OH THE IRONY

How often have you asked yourself “Why is this happening to me?” I urge you to stop asking that question as it seldom equals a positive result. Instead frame it in a more positive way. Something to the effect of “What positive result could possibly come of this negative situation that is currently happening in my life?” Not only will you begin to train yourself to see the positive side of more situations, but you will undoubtedly have a greater feeling of control in your life.

Despite doing all of this, there are still situations that are such a challenge that any positive we may be able to mine out of them will not outweigh the negative contained within. The sadness of certain situations may pass or lessen with time, but will not change the cause of the sadness. Our upstairs neighbor may eventually stop his tap dancing lessons at 3am, but we will still have lost any sleep we may have been able to get. When a loved one leaves on a trip, we know they will be back eventually but that does not stop the sting of them being gone.

The irony of all of these situations is they bring us a blessing. That blessing is the appreciation of the situation when the cause is not present. We are able to appreciate the emotion of joy after a long period of sadness. We appreciate the silence when our neighbor is away at a tap dancing contest. To, of course, the joy we feel when we greet our loved one after they come home from a hard day working at the Post Office, or so I am told. One of the best ways that this has been brought to my attention is at my day job. There are days when I have not slept much the night before and my enthusiasm for my occupation may be less than stellar. It may seem like a struggle at times to make it through the day. It may feel tough, but then the next day, I show up…with a head cold. Suddenly, that tough day you had before would seem like a dream. “Boy, would this job be easier if only I didn’t have this stupid head cold.” You can’t wait to feel healthy again. After only a few days of good health, we can begin to take it for granted again.

My goal for both myself and everyone reading this post is twofold. First, appreciate all the blessings we take for granted. Get a flat tire on the way to work? At least it is not raining. Oh, it is raining? Well, at least you have a job to go to. You get the idea. Second thing that I hope we all get out of this, myself included, is to see the blessing in negative situations. When going through something completely draining, just think of how happy you will be when it is over and how much it will make you appreciate the time when that situation is no longer in your life. This is not only a secret to an amazing life, but quite often the secret to making it through life.

IT IS A SPECIAL OCCASION FOR YOU

You may be finding yourself thinking, “How does Neil know what is a special occasion in my life?” You may even think that today is just an ordinary day, that there is no special occasion. The odds of it being your birthday are about 1 in 365 best I can figure. Still, today is a very important day for you. Why? The reasons are all around us. When you think of the odds that allow you to be exactly who you are, they are more than staggering. From the moment of conception to all the experiences that have brought you to this point, they are all worth celebrating.

While it is true that a good amount of things that we encounter in life do not work out how we had hoped and imagined, they have all played a part in making us the amazing people we are today. Even the hardest lessons have given us some of our greatest gifts. If we face a particular health challenge, we can better relate and counsel those who face the same situation. If we have lost our job we face the prospect of finding a new, and often better suited job. If our hearts were broken, we have a chance to begin again with a wiser outlook as to the kind of person that would better help us grow both ourselves and our love. Even what I think is the worst pain, the pain of losing someone we love, can teach us the value of life and those we share it with.

This may sound like some new age inspirational speech, and it some ways I guess it is, but let us look how it relates to our life today. If you do not think today is a special occasion, ask yourself how it would feel if you knew you would not have a tomorrow. Now ask yourself how sure you can be that you do have a tomorrow coming? Can you be 100% sure? How about 90%? There is a great deal of factors that could sway that number in one direction or another. How dangerous your job is, the safety of the area you live in, and your current health status. Even if those are all in the positive, you still face unexpected dangers we may never consider. Car accidents, random violent strangers or a sudden unexpected health crisis. So much for the new age inspirational speech. While I am not trying to focus on the negative that may happen in life, it does not change the reality that they are possibilities. Tomorrow is not promised for any of us. Today may be the special occasion we never knew we were having.

If today were your last day with sight, how much time would you take to sit in nature and enjoy the scenery? How long would you gaze lovingly at the face of the person you love? What song would you listen to if you knew you may wake up without your sense of hearing? The risk is not only ours either. People in our lives that we care deeply for share those same inherent risks. Think about that for a minute. Today may be that last time your spouse may be able to see your smile, would you deny that to them just because they forgot to put the milk away? It may be the last time they are able to hear you say “I Love you” wouldn’t you want them to be able to hear that one more time? It may very well be the last time you can share a moment with someone. Would you not want them to know in their heart how much they mean to you and how much you love them? In my own romantic relationship, I tell Margie everyday, “There are two things I am going to tell you everyday. I need you to know how beautiful you are and how much I love you.” To this day, I don’t think a single day has went by in which I didn’t remind and show her those two things. Tomorrow, either her or I could be gone and I would not have the chance to tell her.

This may beginning to sound a bit morbid to some of you, but it is true just the same. This is not saying we should live our lives in a state of fear that something may go wrong, but with the knowledge that it might. Often, things are only appreciated after they are gone. We complain about that job until we lose it. We complain about our spouse until they are gone. We take for granted someone in our life until they pass away. Moments can sometimes become special because they were the last. The last time you said “I Love you” to someone you care about. The last time you got to see a friend’s smile. I think we should take Mr. Einstein’s advice above and live life as if everything were a miracle. You never know when moments will be last ones, so treat each one as if it were. Live, love and laugh like there were no tomorrow.

USE THE TIMES

Another post helping us to find peace and light in a dark world. There are lots of things we are all very excited to get back to. I, personally, am excited to have our state fair next year as well as the bicycle expo they hold there. I am sure you have a list of things that you were looking forward to, or are still looking for that were canceled or have been postponed. Concerts, festivals, parties and many other things have been put on hold until we have a better handle on this virus.

It is a great time to pause and be thankful for what we do have. Think about all of the technology. As we are stuck inside we have cable/satellite television with a million channels to watch. We have the internet where we can look up and increase our knowledge on any subject we desire. YouTube allows us to watch videos on just as many subjects. Even our wonderful smart phones that too often keep us apart from each other we can now use to call/text/video chat with those we care about! Just moments ago I received a text from my Grandma about vision boards she uses. (Yes, she is cool and enlightened that way. Feel free to be jealous)

Most of you reading this have your health. Even if it may not be to the degree you would like, you still have it. As most of you know, I had the Covid-19 in March and am so grateful to have not only made it through, but to have been able to share my journey. Gyms might be closed, but most parks are open for hiking and exploring. We can ride our bicycles, jog or a million other ways to appreciate nature. Speaking of nature, it has benefited from our staying inside a while.

I would love to know more about what in your life you are appreciating right now. What have you maybe taken a little for granted that now is a valuable part of your day?

THE SECOND STEP TO HAPPINESS

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!

10 STEPS TO HAPPINESS

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.

AN EXAMPLE WE CAN ALL FOLLOW

As I so often do here on this blog, I am going to share a compelling and inspiring conversation I had tonight with you. A few posts ago, I detailed how you can change the world by being nice to one person at a time. A gentleman who reads my blog on occasion gave a great example of how this works. I think once you read it you will be able to see not only how easy this is to do, but what a great impact it can have. I hope you will also be inspired to follow in his footsteps.

While writing this evening, I ran into my friend Scott. He and I share some of the same destinations for inspiriation. One of which is the public library here in the great city of West Allis Wisconsin where I live. Before I get to our conversation, I want to say that the library in this city is really one to be proud of. I am constantly informing people not only of the great selection of materials and media they offer, but access to the internet, private work spaces and amazing events. The library is a place I feel not enough of the community makes full use of.

As Scott told me his story, he made me aware of another great aspect of our library. Scott informed me he crossed paths with the janitor of the library. He told him, “I just wanted to thank you for doing such a great job at keeping the library so clean.” This was a point I had not thought of. He was correct. The West Allis Public Library is one of the cleanest and best organized libraries I have ever been in. The chairs are always tucked in, the tables are always clean and everything seems to be as it should. This is something that can easily be taken for granted and I guess that is exactly what I had done.

The more he spoke, the more I thought about how different of a place it would be had this man not done his job so well. (Yes, the picture above is of Rihanna playing the role of a janitor, not the actual janitor) Being in a place that is dirty and unkept would not only be unpleasant, it would also drive people away from using the services. This man’s job may have gone unappreciated, but it was vital to the working of the institution.

There is a second part to Scott’s story. That is the reaction of the gentleman he complimented. I guess the employee in question had grown used to having his work go unacknowledged. Scott informed me he was almost shocked that someone had stopped to not only notice, but voice their appreciation for the great job he did. After finishing the business he came to do and a quick visit to the gents, Scott crossed paths with this man again. Scott informed me he was greeted with a “Have a great day sir!” from the man he complimented. It would appear the good feelings continued to flow in this man long after the compliment was payed. In addition, it had given him a spring in his step and the desire to return the compliment.

I got quite a bit out of this great story that this reader had shared with me. First, was an appreciation for how clean the library in West Allis is. Every time that I go there from now on I will be sure to stop and notice. Second was the importance of complimenting people for the great job that they do. Especially ones that may often go unnoticed or unappreciated. The effect it had on this gentleman was significant. Next, how doing good always comes back to you. Having this man return the compliment and seeing how much it brightened his day only made Scott’s day better. As a side note, I knew Scott’s father before I met Scott. He also was a great man with a kind heart. Proof some of the greatest things we leave our children are not material.

Lastly, I am very grateful for my readers sharing inspirational stories. Not only am I able to pass them along to all of you, but it gives a certain validity to the points we share and learn here. I always invite each and every one of you who read this blog to share any thoughts or stories with me at any time. That is the purpose of this community – to encourage and inspire each other. I hope this story has inspired you to think of those you can compliment on job well done.

CLICK HERE TO GET NEIL’S BOOK FULL OF IDEAS TO MAKE YOUR LIFE AMAZING!!

SEE THE ‘I LOVE YOU’ ALL AROUND YOU

One of my favorite books for improving relationships is The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. In this book Mr. Chapman explores the different ways in which people both show and receive love. A quick example can be where one person enjoys the physical intimacy of touch, while another needs verbal appreciation. This can challenging when two people in a relationship express love in different ways. It can seem at times they are speaking two different languages. In essence, they really are.

While this can present a host of unique challenges, it can also present plenty of great opportunities. We may be missing plenty of expressions of love that surround us every day. People today, men especially it would seem, tend to be indirect in their appreciation. What do I mean by that? It would be most unlikely that someone may call or email you and say directly, “I just wanted to contact you and tell you how much I appreciate you.” They may, however, tell you how much they enjoyed your company the other night at dinner or even how much they enjoy your company in general.

A fair amount of time, things may not even be that direct. Your husband may help put away the dishes. Your wife may sit down and watch a show that you know she has no interest in just to be next to you. When you are having cocktails at your local watering hole and the bartender politely suggests you also enjoy a glass of water, they are showing they care about your well-being. When you drop your friend off after a fun night out and they tell you, “Text me when you get home.” It is a way of saying “I love and care about you and your safety. I will be a lot more at peace when I know you have arrived at your desitination unharmed.” I am going to venture a guess all of that thought will not have went into their statement and may not have crossed their mind in exactly that way, but that is the sentiment behind it.

Whether it is parents offering you food when you stop by to visit, or a small child giving you a craft item they have made, these are statements of love. In their own way they are saying, “This is what I have to offer. Please take it because you are special to me and I want you to feel that.” Again, these thoughts may not play out in such a complete fashion, but if you were to break it down, that is what would be conveyed.

What is the point of all of this? Simply this, we live in a world where love is all around us. Quite often negativity and hate get all the headlines, but stopping to notice and appreciate all of the love is esential to living an amazing life. In these examples, as well as countless others, love can often live in disguise. By noticing all of the subtle ways in which people tell us we are loved, we can realize that there is more goodness in this world than we often appreciate. As a side effect, we will realize how many people feel and show us love on a daily basis. Even though that is not what they may call it directly. Feeling all of this love can go a long way to helping us deal with the constant stream of challenges we face. 

BECOME LIKE GOD


I must confess to making today’s headline a little click bait. Looking at the quote above by one Fred Rogers (whom most of you know is one of my favorite philosophers) it might not be that far from the truth. Whatever your spiritual belief might be, I think we can all agree that seeing the best in our ‘neighbor’ is something very special. In a world that seems to focus on our differences and who we think is to blame for what, it becomes even more special. I am sure Mr. Rogers would agree.
There is a positive flipside to seeing the best in everyone and everything. Your world looks a lot brighter. When your world looks a lot brighter, you feel a lot better. When you feel a lot better you treat others better and your world becomes…well…better.
This is where a lot of you may come in and tell me that would be ‘looking at the world through rose colored glasses’. You may be right. Looking for what is right with the world can seem like a delusion of sorts, especially to those who have never done it. Looking for and appreciating, especially out loud, what is right in others and the world around us does not mean ignoring what is wrong. In fact, knowing what is wrong can be very helpful to note ways in which things can be better. What is advocated here is to not focus on what is wrong.
It is here that pessimists and even realists may say I am being willfully ignorant. Maybe so, but it feels good and leads me to have a better life. I know there are lots of things wrong with people and the world they live in. I chose to focus on what is wonderful about both and solutions for what is not. There are plenty who fill the role of spreading gossip about others and their faults. I choose to do the opposite. My world is not any less real.
Here is a third bonus to this behavior. You will become a lot more popular. After all, who would not want to be around someone who sees the best in everything? Be like God and notice and grow what is right with each other and the world.

A ROCK STAR WRITES AN AUTHOR

Every so often I send a celebrity a copy of my book. These are also usually accompanied by a letter explaining who I am and why I am sending them a book. These folks can range from people who have inspired me, professionals whose work I admire and those who I feel personify the kind of life I write about. The list has included Johnny Depp, Bill Bryson, Tony Robbins, Eric Thomas, Nikki Sixx and many others.

Out of the countless people I have sent books to, a few have taken the time to send a nice response. Tony Robbins and Nikki Sixx sent emails and Sammy Hagar sent a nice letter. I appreciate these busy artists taking time out of their schedules to not only let me know they got the book, but to thank me as well. I am not famous by any means, but I still have a hard time getting back to everyone in a timely fashion. I suppose having 7 jobs will do that.

Recently, I sent a letter to a gentleman who I think fits all of the categories described in the first paragraph, the musician and actor Huey Lewis. Mr. Lewis is facing some intense personal challenges of his own and I thought it would be fitting to let him know how he and his music have motivated and inspired me. If you have not read my book A Happy Life for Busy People, allow me to share a portion of its content with you. One of the secrets I recommend to help deal with the daily stress we all face is to have a ‘Happy playlist’. This is a group of songs that put you in a positive state of mind. While it may not to anything to help fix the situation you are going through, it will help you show up in a better state to deal with the challenge.

With all of the insanity going on in my life presently, I had not given much thought to the books I had sent out recently. Then I check my P.O. Box and find a handwritten letter from Huey Lewis thanking me for the book and the words I had sent with it. Several things impressed me about this. First, that he took the time to send a reply. Second, he did so in a handwritten fashion. Not an email or form letter, but sat down with a pen and paper. Lastly, that he did all of this while facing his own struggles and while working on an album of new material.

What this shows me is the kind of character this man has. It would be easy to dismiss the work of a relatively unknown author. It would be easy to just send of thank you form letter. Instead this man took time to let me know he appreciated my gesture. I think that speaks volumes. I encourage all of us to include some ‘Huey Lewis and the News’ on our happy playlist. Not just because the music makes it very hard to maintain a bad state, but because it was created by a very thoughtful gentleman.

 

THE HIGHEST FORM OF APPRECIATION

Are you one who ‘talks the talk’ or do you ‘walk the walk’? As we approach my favorite holiday and begin to focus on what we are grateful for, let us think of this quote. Let us show our appreciation not just in words (although I encourage everyone to do that as well) but in actions. Let us not just speak our gratitude, but show our appreciation through our actions too.

Grateful for first responders? Make sure we are pulling over to let them pass and driving slow when we drive past them. Grateful for someone in your life? After you tell them, make sure to do something to show them as well. This is not just for Thanksgiving, but all year.