Archive for the ‘happiness’ Category

The Ongoing Adventures of GrayBall-The-Brain ~ This episode: “The Worried Psychic.”

Monday, November 4th, 2019

“I no longer question whether or not the future can be changed. Instead, I question whether or not the future exists as future. I think not.” (jc)

I’ve never met anyone who didn’t want happiness and peace of mind. All living creatures want to be okay.

I think it’s built into the Big-Bang Blueprint.

Even people obsessed with acquiring objects are trying to get something they believe is vital to their well-being. They just go about it poorly thinking that owning things is the secret to having peace.

It isn’t.

GrayBall-The-Brain, the principal in our story, (henceforth known as GrayBall for short, or Brain for shorter) has some peculiar behaviors.  I want to discuss its tendency to compare, looking for negative, scary things. It’s a survival mechanism. Had it been unable to distinguish between what’s helpful or harmful, none of us would be here.

But when basic survival skills for GrayBall become obsessions of the mind, unhappiness becomes a lifestyle; a way of being.

That’s what happens when Brain compares what it desires to what it actually has. Thinking that it needs the object of its desire to be happy, GrayBall feels unhappy NOW, begins to worry, and becomes anxious about its future. It might never get what it wants.

You know anyone like that?

I do. I have a friend who says she worries about everything.

Everything is a lot to be worried about,” I said.

I asked her to make a list.

She did. It really was everything.


The last item was ‘worried about being worried.’ Kind of a tough spot she’s in, wouldn’t you say?

Strictly speaking, no one can be worried about everything because no one knows what everything is. So, we got to work and narrowed it down to specifics.

If you’re worried about future events that may or may not happen,
you’re worried about something that isn’t real.

All the items on her revised list were of possible-scary-future events. And fear and worry are future dependent. 

Nobody worries about what might happen in their past, because the past is over.

No one worries about an event that occurred in their past, either–unless they’re thinking about how it might effect their future. See?

My friend was focusing on the scary things that might or could, happen.

But what might happen, also might not happen. Almost anything could happen, but it also could not happen. And most things that could’ve happened–never did happen. (Think about that one.)

Anyway, I’m very worried about her. (Ahem)

My young friend was anticipating disaster instead of planning for the best and watching for the unexpected,. That’s what scared her.

But nothing on her list was real as a concrete fact. GrayBall-the-Brain was playing the worried psychic.

I said, “If you can predict the future, why not become a professional psychic. You’d get rich, and your money worries will disappear.”

She asked me what she should do.

“About what? None of your problems are real.”

Her eyes narrowed. “You’re not helping, Jim!”

“There’s no answer to your question, because it’s not a real problem. You’re making it up,” I said.

She shot back. “I’m not making it up! You’re not making any sense!”

“Then show me the facts as you know them for certain. Show me the evidence. Can you take a picture of your scary future and hold it in your hands? If not, it isn’t real. It’s in your mind.”

“I’m going on the evidence of my past. A bad past means I’m going to have a bad future. That’s how I know.” (Read that bit again and see if you can spot the error in her thinking.)

The future doesn’t exist as a fact. It’s all imagined.

“But the past is gone.” I said. “It’s only a memory. And an unreliable memory, at best. Show me concrete evidence of how your past means your future. You can’t because the meaning isn’t there! What you’re worried about isn’t real. Your brain is making up scary stories, and you believe them. Brain thinks that imagining a scary future will protect you by keeping you hyper-vigilant. That’s your real problem.”

“So what do I do?”

“Make up a better story with a happier future.” I said. “Imagine a possible future you can be in love with. Create a plan and work toward that.”

“How do I do that?”

“Don’t worry. I’ll tell you how in Part II. In the meanwhile, I want you to consider something.”

“What, more PICTURES-OF-EVIDENCE?” She had taken a tone.

I went all zen-ish on her. “Anything that hasn’t happened yet can change,” I said. “But nothing can be changed before it has happened.” 

“What’s that supposed to mean? It’s like I’m talking to Yoda!”

“Yeah, well, think about it. It’ll mess with your mind. That could be a good thing.”

“Thanks, dweeb!”


Stay tuned for  “The Practical Approach to a Worry-Free Brain” coming next installment.

Hi. Welcome to my Universe.
If you enjoyed this, please Like, Share, Tweet, Comment, or everything to the left of this dot.
And thanks for being you. You’re the only you there will ever be. That makes you awesome.

Yesterday’s News

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019 story of our Now is eventually Yesterday’s News.

If we enacted even half of our mental patterns—the stuff we do in our heads—out in the real world, we would immediately see a kind of insanity taking place. Here’s one example of what I mean.

Imagine you’ve decided to get a ticket for a highly rated show. You go to considerable lengths to ensure your future experience. You camp out in line for hours, endure freezing weather, and then pay a small fortune for your ticket.

You’ve waited weeks for the big day to arrive, and finally it’s here!

Now, you drive through a snow storm, wait in another long line to get into the event, and endure the occasional rude person before finding your seat. You sit eagerly anticipating a wonderful show, only to discover it’s the worst experience you’ve ever had. Baahhh!

Okay, so you’re hugely disappointed—maybe even a little sad, betrayed, or angry—that THIS PRESENT MOMENT EXPERIENCE is not all that you want it to be. But eventually, not soon enough for you, the show ends. You leave the venue a little older, a little disappointed, but none the worse for wear.

I have a question. Would you—after all of this—eagerly buy a ticket to attend the same event again the next day? I’m imagining your answer is, “Of course not! Why would I go back? That would be almost masochistic!

That’s because no one in their right mind would willingly purchase a ticket to re-experience an unhappy event. And your old ticket will soon wind up in the trash—and out it will go—along with yesterday’s news.

But here’s where it get’s interesting.

Why then, upon leaving the event, do some of us feel immediately compelled to call or text our friends to tell them what a terrible experience we just had? Metaphorically speaking, buying a mental ticket to an unhappy event we only moments ago said we wouldn’t re-purchase a physical ticket to experience again? Clearly, we’re psychically reliving our misery, aren’t we?

And for some of us, for the next few days—maybe even months—we’ll repeatedly re-purchase a ticket by narrating the story of our unhappy experience.

It was the worst night ever! I can’t believe I wasted my time and money! I’ll never go to another show by that group again!

Blame it on GrayBall, The Brain. Our ongoing complaint is GrayBall’s desperate—and totally ineffective—attempt  to make right our past (this should never have happened to me) or defend our future (I’ll never let it happen again).

It fools us into believing that the solution to our unhappiness can be achieved in regurgitating our past—that somehow we can right the wrongs and avoid future failure. So, it takes yesterday’s news and writes today’s, and sometimes next week’s, headline with it.

You see, Brain likes to make up rules that the world should live by. That way it can know what’s going to happen next; it’s a survival thing. Unfortunately, Brain’s version of “how things should be” often conflict with the reality of “how things really are.”

Here’s GrayBall’s logic: “I had a rule for how this was supposed to be. It wasn’t fair that this should have happened to me. Therefore, I need to complain and get people to agree with my point of view. This way I can feel triumphant—as in, I win”—when someone agrees with my self-generated unhappiness. And, I need to reinforce my unhappiness so that I can avoid future unhappiness. After all, if  it happened once, it can happen again; and I wouldn’t like that one bit! Making myself unhappy is my way of reminding myself that I don’t want to be unhappy again.

Poor GrayBall! It can get so confused at times. It believes the only way it can feel “okay,” is to try to correct the past and/or make safe the future.

This is why, when we’ve had a bad experience, GrayBall encourages us to replay it over and over again in our mind. So, we repeat unhappy stories to ourselves and to anyone willing to listen. GrayBall’s reading yesterday’s news as though it were today.

GrayBall’s tricked us into believing that we can make ourselves feel better now and in the future with this crazy strategy. We keep on repurchasing tickets to bad memory shows we would never physically choose to attend again. Because we don’t question this mental habit, we never uncover the truth about how crazy it actually is.

Is this beginning to sound familar? It should. We all do it. We don’t realize we’re buying a mental ticket to unhappiness. By remembering and reciting an unhappy history, we’re reliving it. And GrayBall makes it all too easy to get caught up in our own stories. But nothing changes when you’re reliving it. It’s just the same old, same old—yesterday’s news.

But, take heart. Time doesn’t exist in the way GrayBall would have us believe. It’s simply a strategy that helps us measure the Great Unfolding of Life—in other words, change. There’s no Big Ben in the Universe’s Living Room ticking off the hours. The reality is that we’re carving up the Infinite Is-ness to accommodate our sense of personal history within it.

And—then again—even within our personal history, the past is gone and the future hasn’t happened yet. All we have is Now. And paradoxically, The Now is an eternal constant that is constantly changing. We are in fact on the edge of Creation. This moment—right now—has never in the history of Creation existed before. That is, of course, unless you get caught up in GrayBall’s version of Now, and imagine it’s still  yesterday!

So here’s an interesting perspective shift to consider.

Your What Is will soon become your What Was—a history you can’t change. And once it’s gone, you can only report from it, like yesterday’s news.

Try instead to learn from it. Your past experiences can become an opportunity to make new choices, develop new skills, assume new perspectives, and create new responses. Essentially, you get to rewrite the news of yesterday with a new story line. And that can give you a different kind of history that actually might be worth repeating.

So the next time you find yourself complaining about your past experiences, stop for a moment. Put down that paper and check the date. This moment is the only moment in time there actually is. Otherwise it’s yesterday’s news!




5 Easy Steps for Making Life’s Lemons into Lemonade

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 all know the axiom, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” For sure, that’s sound advice but few of us actually know how to put the sweetness back into a situation once it’s gone sour.

One minute, life is going along just fine and then—calamity strikes. The kids aren’t paying attention, someone cuts you off in traffic, a co-worker undercuts you in front of the boss. You end up with a sour taste in your mouth, wishing you could get back to the sweet life.

It’s easier than you think. Here’s how to turn life’s lemons into lemonade in just five  steps.

Step 1: Look beyond the situation by asking, “What do I think this means?”

You see it’s not the situation itself that’s the problem. It’s the meaning you’re giving it.

Ponder this for a moment: could a problem be a problem, if you didn’t think it was? One man’s problem is another man’s opportunity. How are you making this situation a problem for yourself?

Find out what meaning you’re giving to the situation, because it’s the real source of the sour taste in your mouth.

Step 2:  Once you’ve identified the meaning you’ve assigned to the situation, challenge the meaning.

You can do this by asking, “Is this the only possible meaning this could have?”

Now, if you’re really being honest—and not just trying to be right—you’ll be quickly forced to acknowledge that, in a world of infinite possible meanings, your current meaning is vastly outnumbered.

Your current perspective is not the only one available to you, no matter how justified you feel in keeping your meaning. I know, it’s hard to let it go, so here’s a way to quell the arguments—realize that when you choose the meaning, you choose the feeling and behavior it generates.

Step 3: Pay attention to the feelings and behaviors that are generated when you give your “truth” to your original meaning.

Not very pleasant, right?

Notice that you’re giving your truth to this meaning, you’re not taking your truth from it. This truth is a relative truth, not an absolute one. I say relative, because in the whole of humanity, someone’s likely to see this situation differently than you do.

For instance: getting angry at your child because you’ve given your truth to the idea, “he/she doesn’t respect me,” might feel relatively true in the moment. However, asking yourself what else it might mean gives you an opportunity to look beyond the sour situation being created by your meaning.

You’ll have a better sense for whether or not your relative truth is helping or hindering the situation. Is your original meaning—and the anger and yelling it creates—helping or hindering your ability to communicate effectively with your child? Which bring us to step 4.

Step 4: Ask what you want to experience instead.

In other words, what result are you looking to bring about. Generally, this is the exact opposite of whatever emotion was being generated by the old meaning. This is where you transform anger into patience, frustration into understanding.

Step 5: Find a meaning that’s congruently aligned with a feeling and behavior you want to achieve.

You can do this by asking yourself, “What meaning could I give my truth to—one that would enable me to feel and behave differently?”

Your old meaning is no more true than this meaning. Remember that you’re the giver of truth.

What happens when you sincerely consider this as another possible meaning? However much you might want to reaffirm your old meaning, keep in mind—if you continue to choose it—you’ll be choosing the result it creates. Decide on a meaning that brings about the result you want.

For instance: Deciding that your child is over-tired, over-stimulated, or under-engaged is bound to bring about an entirely different approach to the ‘problem’ at hand. By redefining your meaning, you’ve redefined your resulting feelings and response.

So open up your lemonade stand, the people around you will suddenly like what you’re serving. You’ll find your situation is not so sour after all. In fact, it may get a whole lot sweeter right away.



Hiding in Plain Sight – The One Thing You’ve Been Looking For

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Hiding In Plain SightHave you ever lost something, only to later discover that it was hiding in plain sight? Perhaps, the note you just wrote—the one to remind yourself to remember—right along with your reading glasses?

What if I told you that there’s something you’ve been looking for—for the whole of your life—and that’s been under your nose the entire time you’ve been looking for it?

If you don’t already know what it is, let me give you a moment to ponder that before I tell you what it is. Let’s just say that it’s the single most important thing that any of us wants and will ever need, but we blindly look around it everyday. And, just like your elusive reading glasses, it’s been hiding in plain sight.

Here’s an illustration of what I mean. Imagine a woman—let’s call her Hope— is doggedly driving through an intense thunderstorm to meet a man she doesn’t even know yet. You see, Hope’s been looking for The One Thing in life that would make her happy—a relationship with the man of her dreams; and now, someone has kindly fixed her up on a blind date with a guy that seems to have everything she’s been looking for.

Earlier in the evening, as Hope is excitedly getting ready for her date, she makes sure that every hair is in place, rehearses her most charming smile, thinks of ten interesting things to bring up in conversation and frets that the outfit she’s wearing is maybe a little too tight in all the wrong places. After checking her imagine in the mirror a dozen times, she finally feels okay enough to venture out into the night to meet with Mr Right.

Then, just as she’s about to leave, the heavens open up in a crack of lightening, very quickly followed by what appears to be the Niagara River pouring out of the sky.

But our heroine is not to be deterred. With the reckless determination of a warrior going into battle, brandishing her umbrella, she sets out into the storm. Neither the flooded roads, nor the torrent of rain, lightening and—Oh, my god, that sounded like a bomb just went off—is going to keep her from her appointed hour.  She’s on a quest to find the One Thing she knows is missing in her life. This one might be The One.

Soon Hope arrives at the coffee shop, just early enough to stop into the rest room for a last minute smooth down and fluff up. None the worse for wear, sitting down now, she waits for her date to arrive.

And then . . .  she waits, and she waits, and then—she waits a little more. As the minutes tick off, her anxiety ratchets up. Forty-five minutes later, her thoughts begin to eddy and then whirlpool around a dreaded thought—Oh my god, the bas#@!d has stood me up!”

Poor Hope. She expected to be Cinderella meeting Prince Charming at the Ball only to end up with a ‘fine how do you do’ at Pity Party Central.

Utterly deflated, Hope feels like she’s somehow lost what she’s been looking for; which not so ironically, she never had in the first place. And in that, she wouldn’t be alone. In fact, she’d have tons of company.

How many times have you set your sights on the One Thing you thought would make you happy, only to find disappointment at the end, either because it didn’t arrive or, when it did, wasn’t all that you hoped it would be?

It might have been a new career or job, a new home, a new car, or—like Hope—a shiny new relationship. And how soon was it before the new car became the old car with balding tires, or the new lover became the idiot who never remembers to refill the gas tank in the aforesaid car? Hmm, makes you think, right?

For many of us, The One Thing we’re looking for quickly turns into a case of frustration in disguise. And if you’re counting yourself as one of the many, chances are you’ve found a ton of disappointment along the way. The fact is, in looking for what you think The One Thing is, you end up missing what you’re really looking for. But here’s the good news: it’s hiding in plain sight and there’s a way to take the blinders off.

Research shows that what we’re really looking for is mistakenly attached to the things we strive to get or achieve in life. Because what we truly want is an essential state of being we think we’ll experience when we finally get them.

So whether you’re looking for your dream job, the perfect lover, or enough money to buy that new car, what you’re really looking for is The One Thing we all want. Although we may use different words to describe what it is to us—whether it’s contentment, joy, happiness or peace—we’re all looking to find a way to feel completely okay in ourselves and our world.

But as long as you’re looking for conditions and things to satisfy your deepest longing for your One Thing, you’ll continue to look around it. On the other hand, the moment you let go of the conditions and things that you’ve attached to The One Thing—things that are completely outside your control—you’ll immediately discover being okay with yourself and your world has been hiding in plain sight.

We all want to find our The One Thing but, in looking for people, circumstances and things to be okay first, we put it outside our ability to find it. But that’s backward thinking—because if we discover and claim our essential okay-ness first, we’re suddenly able to be okay in a ‘not okay’ world. In other words, what’s happening in the world may not be entirely okay with you, but you can choose to be okay within it. Being okay doesn’t mean that you have to suffer the world as it is. You can work toward making changes and finding satisfaction in achieving your ambitions and desires and do it with an ‘essential okayness.’

You don’t need to wait around for it. Because a core state of okay-ness is not being sold at your local car dealership, something a new job will provide, a loved one can give you, or underneath the scratch off on a lottery ticket. If you look in the mirror, you only need look straight at it to see that it’s been there all along—hiding in plain sight.






The Three Thieves of Happiness

Monday, July 14th, 2014 you want to be happy? It’s a simple question. Or is it?

One of my favorite reads over the last few years has been The Untethered Soul, by Michael A. Singer.

Singer proposes that there is only one fundamental choice to make in life.

“The highest spiritual path is life itself. If you know how to live daily life, it all becomes a liberating experience. But first you have to approach life properly, or it can be very confusing. To begin with, you have to realize that you really only have one choice in this life, and it’s not about your career, whom you want to marry, or whether you want to seek God. People tend to burden themselves with so many choices. But, in the end, you can throw it all away and just make one basic, underlying decision: Do you want to be happy, or do you not want to be happy? It’s really that simple. Once you make that choice, your path through life becomes totally clear.”

So what’s your answer to this essential question: Do you want to be happy? Yes or no?

Okay, I’m a great psychic. You answered, yes. Didn’t you?

But did you really? Or did you actually answer the question, “Do you want to be happy, when and if?” Because—for most of us—our answer to the first question is really a qualified yes—as in, yes, as long as certain conditions are met first.

And it’s these qualifications that I’ve come to think of as The Three Thieves of Happiness.

So I’ve put out a BOLO—police lingo for be on the lookout—for these three thieves, along with a way to keep them from breaking into your House of Happiness.

Thief #1 — Wait For It, It Won’t Happen Until

This thief has convinced you that you must wait for your happiness. You can’t be happy until you get that job, meet the partner of your dreams, get in shape, or win the lottery. The idea that your happiness has to wait for some future condition has crept in and stolen the happiness right out from underneath your nose.

Here’s how to keep this thief out of your House of Happiness:

Being content or grateful for what you have now is the best defense against this thief.  Even if you want something in your life to change, you can be happy while waiting for it.

Start by seeing the opportunity in your present condition. What you’re presently experiencing is a necessary part of the journey toward realizing your future dream. You can’t get there unless you travel the only road currently available to you.

It might be a little bumpy but it’s going to get you there, nevertheless. Even if you’re at the 50 mile marker on a 100 mile road, you’re on it. And once you arrive, your future dream will be there at the end of it. Just keep moving, and be grateful for the journey. If you haven’t arrived, yet, that doesn’t mean that you have to be unhappy the entire way there. You can choose to be happy. Say only, yes!

Thief # 2 — Only If and When

You’re holding out for a better world—The World According to Me. I’ll be happy only if and when my husband remembers flowers on our anniversary, the kids listen, drivers are courteous, and the current world politics are to my liking. You’re holding out for the world to conform with your rules—your personal preferences, opinions, and judgments.

This thief is the incessant and ludicrous idea that the world and all the people in it must meet all of your expectations of how things should be. You set yourself up with conditions which must be met before you’ll allow yourself to choose happiness. You’re using  your misery to prove a point.

Here’s how to keep this thief out of your House of Happiness:

It’s simple: Stop expecting life to unfold according to your set of shoulds. Anytime you’re unhappy, it’s because you have an expectation of life that it doesn’t have of itself. Saying something shouldn’t be the way it is, won’t change that it IS. Whether you like it or not, it is what it is. You’re being unhappy in an unhappy world doesn’t make it any less unhappy. To quote Dr. Switzer (a.k.a, my favorite comedian, Bob Newhart) , “STOP IT!” You can choose to be happy instead. Say only, yes!

Thief # 3 — The World’s Deadliest Belief (TWDB)

You unconsciously believe: “Other people, events and circumstances are the cause of how I think, feel and behave.”

If ever there was a Master Thief, this one has got to be it!

It doesn’t just steal from your House of Happiness, it pulls it up and takes it away—foundation and all. You can never go home again!

In giving your truth to TWDB, you give it permission to single-handedly steal your sense of control over the responses you have in life. Instead of consciously responding to life, you find yourself in a constant state of knee jerk reactions. This thief doesn’t need to steal your house, because you’re giving it away.

Here’s how to keep this thief from taking your House of Happiness:

Decide for yourself that no one and nothing has the power to make you think, feel or do anything, without your express permission. I finally got this one when a question rebounded in my brain, “who’s the jerk in knee-jerk?” And it was me.

I get that you might not like what’s happening or what other people say and do, but that’s not the cause of your unhappiness. It’s your interpretation—the meaning you’re making up about what it means about you or for you— that’s got your knickers in a twist. Find out what’s missing in your perspective or beliefs that—if you had it—would eliminate your upset.

Work on creating a solution out of the answer to that question and live from it and through it.

Be a chooser, not a loser. There’s no gain in giving away “your house.” Choose to make it burglar proof.

In short, make enduring happiness more important than any circumstance, event or anyone’s opinion and your life suddenly becomes unflaggingly happy.

The Three Thieves might not be happy, but you sure will!





5 Ways to Get Your Happy On

Monday, January 30th, 2012

With the heavy skies of winter blanketing most of the Northeast this time of year, many of us are struggling to keep our sunny dispositions intact.

But intentional activities and practices can account for as much as 40% of the individual differences in happiness, whatever the weather may be.

Here are 5 quick ways to get your happy on, regardless of the weather.

Set a Sunny Outlook

Your inner world directs your outer experience.   Where the mind goes, the body follows and along with it the ability to quickly transform your mood.

Grey skies got you down?

Close your eyes and as vividly as possible imagine yourself in your favorite place in nature with the sun streaming down on your upturned face.

Picture a brilliant sun against a clear and cloudless blue sky, feel the heat on your skin and the light of the sun bright red behind your closed eyelids, hear all of nature alive with summer.

Relax into the warmth on your skin, smooth the muscles of your face, take a few deep breaths, smile and quietly notice, “when there is sun within, the sun is always out.”

Now open your eyes and notice how much brighter everything looks.

Move Your Body, Move Your Mind ~ Try Something New

Rather than going into hibernation this winter, give yourself a boost with the anticipatory thrill of the new.

If you’ve been promising yourself to try salsa dancing, indoor rock climbing, learn a new language, or join a book club, now is the perfect time of the year.

Although many of us try to beat the doldrums by pursuing passive activities such as surfing the net or checking out our Face Book page, research shows that after about 30 minutes they start sapping our energy.

Our brains love to be challenged.  And novelty often sparks a feeling of natural vitality simply by engaging in new activities.

Something to keep in mind … one man’s mountain is another man’s public podium.

The more thrilling and challenging the activity is to you – and the bigger the perceived risk – the more likely it is to light up the reward centers of the brain.  The riskier the behavior the more nature’s natural anti-depressant, dopamine, is produced in the brain.

Perhaps, for you,  a course in public speaking is every bit as adventurous and risky as skiing down a mountain.

Volunteer Your Time or Do Random Acts of Kindness

Research has proven the adage, “It is better to give than to receive.” 

It increases our general sense of well-being and may lead to a longer life, expressly when it is tied to altruism and service.

Never do we feel as good as when we are helping someone less fortunate than ourselves.  Keep in mind, it’s best to mix it up a bit.  Five small kindness spread out over the course of five days is more beneficial to your level of happiness than one big grand gesture.

On a more practical note, it may well help to control our tendency to imagine and then compare ourselves with others more fortunate than ourselves.  It often serves to remind us to be more realistic in our views about how fortunate most of us truly are when we are helping others less fortunate than ourselves.

Pay Attention to All You Have to Be Grateful For

Being mindful of what we have to be grateful for helps us minimize the brain’s natural tendency to create what I call “a not quite satisfied set-point” in our lives, where things never seem quite good enough.

This set-point often results in us taking too many things for granted. Things that immediately become more valuable to us in their loss than they once were when we had them . . .  a standard of living, a loved one, or our health.

So what if the sun isn’t shining today?

Instead of feeling grouchy, be grateful for the electricity to power a light, the loved one that forgets to turn it off, and the ability to get up and turn it off yourself.

If you’re afraid this might kill your ambition or drive, think again.  Research shows that happy, satisfied people are more productive and successful in all areas of their life.

By noticing what you have with a “good enough for now, moving toward better” attitude, you can balance the gratitude you already feel with the drive and desire to have or experience more.

Rather than using unhappiness as a way to motivate yourself to be happy in the future, notice that gratitude can increase your sense of success and happiness right here in the now.  By recognizing how much you already have it’s much easier to notice how much more you can create.

Watch Your Spending Habits

It’s not so much that we spend money, it’s what we spend it on that counts.

Buy yourself a different kind of ‘retail therapy’ this winter.  Rather than shop for the latest gadget or new pair of shoes, go to the movies, take a short vacation, or host a party.

Research shows that people get more satisfaction purchasing experiences over things.  So if you have to, go ahead and buy yourself that new outfit, just remember to make memories while you’re wearing it.








Happiness: Life is a Bowl of Cherries But Make Mine Cheerios

Monday, October 24th, 2011

One morning several years back, I got an unintended lesson on the subject of choices and the pursuit of happiness.

It happened over breakfast, which is generally served up with a side of whatever book I happen to be reading at the moment.

This particular morning, I suddenly found myself laughing hard enough to blow cheerios out my nose.

This unexpected explosion of wisdom, laughter and cheerios was entirely the fault of Harvard Professor, Daniel Gilbert’s marvelous book, Stumbling on Happiness.

In it he serves up fascinating research on our continued, yet inane, belief in our ability to predict what will make us happy (or unhappy) in the future.

And he does so with a wit that – yes – could cause a reader to shoot cheerios out her nose.

Gilbert states that the pursuit of trying to predict in the now how we will feel about our decisions and choices in the future is a near impossible task.

And he points out a fundamental, but profoundly simple reason.  It’s because the “me” that will be evaluating those decisions in the future is a different “me” than the “me” I am in the now.

And you really can’t be where you aren’t yet.  So how can we accurately predict what we’ll like, love or – for that matter – even tolerate in the future?  We can’t.

And you don’t even need to project yourself ten years or even a month into the future to prove this to yourself.  All I had to do was remember a rather disastrous decision to change my hair color.

Hair Today and Gone Tomorrow

If you’re like me you probably spend a lot of time weighing all the options.

I honestly believe that if the weight of all my decisions were piled one on top of another, and decision-making was an Olympic sport, I’d have a gold medal hanging around my neck right now!

I had just spent weeks considering whether or not to even change my hair color.  Add to this – I was really, really, really looking forward to a change.  I thought I would feel happy.  Happy as in happy I did it.

But now here I was – my fanny in the hairdressers chair – lamenting, “What the hell were you (that would be the past me) thinking!”

The hair color I had imagined as stunning, before I sat down in the chair, wasn’t so very stunning to the future me, who now found herself paying for it.  I was another kind of stunned entirely!

And, as Gilbert aptly points out, this displeasure got served up with a heaping side of ungratefulness and moral outrage toward my past self  – just as an added bonus.

Making “Right Now” Decisions

So, the next time you’re agonizing over making the right decision, perhaps you might go a little easier on yourself.

After all, the you who’s hoping to get an ‘A’ in decision making is probably going to be using different criteria than the you who will be grading the merits of that very same choice.

So, perhaps rather than worrying about making the right decision, we should concentrate our efforts toward making a ‘right now’ decision.

If something doesn’t work out, we can always chalk it up to a Grand Learning.  Me?  I now know that the color of asphalt is best left for the pavement and not for the top of my head!

And if a happy life came from only making happy choices, then we should expect a world filled with an awful lot of unhappy campers out there.

Which, by the way, according to Gilbert turns out to be untrue.

But I won’t spoil the whole of the book.  Read it and weep with laughter . . . the cheerios are not a necessary part of the learning curve.

P.S.  Do not – repeat do not – miss the preface to this book. . . or read it, whichever you prefer.