Aug 242017
 

Is your company designed so that its managers and associates will be happy at work?

Probably not.  The executives that build companies tend to focus almost exclusively on financial results.  “we have to make the quarterly earnings or heads will roll…”

But is that smart? Do stressed-out people produce better results?

+++

Is your kid’s select club soccer team, basketball team, or volleyball team designed and concerned about player happiness?

Probably not. Most teams that cost parents big bucks and travel to out-of-town tournaments focus on those win/loss results. “Our team has to win — I’m not paying $3 grand a year to play in Division 2!”

But is that smart? Do stressed kids of stressed, minutes-played-monitoring parents learn and play sports better than happy, relaxed kids?

+++

Is your kid’s school designed to keep kids happy while they are learning and maturing?

Probably not. Results darn it, results! “We must get the grades up to ensure our federal funding.”

But is that smart?

+++

When will leaders, when will companies, when will institutions, when will we — finally realize that happiness is a critical ingredient that leads to above average results and success, not a by product that comes after the struggle?

Start with that which is in your own control: Is your family focused on happiness? Are you focused and committed on making it so? Are you planning and doing things to make the family experience happier? What would it take to add a little more happiness into this week? A little happiness goes a long way.

Do you have influence on the job front? Are you a manager at work? Or are you a leader on your team? What can you do to inspire the spark of happiness within your little sphere of influence? Don’t be too surprised if your group starts out-performing as people smile more — just don’t tell the hard-nosed CEO until you have a one heck of a track record!

“There is no duty so much underrated as the duty of being happy.”
— Robert Louis Stevenson

Change your own world. Be happy to enjoy your life — you will find that success becomes easier when laughter is the norm. Most people are about as happy as they decide to be.  Don’t pursue happiness — Make it instead.

I.M. Optimism Man

 

Mar 062017
 

Worrying about stuff that might or might not happen seems to have risen exponentially as we have become more interconnected. Facebook and the rest makes us feel like we are not succeeding fast enough or big enough when compared to all those people we personally know. Kids born today seem set up from birth to worry more than any previous generation.

Since I believe we are the architects of our own mental psyche, I believe we can train ourselves to worry less by being mindful about our own thoughts and living in the present.

Below is an article that I stumbled upon on LinkedIn.com from a guy named Brian Howe.

I don’t know Brian, but his article hits the nail on the head. Here it is in its entirety because I don’t know how to link to a LinkedIn article without LinkedIn trying to track you and acquire you as a user. If you like it, consider following Brian Howe, from Inuvo, Little Rock, Arkansas on LinkedIn:

7 Ways You’re Making Your Life Harder Than It Should Be

Life can be a real struggle sometimes, no question about it.

As a culture, we worry way too much. In fact, we worry because we are worried that we are spending too much time worrying. We are worried that we don’t know our futures; we are worried that we don’t know exactly what people think about us and we are worried whether or not the stove was left on when we left the apartment and when we get back the building will be burnt to the ground and it will all be our fault….. Its sad that these are the sorts of things that keep us up at night. These little things can end up making your life 10x harder and drive you insane.

We live in a generation that is so anxious at every blinking moment of our lives. Here are some ways you’re making your life harder than it should be.

Sticking to a plan: You have begun to realize that life is a stage, and that you are the star of your own show. So, if life starts to stray from the Hollywood script you naturally start to panic like a middle schooler who missed their line in the annual school play.

It is common that your life is actually a lot more complicated and a lot more stressful. That scripted sitcom you’re used to watching where no-one seems to ever work but can still afford that awesome apartment is by no means reality. So, if life doesn’t follow the standard Hollywood script: its ok, no one’s does.

Dwelling on the past: Dwelling on the past can literally turn you into a crazy person and will eventually get in the way of the life you are currently living. How many times have you been standing in the shower, coming up with snappy comebacks to all the arguments you never won? Let it go – it happened 3 years ago.

Being dramatic: It’s easy to think this way. The moment something doesn’t go as you planned, you immediately think about the worst-case scenario: They’ll kick you out of college, you’ll be fired, Donald Trump will give up all his power to Putin. It never ends up being as bad as you thought, so keep that in mind the next time you feel like toasting your bagels in the bathtub.

Taking things personally: That jerk cut you off in traffic, you turned in your resume but haven’t received a response, your grandma cancelled weekly bingo with you because you’re not as fun as she thought.

Everyone makes mistakes and sometimes you’re the collateral damage. It doesn’t feel good, but don’t take it personally.

Comparing yourself to others: Its late at night, you have chip crumbs on your shirt, a diet coke on the coffee table and Netflix just asked you if you’re “still there” because you’ve been binge watching your favorite sitcom for the past 5 hours. Scrolling through your Facebook feed, you might feel the same feeling of disappointment we all do when we see another person get engaged, score a brand new job or buy that fancy new car. Heck, even the kid who ate the teacher’s goldfish in middle school got his life together. All you see is an endless stream of achievements, re-affirming your choice of bourbon for breakfast.

Keep in mind that Facebook is the highlight reel of people’s lives and they’re only going to show the touchdowns and tackles, not the part where they throw up on the sidelines or fumble the ball for a loss.

Taking risks: No one will care if you take a leap of faith and you fail – they’ll just be impressed that you took the leap in the first place.

Caring way too much: We spend a lot of our lives caring what other people think of us but, no offense, no one thinks about you all that much – apart from your mom of course. But this is a good thing: once you wrap your head around the fact that almost everyone is an egotistical narcissist, you realize that they care about themselves too much to pay much attention to you…and that’s liberating.

I hope that you enjoyed Brian’s article. Choose to worry less… just do you best today… and consider rationing your social media exposure to a couple of times per week — I believe it will help.

I.M. OptimismMan

Apr 032016
 

Success is empty and hollow without sincere, good friendships. The problem of course, is that most friendships are not true lasting friendships; rather, they are shallow friendships of convenience that do not weather the storms, the misunderstandings, the disagreements, the years, or the separations. A friend is not a friend if they only show up when they need your support.

As with all worthy pursuits in life, great friendships require optimism and action. To have great friendships, you must invest valuable time and positive energy. Even the most beautiful flower withers without water, food, and sunshine.

Consider my top ten thoughts about friendship:

True friendships are one of the best measures of a person’s net worth.

A person is rich if he has three true friends to count on, no matter what happens over the coming decades.

True friendship always is based on true understanding of each other. Friends strive to understand and to be understood.

Do not plunge into friendship quickly. Be nice to everyone but intimate with few. Make sure those few have passed many tests.

Trust is essential. It is worse to distrust your friend than to be deceived by her.

You must seek, you must invest the time, you must plant the seeds and nurture the saplings of friendship, dozens or even hundreds of times, to earn one true lifelong friend.

Listening, remembering, understanding, empathizing, collaboration, and forgiveness are critical ingredients of friendship. People that only talk of themselves barely rank as acquaintances.

Keeping your friend’s secrets secret, even if she did not ask you to, is priceless.

Friendship requires that you tell your friend the truth and your sincere opinion, not what he wants to hear. 

True friends love their friend, no matter her faults, frailties, and blessings. A true friend only wishes for the best, no matter the situation.

Is there a good friend that you have neglected over the last few years? Today is the day to pick up the phone and rekindle that connection. We are all too busy — that’s not an excuse. The paperwork can wait. Don’t let him or her get away for lack of effort and optimism at your end.

I.M. Optimism Man

Aug 212015
 

Some people are cheap, some are value-oriented, and some are not careful with their spending habits. I fall squarely into the value-oriented Costco legion. I love getting a great deal but I rarely buy the absolute least-expensive version of a product, believing in the idea that you tend to get what you pay for.

costco

My quest for best-value-for-the-buck is not obsessive because it is invariably tempered by my #1 productivity habit/goal: minimizing the time required and invested in any pursuit. I remain first-and-foremost, a time-focused “how to best invest (and not spend) my time” individual, but I also want to know that I got a great deal.

Which type are you? If you are value-oriented, read on.

I’ve recently noticed a subtle but important mental trap that must be avoided, if you are to maximize value out of any purchase: don’t look back once a decision is made, unless the return policy is still in effect and in serious consideration.

cruise

For example, the water-is-truly-under-the-bridge after you get on a cruise ship for your family vacation. Your goal must transition, leaving the payment transaction in the rear-view mirror and looking forward to maximizing your enjoyment and really experiencing the trip. This will not happen if you continue to question the decision, complain about the price already paid, or cut corners on every discretionary expense that accompanies the primary purchase. If you stay focused on price paid, you will enjoy the trip, or the car, or the smartphone, tablet, or laptop a lot less than you would have, because you will still be polluting your inner zen with a ricocheting thoughts about “should I have made this choice — and — was this a good buy at the price that I paid…” Optimistic value-seekers understand that there are two sides of a purchase and therefore, plunge in with both feet, enjoying the purchase, maximizing their experience, and having fun, without complaints.

My advice is that the minute you are on the far side of any purchase, never look back. Seize the day (or purchase) for all you can get out of it.

I.M. Optimism Man

Apr 192015
 

When is the last time you jumped in and tried a new sport?

Last week, I started playing squash. The effect on my mind has been phenomenal. I’m fired up about going to the gym and getting better — squash is challenging and a lot of fun.

Check out this video:

squash-video

 

I did realize that this was my first new sport in about two+ years.  Actually, two years ago, I really didn’t start something brand spanking new, but rather started to play racquetball after staying away since the mid-80’s. That said, racquetball after such a long layoff did have the same effect that squash has had on me this month.

All this happy-neurons-effect has helped me think about the bigger picture — how much more excited would I be about life in general, if I planned and tried a new sport at least once per year?

Variety is the spice of life, yet why do we seem to gravitate to and stay in ruts for so long?

I highly recommend taking a little initiative. Be honest with yourself: when is the last time you started a new sport?  Why not dive into something new this month?

I.M. OptimismMan 

Jan 212015
 

The effects of stress take their toll on us. One of the aspects about stress that is very obvious, however, is that some people seem to handle stress much better than average. In typical American fashion, a great number of people turn to outside substances, be it Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro, Paxil, alcohol, or others, to reduce the stress that they feel, at least for a bit of time.

I’ve always been a believer that a large percentage of stress can simply go away if you find the right balance of optimism, self-belief, control, and mental perspective. The basic idea that life is 10% of what actually happens to us, and 90% of how we choose to react and what we do next, has always resonated with me.

Steven Covey explained the 90/10 rule this way:

Imagine that your daughter knocks over your coffee onto your business suit at breakfast. You immediately yell at her for her clumsiness, she runs upstairs crying uncontrollably, which results in missing the school bus. Still steaming, you now wind up driving her to school, she fails her math test because she remains upset all day, you get stuck in traffic, you then speed, get pulled over by Officer Smith for a speeding ticket, are late for a meeting with a client, and your boss is less than pleased that your tardiness jeopardized a client relationship. 

The alternative choice that could have been made was to smile, then tell your daughter that “it’s ok, mistakes happen, I have another suit upstairs…” and move forward in a positive fashion from the mishap. All the rest of those negative consequences could have been avoided by making a different choice.

The overall equation to preventing stress is bigger than just the 90/10 principle but 90/10 plays an important part. Below is a GREAT video by Dr. Mike Evans in Toronto, who discusses how we can learn to reduce our stress without chemical compounds. I highly recommend watching it today (full-screen is best):

drMikeevans

Click to play video on youtube

 

If you think you can, you can.

I.M. OptimismMan

Sep 252014
 

For more than 100 years, the population of developed countries has coalesced and formed sprawling metropolises, as cities offered ever greater opportunity to excel and succeed. One of the prices paid for the density of humanity is the gridlock of traffic that is the bane of any thriving metro today.

rushhour

I question everything, study everything, and observe how people react to situations. Traffic seems to be a nearly universal challenge that brings out the worst in most people. Traffic, so mysterious, so out of our own control, leads even the best of us to complain. I now believe that there is an invaluable lesson to be learned while you sit in daily traffic, yet exceedingly few manage to learn it.

Bear with me for a second while I make a pretty big leap: This lesson can be traced to the extreme hardships vividly documented by Viktor Frankl.

Viktor Frankl’s mother, father, wife, and brother all died in Nazi concentration camps. Viktor endured hunger, cold, and brutality in Auschwitz and Dachau. He knew that he would probably be killed any day. He lost all his belongings, including his life’s work, which was a scientific manuscript that had taken extraordinary time and care to create.

viktor-frankl

Frankl’s situation was dire. He could have easily given up all hope – most people in fact did. But Frankl emerged from the tortures an optimist by cultivating an empowering idea: he reasoned that even in the worst of situations, a person has the freedom to choose 1) how they perceive the circumstances and 2) to create their own meaning from them. Gordon Allport notes in the preface to the third edition of Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” classic, this is what the ancient Stoics called the ‘last freedom’. The evil of torture is not so much physical, but the active attempt to extinguish it is dibilatating. A favorite quote of Frankl’s was Nietzsche’s “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.”

Fast forwarding to Los Angeles, Houston, NYC, Dallas, Portland, or Chicago, the minor torture one endures daily is traffic. It infuriates, it shreds our positive attitude, it becomes a great source of complaints, and there is no escape or relief. It is clearly far less daunting than Viktor faced, but traffic is a modern, incessant torture just the same.

The lesson to be learned and appreciated is similar. In concentration camps, Frankl learned that, even though captive, he had the freedom to either let his circumstances infect and corrode his attitude or he had the freedom to choose his attitude and make the best of it. The lesson of traffic is the same: you can either let it get to you, or you can choose to enjoy the day, traffic be damned.

Consider these quotes for a minute:

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

— Viktor Frankl

The truth is that stress doesn’t come from your boss, your kids, your spouse, traffic jams, health challenges, or other circumstances. It comes from your thoughts about these circumstances.

— Andrew Bernstein

Nothing gives one person so much an advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.

— Thomas Jefferson

Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.

— Mahatma Gandhi

Complaints, either voiced out loud or simply thought out inside your own head, are a mental cancer that ruins your day. Decide to have a great day, no matter what happens, and you will have your great day as your reward.

— Bob Sakalas

This masters-level life lesson is universal. You often cannot choose your circumstances but you can choose your attitude. This applies universally to almost any situation you can’t control. If you are a student, you can’t control that teacher who doesn’t do it your way. If you are a parent, your teen will argue to the point of no return. You may have coworkers that drive you crazy day in and day out. There is no finite list of circumstances as Bernstein pointed out above.

Recently, I unwittingly started complaining — mostly inside my own thoughts — about how much back-to-back business travel I had to endure in the last few months. Although I didn’t voice it often, it was on my mind and my internal complaints began to corrode my attitude, which has a domino effect on everything like productivity, effectiveness, clear thought, focus, peace, optimism, and gratitude. This week, I finally realized the downward spiral I had inadvertently decided to put myself on. I have the freedom to ‘whistle a happy tune’ as I board flight 255 or let the circumstances infect me. Only the former helps things turn out for the best.

Tomorrow morning, I will sit in traffic, thankful for the opportunity to catch up on my stock market awareness while I listen to CNBC. I have seen the light. I hope that you do to.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. FYI, I did in fact whistle the tune to the Andy Griffith show as I boarded a 737 this week.

Aug 252014
 

A lot of people think that I’m a true “morning person” but unfortunately, that is not the case. Being a morning person implies that you jump out of bed, fully awake and ready to go, naturally, almost magically. Maybe some people are that fortunate but I’m not one of them. I burn the candle at both ends far too often, working hard and working out, daily. Jumping out of bed is not in the cards for me — my wife can attest that watching me get up is akin to a time-lapse photography sequence.

Yet, I decided years ago to transform myself into a morning person of sorts. What I really am is a rhythm and habits person, who believes in will power and forethought.

Just because I’m up at 5 am daily does not mean that it is easy. In fact, this graphic sums up mornings perfectly, from my perspective:

not-a-morning-person

After years of experimentation and observation, I believe that getting a good, early start in the morning produces killer benefits for the rest of the day.

A good start must be defined, because I believe it is not plunging headlong into the rat race sooner than most everyone else.

  • A good start involves reading a bit to kickstart fresh ideas.
  • It definitely includes pre-planning your day and your top “big rock” priority.
  • A good start must include forward thinking, as well as a bit of reflection.
  • It also should include comprehensive stretching, which works wonders physically.
  • If you are a believer, saying a short prayer or two helps orient yourself to your higher calling.
  • Finally, when the weather cooperates, it also includes stopping, watching, and appreciating the sun rise.

It takes 6 – 12 weeks to build or break a habit. But once you get past the habit barrier, I believe that there are great benefits to the choice of becoming a “morning person” — at least my kind of coffee-sparked morning person. The 10 reasons to become a morning person include:

1. Peace
When you get up early, you find moments of peace and solitude in an otherwise crowded, busy, loud-as-heck, full-of-distractions world. Peace and solitude is great for the soul. I’m not exactly meditating on my patio, but I get it.

2. Reflection
Early mornings are great for reflection, especially as you move to cup of coffee #2. One of the things I started a few years ago is keeping a smartphone based journal. I find, in the peace of the early morn, reading over my recent entries helps generate more ideas.

3. Self-Determination
You an either set your own priorities or others will set them for you. Early mornings give you time to think about whats important to you. It helps fight the urgency conspiracy driven by other people. Get up early to find the time to set your own agenda, your own priorities.

4. Magic
The sunrise is in fact magical. Try it for one week. Then, tell me I’m wrong.

5. Avoiding Some Stress
If you have to go somewhere, you will avoid 90% of the stress of traffic, while saving a lot of time as well. Most cities are busy but not jammed before 7 am. If you go in early, you will avoid that stress that every 8 am commuter feels.

dawn-runner

6. Sharpness
If you get up early and go for a workout, your mind and body are running at full speed by the time others start arriving, sleepy and groggy. Being the sharpest person in the room is a fantastic feeling and it doesn’t hurt your chances of accelerated promotion.

7. Balance
By getting up early, you get more balance in your life. When you take time to plan your day, you tend to be more thoughtful about it, which in turn leads to prioritizing your tasks and plans, both at work and in other pursuits.

8. Special Projects
When you finally forge yourself into a morning person, you will find that you have the capability of getting special project started and completed. I wrote my book, Seizing Share, using the early morning system. Interruptions don’t wake up and start interrupting until 7:30 or 8 am.

9. Improved Optimism
The more mornings you enjoy with a good start, the more often you will have the right, positive attitude all day. Optimism is a crucial ingredient toward success, so with improved optimism, you will often see more success. It becomes a self-sustaining upward spiral.

10. Better Sleep
A lot of people struggle to fall asleep. However, if you get up early, you are more worn by the time bedtime arrives. As a result, you fall asleep quickly and sleep more soundly all night. Our bodies like rhythms. The trick is to keep to the schedule. Once you have a great schedule, you will find that you sleep better, feel more fit, and ultimately become healthier too.

Consider becoming a morning person. I’m living proof that it can be done, even if you are a night owl today.

I.M. Optimism Man

Aug 192014
 

Complaining seems to be the national pastime — perhaps it has always been so — but I’ve become so sensitive to it that I can’t help but overhear it, evaluate it, and even rate it everywhere I go.

Complaints help no one. If you complain, you are not better off, the people you are infecting with negativity are not better off, and you are slowly but surely causing a social rift between yourself and others. Nobody likes a whiner, even other whiners.

crybaby

Complaining is a brilliant way to relive a bad experience over and over. OK, perhaps traffic was painful this afternoon, but why live through it again and again, all evening long? Life will often offer up the irate customer, the difficult relationship, the frustrating store clerk, the thin lukewarm coffee, and the inevitable meal with too much seasoning. If you decide to put “it” behind you minutes after “it” happens, and never mention it again, I know you will have a better evening.

I believe we all have the power to choose what habits we build and what habits we leave behind. Whining is a beast that can be defeated, if you decide and follow through. It takes six to twelve weeks to build a habit of excellence when you have resolve. Here’s how.

kwitcherbichen

The benefits are numerous. When you stop whining, you will reduce your stress. You will smile more, laugh more, believe more, become more optimistic, relax more, enjoy more, appreciate more, and have more gratitude, which is the ultimate key to happiness. Today is the day to start. Make a commitment. Make it happen. Make a great new habit reality.

I.M. OptimismMan

 

May 102014
 

Many people, perhaps most people, relax from the daily grind by vegging out in front of a television and getting spoon fed mindless entertainment.

But does that really refresh you? Does it change you? Does it change how you think? Does it expand your possibilities?

You have a choice to try more, do more, think more, be more, if you want to.

I would bet Randall Munroe spends less time than you do in front of the TV. I find the freedoms we have incredibly fascinating. The internet lets us connect with people so easily, to create a new circle of friends and associates in just weeks. In our newly interconnected world, all barriers are obliterated. Please watch this short 7 minute clip, and then consider what might be a better way to refresh your mind after the daily grind.

2014-05-10_0739-randall-munroe

Why not be all you can be?

I.M. Optimism Man

Bonus PS> One of Randall’s comics from his xkcd.com website:

2014-05-10_0814-xkcd

Dec 112013
 

Last weekend, we lost power for more than 12 hours, as Dallas got hit by a nasty ice storm. No electricity for just one day — a dark, cold house without warm water, internet, or T.V. — combined with the inability to drive anywhere — will wake you up to how much goodness you take for granted. That got me thinking, yet again, about the essence of happiness.

Dallas-Ice-Storm

I’m happy and at peace. Very happy. All of the time. Being a hyper-analytical guy, I wonder why. Why am I so happy and at peace, when many others seem to be less happy and less at peace to varying degrees?

It is not because I have enough time — I don’t — and I’m a person that is quite focused on investing my time wisely. It is not because I have more than enough money — finances are tricky most the time — there is always more to invest in, more to fix, stuff to improve and buy, than there is budget available. It is not because everything goes smoothly — it never does — Murphy’s Law seems to be getting stronger all the time. It is not because I’m caught up — my list continues to expand like the universe — I’m frustrated when important items remain undone for months, even years, on end. But I’m very happy and at peace none-the-less.

I want to understand the “why” behind happiness. Why am I at peace in a tumultuous world? How can clearly understanding happiness lead me to help others to be happy too? One of my theories has been expectations: if you are always longing for more than you have, it is hard to be happy. A key is to love what your already have, and I do.

When I look at my life, I see nothing but countless blessings. I love my wife, truly and completely, happy in every way that she said “yes” nearly twenty years ago — she is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I love my kids truly and completely, and could not imagine them turning out better in any way than they already are. I’m very proud of them. I love my mom and am very happy she has moved to Dallas. I love my home, my stuff, my laptops, desktops, tablets, and smartphones. I love the color of my office. I love my coffee cups and my chair. I love my constant flow of geeky gadgets. I love my vault of ideas that grows every day, full of promise, even as I know that I won’t be able to sincerely work on 99% of them. I love my Macs. I even my Windows laptop (Lenovo T510) and it takes a leap to appreciate your windows machine sometimes. I love that I live in this age of extraordinary progress. I love that the (public-sphere) internet was born in the 90’s — how did we live life before wikipedia and googling something?

I have just discerned a key component — if not the key component — to happiness. I was on the right track, but a bit hidden in kind of a “cart before the horse” equation. Many people think gratitude is a product of being happy, but, after watching the video below, I have come to appreciate the subtle difference of “gratitude leads to happiness” not “happiness leads to gratitude.”  When you start from a perspective of being grateful, of being thankful and feeling blessed for all of the people in your life, as well as the wonderful little not-so-important things, it puts you on the right road for true happiness and peace.

Please watch this rather “zen” video when you have a few minutes of tranquility to think without distraction:

david

Peace, Joy, and Happiness this Christmas Season. It is definitely not about getting a new Lexus, no matter how shiny it is!

I.M. Optimism Man

PS> Like this article? Try these two from last year — Escaping Average and Want to Be Happy?

Aug 152013
 

We often get too caught up in the daily struggles to realize that life should be full of wonder, it should be cool, it should be fun, it should be creative, it should be beautiful.

We need more projects like this one (watch it in full-screen):

The world needs many more projects like the bridge. Chances are that you or I won’t build something quite this ambitious — but — what project can you create that can add a bit of beauty and wonder to your world? It’s time.

I.M. Optimism Man

Feb 152013
 

Websters defines a “dud”…

Main Entry: dud 
Pronunciation: primarystressdschwad
Function: noun
1 plural a CLOTHES b : personal belongings
2 : a complete failure <the movie was a dud>
3 : a missile (as a bomb or shell) that fails to explode

Too many people don’t set goals for this week, this month, this year — and the result is that they are a missile that never explodes in a blaze of glory. They become a dud. Don’t be a dud.

I ask many about their New Year’s resolutions when February arrives. Half of those asked never set any resolutions in January. The other half are all too predictable — they mostly set weight and fitness resolutions — and most of them are already falling off the too-painful-to-follow formula that they created only six weeks ago.

That means that around 80% of you are ready for a new February 15th resolution. Here’s my thought for you: quit setting negative, painful resolutions. The truth is most resolutions are difficult and fraught with feeling of disappointment when one’s results come up short. Getting in shape is not easy for most people. Eating four servings of fruits and vegetables each day is not easy. Stopping complaining, saving more money, stopping smoking are all difficult.

So, here’s the solution. Make this your new resolution:

Make this your only resolution. Then, execute. Plan one fun event for every month that remains in 2013. Put the events on the calendar. Buy tickets. Let yourself go, forget your daily worries, and be sure and take pictures. If you don’t, you are likely to end this year as a dud. Don’t choose that path!

Make a slide show of all the great pictures you take while having fun in 2013 and set it to music. Upload it to youtube in December 2013 (send me a link if my idea helped!). Repeat in 2014. Forget the incessant negativity of the news media. Life is good and fun is always within reach.

Optimistic, positive resolutions are much better, and far more likely to happen.

I.M. Optimism Man

Mar 062012
 

The pursuit of Happiness sounds simple, but I think most people don’t have it framed correctly in their heads. The mistake was seeded at the time of America’s founding, when “pursuit of Happiness” appeared as a God-given unalienable right in the Declaration of Independence. I don’t think that it is a pursuit.

The basic flowchart many people believe looks like this:

This flowchart is wrong.

I believe happiness is a state-of-mind that comes from forward-looking optimism and being thankful for everything that you already have and enjoy. Both happiness and optimism are available to you today and during every step of your life’s journey.

Happiness is not a destination.

Happiness is an enabler during each step of the flowchart scribbled above. Happiness helps a person:
(1) do the hard work,
(2) overcome the tough challenges,
(3) succeed at the endeavors,
(4) ultimately enjoy financial windfalls,
(5) among other, often more important, things.
Happiness does not come sequentially from success or money.

Shawn Achor agrees with me. His truly excellent presentation is my nominee for Best Video that Can Change Your Perspective for 2012. Please watch it now — its just twelve minutes long — and let’s see if he can convince you that happiness is a choice and happiness leads to greater success. Shawn is the winner of numerous distinguished teaching awards at Harvard University, where he delivered lectures on positive psychology in one of the most popular classes offered at Harvard.

I’m not alone 🙂

Do you want to be above average? Start by being above average happy. Below was Shawn’s action steps for how to start today.

I.M. Optimism Man

 

Jan 112012
 

There is a lot of books and articles preaching about what it takes to succeed in life — I add my words to that pile readily enough — but most of those words and formulas and methodologies forget that true success in not just about work.  Balance matters.

If you don’t stop and smell the roses with great regularity, you are in great risk of missing what life is all about. It does not make sense to work every minute of every day, relentless in the pursuit, to then “enjoy” the fruits of your labor when you are too old and too tired to play in earnest.

Do you work hard? Do you then have an “off” switch? Do you play hard? When is the last time you played around, completely carefree? Do you enjoy quiet moments of peace and tranquility in the sun, smartphone out of sight and out of mind? How often? Be honest with yourself…

When is the last time you went to a music festival? Had a few beers with really good friends? Played paintball? Read a book in a shady hammock? Ice skated at the Galleria? Fell in the deep powder of Utah’s slopes? Walked the dog because you wanted to? Had family game night without the T.V. on? Laughed out loud until your side hurt?

I’m as guilty as many others — my smartphone interrupts meals with the family, while I’m reading a good book, and during my kid’s soccer match. I look at my calendar and realize it has been way too long since my wife and I had a fun date night. I realize I must improve this equation, and realization is important. There is no time like the present.

My readers know I’m a freakish believer in planning my life on a calendar, ahead of living it — I believe your day is far more likely to turn out as you wish, if you design it ahead of time — and then taking notes on how I did in relation to my plans. I have learned that the human memory has convenient lapses when you don’t really want to know that you have not had a carefree fun event in weeks or months. But the calendar/paper/journal doesn’t lie — and facing reality does inspire a person to change their ways.

I’m going to improve on my “off” switch in 2012. I’m hoping you consider doing so too.

I.M. Optimism Man

Oct 112011
 

When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
it was beautiful, magical
and all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily,
joyfully, playfully, watching
me,

But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible,
logical, responsible, practical,
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
clinical, intellectual, cynical…

— Richard Davies and Roger Hodgson

For centuries, we have followed this simple pattern of being born with joy and fun only to have society extinguish most of it, as we graduated into adulthood. It should not and does not have to be this way.

Mencius observed:
“Great is the man who has not lost his childlike heart.”

Mencius’ words have stood the test of time as he lived 300 years B.C.

My stepdad was one of the few that did not lose his childlike heart. Even in his 70’s and 80’s, Joe laughed out loud, he got down on the floor and played with my kids every time he could, he enjoyed life with a permanent twinkle in his eye. He was a great man because he never lost his childlike heart. I’m sure Saint Peter swung the gate wide open when he passed away a few weeks ago.

I think we need to take almost everything less seriously and put fun back into our lives. Being fun should not be so foreign a thought when you are north of 35 years old.

Worse yet, we are pushing adulthood seriousness into younger and younger age brackets. Why do parents of 9 year olds take “select club” sports so seriously? They act like every game is critical, coaching her all the way to the field, yelling instructions nonstop every minute played, and then debriefing her all the way home, after calculating the number of minutes she played. In addition to 2 – 3 club practices every week, they take her to special coaches for speed and agility training, and other private coaches for skills that promise to give her an edge. Some even have her practice and play with multiple teams, to keep her options open and to get more “touches” on the ball. Yikes!

These “serious-like-adults” programs are everywhere — soccer, football, softball, gymnastics, academics (after-school Kumon has 300,000+ hopeful future valedictorians enrolled in the U.S., and Kumon is but one of many academic dojos) — our hyper-competitive society is systematically taking the fun out of childhood before it has any chance to blossom. It now starts at 6 years old! Parents are suckers for the sales pitch: you have to give your kid an “edge” if he or she is to be a winner.

By the time kids grow up, fun has been extinguished for almost everyone.

Optimists must take proactive steps to remedy the situation, starting with their own families. Actions speak louder than words. When’s the last time you did anything for the simple fun of it? When is the last time you really engaged and played with your kids — really played their games and got in the middle of the action? It’s a great first step to rediscovering that you too can be fun again. Most importantly, playing with them is real “quality” time — simply watching them play at the park while you read your iPad is not really quality stuff.

If your kids are grown, don’t just meet them for Sunday brunch. Go snow skiing, go sailing, go camping, go fly kites at the beach (yes, adults can fly kites — don’t look at the computer screen so incredulously). Organize some fun for your too-serious-and-intellectual adult friends too — Ultimate Frisbee is a lot more fun than relationships via facebook.

Life’s too short to not have fun. Laugh out loud, for the fun of it.

Here’s to the pursuit of happiness!

I.M. Optimism Man