Dec 262015
 
robert-waldinger

People, especially young people, are predictable when asked what their important goals are in life, goals that specifically will help them achieve happiness. Invariably, money and fame appear at the top of the list.

Well, it turns out that there are few comprehensive studies about happiness over a lifetime. Studies are relatively easy to pull off when they only last a few years. Studying people for a lifetime, on the other hand, almost never happens.

Here is something extraordinary: a study that has focused on happiness and lasted 75 years. The conclusion is well worth thinking about:

robert-waldinger-on-ted

In previous posts, I have argued that, in my humble opinion, gratefulness is the key to happiness. Robert Waldinger makes the case that the quality of your social relationships is the most important key to achieve happiness. Maybe just maybe, gratefulness and great relationships go hand-in-hand and rank as #1 and #2. No matter, the clear point is that money and fame are not answer.

2016 might be the year to take a hard look at your own life. Are you investing the time and energy it takes to build extraordinary relationships?

I.M. OptimismMan

Jul 082015
 

I rarely see a situation in life where anger helps, yet I often see situations where anger hurts not only the person who is the target of the rage, but also the one who allows himself to become angry.

Yet some people seem angry all the time. I wish we could do a study and track angry episodes per month and how it would correlate to physical health and longevity. If stress causes damage, anger is stress on steroids.

angry-woman

Does yelling at the person that cut you off in traffic help?  Does yelling at your kid when she doesn’t do her chores improve your relationship? Does fuming at your teacher for producing an unexpected pop-quiz improve your chances of getting a good grade? Invariably, the answer is no.

So why get angry? I have no self control” is not a valid answer: the truth is that you have not mastered the millisecond gap — see my previous post here on the topic.

Like any worthy goal, it takes getting out of bad habits, unlinking your reaction from the “triggers” and learning new better habits. If you want to get better, and believe that you can and that you must, you can and will succeed..

Here are six great quotes about anger and how we can get better:

When anger rises, think of the consequences.

— Confucius

When angry, count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred.

— Thomas Jefferson

Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed or offended. But what you’re doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness. You can choose to not let little things upset you.

— Joel Osteen

Anger is a killing thing: it kills the man who angers, for each rage leaves him less than he had been before – it takes something from him.

— Louis L’Amour

grace-kelly-jpg

Getting angry doesn’t solve anything.

— Grace Kelly

A broken bone can heal, but the wound a word opens can fester forever.

— Jessamyn West

Resolve to remove anger from your DNA. It will lead you to a much better place.

How do I start?

Like much of my advice, start by keeping an honest log of your angered moments and the reasons why you got angry. Why something happened is far more powerful than what happened. Pale ink is magical, as I have observed in previous posts — here’s a post about anger’s cousin, also beatable through the magic of pale ink, the destructive habit of complaining.

I.M. Optimism Man

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

Jun 212014
 

I think all of us, at one time, had our trust betrayed. When that happens — when someone breaks their sincere word to us — as just happened with my daughter’s coach of many years, it is easy to learn the wrong lesson. At such a seminal moment, most people walk away never able to place their full and complete trust in others again. Unfortunately, that all-too-understandable conclusion hurts the betrayed person far more than the betrayer in his or her moment of weak character. When you lose your willingness to trust, you damage your life’s true potential and promise.

This is a genuinely difficult time to be Optimism Dad.

The coach, who had often promised his loyalty and desire to take my daughter far in her soccer future, had never once pulled her to the side in the last two+ years to ask her to improve any aspects of her play. Not once did he warn us or her that she was “not safe” for next year. Even as he called me to cut her from the team, he admitted that she played nearly flawless games on the field and had done so, consistently, for years. In the end, she broke her leg, he found a replacement, and he simply decided to go with the new girl based on a newfound preference for a larger, sturdier, and currently uninjured kid. After three years of her faithful dedication, I was most surprised that he never talked to her directly in the end, making no attempt to help mitigate the psychological damage.

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My daughter took it very, very hard. At times like this, it is hard to stay true to the optimism that is, in part, a product of the choice to trust. Yet trust is a crucial choice, if you are to get the most out of every endeavor and relationship. When you don’t trust the next teacher, coach, friend, manager, partner, or colleague fully, your odds of great success and achievement are reduced. Not every teacher, not every coach, not every manager will fail a crossroads character test.

She felt safe, secure, valued, and genuinely loved by her friends and the coaches that she completely trusted, only to be ejected by the “family” that intentionally and often sold the “this is a family” concept at every turn. She lost many of her best friends in the blink of an eye. Real families don’t turn their backs on the injured while he or she recovers. This must be what it feels when a spouse is shocked by unexpectedly served divorce papers, without ever having any arguments or counseling sessions. She has played top level soccer for nearly 6 years. At 12, she has experienced this shock twice already: she broke her arm when she was 8 and lost half her job then. She then broke her leg at 12, and lost her job entirely. The second one hurt much more, because she really trusted these coaches and she really loved the friends she had here. I played a sad part as well, telling her many times that I believed this coach was different and trustworthy. I was wrong. Life is not always fair and just.

nike-boot

Why did this really happen? In the end, I would place the blame on misguided raw ambition of the coaches and the few people they look to for counsel. This team is one of the best the coaches have ever had, consistently ranked in the top 5 in one of most competitive metros in America. They, and some of the parents, believe that scoring just a few more goals, or stopping just a couple more shots, or having two more games without an injured keeper — per year — is worth any price. But, blame doesn’t help and forgiveness makes you better, as I have pointed out before.

This is a difficult time for our family and a difficult lesson to teach my kid. I hope to convince her that, contrary to this painful event, life is better when you choose to trust. Through faith in others, greater highs are achieved — you are able to do your very best only through faith and optimism — but that the occasional lows may be much lower as well. Just because the path of trust is right and true, doesn’t make it easy choice to make, given the choices others sometimes make.

When you are faced with similar situations, I hope that you help your kids see the light. Choosing to trust matters, even after those you trusted decide to rip your heart out. Trust is the right decision until you have proof of a person’s poor character — don’t make the same mistake twice in those cases, of course.

holtz-notre-dame

I wish these coaches followed Lou Holtz’s simple formula for success in life — (1) Do Right, (2) Do the best you can, and (3) Treat others the way you would like to be treated — if they did, this event would never had happened. I sincerely hope they learn something from this event and at least pre-warn the next kids, months before they nuke them. For now, I hope that we can salvage a good, important, lasting lesson from this painful chapter.

A quote all of us have heard is:

Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

— Alfred Lord Tennyson

The same is true for trust. Tis better to trust and lose, than to never have trusted at all. 

The strong can choose to trust, and to forgive, even after the lowest low.

Optimism Dad

Apr 132014
 

Last December, I made an important, personal breakthrough regarding my understand of peace and happiness. I wrote about it in my article Why So Happy? If you didn’t catch it the first time around, please read it now, so that the rest of today’s note comes into sharp focus.

This month, I discovered how shopping — yes, something so commonplace and benign as shopping — is actually a strong, negative force on one’s happiness.

The main point of Why So Happy, Volume One was that being grateful for everything you have is a key that unlocks personal happiness. When you appreciate your family, your friends, and all the other blessings in your life, you simply can’t help but be happy.

A new discovery just happened for me. This month, we started to talk about moving to another home, a subject from the past that we decided to revisit. The basic idea is to move to a location that would eliminate much of the time we must spend in traffic today.

dallas-preston-hollow

I made a startling discovery. Although nothing had changed, the basic activity of looking and shopping seemed to taint what we have today. It seems that longing for something — which in this case was actually not longing for something nicer but rather a more convenient location — decreased my satisfaction with our home that I loved and didn’t question just a few month’s earlier!

Today, we have made the decision to stay put, unable to find a home in the right location at a price that makes sense. Once the decision was made, I found my happiness and calm on this topic slowly returning into my consciousness, albeit slowly.

The more I started to think about this phenomenon, the more I realize that a dark-side of shopping does exist and most people don’t see it. I remembered that a few years ago, I couldn’t say enough good things about my car, yet the minute I visited a few car dealerships, I found myself less and less happy with it, until I talked myself into making a change. I think this happens all the time, and not just with big ticket items. Rationalizing “longing” requires that a person must decide that what he or she already has must not be good enough.

stonebriar-mall-frisco-texas

We live in the one of the greatest countries in the world. America is an outstanding place, but it is commercialized to the extreme. Malls, car dealers, stores, TV commercials, and magazine ads are all adept at creating the feeling of longing. Yet, more than ever, I have come to realize that shopping is a torpedo targeting your gratitude, and gratitude is the #1 key to happiness. That means that America, this land of plenty, also offers temptation that sabotages personal happiness.

We all have the power to choose. Choose to be minimalistic. Less is truly more. It is far less complicated and stressful, and I believe it is cornerstone to happiness.

Here is a great experiment to prove this point: make the decision to buy nothing discretionary — and avoid all shopping — for the next three months. When you take buying (and therefore shopping) off the table, I believe you will discover how much more grateful you will be for the blessings that you already have. Once you have felt the power of this discovery on your own life, you will be wiser and hopefully will no longer get torpedoed as often by the evil dark-side of shopping.

I.M. Optimism Man

Mar 192014
 

We have an efficient society, but far from a perfect one. People like to think the the cream always rises to the top, makes the big bucks, deserves all the respect and accolades. Meritocracy theory rules the day.

The truth is that we do live in a time of extraordinary opportunity. The market for talent, ideas, and creativity does give some people a change to become overnight successes in just 5 – 10 short years. But, there are also many other factors in play. If you ask a few questions at the right time, most entrepreneurial success stories that I hear always have one or more “…and then I got a lucky break…” moments in them. When you dig deeply, you tend to find other moments of extraordinary support from a third party, whether financial, resource, or connections. I have yet to find a person who really went from no where to the top of the world without some good fortune and a bit of assistance along the way.

Meritocracy is good, but if you are wise, you must also clearly see and understand the issues that surround it. The dark side of the coin is that it gives rise to a certain snobbery, a lot of jealousy, and tremendous frustration for those who make the wrong decision when faced with a crucial crossroads moment.

Here is a great little video that delves into the idea of meritocracy and whether it is truly possible. Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success:

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With all thy getting, get understanding.

I.M. Optimism Man

Jan 022014
 

John Wooden is perhaps the greatest basketball coach that ever lived. He saw himself, first and foremost, as a teacher. Many of Coach’s lessons had much more to do with life than just with basketball. John’s wisdom is captured in several books that are well worth reading, including one of my favorites, Wooden on Leadership.

Coach Wooden, March 24, 1969

Coach Wooden, March 24, 1969

Here are my top 10 John Wooden quotes to consider and apply in your life:

If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?

If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.
I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.

Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.

You can’t let praise or criticism get to you.
It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.

Success is never final, failure is never fatal.
It’s courage that counts.

It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.

Young people need models, not critics.

Don’t let making a living prevent you from making a life.

Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.

Thank you Coach, for inspiring me and thousands of others. Rest in peace.

I.M. Optimism Man

 

 

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 072013
 

Stephen Covey was brilliant at summing up essential facts in such a way so that others not only understood them, but did something about them, incorporating them in their lives.

Happy couple embracing and laughing on the beach

Here is one of Covey’s memorable lists: Twelve Things Happy People Do Differently (paraphrased a bit)

1. Express Gratitude

When you appreciate what you have, what you have becomes more valuable to you. If you are not thankful for what you already have, you will have a difficult time ever being happy.

2. Cultivate Optimism

Optimists see their world as one of endless opportunities. Hope is crucial. It keeps you happy when times are challenging.

3. Avoid Social Comparison

Comparing yourself to someone else can be toxic for your own attitude. The only person you should compare yourself to, today, is to yourself, yesterday. Always strive to improve yourself.

4. Practice Acts of Kindness

When is the last time you were kind to someone else? If it is more than a few hours ago, you are missing a great way to improve your own happiness.

5. Nurture Social Relationships

Happy people have deep, meaningful relationships.

6. Develop Strategies for Coping

Murphy’s Law remains strong. Develop healthy strategies for coping with unexpected life changes.

7. Learn to Forgive

Harboring ill-will or feelings of hatred is horrible for your own well-being.

8. Increase Flow Experiences

Flow is the state when time stands still and you are in a zone. It happens through focus. Stop multi-tasking as much to get in the zone.

sunset

9. Savor Life’s Joys

Stop and smell the roses. Happiness cannot exist unless you slow down to enjoy. Rest and be thankful to be alive. Experience the joy in life.

10. Commit to your goals

Commitment and persistence leads to accomplishment. Magical things happen when we commit ourselves to accomplish goals that we set for ourselves.

11. Practice Spirituality

Recognition that life is bigger than ourselves happens when you practice spirituality. Surrender the idea that you represent the greatest life-form ever.

12. Take Care of your Body

Without good health, happiness falls apart. Good nutrition and exercise go hand-in-hand. It is important to be well-balanced and happy.

Thanks Dr. Covey for leaving a legacy.

I.M. Optimism Man