Archive for the ‘Happiness’ Category

Ready, Set, Start

August 26, 2015
Push past inertia ...

Push past your inertia …

What are you waiting for?

I can tell you.

Permission from others to be who you want to be.

Why should you need that?

You don’t.

Then why haven’t you acted to make the changes you know you need to make?

Whether you admit it or not, you’re probably waiting for approval, encouragement or a helping hand to get you started. It doesn’t come because most people are so concerned with living their own lives.

I was talking to a colleague about his plans for further study and how, once again, he had put it off. He clearly felt bad about it and was, I believe, looking to others to make the decision for him.

The sluggish resistance of inertia is powerful. But you must resist. You can’t wait until you feel like doing it. You can’t wait until others do it. You can’t wait until others do it for you.

There’s something in the human psyche that believes that if something is hard to do, or doesn’t feel comfortable, it’s better not to start it yet. Perhaps it won’t feel so daunting tomorrow, or in the summer, or perhaps next year, or when I have more time.

The point is, many things that will create positive results and change in your life will be hard to do at first. When you do them, they will almost always be worth it – that’s the payoff. As a society we value the ‘self-starters’ and ‘go-getters’ but rarely do we self-start ourselves.

It’s a strange phenomenon that life seems to take a natural drift toward what we don’t want, toward what will actually steal life from us. Easy is easy, but easy is rarely best.

It’s easier to sit on the couch and watch TV than to spend time talking with your family, or to read a book that will stimulate your mind, or to start that project that you beat yourself up for continually putting off.

If you push yourself to do, it’ll feel really good. Accomplishment is a reward in itself. But at first, change won’t be easy. In fact, getting yourself out of your rut may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, even if in theory it should be simple.

Push hard against the inertia holding you back and create the life that you want.

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The Power of Personal Perceptions…

July 14, 2015
Do you care what others think about you?

Do you care what others think about you?

Last weekend we caught up with friends and were discussing their daughter’s wedding, held the month before. It was a very pleasant event with an enjoyable reception and nice meal. They told us how I had inadvertently caused a last-minute panic on the seating arrangements, which they confessed was very strange.

A friend of theirs, whom I’d met infrequently over the years, expressed a vehement dislike for me and didn’t want to be seated anywhere near me. He also expressed the same sentiment to someone else at the wedding (who later shared that with me in amazement).

I was bemused by this. I’d rarely spoken to this man and never perceived I’d been in a position to create this level of distain. There’s the rub. For years he’d professed to be the best at everything; he had the fastest car, was the best sportsman, and owned an established business. He surrounded himself with sycophants who worshipped his every move.

I don’t buy into that game, and I guess that must have annoyed him. He wanted to make life a competition and I didn’t feel the need to respond. I prefer to take people on face value: who they are, rather than what they have.

Recently he’d been caught cheating on his wife, his business faltered and he had to sell the fast car. That doesn’t change who he is, but it certainly changed his outlook. He now saw me as ‘winning’ in his game, by his rules. So he found reasons to belittle me to others. He failed to notice (again) that I wasn’t playing. I feel sorry for him; he has some challenges to face.  He’s created benchmarks that define who he is and now, at fifty, they can’t be maintained. Clearly he is unhappy.

As for me, as much as I say I don’t care what others think about me, I don’t think anyone likes to be disliked. But I can’t change this guy’s opinion. And I don’t need to try. I just won’t focus on it.

In a timely post, Seth Godin this week said ‘We can choose to define ourselves (our smarts, our brand, our character) on who rejects us. Or we can choose to focus on those that care enough to think we matter. Carrying around a list of everyone who thinks you’re not good enough is exhausting’.

Do we matter?

June 22, 2015
We have a lot to be thankful for

We have a lot to be thankful for

I was walking through the city yesterday and it, despite Melbourne’s cold weather, was alive with people rushing to their next destination. Does anything they do actually matter? Or are we filling time lost in jobs going on day in day out whether we’re there or not?

Of course there are the lucky ones that make a difference, enjoy their work and, as Tony Robbins says, ‘Live with passion’. It’s a great goal but by the look of most people on the street, quite a way from reality.

Now that I’m on the high side of 50, I spend more time assessing the world and my place in it. I’m somewhat over the corporate system, having ‘played the game’ for nearly thirty years. I’m too young to retire and know that I would be quickly bored and want a challenge.

I pursue hobbies and have the resources to enjoy them more now. I want to live my passion and make a difference but I also have bills to pay. Sometimes that makes me feel trapped. And then guilty because I have done very well out of life. And then resentful because the years just fly by. Why am I here and does it matter?

I found a picture of my grandfather and his work colleagues from the City of Melbourne dated 1917. In essential jobs, most were disappointed that they couldn’t go to war; they missed the ‘Great Adventure’. In hindsight they were the lucky ones. Had things been different, perhaps I wouldn’t have been born. They’re all gone now. What was their legacy? What did their lives mean?

Then I realise how hard my grandparents worked to raise a family, to achieve a level of success, and how proud they were of their achievements. The stories my grandfather told me, the values my family embraced, I now teach to my grandson half a century later. I realise that we all make a difference when we work to leave the world just a little better than we found it.

 

Lucky for some

June 2, 2015
How's your luck?

How’s your luck?

Do you know any lucky people: the ones where fortune favours their every move? Are you lucky in love, business, life or at the casino? Are ‘winners’ lucky or is there something more to it?

We see people who win and say ‘What a lucky guy!’ There is, in my opinion, a big difference between luck at the casino or winning the lottery and luck in life. One is a random chance and the other is a measured journey where opportunity meets preparation.

I have friends who gamble and I hear about their luck at winning five thousand dollars at roulette. I don’t hear about the many multiples of that invested to find their ‘lucky streak’. In the big picture, where randomness reigns, anything can happen. Calling winners lucky is simply sticking a label on after the fact.

To examine luck as a concept raises an interesting question: how can we explain what happens to us and whether we’ll be winners, losers or somewhere in the middle at love, work, sports, gambling and life?

Is luck, good or bad, more than a phenomenon that appears exclusively in hindsight, or is it an expression of our desire to see patterns where none exist, like a belief that your red shirt is lucky?

I believe luck, in a predictable form, can be created by our attitudes and actions.

Lucky streaks are real, but they are the product of more than just blind fate. We can make our own luck, though we don’t like to think of ourselves as lucky: a descriptor that undermines other qualities, like talent and skill.

We can see someone with a lovely home and a successful business and say they are lucky. We often don’t see the 20 years of hard work and sacrifice invested by them to be in this ‘lucky’ position.

We may pray for it or wish others ‘Good luck’ but we’d prefer to think of ourselves as deserving; the fact that we live in a society that is neither random nor wholly meritocratic makes for an even less precise definition.

I believe that ‘lucky’ people adept to creating and noticing chance opportunities, listen to their intuition, are confident to act in risky situations, have positive expectations that create self-fulfilling prophesies, and have a resilient attitude about life’s trials.

So, make your own luck and remember – things could always be worse!

The naivety of youth and where to find some

March 23, 2015
Recapture your youth ...

Recapture your youth …

There’s something refreshing about the naivety of youth; a time of not knowing it all and having the opportunity and the excitement of finding out. There are so many new experiences, taking nothing for granted and enjoying the moment; enjoying the journey as well as the destination.

It’s ironic because this is exactly what many of us ‘older’ people are searching for. I saw a great example this morning. As I waited in the airline lounge for another flight, I made my way up to the coffee station and there was a young man of 16 or 17, my son’s age, standing there looking at the machine.

He clearly didn’t know what to do and looked like a fish out of water. There were huffs and puffs from the handful of business types behind him, frustrated by the multi-second delay this was causing to their day.

Excruciatingly absorbed in their self-importance, these men and women in their power suits, sporting permanent scowls that scream ‘I’m so important’, were clearly desperate to secure that next coffee with minimal downtime.

I said to the young man, ‘These machines are so complicated, far too many buttons for my liking’ as I helped him to make his selection. He said he was new at this. ‘Great, where are you going?’ He was off to Sydney to race go-carts in the national championships.

‘Wow, that sounds great’, I said as I handed him his cup. I saw him eyeing the biscuits so suggested he’d better grab a few of those to keep him going. We headed back to our seats in the same direction and he told me how happy he was, how this was a great opportunity for him, how excited he was about flying and being allowed to use the lounge.

I wished him luck, told him he was unquestionably the most interesting person in here and that I hoped to see him in F1 one day. I was much better off for talking to him and glad I’d had the chance to meet him.

Here was a young adult that was excited by life, chasing his passion and enjoying every aspect of journey, even the flight. I thought back to my first few flights and how excited I was too.

Many people in this lounge have big jobs, high salaries and flash cars but have lost the passion and excitement. I looked over at the young man talking enthusiastically with his parents, almost bouncing off the walls, while the ‘blue suits’ had their noses buried in the latest Richard Branson article on their iPads.

When you recapture the wonder, you capture the world.

Commitment and success

January 20, 2015
Commitment means taking action

Commitment means taking action

This is my 200th blog post so a very opportune time to talk about commitment.

We all know that some people find it easier to commit than others – taking action to move into a committed, full and happy life – while others find commitment to anyone or anything a struggle.

The usual explanation of the uncommitted is that something ‘better’ might be just around the corner. This can only be part of the equation because it’s not only what you commit to, it’s how you commit that defines your success.

Only the smallest part of committing is the passive process of ‘deciding’ what you have committed to; the main factor that will make the choice successful or not is the work you put into it. ‘I will start a blog, I will start exercising, I will improve my education’ – all count for very little unless you take action.

The key determiner of how you commit (or not) is the script that dictates how you live your life. Often the positive self-talk or initial excitement of the challenge isn’t enough. There’s a difference between what you want to believe (‘I can change’) and what you actually believe (‘It’s no use, I will never change’). Compare this to an internal belief system that supports ‘I always finish what I start’ to ‘It’s no use, I always give up or fail.’

Perhaps the best response is to prove it to yourself. Make small changes and keep at it. Don’t try to change everything all in one go. Set small tasks that you know you can achieve and build on them. Set achievable stepping stones that support your progress and build your belief system.

 

 

No regrets. Well, perhaps just a few …

November 26, 2014
Living your life

Living your life

My last post discussed regrets and how we process them. It got me thinking about how we handle them and what we can do differently.

I read an article about a hospice nurse who recorded the common regrets of the dying patients with whom she worked. The two top regrets are interesting and relatable. First, people generally wished they’d had the courage to live a more authentic life. They looked back on life and realised the many occasions in which they had capitulated to external pressure. They wished they’d taken more opportunities to follow their hearts.

The second regret was wishing that they hadn’t worked so hard. In a world where success is often measured by what we do and how well we do it, the correlation between job and identity appears not to be fulfilling in the long run. If deathbed wisdom is any guide then people would prefer to have taken off more days and spent more time with friends and family or to pursue their passion and purpose.

In this regard, life really can get in the way of living. Most of us can’t simply ‘chuck it in’ and live a life to our own rules and pursuing our passions, regardless of how inspiring that sounds. But imagine we made space for some of that now, rather than doing nothing or putting it off until retirement or when we have time? Plan some time to make a start. Even a few hours a week will make you feel better, provide more balance and allow you to deal better with the not-so-inspiring requirements of life.

When you think about your regrets, consider what you might do to avoid them in the first place. Are you willing to take a day off occasionally to spend time with those you care about? Are you willing to take it a little easier at work and leave a little earlier? What would happen if you left work at lunchtime and turned up at your child’s sports day?

Regrets about regret

November 3, 2014
Life's too short for regrets

Life’s too short for regrets

My wife and I were driving home from a weekend away and were talking about some of the things we regret. Fortunately, for both of us, marriage was not on the list! The conversation stemmed from the passage of time, and now, with our children becoming adults, where the childhood years went.

My wife regretted not letting our children be ‘freer’; allowing the girls to wear their fairy dresses as much as they wanted and not caring if they became dirty or ruined from overuse. And taking them to ballet, despite the fact they hadn’t show any interest in dancing.

For me, it was putting my career first in the misguided notion that my success in the business world would pave a better life for my family. It took me twenty years to realise the folly in that.

We both agreed that we were better parents to our son, child number three, as we were older, more experienced and, then in our thirties, applying a more balanced perspective on life. Now, as grandparents for the first time, in our fifties, we’re in the ‘sweet spot’ of life and have the time, energy and patience to be awesome in this new priority-leading role.

Regret is a strange beast. Our children grew up with every opportunity; wonderful holidays, excellent education, love and support and we enjoy a close relationship with each of them to this day. So what is there to regret? As we drove and talked, we realised we were looking back based on the values and experience we have now.

Back then, money was tight; we couldn’t afford the ballet lessons or to replace the fairy dresses so we prioritised swimming lessons and a family holiday. My wife gave up her career to be a full-time mum, a goal we had set very early on. Our mortgage seemed insurmountable and I thought striving for the next career rung would make that easier.

And of course it did. And then we did the best with what we had. We were the best parents we could be with our relative inexperience.

So perhaps now through older and more experienced eyes we need to give ourselves a break on the regrets and focus on making today great. So when my nearly three-year-old grandson tells me that I’m the best grandpa in the world, well, I believe him.

If we are to understand the meaning of life, who will show us the way?

September 2, 2014
The Zen of doing what you want ...

I will show you the way …

Is life’s meaning a reflection of the fundamental nature of human existence? If not, then why are we here?

Again, more questions than answers.

Fundamentally, the answer of the meaning of life must be found within each of us. Perhaps it’s different for everyone, despite our cries for the ‘cereal box’ version that nicely packages life and its meaning so we can tick it off our bucket list and move on.

Why is looking inwards so difficult? Why do we need tele-evangelists or visionaries to provide the answers?

Perhaps I can set myself up as a self-styled Guru to show you the way to enlightenment, meaning and prosperity. I can also throw in, for this month only, contentment and freedom, all for the one low, low price of$79.95, sign up now.

Or, I could show you how to reject your materialist desires for just $99.95 a month. And there’s the CD set, workbook, guided meditation program, interactive web page and study plan to show you how to find simplicity, this week only, act now …

To be a Guru I will require a robe. What colour would you suggest? I like purple but that’s too Harry Potter, and the Dalai Lama ‘owns’ red. What’s the colour of sincerity? Perhaps green. Orange certainly won’t do, and white is too difficult to keep clean. Chartreuse is nice but clashes with my aura, so perhaps mint. Perhaps it’s all just a pigment of my imagination. What about hair? Long and grey is too Charles Manson. Bald is good; that’s campaignable.

Sounds silly, right? Of course, but so many of us are desperate to find someone to show us the way and provide external validation for a journey of discovery that must, by its very nature, be highly personal. Consider this the next time someone offers you peace and fulfilment for less than the cost of a good lunch.

A man walks into a bar …

August 18, 2014
The Zen of doing what you want ...

The Zen of doing what you want …

A man walks into a bar …

and strikes up a conversation with a Zen monk drinking tea.

The monk asks him what he wants more than anything else in the world.

The man says, ‘I’d like to have a million dollars’.

‘What would you do tomorrow if you had a million dollars’, the monk asks.

The man thinks about it for a moment, and says, ‘I’d go surfing.’

The monk replies: ‘You don’t need a million dollars to go surfing. Just go.’

What do you really want to do? Are you satisfied with the number of hours you work? Are you doing what you really want? How much money do you need? Why aren’t you doing it now?

If you could change your job to 4 days a week and drop 20% of your wage would you do it?

Strangely, it’s often lower income earners who jump at a chance like this, and higher income earners are more uncertain. Perhaps that says a lot about how we create our lives, what’s important to us and our perception of what, or how much, we need to live.

What would you do tomorrow if you had several million dollars today? Do you really need millions of dollars to do it?

Or would you give up a portion of your income for more time to do what you want?

Even if you wouldn’t or couldn’t, can you make some changes to your life to make more room for what you really want to do?