IT IS ALL IN HOW YOU LOOK AT IT

This was actually on the end of the string of a tea bag I was enjoying before writing this. It made me stop and think. Life really is 10% what happens to us and 90% what we do with it. This includes what meaning we assign events in our life. We lost our job. Does that mean we are a failure like our parents told us we would be because we didn’t go to college? Does it mean that the universe is pushing us in a different direction where we can better serve others and in turn be more fulfilled ourselves? The answer to both is the same – yes and no.

Are you confused so far? The reason why it can mean two entirely different things is because things mean what we decide they mean. This is why the old adage Never make a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion is so important. What we decide things mean can be swayed a great deal by the emotional state we are in. Another reason that maintaining a sunny disposition can serve us in many more ways than just feeling good. Let us use the popular situation of having a disagreement with our spouse. Perhaps it is a big one. It may seem at the time that this person has entirely different values than we do. It may seem like they do not care or respect our values. Going on that assumption, it would seem a rather pointless endeavor to pursue this relationship further. After we give our chance to cool off and engage in some calm communication, we are likely to discover this is not the case at all. Maybe our partner misunderstood what the situation meant to us. Maybe they do have a value that appears to be in conflict with ours in this situation. Instead of saying it is hopeless, ask yourself how both of your values could be honored.

One of my favorite quotes right here. “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” I think Mr. Shakespeare was on to something here. Trust me when I tell you that I thought this statement was filled with more fertilizer that a farmer’s field in spring. “Easy for you to say Billy! I just lost my job and my family is depending on me. You have been dead for hundreds of years!” I figured once you have passed on you no longer have to worry about gainful employment or, more to the point, of losing said employment. While this may be true, I’ll have to get back to you on that from the great beyond, it doesn’t change the truth of the quote. In the job loss example from above there are two ways of viewing what happened and they are pretty close to the opposite. Either one could also be right.

If this is true, and unless someone can convince me differently, it most certainly is. What is the point of doing our best to view things in a positive light? Why be one of those people. You know the ones. Everything seems to be going from bad to worse for them and they act as if they are about to open their birthday presents. What do we say about those people? They have their heads in the clouds? They are wearing rose-colored glasses? It is not that they are denying that there are possibilities that things could be bad, because they can. They are focused on the fact that things could have happened for a good reason. Is that possibly true? Could it be possible that the reason we stepped in little gift our neighbor’s dog left us on the sidewalk could have been for a good reason? What if it ruined our favorite dress shoes? The ones we just bought…for a whole lot of money? How on earth could all of this be a good thing? Let me ask you this question. Is it possible, not 100% certain just possible, that the time we spent changing our pair of shoes and cursing at the neighbor’s dog despite the fact he does not speak a human language, saved us from something worse? Could it be possible that time put us a bit behind which caused us to miss the driver who went through a red light 2 miles down the road where we would have been? Is this possible? Of course it is. There are a million other reasons why it could have happened. Some good, some bad.

We are again faced with the question, “Why choose to focus on the positive reasons for a negative situation?” For one, it really pisses off our negative friends, which is always kind of fun. More importantly, it helps us maintain a healthy emotional state. Why does that matter? In our first example of a job loss, the positive explanation was the universe was pushing us to do something that would be more personally fulfilling and serve the greater good. If we were to believe this what actions would we take? We would begin to think what we are passionate about. We would consider how we could pursue that interest that may benefit us from an economic position. We could look for ways to use our passion to solve a problem or serve others, which would lead to an economic opportunity. Even if we needed to take some other employment while we thought about these things, we still would have a driven and optimistic attitude. This could help us weather continued challenges.

What if we believed that we have just grown to become the failure we were told we were going to be? What actions would be take then? We may take whatever job is first offered to us. We would not do so while looking for better opportunities such as the first example. No, we may think that is what we deserve for being a failure. We may think thoughts such as, “Why even bother looking for a job I would love? I will just fail at that too.” or “Nobody will hire a failure like me so why should I even bother applying?” If we feel that this happened for a negative reason such as the world is a cruel place, we have bad luck or some other less than inspiring thought, how motivated would we be to take action? Not very. After all, if the world is a cruel place and we always have bad luck why bother trying. Guess what happens if we take that road? If we stop taking action towards improving our situation, it is 100% certain that our situation will not improve. Then, at least we can feel that we were right about that. In fact, as long as we feel that way about our situation, we will act that way. If we continue to act that way, our situation will be that way. It is some sort of suck-filled, self-fulfilling prophecy.

I hope you can see the power in how we chose to perceive the world and our place in it. It should be apparent why deciding to focus on the positive possibilities is far more helpful at resolving a negative situation than focusing on the negative possibilities. Life is hard enough, do not work against yourself. By choosing to focus on positive possibilities, we see everything as a gift. That kind of mindset will have you feeling as if every day is a chance to open birthday presents. Oh, and if somebody accuses you of having your head in the clouds? Just tell them they should really join you because the air is so much better up there. If they say you are wearing rose-colored glasses? Ask if they want to try them on. Tell them how much better the world looks through them.

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.

DO YOUR BEST NOT TO

This month is generally a month of love. It includes the holiday of Valentines Day. You can see hearts almost everywhere you look. I am going to ask we do our best to love all of our fellow human beings. (and dogs, bears, monkeys…etc) Do your best this weekend to be free of judgement.

This may sound easy at first. Two days without judging anyone? It is harder than it may seem. Some of our judgements are so ingrained in us we may be unaware we are even doing them. We see and senior and assume they are frail. We may see a person with blue hair, or a mohawk, and assume they are a rebellious rule breaker.

Some judgements may come from social conditioning. We see a person who is overweight and assume they are lazy or do not have any physical stamina. Maybe we have been taught certain beliefs about those of a certain race or religion? How about those of a certain political affiliation? Those who live in a particular area? All of these beliefs are actually judgements.

Some judgments we may feel we have a right to hold. A fellow driver cuts you off, passes you illegally and speed off into the horizon. This person is a rude, dangerous and unsafe individual right? Maybe they are someone who is rushing to the bedside of someone they love who is passing away? Maybe they just have to poop?  Someone snaps at you at the grocery store? They are just rude and impatient? Maybe they just lost their job or had a disagreement with their spouse?

The truth is we really never know what everyone’s story may be. Even the people we know to be mean or insensitive can be so for reasons we may never know. They could have been abused growing up. They could be plagued by feelings of inadequacy and doubt. Most actions we consider mean or rude are veiled cries for help. That certainly does not excuse or justify their behavior, but it may give us pause before we judge.

This weekend, let us do our best to remember everyone has a story including us. Everyone has something they are judged by, including us. Let us do our small part to remove a little bit of judgement from the world starting today.

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKIN’ AT?

This ties in with our last post. What we are focused on is what we will see. See if this sounds familiar. You ask a friend where something is, they tell you it is in a cabinet that you are sure it is not in. So, to pacify your friend and because you have no idea where it is you begin to look through this cabinet that you are certain it is not in. You look and look and do not see it. Finally, you yell to the room where your friend is, “I told you it was not in here!” Your helpful friend comes into the room, reaches right in front of you and takes the item out of the cabinet. “I swear I looked everywhere!” You exclaim.

Why did your eyes not see something that was right in front of your face? It was your brain that told your eyes it was not there. Before we delve further into that explanation, let us do one more fun quick experiment. I found this to really make this point clear for me. Get comfortable wherever you are reading this. Now, for the next ten seconds look around and find everything you can that is red….look for red… keep looking… ok now close your eyes (unless you are in your car of course) now with your eyes closed think of everything you saw that was….brown. It may be hard to recall much of anything because you were focused on the red. Same with life. There might be lots of positive things around you that you simply do not see. One more interesting thing, when looking for red things, did your mind make adjustments? Maybe see something burgundy and call it red just so you could have another thing? Our minds do this as well.

How is this physically possible? Our brains create what is called a psychological scotoma. We create a mental inability to conceive even the possibility of seeing that aspect, due to a mentality that lacks any provision for it. In simple terms, if our brain says it can’t be so, our eyes simply say “You are the boss.” and do not see it.

While this is fascinating and a neat parlor trick when it comes to containers of salt in a cabinet or colors of objects in a room, it amounts to something greater. We have proven to ourselves through our little color experiment how we can not only see what we are focused on, but just as important, not see what we do not focus on. If this works with the situations we mentioned above, how do you think this translates to other areas of our life? Like our perceptions of certain races of people? Maybe people affiliated with political parties? How everything in our life is terrible and the world is against us. There may be plenty of evidence to the contrary right in front of our face, but because our brain does not want to be wrong it will literally block it out.

Think of some of your most steadfast beliefs. Maybe it is that some races are all criminals, or terrorists or just plain lazy. Maybe it is that everybody that belongs to a certain political party has a pact with the devil. Try asking yourself could this maybe not be entirely true? Is there maybe one great person in the race you have a negative opinion of? If so, couldn’t there be more? Maybe some of the ideas coming from the opposite political party have some merit to them? Maybe a blending of those ideas with your party could yield an even greater solution?

When our minds open up to see the good and beauty in more of the world, our eyes will follow as well. That will only lead to a more positive and rewarding life for us.

WORSHIP WITH YOUR FRIENDS

Last week we looked at different places that serve as great locations to meet new friends. That was scheduled to be a one week theme, but due to all of the wonderful feedback and suggestions I received we are going to highlight a few more this week as well. I am grateful for each of you who shared with me your favorite places to meet new friends. Keep them coming for the benefit of all our readers.

Today’s post is about houses of worship. As I write this, Hanukkah is beginning. When I shared this idea with people around me, they seemed to fall on two extreme sides of the equation. Some would say that is the only place to meet true genuine friends. Others would say the place is full of people who are judgmental and condescending to different beliefs. I believe the truth is somewhere in the middle. I think houses of worship are a great place to meet friends. Why? What about the two extreme arguments? Let us take a look at each one.

First, the fact that houses of worship are the only place to meet true friends. I find this argument to be ridiculous for several reasons. Even in the same faith there are many different houses of worship and you can run into fellow believers at many different locations. Personally, I have met some of the most spiritual people in some of the most unique places. Whether they were there to enlighten others or just enjoying their lives, it was only after getting to know them that I learned their spirituality. Great people of faith can be found anywhere.

How about the cynics view that everyone there is judgmental and condescending? Sadly, this is where a few bad apples tend to spoil the whole bunch. I find there are people like that in every faith and in every house of worship. In fact, there are people like that almost everywhere. Yet, houses of worship are a great place to meet people devoted to not only their faith, but their love for their fellow humans. Just like anywhere else, it is a matter of finding those that walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

Houses of worship can be a great place to find those who share the same values as we do and care about others. Whether your faith is Christianity, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or any other religion, you can find caring devoted people who love and accept others, even if their faith is different. If you can’t find such a person, be one and make as many friends as you can to be a shinning example.

I highly suggest using your place of worship as a place to make new friends. Attend a social function outside of the regular service. Volunteer for projects that not only promote your faith but help the community. You will not only make great friends within your faith, but within your community.

 

IT IS REALLY THAT SIMPLE

For most of us, despite our differences, would fit into these categories. Ironically, often we search until we can find something that makes a person different from us. It is almost as if saying, “That person is a lot like me.” Somehow diminishes either one of you. When we understand that we all share the same basic needs and wants, judgment and hatred become all but impossible.

If you are a person who loves others and does not want to harm them, and reading a blog like this it would be a safe assumption you are, then it would serve you well to surround yourself with other like-minded individuals. Does it really matter where on this planet they are from? By writing these posts I have met and befriended many other like-minded souls from over 100 different countries. They have brought not only a unique perspective, but a great deal of joy to my life. Does it really matter what color they are? I am blessed enough to have friends of every race. Not only does it include many great and loving people, but our pictures together are a lot more colorful. Politics? Ooh…that is a good one. Quite often we can almost be at each others throats because of different ways to address the same problem. Instead we should focus on the fact that we are both trying to solve the same problem. Maybe their solution takes into account something we overlooked? Maybe a combination of both solutions would work the best? We will never get to that point if we busy ourselves with such low level minutia such as what political party is the correct one.

Even my wonderful friend Nick who sent me this picture, and by doing so inspired this post, has different opinions than me on a wide array of different subjects. Do you know what? That is great to me. Often when we talk he will bring to my attention a way of looking at things I had not considered. Even on subjects where we just ‘agree to disagree’ we still have the same respect and admiration for each other. Not only is it ok with us that we are different in some regards, but it is quite cool that we are also the same in many ways. It is that similarity that prompted him to share the above picture with me and allowed me to share it with you.

Today, celebrate the fact we are all a little different, and when it comes down to the core of who we are, most of us are really the same. Both of those should be reasons to celebrate with your fellow humans.

JOHNNY APPLE SEED AREN’T WE ALL?

Countless are the times that people have come up to me and said things such as, “I was thinking about what we talked about a while back….” I am sure we have all heard this in our lives. We have all been on the opposite side too, haven’t we? Something someone was telling us didn’t make sense to us at the time, but through some change in life circumstance, we can appreciate it now. Maybe it is a loving thing they told us, the reminder of which has helped us make it through a tough time we are currently facing. This can work in the opposite way too. How many times have we remembered something hurtful that was said or done to us? I am not sure why we choose to do that, but that can be how the human brain works.

What we must keep in mind is that everyday we go through life we are planting seeds. Much like a farmer, what we grow will depend on what seeds we plant. We can plant beautiful flowers, fruit, or even a poisonous plant. The seed may take root or it may not. It may grow in our garden or others may be left to benefit, or be poisoned by what grows. In this way we have an ability to affect not only our life, but the world at large. Allow me to explain what I mean by use of a historical figure.

Johnny Appleseed, better known as John Chapman was an American Pioneer nurseryman who planted apple trees in several states and in part of Canada during the late 18th and early 19th century. A lot of the trees he never saw grow, but in the places he visited people were eating apples long after he was gone. We do much the same things with our words and actions. They may not be apple trees, but we are planting seeds just the same.

If we think in terms of Johnny Appleseed’s story, what will grow from the seeds we plant? If we are planting seeds of kindness and encouragement every where we go, we will see kindness blossom and grow. We will see the confidence and joy continue to grow in the hearts of our friends and family. If we plant seeds of gossip and complaint, we will see melancholy, sadness and resentment blossom all around us. In this way we do a great deal to shape the world in which we live.

What about the world at large? Truly, the seeds we plant can’t make much of a difference on a global scale? Think about this. When you go to purchase a cup of coffee at your local Starbucks, treating the employee with extra kindness could ease a tough day they are having. There you affect one person. Due to that act of kindness, they may treat the next person in line with an extra amount of customer service. Then you have affected two people. Maybe that person is on the way to the airport to fly home to a different city or even country and now feels good thanks to the good service they received. They may go on to treat people they encounter on their journey with more kindness and compassion. Thus, your simple act of kindness could affect people halfway across the world. It may not reach such global proportions, then again with comments on social media and the internet we can spread a great deal of seeds without even leaving our homes.

Although this was a positive example, the same holds true in reverse. You may think comments and they way you treat people are harmless, but you are forever planting seeds. We may not see them grow and it may take years for them to blossom, but given time they will. Let us all do our part to plant seeds of kindness, compassion, encouragement and joy. We will grow a garden of positive results. Let us be equally vigilant against casting seeds of negativity, gossip and judgment to the wind. They too, will grow into a world of negative people, places and things.

Let us all remember we are Johnny Appleseed in our own way. Let us plant seeds to grow positive families, friends, communities and the world at large.

WE ARE ALL GUILTY 

Do you ever stress about things you can’t change? I think we pretty much all do. Whether I’m at a show as a DJ,or working at the post office, giving a speech or seminar it just wondering through this amazing life i often hear people stressed over things outside their control. 

Sometimes it is the current political climate or what some elected official did. I have even seen people to the point of tears based on the performance or actions of their favorite sports team. What i find even more unbelievable is the petty personal issues. Who said what about who online, who is dating who, etc. 

Not only do all of these items bring us mental and emotional exhaustion, but acting this way over a prolonged period of time can cause us physical distress as well. Leading to such conditions such as ulcers,lack of sleep and even fatal conditions such as heart attacks  (for which the 1 risk factor is stress and job dissatisfaction)

So what to do about the things that upset us that are out of our control? Let us learn to do what we can and let go. Don’t like what a politician is doing? Write letters, start an online petition or just support his opponent. Your favorite team not doing well? Write a letter to the coach or general manager. Don’t like some personal thing someone is doing? Either let them know if you feel it is a must, or just focus on all your friends doing things that make you happy and proud. 

Constantly talking and complaining about conditions, especially those out of our control, does us no good and plenty of harm. Instead, do what most successful and happy  people i know do,  focus on the person in the mirror. Concentrate on improving their condition and on making them a better person. It will not only reduce your stress, but as you improve and progress it will give you something to be proud of. That will be something worth talking about!

Feel free to share your tips about letting go of what we cannot change in the comments below.  

YOU’RE A PEACH!

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It always hurts a little when someone may not be our biggest fan. Especially if you are doing your best to be the best person you can be. Personally I find this hard to take at times because I care so deeply for people. When we factor in personal beliefs such as prejudice or racism the reasons people may not like you often have more to do with them and the way they look at the world. People’s opinion can also be colored by their past experiences. Perhaps they had an abusive uncle named Neil growing up. If they meet me they very well may not even take the chance to get to know me, or worse yet decide they do not like me based solely on my name. This can hold true for the color of your skin, the way you dress, what job you hold and a million other reasons. Before we start thinking to ourselves how ridiculous this may all sound, understand a lot of these opinions can come with some strong emotional attachment. In the case of racism, it may be how the person was raised and sadly beliefs that were engrained in them before they had to learn the truth about people. If the person has had a strong negative experience such as physical or sexual abuse related to someone who shares traits that you have, that judgment may also include a great deal of fear.

So what is the takeaway from all of this? Understand that people not liking you can often be none of your business. We must greet this judgment with a good deal of compassion. We rarely, if ever, know the story behind it. Is this easy? Absolutely not. It does, however benefit us in the long run. Changing anger and frustration into compassion and understanding helps us deal with the negative actions associated with people not enjoying our company. Another important thing this does is not reinforce their negative opinion. If someone chooses to not like us for reasons of their own creation the worst thing we can do is reinforce them. Do your best to show them what a great person they are missing out on. If they still choose not to like you, which often may be the case, treat their opinion with compassion and respect. Continue to be the best you can be and focus on those who do love you. At the very least you have left them with a good example of what a person can be. Remember like the picture says above, “Some people just don’t like peaches”

Feel free to share this post on your social media pages as well as with anyone you think could benefit. Feel free to leave any other suggestions you may have in the comments below.