On Happiness: Pancakes

flippingpancakesJeff Goins is an author, blogger and speaker. When he and his wife were expecting their first baby  he decided to make pancakes for her one morning, after she turned down a number of other breakfast options. (No, that’s not Jeff in the image)

Jeff has tapped into a key component of happiness: finding joy in the everyday events that make up our lives. By chronicling this event and pausing to reflect on it, he is savoring one episode out of many to come that will take on sweeter and sweeter signficance as the years go by.

Too often we rush through daily activities, taking them for granted as if they were all the same. They are not really. Each time we arise, get dressed, cook breakfast and go to work, we are having a new experience. Sure, each resembles previous ones, but each one is distinct. The more we can pause to enjoy these moments, the more we fill up our happiness reservoir.

Read Jeff’s blog post to get the full story as he describes the steps he went through to turn out to finally create the pleasing version of his stack. He ends by wondering if he and his wife will ever have mornings like this again.

Here’s how I commented on Jeff’s blog.

Hi Jeff,

As a mom of 4 adults and 3 grandkids (who are adults too,) I want you to know that your pancake episode is all too common.

That first batch of pancakes is always the sacrificial batch because for whatever reason getting the grill, skillet or whatever you use to just the right temperature is an endeavor. No amount of experience helps you here. I doubt if restaurants that specialize in pancakes even get this right.

Getting the spatula first is the farthest from our minds since we are focused on getting the consistency of the batter just right. (We all do it the same way you did.)

I commend you for keeping the pancakes warm in the microwave. Not every man husband cook  thinks of that.

Enjoy these mornings. You won’t have any more mornings exactly like these, but once you add kids to the mix, getting the pancakes right will be the least of your concerns. As soon as they are able to hold a spatula safely, start teaching them to make the pancakes, if for no reason than the entertainment value. Your life will move into color and 3-D.
What everyday event from your past is precious to you now?


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Practical Happiness Tips: Are We There Yet?

texter assembly 2+--resized copy

One day many years ago when our kids were young we finished packing the car, loaded the  kids and soon eased onto the freeway to start an 8-hr drive from Los Angeles, CA  to Yosemite Park for our vacation. Happiness was in store.

Less than one hour into the trip one of the kids started.

“Are we there yet?”

Children aren’t the only ones who are impatient to arrive at a destination. Most of us are so busy anticipating an arrival at a destination or completion of a goal that our minds seem to be absorbed with what we will do and how happy we will be at some future date.

There’s one big problem with this type of thinking, however.

It’s summed up in the joke, “Tomorrow never arrives, because when it gets here it’s today.”

Missing the present.

Here’s another example of missing the present from my book, Color Your Life Happy.

We recently attended the retirement ceremony of
one of my nephews, who served twenty years in the Navy. While enjoying
the delicious food and hospitality on his patio, I asked my daughter,
“How do we get to the freeway from here?” The reception had barely
begun and I had already raced to the future, thinking about our route

Fortunately, my daughter chided me: “Mom, be here and now.”

I snapped back and engaged in conversation and enjoyed the beauty of my

Are we here yet?

Then there’s the other phenomenon of being physically present but not fully present such as in the cartoon above.

It reminds me of my recent first-time experience of a live baseball game.

While attending my oldest grandson’s graduation from Air Force bootcamp we went to a baseball game. I was looking forward to experiencing the game in the open air, watching the action and maybe even eating hot dogs.

What I discovered, however, that the baseball game on the field was the least of what was happening. My grandkids were listening to music on their iPods or playing word games on their Blackberries,  the groups all over the stadium were chattering throughout the whole game, and at frequent intervals there were contests, a webcam zeroing in an unsuspecting couple in the stands, advertisements on the screen and even one advertiser rolling on the field in a cart shooting rolled up t-shirts into the stands.

I caught one.

My goodness!

Occasionally a baseball game was in progress.

Continuing to look ahead or multitask is like spending our entire lives blindfolded or our hands over our ears blocking out the sound or swallowing a  piece of chocolate without it ever touching your tastebuds.

We are missing out on here and now.

And what a loss it is.

I can still remember

  • the awesome feeling of seeing palm trees lining the streets of Los Angeles when I was a new California resident
  • the joy of watching the ground slowly loom closer over London as the plane was landing for my first trip to Europe
  • the huge shot of love in that tiny pillowy palm of my first baby

Wouldn’t it have been a shame to miss these when I was there?  These precious memories always bring me joy, warmth, a smile. They sustain happiness.

Look around you.

What is going on today that you can observe, absorb and enjoy while you are here and now?

More important than the question “Are we there yet?’ is “Are you here now?”

Well, are you?

It's About Time: What are You Doing with the Time You Have (Left)?

Tree Climbing by eszter on flickr

Tree Climbing by eszter on flickr

You’ve heard speakers, authors and coaches remind us that we all have exactly the same amount of time–24 hours a day.

I’ve said it myself many times, but an email from a friend gave me another perspective.

Last June my friend traveled from the Netherlands to attend a party held in Seattle, WA. That may seem to be a long trip, but my friend was propelled by an undeniable urgency.

She had been diagnosed with a debilitating cancer and was advised by her doctor that she only had a few months to live.

She decided not to waste any of her remaining time, but to have fun and be with friends wherever they were. Along with my friend who travelled all the way from the Netherlands, 30 of us showed up from many other places around the USA.

The first night we enjoyed a pajama party complete with movie, delicious food and popcorn. The next day we met for a Chinese brunch, and then on to visit an island the next. We shopped, ate, drank, laughed and enjoyed each other the whole weekend.

Nine months have passed since my friend returned home, uncertain of her future.

I recently received an email from her updating all of us that the treatments she has been receiving have given her and her doctors hope for a bit longer life. Even though she still faces more radiation and more surgery, we are all happy with this good news.

That’s when it hit me that while we all have 24 hours a day, we don’t know how many days we have. None of us know that.

Those who are diagnosed with terminal illnesses and told by their doctors to get their affairs in order often do just that: get their affairs in order and seek to enjoy activities and goals they may have long neglected.

But what about the rest of us. Why do we need the push of a doctor’s prognosis? Wouldn’t it be great if we all pursued our goals with a sense of urgency?

After all, if we think about it for a minute, we are all terminal. One thing we can absolutely expect from life on this Earth is that it will end. None of us know when.

So, if we acted with urgency, we would get busy moving toward our neglected goal today. We would be less fearful of failure or more concerned about leaving our dream lives unlived.

We would say “I love you” to those who need to long to hear those words.

We would say “thank you” to those we have made a difference in our lives but haven’t been informed by us.

And most of all, we wouldn’t hesitate to take off our shoes and skip through wet grass, climb a tree or pause to watch a lizard doing his pushups on the ground.

How about you? What are you waiting for? What are you doing with the wonderfully delicious and precious time you have left?

How to Cultivate Happiness: Savor Life Like a Child

cookiegirlI was working on my laptop at Borders Bookstore recently when a father came in with his daughter, who looked to be about 10 years old, and the son, about 6. They sat down at the table next to me and pulled out their homework.

Before they started their homework, the dad asked if they wanted anything to eat or drink. What a question to ask kids!

The daughter wanted one of those large oatmeal cookies with cranberries. Her dad went over to the counter, bought the cookies and placed it in front of her.

I tried to maintain focus on my work. I always buy a cup of coffee to sip while I work, but fight off the urge to buy the sweets. My resolve was weakening.

Little Miss Cookie Eater broke off a piece of cookie and studied it before she lifted it to her mouth. A little nibble, a little nibble, and then pop! the whole piece went in her mouth. She chewed it slowly savoring every cranberry and crumb.

Why couldn’t she just devour that whole cookie so I could get back to my work?

She took so long eating that cookie because she was clearly prolonging it and getting delight from every bite.

You can guess the end of the story.

After the kids finished reviewing their spelling words, they left with their dad, but visions, smells and crunching memories lingered. When I couldn’t stand it any more I rushed over to the counter and ordered my own cookie.

“An oatmeal cookie with cranberries. Heated please.” I said to the clerk.

When I returned to my seat with my wonderful purchase, I thought about how much children enjoy food and activities they love. They use every sense to experience what they eat and what they do.

So take a lesson from children. Next time, don’t just chomp into that shiny red apple or the tight crisp green one, for example.

Study it first. Turn it over and look at the many shades of color on it. Run your hand over the smooth finish. After you have become acquainted with the apple, bite into it slowly. Listen to the sound it makes when your teeth puncture the skin and pull off your first bite. Feel the splash and trickle of juice.

Slowing down to engage all your senses, to capture the joy and full pleasure from your experiences, cultivates happiness in your life.