DAY 4 OF OUR HAPPINESS JOURNEY

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.

YOU DESERVE THIS

Happiness is a gift we all deserve. Whatever you are engaged in at the moment you are reading this, I encourage you to stop, take a minute and think of something that makes you happy. Maybe it is the pet you have waiting for you at home, or is sitting on your lap right now. A smile on the face of someone you love. A vacation you are looking forward to, or one you were recently on. The sunshine you felt on your face this morning or the beautiful moonlight you saw last night.

The truth is the world is full of little things that will make us happy if we just take the time to stop and notice them. Sure, there are lots of things on the opposite side of the spectrum and it is only human nature to think about…or worry about them. What does that ultimately do for us? It serves only to make us emotionally and, if left unchecked, often physically sick. Last post we talked about combating fear with hard work. Once we have done all we can do to address a situation that has us concerned, we should clearly shift our focus to something that will bring us joy.

If this seems difficult to do for you, or if you are looking for a straight-forward method to put this into action, here is what I suggest. Pick a time of day on which you can fairly rely. If you have a regularly scheduled lunch hour or perhaps right after you leave the office? You can do what I am about to suggest several times a day. In fact, the more you do it, the better it will be, but let us start out with at least one time. Now set an alarm on your phone. For five minutes devote your thoughts entirely to things that make you happy. Perhaps jot a few down as you are thinking of them. This would be good reference material for next time. Close your eyes and think about them. If you are thinking about sunshine, imagine how warm it feels on your skin. Try to engage as many senses as you can. How about the smell of freshbaked chocolate chip cookies? Imagine the feel of the warm cookie in your hand, or better yet melting in your mouth. When the alarm goes off in five minutes you may want to keep on with this. If that works for you go with it. If not, that’s ok too. Sometimes it is good to walk away wanting more. It will help us look forward to next time.

Giving yourself this amazing gift of 5 minutes of happiness will do wonders for you. It will bring a sense of peace and joy to your heart. It will allow you to deal with the inevitable stresses in life with a lot more ease. Feel free to share some of your happy thoughts and how this works for you in the comments below.

1 ANTIDOTE FOR FEAR

As you can see I got this picture from a website I follow called Metal Motivation. I highly recommend you check them out. A lot of good material there. This photo brings to mind a good counter to fear – hard work. When I find myself in a situation that brings a fair deal of uncertainty to my life, I immediately get to work. Not in a crazy random fashion, but by taking steps to either address the fear, or at least improve myself and my situation. Tony Robbins once said “Progress equals happiness.” Not only is that true, but it does a hell of a number on fear too. Let us take a look at a few examples.

Today people have a great deal of fear about the coronavirus. While most of us cannot get to work on finding a cure or vaccine, we can get to work on improving our situation and ourselves. One of the best things we can do is work on our health and strengthening our immune system. Ways we can tackle this are making sure we do our best to maintain our physical fitness, eat healthy and make sure we are getting the proper nutrients. Although this will not make certain that we do not contract COVID-19, it will provide us with a better chance of making it through. Combine this with the recommended safety measures and you will take a great deal of fear out of the situation. After all, fear compromises your immune system.

Another situation many of us are rightfully concerned about is employment. Will our job be eliminated? Maybe it already has been and we are worried what happens when the unemployment runs out. As we wait for the world to reopen, and the economy to get back to fully operational there are many things we can do to put ourselves in a prime situation to thrive once it does. There are plenty of places offering free courses to help expand our knowledge base. If logging in to an online university is not your style there are plenty of free videos on YouTube to aid us in learning a new skill. Perhaps brushing up our resume and applying for new jobs is something we can put our time to use. Networking, making connections, exploring employment sites. Working hard on all of these things can give us a little more feeling of control.

Lastly, after spending some time in quarantine with our significant other, we may worry they might become disenfranchised with us. If this time together has you concerned about your relationship in any way, there is one solution. GET. TO. WORK. Yes, relationships are work, but that work pays some of the highest wages. Keeping the one you love happy will ensure that your castle remains a sanctuary and not a battlefield. There are many books, cds and even DVDs you can pick up to give you some pointers to improve your relationship. Still, with all of the media and online tools available, relationships are not ‘one size fits all’. That is why my main suggestion to anyone looking to help their spouse fall in love with them all over again, or even just to strengthen the love they already have is to listen. This may not sound glamorous, but it is a golden ticket when it comes to love. You can learn so much when you listen from a position of seeking to understand and learn. Perhaps you wife mentions loving fresh cut flowers, pick a fun and cheery bunch up on your way home. Maybe your husband mentions his favorite kind of beer…you are getting the idea. People will generally share their likes, dislike, wants and don’t wants if we just listen closely. Then there is the ultimate, the gift of truly being heard. Just pausing to listen without any other purpose than to let your partner be heard and understood.

Whatever element of your life you may be feeling fear in, combat it with a lot of hard work. It will offer you a feeling of control and you will end up a better person at the end of the day.

HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN DARK?

Today I want to talk to you about darkness and light. This won’t take long so get comfortable for second. Darkness is an interesting thing. There are several shades of darkness. From slightly hazy to so dark you cannot see your hand in front of your face. Daily we go through the transformation from light to dark as the sun sets. Sadly for me there never seems to be enough sunlight, but I digress. There are certain places on this wonderful planet that seem to be dark. Think forests, long caves and mines, the depths of the ocean and even dungeons of castles. These places seem to personify darkness. The thought of being trapped in any of them can be enough to give some of us a chill down our spines.

Think of how you would feel trapped in a cave with no light at all. You would not know which way was up or down. You would not be able to tell how big the cave was or which way it went. You would also not be able to tell who else might be sharing the cave with you. How long could you remain there? Before long the darkness would start to play with your mind. Now take a deep breath. You are not in a dark cave…at least I would imagine most of you are not. You are in front of a lit computer or cell phone screen.

Life can be much like that dark cave at times. We can begin where our life seems a little hazy and before we know it we cannot see our hand in front of our face. We are unable to see what is up and what is down. We are even unable to see which way our life is heading at times. If we spend long enough in this feeling of darkness it will begin to mess with our mind.

What happens when someone shines a light into that cave? Whether the cave is just a little bit hazy or totally dark, the cave will light up. Here is another aspect to ponder. If that cave had not seen light for thousands of years and suddenly a light was introduced, the cave would still light up. Whether the darkness lasted a day or thousands of years, the light will break through.

I hope by now you are beginning to see the parallel to life. Whether your life has been in darkness for days or for years, you can still begin to turn it around by introducing some light. Rekindle your faith, reach out to a friend, read an inspirational book. One of the best ways to introduce light into your life is to become the light to someone else. At the time I found myself in the darkest place financially I went to help feed the homeless at a meal program. That not only gave me the light of hope, it reminded me of all the advantages I still had in my life. If you were the victim of abuse, help others in that same situation even if it is only being a compassionate heart to listen.

It my latest book I have interviewed people who have faced some of the most severe challenges. Although they all have their unique way of overcoming those challenges they all have two things in common – A focus on gratitude and the desire to help others. By becoming a source of light for others they could not help but have some of that light shine in their own life as well.

Remember my friends, no matter how dark it seems, no matter how long it has been dark the light will still shine through. Rekindle that light. Become the light for others.

THE FIRST PLACE TO CREATE PEACE

How often have you heard that we live in a crazy, chaotic world? If you don’t hear it daily from someone you know, you can read it splashed across the television screen, on the front page of the daily newspaper and on every social media site you go on. Reading and absorbing all of this negative news can leave us feeling scared, overwhelmed or exhausted. Sometimes we can feel all three with a host of other unpleasant emotions thrown on top! What are we left to do when we have a day feeling this way?

What many of fail to lose sight of is the fact that if we have inner peace, the outside world has little, if any, impact on our life. Sounds great, but if having inner peace was so easy, how come everyone is not sitting in the park in a state of bliss. To some extent it is not our fault…exactly. We have been lied to by the media, politicians and others. We have been told that we should worry if hypothetically we have a world leader that seems determined to make enemies of friends, create a world filled with division and hate. We have been told to worry if others different than us seem to be receiving some sort of advantage. Countries are about to go to war. The price of oil is going to go through the roof. The stock market is going to fall through the floor.

The truth of all of this is that while some of it may have an impact in our life to a greater or lesser degree, it is mostly beyond our control. We can do what is in our power such as voting against that politician or writing our congressman. We can plan trips and do our best to make the most of the fuel we purchase. If we spend countless hours being upset and discussing or even worse disagreeing with our friends and coworkers about it, that will do us no good.

I have spoken at length about worrying about what you cannot control. The benefits to such actions simply are not there and the negatives abound. First of all it will create stress. Stress has been noted to be a factor in over 80% of medical conditions. In addition, stress causes you to age prematurely. In other words, you will look older and possibly experience health problems sooner. Sounding good so far? I didn’t think so.

As if compromising your health and physical appearance were not enough, lacking inner peace and worrying about and complaining about things outside of our control can affect our social life in a negative way. Almost nobody likes to be around someone who is stressed out and complaining all of the time. I said almost because the only people who seem not to mind are those who complain themselves. Not exactly the people you would want to surround yourself with.

Lastly, and in my mind most important, dwelling on what is wrong does little if anything to create solutions. It is important to note what is wrong in order to define what we would like to be happening, but dwelling on how wrong or terrible it is does us no good. Instead, it would be better to focus on how wonderful the solution would be and what steps we could take to make it happen.

To foster inner peace starting today let us focus and discuss what is beautiful and right with the world and how we can grow that. When we come across something that is not right, let us do what we can in our control to change it and focus on what would like to see. When we see someone who could use some inner peace, share with them what we learned in this article.

THERE IS NO OTHER WAY

In the world today we are faced with more division and anger then we have seen in a very long time. This can leave us with feelings of frustration, animosity, and worst of all fear. Daily I hear people complain about the government, different cultures, religions other than their own. It can also leave us with a wide array of questions. “Why do these people hate these people?” “Who is to blame?” Even if we are doing our best to fix problems the questions that come up can leave us without many answers. “Why is this happening?” and even the constructive “How can we fix the problems we face?”

How do we address all of the issues and questions above? While working my brain for an answer I thought of my favorite quote of all time –

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Gandhi

One answer I have found to all of these complex and difficult questions is rather simple. The best way to alleviate fear, to quell anger and to ease frustration is to become an example of the changes you wish to see in the world.

Being kind and understanding to people who are different from you may not change the world, but it will change your world and serve as an example to anyone who may be watching you. This advice goes double if you are a parent. Do not like the current political climate? Cast your vote and be a catalyst for change and not one who just curses the establishment. Not happy with the way the environment is being treated? Make sure to recycle and live a sustainable lifestyle.

As with many quotes that I enjoy the lessons I learn from them continue as the years go by. If everyone lived as the change we wished to see in the world, the world would change. Would you like people to be more friendly? Be more friendly yourself. As a bonus, if you are working hard on becoming the best version of you there is seldom any time left to complain about others, whom it should be noted, you can never change anyway.

WHY BOTHER?

Last post we investigated why it is important to give all of yourself when it comes to your relationship with the one you love. We learned that it allows them to give all of themselves to us, we learned that by not doing so we end up drawing into our lives the very circumstances that we are trying to prevent. That is certainly important when it comes to our romantic partners. Most of the time we are not only sharing our hearts and souls with each other, but also our homes. Not only is it very important to keep someone who lives in the same house with you happy, but they are probably thinking something very similar.

What about the other people in our lives? What about our friends? Why is important to put so much effort into our friendships? In case you didn’t read the last post let me refresh some of the points that apply equally to friendships as they do to romantic relationships. There are friends we might be afraid to trust completely because they might take advantage of our trust and hurt us. Unlike the romantic partner, there are less repercussions if they do. We do not have to go home to our friends. The connection is generally not as deep as our romantic relationships and therefore the ending of a friendship is usually less painful than a romantic relationship. Same with sharing ourselves with friends. The less we tell them, the less information they would have to use against us should they decide to do so.

To a lot of us this may seem very safe and logical. The less we give people the chance to hurt us, the less we will be hurt. Seems to make sense, right? Wrong. By doing this we are not only short-changing ourselves out of the deep, meaningful relationships we could be enjoying, but we are also hurting others and increasing the chances that we will be hurt in the future. Wait, what?

That’s right. So far we have been looking at this from only one side of the equation. Let us look at the other side for a second. If you feel that your friend views you as untrustworthy or at best does not trust you completely, how would that make you feel? Do you think you would feel like extending your trust to that person? You would probably end up feeling like they do not hold you in that high of regard. Now follow that up with them not completely sharing themselves with you. That could leave you feeling that they think you are either not worth knowing that information, or again cannot be trusted with it. Do you think you would share things about yourself with them? Probably not. This would leave us with very shallow and incomplete relationships at best. It also leaves the door open to upset or anger people even by accident. If you do not know what a person likes or dislikes, their opinions on certain matters or even their fears and joys you could say something you truly regret even not trying to do so.

We have exhausted why it is important not to not give ourselves to friendships. How it can end up increasing the chances we will get hurt instead of keeping us safe as we may think. What advantages, if any, can we gain by trusting and giving ourselves completely to our friendships? I give you exhibit A in the picture above. This is a story that is so exciting I can hardly wait to share it with you. While Margie and I were DJing at a local establishment on Sunday night, my good friend Cari messaged Margie and asked her what door we use when we come home as she had a surprise for me.

When we arrived home around 2 a.m., after what was a very busy evening I was exhausted. Currently, the date here is January 95th, or so it feels. We should be having highs in the mid 50’s but they had been barely above freezing with the sun so fed up with the long winter it decided to take a vacation. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, so prolonged cold weather minus the sunshine can be quite trying for me and those around me. At this point if you would like to light a candle for Margie it would not be a bad idea. Because I do indeed trust my friends with this information and share it with them as well, Cari was able to do something so thoughtful and amazing. I arrived home to see the above signs taped to my front door! They ranged from reminding me warm weather was coming, to the fact that the cold weather is what makes the tropics so special to me. She added the Wisconsin State Fair, which I love as well. She even encouraged me by reminding me how much my writing touches her and others.

That night I fell asleep with a heart filled with gratitude for the caring and loving friends I have. The reminders and motivation served their purpose, but so did the fact that I have such a great friend. Her efforts did more than she could possibly imagine and her timing could not have been more perfect!

My point is that this all would not have been possible if I did not open my heart to my good friend. It would not have happened if I did not trust her enough to share not only my joys, but also my struggles and fears. It is true that not many friends can be as awesome as Cari, but by trusting and sharing with your friends you give them the opportunity to be so.

DON’T LET THE DEVIL LIE TO YOU

Ah the devil… Satan… whatever you care to call him. Some refer to this as negative side of the universe. Some just call it negativity. The name we attach to this power of evil is not important to what we are going to discuss today. What we are going to discuss is the lies we have all been fed. These come from all kinds of places, the media, coworkers, history, even well-meaning friends and family. Sometimes the voice seems to come from inside our own head.

The messages may seemed varied, but they all serve the same purpose, to lower our vibration. Whether it is politicians doing their best to convince you that a certain group of people are bad because of their skin color, religion, political belief or maybe even just based on where they live. Maybe the message is coming from the media telling you the world is going downhill fast. There is more violence than ever, there is more hate than ever. Convincing you that you have to live and walk in fear. Even our friends and family telling us not to get our hopes up about that dream we are saying or not to venture away from that seemingly safe career we have because we will fail if we try to do it on our own. They mean well, they are wanting us to be safe.

It is my belief these messages all come from the same source and are intended for the same purpose; to create a world full of fear and devoid of love. When we are divided against ourselves, when we are so busy finding reasons to hate each other it is difficult if not impossible to work together to solve the real problems that exist. Two people’s ideas put together may do a great deal to end world hunger or bring a cure to a certain disease, but if they are refusing to talk because they look different or worship or vote in a different way the world will remain darker.

I propose working together and finding the reasons to come together in a spirit of love and community to solve issues. This does not mean ignoring the problems that plague us all, but working together looking towards creating a solution instead of assigning blame. Is there more violence today or is the world better connected and we can hear about each and every incident? Are guns the problem or is it the promotion of lack of respect and sanctity of life promoted in movies, television, music and video games? I don’t pretend to know those answers. What I do know is this, by focusing on how terrible things are without an accent on finding solutions and healing the hearts and minds of people everywhere, we are letting the powers of darkness win.

So next time you hear the ‘devil’ whisper in your ear about how bad the world is, how truly bad people have become and how hopeless both you and your life are, next time you hear him whisper that you cannot withstand the storm. You need to face that demon, whether it is the media, a negative coworker or even a voice in your own head and reply with conviction that you indeed are the storm! You are a storm of love and compassion that will not be defeated. Even though you are hearing how scary and bad the world is, you will do your part to bring love and brighten a stranger’s day. When you hear about anger leading to violence and death, you can use it as a reminder to respond to hurt with empathy and compassion.

No matter what you hear about the world and people around you, the fact is that the power to change that world lies in each and every one of us. Your act of kindness and of love, no matter how small will have a ripple effect that will affect far more than you will ever know. What you may not think about is so will your anger and negative actions, even your apathy. Do not let the devil lie to you. It is you who are the storm, you who have the very power to change the world and we do so through love and compassion.