Archives for September 2015

Be Willing to Do What It Takes to Reach Your Goal

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Now this may sound too obvious even to mention, but it’s true. Many years ago, when my kids watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, an American children’s TV series that began in the 1960s, one of his popular songs was “You’ve Got to Do It.” The gist of this seemingly simple song was that you can make believe, wish, or daydream about what you want, but for something to happen you’ve got to take action. In other words, after planning, visualizing, and setting goals, you still have to take action.

Do you want to reach goals or make changes in your life?
Are you willing to do what it takes?

—John Addison

When none of my friends were available I was willing to go alone.

It’s often fun to find friends to join you in activities. There will be times, however, when no one is available to join you on your journey to your goal. It’s at those times when what it takes to reach your goal is to be willing to go it alone.

Here’s an experience that demonstrates what happens when you are willing to do what it takes. One weekend a few years ago, I went to see the musical The Color Purple at a theater in downtown Los Angeles with a group of theater-goers from Santa Ana College in Orange County. (I didn’t know any of them.) We parked our cars at the college and went by charter bus into L.A. I chose to go with this group so I wouldn’t have to drive.

As we made our way to our seats, I was disappointed to see that we were in the highest balcony. You know—up in the “nosebleed” section. Whoever designed that steep slope of a balcony must never have had to sit up there. I’m not squeamish, but I was beginning to realize that I was not going to enjoy this musical so many miles from the stage. The actors would probably look about three inches tall. It was twenty minutes before the curtain went up, and I was so discontented that a feeling of not settling for less than I deserved welled up inside me.

Different scenarios and dialogues started shouting in my head.

This was the internal argument between the two inner me’s:

I refuse to sit in these inadequate seats.

Who do you think you are? Everyone else seems to be okay, even though they’re complaining about how high up these seats are.

That’s them. I’m not happy.

What are you going to do about it? The show’s about to start.

I don’t know. But there’s no way I’m going to enjoy the show in this seat! I wonder whether they have any available seats left in the lower levels.

Go and see. Are you willing to spend more money on another seat?

Yes, I’m willing to buy another seat. I’m going to the box office and buying a seat in the orchestra. Or at least the mezzanine.

What if they don’t have any seats left?

If they don’t have any available seats, I’ll just call a friend to come and pick me up. I’d rather hang out in the lobby than sit in this seat!

You mean you’re willing to make all those folks between you and the aisle get up to let you out?

Yep. I’m outta here!

I rose from my seat and slid my way to the aisle, murmuring, “Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me.” As I approached the ticket booth outside the theater, a lady walked up to me.

“Do you need a ticket for this performance?” she inquired.

“Where’s the seat?” I asked, looking at the ticket in her hand to verify that it was a better section than I’d been in.

“The mezzanine,” she replied.

“Great! Are you trying to sell it or give it away?” I had to check.

“You may have it for free because my friend couldn’t come,” she said.

“Thank you.”

She placed the ticket in my outstretched hand. I felt very satisfied, but now I wanted to try to give away my top balcony seat if I could. I began scanning the approaching crowd, trying to spot anyone headed to the ticket booth. Just then, a gentleman approached me and extended a ticket toward me. “Would you like a free ticket to today’s performance?” he asked. “My wife couldn’t attend.”

“Where’s the seat?” I inquired a second time. By this time, I definitely wasn’t going to settle for a bad seat.

“Oh, it’s a great seat,” he insisted, practically begging me to accept his free ticket. “It’s in the orchestra.”

“Thanks!” I scooped the ticket out of his hand.

Now I had three tickets to this performance.

Although I tried to give away my two extra tickets, I found no takers. And by now, security had their eyes on me, trying to decide if I was a scalper. It was now less than ten minutes before curtain, so I gave up trying to give away my extra tickets and dashed to my new orchestra seat.

I enjoyed the performance immensely in my wonderful seat, only eleven rows from the stage. I saw every nuance of the casts’ telling facial gestures and the lively conducting of the orchestra leader. The stirring vocal and dance performances and heartwarming story were made even better by my proximity to the action.

I am positive that I would not have attracted this great seat into my life if I had not first been willing to do whatever it took.

Please note that I didn’t have to take any of the drastic actions that played out in my head. I just had to be willing to do them.

When you refuse to accept what you don’t want, declare with passion what you do want and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it, the universe conspires to bring what you want and place it in your hands.

 

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This is an excerpt from Chapter 5, Taking Responsibility for Your Happiness in Color Your Life Happy: Create Your Unique Path and Claim the Joy You Deserve, 2nd edition. Pre-order your copy(ies) at http://coloryourlifehappy.com before October 3rd and receive an autographed copy when the book is released on Amazon and other major booksellers.

 

What Happiness is Not [an excerpt from Color Your Life Happy, 2nd edition]

Happiness

Happiness is not the absence of sadness. Quite the contrary. Happy people acknowledge sadness and allow themselves to feel it. They choose to not be crushed by it, but instead learn from it and move beyond it.

Happiness is not the situational emotional high you feel when you win the lottery or get a new car. These are short term. You probably don’t get the same thrill from your new car a few months later as you did the day you drove it off the lot.

One of the customers at my manicurist shop had an appointment just before mine every month. She was always cheerful and full of lively conversation. When I’d mention my upcoming vacations, she’d always offer tips on places to visit in the locale because she had already been there. She enjoyed movies, visiting casinos, shopping, and spending time with her many friends and family. She was so much fun I always looked forward to seeing her. You can imagine my shock to learn that she had stage IV cancer and was almost always in physical discomfort and pain from chemotherapy and other invasive treatments. The only time I’d ever seen a hint of sadness in her was the day after her brother died. When I visited her in the hospital a few weeks before she died, she was hooked up to multiple tubes and still, when I walked in her room, she threw open her arms and welcomed me with a big smile.

I remember this beautiful soul whenever I begin to feel down or sorry for myself. Like the speed bumps on the road, these times cause me to slow down. I accept where I am at the moment,  acknowledge my feelings, and use those times to grow stronger, more creative, and more grateful.

How about you? Share in the comments how you handle the sad bumps along your happiness journey.

 

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This is an excerpt from Chapter 1, Opening Your Mind to Happiness in Color Your Life Happy: Create Your Unique Path and Claim the Joy You Deserve, 2nd edition. Pre-order your copy(ies) at http://coloryourlifehappy.com before October 3rd and receive an autographed copy when the book is released on Amazon and other major booksellers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Time to Get Your Happy On

Full_coverEnjoy the trailer below,
then pre-order your
autographed copy of
Color Your Life Happy
at ColorYourLifeHappy.com
Special price available ONLY until October 3rd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Things Happy People Do and You Can Too [Excerpt from Color Your Life Happy, 2nd Edition]

happy peoplePeople who value their happiness commit to creating a loving environment. They do this by steering clear of toxic people and things.  In this excerpt from Chapter 7 of Color Your Life Happy: Create Your Unique Path and Claim Your Joy,  discover three ways you can do what happy people do.

Avoid letting toxic people bring you down

Toxic people always make you feel unhappy, depressed, discouraged, and tired. They enjoy dumping their negative stories, adventures, complaints, and fault-finding on you. Once they do, you may notice that they seem relieved, maybe even relaxed and cheerful, but that’s only because they’ve given you their poison. If you tried to comfort them, maybe they sucked up some of your positivity and left you empty.

Psychic vampires are not good for us if we want to be happy people. The problem is that after they’ve gone away, you’re still feeling down and their negative energy is still reverberating through your home (and life.)

Just as you wouldn’t knowingly expose your family to harmful viruses, poison ivy, or caustic fumes, don’t unknowingly expose them to the negativity of toxic people and psychic vampires. While it may be true that the ones you know are suffering from mental problems, it isn’t your job to cure them, and you certainly can’t drag them to therapy.

You owe it to yourself and your family to keep these toxic people away because there is no way to have them in your space without being poisoned by their negativity. This is true even if some of your relatives fall into this unfortunate group. While it’s tougher keeping negative relatives away, it’s critical to your happiness.

Draw clear boundaries

Drawing clear boundaries is one way to keep these folks away. Maintaining your positive attitude and countering their negative talk with positive talk is another way. But for the hardcore bottom feeders who only get pleasure from releasing evil thoughts and behavior, you may have to tell them clearly and in easy-to-understand language that they are not welcome in your home (and life).

I used to lament the fact that I only saw certain relatives at funerals and never socialized with them otherwise. As I grew older and wiser, I realized that there was a good reason for that. They were toxic, and I didn’t want my children exposed to the ones who enjoyed dredging up painful events, gossiping about whoever was absent from the gathering, and reveled in recounting how that person had cheated, hurt, or maligned someone.

Fortunately, they didn’t want to be around my efforts to be cheerful, positive, and happy, so we stayed apart.

A friend of mine who was a social psychologist once told me that when you feel bad after having been in someone’s company, you have just been emotionally abused.

Choose carefully the company you keep

Toxic people certainly have a right to live their lives as they wish, but so do you. Make a decision to invite positive and uplifting people into your home and your life. Expose your family to people who are living wonderful, inspiring, and engaging lives. You didn’t get to choose your relatives, but you can choose the company you keep. If some of your relatives aren’t people you want to spend time with, love them from a distance.

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This is an excerpt from Chapter 7, "Harmonizing Family and Work" in Color Your Life Happy: Create Your Unique Path and Claim the Joy You Deserve, 2nd edition. Pre-order your copy(ies) at http://coloryourlifehappy.com before October 3rd and receive an autographed copy after the book is released on Amazon and other major booksellers.

 

 

How do you keep toxic people from poisoning your environment or mood? Tell us about it in the comments.

Smiling on Cue and the Key to Happiness [Excerpt from Color Your Life Happy, 2nd edition]

10273403_10152427479864170_7037355536473294509_o--childhoodphoto

Taken outside our house in St. Louis, MO where the front room was my mother’s beauty shop.

We were raised to smile on cue, my two sisters and I. When my mother pulled out her Kodak Brownie camera and posed us in front of our house or church, we knew to break out into full-toothed smiles. Look happy. Snap. An outward show of unhappiness was not allowed.

My sisters and I were just a few years apart. I was the oldest, Sonja was one year younger, and Mildred was one and a half years younger than Sonja.

What, my mother asked, did we have to be unhappy about? After all, we didn’t have polio, the most feared childhood ailment of the ’50s, and we had clothes, shelter, and more food than the starving children in foreign countries.

Mother’s exhortations worked for the most part, except for my middle sister, Sonja, who looked quite unhappy in almost every childhood photo. If digital cameras had been invented back then, I can imagine my mother previewing every shot and, upon discovering the frown, taking the shots over and over until she got the happy family photo she wanted.

No one ever thought to investigate why my sister always seemed unhappy. She could have been depressed, but that was not a word I recall hearing during my childhood. “She’s just like my sister Ida,” my father said many times. That diagnosis, which was never explained, stuck. Although I never met any of my father’s relatives, I guess Aunt Ida must have been unhappy. Or at least she didn’t smile on cue.

In the 1950s, most of the adults around me didn’t seem concerned about the emotional and psychological states of children. Parents could exact whatever punishment they wanted on their children without fear of the authorities. Even God was in on it, according to the way adults interpreted the Bible:

Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old
he will not depart from it.
—Proverbs 22:6 NKJV

Spare the rod, spoil the child.
—A perversion of Proverbs 13:24 NJKV

The last thing any right-thinking ’50s parent wanted was a spoiled child, so they held back on praise while they emphasized proper behavior and looking happy. Children of color had an additional burden. Not only did we have to stay in the proper child’s place, but we also had to stay on our side of the racial divide, where being overtly angry or unhappy in public was frowned upon from both sides of the track.

Feeling sad? “Wipe those tears away,” adults told us, “or I’ll give you something to cry about.” That was bad advice. I’ve since learned that tears can be very cleansing.

Long before spiritual leaders and psychologists promoted the idea that we create our own happiness, I had already discovered that any chance I had to survive a ’50s childhood was in my own hands.

Call me a Pollyanna. Call me a Miss Goody Two-Shoes. Or a wimp. My goals were to do what led to praise and happy outcomes and to avoid doing anything that brought punishment and pain—especially my mother’s wrath.

Don’t get me wrong. I spoke up and voiced my strong opinions, but I learned early to pick my battles carefully.

All in all, my childhood was not as bad as some and worlds better than many. Thanks to my mother’s smart handling of money, her resourcefulness in seeking out and involving us in positive activities, her skillful cooking and sewing, and her mastery of music (she was a superb pianist and organist), we had a stable and safe routine and home environment. We were always well-groomed from head to toe and often dressed in outfits my mother had created and customized¬¬. Reaching back to her Southern roots, she also canned fruit and vegetables for the winter, so we always had nourishing meals.

Still, there was so much emphasis on keeping up appearances, on “being good,” that we perhaps did not learn to honor and respect our true feelings, nor learn to express them in appropriate and productive ways—both the socially accepted ones like happiness, and the more difficult ones like anger and fear. As a child, I yearned for real happiness, even though I wasn’t exactly sure what it was.

My life’s work has been to understand that true happiness arises from learning to accept and learn from all our feelings, and from our struggles right alongside our triumphs. I’d love to share with you this journey of discovery, my research, and my work as I’ve learned to embrace and celebrate life in all its many wondrous colors.

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This is how I begin Chapter 1, Opening Your Mind to Happiness in Color Your Life Happy: Create Your Unique Path and Claim the Joy You Deserve, 2nd edition.  Pre-order your copy(ies) at http://coloryourlifehappy.com before October 3rd and receive an autographed copy after the book is released on Amazon and other major booksellers.

 

 

What are your thoughts about putting on a happy face? Share in the comments.