What are the happiest times in your life? That’s worth looking at because there are probably some common elements there. With some serious introspection, you might even figure out the connections.
There are three periods in my life that stand out as the happiest.
The first time was when I was a kid. By “kid” I mean in that age range of about seven to eleven. I had a lot of independence and hadn’t started worrying too much about girls. I grew up with five brothers. I was the middle kid, so I was surrounded by activities and companionship all the time. We lived about half a mile from a great big park. During the summer months, we’d go there and play on the playground, check out games, or watch baseball. We were literally barefoot all summer and “gone” most of the day.
During that time I also built a small private sanctuary for myself in our basement. We had a dank, unfinished basement that really had nothing but the old oil furnace in it. I put up some shelves and built a work area under the staircase. That’s where I set up my chemistry set and my electronics experiments.
I was happy and free and I always felt loved and secure. I also felt like I had a lot of independence.
The second period that stands out in my life is when my daughter was a little girl. Two was an awesome age. But the time when she was 3-6 was the best. She was old enough to have stamina, so she could hang out with me all day. We literally went everywhere together. My co-workers and clients all knew her.
Every weekend, the two of us would head out for an adventure. It normally involved a trip to the Rite-Aid to wander every aisle. We finished in the plant department. Then we’d go to the lumber yard to get supplies for whatever the weekend project was. Again, we hit every aisle. She sat on the riding mowers and sang “I’m a lumberjack and I’m okay.” After that we either planted things, painted things, or built things.
On Sunday we either had Daddy-Daughter breakfast before church or Daddy-Daughter lunch after church. Even today she has fond memories of the places we went regularly.
I think my daughter considers me her shield from the world – in large part because we spent all of our time together during this period of her life.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved every age. But after she started going to school, she developed a life outside of our relationship. That’s how it’s supposed to be of course. She was a great teenager, a great high schooler, and now she’s a wonderful woman.
The third period of happiness that stands out in my life is right now. Over the last six years I’ve rebuilt my life completely. I make a living writing and speaking, which I dearly love. My grown daughter lives with me now as she is finishing college. I get to travel as much as I want (which is a lot). I have been averaging about 20-30 presentations a year in 20-25 cities. I live in a delightful older house with just the right size yard. I’ve created the life I want and I’m living it.
When I travel, I take extra days to see the sights and relax. In 2015 I took 50 vacation days, including two separate weeks in Australia, a week in England, and a week in Hawaii.
I write at lot. I read a lot. I travel a lot. And more than most people, I spend a great deal of time hanging out with friends I really enjoy – all over the world. My favorite combination is: Sharing a meal, at night, outside, near the water, with live music. The more of those elements I can combine, the happier I am.
No one’s life is perfect. But I’m happy to have the self-awareness to appreciate that mine is very good. I’m going to work very hard to keep it heading in the right direction.
. . .
And how about you? What were (are) the happiest times in your life? If “now” isn’t on the list, what can you do to get it there?
“Why do they call it raw sewage? Do some people cook that stuff?” – George Carlin
I had a conversation with someone the other day about meditation. He expressed a very common belief: I tried that and it didn’t work for me.
I couldn’t help wondering, “What do you mean by try?”
Whether it’s meditation, exercise, playing the piano, learning a new language, or anything else, you can’t try once. Trying has to mean that you give it a real effort. If I try to do something once I am virtually guaranteed to fail (or be very bad at it). You can almost never do something right the first time.
On the flip side, if I work at something for an hour every day, I am virtually guaranteed to get good at it. That’s true of speaking a new language, learning a new exercise, wood carving, or anything else. You get good at whatever you put your attention on.
I’m a big believer in daily meditation. And guess what? I have trouble quieting my mind – even after sixteen years of meditating almost every day. I have trouble slowing down. I have trouble emptying my mind. I have trouble sitting still. I have trouble getting comfortable.
BUT I know how. I know what it feels like when my mind begins to calm down. I recognize that because I’ve experienced it thousands of times.
Another friend of mine posted something on Facebook a few days ago. He was starting a new I.T. project and referenced one of my books on project management. He referred to the “muscles of success” regarding projects. Those are the good habits that keep your project on track, on time, and under budget. Just like anything else, consistent activity becomes a habit – even making a profit!
Take stock the next time you decide to “try” something. Trying once is essentially useless. If you’re gonig to try, you need to commit to enough attempts to actually understand and make a little progress. Don’t quit after one attempt and say you tried.
The local paper has posted a correction regarding the biography of Ms. Celia Smithers.
She was erroneously identified as a bookmaker.
She is a typesetter.
Saturday morning: I woke up in lots of pain and had difficulty putting weight on my left foot.
So I hydrated my body and went to Bikram Yoga: 90 minutes of strenuous yoga in a 100 degree room (38 celcius).
Why? Because that’s what I need to do.
I have a chronic disease called Rheumatoid Arthritis. It’s not what most people think of when they hear the word Arthritis. RA is an immune disease in which the immune system goes into overdrive and attacks the body itself.
My disease is generally well managed, but from time to time I have a flare-up. When that happens, my joints become sore from inflammation. It also makes me very tired. Certain joints have a great deal of pain. The natural human reaction to this is to lie around, do nothing, and don’t move those joints!
In fact, that’s the worst thing you can do. First, you have to realize that there are many different kinds of “pain” in your body, and each kind of pain needs something different. Inflamation can cause pain, but moving your joints won’t cause damage. In fact, moving the joints will help prevent damange. It’s not the same as a pain from over-stressing a muscle.
Heat also helps the joints feel better. And yoga reduces inflamation. There’s more research about this all the time. So even though my workout was painful and exhausting, it’s what I need to do. In the long run, yoga helps me keep my disease in check.
This is the way with all good habits. At the moment, you might not want to do the thing you should. Or you might have great excuses not to (It’s raining; I only have a little time; I’m tired; etc.).
All good habits are like this.
I write when it’s time to write – whether I want to or not. I limit my night time activities so I can get up early, even if I miss some fun stuff. I limit my eating and drinking so my belly doesn’t grow too large. I spend within my limits even if I *really* want something.
In the moment of our greatest weakness, habits help us do the things we really should be doing. And the best part is, there’s nothing heroic about this. Once you have a good habit, the “default” action is to excercise that habit rather than break it. So doing the right thing is just a matter of doing what you do every day/week/month.
When was the last time one of your good habits helped you out on a bad day?
I couldn’t believe the accusations that my neighbor the road worker was stealing from his job.
But then I went to his house and all the signs were there.
The Audio Version of Relax Focus Succeed® is available right now in MP3 format.
It will be available very soon on Audible. If you have used Audible before, I highly recommend it. Go to audible.com and get started with Relax Focus Succeed as soon as it’s released.
Here’s where and how you can get the Revised Edition of Relax Focus Succeed®:
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- Coming Soon
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Why did the chicken cross the road halfway?
She wanted to lay it on the line.
– – – – –
Why did the chicken cross the basketball court?
He heard the referee calling fowls.
– – – – –
Why did the chicken cross the playground?
To get to the other slide.
If you’re like me, you can get the same advice over and over for years and it doesn’t sink in – until the time is right. That’s why I read all the “success” literature I can. I read to keep thinking about changes in my life until it’s personal for me.
I took a lot of statistics in graduate school. There was a recurring phenomenon with stats: I never truly, completely understood the math from one course until I had to apply it in the next course. I wasn’t alone in this. Many people found that taking a second semester stats class from a different professor than their first semester helped them understand more. And it didn’t matter which was first or second. It as a different way of explaining the math that made the difference.
It’s also the case that the first course prepared our minds for the next. One started laying down the pathways and the next started building the knowledge in a meaningful way. Your personal success is very much like this. You have to lay down the foundation before you can start building. When it comes to changing yourself and your habits, that means you might hear a message a hundred time – or a thousand times – before you decide that you really need to take action.
Success will never come until you internalize your commitment to your own self-improvement. This is because success is hard at the beginning. You have to change your habits, your knowledge, and your commitments. Then you begin the actual work of changing yourself.
Let’s look at how those three things are inter-connected. Knowledge is the easiest piece of the toolkit. You can listen to audio programs and read books all day and all night. You “know” you need to get up early, spend quiet time planning your day, exercise, eat right, set goals, focus on them, and execute.
You “know” all that but it’s all meaningless external knowledge until you make a commitment to change your life.
Some people spend years educating themselves on success but never take action until something suddenly makes sense and then the commitments start falling into place. Others start doing without commitment. In other words, they start following the formula even though they haven’t internally accepted that it really will change their lives.
Believe it or not, this also works. If you get in the habit of getting up early, it will make the habit of quiet time easier. If you get in the habit of exercising, it will make the habit of eating right easier. One by one you can adopt all the habits of success until one by one they are meaninful to you.
Knowledge doesn’t come overnight. Neither do habits nor commitments. But if you practice these things, you will eventually achieve them.
Remember: Nothing happens by itself. You have to work on your success. If you don’t work on your self-improvement, it won’t happen. Period.
Just like athletic development, you need to work on your self-improvement until it becomes real for you. One way to do that is to read and consume self-help books and blogs. The habits you execute without commitment will gradually help you become the person who is ready for success. One by one you will internalize these habits and see exactly how they contribute to your success.
Eventually things will start to click and you will develop a true commitment to each habit. So keep reading. Keep listening. Start doing the things successful people do. The more you do these things the more you prepare yourself for success.
Nothing happens by itself.
A friend of mine decided to name his toilet the Jim instead of the John.
Apparently, it sounds better when he tells people he goes to the Jim everyday.