Love and Happiness

Yesterday on the Life and Faith blog I talked a bit about the topics of love and happiness.  Today we’re continuing the conversation here talking about the relationship between love, happiness and relationships.  Relationships do not equal love and do not equal happiness.  That’s not the equation.  I do believe that there can be a connection between relationships, love and happiness, but that’s not the case for everyone and it’s unfortunately not a happily ever after situation for everyone either.  You’ve probably heard people who were with someone they loved for only a short period of time for whatever reason say that those were the happiest years of their life, and sometimes the couple gets lucky and they have one of those happy love stories for the ages that their children and grandchildren talk about for years to come.   Love, happiness and relationships can last and they can be short, and both types can be real and worth it.

Love, relationships and happiness are all things that can be hurt, can fail and can be disturbed.  In a perfect world everyone would have a fairy tail ending, but there are people who aren’t good in this world and believe it’s their right to treat people poorly or do stupid things like drugs and excessive alcohol which end up causing them to make bad decisions.  I believe everyone is worthy of love, happiness and a good relationship, but for various reasons that’s not how it always ends up working out.

If you’re in a relationship I’m happy for you and hope that it works out and that you and your partner have one of those great love stories.  If it’s not a happy relationship the first person to check is yourself, not your partner.  Make sure that you’re not the one causing your own unhappiness, because the only person truly responsible for your happiness is you.  If your partner truly loves you and is invested in the relationship they should make you happy most of the time (no one’s perfect), but you should not leave your happiness up to them.  So if you establish that you’re not putting unreasonable pressure on your partner in the relationship and are doing your part to make yourself happy and help the relationship thrive, then the next person to check is your partner.  Maybe they’re not feeling loved by you, maybe they’ve got a different set of expectations for the relationship, maybe they’re not the right person for you or maybe they’re a bad person and you should not be in a relationship with them.  I believe there is more than one person out there for each of us, but with more than 7 billion people in the world it’s not as easy as it sounds to find one of those right ones, and even if you do, maybe it’s only the right person for right now.  But no one has to be in a bad relationship or one that doesn’t truly fulfill them.

Happiness, love and relationships aren’t always picture perfect, they can get a little messy sometimes.  But if you remember back to being a kid or think about your kids, some of the happiest memories were pretty messy, and even in the movies there’s usually at least one dramatic rescue scene or cringe-worthy episode.   Don’t give up on a dream of having a happy, loving and fulfilling relationship, I’ve experienced it and so have others, and so can you.

To Do or Not To Do

I read an inspiring quote recently that I want to share with you today.  It shares a simple but challenging message, one that we talk about but aren’t always able to follow through with:

“Every time you say yes to something you don’t want to do, this will happen: you will resent people, you will do a bad job, you will have less energy for the things you were doing a good job on, you will make less money, and yet another small percentage of your life will be used up, burned up, a smoke signal to the future saying, “I did it again.”  James Altucher

Have you felt that way before?  I know sometimes we force ourselves to do something and it turns out better than we expected, but other times we’re busy telling ourselves all the lies about why this has to happen or why we have to help this person or why this might be/may be/could be/should be something we should do.  I get it, we’ve got pressure from society and the people around us every day trying to (and sometimes succeeding in) affecting our choices.  Sometimes that’s a good thing, but other times we’re just caving.

Taking risks is part of having a healthy life and healthy self esteem.  So you do need to determine if you’re hesitant because you’re worried about the risk or because deep down you know it’s not the right choice for you.  This week I encourage you to take at least one risk and say no to at least one thing you feel won’t be right for you.  I’d love to hear what you learn!

When It Takes Too Long

I know the past month for me has been challenging, there have been cancellations, changed plans, friends appearing and disappearing, and lots of other strange happenings, not to mention all the stuff going on in the world.  And it’s all exhausting!  Each day just feels like trying to walk through mud.

So what do you do when life just takes too long to get to where you’re heading?

My first choice is to relax.  We’re a busy society and don’t take enough time to smell the roses, literally and figuratively.  When was the last time you were outside?  When was the last time you took a walk, albeit bundled up given that we haven’t quite shaken winter yet?  When was the last time you sat on the couch with your partner or a friend and just talked?  When was the last time you had a cup of tea or coffee without the paper or some work?

Second, do what you feel like you can do.  If your body is telling you to take a nap, maybe you’re not getting enough sleep to function in high-challenge times like these.  If your body is complaining about something, maybe it’s a good time to try that diet your friends have been telling you about. Make short to-do lists and don’t plan to conquer the world right now.

Third, make time for family.  You don’t have to have your a-game to have a great time with your family.  Your kids will love if you sit and read stories with them, your parents will love if you call them, your siblings will wonder if you’re going crazy but it will be a chance to spend time with the people you probably don’t spend enough time with.

If your life, goals and victories have been a little elusive of late, fear not, keep pressing forward, especially now that we’ve entered a new month.  We’ll all get there.  Listen to what your body and heart are telling you and do the best you can.  No one will fault you for trying and doing the best you can.

A Heart for Greatness

One of the things we’re talking about this month is having heart.  I believe that having heart is something that applies to all our lives, whether we’re the CEO or homeless on the streets, whether we have lots of people we call “family” or we’re on our own, or whether we’ve got a degree from Harvard or from Life.  Heart isn’t something you can really put in a box or write on a card, it’s something you weave into your life and becomes part of you, the choices you make, the friends/associates you keep, the people you’re in relationship with and how you interact with the world.

Sometimes we do need to make decisions that are based primarily or even solely on fact.  Maybe we make those decisions because of how personally invested or emotionally attached we are or because we have no gut feeling.  It’s not wrong to make decisions based on fact, but I don’t think most decisions can really be made just with the facts, I believe that we have to take into account the human element.  People can’t always be put into neat and simple boxes, we’re complicated and complex, and that’s describing those of us that are considered “normal,” not those that would fit into a pathological diagnosis.  And then when you add in things like drugs and alcohol the complications increase.

If you really want to become the best person you can be do take time to learn the facts, explore the world, see other perspectives and try new things.  But never forget that a little compassion, a little caring, a little kindness, a little heart may go farther than the facts could.  If you really want to be the best leader, boss, employee, mother, father, parent, sister, brother, partner, neighbor, or friend you could be, take a step back and let your heart out of its box for a moment and let it guide you.

“A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness.” James E. Faust

Productive Priorities

One of the things we struggle with is productivity.  We’re good at getting distracted, find other things that need our attention, and are often overbooking our schedules.  I get it-we want to keep everyone happy, take advantage of all the great opportunities for ourselves and our kids and fully experience life.  However, as scattered and distracted as we are it’s seriously hurting our quality of life, not to mention the stuff that we actually end up accomplishing at the end of the day, and how we feel about what we accomplish.  Sometimes we’re so over-committed we’re not only overbooked, we’re not getting the important stuff done, and sometimes we’re not getting anything done at all.

The first step is to realize that you’ve got an issue and decide to get help, and maybe it’s as simple as admitting it to a trusted colleague or your partner.  But most people need to reach out to a strategist or organizer to help them restructure their life and make tough decisions.

Once that first step has happened the next thing that needs to happen is prioritizing.  What is truly a priority?  What are you pretending is a priority?  What are you ignoring? Who are you letting down?  These are some very difficult questions to face and answer, but they’re necessary.

After you’ve decided what’s important, it’s time to start making changes in your life and scheduling in the things that are truly priorities and putting to the side things that aren’t.  These changes won’t happen over night but do take time.

Finally, now that you’re more productive and prioritizing what’s actually important, there’s one more step: learning to say no.  One of the reasons you got into the mess in the first place is because you were filling your life with things that were and weren’t good for you.  Learning how to say and mean no in your life is one of the biggest keys to truly having a life you love, and a life that’s productive as well.

Speak or Suffer

Today we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  He’s best known for his leadership in the Civil Rights movement in the 50’s and 60’s, and his “I have a Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington.  He was a great man, a brave man, a wise man, a family man and a community man.  He believed in something that wasn’t a reality then and he may not have really believed it would come true in his lifetime.  I do wonder what/if things would have been different if he had lived and had not been assassinated.

One of the reasons Dr. King was so well loved and respected then and now is because of who he was and what he believed.  He didn’t sit down and accept that because he was a black dude he should be treated as less than any other man.  It’s great he was part of the movement at all, and there are certainly other ways he could have been involved.  But Dr. King knew as a leader that it was his responsibility to be in front.  Yes, others could have stepped up but he knew that part of his purpose was to be a leader in this movement.

The same is true for our lives, we all have purposes to fulfill and steps to take in our lives.  I believe we should all do better in stepping up for ourselves and each other.  We need to do more to stand up for what we believe and not let others trample on our rights as a human.  I also think we should take note of the non-violent way that Dr. King made an impact.  He had a huge impact that is still talked about today without ever raising a fist or using a weapon like a gun or knife.

I believe our world is greatly improved by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the other men and women who chose to stand up for what they believed in.  What will you choose to stand up for today?

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Reflection Time

I’m still doing some reflecting and considering as we work into this new year.   2016 felt like being in a cement mixer at times for some of us, it certainly didn’t seem like a smooth ride personally or in the world.  As I’ve been reading a number of posts at the end of the year and the beginning of this one, I identified with what a number of people were saying about the year that just ended and how they felt about it, what they ended up doing in that year and of course where they’re headed in this new year.

For many 2016 ended up being a year of personal growth, not so much professional, although plenty of people and companies did have a very successful year.  For some 2016 was so bumpy that it was hard to even identify or understand that until new year reflections happened.  So if your year was anything like mine, I’m going to encourage you to work through these questions over this week before you give up on your resolutions and/or before you make final decisions about where you want this coming year to go:

What was your best memory?
What was your worst memory?
What was your biggest accomplishment?
What was your most satisfying victory?

What goals do you have for 2017?
What relationships are you going to create or work on in 2017?
What do you want to stop doing in 2017?
What needs to most change in 2017?

Just how good can life get?
Will this be a courageous year for me?
What will make you happy?
What will you love?

As I do my own reflecting and consider where I’m taking things this year, I’d love to hear from you what you would like from me in this blog and/or in what I offer in my business? How can I best help you make more victories in your life and what are you struggling with?

The Year of You

I’m finding it hard to believe we’re about to cross over from one year to the next, but I’m super excited about all this year ahead holds for us!  I know that some people are concerned about the direction we’re going based on some of the events of the past year, but if you’ve really been paying attention you should have been having concerns for several years now, this should not be the (only) year that concerns you.  Today I wanted to end the year with a question that reflects on the year ahead for you to think about.   The question I pose to you today is:

Who will I be this year?

It’s a question that may not make sense to you, unless you’ve been feeling frustrated, lost, confused, dissatisfied or out of touch or place with what’s in your life lately, or even for a long time. If you’ve been struggling with these types of feelings you’ve probably also been struggling to keep things going in your life, keep up with things, feel happy, or accomplish victories in your life, family or business.  Or maybe you’re just ready to turn over a new leaf and do something different with your life, based on the lessons you’ve learned over the past year.

So with this new year you’ve got a choice to make.  Will I stay the person I’ve been, will I pursue new adventures, will I be the person everyone thinks I should be, am I really happy with where I am but haven’t accepted it, is it time to make some changes and show the world who I really am?

Who will you be this year?

Gifting and Giving

It has arrived!  No, I’m not talking about any of the items I ordered on Black Friday, I’m talking about Giving Tuesday!  You may have rolled your eyes, but I’m serious.  I’m glad that someone realized that non-profits and charities need a day like Black Friday as much as for-profit businesses do. They’re as concerned about their bottom line as all other businesses out there.  Just because they’re not looking to put money in their pockets the way that for-profit businesses do, it doesn’t mean they aren’t looking to increase their funds so they can better work towards fulfilling their mission.

I know that some people donate around the year end for one reason or another, I personally donate all year long (I love recurring payments on a credit card, it makes it so easy!), but during this season it does seem like non-profits and charities get the remainders of whatever is left after the holiday gifts have been purchased and the transportation for holiday celebrations and holiday food is paid for too.  If you think about even one of the best known holiday non-profits, the Salvation Army often gets shortchanged (no pun intended).  They stand outside shopping centers with their red buckets ringing for the change left over from shopper’s purchases.  Non-profits and charities certainly won’t say no to any size donation, but it’s sad that we tend to give them our leftovers rather than being part of our shopping lists.

Of course non-profits and charities would love if you donated all year long because it would mean that they would be in the black before year-end, but I know it doesn’t always work that way for any business.  This year I did hear about several businesses who chose to donate their Thanksgiving profits to non-profits and charities, which I thought was a great idea.  Another great thing I’ve seen this year more than any other year is the number of for-profit businesses suggesting a non-profit or charity that they support or recommend that their customers could support, or choosing to donate in partnership with you on Giving Tuesday (or just the holiday season), through a matched gift or some other arrangement.

Today is a great opportunity to donate to causes and organizations that you personally feel passionate about.  In my work I run across hundreds of people trying to make a difference, right a wrong or give people an opportunity that they would not have otherwise.  I encourage you to support at least one business today, or spread the gift around to a few non-profits and charities.  What is your chosen non-profit or charity?

Vote for Yourself

As I write this people are voting and election results are coming in all around the USA.  I was talking with my devotional and newsletter subscribers about voting and shared about it on the Life and Faith blog over the weekend as well, and how important it is to vote.  One of the things that always frustrates me is how little information I can find or know about some of the candidates that I could vote for.  Politicians and those who want to be elected may have political ambitions and want to change the world, but they haven’t done the voters any favors with helping them know whether or not to elect them.  Only in the past few years have I been seeing more politicians develop websites and social profiles that actually have information about who they are, what they stand for and what they hope to contribute as a politician.

But still the majority of candidates don’t have any type of presence that allows us to really find out who they are, we’re just expected to guess.   So it’s not surprising when we choose to vote based on the person whose name we’ve heard the most, or the person our friends or family are voting for (or the opposite), or the person whose name our finger lands on first in the voting booth or on the mail-in ballot.  I know, it sounds really irresponsible to vote that way, but how else are you supposed to vote if you don’t know anything about them?

But my post isn’t really about voting today (although I do hope you voted today), but about being your own person.  Sure, you can go with the popular opinion, you can do what everyone else is doing, you can believe what everyone else is believing.  And sometimes it may be that your own opinion does line up with other the opinions of other people.  But I always encourage you to be your own person, think your own thoughts and make decisions that are really right for you.   Don’t be afraid to stand out, think for yourself, try something new or be a little different this week.

“If you want to find a deeper meaning in your life, you won’t find it in the opinions or the beliefs that have been handed to you. Rather than trying to be what everyone else expects you to be, live your life by your own rules to be happy and find inner peace.  Your imagination is your own fertile field for growing any seedlings that you choose to plant for a future harvest.” Wayne Dyer