You Can Do It!

Coming soon – The Summer Olympics Games! Having something to look forward to always helps in maintaining our happiness.

Watching the Olympics reminds me of the greatness we are all capable of achieving.  Not necessarily in sports, but in playing your game in life.  You know, the thing you are good at and that you spend most of your time doing.  That thing that you do for the world to make it a better place.

Anyway, there are always a few truly amazing and memorable moments at every Olympics.  One in particular has stuck with me.  It occurred at the 1996 summer Olympic games during the women’s team gymnastics competition.

Team USA was narrowly leading Russia going into their final event, the vault.  The next to last American gymnast to perform fell during both of her vaults, putting enormous pressure on 19-year-old Karri Strug to secure the gold medal.

Imagine being in that position.  You have worked your whole life for this one moment to arrive.  Now with tens of millions of people watching, you finally get your chance to fulfill your lifelong dream of being a gold medal winner.  And not just for yourself, but for your team and the entire nation.

To add to the drama, Kerri fell on her first vault attempt and injured her left ankle.  She didn’t know it at the time, but she had torn two ligaments.  Thankfully she had one more chance. She limped all the way back to the start of the runway, prepared for her final vault, and heard her coach, Bela Karolyi shouting: “Kerri, you can do it! You can do it! You can do it!”

With a tear rolling down her cheek Kerri ran, flipped and twisted, and executed a nearly-Screen Shot 2020-02-28 at 9.51.21 AMperfect landing on both feet.  She then immediately lifted the left foot and hopped on the right as she took her post-routine bows.  Then she fell to her knees in pain. She had done it, she sealed the win and gold medal for team USA!  It gives me the happy shivers and makes me smile every time I watch it.  You can view the minute-long version here.

When asked about her coach’s words of encouragement Karri said, “I think it’s kind of strange that being the best gymnastics coach in the world, that’s all he came up with. But in a competition, when he’s really excited and being positive… you’re like, yeah, you’re right, I can do this, and I will do this.” She did do it!

I think of one word when I look back on that moment, Courage.  And when I need a little en-courage-ment to do something I know I can and should do, I think of the simple phrase that worked for Karri: “You Can Do It!”  I actually hear it in the voice and unique accent of Coach Bela Karolyi.  Here’s a 7 second version of that if you’re interested.

If you think about it, it takes courage to do everything in life that is worthwhile.  Figuring out what you are good at and pursuing it to the absolute best of your ability.  Finding the love of your life and committing to that one person for the rest of your life.  Being a parent most definitely takes courage.

Earlier in this series we talked about the 7 heavenly virtues (Charity, Kindness, Patience, Chastity, Temperance, Diligence, and Humility) that we can use to battle the 7 deadly sins in order to live our best and happiest life.  I think we need to add Courage to the virtue list.

C.S. Lewis said that “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” I think that means we need courage to have any chance at consistently living out the seven heavenly virtues.

It also takes courage to overcome our doubts and fears. We must acknowledge those doubts and fears, face them head-on, and take action to push through them.  Courage requires thoughtful action, to do something, or maybe even to not do something you would like to do in reaction to a situation.  Yeah, it gets complicated sometimes.

So how do we build our courage?  First, recognize you are already a courageous person, just like the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz.  The Wizard told him that he was a “victim of disorganized thinking,” reminded him of all the courageous things he had done on their journey, and gave him a ‘Courage” medal.  Instantly the lion felt courageous.

We can do the same.  So much of our fear is a result of our own disorganized thinking. We think about fear of failure instead of the opportunity for success.  We talk ourselves out of doing things we know we should do.  We care too much about what others think and too little about what we could do for others.

Courage is an inside job. It requires us to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, to face our fears, to make tough decisions, and to take action.  Others can encourage us, but no one can help us move from fear to courage except ourselves.

I ask myself these questions when faced with a doubt or fear:

  1. What is the worst that can happen?
  2. What are the chances that will happen?
  3. What is the best that could happen?
  4. What can you do to make that happen?

I usually discover that the worst is not as bad as the best is good, and that my ability to make the best happen is more likely than the worst occurring. I use the motivation of the best to overcome the fear of the worst. Try it.

Here’s your challenge for the week.  Identify one of your fears.  Pick something small in the scheme of life.  I chose dancing.  I realized after writing about taking a leap of faith last week that the first step in taking that leap is courage.

That became obvious when the moment of truth arrived and I tried to back out of dancing with Melanie on our 40th wedding anniversary last weekend.  Thankfully she en-courage-d me, or maybe more accurately shamed me into it.  I’ll post the video in the Playground Heaven Living Facebook Group later today.

Anyway, first visualize yourself facing your fear and successfully overcoming it.  See it in detail and see it often. Then when you actually face that fear, you will already know you can overcome it.

Relax, close your eyes, imagine a situation, be courageous, and win. Your imagination is a powerful tool. It doesn’t cost a thing and is always available for your use. You can use it to cause fear and failure, or courage and success, your choice.

Now take action.  The best way to become a courageous person is to act like a courageous person. You have already conquered your fear in your mind, now make it happen live. Nothing changes until we face the thing we fear. Don’t wait; act now.

You must get outside of your comfort zone and take action. It is the only way, there is no shortcut, sorry. But great news, overcoming a fear results in instant happiness and confidence that you can do the same with all your other doubts and fears.

Here’s a last little tip to feeling more courageous. Try this.  Slouch, frown, and take fast short breaths for a while. How do you feel? Now stand up tall, smile, and take slow deep breaths.  Now how do you feel?  I bet you feel more relaxed, confident, and courageous doing the latter. You can do this anytime to be that brave person you know you are.

You Can Do It!  Scott

 

 

Leap of Faith Year

2020 is a leap year, we get an extra day of happiness:-)  It happens this Saturday, February 29.  Do you know why?  I didn’t, but do now.  Here’s what I found out.

A leap year occurs every four years to help synchronize the calendar year with the solar year, the length of time it takes the earth to complete its orbit around the sun, which is about 365¼ days.  If we didn’t add a day to our calendars, the seasons would gradually shift from their traditional time-frame causing us to have Christmas in July for instance.

And get this, the length of the solar year is actually 11 minutes and 14 seconds less than 365¼ days. To compensate for this, a leap day is not added in a century year unless it is evenly divisible by 400. So the year 2000 was a leap year, but 2100 won’t be.

Hey, why is it called a “leap” year anyway?  Because each date on the calendar jumps ahead two days of the week instead of one in a leap year. For example: Christmas in 2018 was on Tuesday, last Christmas was on Wednesday, and Christmas this leap year will be on Friday.  Interesting, now we know.

Leap years are special for Melanie and me since we were married on February 29, 1980.  This year is our 40th or 10th anniversary depending on how you look at it.  Melanie counts it as both and expects the traditional gift associated with each number.  So this year she is expecting a ruby or something red for 40 years, and something made of tin/aluminum for 10. Which do you think she would like better?

Screen Shot 2020-02-23 at 12.53.14 PM

As a person who has basically never been camping, and who doesn’t like the inconvenience of travel in the first place, buying a travel trailer would be a real leap of faith for me.  Faith that it would be fun and that I could handle all the responsibilities that go along with that lifestyle.

For Melanie it would be one small step, but for me it would be one giant leap.  Maybe that would be a good thing. But right now I’m in a look before you leap mindset.  I want to do it for Melanie, but I have doubts and fears that are holding me back from making that commitment.

Looking back, we should have had doubts and fears about getting married at age 20 as juniors in college.  But we had none.  Were we too young and naïve to know any better?  Probably.  But we somehow just knew it was the right thing to do and that everything would work out for the best.  It has.  Were we right, lucky, or just stubborn enough to make it so?  Probably all of the above.

As we age we seem to lose our leap of faith capacity.  We do all sorts of crazy things as kids and young adults with no fear.  We are blind to risks.  We seek freedom and fun and don’t think much past the desired activity to evaluate all the potential consequences of our actions.  We see the fun and never the potential risks.  Sometimes that is good, and other times not so much.

Somewhere along the way, like in our 30’s, there is a tipping point where we transition from wild abandon, to abandoning the wild thinking.  It occurs when we realize we have something to lose.  We are solely focused on winning in our younger years.  Winning a job and promotions.  Winning the spouse of our dreams.  “Winning” a home, car, and all the stuff we think we need to be happy.

Then one day we realize we have a lot to lose and we go into protection mode.  We start protecting our lead.  That spells trouble.  Instead of continuing to play to win, we begin playing not to lose.  By winning I mean getting better, growing, advancing.  Basically, continually striving to make the world a better place.  That is winning.  All else is losing.

We lose when we let our fears and doubts win, when we continually focus on the downside risk over the upside potential rewards.  We get skeptical.  We think too much and do too little.  We usually talk ourselves out of something rather than in to it.  Inaction is so much safer.  We value our safety and security over all else.  We worry too much and dream too little. In the process, we tend to lose our ability to laugh and have fun.  We might be happy, but we could be happier.

With all of this in mind, here’s our challenge for the week.  Take a leap of faith.  Do something that you know you should do, but that your doubts and fears have been preventing you from actually doing.

Think about your list of woulda, coulda, shoulda’s.  Your “I wish I would have’s.”  Your “I always wanted to, or someday I will’s.”  Pick one thing and just do it.  No more thinking about the reasons not to.  No more risk reward calculations.  No more pro and con thinking.  Just make it happen, whatever it is.  Get over yourself, have no fear, and get it done.

Melanie and I are going to dance together on our anniversary.  It is scary to think about.  We have studied and practiced a little, but we are far from feeling ready.  We are going to do it anyway.  And we are going to have someone take a video that we will post next week for you to prove that we did.  Really scary!

We challenge you to do the same.  No, you don’t have to dance.  But do that scary thing you have always wanted to do.  Share with the Playground Heaven Living Facebook Group what you are going to do.  Then do it, make a video, and share if you dare.  We double dog dare you!  Yeah, this is serious.  You will be happy when you do:-)

Happiness lives on the other side of fear and doubt.  You just have to believe and take that first step.  Who knows, it may even be a defining moment in your life.  It sure was for Melanie and me forty years ago.

To Your Ongoing Happiness, Scott

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

 

 

How Happy a New Year?

What do you intend when you wish someone a Happy New Year?  What type of happiness do you want for yourself?  Do you want to be happy, happier, or your happiest in 2020?  What does “happy” even mean anyway?

Happy is a feeling.  We can feel however we want.  It’s not always easy, but I do believe that how we feel is simply a choice.  We can get ourselves happy at any time we so choose.

Try it now.  Be happy.  Stand up straight, think of a truly happy time in your life, smile, and feel the happy.

Did you try it?  Did it work?  I know it did.  But I also know that sustaining that feeling throughout the trials of everyday living is a challenge.

Still, some people seem to have the ability to be happy no matter what.  Others seem to never be happy.  Most of us are probably somewhere in between.

I think that unfortunately we’ve been conditioned to be conditionally happy.  We are happy when our perception of our current reality in life equals or exceeds our expectations for this moment in time.  As a math equation it looks like this:

Reality ≥ Expectations = Happiness.

Using simple math then, we can achieve happiness by improving our reality and/or lowering our expectations.  The easy choice would be to lower our expectations to our reality.  You can choose to be happy right now with who you are and what you have.  Be grateful and happy.  Smile.  Simple.

But we humans are not that easily satisfied.  For some reason we have a strong natural desire to constantly grow and improve.  Deep down we know we can always get better, and that we should.  We are only truly happy when we are striving to be more than we are today.

That is why we establish new year’s resolutions.  We know we can improve in some way, so we resolve to do something, or to stop doing something that will serve to make us better.

Unfortunately, most of us fail to keep our resolutions.  92 percent of us fail, 80 percent quit by mid-February.  And since our reality then falls below our expectations, we are unhappy.  We set ourselves up for failure by raising our expectations above what we can realistically achieve without radical changes in our behavior.  I choose to change my mindset before tackling behaviors this new year.

My resolution for 2020 is to be happy.  No conditions.  No specifics. I simply choose to be happy starting right here, right now, today.  In fact, just writing that made me happy.  Realizing we truly do have control over the emotion of happy makes me … happy.  Seriously, I’m smiling right now:-)

To keep myself on track, I also resolve to share what I am doing, and what I suggest you do too, every Monday morning.  Each week will include a brief message (written and maybe even videos) and a simple task for you to complete to achieve and maintain your happiness.

I desperately want you to have a happy new year.  Actually, I want you to have a happier new year, better than the last.  Strike that, I want you to have the happiest year you have ever had.  Yeah, that’s it.  I wish you a Happiest New Year.

Here’s your first task.  Think about the happiest year of your life to date.  When was it? What did you do?  Who were you with?  What did you experience?  What did you achieve?  How did you feel?  Get a sheet of paper, write “Happiest Year” at the top, and jot down your immediate thoughts about that year.

Now think about what you could do in 2020 to have an even happier year than that.  What will you do, who will you be with, what will you experience, what will you achieve, and how will you feel?  Title the reverse side of your paper “Happiest 2020” and capture your initial thoughts.

I plan to achieve my happiest year through living what I call the Playground Heaven Life. I will openly share what I am doing, my successes and failures, what you can learn from them, and what I suggest you do to live your happiest year too.

To further help us all, I have set up a private Facebook group where we can share our happiness successes and best practices with each other.  Where we can learn from, motivate, inspire, and support one another.

You can be accepted into the closed Facebook group here by following this link, clicking on the “Join” button, answering a simple question, and reviewing and accepting the playground rules.

The purpose of this group is to help us all regain the feeling of joy we had on the playground as kids.  True lasting happiness.  We will do this through:

  • Recapturing the Freedom we once enjoyed;
  • Having more Fun every single day, and;
  • Building our Fortitude to endure the inevitable hardships we occasionally encounter.

Please join us to learn how.  Each week will provide useful and practical tips you can put into use immediately to improve your state of happiness.

By the way, you don’t need the Playground Heaven book to participate, but you can get it here if interested.

I also encourage you to forward and share this message to your friends who may be interested in joining us.

Look for weekly messages beginning January 6, 2020.  The best way to ensure you see them is to join our email list by scrolling to the bottom of the playground heaven website here.

Weekly messages will also be posted to Facebook on the Playground Heaven and Saint Builder Foundation pages, and in the Playground Heaven Living group.  Please like and follow those sites to make sure you don’t miss out.

In the meantime, be grateful for who you are, who you have around you, and what you have right now.  Bingo, instant happiness.

I wish you a Happy, Happier, and the Happiest New Year in 2020!!!  Actually, it’s not a wish or hope.  I know you will have your happiest year if you join us and participate in living the playground heaven life.

Happily, Scott