everyday success

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Do You Do the Things You Love Doing?

Name five things that you do that are your most favorite things to do.  Whether big or little, what do you most like to do?   Could be after school time with your kids.  Could be your annual mountain climbing conquest.  Could be playing the piano or teaching someone to read or weekends at your lake house or going to lunch with your best friend.  It could be your work but here we’re really talking about whatever brings inner satisfaction.

Your five favorite things that you do

It may take a bit of time for you to remember them all.  The very moment you start to name favorite things, more are going to come racing to mind.  You’ll be in your shower tomorrow morning and suddenly you’ll say to yourself, ‘I remember! I love decorating for the seasons, of course for Christmas but also Thanksgiving and Halloween and St. Paddy’s day and all of them.’  That goes on your favorite things you do list.

Have a bit of fun as you remember all your favorites.  Likely your list is already far more than five.  Our brains just love going to the things we most enjoy so let your mind explore and generate your list of favorite things you do. 

Once you’ve remembered all the things you love doing and you’ve narrowed your list to your top five, think about how often you do what you most love to do.  Look at each of your favorites and remember when you last did them.  Some of us keep their favorites in their everyday life – if you regularly do what you love doing, then congratulate yourself and keep on doing what you love to do.

On the other hand, some of us get so caught up with the must-do’s that their favorite things fall off their daily or weekly or even monthly list.  It takes not time to lose track of them altogether.  If your everyday has become so full, so intense that you no longer include whatever it is you most love doing, then it is time to stop, look at what you are doing and make a plan. 

Why don’t you do the things you love to do?

But first, before the planning, ask yourself what caused you to stop doing what you love to do.  Could be everyday busyness or it could be weariness.  Life today can be so intense that we get weary and it feels as if we’re dissatisfied.  In part, dissatisfaction can be the result of not doing what you love to do, making life more like a treadmill and less the lives we love. 

Every day we’re bombarded by an endless stream of stuff – whether those Twitter, InstaGram or FaceBook posts or new podcasts or breaking news or the laundry list of must-do’s, we can get to a place of seeming overwhelm and just stop doing the stuff we actually like.

If you’re there, feeling maxed out while not actually getting to do what it is you love doing, take a mental moment to make a plan.  Identify what has kept you away – money, time or even just the blahs.  Maybe it’s as simple as there’s no one to do it with.

Only when you know what bumped your favorite things out of your life, can you take the steps to make a change.  Once you’ve identified the what and why for not doing what you love to do, then decide on the actions you’ll need to take to manage whatever is holding you back.  Make a list of those actions you’ll need to take, in other words, make a plan.

Now, it is so easy to make a plan but never actually make that plan happen.  To fix that, be sure your plan includes the steps you will take to make your plan happen.  Include every step you’ll need to take to bring your plan to life.  If you don’t know what to do, what actions to take, then your plan will likely not work.  So, to get to back to doing what you love, be sure your action plan has the step-by-steps.

Life is not a straight line

As you take each step on your plan, it’s likely you’ll make missteps, you may fall back on your old ways.  That’s very normal when you are making a change even one that means you’ll be back to doing the things you love.  If you stop taking your action, if slip-up, be kind to yourself.  Accept lapses for what they are and get back to your plan.

Best of all, be sure to congratulate yourself for each success on each step of your plan.  That’s right, your successes are accomplishing each step on your plan, one at a time.  Don’t complete one without acknowledging your success with your mental high-five or whatever other way you choose to say good job to yourself.

Your purpose here, to be doing what you love throughout your life.  Enjoy your life; appreciate your life.  Make your everyday one that counts for you.


A Path to Happiness, Health and a Good Night’s Rest

It sounds like one of those ads, improve your health, get better sleep and all you have to do is ….  Well, in this case, all you need to do is be grateful!   It’s as simple as that.  Gratitude can make the difference.

Over the past couple of decades, scientists have discovered that if you are regularly grateful for even a month or so, all these things will improve.

Best of all, the practice of gratitude is very easy.  The challenge, though, is to keep it going.  For some among us, it’s just natural, they are grateful to their core.  For the larger, less naturally grateful population, it takes some work.  But, who wouldn’t want to give it a try, to get to happier, healthier, and better rested?

How to make it work in your life? 

The answer is to tweak your daily gratitude routine in ways that make it work for you.  The easiest gratitude exercise is the daily list of three things for which you are grateful.  That works for some but not for everyone.  We are not all journaling people so daily entries of the three things may never become habit. 

On the other hand, recording it on our phone or even asking Alexa to remember it for us, may make all the difference.  If you like the daily three things for which you are grateful, look at enlisting technology to help you out.  That way, you can even replay and review, to hear how you are changing and growing over time.

If you are a commuter or a runner or have a few minutes of otherwise available mental space each day, open your head and your heart to experience gratitude.  You may choose to appreciate your surroundings or the special people in your life.  Whether it is a tree that is starting to bud, replaying your team’s successes or the joy your children bring to you, experiencing gratitude happens not just in your head but also in your heart.  Here, in fact, you are savoring an experience in a way that you can replay over and over again. 

Rather than savoring or writing, you may be a person of action.  Have you told your wife, your kids, your parents how much you love them – not just the ‘love you’ as you come and go but a fuller expression of your love.  Could be you even give them a token of your love.  Maybe, you’ll visit someone for whom you are grateful.  Or, in place of a visit, maybe send a note or text or photo.  Acting on your heartfelt gratitude is a gift of yourself to another; it changes you and it changes the person whom you’ve thanked.

The key to making gratitude work for your life is to adapt a practice to fit your ways.  When you make gratitude a regular practice in your life, you are taking a step to living your days with zest and happiness. 


Checking In on Yourself

Twelve weeks from today is New Years’ Day 2018!  It’s hard to imagine that 2017 is almost behind us but I’m afraid it is – almost behind us.  We’re in the last quarter of the year and we’re racing towards the holidays.  Halloween is one thing, but in fewer than 7 weeks, it will be Thanksgiving and you know what happens after that.  In what feels like minutes, it will be Christmas and Hanukkah and a week later, we’re celebrating the start of the New Year.

It feels as if 2017 raced right by.  Before we know it, we’ll be thinking New Year goals and resolutions.  But what about this year’s?  Now is a very good time to look at 2017.  Has it been a good year for you?  A momentous year?  Or, have you encountered bumps in your road?  Take a moment to look behind and ask yourself:

What were the highlights of this year?  What will you remember forever from this year?  Did you meet a new friend, start a new job, have a new child or grandchild?  Could be you traveled or learned something new.  

As you think of the good parts, make note of each and remember to congratulate yourself for the role you played in making each of them happen, in making it a good year for you.

What were your challenges?  Some years may be better than others so, did you run into anything that made this year more difficult?  How are you managing?  Do you have the help you need to get you through?  Have you reached  out to others so you don’t have to manage alone?

There are so many other ways to look at your 2017 experience, here are a few more.

  • Goals  Did you start the year with goals you wanted to happen?  Did they happen?  If not, is there anything you can do in the weeks ahead to fix that?
  • Fun  Did you have fun or happy times during the year?  Did you make sure you smiled – and found things to smile about? 
  • Family & Friends  Our relationships make an immense difference in life.  What changed, either favorably or not, in your closest relationships?  What might you do in the next twelve weeks to strengthen or solidify these, especially with the holidays in mind?
  • Growth, Hobbies  It may look as if I’ve returned to the idea of having fun and you wouldn’t be wrong.  As you look back and then ahead to the remainder of the year, those things you do that are pure expressions of you – whether gardening or golf, hiking or learning a language – give us a deep and needed satisfaction.
  • Health  Checking up on your health is every bit as important as exercise and diet.  Do have need to check with your doctor, your dentist or anyone else?  How often do we mean to do these details but somehow our intense schedule gets in the way?  Remember you and your health!
  • Work and Money  What did you plan for your work this year?  Did it happen and, if not, what can you do between now and 1/1/18?  Whether we love our work or it is a means to an end, it does require your thoughtful attention.
  • Love Life  When you are married, partnered or otherwise committed, do you take time for just the two of you?  Taking time with your partner is immensely important.  Now, as a woman who didn’t marry til 50, I can assure those of you who do not have a current love, there is so much in our lives that is deeply fulfilling.  Instead of a romantic date, do the things in life you love doing.  I just bring up love life and romance because so many people forget to take time for the relationship.

We’ve twelve weeks during which we can add our own final spin on our year.  Plus, we’ll kick off our new year in strength.  May these be good weeks for you!


Success is Not Final

Success is not final, failure is not final: it is the courage to go on that counts.  Winston Churchill

It sounds so easy, you work hard and build your life, you go to school and establish a career, you meet your partner, buy your home and create a family.  Right?  Easy-peasy.  But then what, if you do all these things, is the rest of life just coasting?  What do you do over all those years?  Yes, you raise your kids, but that’s twenty years and then they’re off. 

It turns out that those early tasks are your training ground.  You are making habits that will serve you for your lifetime, habits of working to goals and making them happen.

It sounds so easy but things happen.  Companies get sold or they change their plans and let people go – not because the people weren’t good but because they were no longer part of the plan.  Sometimes we discover that we don’t even like our chosen career.  Or, marriages can fall apart.  Illness can happen.

Suddenly what seemed like a good life, one easily thought of as a successful life, can turn around. It can feel as if you’re veering of the road but you are not.  The thing that is so interesting about life is that it is not a straight line to nirvana.  There will likely be bumps but never, no never, think of them as failure.  It’s simply a time to reassess, roll up your sleeves and get to it.  It takes courage and it takes willingness to turn it around.

Another favorite quote comes from Amor Towles’ novel A Gentleman in Moscow, “If one does not master one’s circumstances, then she is bound to be mastered by them.”  When things go bump, it’s time to break out the courage and get on with it.

On the other hand, life doesn’t always take off at the beginning.  That’s terrible because it isn’t building your confidence in your success.  Still, it is not a lifelong sentence, frustration is not forever.  Remember to seek out a few people you admire and with them, develop a plan. Check in with them on your progress, make yourself accountable to the plan.  It’s mastering your circumstance and finding your success, your everyday success.


Some Days, Life Feels Too Fast

You are not alone in thinking that the world is moving oh, so quickly.  It is.  But it’s not just the pace of life today, it’s the high drama events that add to the intensity.  

Our phone beeps with incoming texts and tweets, emails and posts.  We waken to an intense schedule of work, to-do lists, ferrying the kids after school, managing the highs and lows of family and friends – all to the tune of incoming beeps and messages.  These are the things of our everyday lives.  Somedays it feels doable but other times it becomes too much.

This month, however, we’ve all sustained high drama moments with hurricanes ripping towns apart and leaving floods behind.  And, now, a mass murderer.  Even when we’re not the immediate victims of these horrific events, we feel them.  We want to act, to help, to smooth the path for those who’ve suffered.  Afterwards, we absorb what has happened.

It can be a high drama, fast-paced world which also means we each need to remember to take a moment for ourselves.  There are ways to calm the pressure that can build up inside us, the anxiety that results from feeling overwhelmed. 

Experience the moment.  To begin, stop the mental dialog that is running through your head.  We all do it, we plan dialogs, make lists, figure out dinner, plan the softball schedule.  Stop the dialog and bring your thoughts to the present moment.  You may choose to keep a favorite photo nearby to slow or settle your thoughts.  You may find taking a walk can bring calm, maybe even noticing the beauty of our world.

Gratitude.  While we hear this over and over, science has proved that a daily gratitude habit, grows one’s sense of well-being.  So, name the things that make your life good.

It’s not big things that return us to calm, a sense of normalcy and well-being; usually, it’s the small things.  Hugging babies.  Calling dear friends.  Working in your garden.  Listening to music or a hilarious podcast.  Moment by moment, we regain our equilibrium.


We Stand United

We have huge hearts.  When things go bad for other people, we care, we care deeply.  When others suffer, it’s our nature to help, to take action.  We’re a compassionate people with the willingness to stand up and be counted by helping in whatever way we can. 

When evildoers wreak horror, we stand united.  When winds destroy, waters flood and fires burn, we come together and we act.

While we stand united, the help we offer is different according to our own unique abilities.  First responders race to the scene providing aid to victims and helping to recover the salvageable.  Some first responders care for the injured, others work to recover infrastructure.  Still others work behind-the-scene whether by hugging and holding or by restoring and rebuilding.  Most recently, out of a need to be of help, people waited for hours in lines to donate blood.

In the case of mass murder, many among us courageously shield and care for their fellow beings, immediately giving of themselves to serve others.  In so doing, they foil the evil at hand.  As the victims are cared for, we then stop to look around and wonder how such an act is even possible.  Its enormity shakes us to our core; we are changed, forever changed.  As we come to know about such horrors, our humanness pulls us together. 

We are a deeply caring nation.  We stand united with victims of calamity.  We are bound by our humanity and our readiness to lend a hand, to support, to do something that can somehow make a difference.

It’s an investment of spirit.  In times of disaster, we are there for each other; we stand united.

Updated from my 2012 blog written at the time of another human calamity. 


The Words We Choose

You had a great weekend.  Now it’s Monday morning and you’re going to tell your friend at work all about it.  You want to make sure she gets just how special it was for you.  How will you tell her?  What words are you going to choose to make sure grasps its importance.

“It was amazing, it was awesome”, you say and she says, “that’s nice”.  You can tell she’s not feeling it, she isn’t experiencing your meaning.  You wonder why.  After all, awesome is an overwhelming feeling and that was your experience.

Unfortunately, awesome and amazing are so overused that they no longer mean what we want them to mean.  Today, it can be harder to express something that is exceptional to us because we’re used to hype.  Every day we hear exaggerations in advertising, in social media; everything is bigger and better and best which makes it hard to share that one weekend is better than another.

Instead, add a couple of words that describe what made it good for you.  Was it the people or a particular person?  Was it the experience itself, maybe a great concert, movie or performance?  Was it natural beauty like sky, water and more?  While you can name a weekend a wow, you can also add a sentence or two that explain yourself, that tells what made it better than your typical weekend.

     We danced all night       

     The music rocked my soul

     We hiked through a forest of golden leaves

     My daughter and I sang in a concert together

It doesn’t take a lot of words to express what made it so special for you and when you do, your friend will fully understand that you’d just had an exceptional weekend.  It’s easy to say, “it was amazing” but by adding just a few more words, you’ll tell so much more.


What have today’s happiness scientists learned?

That’s right, there are actually happiness scientists.  They spend their days and their lives working to find the formula – what do we need to do to be happy.  Are you curious what they’ve learned?

One important happiness scientist is Sonja Lyubomirsky.  This mother of four is a psychology professor and author of the best-seller, The How of Happiness, A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. 

In her decades of research, Dr. Lyubomirsky uncovered the source of happiness.  Her results are so instructive that it’s easy to apply her findings to our own lives.

10% of our happiness comes from circumstance.  This includes all the things that happen in our lives – the good, the bad and the indifferent.  On the upside, it’s meeting the love of our dreams, finding our perfect job, buying a home – all the good things of life.  On the downside, it’s the loss of a job, illness, the death of someone we love and other painful life experience. 

50% of our happiness comes from our genetics.  We’re born to it, our ancestors handed down what amounts to about half of our personal level of happiness.  Yes, if you wish, you can point to your Great Aunt Monica or Grandpa Ben – not just for the color of your eyes but also for a large part of your happiness.

40% of our happiness is our own to decide – it’s our own mind, our own habits and our own actions that determine that much of our happiness.

Are you surprised?  It’s natural to want to poke holes, to say, yeah, but she didn’t know about the car crash that changed my life or that huge amount of money coming my way – those are circumstances that will change everything. 

Well, not so fast.  There will always be circumstances that make us either super happy or super unhappy.  It’s the way the world works.  What we don’t think about when we’re on a high or a low is that, in time, we’ll return to our original happiness point, the point before the happy or sad event.  We go back to our normal.  We adapt to the facts of our lives.  Changes become our new normal.

The forty percent solution

We’re in charge.  It’s what we do with what we’ve got that makes the difference.  If we’re super tall, it’s unlikely we’ll be successful as a jockey but we might consider basketball.  On the other hand, super tallness doesn’t have to dictate what we will or won’t do.  Could be we’re a math whiz who is a great dancer and a fabulous cook. 

How we work with what we’ve got – the circumstances and the genetic disposition – is what will lead us to happiness and well-being.  It’s what we could call the forty percent solution.  Perhaps the most tantalizing outcome of Lyubomirsky’s research is the discovery that we are in charge of forty percent of our happiness. 

It all adds up.  The things we do, the things we say, the things we think along with all the things we don’t do add up – the sum of all these things makes a difference in our happiness, in our feeling of well-being.

Resource:  Lyubomirsky, Sonja.  The How of Happiness, A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want. New York, New York: Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2007.


Everyday Celebrations

When we think about celebrations, our minds run to parties, presents and maybe even a toast or a dance. We’ve a lifetime of celebrations so our mind quickly imagines an event. We know weddings. We know showers. We know birthday parties. Those are the big celebrations, everyday celebrations are a bit different.

Everyday celebrations don’t require hoopla though they may require forethought and planning.  Quite simply, everyday celebrations recognize something special about another person, a person important in your life.

Everyday celebrations can happen every day or every other day or once a week or whatever timeline works in your relationship with the person you choose to celebrate. 

Everyday celebrations come in many forms.  It may be you leave notes for that special person.  When he travelled, my late husband knew to anticipate the cards and notes I slipped into his luggage.  He’d open one each evening before bed but he’d anticipated each message all day long. 

It could be you make a phone call or stop-by for a visit.  It might be you take a few minutes of one-on-one with each of your children.  It might be you establish a date night with your partner or spouse and make it a ritual.

What makes it a celebration?  It’s a celebration of your relationship when you focus on a special facet of the other person.  It’s a celebration when you recognize them.  It’s even a celebration when you hear out their deepest fears because you are caring for them and their unique needs.  It’s a celebration of your relationship when you remember to tell that other person how much you care.

What do you have to do to make it happen?  You’ll need to watch and listen.  To celebrate another person means you are thoughtfully aware of their life experience.  Perhaps your spouse or friend is fearful for their job.  Perhaps your person is training for a marathon, a mountain climb or even a crossword competition.  Well-timed thoughtfulness will encourage them in their endeavor, it will make them feel appreciated and you’ll feel pretty wonderful as well.

What do social psychologists say about everyday celebrations?  It’s like a glue, it helps to strengthen relationships.  They also note that the path to personal happiness is strewn with small, thoughtful acts on behalf of others.


Failures Can Lead to Wins

One of the winningest basketball players of history, Michael Jordan, said, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.”  Jordan tirelessly practiced his sport; yes, he was talented but he always worked at his talent.

Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, the record player and batteries.  The inventive Mr. Edison described his path to success as loaded with discoveries.  He said, “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” 

For Jordan it was practice.  For Edison it was a learning process.  We don’t see either as a failure; we only remember their wins because their ultimate wins were so big.  Edison also said that, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not know how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Too often, we think we should be able to get whatever it is we want to get immediately.  It’s easy to lose hope as we move along our path to whatever is in our sights, to our immediate goal.  Rather than lose hope, rather than give up, the answer is to narrow your focus and be willing to risk yet another attempt. 

Don’t let a failure foil your plan.  Allow for failure but don’t make it a habit.  Instead, ask yourself what caused the misstep; then, figure out how to improve on your next effort.  Success is often a matter of persistence and courage.


 

For more on how failure is often found on the path to success, read Megan McArdle’s just published The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success or Innovate Like Edison by Michael Gelb and Sarah Caldicott.


 


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