PLUG YOURSELF IN

Many of you wrote in to express how much you enjoyed our posts on self-care. With that in mind we decided to do another and bring you a little something different. I think the picture above is a great example of why we need to recharge our batteries, as well as that of our cell phones. In fact, if you need a good reminder to take care of yourself, every time you plug in your cell phone let that be reminder to charge your own batteries as well. Most of us cannot even imagine taking as much time for ourselves as we give to let our cell phones charge. Writing that just sounded crazy to me. Most of us take better care of an electronic device than we do of our own bodies.

What happens as our cell phone battery begins to get low? We may drop a call. Our connection to the internet may be spotting or may not exist at all. Perhaps our applications we are running slow down. We look at our phone and realize it is because the battery is low. We not only know this, but we expect it. As the energy in the phone becomes lower, so does its performance. How come this does not transfer to our thoughts on people, most of all ourselves? We realize our phones run best with a full battery. Wouldn’t it make sense we would too? We often feel guilty for saying no to someone or for taking time for ourselves.

Let us look at what happens when we let our battery run low. This can be skipping sleep, working extra long hours or not addressing stress in our lives. What are some of the symptoms? Let us first look at the physical or ‘outside’ manifestation of this. It often first appears as general fatigue. Much like our phone slowing down, so do we. Just like an electronic appliance, if we keep going at this rate we will eventually stop. Either by passing our or passing away. We also can get headaches. There are even specific pain relievers marketed as “tension headache relief”. If Madison Avenue can figure out stress can cause us physical discomfort, how come we can’t? Add muscle cramps or pain. This can come not only from stress, but not practicing other self-care methods such as staying hydrated.

Many of us “battle through” these symptoms. Some even consider them a badge of honor of sorts. Let us look at how this can affect our mental state or our mood. Stress can bring on feelings of anxiety or even paranoia in extreme states. Even milder cases can drain our motivation. This can cause us to get less done which can stress us even further. Talk about an equation for disaster! How about feelings of restlessness or overwhelm? Those are fun aren’t they? You may be tempted to say “So what! As long as I am making the boss happy, who cares if I am a wreck?” This brings us to our next reason taking time for self-care and to recharge is so important.

We may think being continually stressed and running ourselves on empty only impacts us, but we could not be more incorrect in that thinking. Being both physically and mentally drained can cause our behavior to change as well. We can be prone to angry outbursts. Have you ever found yourself snapping at someone who did nothing wrong except to cross your path when you were stressed and burnt out? Not only is this not good for our relationships, it also adds the stress of having to repair the damage your stress did in the first place. We can begin to overeat or even under eat when we are not taking time to focus on our well-being. We certainly wouldn’t be eating the stuff that will fuel our body and allow it the best chance of coping with what we are putting it through. Some people even turn to drug or alcohol abuse to help them cope with the stress when they are no longer able to do so physically or mentally. This often can be true of high-achievers, who have a hard time taking time out from chasing their goals to focus on themselves. Can you imagine how one or several of these behavior changes would impact the lives of those close to you or even those depending on you?

Most of us charge our phones at least once a day. Make sure you do at least that much for yourself. As you can see your cell phone is not the only thing that performs poorly when its battery is drained or it has too many programs running at the same time. Make sure you are getting enough rest, eating and drinking the right things to fuel our brains and bodies. Lastly, make sure you are taking steps to address stress. This can be meditation, exercise, talking with a professional or even a friend. Make sure you do not have too many applications running in your own life. Keep the batteries charged and you will keep yourself running smoothly.

BE PREPARED FOR THE LONG ROAD AHEAD

Here we are. Another Monday, the beginning of another work week. I know that may excite some of you and some of you may be less than enthused. If you are reading this post on the site “Secret2anamazinglife.com” it would be a fair assertion that you are looking to make your life…well…more amazing. The secret to living a more amazing life is having less stress, more joy and working to become the best version of ourselves. This should seem fairly obvious. The real question is how do we do this.

I have dedicated over 20 years to exploring this question. Many of the answers can be found both on this blog as well as in my two books, A Happy Life for Busy People and Living the Dream. One of the greatest areas the influences the amount of both stress and joy in our lives to a great degree is our relationships. This is such an important area that I have dedicated a section to it in both of the afore-mentioned books. “Picking your Posse” as the sections are called, is one of the most important decisions you can make.

Forming your ‘Spirit Tribe’ as the quote above calls it, is something far too many of us do without any or much thought. Instead of making a conscious effort to choose who to have, or in some cases eliminate, from our lives, we let circumstance decide. For an area that has such a great impact, and that we have a good deal of control over, why are we leaving such a good portion of it up for chance? We have to take advantage of our ability to both bring in and let out people in our lives. Here are a few examples of how to do that. If you would like to dive deeper into this subject, please click the link at the end of this post to be taken to my author page and order one or both of my books.

The first step in “picking your posse” is to decide who you would like in it. This could be specific people or even the type of people. If you know the specific people you would like to spend more time with, the answer is pretty straight forward. Call them up, shoot them an email, or better yet go up to them in person and make some plans. Grab some coffee, get dinner, go the the gym or for a walk. Whatever you would desire to do, reach out and make it happen. What if you know the type of people you would like in your life? Think of the qualities of the people you would like in your life. Would you like encouraging people? People who are driven? People who like to work out? People who like to visit art museums? Write that down. If you look at your list and can think of people you know who have those skills, just follow our earlier example and make some plans with them

What if you do not know people with the traits, skills or attitudes that you are desiring to be more a part of your life? In that case, thank the powers that be you live in the time you do. Picking a posse has never been easier. With the internet and social media we can join groups, follow pages and join discussion groups in any area of interest we have. There we will find many people who also share that interest with us. It goes without saying you should always exercise caution and common sense when meeting someone new for the first time. There are also groups who meet regularly at libraries, coffee shops and many other places in town. They are definitely worth exploring.

The added bonus of adding all of these great people to your life is that it will leave you less time to be stuck with people you do not desire. This can be a Godsend for those too polite or even scared to eliminate the negative people from their lives. Think about who you would like in your posse, or spirit tribe today. Reach out, do some research and start spending time with them. The right people can transform our lives for the better and do so in a hurry!

CLICK HERE TO BE DIRECTED TO MY AUTHOR PAGE TO GET YOUR COPY OF MY BOOKS TODAY

OH THE IRONY

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

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

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

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

LEARNING WHAT YOU NEVER KNEW

Last post we discussed addressing some issues we may not have known we had inherited from our family, neighborhood or other influences. It may make some people uncomfortable to think they are changing or God forbid, improving something about themselves. I get it. In today’s world it can be hard to admit we are anything less than perfect, even if it is through no fault of our own. Nobody likes to admit they have something to work on. Do you know what nearly everyone likes? Realizing they are getting better at something. It can be close to downright exciting to think you may be working on mastering something. Here is some great news, there are plenty of areas in which we can do this!

If we stop and think of the very important issues in life, how many were we taught or have we stopped to research? What do you think is important in your life? Where did you learn how to do it well? Did you ever stop to learn how to do it well? Relating to others is one of the most important skills a human can have. How well did you do in your ‘relating to others’ class in school? Do you recall when your parents sat you down and explained some of the many aspects that go into a healthy and sustainable relationship? Me neither. How about communication? The ability to both convey your thoughts, feelings and emotions to others as well as hear and understand theirs is skill that is as rare as it is valuable. How many years did you study that in school? If your education was anything like mine, that answer would be less than one. . What good is learning our alphabet and how to spell words if we are never taught how to effectively convey and use those very words.

It would seem a great deal of important subjects are left for us to learn by chance, or for far too many of us, by trail and error or not at all. The problem with this is that the stakes are far too high for most of us to learn that way. One mistake in how we relate to others can not only cost us a job, it can ruin relationships and cause emotional trauma to others, including those we truly care about. We occasionally get some instruction on interviewing to get the job we are seeking, although even that is limited. Did ever seem odd that nobody ever told us how to ask the right questions to discover if someone would be the right life partner for us? The same holds true with maintaining a healthy mental and emotional state. As far as I know, there exists very little, if any, instruction in public education on this subject. Is it any wonder, as the stresses in life continue to rise, we are seeing a host of people with mental health challenges. We were never even told how to deal with the stress that is all too prevalent in our lives.

We repeat here the axiom from the last post that fault does not equal responsibility. It is certainly not our fault we were never taught how to succeed in some of the most important areas in life. This is not a knock on our teachers and parents. They were never taught these things either. It is, however, our responsibility to educate ourselves on these very subjects. If a healthy relationship is important to us we need to learn what the components of one are and how to get them. If being able to communicate to others and have them understand you may be valuable, don’t you think it might be worth a few hours of research? How much effort is living a life with less stress and more joy worth to you? What other areas are important? Do you think being a great parent to your child is important? Do you think you may have received some bias or incomplete information on that subject growing up? Would you like to give your children the best possibility of success as they grow up?

When I share this information I hear a lot of groaning about having to dedicate additional time learning. “I spent enough time studying in school.” is a refrain I hear all too often. If that is your mindset you must then become comfortable at the thought you will not develop past the person you were when you left school. “I don’t have time.” is another answer I hear. To that I say this – it is not that you don’t have time, it is that it is not a priority for you. If I told you that you could have ten million dollars but I would need 2 days worth of your time starting tomorrow at 6am, where would you be at 5:59?

Dedicating time for study in these subjects is worth more than that ten million dollar price tag mentioned earlier, it is priceless. Being able to better understand, and even more importantly meet, the needs of your spouse? How much would you pay for that? Not feeling so stressed out at the end of every work week, or even every work day, how much would that be worth to you? You see, studying the main topics in life is like digging in a vain of solid gold. The knowledge you get can not only positively transform your life, it can do the same for lives of those you care about. Can you imagine sitting down to share topics like these with your children while at the same time listening to what concerns they may have? How valuable would that be? How about learning how to help people feel good about themselves? Would that be skill that might come in handy with the boss at the office or the one you love at home?

Here is the grand upside to all of this. The knowledge on all of these subjects is readily available and it is free. All it takes is some time and effort on our part. There are literally millions of books available in the public library system at no charge to us. There are forums, articles and experts available online with a click of a mouse. There are audiobooks we could listen to in the car, seminars we can attend, videos on YouTube we could watch while we are in line at the grocery store. There is so much information out there, in so many different forms that there is no excuse not to become an expert in any area of life that is important to us. Learning one new thing a month, which is painless to do, can give us 12 tips to a healthier lifestyle. Can you imagine incorporating 12 new things this year to improve your health? How much of an impact do you think that would have? What if we learned one new way to improve our intimate relationship a week? This is still insanely easy to do. Do you think adding 52 improvements to your relationship in a year would positively impact your love life?

There is no excuse not to begin to become an expert on the important areas of our life starting today! How important is the success of your children? How important is the happiness of the love of your life? How valuable would having extra energy and health be? Decide what is important to you and begin to study today! Your life is far too valuable not to.

DRIVING HOME THROUGH THE TROPICS

FIJI

Most of you know I live in the city of West Allis in the state of Wisconsin in the country of the United States. The weather here can best be described as 9 months of winter and 3 months of poor sledding. That is to say it is cold or at the very least rather cool here most of the year. Personally, I love the beach, warm and sunny climates and the overall vibes of tropical locations. To that end, I am forever looking for ways to bring the tropics home to where I live.

One of the great axioms in life that I follow is “There is no law of physics that state your mind and body have to be in the same place at the same time.” This began as a sort of tongue in cheek thought at my day job. While laboring away at the post office physically, my thoughts were drifting to sitting on a beach drinking out of a coconut. Once you realize that unlike your physical body, your mind does not have to suffer the same physical limits, it becomes very freeing. Taking these ‘mental vacations’ throughout the day help save me sanity and maintain my positivity.

One of the more difficult situations I face as the weather grows colder is my daily commute. Roughly 35 minutes long, driving on snow covered roads or surrounded by trees that have lost their leaves and brown grass can become less than inspiring. To fill this void of cheer, I often listen to music I enjoy or some inspiring or self-improving content in my travels. This past Friday, I decided to try something different and it made a positive impact. On the way home from my day job I decided to play a recording of ocean waves with birds from the sea shore. I believe it was recorded In Thailand, but that was not as important as it being a tropical ambience.

As I drove along, some interesting things happened. First of all, I felt more relaxed than normal. This was to be expected as the sound of ocean waves are generally considered a relaxing sound. That means the drivers who cut me off or drove recklessly seemed to bother me a little less. Stopping at another red light? That’s ok. Speaking of red lights, when stopping at a red light I could feel the warmth of the sun on my driver’s side arm. The wind blowing through the window felt like a tropical breeze. It was all I could do to keep from closing my eyes and picturing laying on a beach. I am sure the motorists behind me would not enjoy that once the light turned green. Even more amazing is I swear I could smell the ocean! I was surrounded by exhaust from other vehicles, a chicken place on the side of the road and other city scents. Still, I swear I could smell salt water blended with tanning lotion. I am sure that was my mind somehow connecting the sounds I was hearing, the warmth of the sun and the slight breeze and using that to create the scents I was experiencing as well.

The grand result of the experiment was that I arrived home feeling much more relaxed and in a better mental state than had I just drove home in the regular way. I have always know that although our bodies are confined to occupying the physical space they are in, our minds are free to travel wherever they may want to go. The result of my 35 minute commute home between 2 Wisconsin cities by way of several tropical beaches refreshed my spirit and kept my stress level low. I think I will add a coconut air freshener to the mix to make it more authentic. It was so good, if were not for the sexy lady meeting me at the door, I might have wanted to add a few more minutes to the commute. Now if only I can convince Margie to come to the door in her swimsuit.

I would love to know what destinations you would like to travel on your mental vacation. What steps could you take to make them feel like a reality? Think of using as many of the 5 senses as you can. Much like my journey using the sound of birds and ocean waves, the feel of sun on my skin and a gentle breeze and perhaps the scent of a coconut air freshener. I am next going to try this same experience on the way to work and see if it will help me enjoy the work day even more.

DO YOUR BEST THIS WEEK!

We touched on this last Monday, but it is worth repeating. As we gear up for the week ahead, I know the vast majority of us are looking to make progress on our goals. Whether that is finishing the book we are working on, promoting our website or physical business or just being on time to work to make sure we can keep earning funds to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. One important aspect to keep in mind is scheduling some mental health time. If you can get so much done in a certain amount of time, it would make sense that the longer you work, the more you will get done. This is true, to a point.

Let us take this picture of these people paving a road, I am guessing. Let us say they can get a certain amount of road done in 8 hours. If we kept them working 24 hours straight would we assume they would get three times that amount of road done? Of course not. Eventually, they would begin to tire and become less physically able to do their job. We have all had this happen, haven’t we? Even if we do not do construction for a living. We could be working around the yard, for example. When we start out we are feeling good and making great progress. After a few hours that shovel begins to become a little heavier, that lawn mower a little harder to push. Sure, if we keep working we could make a little more progress, but it would be at a slower rate and more likely to contain some mistakes. The human body has its limits. They vary from person to person, but we all tire out eventually.

It is not just physical exertion we need to be aware of. The brain, just like any muscle in the body has its limits, maybe even more so. Your brain requires glucose and oxygen to operate at peak efficiency. We need to make sure our diet and exercise are good if we are going to push ourselves mentally. We also need to make sure we let the brain rest as well. This could be working in some meditation, laughter or even a nap during the day. As we push our brain we also begin to lose the rate at which we can produce and increase the chance we will make a mistake. As a writer I can testify to this. I can sit down and write for hours if I am properly rested (and caffeinated) After a while, if I don’t give my brain a break I may struggle to spell “cat”. This is one of the many reasons there are not a lot of cats mentioned near the end of my blog posts. Just remember your brain is muscle like your arm or leg and needs to rest to perform at its best.

As we work towards all we wish to accomplish this week let us keep this in mind. Hard work is a noble pursuit to be sure, but intelligent hard work is what leads to the best results. We need to remember to recharge both our physical and mental batteries as we go along. There is a law of diminishing returns, or arc of productivity as I prefer to call it. There reaches a point where if we push ourselves the returns will slowly get less. Keep pushing ourselves and we will end up making mistake after mistake, generating negative returns. It would be better, and more productive, to take a break, get some rest and begin again.

Look, I get it, sometimes the cake for the party is due and you only have an hour left. Maybe your publisher (or mother) is expecting that book to be done yesterday. What can you do other than keep pushing? When the cake falls over or you accidentally delete 3 years worth of writing and find yourself worse off than when you began, you will say to yourself, “I should have listened to that Neil guy.” or you may just utter an explicative. Either way by pushing beyond your limits, you will have created more work for yourself. The best way is to plan accordingly. Schedule some time to rest. Believe it or not, this is one secret to an amazing life.

WHATEVER SOOTHES YOUR SOUL

Whatever soothes your soul

We began the week by discussing how important taking care of our mental health was. If you do not understand why that is important, I highly suggest you go back and read Monday’s post again. One of the fun, life-changing things I advocate in my second book, Living the Dream, is to create lists of things that sooth your soul. The picture above gives us some great ideas. Although I am not sure about “taking a nap with your loved ones” not sure what kind of polygamous situation the author has going on, but finding yourself sleeping with too many people could lead to a very stressful situation.

Back to the lists I was speaking of earlier. This can be movies that make you laugh. Creating a Happy Playlist on your MP3 player or other device of songs that put you in a good mood. It can be creating a list of friends you can call in an emotional emergency. One of the things people do not think to write down is a list of places where you feel at peace. These can be vital in times of distress, but are just as important as a preventative measure. Keeping your soul happy can help you deal with stress better which can lead to a stronger immune system and a healthier you overall.

You may think creating these lists as something you don’t need to do, but that would be overlooking a very important aspect of human nature. You may wonder why you would need to write down what movie makes you laugh or where you feel most at peace. You already know those things. Whenever the human brain is under stress, it does not operate at its best. That is why you see game show contestants with blank looks on their faces when asked how much 2 +2 equals. Of course they know the answer, but with prizes on the line and the what seems like the whole world watching their minds go blank. Have you ever studied all night for an exam and when you get to class you forgot everything you read? I think we have all been there. This weekend, take some time to write down what sooths your soul. It will not only be helpful, but it is actually quite fun. You can edit these lists as you grow through life, but having the information on hand can shorten the intensity and duration of many a stressful day.

YOU DON’T NEED AN EXCUSE

Today is Monday, a day that holds a lot of stress for a lot of people. It doesn’t matter what day you read this on, you might be experiencing some form a stress for many different reasons. What we all need to remember is that it is not only ‘OK’ to take some time to address any mental health concern we might have, but it is vital we do so. This can often be hard in this work until you drop society.

It seems the fashion of the day is to post things about how hard you hustle or grind. It is important to work hard for sure. Doing so at the sacrifice of your mental health is not only foolish, it can be deadly. According to a survey of 156,000 hospital admissions for heart attacks over 7 years in Sweden, they found you are 11% greater to suffer a heart attack on Monday morning. The day you are least likely to suffer? Saturday. The stress of going back to work, often to a job we are less than thrilled about, can literally kill us. This is just one of many reasons to take your mental health seriously.

If you feel guilty about taking time off to take care of your mental health, here is a thought to ponder. Research by Oxford University Business school in collaboration with British multinational telecoms firm BT found a conclusive link between happiness and productivity. A further extensive study found that happy workers are 13% more productive. By taking care of your mental health, you are not only taking care of your own health, but actually doing your employer a favor by reducing sick days and increasing productivity. Look at you, rockstar employee!

Taking steps to address and maintain your mental health is not only for work. When you take care of your own mental health by doing things such as deep breathing, meditation, taking time for yourself and other forms of self-care, you are able to be a better parent, better spouse and better person overall. How many times have we caught ourselves in reaction and later thinking to ourselves, “Why did I say/do that?” Chances are you were under a great deal of stress and not acting as the best version of yourself and instead reacting to the emotions you were feeling at the moment. Taking care of our mental health will benefit all areas of our lives. You should NOT feel guilty about it and you certainly do NOT need an excuse to do so.

WHAT IS YOUR ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION?

Who is this charming fellow you may be asking yourself. Although you may easily confuse this as a picture of me when I wake up for work at 4:30 every weekday morning, the black and white nature should tell you that is not so. This fellow is Arthur Schopenhauer. He was a German philosopher in the early 1800’s. In my research and study of self-improvement, I come across many of these fellows. Notice the happy grin on his face? Most western philosophers share his gloomy demeanor. In fact, on doing research on the western philosophy thoughts into happiness, I discovered much of this gloominess also creeped into their thoughts and outlooks on the subject.

Art here did have a depressing but somewhat interesting take on what to do when pursuing happiness in life. His answer, in short, was this – don’t. Not too surprising considering his cheerful disposition. He did, however, have some advice that at first blush seems a little on the negative side but may help us find a new way to look at life and to increase the joy in our lives. His advice can be wrapped up in the following statement. “Don’t seek out happiness, but instead seek to diminish your misery.” Way to go Art! Focus on being ‘less miserable’ than ‘more happy’. I think if you go through life with your most inspiring thought being “How can I make life suck less?” you will end up with a life that leaves you looking like our good friend Arthur here. Not really that good of a look, if you were to ask me.

So I sat down to think about this idea a little more. That is actually me. You can see it is a little less scowl and a little more pensive than our German friend above. Wouldn’t making your life less miserable make it happier? I think it is much like a budget. If you wish to have more money in your life you can approach it in two entirely different ways. You can either focus on saving money and cutting expenses (like focus on reducing your misery) This is a very important aspect and will end up with you having more money in your pocket. If all you do is focus on where can we cut costs, you are not only limiting yourself, but you are also focusing on sacrifice and lack. Just like focusing on making life less miserable. It may be worth noting that when facing trouble, businesses tend to focus mainly on cutting costs and that seldom works long term.

If you want more money in your pocket, there is another thing you can do and that is focus on ways of increasing your income. In terms of happiness, this would be looking for ways to add more joy to your life. When you are looking to increase your income there are two options. You can earn more for what you already do, or you can find additional streams of income. Same with your ‘Happiness Budget’. Just made up that term by the way, kind of like it. You can look to find more joy in what you already do in life and you can also look for additional sources of joy. If you enjoy going for a walk in nature, would listening to some meditative music be helpful? Maybe trying to spot as many animals as you can? Maybe just focus on the sites, sounds and smells more? If you don’t get to walk in nature as much as you like, maybe you could try adding that to your life.

If the budget analogy doesn’t quite work for you, think of a garden. Stress, challenges and things that generally make you unhappy are like weeds in a garden. No matter how great of a gardener you are, there will always be some weeds. If you spend every minute in the garden of life pulling weeds (that is getting life to be less miserable) and not focused on helping your plants grow (like growing your happiness) your garden would be mediocre at best. That is like focusing on reducing misery and leaving the growth of happiness to chance. Sure, life may throw a few things your way every once in a while but your life, much like your garden, will be mediocre.

When it comes to a strategy for happiness I am going to say that the cheery Mr. Schopenhauer’s thoughts are not without merit, but merely one side of the coin. I think we should both look to reduce our misery in life while looking to grow our happiness. Just as in our income example, if we want more money in our pockets we should both look to cut expenses as well as increase our income. While tending your garden of life, certainly address picking the weeds, but also make sure to water your plants. Doing so will allow you the greatest harvest. The same can be said about removing the misery as well as growing the happiness, it will give you the greatest harvest.

STRESS? HERE’S WHAT TO DO

One of my favorite philosophers, Mr. Rogers has a good suggestion when it comes to stress. This, I must confess, sounds easy but is not. When we see others under stress, it is easy to be compassionate and understanding. At least for a person reading this blog I assume it would be. However, if you are one of two or even several people involved in a stressful situation, this becomes quite a bit more difficult. There are two parts of this equation and I think we deserve to look at each of them here briefly.

The first part tell us in times of stress we should listen with our ears and our hearts. This means not only hearing the words the person is saying, but really doing our best to understand where they are coming from. We should never make assumptions and always ask for clarity if we do not understand. We should also be aware that in a stressful situation, most things said that seem angry, hurtful, or just plain mean, can be veiled cries for help. Not everyone is skilled at communicating in regular situations, much less when they are under stress. When we think of listening with our hearts, that involves a great deal of compassion for the person sitting across from us (or on the phone, or in a text or email) This can prove very difficult especially if that person seems to be attacking us or, as Norman Vincent Peale used to say, “Using biblical terms in a very unreligious way.” This difficulty is multiplied several times if we also happen to be under stress. What a difference it would make if we were able to accomplish it? Even putting forth the effort will make a great impact.

The second part is just as important. We must be assured that our questions are as important as our answers. When we provide an answer, we are more addressing the other party’s concern that getting an answer to our own. How great does it feel to know that our feelings and concerns are important to the party we are talking to? How do we think the other party would act if they felt their questions and concerns were not as important as our own? I can’t imagine the discussion would be very healthy or productive. We must not only tell the other party their questions are important, we must also show them. We do so by repeating them back to make sure we are addressing them. By listening, not just to reply, but to understand. This is a small difference that has a huge impact on the conversation.

While involved in a stressful discussion, let us do our best to remember the party we are involved in the discussion with has feelings and concerns that they need to know are important. They need to be heard with both our ears and our hearts. It is not easy, especially if we are also under stress, but it is necessary. We may not succeed 100% of the time, but that does not mean we shouldn’t do our best 100% of the time. It may help to sing this very popular song from Mr. Rogers before we begin our discussion.