CONTROL IT OR IT CONTROLS YOU

Doesn’t it suck when you are having a great day, minding your own business. Maybe you are even whistling a happy tune, talking to the birds. Whatever you do when you are full of joy. Then you get a text, a phone call, someone drives by and yells out of their car window or maybe someone posts something not so nice about you on social media. In other words, somebody does something to rain on your parade. Suddenly, you go from whistling a happy tune to growling unpleasant wishes to the offending party.

Did you ever wonder why people do that? If you are minding your own business, enjoying life, why do they have to bring their negativity on you? Why do they feel compelled to ruin your day? Here is a secret – I think some people are just jerks. While that may not really be a secret, it is the truth. Some people like to be mean. I never quite understood it. It might have to do with their own self-image. It could be a coping mechanism for their own pain. All I am sure of is it sucks. I would be inclined to guess you agree.

This quote from Eleanor Roosevelt is both a hard truth and the secret to having a lot more amazing days in life. Have you ever imagined what it would be like if you refused to let these people get you down? After all, we determine how we feel. We decide what certain actions in our life mean. That is why when a stranger says something hurtful about you it is far less painful than if a friend would say the same thing. Why is that? It could be the same words, the same idea. It is because we decide that it hurts more for someone close to us to say something hurtful. If we can, however, practice restrain and emotional control it will only increase our personal power. Next time you read a negative comment about you, get a nasty text or someone just insults you in person. Try repeating this to yourself, or better yet, out loud. In response to what you heard or read say, “No thank you. I am going to have a great day today.” If they follow that with even more intense negativity just keep repeating your statement.

This accomplishes several things. First, it programs your subconscious mind by repeating the positive statement over and over again. Second, it will begin to give you a feeling of control over your own mind and emotions. Once you master your own mind, you can master just about anything. Third, it will give you a feeling of inner peace and strength. Knowing that outside forces cannot dictate how you feel on the inside anymore. Lastly, it seems to annoy the person bent on making you feel negative. This is just an added bonus really. In the future, they will spend their negative energy on someone they can more easily get a rise out of.

THE SECRET TO HAPPINESS

How many times have you heard, or even said yourself “I’ll be happy when – ” Have you also stopped to notice these people are rarely, if ever, happy? The secret of happiness is this – Happiness is not a journey but a way of traveling. Our life is primarily made up of being on journeys. If we tie our happiness to destinations, which are far and few between, our happiness will be, you guessed it, far and few between. This seems like a foolish way to approach things does it not? That is exactly what you are doing when you say, “I’ll be happy when”

The funny thing is, when most people reach their ‘When’ they are still seldom happy. They either discover the truth in that old adage ‘the grass is not always greener’ or they spend countless wasted time worrying if their ‘when’ may be stolen from them. As you can see in our quote above, when you tie your happiness to a reason, the reason can be taken away from you. We see this when couples separate, jobs are lost or someone passes away. Sure, those are all times to express remorse and be said. What we are saying is do not let your happiness depend on an outside situation.

Instead of looking for a reason to be happy, I suggest looking for every reason to be happy. Here is a personal example of this. Today I went for a walk in the park. I was hoping to find some painted rocks that a group of people hide in the neighborhood. As I walked for the first mile I saw nothing. I noticed I became a bit discouraged. I stopped myself right there. “Are you saying that if you do not find a colored rock you will not be happy?” People walking by began to look at me funny. Not only because I was yelling at someone, but I seemed to be the only one present. Little did they know that was exactly who I was yelling at. When you ask yourself a pointed question like this one, the absurdity of the situation becomes clear.

It was then I began to feel a little foolish. Still not very positive, but better than discouraged. I looked around me. It was a very pleasant day. The sun was just setting behind a baseball diamond where a family was gathered. The temperature was just cool enough to walk without discomfort. Then I looked down and saw a family of ducks. the young ducks seemed to be exploring the park with a keen sense of fun and adventure. I was missing all of this because I was sad I had not found some of the great works of art created by the members of the West Allis Rocks Facebook group.

With an additional spring in my step and enjoying the evening that much more I walked another mile, smiling all the way. A funny note is that although I did not find any rocks as I searched diligently in my first mile, as I just walked and looked around for everything I could happy about in the second mile I found 4 rocks! When you make happiness a way of traveling instead of a destination, great things just seem to happen!

DAY 9 ON OUR 10 DAY HAPPINESS JOURNEY

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 IN OUR HAPPINESS CHALLENGE. ALMOST TO THE TOP

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.

DAY 7 OF 10 DAYS OF HAPPINESS

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.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE FUN ROCK PAINTING GROUP WE BELONG TO

6TH DAY OF HAPPINESS

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.

DAY 5, HALFWAY THROUGH OUR HAPPINESS JOURNEY

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.

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.

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.

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!