Thursday, April 7, 2011

Be Happy!!

Just about everything we do, we do with the goal of increasing our level of happiness. So why not spend a few minutes focusing on ways in which we can increase our happiness? Increasing your happiness has an exponential effect on bettering everything else in your life! Investing a few minutes on this, can make your entire day more productive.

"Life unexamined, is not worth living." - Democritus

Vague tips are as useful as trying to mow your lawn with a finger nail clipper. Here you will find five specific tips to increase your happiness. 

1. Your First Stress

When you wake up in the morning, what is the first stressful thought that you think about? Is it that project at work that is not going to be completed on time? Maybe you look down and are perturbed that your belly is blocking the view of your legs, despite your dieting efforts. Maybe it's something small like will you have enough time to get gas before you drop the kids off.

The point is to focus on whatever your first negative thought is. The next step is realize that worrying about that negative thought is as useful as trying to cure cancer by eating a Twinkie. The third step is to manipulate your thinking. Since we know how useful worrying is, we have two options. We either stop worrying, or turn our first stress in to our first strength.

Since the first option is not always tangible, we may need to take the second route. How do I make something I stress about a strength? To conquer a village you must either have strength or a good plan. To conquer your first stress, the good plan is to outwit the problem.

Let's look at the first example; you are not going to complete your work project on time. Do not just give in to futile thinking! What can you do differently to change the outcome of this stress? If things are not going right, ask yourself what you can do differently to mitigate the damage. Have you updated all interested parties and informed them that you are behind schedule? Maybe you can call a meeting first thing in the morning and raise everyone's focus on the project. Do something positive and different to make this stress a strength.

"Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new." - Brian Tracy

What's the principle here that can be applied to every first stress we encounter? The principle is that you only have two good options. Think about how useful it is to worry about something you cannot change, or, stretch your critical thinking gears to find a different and positive approach to make your first stress a positive thought.

Why my first stress and not every stress? This principle can be applied to every stressful thought you have. It's important however that you apply it to your first stress. You will find that you get the biggest gain from doing this. Eating a good breakfast prepares your body for a successful day. Putting that first positive thought in motion prepares your brain for a successful day. Do something different and TRY IT first thing tomorrow morning!

2. Advice your College Professor won't give you

The second tip for increasing your level of happiness is one you don't hear much about in the business community. Worry less about making money and more about simplifying your life. Have you noticed how everyone is trying to make more money, so they can improve their lives? If you just made another 12 dollars an hour you could afford the payment on that shiny new car. With a raise you could put that extra money in to savings so in a few years you can buy a house.

Owning a nice car and a house are considered by many to be the American dream. So what is wrong with this picture? To begin with, money does not equal happiness, however poverty or being broke all the team can equate to sadness. Every healthy adult has a responsibility to provide for themselves. This includes working hard to obtain shelter, food & the other necessities' of life.

There is a point however, where your focus should shift from getting rich, to getting happy. Once you have acquired life's basic necessities', what value is it to continue increasing wealth and hours spent at the office? Consider this, when you lay on your death bed and think of all your wonderful years of life, will you include in those thoughts the late nights and weekends spent at the office? You will probably remember the smiling faces of your friends and families more than anything.

"Happiness resides not in possessions and not in gold; the feeling of happiness dwells in the soul." -Democritus

To be clear, one must find a balance. We must work, we will also need to progress our career in order to provide for ourselves. But in the end, you will look back and remember the time you spent with others more than the time spent trying to add a comma to your bank account. 

Make time for family, friends, hobbies, self-help, meditation and all things that increase ones character. If you used to enjoy painting, by all means, re-invest time in to your hobby. If you haven't talked to an old friend in a while, make plans to have them over or perhaps meet for a cup of coffee. Think of this time spent as investing in your character. The ROI is much better than your bank will give you.

3. I love you bro

The third tip to increase your happiness is to find a way to improve your relationship with a friend. Pick someone you like, but have not seen in a while. Invite them over for a simple dinner. Or, ask them to join you for a cup of Joe. 

"The better part of one's life consists of his friendships." - Abraham Lincoln

One of the best ways to cultivate a relationship is to take an interest in the other person. Sure, you may have lots of stuff you could share, but to invest in a relationship you should try and take an interest in what the other person is talking about.

This is not a revelation in social science, but it is something that almost all of us can work on. Taking a real interest in others goes beyond asking a few questions about how they have been. Those questions only touch the surface of the soul. You should aim to feel what the other person is telling you. Get totally completely absorbed when someone shares information with you. One way to do that is to view the information being heard as a rare gem. You would not want to lose or forget about something that is so precious.

"Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer." - Ed Cunningham

4. Pridezilla

Pridezilla is indeed a powerful force. Pride can be misused, abused and a detriment to ones happiness. Pride can also be a warrior for what is good, overcoming obstacles and road blocks in our way.

Let's consider the ugly kind of pride. Know that pride is easier to see in someone else, than it is in yourself. There are different ways to define pride, I like this definition compliments of "pleasure or satisfaction taken in something done by or belonging to oneself or believed to reflect credit upon oneself". Can you see how deceptive pride is? It is something that gives us pleasure & satisfaction. Those are good things.

"There is this paradox in pride -- it makes some men ridiculous, but prevents others from becoming so." - Charles Caleb Colton

The deception of pride is in how we feel when being prideful. It feels good to tell others what we know. It makes us feel smart, confident and authoritative. Because we want to feel this way, we act with pride. The opposite of pride is humility, which does not always feel warm and fuzzy.

The dangers of pride are many. Pride can be a barrier to understanding, wisdom, relationships & happiness. Pride makes us concerned about how others view us. Pride does not allow much room to ask questions, or consider other viewpoints.

"The infinitely little have a pride infinitely great." - Voltaire

Pride can be a force for good. When kept in check, pride is synonymous with self-respect. Self respect can be a good tool to achieve happiness. It will motivate us to do our best & act with integrity. 

"Labor wants also pride and joy in doing good work, a sense of making or doing something beautiful or useful - to be treated with dignity and respect as brother and sister" - Thorstein Veblen

5. Smile =)

Smile more. No really, smile all day. Smiling affects our mood. It makes us happier. Studies have even shown that smiling lowers blood pressure and boosts our immune system! If you consider the costs of smiling, the ROI is very good. A wise investment indeed!

"Wear a smile and have friends; wear a scowl and have wrinkles." - George Eliot

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