WHY IT WORKS: HAPPY PLAYLIST

In this picture is the lead singer of the rock band Jackyl and myself. You will notice that Margie has artfully cut her beautiful face out of the picture. I rather enjoy this band’s music and their live shows even more. Their music puts me in an energetic and fun frame of mind. Their lyrics may not be for everyone, but they work for me.

In my first book, A Happy Life for Busy People, as well as in my upcoming book, I strongly advocate putting together a ‘Happy Playlist’. This is exactly what it sounds like. Songs you enjoy that put you in a happy frame of mine. It just so happens my playlist includes several songs by the band Jackyl. In addition to their music bringing to mind enjoyable thoughts, they have also been fun and wonderful people every time that I have met them.

What does having a happy playlist accomplish? What it can do is facilitate a state change. An example is as follows. Let us imagine a position at your job opens up that will allow you to work more hours and earn more money. After coming back from a well-deserved vacation you discover your boss has decided that not only will you not have this job, they are going to do their best to eliminate it. This leaves you feeling not only under appreciated but disrespected as well.

Now, every time you come into work you know how little your boss values your contribution. This could leave you feeling less than motivated and rather dejected… I mean I would imagine that is how you feel. In order to approach your job and everything you need to accomplish you cannot come from that state or you will not do your best.

If you put on your headphones and turn up so 80’s hard rock (or whatever music does it for you) suddenly your mood shifts to something better. Will this change the fact that your boss is taking food off your table to make the situation more convenient for them? Of course it doesn’t. What it does do is allow you to approach your job, and your coworkers in a more healthy and objective state. This will prevent your bad mood and trying situation to grow like a snowball rolling downhill.

I suggest having a happy playlist stored in your phone, MP3 player or somewhere else handy.  The wonderful thing about this tool is that it works not only for unappreciative bosses, but for flat tires, traffic jams or anything else you face in life. It may not do much if anything to change the actual situation, but it will allow you to face that challenge in a much healthier state. That, my friends, can make all of the difference.

TO BE LIST

Much like last post, today’s post will show you how a slight change of focus can make a really big difference. Most of us have ‘to-do lists’. If not written down or in our phones, then we at the very least keep a running tally of things that we want to accomplish in our heads. This can lead to feelings like exhaustion and overwhelm. What if there was a better way to not only accomplish more but do it with less stress? That is the golden ticket of the modern age.

Great news, there is! Change your focus from what you have to do, to who you want to be. This will not only allow you focus on tasks that will push you in the direction you wish to go but also help you prioritize those actions. Instead of thinking “I have to eat 7 servings of vegetables this week.” you focus on “I want to be a healthier person a month from now.” Knowing that is what you like will give you guidance as to what actions you should be taking. Certainly a healthy person would not eat an entire large pizza by themselves. If you goal is to become a happier person who is more at peace it may give you the strength you need to say ‘no’ to things that deprive you of that.

I suggest, and make note of it in my upcoming book, that we all have a life mission statement. I believe knowing where you want to go is more important than focusing on the steps you are taking. Plus, telling yourself “I have to…” every day will not only get old really quickly, but have you feeling obligated to do things that may not even be important to your life. Another thing about ‘to-do lists’ is they usually never get completed. That can leave you feeling like you are constantly falling behind or worse like a failure.

 When you have a written life mission statement somewhere you can see everyday it will guide you and leave you feeling fulfilled and motivated. If your goal is to have a more happy and peaceful existence, and you read that statement to yourself everyday, you will make time to meditate or some other form of self-care. You will not need a to-do list to tell you that.

In any journey it is vital to have a destination. The journey of life is not different.

REASON TO BE STRONG

Today is Wednesday, the middle of the week. Often, we use this day as a half-way mark until the weekend. I urge you to take a second to pause and take a deep breath. By this point in the week things can begin to get a bit overwhelming. The irritations of coworkers can begin to add up. Homework can begin to pile up. The stress of work can start to get the best of you. Maybe even a lack of sleep can start to take effect on both your nerves and your ability to perform. If you are like me it can be a little bit of all of those.

How can we keep going? A lot of us just look forward to the weekend and two days to recharge our batteries to begin again. Many, like myself, work weekends and don’t actually have a day off. Even if you have a day off from your occupation, that day can be spoken for by household chores and social obligations. While the latter can be fun, having additional obligations, even social, can be stressful.

The million dollar question is how can we develop something that can keep us moving forward when we seem to have nothing left inside? We have all had times in our lives when life and its challenges have kicked our butt. If you haven’t, don’t worry, it is coming. When everything around you seems to be crumbling. How can you remain strong when you feel you have no strength left?

Become your own superhero. This may sound a bit cliché or hokey, but stick with me for just a second and I think this could be of great service to you. We all enjoy those movies where people overcome the worst situations to achieve great happiness and success. I would suggest keeping a list of movies you enjoy like that handy. Watch them when you feel down. The reason why is simple, you are going to learn from them.

Imagine your life as a movie in which you are the star, the writer and director. Right now is the point when your star finds themselves down on their luck. The audience is watching to see how the star will make there way out of the challenges and overcome. They are waiting to be inspired. Ironically, this happens more than you know. As the writer what would you have the character do? As the director would you have the character change their mindset? Find new inner strength? As the star what resilient traits would you love to show?  

I am fortunate that people come up to me and let me know how my writing may inspire them. That keeps me focused and motivated to continue to bring you good content. People have told me that my book has positively impacted their lives. In a few cases, even saved their life. There are many times people let Margie and I know that our relationship gives them hope as to what is possible. Most of the time you never stop to consider people are watching you. You may never hear from those who draw inspiration from you and your perseverance.

Whether your hero comes from an Avengers movie or someone like 300, keep going. I found the Jackie Robison movie 42 inspiring. Keep a list of inspiring movies handy and remember to be your own hero, your own movie star. You never know who is watching and inspiring. As good parents know, the best teacher is example.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SILLINESS

In the adult world filled with deadlines and responsibilities, we often forget the importance of silliness.

As children after a day of intense playing and having fun we slept soundly and woke up ready to play again. The same can be true as adults. Instead of falling asleep with heads filled with work that has to be done and job worries, let us take a day this weekend to play hard.

Worrying about how this may affect your ability to get things done? There are several studies that show taking recreational breaks help us refocus and be more productive when we return. They help reduce stress and make our jobs at the very least more bearable.

This weekend take a break. Go for a leisurely stroll, play with your kids, take your spouse for ice cream or something else that is pure enjoyment. You work hard all week, take some time to play hard!

MY WEEKEND MESSAGE

Our message going into the weekend is a simple one. I won’t take up too much of your valuable Friday. The message is this – you deserve to be happy. We all deserve to be happy. One of the best ways to experience happiness yourself is to help others achieve the same.

This weekend, do your best to do these two things. First, allow yourself to be happy. Realize you deserve it. Give yourself that gift. You have been through a lot. I can say that because I know we all have. Whether you are dealing with the stress of running a multi-million dollar company or wondering if you will have enough money to pay the rent, the stress is there. Take a break. Go for walk, buy yourself a balloon or whatever else makes you happy.

The next bit is equally important. When you give yourself that gift of bliss, share it with someone else. Not only  because they too are going through challenges, but because it will amplify your own good feelings. Honestly, doesn’t helping others feel good make you feel good? I know it does for me. Have a great weekend and I look forward to sharing more with you on Monday!

THIS IS CRUCIAL

Last post we looked at ways to limit our exposure to negative people in our lives. Today we are going to look at the more difficult chore of dealing with the negative people we cannot escape. How do you deal with a negative coworker? A boss that is demeaning? A family member who is full of drama? Sometimes limiting exposure is not an option. How can you protect yourself from the influence on every Debby Downer or Negative Nancy in your life?

Before we begin with our idea here, let us make mention it would be worth your time and effort to search for as many possible options to protect yourself against those who drain your energy. Why is avoiding negativity such an important issue? While you are in a negative state you are certainly less likely to try new things, to stay motivated to accomplish those things you are currently working on and to successfully deal with the challenges of life. According to a recent study, 80% of visits to a primary care physician are stress-related. This affects not only your health but your pocketbook as well. Are you beginning to see how important keeping your mood up is?

Here is our idea to employ in our defense against emotional vampires – make it a game. Dealing with this people can be stressful enough, so let us make the solution a little fun. I suggest keeping the fact you are doing this inside your own head. The game is simple, match each negative action and statement with a positive one of your own. If you have a friend or coworker who likes to gossip about other coworkers, match their statements with positive things about that coworker. Do you have a boss that is constantly putting everyone down? Try being the one to lift everyone up. You may wish to do this in such a fashion where it does not seem to be in direct conflict with your boss. Do you have a family member who likes to discuss all of the political problems of the day, or perhaps graphic descriptions of their recent medical procedure? Then for each one of them, you share a story of inspiration or love and peace between people.

This game will accomplish two important things. First, it will give you an amusing and on occasion comical way to deal with their negativity. Making it a game will keep your stress at bay and may even add some positivity as a byproduct. The second thing this game will accomplish is it will begin to annoy the people bringing negativity into your life. Before you start feeling bad, let me assure you that in reality what will be annoying them is the fact that you are not feeding into or reacting to their negativity. This will accomplish one of two things. It will either cause them to limit their negativity around you or limit their time and conversation with you. Either way your life has just become more positive.

I encourage you to try this game and give me your feedback as to how well it has worked in your own life. Feel free to share your ideas for dealing with negative people with our readers in the comments below.

SLOW YOUR SPEED IN THE NEW YEAR

It is the end of the first week of 2019. As I write this I am sitting in a local Starbucks watching a young lady pace back and forth as she waits for her coffee. The line for the drive-thru was quite extensive. Everywhere people are in a hurry to get what they need and where they are going. I must confess to falling victim to this myself from time to time. The question is when do we stop? You need to get your coffee…on the way to work, let us say. Then you hurry to work to be on time, an issue I seem to have more often than I would like. When you arrive at work you are in a hurry to have the work day end and be on your way home. During the ride home you are in a hurry to just get home so you can relax. Once at home, then we relax right? We hurry to make dinner so we could catch our favorite program, hurry through our household chores so we can finally get to bed and get some well deserved rest. When, at last, we finally find ourselves between the sheets our minds are still racing with thoughts of all we have to do tomorrow. It seems we just drift off into blissful slumber when the alarm clock beckons us to do it all again.

I don’t know about you, but I feel tired just reading that paragraph. The ironic thing about this whole mess is that we do it to ourselves. Time, as Einstein reminded us, is just a stubborn illusion. A better way to explain that is a thought I read on the bottom of a sales ad. how long 3 minutes is depends on what side of the bathroom door you are on. Of course, in at least one of those situations you are still in a hurry. Back to our example of the typical work day. It would seem the adult mind always races to what is next. While it is good to have a goal in mind and be focused on where you are going, it can certainly lead to increased sense of stress and anxiety.

Another thing we do that can leave us chasing time is multitasking. While it may seem like trying to accomplish as many things at once would leave us with more time, the opposite is generally true. The list of tasks in life is always growing and the only thing doing multiple things at once does is diminish the quality of job that we do on each task. It can leave us feeling overwhelmed and looking to ‘catch up’.

What is the solution for all of this? SLOW DOWN. The best way to slow down is to work on being present. Keeping our focus on what we are doing can help us appreciate all that is good about each moment. It will also help us feel less rushed. I know it may seem contrary to think that doing only one thing at a time will lead to more time, but it can. First of all, you do a better job by focusing on one thing at a time. This reduces the amount of time you have to redo things or correct mistakes. By focusing on one thing at a time you decrease the time each task takes. Not to mention it reduces the stress of overwhelm. Less stressed people are more productive people.

There are many ways in which we can learn the art of being present. There is one of my personal favorites, meditation. There are tons of free apps available. Some take as little as 5 to 10 minutes. There are also guided meditation videos on YouTube as well as available on CD. All you have to do is pop on a pair of headphones and relax away. You will emerge from that experience refreshed on more centered.

Another source of teaching on how to be present are children and animals. When we were young, we were much better at being able to appreciate the moment. A child could be lost in a moment of play for hours. As they grow older we teach them not to daydream and to focus on what needs to be done. Turning them into stressed out smaller versions of ourselves. Do yourself a favor and get lost in a moment of play yourself. Better yet, bring along a child to show you how it is done. Animals are the other half of this equation. Pet owners are generally less stressed than their pet-free counterparts.  In addition  to the love animals give us, they also remind, and sometimes force us to take moments to pause and totally live in the moment. I have watched a dog smell a tree for several minutes, every surface just to get the full story. While I wouldn’t recommend doing this as the neighbors may begin to refer to you as “That neighbor who smells trees” just taking a moment to fully appreciate what we are engaged in will reduce our stress and give us more time.

RELATIONSHIP SECRET

Nothing has more influence on the quality of our life and amount of joy we experience, or do not experience than relationships. That is why there are so many books, CDs, seminars and relationship counseling. It is a multi-billion dollar industry. Much like good health, weight loss and stress reduction, people are always looking for that magic pill that will give them immediate success in these areas of their lives.

The bad news is that there is no magic pill that requires no work to transform your relationship. The great news is that there is one step you can take starting today. It doesn’t cost a single penny. This involves a change in mindset. Many of you may read the quote above and find that to be ridiculous. “We have jobs and responsibilities now! I can’t spend time worrying about being charming, flirting and all of those other dating things!” I ask you what is really important then?

Fear can be a great motivator for some of us, so I feel obligated to mention this. Relationships, no matter how long they have been, can end at any time. Even if we feel comfortable and secure in how they are. There are countless stories of relationships that people thought were going great until they wake up one morning and find their partner gone. “I thought they were happy. I thought everything was good.” they find themselves saying. Only in reflection they recall they never asked. They just figured that part of their lives was ‘handled’. They were married. They had kids.

I equate this to other areas of life. If you get in the best shape of your life and then stop working out what happens? Do you stay in that shape? Of course not. If you put a lot of energy into getting a job or promotion and then cease giving any effort do you think you will keep that job very long? Then why do so many of us think that relationships are any different? All relationships have their ups and downs to be sure, but they must be worked at daily.

If our relationship is at its best shape, much like our workout example, if we just leave it alone it will begin to go backwards. This may seem like you are in for a lot more work, and to some degree that is true. What is really important to note is that work has the most amazing rewards. The quality of our lives is the quality of our relationships. Therefor, it makes sense that the better quality our relationships, the better quality our lives. This holds true not just for romantic relationships, although those have the most profound impact, but coworkers, parents, children, the boss and other family members. Another great plus is that the more you work on this the easier the work becomes. When you are listening for clues as to what makes people happy and what upsets them, it becomes easier to do the former and avoid the latter. The more information you compile that more tools you have at the ready.

Do yourself a favor and print out the quote in the picture above. Treat every relationship in your life like you are trying to win it. Not only will you make those around you very happy, but your life will improve dramatically as well.

WHAT ARE YOU UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF?

Recently, I have been called a ‘Social Media Influencer’. I see that term a lot lately. It  forced me to take a look at what is influencing me. When you look at what you read, listen to and who you hang out with it is easy to see what may be influencing you. I know a lot of you may be thinking, “Not me I am too strong to be influenced by anything!” Congratulations if that is true, but I believe to at least some degree we are influenced by all of the things mentioned above.

Currently, there is an election going on in this country which means an abundance of ads exploring all of the negative situations that politicians have brought to us. There may be a small smattering of promises of what the candidate will do for you, but mostly just want their competition will not do. With our ears being filled to capacity with such drivel we can find ourselves being a bit drained at the end of the day and certainly not filled with hope.

Influence can be subtle as well. Like the few glasses of wine you had with dinner that do not seem to affect you until you stand up to go to the bathroom. Influence can creep into your life without you even realizing it. Move to another country, or even to a different part of your country for a year and it would be shocking if you did not pick up an accent or dialect from that region.

One of the most difficult things people will admit is the influence the people around them have. “I am my own person!” They proclaim. That may be true and you may be very good at staying true to your values, but as many studies have shown, we are usually a composite of the 5 people we spend the most time around. If you spend your days around people who constantly eat junk food, eating a salad once or twice a week may feel pretty healthy. start hanging around people who take their health and fitness seriously and you may feel differently. This is why it is important to include driven and motivated people in our inner circle.

The great thing about all of this is we have complete control over what may be influencing us. We can turn off that news channel and pick up an inspiring or motivating book. We can stop subscribing to pointless political or drama-filled websites and join sites that will add more to our life, fill us with joy and help us become the best versions of ourselves. I gave you a great example in Monday’s post. If we know we have people in our lives that are not the best influence, we do not have to get rid of them, but perhaps balance the time we spend with them with someone we know would bring out the best in us and not the stress in us.

A great way to begin to change what we are under the influence of is to compile a list of all the major things we do daily. Do we watch a certain television show? Visit a certain website? Talk to certain people? Then on the list, honestly decide if that item is a plus or minus. Write a plus or minus next to that item. When you are done look at what you could do to limit or replace the minus and grow or add to the plus. Become intoxicated with love, laughter and success.