” Talk about fumbling, looking foolish and struggling. Again, 22 years and several customer service awards later, I would be fine explaining I wanted to check to make sure I am doing this right.
What changed? Having those examples of struggling and now being accomplished gave me a chance to do it. Knowing you are not the only one who has this issue also helps. I heard a commencement speech by the actor Denzel Washington. In the speech he said something that was very simple, but was great to hear out of a mouth of someone so accomplished. He simply said, “You will suck at something.” There were obviously more inspiring words around that. If not, that would have been a very short and not so inspiring speech. Still, hearing those words from someone else somehow made it easier.
To this day, I search for ways to face and overcome fear in my life. David Goggins, one of the hardest men on the planet admitted to having a great amount of fear in his life. He also mentioned what he gained by facing his own fears. Using other people’s examples can propel us to face our own. Greg Plitt (R.I.P.) made it clear that the easiest and best time to attack fear is when it first shows up because that is when it is the weakest. Let it bounce around in our heads a while, and it can grow big and strong. He also pointed out something very interesting. Fear is self-created. The only place it exists is in our own minds. We created it, therefore we have the power to destroy it.
As you can see the battle against fear is a daily ongoing fight. We need all the weapons we can muster. With that in mind, I implore of you to share with us the techniques you use to overcome fear in your own life.
Welcome to day 3 of our happiness journey! As a quick reminder we are starting from the bottom of staircase and climbing our way to a happier and more amazing life. A quick review of day 2. Watch less, do more was our guide. As we discussed, watching can have a great deal of benefits but nothing compares to being out in the arena taking action!
Now let us get to today, day 3! This day may be one of the hardest days for a lot of people. Judge less, accept more. It can be hard for many of us to accept those who live their lives in a different manner than we feel is right. The one fact we must keep in the front of our mind is that it is their life to live. We may disagree with how they are spending their days, but it is their time they are spending. Often, some of our most passionate beliefs such as spiritual, sexual and political can be the hardest to accept someone that is different than us. One of my main goals as a writer is to help the world be more unified and accepting.
One fact that people often confuse is they feel one way can only exist in humanity. I have friends who have different sexual preferences than I do. Never, have I felt that either one of us would have to change how we are in order to be friends. Never have I thought less of them because they do. I have friends of many different spiritual beliefs. I feel their differences often show me ways to enhance and deepen my own beliefs. Politics…I seldom see the benefit to judging or trying to change anyone in this arena. As long as there exists love, I feel any other difference can be overcome. Which leads me to conclude that to limit our judgement, we do not need to work on increasing our acceptance, but on increasing our love.
One area in which I struggle with is watching others live a life that is far less than I know they are capable of. I see people act and speak in ways that often bring chaos and unhappiness into their lives. All I see is the beautiful person inside that has so much to offer the world. It can be tempting to relieve some of this frustration by offering to help them by sharing things I have learned that allowed me to turn my own life around. I must remember that this path is not for everyone and that some people are more content to live their lives in the manner in which they do. As an odd twist of fate, I found that loving and accepting those people can help them even more than the words and ideas I can share. Like I said, it is something I am working on.
If you feel comfortable sharing some of your struggles in turning judgement into acceptance in your own life, I think we all would love to hear them. Sometimes that might give others the strength and inspiration to do the same.
Welcome to your second step to happiness. Sadly, the first day of this series did not get the amount of engagement that I had hoped. I think this is was in part due to some problems on the social media end of things. I am truly hoping more of you enjoy and get involved starting on day 2. Remember you can always go back and do day one as well. A quick reminder, we are starting from the bottom of the staircase and climbing up.
Before we begin day 2, allow me to share my experience with day 1. Complain less, appreciate more was our instruction on day 1. The day after I wrote that post I found myself on the way to work complaining (in my head which may be the worst place to complain) about having to leave my beautiful lady at home. I was noticing how wonderful the weather was that day. This had followed 3 straight days of rain. I was feeling envious of the people I drove past who were out taking a leisurely walk, or sharing that walk with their favorite furry friend.
My very next thought was enlightening, but not in the normal way. I believe it went something like “WHAT THE -” fill in that last word at your discretion. I couldn’t believe that I had just wrote about complaining less and appreciating more and here I was doing the opposite. Proof, that when it comes to working on developing an amazing life and amazing mindset, there is no finish line. I immediately looked around determined to change my perspective. I had a job to go to. In this crazy time, there are many who are without. I would be able to work at least a portion of my day outside. I had the pleasure of driving through a nice neighborhood and watching people walking, with or without a dog, in a nice setting. I had an amazing lady that I did have to leave, true, but that I would be able to come home to as well. I must confess I did all of this appreciating because I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. The benefit I got was an instant change of state. I felt lighter, colors began to pop and become deeper. I recall this from doing an exercise where you look for things you love as you travel on. I went on to have a much better day that if I had continued focusing on what was wrong and not what was right.
Watch less, do more. That is today’s step to happiness. Watching can sure lead to some happiness. Watching your favorite romantic movie can give you that warm fuzzy feeling. How much happier would you feel if you applied some of those same romantic gestures to your own relationship? Watching the big game on television? That can certainly be fun. Going out with some friends or the family to do something active would not only make us feel happy, but be a great deal better for us physically. Lastly, one of my favorite examples. I enjoy watching nature programs on big game in Africa, or the wildlife in our oceans. Granted, I take far too few tropical vacations to explore the ocean, and have never had the pleasure of visiting the great continent of Africa yet. What I can do is get out and explore nature in my own town. I go for walks through parks with my mom looking for nature. Even while at work doing some landscaping I can appreciate nature. Margie and I love going birdwatching. I must confess to wanting to increase my knowledge of our local feathered friends.
How about you? How can you get off of the sidelines and start being more a part of the game of life? I am looking for great ideas and to enjoy some of your stories in the comments below!
Here is a challenge for us all, myself included. I found this great picture and we are going to spend the next 10 days taking steps to happiness and discussing our actions and results right here on this blog. I am excited and I hope you are too! At the end of these 10 days we will have taken a great leap to expanding the level of joy and happiness in our lives. Consider it a staircase to enlightenment. Not that after 10 days we will find ourselves sitting blissfully on a mountain top breathing deeply supplying the world with all the answers it seeks. We just might smile a little more and stress a little less.
We are going to begin today by taking the first step. Ironically, we are going to start with number 10 and work our way up to number 1. As you can see by looking at the photo above, step number 10 says Complain less, appreciate more. As we set out today let us look for areas in our lives that we often complain about that we can find things to appreciate about.
Take the morining commute as an example. It can be easy to get frustrated with drivers who seem to either have no connection to, or little regard for reality. Just the other day I saw a wonderful driver crawling along down a mainstreet at about 10 miles per hour when suddenly they felt compelled to turn left from the right lane. This means they esentially cut across four lanes of traffic at the same brisk pace in which they were traveling to their desitinations. In this particular event we can often apprecitate our creative nature to discover different titles to attach to that driver or colorful adjetives to describe their driving. We here at secret2anamazinglife.com like to keep things a little more positive, however. Instead we could appreciate the fact nobody was hurt by this driver using the force more than their 5 senses. We could also appreciate the fact there are not more drivers like this on the road. I do suppose we could appreciate that this safety-impaired individual was unable or unwilling to put more weight on the gas pedal.
Another area in which it is all too easy to find ourselves complaining these days is the grocery store. We complain that we occasionally have to wait to even get in the store. Once inside we complain about the atmosphere and how full of fear it is. To, of course, the lack of available products. We lament the fact that our own personal hygiene may be compromised due to the advanced planning of the 20 year-old purchasing enough toilet paper for the rest of his natural life.Yes, we would like some yeast, but find ourselves relegated to enjoying pitas because some folks may be planning to bake until they fall over. All very understandable reactions. We must remind ourselves that in most cases there are alternatives. Maybe a cheaper brand of toilet tissue. Yes, this is not ideal, but we should appreciate those lovable Charmin bears as we wait for their return. We can appreciate the fact that although we have to wait, at least we are assured of an open store and that they are taking safety precautions to help us. Yes, people are full of fear, but we can appreciate how much more our smile and friendliness will mean to other shoppers and especially those hard-working souls there to help us.
These are but a few examples. I invite you to continue throughout your day looking for areas in which you can transform complaints into appreciation. You will notice a decrease in your own stress as well as an increase in your joy and connection with your fellow humans. Tomorrow we will get together to discuss the next step and share our results with the last one. Feel free to share any ideas you may have currently and stop back for the next post to share your results.
Have you ever run into this problem? A friend of yours comes to you for help. You really care for this person and do not want to see them hurting anymore, so you do your best to help them. A week, or maybe even sooner, they are back with the same problem. I know a person who does really ill-advised things when they drink alcohol. They come to me with lines such as, “I wish I would have never said that.” or ” I wish I would have never done that.” With as much compassion as I can muster, I offer the suggestion that perhaps they should stop drinking. “You are right. I should.” A week later…same story. When you mention the fact that they were going to give up the thing that was causing the problems in their life, they have a range of excuses. They were going to. They thought they could control themselves.
Maybe you have a friend that is trying to get in shape and wants to work out with you. Meet me at the gym after work and we will workout together you offer. That time comes and they had a tough day at work and just want to relax at home. Maybe they are unwilling to give up eating junk food and drinking soda. Yet as they are slamming Mountain Dew with one had and eating a doughnut in the other, they are also complaining about how they just can’t seem to lose weight. Spending your time developing a workout routine or nutrition plan with these folks may not be the best investment of your time.
The hard truth is this – if someone is not willing to help themselves by letting go what is holding them down, there is little you can do for them. It is like tossing someone a life preserver who is still hanging on to an anchor. A friend that is not intent on getting out of that relationship that is bringing them down, yet they always ask you why they are not happy. Until they are willing to help themselves, you cannot help them no matter how hard you try. It will only end up with you feeling as defeated as them.
There is one caveat to this. If the person you are trying to help is genuinely working hard on changing but is having a difficult time. You can perhaps work with them to develop a plan to help them succeed. If you see a person really desires to change but is lacking the knowledge how, encouragement and working with them is a noble and great thing to do. Just be aware there are those who want others to fix their lives for them. Unless they are willing to let go of the negative in their life, any positive you offer them will be of little to no use.