YOUR 3RD STEP TO HAPPINESS

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.

ACCEPT IT… THEN WE CAN MOVE ON

I have always been a fan of Michael J Fox. Good actor, great human. Being open with his struggles with Parkinson’s disease and his desire to help those similarly affected. This post is not so much about the man or the condition, but about the approach demonstrated in both the situation and the quote above.

I think acceptance is one of the most important first steps in whatever situation you are facing. The issue for many of us is that we confuse acceptance with resignation. When you accept something, it does not mean you are ok with it. It also does not mean you are not going to work to improve or find away to work despite it. If you find there is a situation that is not to your liking there are two ways in which we can approach this. We can argue, fight and complain about it. We can continue to deny and work against it. This usually results in wasted energy on our behalf and a lot of additional stress. No real benefit there. You certainly will not find yourself any closer to an amazing life.

The second way, and far more recommended way, is to first accept the situation as it is. Perhaps you were let go from your job unfairly. You could complain and let everyone know just how bad the company ‘did you wrong’. Chances are you will still be remain unemployed at the end of the day. Your time would have been better served working on the situation. Saying to yourself, “I was let go. It shouldn’t have happened but it did.” Then begin to analyze the situation to see what, if anything, you can learn from it. Were you too comfortable being involved in workplace politics? Did you leave yourself vulnerable and relied too much on a single source of income? Did you not keep your resume up to date? Maybe the same holds true for your education and your skill set?

Once you discover what you can learn from the situation, do not beat yourself up over that. Instead, note that it is so and learn from that. Didn’t keep your resume up to date? Time to work on that. Need to brush up on some skills? Go ahead and do that. Maybe next time try to keep a better lookout for a workplace with a lot less drama and politics. These steps work for both people and situations. If your friend has a different political or social view than you, don’t waste your time trying to “change them over to your way of thinking.” The more productive path is to accept your friend for who they are and make sure to steer situations and conversations in a direction that does not bring up that subject.

The best place that acceptance can pay off is with yourself. Accept your faults or things that you could improve on. This requires both a great deal of honesty and bravery. Then, go to work on those things. Without admitting there is an issue to begin with, it makes it very difficult to craft a plan to improve it. Accepting you have a shortcoming (newsflash – we all do) does not make you less of a person. Quite the opposite. It means you are brave enough to admit, even to yourself, that there are areas in which you can improve. Then, accept that and begin to work on finding a way to work through it. By doing this in all areas of your life you will reduce stress and find your speed and success and solving problems will increase.

WHAT NOW?

When I decided to be a motivational speaker I thought it would be an easy and natural progression. Taking the material in both my book and website and sharing it with people would be simple and enjoyable. What challenges could come from sharing how to live a more positive and rewarding life with others.

I have discovered being able to appreciate the beauty in others and express that beauty in the written words has bestowed upon me one of the most challenging, yet personally rewarding honors I have faced. In the past 12 months I have spoken at 5 funerals. Being asked to speak about the life of someone who everyone in attendance cared so deeply for is both a tremendous honor, and great responsibility. One that I do not take lightly. It has also taught me to learn and think a great deal about how I approach the subject of death. In doing so, I have discovered what will not only help ease the burden of grief we feel when we lose someone we love but will help them live on every day in our lives. I would like to share what I learned with all of you in hopes it may help you or someone you know who may be experiencing the grief of losing someone you love.

On May 8th our family experienced a great loss in the mother of my lovely lady, Margie. Shortly after her mom’s passing, Margie asked if I would like to speak at the funeral. I must confess to having cringed a little. Being that my love and respect for both of those ladies was quite high, it was an honor, but it would be an emotional challenge to deliver. Certainly, when asked to perform such an important honor, it is hard to say no. As I began to think about what I would say, a new challenge presented itself. I was about to compose words about the woman the lady in my life was lucky enough to call her mom. Nothing but the best would do. The words came to me at 3 o’clock one morning. I grabbed my laptop to capture them.

In all my writing I try to give the reader something they can use to reduce the stress, or in this case grief in their life and add some joy or positivity. Fortunately for me, Margie’s mother, Ruthanne, led life that provided most of what I needed to say.

Most eulogies include memories of the person they honor. I wanted to do something a little different. I wanted to answer the question that all of us, in some form or fashion, have in our hearts and minds when we lose someone we love – now what? What do we do now that we have lost a great parent, grandparent, spouse or even dear friend? How do we keep them alive both in our hearts and the world around us? How can we help their legacy live on?

I am going to share what works for me in hopes that it may help you. I have found although honoring someone with a memorial or candle-light vigil is thoughtful, the event is over in a day. For me, the best way to keep someone alive in our hearts and in our daily life is to replace some of the light the world has lost with their passing. I would like to explain this further by using the life of Ruthanne as an example. I must add Ruthanne gave more light in her 79 years than most people could do if given 179 years. Her life could best be summed up by recalling her last few days with us here on earth.

When Ruthanne was told her time on earth was ending, she voiced two desires. It wasn’t a fancy car or an exotic vacation. She wanted to go to the casino and karaoke one more time. She wanted to die as she lived, feeling the joy in her life, surrounded by the people she loved. Ruthanne understood that joy and peace are more important than status or wealth.

When it became clear she was not going to leave the hospital we asked her if she would like us to bring her anything. Her answer spoke volumes. She said quite firmly, “I don’t need things. I need people.” Ruthanne understood the material gifts we are given we cannot take with us, but the lives we touch and the memories we create is what will live on long after we are gone. She knew the most valuable gift we can give someone is our time and our love. That is what she wanted from us.

It was not receiving that gift that most concerned Ruthanne. Every person who visited her in the hospital asked her the same question, “How are you doing?” You might think she would lament the conditions that plagued her or the time she had left. Not once did I hear this. Instead, she asked people how they were doing. She did not do this just for conversation, but with the genuine sincerity of someone who truly cares. She asked to see pictures of babies and how their jobs were going. Ruthanne understood how important it is to let someone know they are loved and significant.

If you attended Ruthanne’s funeral or visited her in the hospital you would notice the people she surrounded herself with came from every race, culture and creed. Ruthanne may joke with you about your look some days, but she would never let how someone looked stop her from loving them. Although a Christian, she would not let believing in a different faith stop her from loving you. Ruthanne gave us the gift of acceptance.

Sometimes, those she loved let her down. They may have been in trouble with the law, developed habits or addictions they shouldn’t have, or even hurt her or the ones she loved. I think at some point all of us that knew her failed to live up to our own standard. What did she do when this happened? She loved us anyway. Ruthanne gave us the gift of forgiveness.

With all the gifts mentioned above that she gave us, it is easy to see why at the 79th birthday party Margie threw her over 100 people showed up. If I were to guess almost three times that many either visited or sent well-wishes when she was in the hospital. With that much love and popularity you could not blame Ruthanne if she would boast with the rest of them. When she was told people had to leave her room because more were waiting to visit her she would tell us, “I don’t know why people love me so much. I am just me.” Ruthanne gave us the gift of humility.

Ruthanne gave me those gifts and I must add giving birth to the most beautiful woman I share my life with. Sadly, she will no longer be here to teach me these gifts in person. It falls upon me and those she knew, in her honor and memory, to share these gifts with those lives we touch. Every time I am accepting, forgiving, every time I make someone laugh or remind them how important and loved they are, I will think of and thank Ruthanne for being a living example of these virtues and many more.

When we lose someone we truly love, let us all work together to replace the light the world has lost with their passing. It will not only help ease our grief, it will keep them with us every day we share the gifts that they gave us.

WHY THE WORLD SHOULD BE A SPRING SHOWCASE

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Tonight I went to an elementary school spring performance. In addition to singing contemporary favorites such as Uptown Funk, the children from k-4 to third grade also performed some of my favorite classics like Brown bear, Brown bear.

Two things jumped out at me during this show. First, I had all but forgotten that I had attended this very school. Although when I was there it was grades seven and eight, the look had remained virtually unchanged.

The second thing I noticed was the talent of the children. It was amazing. I found myself dancing in my seat. Well, at least as much as I am want to do. Another thing I noticed was that I was in a very good mood. That made me take a break from my legendary chair dancing to sit up and take notice. Every time that I find myself in an extreme of emotion, be it good or bad, positive or negative, I stop and notice what has lead me to that point.

In this case it was a very good mood I found myself in. Was it being back in a place I had been so long ago? Not quite. Days weren’t always rosy in middle school. As we approached the door I pointed out to my lovely lady, Margie, an area where I had indulged in a rather intense physical interaction with another fellow student. “You were in a fight?” she asked incredulously. Anyone who knows me will understand seeing me engage in a physical altercation is a stretch these days. Even though back then it may have not been.

Ruling out the power of nostalgia, I moved on. Being that I was rather sleep deprived, I decided just to relax and really be present for the show. Then somewhere between The hungry caterpillar and I Bought Me a cat, it occurred to me. It was the show itself that was inspiring me. Not just the positive and light-hearted lyrics, but the scene itself. Children were putting their hearts and souls into their performances. They were doing this out of nothing but personal pride and the desire to make their parents proud of them. The parents also made me proud. As children can so often do, when they are supposed to hold up a picture of a bowl of soup during a song, it winds up being in a position that would leave more soup in your lap than in your stomach. Despite this, the parents glowed with pride and cheered for not only their child, but each and every child. They did so knowing the reasons the children were doing it were pure and innocent.

There was a bonus item of joy I noticed it not only filled my heart with a personal sense of joy, but made me proud of the parents and even more so, the students. In each group there were several children who seemed to suffer from some form of challenge mentally. Not only were they allowed to join the other students in the production, which made me proud of the job the teachers did, but as they were often wandering all over the stage involved in what seemed to be their own little show, the students not only remained focused, but often encouraged and embraced these children so different from themselves.

I began to wonder why the world itself is not more like this ‘Spring Showcase’. Imagine if we all worked with a heart filled with joy and a desire to make those closest to us proud of the job we did? What if we encouraged everyone who worked hard, doing the best they could, even if it didn’t turn out perfect and they did hold up the picture of a cupcake instead of string beans. What if we accepted those around us that were different and even invited them to be a part of our world while living the way they were created to? This was an example of the way the world should be. The greater question is how do we carry this behavior into the adult world?