What’s Your Problem?!

We all have problems.  We deal with them every day.  Can you even imagine going through an entire day without facing at least one problem?  What would that feel like?  Heaven?!

In striving to live the playground heaven life I think of problems as “Bullies.”  You know, those kids who are determined to ruin everybody’s fun just because they are unhappy.  It’s harder to be happy with a bully on the loose.

While people can definitely be bullies, in most cases our problems are caused by situations or things. And if it is a person bullying us, that person is likely to be ourselves.  Yes, we often think, say, or do things that cause our own problems.

My all-time favorite quote about problems comes from Albert Einstein.  “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Here’s my most recent example for your entertainment.  Feel free to laugh at my expense.

As I drove into our garage on a cold and windy day following a trip to the gym, I noticed trash was collecting all over our yard.  It was recycle bin collection day.  The wind had blown the lids open all the way down the block.  Our home is upwind, on the corner, with a hill and trees to stop the flight of the recyclables.

I jumped out of my truck and started chasing and picking up cans, bottles, papers, and the like.  I thought this would be a quick chore, but a seemingly endless supply of litter kept coming.  I felt like a can stopping goalie.  To keep this short, I spent the next half hour collecting and depositing rubbish until the pick-it-up truck came along.

That’s when I noticed I no longer possessed my truck key.  In my haste to clean up waste, I had put the key in my glove covered hand.  I realized I had dropped it in the bin along with my first junk deposit.  Nice work, Scott!  Hey Melanie, can I borrow your truck key … permanently?  Problem solved.  New level of thinking: put your key in your pocket before picking up litter.

Back to the point.  We all have problems that can rob us of our happiness if we let them.  But we won’t let them!  Here are the three keys steps to dealing with any bully, whether they be situations, things, people, or ourselves.

Step Number 1 – Adopt an “I can defeat all bullies” mindset.

  • Accept that there will always be problems in your life. Knowing this truth helps eliminate the element of surprise that causes us to react to problems, rather than to act upon them.
  • Learn to see problems as opportunities. Facing and overcoming them helps us to learn how to avoid them in the future and to build our fortitude.  Look for the good in your bullies.
  • Approach your problems using the virtue of patience, not the vice of wrath (anger). Stay calm, be patient, use logic to overcome your emotions.
  • Never let the bully win. How you choose to face your bully is under your complete control. You can choose to wallow in your sorrows and believe you have a dark cloud always hanging over your head.  Have you heard about the curse of the self-fulfilling prophesy?  Or you can choose to deal with it, solve it, and move on to happier times.  Yes, please do that!
  • Be grateful that your problems aren’t worse. I just learned this one from a guy who has spent the last 33 years in a wheel chair.  He shared his trials with a group of us.  I hadn’t really understood what that kind of life would be like.  Now I do.  His problems are much worse than any of mine.  Interestingly, he thinks others have it worse.  He said that if we could each put all of our problems into one bag, throw them in a pile, see what is in each other’s bag, and then choose one to take home, we would all choose to take our own bag back.   No doubt.

Step Number 2 – Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this really a problem? We often create problems in our own minds.  We imagine things that aren’t there.  We assume things that aren’t true.  People talk us into thinking there is a problem where none exists.  We obsess over little things that don’t matter in the larger scheme of life.  We are good at creating mountains out of molehills.  I have too many examples running through my head to be able to share succinctly, I’ll bet you do too.  Enough said.
  • If it is a problem, is it yours to deal with? People love to give their problems away to others.  I once had a colleague who kept a toy stuffed monkey in his office.  The monkey represented a problem.  As people came to him with problems he would throw them the monkey and state that at the end of the conversation one of them would be holding the monkey, and it wouldn’t be him.  So smart!  Make sure the monkey is really yours to hold onto and solve.
  • Can you do something about it? Sometimes we have problems that have no immediate solutions.  Or the solution is outside of our control.  For the time being we just have to accept it, do the best we can, and patiently await a future opportunity to resolve it. I choose to have faith that things will work out for the best in the end.

Step Number 3 – Beat up on the bully.  Obviously not literally, but do solve the problem.  Once you have determined there is a problem, that it is yours to solve, and that you can do something about it, do the following:

  • Deal with it, don’t delay. No procrastination allowed.  Confront your bully immediately.  Challenge it to meet you after school on the playground.  Don’t let your problems fester.  Don’t let a molehill become a mountain.  Small problems can become big if ignored for too long.  Plus, they weigh heavily on your mind, impacting your mood and ability to focus on the more important things in life, like your happiness.
  • Gang up on the bully. Enlist the help of friends. Two heads are better than one, especially when your one is probably highly emotional and in need of a more calm and logical counterpart.
  • Find the real problem. Often what we think is the problem is actually a symptom of a larger problem.  Like my throwing the car key away is a symptom of a larger impatience problem.  Get to the root cause of your problem.
  • Solve it now and forever. Once you know the real cause of a problem you can find a solution that will solve it forevermore.  Don’t rush to a quick fix that allows for the problem to reappear. Huh, I wonder how long it’s going to take to become patient … 60 years and counting … hurry up!

So, what’s your problem?  Your challenge for the week is identify the biggest problem you face.  The one that is impacting your ability to be continuously happy.  The one that if solved has the potential to grow your happiness exponentially.  Then develop a plan of attack to defeating that bully, and do one thing immediately that leads you closer to winning the battle.  There, I’ve handed you the monkey.  Take care of it well:-)

Tell you what, I’ll join you.  I’m off to solve a problem right now.  I’ll tell you what it was next week.

To Your Happiness, Scott

The Moral of the Story…

I had a revelation last week.  It should have been obvious to me all along.  It was one of those “couldn’t see the forest for the trees” type moments.

Here’s what happened.  I was on a radio program to discuss strategies for striving to be saints in a society of sinners. One of the questions we discussed was how the pursuit of a saintly life and happiness fit together.

I had thought about this in advance through the lens of my two books. The intent of the first, sAint Me?! A Practical Guide to Building and Living Your Personal Plan Toward Sainthood, is to inspire us to strive to be the saints we were all meant to be.  I used the word saint” to represent a person who is striving to be their best for the benefit of others. My belief is that the more striving saints we have in the world, the better place it will be for us all.  Better People, Better World.

In Playground Heaven: Your Guide to Feeling Like a Kid Again, the purpose is to help us all regain the joy we had as children on the playground.  The thought here is that happier people make for a happier world.  Happier People, Happier World.

Here’s the revelation.  In my experience, happy people tend to be better people, and better people make for a better world.  That is how the two books fit together.  The things we can do to recapture our joy just happen to be the same things we should do to be saintlier.  Happier People, Better People, Happier and Better World.

Okay, so it’s not that big of a revelation, it should be obvious to us all.  Yet, I see a growing need for us all to remember its truth and strive to be our better and happier selves.

I wonder which comes first, happy or better?  Actually, let’s replace the word better with good.  Are we good people because we are happy people, or happy people because we are good people?  Or both?  I like both the chicken and the egg, it doesn’t really matter which comes first as long as we get both.

I do know that it is easier for me to be good when I am happy.  I am also happy when I am being good.  Just like on the playground.  Remember the first time we were sent off on our own?  What were our instructions from our parents and teachers?  Be good, play nice, and have fun, right?  If we followed this simple advice we were happy.  If not, we weren’t.

Anyway, the day after the radio show I was scheduled to talk with a group of middle school students about the topic of morality.  I thought I better look up the dictionary definition as a starting point.  Morality is “Principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong, or good and bad behavior.”

As I prepared to talk to the kids, I was once again brought back to the idea that being good and being happy go together.  I chose to start my remarks by asking them if they wanted to be happy?  Of course they all did, we all do.

I told them that the best way to ensure their ongoing happiness is through making moral choices.  If we make moral (right and good) choices we will be happier than if we make immoral (wrong and bad) choices.

Another revelation and a duh at the same time.  But I think we often tend to lose sight of the simple truths in life.  We get confused because the moral choice is not the choice we are told to make as we are bombarded with immoral messaging all day long.

What do I mean by that?  I read recently that we are exposed to 5,000 advertisements every day.  Can that be true? I tend to believe it.  The combination of using our phones, computers, and televisions probably adds up faster than we realize.  We likely aren’t even consciously aware of most of them, but our subconscious doesn’t miss a thing.

If only they were all positive messages that help us make right and good choices.  But of course, they aren’t.  An advertising executive told me long ago that “sin sells.”  Most of our choices in life are made based on emotion, then justified using selective logic.  We do what we want to do, not necessarily what we should or need to do.

The constant barrage of ads we see play on our emotions and our human weakness to sin.  I use the seven deadly sins as my guide for what not to do.  Greed, Envy, Anger, Lust, Gluttony, Sloth, and worst of all Pride.  All of these are used to appeal to our emotions and our wants.

It is difficult to consistently make choices based on their opposite virtues; Charity, Kindness, Patience, Chastity, Temperance, Diligence, and Humility.  These are selfless principles requiring a focus on others over self.  Adhering to them provides us with what we need to be the good and happy people we desire to be.

It is interesting to note that the sins are all commonly referred to as vices.  We know they are bad for us and yet they are what our society promotes.  In fact, we tax them knowing they are a huge source of easy revenue.  Then we set aside part of the tax to fund programs that help people overcome the related addictions.  There is a 12-step program available for them all.  Gambling is but one of many examples.  Crazy!

So how do we make the moral and happy choice in this crazy world?  Here are the steps and advice I gave the kids:

  1. First, recognize you always do have a choice. Beware of unconsciously reacting.  Instead, consciously choose your thoughts, words, and actions.
  2. Let your conscience be your guide. You instinctively know right from wrong.
  3. Be aware of your tendency to want to choose poorly.
  4. Understand your options and know why you would choose each.
  5. See into the future. Think; “If this, then that, and that, and ultimately that.”  Understand what the likely end result of your choice will be.
  6. Know that the hard choice is usually the right choice. We like easy.  Do the opposite.  Do what you need to do, not what you want to do.
  7. Ask for help.  Pray if that’s your thing.  I do, it works!
  8. Learn from your mistakes and don’t make the same one twice.
  9. Forgive yourself and others for bad choices. We all make them.
  10. Choose good and happy!  Choose to be a saint, not an ain’t.

Here’s the moral of this morality story:  Be Good, Play Nice, Have Fun, Be Happy, Save the World!  This is also your challenge for the week.  I assume you will have collectively solved all world problems by this time next week.  How about this, at least solve one for yourself.  Make a choice you would not normally make but that you know is the right and good thing to do.  See what happens.  I bet you’ll be happier.

Oh one last thing.  Have you wondered what the deal is with the “Halo A” used in both my book titles and websites?  Well, since the words “saint” and “heaven” both contain A’s and conjure up the image of a halo for me, it was used to cross the A’s.

site-iconI like the image because it reminds me to strive to make good choices in my personal efforts to be a better and happier person.  I am constantly asking myself if what I am thinking, saying, and doing is helping me to be more of a saint, or an ain’t?”  That’s also why I sometimes spell the word “sAint” using a capital A.  To remind myself to overcome the natural tendency toward the Ain’t.  I actually see the A as being an arrow pointing towards heaven.

Anyway, these weekly messages are drawn from the thoughts in both books, and from new thoughts as we progress in our happiness journey together.  I thank you for your continued interest.  And if you know others who would be interested in joining us, please send a message their way and ask them to join our email list and become part of the Playground Heaven Living Facebook group.

If you’d like more in depth information about using virtue to improve your happiness and saintliness, you can download my free e-book, The Flying V’s:  Soar to New Heights by Living a Life of Virtue.  It includes a fun game to help you stay on track.  Enjoy!

Choose Happy:-)  Scott

The Motivating Power of Why

“Why?” is the best question ever invented.  It can be the most annoying as well.  Have you ever been around a two-year old child?  Or been one yourself?  They are relentless in their pursuit of answers to their why questions.  They question everything.  Why?  Because they are curious and want to learn.  It’s how they learn.

What gets annoying is the double, triple, or even quadruple why.  You know, you give them an answer but it is not good enough, so they ask why again, and again, and again.  I’d give you an example but it annoys me just thinking about it.  You get the picture.

Then as we age we tend to ask why less often.  In fact, I’d wager that the number of why questions we ask over our lifetime has an inverse relationship with our age.  That is, the older we get, the less we ask.  Why?  Because we are so much smarter.  Or we don’t want to give away to others how much we really don’t know.  Or we would rather not know the answer.  Or maybe we just get tired of asking.

You may be asking why right now.  Why am I reading this?  What does this have to do with me having my happiest year?

Here’s the deal, I was asked an intriguing why question last week.  It was interesting to think about, tough to answer, and has provided additional motivation in my personal pursuit of happy.  I know it can help you too.

The question was, “Why is it so important to you to be happy?”

My first thought was, wow, what an odd question.  I replied, “Well it sure beats the alternative.  Why wouldn’t I want to be happy.  Isn’t that what we are all striving for every day?”

Then my questioner asked if I’d ever really thought about it deeply before.  I had not, isn’t it obvious that happy is better than sad?  He then said he was going to help me find my true reason for seeking happiness by asking me why seven times.  I decided to play along since I have used a technique in business called the “5 Whys” which is helpful in getting to the root cause of problems.  I was interested to see how this “7 Whys” thing would work out.

Here are the highlights of the why questions and my answers.

  1. Why is it important to you to be happy? Because it beats being unhappy.
  2. Why is happy better than unhappy? Because I’m a better person and do more good in the world when I’m happy.
  3. Why is it important to you to be a better person and do more good in the world? Because it is our responsibility to do the best we can with our talents to make the world a better place for all to live in.
  4. Why is it important to you to make the world a better place? Because I’m tired of seeing people be unhappy.
  5. Why are you tired of seeing unhappy people? Because I know everyone has the power within themselves to be happy.
  6. Why is it important to you that people be happy? Because happy people are good people who are striving to make the world a better place.
  7. Why is it important to you that the world be a better place? Because it was meant to be a happy place for us all. Collectively as a people we have brought all the unhappiness in the world upon ourselves.  We make ourselves unhappy through our own thoughts, words, and actions.  It doesn’t have to be this way!  We can change it one person at a time, starting with ourselves.

Well that was definitely an interesting exercise and well worth the time.  I hadn’t really thought about it before, but I sure am glad I have now.  It has given me a renewed sense of enthusiasm and urgency to help us all be happier.  Happier people make for a happier world!  Sounds nice:-)

So here’s your challenge for the week.  Ask yourself why seven times starting with the question, “Why do you want to have your happier than happiest year this year?”  Use your first answer as the basis for the second why.  Then continue to use your answer from the previous why to ask the next question.  When you get to your seventh answer, you have arrived at your true reason for wanting to be happy.

Please take some time with this.  It requires some deep thinking and maybe a little soul searching.  It gets harder as you go.  Trust me, it’s well worth the time.  It will provide you with a whole new level of motivation to attain and maintain your happy.

To Your Ongoing Happiness, Scott

 

Make the Happy Choice the Easy Choice

How are you doing with keeping your happiest year resolution?  I’ll admit to struggling a little.  I find January to be the most difficult month to gain and maintain my happy.  It’s such a letdown following all the activity and fun of celebrating the year ending Holidays.

Now the bills and tax information starts arriving bringing us back to the reality of the need to get back to work.  The weather gets colder and snowier, at least for us Iowans.  It’s dark outside both on the way to and from work. Our next vacation probably won’t be until Spring Break or the Summer.  The next three day weekend is Memorial Day, five long months away … ugh.

But for the good news and quick reminder – we can always choose our outlook and mindset.  You can change your mood from dreading this time of year, to seeing it as the opportunity that it is.  A new year, a new happiest you.  Why not?  What’s stopping you?  You?

You might not need this reminder yet, but I sure do.  I’m always all fired up about each new year.  Ready to finally make the changes I know I need to make to be a better and happier me.  Then something happens.  I don’t know exactly what.  Maybe the simple realization that change is hard?  Or that I am weak willed?

This quote from Saint Paul sums up what I’m usually feeling by mid-January: What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.” (Romans 7:15, NABRE).  Now that I ‘m thinking about it, I’m actually pretty good at doing what I want to do.  The problem is that I also keep doing what I don’t want to do; things that make me unhappy.

For instance, I know that reading or watching the news will not make me happier.  Why?  Because over 90 percent of the so-called news nowadays is negative.  Feeding yourself with negatives is counterproductive to having a positive and happy outlook on life.

Or how about this, I watch sports but know I will be upset if my team loses.  Why do I care so much about who wins?  I have no control over the outcome and the results should have no impact on my life.

Last example, I choose to eat junk food that eradicates the weight loss that I should get from the significant effort I put into exercise.  Minutes of eating eliminates hours in the gym.  “Stupid is as stupid does.” – Forrest Gump.

It’s crazy the choices we sometimes make as adults.  I mean, imagine yourself running out onto the playground as a kid and choosing an activity that you knew you wouldn’t enjoy.  The thought would have never entered your mind.  And if you found you weren’t having fun doing something, you would stop it immediately and never come back.  Do we get dumber as we age?  Rhetorical question, please don’t answer.

So right about now I’m wondering if I truly want to be happy.  All that stands between me and my happiest me is not doing things that make me unhappy.  I have total control of this.  Do I really want to be happy?  Yes!  Then stop the madness of making yourself unhappy with your own bad choices.  Stop, drop, and roll away from your unhappiness.  Simple!

Simple but not easy.  We are creatures of habit and changing our habits is difficult.  Habits are comfortable, change is not.  Even when we know it is for the best.  Apparently I’d rather be comfortable and unhappy, than uncomfortable for a little while followed by lifelong happiness.  Yeah, that make a lot of sense, Scott.

But I’ve tricked my weak willed self so far this year.  I figured out how to make the comfortable, uncomfortable.  I’ve made the easy choice the happy choice.  The choice that used to be hard for me to make is now the easiest choice.

Here’s what we have done.  I’m talking “we” now because without Melanie’s help I would fail.  We made it very inconvenient to eat the wrong things or watch news or sports.  We don’t bring junk food home, we cut the cord on cable, and we IMG_2763deleted many apps from our phones.

Basically, we made very simple changes in our environment that made the happy choice the easiest choice to make.   We have to work harder to annoy ourselves now, and it’s working!

And it’s freed up our time to pursue happier activities.  We built a snowman today.  Check it out:-)

So what about you? How are you doing so far in making this your happiest year? Do you continue to do things that you know make you unhappy? Why do you keep doing them? Can you stop? Yes you can! Will you? How can you make it easy to stop them? How can you make the happy choice be the easy choice?

Here’s your challenge for the week. Pick one thing that you do that tends to make you less happy and stop doing it for one week. Notice how much better you feel. Then keep it out of your life forever. Simple. You can do it!

To Your Ongoing Happiness, Scott

 

 

Can You Come Out to Play?

What did you want to do every day as a kid?  Play, right?!  Do you still wake up every day thinking about what you are going to play?  Why not?  You should.  Let’s do!

Have you ever thought about what the perfect day would be for you?  I did a couple of years ago and arrived at 4 general things I would like to do every day:

  1. Think about what I am doing, how it is going, and what I should do next;
  2. Learn something new;
  3. Take action to help myself, others, and the world be better, and;
  4. Be active and do things that serve to keep me young.

Let’s see, how can we turn the above points into an acronym?  The key words are: Think, Learn, Action, and Young.  Let’s make “Think” into a “P” word and we’ll have PLAY.  How about “Ponder” or “Pray” depending upon your beliefs … yep that works.

Since making this “perfect day” discovery, I have attempted to PLAY every day.  You can too.  It’s not that hard and every day that you do will be better than those when you don’t.

Here’s how it works.

Ponder/Pray

Start each day by giving yourself a time-out.  You know, the quiet time we give kids occasionally to calm them down and make them think about their behavior.  It’s viewed as a punishment when we are kids, but as adults getting a time-out is a gift.

Start by thinking about what is going well in your life and what could be better.  Be grateful for your abilities, for the people in your life, for all that you have, and for the opportunity of another day.

Forgive yourself for the dumb things you do.  Do the same for others.  Think about those in need, and what you might be able to do for them.

Be happy for the good fortune of others.  Ask for guidance and help.  Generate ideas for future consideration.  Plan your day.

I also find writing my thoughts in a journal to be helpful.  There is something about the action of writing that serves to make your thoughts clear and memorable.

Learn

This is my personal favorite category.  Every day that I learn something new is a happy day for me.  Sometimes it might just be improving at something I already do.

Read at least one chapter of a book of interest.  Not an entertainment type book, but something that can help you improve yourself.  Nowadays it is easy to find something to watch that will help us get better as well.

You Tube is an amazing resource.  I don’t know where people find the time, or even why they choose to make videos about nearly anything you can think about wanting to know.  I am so thankful that they do though.  Maybe you are one of them, or you should be thinking about joining their ranks to share your valuable knowledge.

Doing research on something you want to understand better, or to help you form your world views is also a valuable “learn” activity.

Act (Take Action)

Life is about doing.  You can think and learn all you want, but without taking some type of action it just doesn’t matter.  I once heard someone say that the cemetery is the most valuable place on earth because there is so much undisclosed knowledge and wisdom buried there.  Let’s share our light with the world before it’s too late.

What type of action should you take, you ask?  Anything that serves to make the world a better place.  Use your talents and interests to provide value to other people.

Carry out the plan you made during your time-out.  Once you complete one task, ask yourself, “what’s important now” or WIN for short.  This is a question the legendary football coach Lou Holtz asked his players to contemplate to keep themselves on track to doing the most important things in their lives.

Make your “to do” list every day.  As important, make a “not to do” list.  Anything that is not helping your cause in bringing your value to the world should not be done.  Recognize those things and stop doing them.

Youthify

Youthify is my made-up word for doing the things that serve to keep you young, healthy, and energized.

Drink water, eat healthy, exercise, brush and floss your teeth.  Do something fun.  Smile and laugh.  Get together with your friends.  Make some new friends.  Go outside and play.  And make sure you get enough rest.  Take a brief afternoon nap if you can.  Get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

I use a PLAY Day Checklist every day to remind myself about what is important to gaining and maintaining my happiness.  You can download it for free at this link: https://www.playgroundheaven.com/sandbox/

I make my PLAY Day Action Plan in the morning during my time-out, and then check things off as the day goes by.  At the end of each day, and the end of each week I do a quick review by asking three quick questions: (1) what went well that I should continue, (2) what should I stop doing, and (3) what should I start doing to get even better and have even happier days?

That’s all for now.  Can you come out to play?  I hope to see you on the playground soon!

To Your Happiness, Scott

Your 2020 Vision of Happiness

Our son is having Lasik eye surgery this morning. After 20 years of dependence on corrective lenses, he is hoping the 20/20 vision of his early childhood is restored today.  I’m in the waiting room praying for the same.

Last week we talked about enhancing our level of happiness by choosing to have a happy mindset, and by doing something fun every day. Today we discuss what happiness means to you and what your expectations are for this year.

Do you know what makes you truly happy? Do you have a vision of what you desire in 2020? Do you know what to do to make sure this is your happiest year ever?  I was going to avoid the cliché of having a clear 20/20 vision for your 2020 year, but the timing of my son’s surgery changed my mind.

In our quest to have our happiest year, we first need to determine what that level of happiness looks and feels like for us.  A good place to start is with the past.  To have our happiest year this year, we need something to compare it to; our happiest year to date.  What has been the happiest year of your life so far?

Find a sheet of paper to answer the following questions for yourself.  Or better yet, use the fancy worksheet available at https://www.playgroundheaven.com/sandbox/

  • When was the happiest year of your life to date?
  • What did you do that year?
  • What significant achievements and events occurred?
  • Who were the important people in your life and who did you help?
  • How do you feel right now thinking about your happiest year?

My happiest year was when I was in the fourth grade.  My playground heaven year.  You can read about it in my book if you’re interested.  But for our purposes here, let’s choose an adulthood year.

Mine actually spanned an 18-month period over the years 1980-81.  Melanie and I got married, had our first child, graduated from college, passed our CPA and RN licensing exams, and started our professional careers.  Looking back, it was both the happiest and most challenging time of our lives.

We had zero dollars in the bank, just enough to pay the bills.  We had busy schedules and difficult classes, exams, and work to navigate. We had virtually no possessions.  But we had each other, our daughter, and the hope of a bright future ahead. I’m smiling right now just thinking about it.

I trust you are feeling pretty good thinking about your happiest year too.  Take a few minutes to scribble down your immediate thoughts about your happiest year.  No need to analyze it; simply choose the time period, identify the highlights, and feel the happy.

Now think about what will make this year even happier than that happiest year.  How can you have your happier than happiest year?  Here are questions to contemplate:

  • What will you do?
  • Who will you help and who can help you?
  • What will you accomplish?
  • How will you feel?

Even better, do this exercise as though it had already happened and ask the questions in the past tense, such as; What did you do, what did you accomplish, who helped you, who did you help, how do you feel?  When you have already experienced your happiest year in your mind, it will be easier to make it a reality.

The important thing here is to make sure you have a clear vision of what your happiest year looks and feels like.  As Helen Keller famously said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”

A vision provides hope.  Hope inspires action.  Action creates results.  The result we want is happiness.  Envision your happiness in order to begin to make it your reality.

Next, now that you have a clear vision, think about what changes might be necessary in your current life to enable you to achieve what you envision.  Ask these questions:

  • What should you continue to do?
  • What must you stop doing?
  • What will you start doing?

I find the “stop doing” list to be the easiest to generate and the most difficult to do.  But I know I can only have my happiest year if I stop watching binge-watching television shows, paying attention to the usually meaningless news of the day, going down the social media rabbit hole, and eating so much sugar.  I know these things are a waste of my time and bad for my health, so why continue them?  Why indeed … stop the madness, Scott!

Finally, make your Happiest Year Ever Resolution:

I, _________________, hereby resolve to make this year my happiest ever.  I will do so by adopting an attitude of gratitude for my current situation and for the opportunity presented by each new day, and by doing and achieving the following (list the top three things you’d like to accomplish to make this your happiest year).  Mine are:

  1. Grow our Playground Heaven Living community (we need more happy people);
  2. Get to and maintain my ideal weight, and;
  3. Average a “B” level saint score (more on this in the future, it’s a game I play).

You can turn your list into SMART goals if you are familiar with that process.  Personally, I prefer SAINT goals (specific, achievable, important, numeric, and timed).

To make my #1 above more specific I need a number.  We have about 150 people in our Playground community currently.  What is an achievable number to get to by the end of the year?  Well if each of us got 5 of our friends to join, and each of those friends got 3 of their friends to join, that would give us 3,150 people.  That seems like a stretch, yet possible.  Let’s round it down to 3,000 and go for it.

Why do I think it’s important to grow our number?  Well, selfishly I know I am happier when I am surrounded by happy people.  The more, the merrier.  More importantly, I believe that happy people are difference makers.  They excel at what they do.  They focus on helping others live better and happier lives through what they do.  They make the world a better place for us all.  We need more happy people:-)

You can help make this happen by inviting others into the group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/playgroundheavenliving

Your task for the week is to answer the questions above, and make your Happiest Year Ever Resolution.  Use the free worksheet available at https://www.playgroundheaven.com/sandbox/

Next week we’ll talk about a process designed to make sure you actually keep your resolution.  In the meantime, have a fun and happy week all!

To Your Happiness, Scott

Fun for All, and All for Fun!

Welcome to Playground Heaven Living.  Our desire is to help you live your happiest year yet in 2020.  Each week we will share a simple strategy and task to complete to enhance your ability to be and stay happy.  Here we go…

The first thing to remember about happiness is that it is a choice and a mindset.  We can get ourselves happy whenever we so choose.  It’s not always easy, but it is always possible.  We chose it every day as kids, didn’t we?  I guess it wasn’t a conscious chose, it was just what we did.  Let’s get ourselves into that childhood mindset right now.

Take yourself back to the fourth grade.  You’re 9-10 years old.  You are sitting in a classroom waiting for the recess bell to ring.  What are you thinking?  What are you feeling?

I remember thinking, this class is so boring.  I want out.  I want to have some fun.  I want to get out onto the playground and play.  How slow can a clock move?  Come on bell!  Ring and set me free!  And finally … it did:-)

There was so much to do, and so little time.  We ran outside, quickly found our activity of the day, and got to playing.  I usually chose a game like kickball, dodgeball, football, or wiffleball.  Others ran to the swings, slides, monkey bars, and jungle gym.  And still others gathered in groups to talk or run around chasing butterflies.

Whatever we chose to play, we had fun, and we were happy.  Looking back, the main reasons for our happiness seem to have been that we were:

  1. Free to do what we enjoyed;
  2. Active, and;
  3. Interacting with others.

We were also outside and the activity involved a physical or mental challenge of some sort.  We didn’t really care about outcomes.  Winning or losing were not that important.  We simply enjoyed the activity and the company.

It seems to follow that all we need to do to be happier now as adults is to incorporate those three points into our daily living; Actively do what we enjoy with others. We can then revive the feeling of joy we had as kids on the playground anytime we so choose.  Simple!  But maybe not that easy.

I realized in my less than happy days that I had forgotten how to have fun.  I wasn’t playing anymore.  Who has time for play as an adult?  We have responsibilities.  We have things to get done and to accomplish.  We need to put our childish ways behind us, right?  Nope, I don’t think so.  In fact, I think we are less productive and effective when we forget to play and have fun along the way.

With this realization, I began to get the fun back into my life.  I started by adopting a new mindset, one of fun through play, resulting in happiness.  We do and become what we think about consistently.  I want to have fun and be fun.

I began to see how to incorporate fun into my daily activities.  I started by playing “faster” games.  I timed myself doing routine tasks and attempted to get faster every day.  Things like getting ready for work and performing general work activities.

Next I challenged Melanie to races and contests.  Like going to the grocery store, splitting the list, first one though the checkout wins.  And we developed a number of house cleaning race games as well.

Then I took it to the gym.  Daily exercise had become dull and really not that much fun anymore.  So I started challenging others to contests.  Who can go the fastest and farthest on the cardio machines.  Or who can lift the most weight, or lift it the most times.  Who can hold a plank the longest or do the most sit-ups or push-ups.  Endless possibilities.

It worked, going to the gym became fun again.  No more putting on headphones and ignoring all those around me.  Of course, it took some time to get comfortable issuing the challenges.  You have to be smart about who you challenge.  I looked for others who looked bored with their workouts and who seemed open to striking up a conversation.  I have yet to get punched or slapped for asking.  Oh, always ask with a joking around attitude and a smile.

The great thing about gym challenges is that you can make a whole lot of new friends quickly.  Plus it makes you look forward to going to the gym, the time goes by faster, and you end up pushing yourself harder than you would on your own.

Once you start having fun again you will find yourself wanting to inject fun into all of your daily activities.  You will also want to get others involved.  Like if you are standing in the checkout line at the grocery store, ask your checkout person to race their colleague in the next aisle. If you are doing self-checkout, race the person at the register next to you.

I found that the more fun I was having, the happier I was.  It built a desire for more.  It created momentum and I saw opportunities for play and fun all around me.  Then I decided to set my own personal recess bell every day.  In addition to injecting fun into normal daily activities, I scheduled time to do something fun every day.

I went back to the keys to having fun on the playground to make a few rules.  My fun had to be an active activity which involved other people, included a physical or mental challenge, and ideally could be done outside.

Things I used to do that I thought were fun were actually knocked out of the running through these rules such as: television, movies, eating out, drinking, and playing on my phone.  You know, typical adult leisure activities.

I wish I could tell you that I’ve been successful in ringing the daily recess bell.  I haven’t.  I have a long-established habit of work first and fun later, time permitting.  It never does.

I’m pledging to break that habit this year.  I urge you to do the same.  Make play and fun a priority, not an afterthought.

Schedule time for play every day.  Set an alarm on your phone.  Make plans and make it happen.  Include your spouse, kids, and friends.  Go for a walk, run, or bike ride.  Throw, kick, shoot, and hit a ball around.  Go to the playground and do the things you enjoyed as kids.  The list goes on and on…

In summary, get the fun back into your life.  Have some fun every single day.  Incorporate and schedule play into your daily activities.

Here is your task for the week should you choose to accept it.  Do something fun every day this week.  For bonus points, do something different each day.

For extra credit and to give others ideas about what to do, post what you do in the Playground Heaven Living Facebook Group at least one day this week. I might even make a short video of one of mine.  Feel free to do the same.

As The Three Musketeers said, “One for all, and all for one.”  We are all in this getting happier mission together.  Let’s make our motto, “Fun for all, and all for fun!”

To Your Happiness, Scott