1. BE HAPPY, A Choice
2. VALUE ALL EXPERIENCE, Yours Counts Most
3. COMPLAINING, Why Are You Doing This?
4. SMILING OFTEN, Will Open Your Heart
5. TAKE TIME TO TALK TO PEOPLE, To Learn From Them
6. DRIVE NICE, Your Car Will Last Longer
7. YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT, And A Whole Lot More
8. CHANGE, Embracing the Process
9. GROWTH, Change With Guidance
10. REWINNING PERSONAL GROWTH, Everyday
11. CYCLES OF GROWTH AND REST, An Art
12 . SMALL STEPS SCALE MOUNTAINS, Big Steps Can Bring Downfalls
13. VISUALIZE, We All Do It
14. PROBLEMS ARE OPPORTUNITIES, Treat Them Like Visiting Relatives
15. GRATITUDE, The Best Attitude
16. NURTURE YOURSELF, A Most Unselfish Thing To Do
17. LAUGHTER, Humor Yourself
18. CHILDLIKE, More Fun Than Childish
19. DO A GOOD DEED EVERYDAY, Anonymously Or For A Stranger
20. INTEGRITY, I Could Not Buy It
21. YOU, I & CONFRONTATION, The Mirror Principle
22. LIFE IS NOT FAIR, Who Said It Was ?
23. LIVING IN THE MOMENT, Make The Most Of It
24. GOALS PROVIDE DIRECTION, Being Focused Is Better Than Being There
25. WANT A BETTER JOB? You May Need To Work Two For A While
26. TAKING RISKS, The Middle Path
27. EAR HAIRS, Grooming Communicates
28. NETWORKING, Putting Out Your Message
29. DO COMMUNITY SERVICE, Giving Frees Us
30. GET RICH, Is This Your Goal ?
31. WE PAY FOR EVERYTHING WE GET, And Give
32. APPETITE & HUNGER, Do You Know The Difference ?
33. WHO’S IN CHARGE ?, Trying To Control Your World ?
34. LISTENING, An Act Of Love
35. ACTIONS & FEELINGS, One Creates The Other
36. EXPRESS FEELINGS & LOVE, Finding Balance
37. FINDING A LOVER, Do Not Look !
38. HANDLE YOUR ANGER, It Will Come Back To You
39. OPINIONS, Are You Handcuffing Yourself ?
40. TOXINS, They Are Tricky
41. RATION TELEVISION, Like Any Habit-Forming Substance
42. GIVING OTHERS FREEDOM, A Sign of Spiritual Strength
43. MORALS, A Poor Substitute For Responsibility
44. WHO ARE YOU ? Soul !
45. POSITIVE & NEGATIVE, Earth Is Both
46. PASSIONS, VIRTUES & NEUTRALITY, A Map Through The Mire
47. WATCH YOUR DREAMS, A Window To The Higher Worlds
48. LOVE, Is All There Is
49. SPIRITUAL EXERCISE, Sing HU
50. EVERYTHING HAS VALUE, Some Paths Are Shorter
51. HOW TO HEAL A RELATIONSHIP, A Spiritual Exercise Which Works
Almost twenty years ago my girlfriend changed my life. Jane and I sat in the kitchen in her San Francisco apartment planning a winter trip to Mexico. I needed to be warm. I had just returned from visiting friends in the Midwest. Jane was about to quit her job to travel with me, hoping to once again find her art. As I sat looking across the white kitchen table at her I felt she was the person I needed to be happy. Describing to her how I had felt trapped and scared on my recent trip back to Illinois, I reveled in the bad feelings. She listened patiently, then said, “It feels to me that you like to be unhappy. Happiness is a choice. If you do not choose to be happy, you never will be.”
Jane was right–and her timing was terrific, for I was open to the truth in her
words. I found that I could make the choice to Be Happy! Choosing happiness has not proven to be easy, but Jane gave me the awareness that I have the power to choose. For this experience alone–and we shared many wonderful moments–I will always be grateful to her. We lived in Mexico for five months, returned to San Francisco, struggled through the summer, and finally decided we could not resolve our basic differences. I moved to Hawaii two months later, still seeking warmth.
Why was I able to take the step Jane offered me that day in her kitchen? And
why is choosing happiness a constant challenge? Training and habit are my answers. I had grown enough spiritually in the previous few years, opening my awareness, to be able to see the truth Jane offered. I had trained myself to take that step. Training is a continual part of life if we are to grow and learn. We have many teachers, but through our choices we guide our training. Whether we take long bumpy roads or direct paths is our continual choice.
What about habit? Is it your habit to grumble and focus on pain and misery?
Many people like to commiserate. Negativity is easy, comforting and self-perpetuating. Being downcast requires less effort than being upbeat. Either positive or negative choices gain momentum as we repeat them. And like so many ironies in life, the choice which begins easy soon turns hard. How many times have you avoided a difficult, but constructive choice and found yourself later in a more stressful situation because you did not deal with your business-at-hand in the beginning?
The positive choice which can seem difficult at first, which is so easy to avoid,
usually becomes lighter with practice. Making these positive choices will lead you to light and love. The choice is yours each moment, every day to Be Happy!
VALUE ALL EXPERIENCE
Yours Counts Most
My father stood in front of me in the living room. He held an unopened pack of Camels in one hand and a lighted Benson & Hedges in the other. The ash was about to drop off his cigarette.
“Where did these come from?” he asked, not quite yelling. The Camels had dropped out of my coat pocket. I cursed my carelessness. As a teenager I lied to my father to avoid his anger, working hard to keep stories straight and not do anything dumb…like letting cigarettes fall out of my pocket.
“Oh…ah…I’m just keeping them for Steve, you know. His parents would freak at the sight of cigarettes. I told him I would keep them for him. I knew you wouldn’t mind cigarettes being in the house.”
Dad looked at me. I had been caught off guard and my lie was transparent. “Tell Steve I do mind. I don’t want you smoking, son. It is a dumb, dumb habit. Got that?”
“Right. OK,” I said, relaxing. He was not going to get mad. “Dumb habit, Dad.”
Handing me the Camels, his cigarette ash falling onto the carpet, he walked back into the dining room, where he was working on his Formula Five car designs. I went down the hall to my room and fell on my bed, my heart pounding. Dad’s anger terrified me.
My father was good at saying, “Do as I say, not as I do!” He seemed to have given up on improving himself, but he wanted to make sure I did not make the mistakes he made.
What did I learn from this? I lost respect for him each time he said “Do as I say, not as I do!” whether in words or actions. Instinctively, I still wanted to be like him, even when I disliked what he did. Rarely did I learn from his experiences, clearly not as often as he wished.
Why not? Because they were his experiences.
I may see the truth in what he–or anyone–says to me, but until I experienced it for myself the truth remains distant from me, a belief at best. Believing is for me the way I shape my approach to the issues I have yet to experience. I have learned to keep my mind and heart open as often as possible and just let it be.
I used to work hard to avoid painful experiences. I worked so hard at avoiding pain I created even more pain for myself. Sometimes I repeat a painful experience countless times before seeing through the illusion I am chasing. Then I peel back another veil of truth, seeing one layer deeper into myself and the world around me.
In the years after my father translated (died), I have gradually let go of the old fear with him. Letting go of this fear and pain helped me learn to welcome all experiences–joyful or painful, happy or sad. I have experienced that I grow when I am willing to take risks…constructive risks.
What am I risking? Usually just leaving something behind–something which, painful or pleasurable, has become familiar and comfortable. Taking a step into the unknown can be scary, but I find it always rewarding.
I learned many things from my father, including how best not to approach some situations; but none of what I learned had real impact until I had my own experiences.
Hold your own counsel in high esteem. You and only you can best define truth in your life. Do not take my word for anything. Use discrimination and look for what echoes true to you, then try it for yourself.
Learning from experiences is one key to Being Happy!
Why Are You Doing This?
Most of us complain sometimes. Does complaining feel good? Does it attract the attention we desire? Does complaining provide a “safe” outlet for anger bottled up in you? Is complaining a habit?
Whatever the reason you complain, you probably are not truly happier doing so. Complaining may satisfy an in-the-moment urge to vent your frustrations, but what else does complaining accomplish?
Complaining creates negative energy which makes more complaining easier. Without self-awareness and discipline, a small of amount of complaining, can lead to a nasty habit which corrodes our environment.
Complaining is like dumping garbage on your living room floor. This action might feel good in the moment when you are angry, but do you want to live with the garbage in your living room?
Most people prefer their garbage to be taken outside and put in a can with a lid on it. One or twice a week the garbage collector takes the garbage away. We no longer see our waste.
Since complaining is hard to see once it is aired, it is easy to think it does not linger and stink and offend the people we love. If complaining were solid matter like our garbage, we would quickly see how it accumulates and its negative impact on our lives.
Complaining is an invisible, personal waste product which builds up, lingers and pollutes homes, families, friendships, work relationships, personal attractiveness…our entire lives.
A good friend of mine is married to a man with many charming qualities. This man has a kind heart, loves his children dearly, works hard, is successful and does not fritter away time and money drinking, doing drugs or indulging in other addictive habits. What more could she ask?
She would like him to take responsibility for his personal waste products. This nice man complains constantly about life in general, and at his family and workers in specific. He does not accept responsibility for how he vents his anger and frustration. He dumps his personal garbage on those he loves most.
Complaining tears the fabric of our lives. Work hard to find a constructive way to redirect your complaining energy into something–anything–which is positive and building. You will Be Happy!
Will Open Your Heart
The next time you are feeling low, walk down the street, through the mall, across a park–wherever you find people–and smile at everyone you see.
Some people will smile back at you, some will not. Who smiles back is not your concern, but do watch people’s eyes. Soon you will see someone’s eyes light up with joy as they smile back at you. Your heart will open for a moment with no conditions or expectations.
Feel better? Sure you do. Smile at the cashier in the grocery store, the clerk in the gift shop, your waiter at lunch, your co-workers, your best friend, your family…smile at everyone you meet and you will feel better. When you are smiling you are creating your world. You are giving other people’s words, actions and feelings less power over you.
Make smiling a habit. A smile can change a frown into a rainbow. Smile as often as possible and Be Happy!
TAKE TIME TO TALK TO PEOPLE
To Learn From Them
Once you are comfortable smiling at people, take a little extra time whenever you can and talk with people.
Ask the lunch waiter what he does when he is not at work. Maybe he is a student. What does he study? Which university does he attend? By stepping outside yourself you show another person you are interested in more than what they can do for you.
The clerk in the flower shop may share an interest with you about hang-gliding or knitting. Perhaps the clerk needs to share that she is excited about getting married. You will never know unless you ask.
Stop to talk to your neighbors in the hall or on the street. They usually will not bite if you smile first. You do not have to talk long. If they invite you to have tea or a drink, go ahead if it feels right. If their invitation is not appealing to you, decline gracefully–and smile.
You can be a friendly neighbor without becoming buddies. You may have to learn how to set better personal limits. Saying “no” may make you uncomfortable, but it is a skill we all need. Discomfort usually leads to learning, then it takes us on to growing and strengthening our foundation for happiness. Facing little fears is an example of a difficult choice which becomes easier with practice.
Take time to talk with people. You will be surprised at what you learn. Be Happy!
Your Car Will Last Longer
Does your car have a few scrapes and dents? Do other drivers glare at you, honk their horn or give you the finger? How many yellow lights do you go through? How often are you late? Gotten any speeding tickets lately? Did you feed the meter yesterday? Have you parked in a handicap space, no parking zone or too close to a fire hydrant while saying to yourself, “I’ll just be a minute?”
These actions are symptoms of anger, time management problems, disrespect for others…what else? You probably can add to the list. Most of us periodically drive with our emotions instead of our heads.
What does driving a little out of control get us? We risk injury to our loved ones, an instant family trauma. Hurting someone we do not know will be equally hard to live with.
Driving a little out of control can cost us time and money in court or at the repair shop. Do you enjoy crashing you car? Your checkbook does not. We are much more likely to have an accident if we let our anger or our haste affect our driving.
How would you feel if you parked so close to a fire hydrant your car had to be towed before the fire department could hook up their hose to fight a fire? Maybe a little girl gets badly burned because your car was in the way. Maybe your car is damaged. The odds are against any of this happening, but it is possible.
A high school friend of mine let his testosterone influence his driving and lost the top half of his head on his way home one night. Another friend passed someone too closely on the freeway, then got caught-up in a race and chase game, not realizing he had made the first offending move. The other driver’s actions escalated and miles later he found himself trapped in a cul-de-sac with a big, menacing man coming after him. A bigger man working in his yard nearby persuaded the angry driver that my friend was not worth the bother. My friend left shaken, but unhurt. Today he drives much nicer.
Angering other drivers by cutting in front of them or speeding by them unsafely usually does not harm us in the moment. Running the red light usually will not result in an accident. But we are taking big risks for small gains. How many minutes must we save over time to balance out the possible harm and cost of one traffic accident?
By giving our emotions control of our driving, we are losing a wonderful opportunity to take a time-out from our stress. We are passing up a chance to create a different moment for ourselves. Suppose you develop the habit of becoming gracious whenever you get into your car. You drive at safe speeds, take a moment to let another driver into traffic, park where parking is allowed and smile at someone who glances at you.
Over time you can develop a habit of kindness. Over time you can condition yourself to calm down when you get into your car. Develop this habit and then by simply getting into a car you will help neutralize your anger of the moment or your anxiety over being late to work or to pick up the kids. You are going to be late anyway, why compound your problems by driving out of control?
Train yourself to drive nice, drive with grace, drive with courtesy and you will Be Happy!
WE ARE WHAT WE EAT
And A Whole Lot More
I was told in science class that our bodies generate all new cells every seven years. Presuming this is true, no cell alive today in your body will be around seven years from now. On average then, about 14% of you must be regenerated in the next twelve months.
How are you going to manufacture your new cells? The first step is obtaining raw materials.
Our physical bodies are built and rebuilt from the raw materials we ingest. If we eat high sugar, high starch, high fat, highly processed foods, we will create a weak, unhealthy body. If we eat whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy proteins we will create a strong, vibrant body. Which do you prefer? No matter how healthy you feel, if you stop eating junk you will be healthier and stronger.
There are other factors affecting our health besides food. Emotions, exercise and environment are three other factors. How many more can you name? Food is our building materials. Our actions, thoughts and feelings are our tools.
Positive thinking advocates coined the phrase, “You are what you think.” Food and thought are powerful forces in our lives. What else? Love? Does being loved affect you? Loving? The love we give out affects the love which comes back to us.
So many things contribute to what we experience in any given moment, full awareness of each and every force affecting us would overload our mind. Just knowing, though, that our choices do have a real impact on our tomorrows is enough motivation to think again about the choice we are about to make.
How will getting angry affect you? Next time you are angry, ask yourself, “Is my anger really necessary? Could I find a better way to express my frustration?” Being angry is a poor way to show love.
We are what we eat…and say and think and feel and do. Choose wisely to Be Happy!
Embracing The Process
Change or die. Life is that simple.
As a child during the 1950s, I was indoctrinated with the ’50s Dream: a family, a house, two cars, a good job. This Dream was something to work for, something to get. Only after achieving the Dream would I then be happy.
I struggled to get “there,” operating on the subliminal assumption that once accomplished, the Dream would then be maintenance-free. After all, who needs change when the Dream is realized?
Gradually I am unlearning this cultural teaching. Before I became aware of it, though, I defeated myself many times by looking at my challenges as hurdles to get somewhere. I did not realize change is a process. Until I learned to embrace this principle, I resisted change because I wanted to be where I thought I was going, not where I was. Today, I still relearn this lesson regularly. The old programming fades slowly because it is an echo in me of a primal urge to resist pain.
Change is hard for most of us, because we resist it. Our resistance makes change unpleasant—not the change itself. A relationship grows comfortable, perhaps stagnating in some area. One person in the relationship goes through a change which disrupts the comfortable sameness for their mate. What then? People have made many different choices in this situation. Happy people usually face their changes and adapt.
If we never changed, we would quickly die. Here is an obvious example. Chestnut Street used to be two-way traffic. Last year the city planning board changed Chestnut Street to one-way traffic flow. What do you do? If you do not change your driving habits you invite the serious problem of driving the wrong way on a one-way street. Resist enough changes and your life span will surely shorten.
To step into tomorrow, we need good footing today. Adapting to change helps create a solid personal foundation. How can embracing change help you Be Happy? Sure beats dying.
Change With Guidance
As important as change is, guiding change makes an even bigger difference in the quality of our lives. Without guidance our changes can be very chaotic.
Suppose your spouse suggests you both are watching too much television. She has decided to join a book discussion group which meets two nights a week. “Would you like to come along?” she asks. When you decline, she asks you to find something to do to break the dull routine you both have gotten into at home.
You agree to find something else to do two nights a week besides staying home and watching television. You have consciously agreed to change. What do you do? Go bowling? Take evening classes? Go to a bar? Get a girlfriend? Join a men’s support group? You have many choices. Which activities you choose will determine the quality of guidance you give yourself in making this change.
Thoughtfully guiding yourself through changes will help you Be Happy !
REWINNING PERSONAL GROWTH
Personal growth has to be rewon everyday. There is no shortcut.
During hard times in San Francisco I was fortunate to work with a great therapist. Christine offered me high quality support and clarity, but she could not do my work for me.
A few months after I had begun seeing Christine, I realized that I had a pattern of endearing myself to a woman by listening closely to her, asking questions about her experiences and drawing out her feelings.
The women I became close to loved this side of me. What was not so loveable was my change when an emotional bond was well established. Then I would subtly submit my “bill” of needs. My message was, “I have met your needs, now please meet mine.”
When I first understood this pattern, I was confident I had solved a major hurdle. I shared my insight with Christine. She smiled.
A year later I had a relationship with an outgoing woman. She liked my attention, but was unable to give me what I wanted. I talked about this incident with Christine and saw I had repeated the pattern I had “solved” the year before.
Later, when I was with my girl friend, Jane, in San Francisco, we worked on our relationship with Christine in couples counseling. I complained that Jane did not meet my needs. I met hers–or so I thought–why could she not meet mine? I felt mistreated. Christine led me again to my old insight and I again faced rewinning this step.
Another personal awareness I gained concerned talking about people. During the summer after I met Jane she visited me often at a hot springs north of San Francisco, where I lived and cooked. For the month of September, she lived there with me in an old cabin near the hot baths.
I had been careful to stay clear of the politics and personal gossiping which seeped through the small population at the hot springs. A week after Jane joined me I realized we were talking about people in unflattering terms. At first I wanted to blame her. Luckily I did not, for soon I realized I was the source of our gossip. I knew from experience that talking about another couple’s problems could bring their troubles into our relationship and I did not want to do this.
Looking deeper into my motivations, I saw I had been using other people’s problems to reinforce our emotional bond.
We talked about what we were doing and decided to eliminate gossip from our conversation. The decision was easy, but required constant awareness. On some days, we had to rewin our new attitude every hour.
Six months later in Mexico we faced some unpleasant results of my careless and negative comments about people we liked. Again I had to rewin my growth in this area.
Each day some personal growth needs to be rewon. The cycles of our patterns and life circumstances vary the rhythm of when and how often different issues surface. But each day old challenges surface in new ways. Knowing growth is a spiral path will help dampen some of the frustration of this repetition. Developing the patience and persistence to solve the same problem, or its offspring, repeatedly until it finally dissolves will help you Be Happy!
CYCLES OF GROWTH AND REST
Punish or pamper? Which do you choose most often for yourself? Many of our choices are not so dramatic, but we all make adjustments to either speed up our efforts in a particular direction or to put on the brakes.
Why do either? Why not just “be” and coast through life? Why not push ourselves every moment of every day? Some of us do better with a relaxed, casual attitude. Some of us have to push ourselves to get anything done. Some of us blend these approaches.
Life has a natural rhythm of growth and rest. Nature reflects this principle with every passing season. Each of us feels life’s rhythm a little differently. Are you in harmony with the beat of your drummer?
One way to learn about your inner rhythm is to review your recent course corrections. Do you jerk yourself back and forth by first pampering yourself after a hard day, then punishing yourself the next morning for relaxing too much? Do you often criticize yourself? Do you eat too much when you get anxious? Do you make yourself work late when the project can wait until tomorrow?
Some of us push ourselves too hard and seldom relax. Other people rarely get themselves in gear at all. Because we grow from our experiences, whatever we do is fine. Some paths are just longer than others. Pushing too hard can lengthen your personal journey as surely as doing nothing if you are in disharmony with your inner rhythm.
The better you learn to feel–and then listen to–your inner guidance, the more you can shorten your path to mastering each challenge. Relax or get moving. Knowing which is best for you and then following through is an art. Learning this art will help you Be Happy!
SMALL STEPS SCALE MOUNTAINS
Big Steps Can Bring Downfalls
From 1980 to 1983 physicians prescribed antibiotics for my viral throat infections. Not willing to admit I needed to make major changes in my life before I could feel better, and growing more desperate, I began reshaping my diet.
I read several books from health food stores. I had noticed that when I was feeling flu-like, which was happening more often, I did not feel bad while I was eating. After I finished a snack or meal I then felt bad again, sometimes much worse. What I ate also affected how I felt, but my changes were unpredictable.
One of the first authors I read was a professor who wrote about fifty-day water fasts, soup being too watery to be nutritionally beneficial, eating as many raw foods as possible and the benefits of enemas. Everything he wrote was radical to me.
This professor was so enthusiastic, his books so full of successful case histories, I wanted to have the great health he wrote about, but how could I fast? I felt better when I was eating. I tried some of his recipes which were different from my normal diet, but not too different. My health improved a little. I took small steps with my diet, but felt unsatisfied with my efforts to feel better.
Moving to San Francisco from St. Louis in April 1983 drained my savings. I felt the pressure to find work, but re-establishing my handyman business in a new city required patience. Repairing homes gave me the freedom I craved. In May I found some work. Before the first job was done, I had a second, then a third job. By sticking to my new diet I felt strong enough to work.
In June I returned to St. Louis for my bankruptcy hearing. My cousin John, an attorney, was kind enough to represent me at no charge, but I was required to appear at the hearing.
My emotions swung wildly and I was unable to maintain my diet while traveling. I returned to San Francisco to find the work I thought was waiting for me had been done my some one else.
Weaker and more desperate, I plunged back into my search for health and work. I read books with other approaches to eating, many of which conflicted with each other. I passed out my Handyman Service flyers and called on property management companies. The work momentum I had created in May was difficult to re-establish, but I did find some small jobs.
I also jumped into a raw foods diet, frantic to regain my good health. Within ten days my energy soared. Throughout July life held new promise.
During this time and against my inner nudges, I let myself be pulled into a spiritual group. On the first of August I realized the spiritual group was not for me and I abruptly pulled out of it. I was almost current with my rent and my roommate was not pressuring me.
Then my re-occurring flu-like symptoms returned. I panicked. My financial life could have withstood a dip in health, but my emotions could not. Overreacting, I went to a restaurant in the Filmore District and ate a hamburger, fries and drank two beers.
Burgers and beers do not usually make people sick. After weeks of raw foods and a then-undiagnosed liver condition from past alcohol excesses, the meal was catastrophic for me. I became very sick.
Weeks later, struggling to work at all and farther behind in my rent, I let myself get severely chilled in San Francisco’s changing weather. I became sicker yet.
Five years passed before I earned another dollar. I have yet to fully recover my health. What happened? I tried to take too many big steps. I tried to change too much at once in my life. Extremes have always held an attraction for me. Excitement is addicting. Today I better understand myself, and now know that small, often unexciting steps are a better path to Being Happy!
We All Do It
When you describe a house, a car, a person–anything–you are visualizing what or whom you are describing. Visualizing is a powerful tool which can be even more useful with some self-training. By visualizing we can bring into our lives a new job or relationship, a change in our health, material possessions–the possibilities are endless.
If you are curious or adventurous, spend a few minutes each day or evening and sit quietly. Whenever possible, choose the same time and place each day. Close your eyes and imagine one way in which your life could be better. Contemplate about what you are imagining. Do this daily for a month, then change your image to a different way you would like to improve your life.
Visualizing is as simple as focusing on what you want and as complicated as creating a host of unseen disruptions in your life. As with most tools, there are hazards.
A former roommate of mine belonged to a religious sect which practiced a particular chant. She was excited about her chanting because she said it brought into her life the things she asked for while chanting. We talked occasionally about her experiences and she was open about using this religious practice to get material goods. By thinking about something she wanted while chanting, she found she often received what she wished for. This woman was visualizing.
What my chanting friend was not aware of was the effect of her actions. If I want more money and I rob a bank, I will have more money and more problems. We can easily see the effects of robbing a bank. The action of robbing the bank is a physical world event and is the cause of the unpleasant effects.
But most of life is unseen. Can you see love, anger or creativity? You can see the results, but not the feelings. Cause and Effect, also called “Karma”, is an undeniable part of our lives. We reap what we sow. What goes around comes around. You get back what you give out. These phrases are a part of our language. Even if bank robbers are not caught, they have set in motion a cause which will come back to them in some way.
How did my chanting roommate create unseen problems for herself? She put her will ahead of Spirit’s will (God by any name). Had she first declared, “If it is for the good of the whole and in the best interest of my spiritual unfolding, then I would like…” she would have saved herself troubles she probably will never relate to her chanting and the things it brings into her life. She probably would receive fewer things, but what she would bring into her life would be free of a hidden price. Visualization works more than most of us imagine. Learning to wisely managing this tool is as important as using it.
When used with responsibility and persistence, visualization can help you Be Happy!
PROBLEMS ARE OPPORTUNITIES
Treat Them Like Visiting Relatives
We all have problems. What would life be without them? “Oh, Great!” you say. Are you sure? Would you be the person you are today without hurdles you have faced in your life?
As much as I would like a problem-free life, I have slowly recognized that the purpose of my life is to mature, grow and be of service. Without problems I will grow little. Hanging on to a problem unnecessarily is neither fun nor productive. How, then, do we avoid prolonging problems and how best can we utilize the difficulties in our lives?
I like to treat problems like visiting friends or relatives. The more I resent a problem, the more uncomfortable it becomes. So I work to accept problems as they surface, to acknowledge that the unpleasant issue of the moment has arrived to help me grow.
Not-so-close friends show up unannounced the weekend you were planning a family campout. You debate between being flexible or bluntly honest. You decide to delay your camping trip a day and give your full attention to your friends with the understanding they are on their own for the rest of the weekend. Maybe you give them a key to your home Saturday noon as you leave. Maybe you tell them of a nice bed and breakfast a short drive away. Either way you have solved your problem with a minimum of stress by giving the problem the space it requires without surrendering your world to it.
If a problem pops up with a business associate, give it some space. Leave the problem at work so it will not affect the evening with your family. The next day take a look at the problem from a new perspective. You may see the issue in a better light. You may see a solution which did not occur to you the day before.
Give your problems respect, attention, the space they require and refrain from feeding them by hanging on to them. When you have learned what a problem has to teach you, it will leave your life and you will Be Happy!
The Best Attitude
What is gratitude? Most of us know gratitude as something we experience when we have just avoided something terrible. Your boyfriend is in an accident. His car is damaged severely and he is rushed to the hospital. When you get the call at work you hurry to his side. You feel so grateful he is still alive. Your lingering upset over the argument you had with him this morning vanishes. Whatever condition your boyfriend is in, you feel grateful he is not in worse shape. Your love for him overwhelms you. Why? Gratitude opens our hearts.
When we are filled with gratitude, there is no room in our consciousness for the negative qualities which close our hearts. Can you be angry, can you complain, can you be afraid while you are grateful? Yes, we do mix emotions, but the more gratitude we feel, the less room we have for darker feelings. I have experienced being filled with gratitude for as long as a weekend. The feeling was incredible. I wish I could live immersed in gratitude all the time.
Why do we so often wait until a near-tragedy to feel grateful? Most of us have not trained ourselves to shape our feelings. Our feelings are by-products of our actions, words and thoughts. To live in a state of gratitude requires persistent attention. When I get upset with someone, I usually blind myself to a bigger perspective. I lose the awareness that I am here to grow, mature and serve. Everything I encounter can teach me something if I am open to learn, but it is easy to get stuck in the moment’s negative qualities.
The earth is a place of both positive and negative energy. We can choose to focus on our troubles or we can choose to look for what we have in our life which uplifts us and be grateful for it.
How to be more grateful? Try smiling instead of frowning, no matter how you feel. Frowning perpetuates bad feelings. Smiling opens the door for positive energy and gratitude. List the people, the qualities in yourself and the things in your life for which you are grateful. Then review and update the list periodically and remind yourself several times a day to think about someone or something on your “Grateful List.” Visualize yourself being grateful. Train yourself to consciously choose to be grateful.
The more you are grateful, the more your heart will open and the more you will Be Happy!
A Most Unselfish Thing To Do
If you do not nurture yourself, who will? Parents nurture their children. The quality of this nurturing varies widely. No matter how well or how poorly we are nurtured as children though, at some point in our lives we become responsible for our own nurturing.
Most of us struggle with self-nurturing. We either resist the concept or are unsure how best to give ourselves what we need. My father did not teach me responsibility. When I wrecked the family car he yelled at me, then got our car fixed. When my best friend, Tim, had an accident, his father made sure no one was hurt, then sat down with Tim and helped him plan how he would fix the car. Tim learned how much work his mistake caused him. I learned for the thousandth time how horrible my father’s anger felt. My Dad was not a bad man, he just had not learned to nurture himself. He was a sea of unmet needs and he looked at those around him to meet his needs. When I goofed he got angry, but as soon as his anger dissipated he immediately wanted our closeness, leaving him unable to discipline me in a structured way. I learned about the downside of neglecting self-nurturing by watching my father.
The quality of what we can give to others is determined by the quality of what we give to ourselves. By nurturing ourselves we fill our cup and can easily then share with another. If our cup is leaky or unfilled, we have little to share.
If your son’s passion is cross-country skiing and you have nurtured yourself by exercise regularly and eaten healthy foods, you probably will have a great time skiing with him. If you work to understand and manage your emotions you will be able to offer quality support to family and friends.
Some of us do not care well for ourselves because we prefer to take care of someone else. We avoid working on our problems by saying we do not have the time, energy or money. We then serve as poor role models for the people we so wish to help grow. Some of us shy away from doing something for ourselves because it will “hurt” someone. Usually the “someone” is hurt because they are too self-involved to see beyond their own world.
I watched my father work hard at his passions. Whether writing music, building model trains, manufacturing racing karts or buying and selling collectible stamps, his work focus was tremendous. I had to develop my personal discipline before I could approach my father’s commitment level, but I knew what I was working toward because my father was a great role model for me in this area. He nurtured his work life.
Find out the ways in which you need nurturing, then make the effort to give to yourself. The people around you will soon recognize how you have changed for the better and you will Be Happy!
My mentor in the mortgage business many years ago would come to the office nearly every day pouring positive energy into the company, uplifting all of us who worked with him. Riding on the crest of this strong current of love is his cheerful smile and ready laugh. Sometimes we laughed at him. Bob was (and is) full of ideas and not shy about trying them, even if he played the fool. No closer to perfection than the rest of us, Bob treated himself with humor often enough to win the affection of everyone working with him.
When my wife and I deadlock on a contentious issue, eventually one of us will smile and say something funny, usually at our own expense. Neither of us can remain angry when the other person makes fun of themselves.
Laughter lightens any situation. Laughter opens our hearts as quickly as being grateful and is often easier to find within ourselves. Can you remain depressed when you watch a funny movie? Norman Cousins wrote about laughing himself out of cancer. Bob also healed himself from cancer with the help of both traditional and alternative medicine and a triple dose of positive thinking and laughter.
Laughter can, however, be negative if it conceals anger. During my twenties I laughed at other peoples’ weaknesses. Making fun in a not-so-nice way was one of the few ways my family found acceptable to express anger. Almost all other expressions of anger brought more anger down upon my head. When I moved out of my father’s home I unleashed my pent-up anger in the ways I had learned at home were socially acceptable. After ten years of being habitually catty, I was shown the negative effects of my actions. With some work and a lot of help I changed, though today I still must guard against my old habit.
When we laughed at Bob, or myself, or anyone else in our office, we laughed with that person at their humorous side, which mirrored all our humanity. Joyous laughter is a positive energy which builds on itself. Negative energy, including spiteful laughter, destroys the fabric of our lives. Since laughter lightens your life, laugh often in an uplifting way and you will Be Happy!
More Fun Than Childish
Do you know any adults who are reluctant to have fun?
Perhaps you hesitate to be as spontaneous as you once were. Why? As children most of us played with abandon, creating imaginary worlds to entertain ourselves and our friends. Carnivals, movies and new adventures were fun and exciting. Do you have fun as easily today as you did as a child? Most of us would have to say “no.” Why? What happened?
We grew older, got jobs and had children of our own. We either became responsible adults or felt the added pressure of meeting our obligations. We felt our parents’ expectations, then developed our ideas of what we should be. We heard that big boys and girls do not cry, so we stuffed our feelings away. Systematically most of us were trained to repress our happy, care-free, child-like natures.
What did this training accomplish? Two things: 1) we developed the outward appearance of being adults; and 2) we had a lot less fun. Many of us completely forgot how to have fun and lost our childlike lightness. We leaned on the numbing effects of television or the distortions of alcohol and drugs to be entertained.
Why is fun important? Fun opens the heart. People with open hearts live better and are kinder to each other. The more someone’s heart is open, the more love can come through them into this world and be shared with the people they love.
Being childlike is possible even as an adult. Yes, some balance is needed. As adults we are responsible for caring for ourselves and our families. Responsibility does not suppress our natural childlike qualities, but our resistance to responsibility does.
When we are unhappy with our life, temporarily escaping our discomfort is often just a step away. We usually do not realize that by taking this step, we are running away from the world we have created. Our escape is childish, not childlike.
In our effort to be responsible adults, we may not run away from our discomfort, but instead repress our feelings. In doing so, we squash our happy, childlike nature. Acting childish is often confused with being childlike. Childish actions are motivated my desire and fear. Childlike behavior is a natural spontaneity which uplifts anyone who allows their heart to open.
When I first met a previous girlfriend she did not know how to have fun. Her life had become too serious. Little by little she has learned to loosen up. Now she can go to a game arcade and play air hockey or have video races, laughing whether she wins or not.
She limited herself because her childlike spontaneity had been compromised by her adult experiences. I invite you to look for and challenge the ways in which you limit yourself unnecessarily. Let your childlike self re-emerge. Learn again what fun playing can be. Encourage your true nature and you will Be Happy!
DO A GOOD DEED EVERYDAY
Anonymously Or For A Stranger
What do you have to lose by doing a good deed? Is your time so precious you cannot find three minutes a day to help another person? Are all the people you meet in such good shape they need no assistance, no matter how small? Are you so happy with your life today you no longer need the smile of another person to warm your heart?
Doing kind things for the people we love is one of the ways we express our love. Sometimes the people in our lives know what we do for them, sometimes they do not, sometimes we tell them, sometimes we do not. I am sure my father did many things for me I did not know about. He was also good at pointing out how a particular effort of his was for my benefit. Usually these words of his felt more like control and less like a gift.
Doing a good deed every day anonymously or for a stranger is an exercise. Like working out physically, this exercise requires effort and discipline. Only a small amount of time and energy are required, however, and the enrichment you can bring to your life will be amazing.
Cut some flowers from your garden and leave a bouquet attached to your neighbor’s doorknob. Ask your co-worker if you can bring them anything when you go out to run an errand. Bring the office secretary her favorite muffin or fruit juice when you return from lunch. Maybe you will get lucky and she will be on break. You can then leave the muffin or juice on her desk with an anonymous note attached. To find opportunities like these you only have to look for them.
Spreading kindness will brighten your world, but doing so just to get something back will not. Giving to get is an easy attitude to slip into if we are overly focused on ourselves. I have caught myself doing for others while thinking about what a nice person I am and what they might do for me. To work out of this degree of self involvement I visualize feeling uplifting energy coming through my heart. When I do the homework to open my heart and move my little, needy self out of the way, I feel a special kind of love come through my heart and watch it spread out around wherever I go, bringing happiness where it shines. This special love does not have the desires or needs of romantic love. This love uplifts in a pure way which asks nothing in return and I call it the divine love of Spirit.
Take a few minutes each day to make the effort needed to do a good deed and watch your life brighten. When you have mastered doing one good deed a day, try doing two. Before you realize what is happening you will Be Happy!
I Could Not Buy It
Finagling has always come easy to me. Until about fifteen years ago, life was an open season to maneuver through any way I could. By watching my father, I learned as long as I did not upset him or get arrested I had a wide latitude of choices to solve problems.
Lying to my father to avoid his anger was one solution. This childhood survival pattern worked for me in my relationship with him until I learned I did not have to answer the exact question he asked. He was sharp, so my deflections had to be subtle, but half the truth often worked better than all of it.
As a teenager I took an hour-long trip with a friend of Dad’s whom I did not know well. I found myself lying to this man about things which did not matter to either of us in our brief time together. That day I realized my lying had become a habit over which I had lost control. Wondering who else I had lied to automatically, I promised myself to change my behavior…except when Dad was likely to get mad.
That afternoon ride down Indiana Highway 41 with a near-stranger was the beginning of my personal integrity. We learn much of our behavior from watching our parents. As we slowly gain more control over our lives, we become more and more accountable for our choices. A lie I told my father to avoid his anger when I was young did not have the impact on my life that lying to a friend or client would have today.
Early in the summer of 1992 I decided it was time to buy a new car. My business world was beginning to stabilize, my credit was improving and I was tired of driving my no-frills economy car. I became excited over an Acura Integra and decided to buy a two year old model. Since I owed as much as on my car as I could sell it for, and had little cash in the bank, I could only hope to qualify for a lease, which did not require a down payment.
I found just the car I wanted. The 1990 white, 4 speed, hatchback Integra LS had only 12,000 miles on it and was priced right. Only one company in Honolulu provided leasing for used cars. I reviewed my income taxes and current paystub and decided I probably would not qualify.
Feeling full of myself from recently closing several loans for mortgage clients (without finagling), I decided to discreetly modify my income documentation to show more income than I had really made. Who would know? I convinced myself I had “earned” the newer car.
Like most of us, having decided to buy a particular car, I saw the same model everywhere. Curiously I always came up behind these Acuras, or they overtook me on the highway. Rarely did I see the front of the cars, just the backend.
The leasing company gave me verbal approval to buy the car, but delayed issuing final, written approval for ever-changing reasons. After three weeks of waiting I was officially turned down.
Laying in bed the night my financing feel through, I kept seeing “INTEGRA” written boldly across the back of a car as it moved away from me. Finally the message became clear. By lying about my income, I had compromised my integrity. I had stumbled in my twenty-five year long effort to develop good integrity. Laughing at myself, I thought about how long it might take to work off the effects of my actions and sensed I would be keeping my economy car for quite a while.
Developing good personal integrity can prevent many problems in your life and surely help you Be Happy!
Chapter Twenty One
YOU, I & CONFRONTATION
The Mirror Principle
When you are upset with a friend, lover or someone at work, what do you do? Many of us talk to ourselves instead of talking to the other person. If we do talk to the other person, we often do not talk about what is really bothering us. When we finally talk about what is upsetting us, we often make the situation worse by the way we talk about it.
Some years ago I became upset with my then- girlfriend because she was late one evening. We both are late occasionally. I wanted to complain because I was upset she had made plans to visit her sister in California two weeks earlier, but had just now told me. I did not want to put my feelings on the table because I would then have to look at why I was upset. My true motivations lay mixed in between wanting to be more a part of her life and being unhappy to be left behind. I did not want to talk or think about either of those feelings.
How did I express my anger to my girlfriend? I said to her, “You’re late!” After she defended herself, I said, “You are inconsiderate. You are rude. You are unkind.” We had a lively evening before one of us laughed at our craziness and I then apologized.
Today I am better about being responsible for my feelings and try hard to not ask those close to me to adjust to my weaknesses.
We all have core issues that bother us. Life is never going to be smooth. Sometimes we lose it. Knowing that I was not able to handle my feelings this particular evening with my girlfriend, what could have made it easier?
I learned about “you” statements from more than one counselor. When I said to my girlfriend, “You are inconsiderate,” I was attacking her. I declared battle and the issue became secondary. She felt attacked and defended herself.
If I had said, “When you are this late, I feel taken for granted,” she probably would have told me how sorry she was and what had happened to make her late. Why? I would be making myself vulnerable by opening my heart and expressing my feelings. Whenever I find myself beginning statements with “You,” whether to someone else or to myself about someone else, I know this is a red flag. I may choose to ignore the warning, but I will eventually have to take responsibility for what I am doing…and the sooner the better.
At times I have become annoyed when this girlfriend was short tempered with strangers in public. Her behavior and my reaction puzzled me. Then I heard about the Mirror Principle which says, “We are upset by other people doing what we need to work on in ourselves”. When people reflect back to us the parts of ourselves we do not like, it is upsetting to us.
I am sometimes rude with people and I do not like to admit this about myself. When a girlfriend–or anyone–exhibits the same behavior I want to suppress in myself, they push a button of mine. I react. The key to this puzzle for me is awareness. The more I am able to keep my awareness focused, the more I am able to learn from my reactions.
Replacing volatile “You” statements with expressions of our feelings and looking inside ourselves when another person annoys us are two ways to better handle some of life’s speed bumps. By becoming more proficient at saying what is bothering us in a way which leads to harmony and smiles makes working through the next problem much easier. Handling our irritations better instead of spewing them around our world reduces conflict. The better we handle conflict, the less we avoid it and the more clearly and in the moment we can live.
Master expressing your discomforts without blowing the top off your world and you will Be Happy!
Chapter Twenty Two
LIFE IS NOT FAIR
Who Said It Was?
Did anyone tell you life was fair? Regardless of what we have been told, most of us hold the attitude that life should be fair and to whatever degree it is not fair is an injustice.
Is there a bigger picture to life? Most of us would agree that there is a higher power of some kind and that we probably are not aware of everything which affects us.
Have you lived before? Does life start and stop with this lifetime? How many seemingly unexplainable events occur everyday? Some people say “We only live once and if you do not believe this you will go to hell.” Other people say, “We live many lives both here in the physical plane and in the higher worlds. If there is a hell, it is life on Earth when compared to the higher spiritual worlds.”
What is right? Does it matter? What is important to me is what will help me live my life better. Those arguing about right and wrong are like school children fighting to get on the bus while the bus drives away.
What can help you live your life better? Only you can decide that. If you are at all like me, what worked best last week or last year may not work best today.
More and more in my life I trust my intuition, which I call my inner guidance. I began by trusting this guidance about spiritual matters, then expanded the trust to include my daily life. I have learned to trust when something echoes true in my heart. I do not ask anyone else to take it as their truth and I deflect people who tell me what I should believe.
I believe in a higher power–God by any name–and that I have lived many lives before this one here on earth in other physical bodies and have also lived lives without my physical body in the higher spiritual worlds. I also believe that most, if not all, other Souls have done the same.
Why do I believe this? First, this belief echoes true in my heart. Second, I have had glimpses into some of my past lives. Third, the principles of Karma and Reincarnation explain to me why so many things happen in our lives which appear unfair.
I do not ask anyone to believe I know about some of my past lives. But for a moment, assume with me that each of us has lived many lives before this one. Assume also that each of us is fully responsible for everything we think, do, feel and say. This is not the responsibility brought on by fear or punishment. There is no one to punish us in a spiritual sense. The responsibility comes from creating our own world through the results of all our past thoughts, actions, emotions and words in all our past lives. We live what we create. If we are to be punished, our punishment comes from having to live the life we create. Everything we set in motion will be neutralized sometime, by some future thought, action, emotion or word of ours. This is the principle of Karma.
What we carry with us today, our unneutralized results, is our Karma.
Countless things happen in my life which cannot be explained when I look at this lifetime as my first and only visit to Earth. But when I look at this lifetime as just an another day in the third grade, life makes more sense to me. There have been many days of school before this one and many more will come afterwards. Life for me is to learn and to become a better person. I have also proven repeatedly that I am pretty good at mucking-up things.
If Karma and Reincarnation are true, what do you think the next life will be like for the German Nazis of World War II infamy? A child crippled from birth may be crippled because in a former life that Soul crippled other people. Whether the crippled child was a Nazi in its past life is not our concern. However, If we allow for this unseen “justice,” then life becomes suddenly fair, and much more intriguing.
Our business is not to judge others. Even if we knew for a fact the crippled child had been a Nazi, the child is still as deserving of our compassion as any soul.
I believe we each create our own worlds. I have no one else to blame. I take responsibility for my own experiences. With this attitude, whatever happens to me can only be fair. I found this attitude improved my life, no matter what else I believed.
If I create my own world, then I can change it. If I can change my world, then I can create more freedom for myself. Taking responsibility creates freedom. Taking total responsibility creates total freedom.
Just because I want to change my life, can I do it immediately? If I am in New York City and want to be in San Francisco can I beam myself there, Scotty? No, I must prepare for the trip and earn the right to act on my choice. If I do not have the money to fly, the car to drive or the time and the health to hitchhike, I will not see San Francisco. Deciding I want to go is the first step. Creating the realty of going may well take a while. Changing my life works like travelling from New York to San Francisco, the variables are just more wide-ranging.
Take a broader view of life, allow for the unknown, be compassionate and non-judgmental toward others and you will Be Happy!
Chapter Twenty Three
LIVING IN THE MOMENT
Make The Most Of It
Where do you live? Do you live in the past, in the future or in the here and now? Most of us would answer, “I live here, in this moment. Where else could I live?”
We live, truly live, wherever we direct our attention. In the funeral home the evening before my father’s funeral, my Aunt and Uncle stood by my side in front of his open casket. We were the only ones in the room. My Uncle had just flown in from the East Coast. He had not seen his brother for several years. When he and his sister, my Aunt, turned to go they were not aware of me standing there. They were not in that moment. They were remembering their brother, my father, as he had been when alive–remembering all of him, both loving and unpleasant.
When my Aunt and Uncle left the room, I laid down on the floor and just wailed like a baby. I was nearly thirty, but I felt like I was five. “Why did you do it, Dad? Why did you do it, Dad?” I knew why he had taken his life, but the awareness was not comforting that evening.
I pulled myself back together and walked to the door of the room. My Aunt and Uncle were just coming back for me. “Sorry, Sport,” my Uncle said, “Didn’t mean to forget you.” My Aunt put her arm around me. None of us were living in the moment that evening. I am not sure anyone would be.
When I have ended a relationship in a heartbreaking way, I am not fully in the moment for quite a while. Strong emotion pulls us out of ourselves. Movies and music make millions of dollars because of this principle.
After my father died I lived in his home for nine months sorting through his many belongings and remodeling the house to sell. During those months I worked through much of my pain and anger with my father, but not all of it. For several years memories of him intruded into my thoughts. For me this was a good thing because I was processing a lot of pain. This step was necessary for me to heal. Had I continued holding on to him, though, I would have handicapped my life.
In big and small ways, we can become caught up in holding onto memories and pain–or longing for the future so much we are not fully in the present. In the unhappier times of my childhood, I so wanted to be older, to be in control of my life, I lived only partially in the moment.
By watching my friends and family I see many of us hold onto, or want to escape from something. Doing this robs us of our life, to a small or large degree. Beginning a new relationship is very hard if you are still holding onto your former partner. Studying for an exam is impossible if you are daydreaming about playing baseball the next afternoon.
Staying in the moment is not valued by all. Our culture sells emotion. Getting somebody to feel and then act in a certain way is the goal of most advertisement. Emotions are created either by evoking the past to sell nostalgia or by showing us how our lives would be better if we bought a new gadget.
Learning to be in the moment can free you from being programmed by your emotions. We can still feel. Knowing that we have feelings, but are not them, frees us to manage a part of ourselves which so often manages us.
Developing an healthy neutrality toward much of life will lay a foundation for learning to guide feelings. Neutrality is not indifference, but instead the acceptance of life beyond what we can change in any given moment. When a crisis is looming do you tie yourself up in knots worrying about what will happen, or are you free to experience your life as you choose? When I get stuck about something, I often ask myself, “100 years from now will this matter?” Invariably the answer is, “No.” This little phrase is a great tool for me to balance fear in the moment, though I must be careful not to use it destructively by rationalizing escape.
Once you are more aware about the choices available to you, the next step is to learn the discipline needed to consciously shape your life. Living more fully in the moment whenever possible is one way to shape your life: do so and you will Be Happy!
Chapter Twenty Four
GOALS PROVIDE DIRECTION
Being Focused Is Better Than Being There
As a young man I struggled trying to become something other than myself. I graduated from high school a semester early because I was bored with school and wanted desperately to be away from home. My high school counselor was reluctant to let me graduate early so I fabricated a story for her about my father moving to England.
I was accepted at the small college my father and mother had attended, but permission to enroll early, in the middle of the year, did not arrive until a week before I needed to be there.
My father was against me going to college in mid-term. When he had gone to the same school being a part of the class of ’43 had been very important to him. I did not care whether I was in the class of ’72 or ‘71.5, I just wanted to go.
The day before I was to leave my father came into my room and again asked me not to go, but told me the decision was mine. Sitting next to me in my small room, our knees almost touching, he began to softly cry. Seeing tears roll down his cheek, I knew I could not leave him. He had just gone through a difficult divorce with my step-mother and was working hard to get his small formula racing car business off the ground.
So I put off a goal of mine to be with my father. I did reach the goal nine months later, but by then it was old news.
At the end of high school and during my first year of college I wanted to be a psychologist. My freshman psychology class was boring, so I skipped it regularly and stayed at our apartment to write. After a few weeks living in a fraternity house, I had moved in with a Senior English major.
Becoming a writer captured my imagination. I read Kurt Vonnegut and J. D. Salinger while writing awful short stories. At the beginning of the second semester I learned I had flunked all my finals the semester before and was asked to leave school. More plans became ashes.
Two years later I tried college again as a declared writing major. One class showed me that I had nothing of interest to say. During the same time I was taking an acting class. Becoming a professional actor became my new goal. For two years I was completely immersed in theater. Then I found out I could not act.
Bailing out of school, I read D. H. Lawrence and worked at a picture framing shop. By working with my hands I discovered a new side of myself. A year later I was building sculpture and studying art. I did get an undergraduate art degree, but my plans to teach were derailed when I was pushed out of graduate school by the sculpture professor who was insulted when I would not submit to his drunken power games. Another plan became road kill.
Frustration built up in me each time I “failed”. From art school, I went into the business of building sculpture, though I spent more time working on first one studio, then a second when I was forced to move. My father’s death interrupted my pursuit of “professional artist” status.
By the time I was again working in my studio my health began fading. Over the next three years I was well, working and playing hard for three or four months, then abruptly bedridden with a lingering illness which lasted for another three months. I repeated this cycle for three years before falling apart a final time in 1983.
Unable to work for five years, my plans and goals were moved up to the most unreachable of shelves. Becoming healthy became my only goal. Along with this new plan came a growing realization, an insight which I traced back to my early twenties when I began sensing something was troubled in my approach to life.
I discovered that, for myself, the primary function of planning and goal setting is to provide a direction in which to focus my energy. Whether I reached my goal or not was secondary. I had unknowingly put my whole attention on becoming a psychologist, a writer, an actor, a sculptor while losing sight of the main ingredient of accomplishing anything: the process.
Since that first spark of realization I have broadened my approach. Today I look first at the process to decide if I want to become involved. If the process itself is not enough reward, then I seriously question the benefit of immersing myself in a work with which I am not in harmony.
Take a look at your life. Are you in harmony with your work, with your sense of self? Or are you still a prisoner of the “Dream”, of becoming a “Something”? For me, being focused on what I am doing is better than keeping an eye on what I am trying to become. Focus on the process first and the goal second and you will Be Happy!
Chapter Twenty Five
WANT A BETTER JOB?
You May Need To Work Two For A While
Are you trying to figure out what you “really want” to do with your life? In my mortgage business I often met clients who were in financial trouble because they changed their employment without thoughtful planning. Some of these people suffered an injury at work or had their companies lay them off: circumstances which are hard to plan for. More people, though, left jobs because they focused primarily on what they wanted instead of planning the best way to make an employment change.
People seem to have the most difficulty shifting from paycheck employment to self-employment. Many people accustomed to living on a paycheck are not prepared for the additional demands on a self-employed person. Doing the work which earns the income is only a part of the work needed to run the new business.
One client I interviewed had been employed for twenty years as a sheet metal worker. He felt he knew everything there was to know about his business. He had accumulated the needed skills and tools over the years. Three months before I met him he had quit his job and opened his own business. He had not starved, but business was not flowing in like he had hoped. His van had needed replacing and he was behind in his mortgage payments. He was also at a loss how to effectively manage the paperwork needed in his business. This client was skilled in his profession, but unprepared to be a small businessman. If he had taken small business management and computer classes, taken out a loan on his home before he quit his regular job to create a reserve fund and buy a newer van, he would have had a much better chance of succeeding.
Another client was floundering in his job as a painter because his employer did not provide steady work for him. We worked on a marketing plan for him. He stayed in his old job long enough to acquire the office equipment he needed. Six months later this painter had more work than he could manage and was handling his self-employment well, even though running his business required more non-productive time than he had anticipated.
The sheet metal worker had done sporadic free-lance work on the side for several years before he left the security of his paycheck. Had he increased his self-employment workload while keeping his paycheck job for a several month transition period he would have improved his chances of staying out of financial trouble. Often to create a new job for ourselves we need to work two full-time jobs for a while.
To shift from one paycheck job to another in your field may not require working two jobs if you have a new position already lined up. But often people do not find the new job they want while still at their old job. If someone moves from one paycheck industry to another, they usually will start at a lower position in their new job.
So how can you go about creating a new and better job for yourself?
First take a thorough look at your current job. Make a list of the things you do and do not like about your work. How many of the “do likes” are you likely to find in a new job? How many of the “do not likes” are things you can either adapt to with a little work on yourself or are negotiable? Think through the major aspects of your job, then sit down with your employer. Be as positive and flexible as you can in discussing the aspects of your job which you like, the ways you can strengthen yourself to do your job better and better adapt yourself to the parts of your job which are uncomfortable for you. By showing your supervisor that you are both thinking about your job and trying hard to adapt to it, you will increase the opportunity for your boss to respond in a positive way and perhaps adjust your work to better suit you.
If you draw a hard line in the sand and tell your boss, “Change this or I’m out of here,” you may be out of there before you are ready. Almost certainly you will not get what you want. Everybody likes to be treated with care and respect. People like people who are willing to change and able to meet a situation half-way.
If your job just will not work for you and you are not ready to leap into self-employment, you still need to prepare for your transition. Your preparation may involve taking classes, working a second job to gain skills, seeing a career counselor, or talking to friends. The only constant is that you need to continue to support yourself and your family, if you have one, during your period of exploring, planning and preparation. Most people do not have the luxury of a high-income spouse, friend or relative willing to bankroll such a move. Supporting yourself while you improve your life will also build your self-imagine.
What about if you are not working or do not know what you want to do? In both cases, doing almost anything constructive will help you. Most employers react more positively to someone who is already working and makes the effort to seek new or additional employment. If you look hard enough you will be able to find work. Look at any job as a stepping stone to the next one, as part of your continuing education.
Being active and being around other people is a good way to clear out cobwebs and freshen your perspective. If you already mix regularly with a lot of people, try some new organizations or activities. Wherever you go, ask people questions about their work and experiences. Someone sitting next to you may be working in what will become your new line of work. A casual conversation may lead you to a better job.
You can create a better job for yourself. Taking the time and making the effort to prepare yourself will help your transition be as smooth as possible and help you Be Happy!
Chapter Twenty Six
The Middle Path
“How can that be?” you ask. “How can taking risks be anything but an extreme?”
Do even the most conservative people lead risk-free lives? Is getting married a risk? Is crossing the street a risk? Without realizing we are doing so, all of us take many risks each day. To live risk-free is to be dead.
Risk is different from danger. To put ourselves in danger consistently is choosing extremes. Risk involves thought and guidance. Reckless living puts us in peril.
On one extreme we have danger and peril, while the other extreme holds death and decay. Down the middle of this road of life runs risk-taking.
We can be smart about the risks we take. One friend of mine felt so hurt in a relationship a few years ago, that he became extremely reluctant to risk his heart again in a new love affair. He went to work and came home and did not do much else. What is that person missing? Life. As far as I know he is still repeating his pattern, which is his choice to make.
Another friend has thrown herself into a new relationship over and over again. Yes, she goes through pain and yes, she is learning to be smarter about her choices of partners, but she is living life on her terms, taking risks.
How and when we take our risks is important. Learning from the risks we have taken is more important. If we want to live life fully, being willing to take risks is very important.
Take an inventory of the meaningful choices you have made in the past year. Have you often put yourself at risk? More than a few times? At all? How have your risks turned out? How did you grow from the risks you took? What could you do smarter next time?
If you had a bad experience in your love life did you let your emotional needs lead you into another situation too deep and too quickly? Perhaps you did just the opposite. Perhaps you did not want to face your buried fears and hurts, so you refused to open up enough to keep any relationship growing.
The same principles apply to our work lives, our relationships with children, extended family and friends: almost everything we do and everyone we meet. Did you risk rejection and smile at the stranger on the street? Or did you miss the moment which could have boosted your day and the day of another person? Did you risk feeling like a fool by standing up to ask a question in the seminar you took last month? Probably no one else would think you were foolish, but even if someone did, so what?
Taking risks does not meaning putting ourselves in danger. For me, not taking risks is a danger–the danger of encouraging decay. I do take smarter risks now than I did ten, twenty and thirty years ago, but not all my risks are smart. I make a mess periodically. If I do not go over the edge once in a while, I wonder if I have lost touch with where the edge is.
Find your own rhythm, find what works for you by risking wisely and you will increase your risk of Being Happy!
Chapter Twenty Seven
This chapter is for men. Women amaze me with how many different looks they have. How a woman decides what to wear to look a certain way is a mystery to me.
If you are a man, pay attention. Would you wear a suit and tie to play golf? Probably not. Would you wear a suit and tie to court if you were on trial? Probably yes.
Perhaps you care little about what you look like because you are not concerned with what people think. Rising above public opinion can be freeing, if you do not sabotage yourself.
Do you like to criticize the way others look? Be careful, some people put other people down trying to build themselves up. This approach will create new problems without accomplishing anything.
No matter what you think about yourself, how you look communicates something about you. Much of the quality of our lives depends on what we communicate. Communicate to your employer how much you dislike him and you will be out of a job before you can find another one. Fail to communicate to your sweetheart how much you love her and your relationship will suffer.
Rock singers and accountants do not dress the same. If either dressed like the other when looking for work, both would be less likely to be hired.
Appropriate grooming cannot replace substance, but it can hide it. You are what you are, but dress in a black garbage sack and few people will see the real you. What you are communicating is important in your life. Taking some care with your grooming can smooth rough passages and speed your climb up whatever ladder you are tackling.
When the hair on top of my head went south, unknown to me much of it landed on my ears. Hairy clumps sprouted in all the wrong places. Jane, my girlfriend of long ago broke the news to me. We had been intimate for two weekends. On Sunday morning Jane snuggled against me and said, “Mind if I trim your ear hair?”
“Ear hair? What ear hair?” I reached up to my left ear. “Oh. That hair.” I played with the fuzzy stuff for a minute, then said, “Sure if you want to.” I can imagine Jane holding her breath, wondering what she would do if I declined her offer.
When Jane and I broke up I moved to Hawaii. Too shy to ask a new barber to trim my ears, I struggled alone. Old men have hairy ears. I was not yet forty. Remembering my sister plucking her eyebrows, I got my pliers. I ripped out a hairy clump and gasped at how much it hurt. Next I tried shaving my ears–another mistake. I wore band aids for two days.
In a little catalogue which came in the mail, I saw advertised a small instrument for trimming nose hairs. I ordered it. By the time the device arrived, my ears were noticeably overgrown. The little trimmer was made of stainless steel and looked efficient. Luckily I do not have a problem with hair in my nose, but since the trimmer was designed for that purpose, I decided to test it before pushing its design envelope.
Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, I put the trimmer into one nostril like an inhaler. I pushed the lever, spinning the cutting cylinder inside its housing. The trimmer jammed and pain stabbed into my nose. As I jumped the steel housing jerked from my hand, causing more pain. For a moment I watched in the mirror as this grooming aid from hell swung wildly under my nose. Looking in the mirror complicated my reflexes, but I finally grabbed the little devil and ripped it out. Tears came to my eyes. I must have a low pain tolerance.
I tore apart the trimmer. The design was good, but the blade was very dull. Not about to put it near my ears, I threw it away.
My solution to unwanted ear hairs? I conquered my shyness about asking for a trim. With much less hair on top, requesting the extra work was easy to rationalize.
Pay attention to your ear hair, or whatever about your appearance is not communicating the real you. Being Happy! is yours for the asking.
Chapter Twenty Eight
Putting Out Your Message
Perhaps you, like me, have some shyness. Nobody likes rejection, though many people have learned to sidestep it. Some of us are “people-persons,” some of us prefer to be by ourselves. Each of us has our own strengths and weaknesses, but to paraphrase the Bible, “Spirit helps those who help themselves.” When setting out to help ourselves, we usually run headlong into one of our weaknesses. The best way I know to grow past a weakness is to challenge it.
In the mortgage business a loan officer has to know many loan programs, the way different loan committees analyze income, credit and property values and how best to meet each borrower’s goals. A loan officer needs to communicate with people in the technical side of the business as well as the borrowers. All of these skills, though, are useless unless a loan officer has clients. How does he or she find clients? By marketing. Without marketing skills a loan officer is not a loan officer. No matter how marketing is approached, the fundamental ingredient to finding clients is talking to people.
When some loan officers meet with clients, they focus only on the business at hand: pre-qualifying the client, taking the application, assembling the needed documents, shepherding the loan file through to approval and being with the borrower at closing. The last step for many loan officers is to be paid. Their next step is to begin looking for a new client.
What have these loan officers missed? They have failed to enable their borrowers to do what almost all happy borrowers are eager to do: refer friends to their loan officer who helped them meet their goal. If the loan officer lets his borrowers know during the loan process that he would appreciated them referring people to him, he will receive more referrals than just by assuming his wishes are known.
Why? The loan officer networked. He let someone know about his goals and was open to assistance. The principle of networking is just that simple: putting out your message.
How you network, where and with whom you network, what your message is about and how you present it will of course affect how successful you are. The more you network, the better networker you will become. The secret of networking is learning about other peoples’ goals and helping them while you are making yourself available for referrals.
Whether you are looking for more business, a better job, a date, a friend, an idea…no matter what you are seeking, networking can complement your other efforts to meet your goals.
Whatever you do, preparation is needed. Preparation and networking are different energies and care needs to be taken to balance these efforts. If a loan officer networks well but is not prepared to do business, everyone’s time and effort is wasted.
Taking the time and making an effort to network effectively can lead to you Being Happy!