It seems lately that a lot of my inspiration to write comes from reading quotes.
Abraham Lincoln said “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Seems like a simple little quote as many of his quotes were, but look around you and you will see that most folks haven’t made up their minds to be very happy, in fact we are surrounded by a multitude of unhappy people. Certainly Abraham Lincoln had many challenges that would have kicked the crap out of anyone’s happiness, but he chose to look forward beyond his personal troubles and the incredible challenges of a civil war to become one of the greatest leaders of all time.
In the past it was my philosophy that willing yourself into a positive mindset would not create any lasting optimistic outlook, but maybe I was wrong. Certainly happiness cannot be created by just wishing it so, or can it? We all face many pressures in our lives including financial, health related, death in the family, addictions, relationships that have gone off the tracks, and they pile up and have an impact on our peace of mind and subsequently our happiness.
There are many ways to combat the onslaught of negative things that life throws at you, but maybe President Lincoln was right, just maybe we are as happy as we make up our minds to be; well at least it might start there. Try as we may we cannot isolate ourselves avoiding bad things that will happen to us and we often have little control of how long these challenges will last.
I hope you can convince yourself that happiness is a choice and follow that bit of advice from Abe.
As someone who is truly a work in progress when it comes to living in the now, I often feel unqualified to write on this topic, but maybe that is where most of us seem to be in our lives. I think we all want to make this more complicated than it really is, expecting that for us to live in the now we must become enlightened in some way. I am going to take a simplistic approach to helping you live in the moment and offer only two things to work on:
1) Meditate – You can say I am living in the moment, concentrating on what is going on right now, and not playing some future script of you life in your head, but you are really just brainwashing yourself with positive thinking. We all need to learn to meditate to teach our mind to live in the moment. You say well that should be easy, but I say it is much more difficult than you may think. My first couple experiences attempting to meditate last 5 or 6 minutes and it seemed to be much longer than that at the time. It seems to be relatively common knowledge that for the benefits of meditation to take hold you need about 15 – 20 minutes a day. Although even 5 or 10 minutes can be beneficial, but make 15 – 20 minutes your goal. There is nothing like meditation to help you live in the moment. You may consider yourself just too busy to meditate, I’ve often thought that myself and then I think about the the old zen proverb:
If you don’t have time to meditate for 15 minutes …Then you need to meditate for an hour!
2) Simplify – You might just consider simplifying your life by starting to say “NO” to people, and to the desire to do everything, to make everyone happy, and to have everything. As long as you buy into the program that you can have it all and do it all, which is really bullshit by the way you will never stand a chance of focusing your attention on the moment. Pick the 3 or 4 things that are really important to you and start focusing on them, and forget about the rest. This will put you in the mindset that focusing on the present is the most important thing you can do because you don’t feel like you need to do it all anymore. Too many priorities just makes that much more noise in you head and make it difficult to focus on the present.
There are other ways to move towards living in the moment, but these two are highly effective. I didn’t say either learning to meditate or simplifying your life are easy to achieve, but I do believe that they are effective tools in helping you live in the now. This is my focus right now in my own life. I am determined to move my mindset to the now by meditating and simplifying my life. In the next installment on this topic I would like to make a case why living in the now will actually make you more productive, happier, and maybe even more successful.
If you have read some of my prior posts you know that I was advocating that you set a goal each Monday that will lead to making positive changes in you life. These might be losing weight, exercising more, eating better, overcoming some unhealthy addiction, starting a business, getting a new job, repairing a relationship, and the list goes on and on. I’ve been taking my own advice and am now on my fourth goal or fourth Monday. What I have begun to realize is that most of the goals I set are ongoing and require a frequent investment in time to achieve, so they tend to pile up and require a lot of dedication to achieve them. This is a good thing, but sometimes it might be wise to throw in some easier to achieve goals in the mix. Here is an example of how you might intersperse some goals that can be more easily achieved or at least require less ongoing time to support:
Week 1: Do something everyday towards a business you have started. Clearly this will be one of those ongoing goals that requires effort overtime, categorize this as a big goal.
Week 2: Make changes to your diet to include more fruits and vegetables. This is one of those easier to achieve goals and doesn’t have a lot of overhead associated with it.
Week 3: Practice yoga six days a week. Again this is a pretty big goal and has no end date, you achieve this goal 6 days a week so we might categorize this as a big goal.
Week 4: Make a commitment to donate $500 a year to the United Way. Here is a pretty easy to achieve goal that only requires minimal effort. For those of you who work for a corporation this is simply filling out the pledge card once a year.
Week 5: Commit to calling your parents or siblings once a week. This is somewhat of an in between goal, not a huge time commitment but it does require some discipline.
These are just a few examples of goals that have an ongoing cost, and those that are a bit easier to achieve. Does the fact that a goal requires a big commitment make it more important? Maybe but take the goal for Week 2 of adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, and Week 4 of donating $500 per year to the United Way; one might suggest these are both pretty important things to do. We all have limited time, so those goals with a high ongoing costs must be things you are extremely committed too. It is always a good idea to have some goals that you can achieve more quickly but that still have a positive impact on your life or the life of others.
I’ve posted a couple different times on how Monday is the ideal day to set a goal that you will work towards or maybe achieve depending of course on the nature of what you are seeking. My own score card is I have completed two of the three goals I set for myself. Instead of taking my own advice I set goals that were very difficult so 2 out of 3 is not so bad, and I have made some progress on the one that I cannot say I have completely mastered. This brings up another point about goal setting that we need to understand. It is vitally important that you set the goals so that you can begin to change your behavior, but realistically you will not always achieve them in the time frame you set for yourself. I’ve always liked the graphic below because it does a good job of simply depicting what really happens when we set a goal and work toward achieving it.
Sometimes reaching your goals and the resulting success this brings you is a messy process, so I wanted to make sure you cut yourself some slack during this whole process. I found myself questioning the order of goals I set for the 4 or 5 weeks, re-ordering them, and even eliminating some to better suite my true desires when it comes to work and my personal life. I’m sure you will do the same as you make adjustments as you think about what you really want to achieve. While it is true that we will all struggle to achieve our goals, it is no reason to hesitate to move forward. The very fact that you may find the goals you set difficult to achieve means that you have set worthy goals. Continue to have faith in yourself and your dreams. Don’t fall back into old patterns of behavior as every Monday brings with it a new start, a new goal, and change.
Last week I wrote about how you could make Monday a new start by setting just one goal that you will accomplish during the week. The idea is that these goals would accumulate and you would certainly be on the road to changing your behavior, and not falling into the trap of repeating the same old stuff. I have found myself as guilty as the next person in falling into patterns of behavior that don’t support my goals. For instance I ate well for two days in a row and then decided it was alright to eat that hamburger and fries, or I did two workouts from my three day split and failed to do the third on Saturday or Sunday, or instead of pursuing that business opportunity I failed to put out the effort and instead watched endless hours of television.
Yes we all need time to relax, but wasting your time in the evenings and on weekends is another example of falling into a pattern of behavior that leads to absolutely nothing. I’m not saying you should eliminate time with your friends and family because your goals are so overly important, but you should also not give into living everyone’s dream at the expense of your own. This is then about seeking some sort of balance, and yes making some sacrifices along the way.
While I mentioned the word balance I am not a big fan of the term work life balance, the insinuation is that work and life are some kind of different categories of activity and that balancing them is desirable. My view is do what you want to achieve your goals and if that means you need to work more than you relax then do it. Don’t fall prey to patterns of behavior that do not support your goals, but always make sure that the goal you set is what you really want. Sometimes you will need to change your goals or even eliminate some of them as they no longer represent what you really want. There are perfectly good reasons to abandon one goal and pursue another, but don’t let your dreams be replaced by mediocrity and settling for less than you are capable of.
Most of us operate at about 50%-75% of what we are capable of, settling for a comfortable existence when greater things are in your future if you are willing to put in the effort and fully utilize the gifts that each of us possesses. So make this Monday the day you begin to follow your dreams, set a new goal and just do it. Stole that little gem from Nike, sorry guys.