Archives for January 2010

My Favorite Three Words

The Puzzle is slowly coming together by Michael.DK. from Flickr

The Puzzle is slowly coming together by Michael.DK. from Flickr

There are many three-word phrases that delight people:

I love you and Paid in full are two that come to mind.

Three of my favorites are No Assembly Required.

Whether I’m shopping for furniture, home decor or appliances, I am thrilled to see those three words. They mean that I can take my purchase home and begin using it right away.

My love of these three words extends to people too.

I just love people who are so well adjusted that there is No Assembly Required. They are ready to go as is.

I’m referring to people who are fun to be with, easy going, comfortable in their own skin, guided by integrity, have a great sense of humor, are comfortable with all types of people and always leave you feeling better than when they arrived.

Let’s face it. There are some people who clearly seem to need some assembly. What’s worse, some of the necessary parts are missing.

You realize, of course, that I’m not talking about physical parts.

I’m referring to people who are missing common sense, goals, sense of humor, and many other features I consider important.  I call them No Assembly Required (NARs)

The problem with people who need assembly is that they make withdrawals from your emotional bank account without making any deposits.

When I’m with a No Assembly Required (NAR) I don’t have to worry about tripping over her unresolved baggage, or tiptoeing around his tender ego. We have fun laughing or just being quiet together.

When I’m attracted to a guy it’s not his smile, muscles or charisma that attract me.  I’m looking at him and thinking, hmm, No Assembly Required.

NARs are great. May you always attract them. May you be one.

Are You Missing the Beam?

automaticdoor[Photo from Leeward Community College Library]

At the end of a report on a longitudinal study on happiness, there was an opportunity for readers to leave comments.

I was drawn to this comment from one of the readers:

In another more distant time, I was quite depressed, and found that walking up a corridor the automatic door would not open for me, although it would for anyone else walking up the same corridor … This happened over some weeks and did little for my self-esteem. It was only later that I realized that I was walking along the edge of the corridor, and the others were walking confidently in the center and that I was missing the beam.

This comment struck me as one of the reasons we miss the good that is available for us in life. Staying along the fringes for whatever reason can certainly cause us to miss the sources so readily available if we were in line with them.

If we are already suffering from low self-esteem or depression, it doesn’t take much to confirm what we already believe to be true. A self-fulfilling prophecy sets in motion.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could put ourselves in position to receive good so we don’t miss the beam?

Here are three things that have helped me navigate through life without missing the beam:

1. Do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

This Golden Rule is so universal that various versions of it are found in over 21 religions. Here are a few.

Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary.” Talmud, Shabbat 31a.

Sufism:The basis of Sufism is consideration of the hearts and feelings of others. If you haven’t the will to gladden someone’s heart, then at least beware lest you hurt someone’s heart, for on our path, no sin exists but this.” Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order.

Yoruba: (Nigeria): “One going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts.”

Native American Spirituality: “Do not wrong or hate your neighbor. For it is not he who you wrong, but yourself.” Pima proverb.

None of these sayings suggest you be a doormat or let others use you. But extending kindness or refusing to knowingly hurt another, has a greater effect on you than it does on others.

2. Give what you want to receive.

I recently shared with my sister that I had received a card from one of our childhood friends.

She quickly shot back at me “I never hear from any of those people.”

To which I asked, “How many times have you written to them?”

She hadn’t kept in touch with our childhood friends over the years, and yet she wondered why she hadn’t received the very thing she hadn’t given.

Are you guilty of wanting to receive what you’re not willing to give?

This is not a new idea.

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:38 NIV)

3. Act as if

“If you want a quality, act as if you already had it.” Willam James

This is a tough one for me, but it has worked for me more than once, not just in terms of qualities, but things as well.

Many years ago when I wanted to end a 37 mile commute and move closer to my job, I spent every weekend combing the classifieds and traveling to model homes in new developments and older homes in established neighborhoods. My plan was to find the home I wanted and then begin plans to sell my then current home.

One Sunday evening when I returned from house-searching, a heard a very clear voice say, “You don’t really want to move!”

It startled me since we were still unloading the car, and it was clearly not my kids’ voices.

“What are you talking about?” I thought back to the voice in protest. “I do want to move!”

No, if you really wanted to move, you’d sell your house first.”

I don’t which was more shocking–a voice speaking to me, or the thought of selling my house before I even had the next house in sight.

But I was convinced that this was a clue that I had to act as if the house I wanted was already mine. So, I proceeded to put my house up for sale. It was a scary move, but I was convinced that it was the thing to do.

From the moment the For Sale sign went up on my home, a serious of events began to unfold. The most miraculous was a friend calling to offer to sell me a house she had inherited that was within 10 miles of my job. The remaining events unfolded like the script in a well-written play. Within 7 months my house was sold, my new home was out of escrow and I was moving into my new home two weeks before my teaching job resumed.

If these three ways of getting in line with your good don’t resonate with you, think instead of your cell phone, digital TV or wireless internet service. No matter how great your equipment, surely you agree that it must be in an area where signals are present, and you must be aligned to receive those signals.

The concept of wireless service does not mean no connections are required. You still must have equipment that at some level is wired into a source.

We, as humans, must be in align with a source as well. It doesn’t matter whether you call your source God, Jehovah, higher being, Mother Nature, science, private intuition, the goodness of mankind or Verizon.

Acknowledging your source and aligning yourself with it is what enables you to successfully connect with your good.

If you have been missing the beam, try these three tips and you will confidently embrace your happiness.

Don't Apologize for How You Choose to Spend Your Time

itsabouttime_clip_image002One of the best parts about growing older is the ability to speak your mind without feeling guilty. I have learned to take charge of my time without making apologies.

One of the greatest time wasters is doing something you don’t want to do because
you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.

While in my early 20’s and still single, friends frequently convinced me to ride along with them while they went miles away to pick up or drop off this or that. It was sometimes even fun, but when I returned home, my chores and tasks were still undone.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s very important to make time for having fun with family and friends. But, it should be fit into YOUR life plans.

When someone interrupts your well-planned day, you don’t owe them an excuse; you owe them the truth. Don’t hesitate to share the truth, “That won’t work for me, I have different priorities today.”

This time like all times is a very good one if we but know what to do with it.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is one of the tips I share in It’s About Time.  A key part of happiness is learning to manage your time. Get the whole set of tips here.

Another Day, Another Chance

Everyday we awake to the miracle called life. Instead of rejoicing in it too many of us take it for granteLagunaBeach1-23-10d.

When attending my nephew’s 30th birthday party I said “Happy Birthday! Another birthday, another chance.” The party guests all chuckled at this, but it is so true, not just on our birthdays, of course, but every day.

New Year’s resolutions are a popular practice because we like new beginnings as a time to make changes in our lives. But every day is actually a new beginning; we don’t have to wait 365 days before making changes in our lives.

What changes can we make on a daily basis that will bring us the happiness we all crave?

1. Make small changes in your physical environment. It can do wonders for your perspective, outlook and outcomes.

If the idea of decluttering an entire room, for example,  is as overwhelming to you as it is to me, just clear your desktop or nightstand. Scan those magazines you’ve intended to read and toss. (I’m saying what I need to hear.)

If you work at home,  work in a different area of the house for a change. Creating articles on my patio yields different ideas from the ones I get inside.

Since most of my work is done on my laptop, I find it helpful to my creativity to sometimes go to the library, bookstore, restaurant or coffee shop.

2. Reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while or don’t see very often.

Connecting with another person will make a difference to them and to you as well.

I’m fond of email, but for a number of holidays other than Christmas I enjoy sending greeting cards. Even people who don’t make the time to send cards still enjoy receiving them.

3. Take a walk, exercise or meditate for any reason.

I enjoy walking, but when I told myself I needed to do it to lose weight I had to fight inner resistance.

After working indoors for several days in a row, however, I began to crave walking as a breather for my mind. That makes all the difference.

Actors seek to understand a character’s motivation in order to give an authentic performance. Perhaps the right motivation will help you too.

4. Practice giving thanks.

Almost every book on happiness and joy advises showing gratitude. Nothing we own or have achieved came about based solely on our own personal efforts.

A higher power, no matter what name you give it, enables us to awake from sleep, witness the sunrise and sunset and keep a heart beating inside of us. Many of us, no matter what religion, offer prayers of gratitude.

Then there are all the people we’ll never meet who created, manufactured and shipped every material object we enjoy. Acknowledging their contribution in writing or just in our minds is an expression of gratitude.

A company that makes paper bags started the practice of printing on the bag the name of the employee who created it. What a wonderful reminder that a human touch was involved in that product.

I like to think of all the things I’m thankful for as I take my walk.

Closer to us are the people who gave us birth, taught us to read, hired us, married us and so on. Then, there are those who gave us encouragement if only with a smile and those who tolerated our impatience and impudence to train us or give us guidance.  We can show our gratitude with a simple verbal thank you, a written note, a letter of appreciation or more.

In 2007 I had the pleasure of reuniting with a group of friends who were part of a church youth group. We decided to show our appreciation to the couple who volunteered to lead our group back in 1957. They were approaching their 80’s and didn’t want to wait another minute to tell them how much we love and appreciate them. 30 of us gathered from all over the USA in my hometown and at this 50 year reunion celebrated our former youth leaders during a weekend of appreciation activities. We enjoyed dinner parties, brunches, and attended church together. We donated money to set up a college scholarship named for this wonderful couple who made an impact on our lives. We sang a tribute to them and gave them plenty of hugs, kisses and verbal appreciations all weekend.

You may not have the opportunity, desire, or means to produce such an elaborate appreciation, but I urge you not to wait another day to tell someone what a difference he or she has made in your life.

Showing gratitude has tremendous benefits. It connects us to others, it keeps our achievements in proper perspective and it focuses our attention on what we want to multiply.

So, here you are with this day of opportunity, another chance. Which of these changes can you make right now? Or maybe you can make changes that have more meaning for you.

Share the changes you have made.

Originally published January 7, 2009

Learn. Forget? Oops! Relearn. Forget? Oops! Repeat

ParcGuellWhen I arrived in Europe to join my daughter for vacation, she insisted that we visit Parc Guell in Barcelona to see the amazing stone sculpture of Antonio Gaudi, the museum that was his home for a while and the famous multi-colored undulating mosaic seating area created by Gaudi’s assistant Josep Jujol.

Even though she had lived in Spain for a few months, visiting this amazing attraction was still on her to-do list.

Determined to plan our trip as we went along rather than sign on to guided tours, my daughter insisted that we take the Metro. We were told that we’d have a 20 minute walk to get to the park once we arrived, but we were unprepared for the reality of that walk.

Baixada de la Gloria, the 200m street leading to the park, was so steep that it was almost vertical. As I gazed from the bottom to the endless shallow steps stretching upward, I was fast losing interest in seeing Gaudi’s masterpieces and the reported breathtaking view of Barcelona stretching to the sea.

But my daughter had bent my ear so much about this must-see wonder that I resolved that I was going to make that climb.  While I was making this decision, my daughter who is much younger and more fit than I am was losing heart.

“We don’t have to go to the Parc, if you don’t want to,” she said nervously. “I didn’t realize it would be this much of a climb.”

Much to her surprise, now I was the one insisting on seeing Parc Guell.

“No, we’re going. We will take just a few flights at a time. OK?”

She reluctantly agreed, and so we began our climb toward what I renamed Parc Gruel between huffs and puffs. Fortunately there were occasional landings where we could pause to rest before resuming our climb.

Whoever designed that street had a cruel sense of humor. When we almost at the top there were not one, but two escalator rides for the remaining short distance to the pinnacle.

Only after we finished our climb and made our way to Parc Guell did we learn that we were at the back entrance and could have gotten to the impressive front entrance without the steep climb if we had taken a cab or bus.

I relearned things I already knew.

  1. Do your research before you begin a journey.
  2. Even when you do your research, there will often be nuances of your journey you can only discover along the way.
  3. The things that don’t kill you will make you stronger.
  4. It seems that some things we can only learn the hard way.
  5. A long journey begins with one step.
  6. Big goals are achievable when chopped into manageable steps.
  7. The reward of achieving something very challenging is sheer exhiliration.
  8. If you don’t remember #1 and #2 don’t worry, life will give you as many lessons as you need.

First published January 9, 2009