Are you having trouble maintaining your happy with a new virus in the air? I have never seen this level of universal panic. When there is no toilet paper on the selves, there is obviously a crisis underway.
At the beginning of this writing I still wondered if this was truly going to be the crisis we were being told it would become. Many experts were writing on both sides of that debate. Then I realized the question is moot. Our collective actions at this point have produced a crisis, real or not.
Schools and businesses are shut down. Shelves are empty. Major events have been cancelled. People are afraid to come into contact with one another. The financial markets have taken a nose dive. We have all been negatively impacted in some way at this point. And we are told that it will become worse before it gets better, so it will.
So how can we maintain our desired happiness level at such a troubling time? I have a three-step process that works for me, it will for you too. But first, here’s a brief semi-embarrassing personal story to provide context for the solution.
I had a close encounter with panic many years ago, technically it was an attack. According to the Mayo Clinic, “A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause.” Yep, that’s what I had.
We were in the process of moving back to Iowa from Florida. It was a sudden unplanned move due to a job opportunity. I packed a few essentials, flew to Iowa to live in a small apartment, and Melanie stayed back to sell the house and make arrangements for our move which officially happened about six months later.
We made trips to see each other every couple of weeks. Then out of nowhere, for no reason, sitting on a plane waiting to take off, I had my panic attack. I could hardly breathe. I felt I had to get out of that plane immediately. I was scared and on the verge of causing a disturbance.
Just before I did, a scene from the movie “Airplane!” entered my mind. A woman is freaking out and a stewardess shakes her and screams, “Get ahold of yourself!” Passengers are lined up behind her with weapons, waiting their turn to make her clam down. It made me laugh and I sure didn’t want that to happen to me.
Thankfully the panic then passed quickly. I reasoned that it was caused by separation anxiety. Yes, I am an amateur psychologist. But the thing is, once you have experienced an attack, you are naturally afraid that it will happen again.
I now had a big challenge to face. We were scheduled to fly to New Zealand soon after my incident. Although I tried to put it out of my mind, I couldn’t shake the feeling that another attack was coming on that 14-hour plane flight. Not good!
Over the next couple of weeks I rationalized that my attack was a one-time thing. It had never happened before and would likely never happen again. There was really nothing to fear. It’s just a plane ride. I’ve done this at least a hundred times. Plus, Melanie and I would be together so no more need for the anxiety. Still I was concerned and wished I could cancel the trip. But we needed a vacation, so instead I developed my avoid-a-panic strategy.
First I reminded myself about how ridiculous my fear was. Then I practiced visualizing being on that plane and remaining calm. Finally I thought about the opportunities awaiting us on the other side of the flight. I focused on how much fun we would have on this vacation.
We boarded the plane and I was feeling good … until we got to our seats. For some reason I had assumed international flights of this length would have a larger seating area … wrong! Our seats were located next to a handicapped woman who was already sitting in the aisle seat. She couldn’t move without significant assistance.
We reminded ourselves that someone always has it worse as we crawled over her to get into our middle and window seats. We were trapped for the next 14 hours. Please get this thing in the air and step on it!
Thankfully my preparation had worked and all was well. It was rough, but we made it. We had a great vacation, my anxiety was completely gone and has never returned. But that experience taught me some valuable lessons.
I know first-hand that, (1) panic is scary even when there is no apparent reason for it, (2) we can avoid and overcome our fears with proper preparation, and (3) there is happiness on the other side of our fears. Let’s get happy again right now.
Here’s your guide to happiness during this or any other panic inducing situation. Take these three steps to maintain your happy and to help others do the same.
Step 1 – Get Real – See the situation for what it really is. Take the emotion out of it and be logical and rational. In the case of this virus, we have an illness that is spread through contact with an infected person or something they have been in contact with. If you think about it, this is always the situation, every day of our lives. Cold and flu viruses are always lurking about, this is just a new strain. Do we really need to panic? No. Stay calm and carry on with the next step.
Step 2 – Back to Basics – Focus on continually striving to be and to do your best for the benefit of others. Behaving virtuously is especially important in a time of crisis, especially demonstrating charity, kindness, and patience. Basically, we should put more emphasis on doing the things we should have been doing all along. In the case of this virus that means doing the same things we should always do to avoid the spread of disease:
Step 3 – Find the Good – What good can you see coming from this situation? What can you do to make it better right now? How can you find enjoyment in this new altered state of life? Then look past the crisis. Envision a better future. Find something to look forward to.
I can see many positives coming from this situation. Like maybe we will all finally develop healthy hygiene habits that we will use consistently. Every couple of years we all have to be reminded about the basics in step 2. Why are we so slow to learn? Hopefully we will this time, once and for all.
How about this, instead of rushing to get prepared for a crisis, we plan ahead and are always ready. Check out this site for help https://www.ready.gov/ At a minimum, maintain the supplies you just stocked up on.
Here’s some good news, you will probably have more free time on your hands for the next month or so. You won’t have to be running around town taking kids to school and events. You might also be working from home saving your commuting time. Think about what can you do with the gift of that extra time.
What are things you’ve been wanting to do but never have the time for? What can you do at home with your family. See this extra time as a stay-cation. Do things together. Go outside and play. Make puzzles. Play board games. Go on hikes. Visit parks and playgrounds. Watch something funny. Learn something new. Read a book.
Remember to keep in touch with your friends and neighbors. They may need some help that you can safely provide. Maybe you can even share your toilet paper supply. What an act of kindness and charity that would be:-)
One last bit of advice for you believers. Place your faith in God. Know that things will turn out for the best, whatever the best is. It may not be what we want, but it will be what we need. These hard times are meant to make us stronger and to put us on a better path going forward. We will survive and thrive.
Here’s your challenge for the week. Find one way to be happier in this time of panic and share it with the Playground Heaven Living Facebook Group.
One final note. Thank you in advance to all of you who work in and around the health care system. No doubt you will be called upon to work long hours, with few breaks, in a stressful environment, while putting your own health at risk over the next weeks and months. Please know that you are highly appreciated for what you do and for the courage you continually exhibit!
Be Safe, Well, and Happy my Friends! Scott
Our dog, Roxi stayed at a lodge last week while we were traveling. I think they used to call these pet boarding places, kennels. That was back in the day when they were basically a bunch of cages. Now they are like mini hotel rooms with comfortable beds, toys, background music, televisions, and views of the great outdoors. She stays in what they call a cabin, how nice.
She always seems to be in good spirits when we pick her up. She is so excited when we get home. She runs all over the yard and then explores all throughout the house as her way of celebrating her new-found freedom. She is so happy! I don’t know if dogs can actually smile, but she sure seems to be.
She especially loves going to the park following a kennel stay. We take her during a time we know others won’t be present so we can let her roam free. She runs all over the grounds looking for varmints to chase. She is a Scottish terrier and that is what they were bred for, ridding castles of rodents. She didn’t need to be taught how to do what she does, she just does it. And she is smiling again.
Watching her makes me smile too. It reminds me of the most important thing we humans can do to be happy. It should be the easiest, but seems to be the most difficult. We must figure it out for ourselves. No one else can help us. In fact, the more others try to help, the harder it is to make it happen. What is this key happiness component? Being your true self.
What does that mean? Who else could we be? How can we be anyone but ourselves? There is only one us, right?
Well, if you were a dog it would be that simple. As a dog you were bred to be something in particular, that is your true self. You don’t have to be taught what to do, you just do it. As long as you are free to do that thing, you are a happy dog.
Unfortunately for us humans, we do not innately know what our thing is. Or maybe we do, but we are so heavily influenced by others that we don’t recognize what it is. Or it could be that we have so many choices about what to do that we get confused. I’m not sure, I just know that finding our true self is a difficult task that often lasts a lifetime.
What I do know is that we all have natural talents that can’t be explained. There are also things that inherently peak our interest. And when we do things that use our talents and that we find interesting, we are happy. Maybe we are each “bred” for something specific.
I actually do think we each have a special purpose in life, something that we are uniquely qualified to do. I also believe that when we do our thing, it will provide value to other people in some way.
Further, I believe that collectively our things fit together in a way that could make the world the place I think it was intended to be … heaven. Yeah, I’m a dreamer, an idealist. Sounds nice though, doesn’t it.
If only we could live a dog’s life. What if we innately knew what our thing was? Then we could spend our time becoming the best we could possibly be at doing that thing. We could ignore everything else, in fact we would want to. All we would want to do are the things that help us become better at what we are supposed to be doing to make the world a better place. Wouldn’t you be unceasingly happy if that was how you were spending your time every day?
The more I think about this, the more I am convinced that we do all have a specific purpose, a calling. It is calling from within us, telling us what to do, and what not to do. We are happier when we listen and do what we are being told.
Think about it. How do you feel when you are doing something that (1) is in line with your talents, (2) you find interesting, and that (3) benefits others in some way? Now contrast that feeling with times when one of those three components is missing. They are very different feelings, aren’t they?
When you are being your true self, that person you are meant to be, you are happy. The further you stray from yourself, the less happy you become.
Test this theory for yourself. Gauge your level of happiness at any time and examine what you have been doing to generate that feeling. I’ll bet you are happier when you are doing things that are in line with your talents, interests, and the needs of others. We are happiest when we are doing something we enjoy and that others appreciate. That brings meaning and fulfillment into our lives.
It is so logical, so simple. Why then is this not the way of the world, everyone doing their thing and living happily ever after? Do we know what we should do, but resist it? Does it seem too hard so fear creeps in? Are we peer-pressured away from doing our thing and being ourselves? Is our one size fits all educational system not geared toward helping us find our true self and our purpose in life? My answer to all these questions and many more like them is yes.
So what can we each do to overcome the inherent difficulty in finding and being ourselves? The first word that comes to my mind is, Explore. Take time to identify your talents and your interests. Then figure out what you can do with them to provide value to others.
If you are lucky you may find that what you are doing now is your thing. Congratulations! If not, keep searching. There is nothing more important in life than finding and doing that thing that makes you happy, and as a by-product that serves to help others be happier as well.
If you want to learn more, check out chapter 10, “Mission Finder” of my sAint Me?! book or Chapter 8, “What’s Your Game” of Playground Heaven, which provide a step-by-step process for finding your thing, your calling, your mission, your game, whatever you want to call it. I’m thinking of developing an on-line course that will walk you through the process as well. Let me know if you would find that useful.
In the meantime, here’s your challenge for the week. Identify one thing that you do which is not in line with your true self. To be more specific, pick a behavior that you dislike. Like maybe you are too agreeable to doing things you really don’t want to do. Or you go along to get along too often.
Whatever it is, choose something that you want to change, that is not in line with how you really want to act. Then do what you really want to do next time you encounter that situation. It will take some courage and maybe a leap of faith that things will turn out okay. But you know you can do it, and you know you should do it to be yourself. If you don’t, who else will?
Here’s to living a dog’s life by being who you were meant to be:-) Scott
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-perfect 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:
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
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?
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
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.
Step Number 2 – Ask yourself these questions:
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:
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
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:
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.
I 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
“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.
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
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 deleted 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
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:
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.
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.
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 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
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/
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:
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:
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:
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