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A Goal for Novel Experiences

December 2, 2017 by  
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We now are fast approaching the end of another year and I think it’s a really good idea to start right now making plans, setting goals, and writing down a list of what your New Year’s resolutions are going to be.  If you have followed my blog in the past, you know I like to push myself and others to get out and try new and various experiences.  Every time I travel to Paris, London, the Far East, or any foreign country, it amazes me how much energy and motivation it gives me. I meet and get to know so many different people as well as becoming immersed in their culture and I get so inspired by those new sights and experiences.

Now, you don’t have to travel to Europe or the Far East to find novel experiences but entrenching yourself in different cultures is an ideal way to jump-start your spirit, your mind, and your passion for life and living.  Even starting right where you live, there are probably some cultural areas, shops, events, and plenty of new people that you have had no exposure to and may even be a little fearful of, because of the lack of familiarity. But forcing yourself to walk into that strange place or spend a day at a new and unusual event expands your horizons as well as your mind. You might even find some new interest that you just fall in love with.

So, I challenge you to set some travel goals for the new year, be it a place that is very near or very far away, just find some places that you may at first be hesitant to venture into. Go in with an open mind and actively look for new experiences, talk to new people, and make an effort to understand and appreciate cultural differences. You never know what you’ll find or whom you will meet.

Then I invite you to come back home and share your new ventures with your friends and family. See if you can’t inspire them to go on their own adventures. In the meantime, if you find this little reminder just the thing to kickstart new adventures for yourself, you can also pass this on to your friends and family by sending them a link to my blog or to the sign up to get these little ideas by email.

P.S. I just saw a special airfare promotion for a round trip flight to Paris from Salt Lake City for just over $500 dollars. So even going overseas doesn’t have to be too expensive. And a bed and breakfast over there can be real cheap! Just decide you want to do it and start looking for great fares from your area.

Inspire Yourself– Write Down Your Own Thoughts

July 29, 2017 by  
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Anyone that has followed my blog over the years knows that I think very highly of the power of words, especially the words that you and I write down. I encourage everyone to “journal their journey” through this life. Your own words can be so powerful in helping you through it.

When I go back and re-read some of my thoughts from 5, 10, or even 40 years ago, I am amazed at the things I wrote. Oh yes, there were many goals that I set for myself—I made progress on some and was a failure on others—but the big stuff that often jumps out at me as I read are the words in which I am preaching to myself, pushing myself to do better and, more importantly, to enjoy my life right now.

Reading those words can be, and have been, very motivating years later. Many times, when I go back and read my inner thoughts and ideas days, weeks, or even years later, I say to myself, “Wow, I wrote that?”, or “Wow, where did that come from?” It’s like it came from some other person’s brain. Start writing in your own journal and see if you don’t experience those thoughts and feelings when you read them later on.

It’s very interesting to me that our own words can give us, and our lives, motivation and inspiration. Here are the words I came across today that I wrote in my journal back on January 29, 1998, entitled simply “Thoughts”. I should have titled it “Random Thoughts” though.

  • We involve ourselves in so many activities—games, sports, work, relationships, eating, drinking etc.—to distract ourselves from ourselves. Is making it in the world the most important thing about our being?
  • Climbing and coming back down from Mt. Everest is a perfect metaphor of life. When you get to the top you are only half way.
  • Love is what we were born with, fear is what we learn. Love is our ultimate reality and our purpose on earth. To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life.
  • Meaning doesn’t lie in things, because things don’t love us back; meaning lies in us.
  • We overvalue what we perceive with our physical senses, and undervalue what we know to be true in our hearts.

And my last of these random thoughts:

  • Time only exists in the moment of right now. Time is an infinite series of “nows” strung together. The way we spend each “now” creates our destiny. When you are focused, time is your partner.

I do sincerely wish and hope that these few random thoughts may enhance your life and those people, friends, family and loved ones around you.

And once again I strongly encourage you to write notes to yourself in a journal, on a note pad, or on a computer. Later on, as you re-read your own words, you will be so very glad you did and you may even be inspired by those words, ideas, and inner thoughts that you put down.

 

Crushing Boredom

February 25, 2017 by  
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As I promised in my last post, I am bringing you my ideas and a list of different and exciting ways to overcome that nasty thing called boredom. Before I get into that list, however, I must share with you some thoughts about boredom and the effect it can have on a marriage.

As I’ve been thinking and writing about boredom I was struck by the thought that boredom may well be a common cause and a big reason why seemingly happy couples get a divorce and why a husband or a wife ends up having an affair when all seemed to be going so smoothly.

My wife and I had a very interesting discussion on this subject just the other morning. Recently we’ve realized that we need to push ourselves to make lists and plan for new and exciting things we should be doing because we have kind of settled into a very routine and ‘same-ole-thing’ pattern. I can’t speak for her but I have been getting quite bored. So, we began to talk about doing new things like going to new restaurants, trying new foods, going to new cities and countries, and trying all kinds of new and different stuff including making new friends.

As we were planning it struck me that it is so very natural for a couple that have been happily married for many years to move into a pattern of living that could easily become very boring. In that state, if a new person with a totally diverse lifestyle and background came along, a bored person could be enticed into thinking this new person was very special, not realizing that the real problem is boredom and that new person is not the answer.

So, okay, maybe a new person would take you out of your boredom for a while but eventually the same boredom will creep right back in. I can see how it can happen to a happy and compatible couple so I think that is an extra reason to spend time putting together a list and planning for new and exciting goals, projects, and fun adventures so as to push boredom away and make sure it stays away.

With that in mind, it’s a good idea to work on your list now. With the internet, it’s really a breeze to come up with a list of stuff that will get you away from boredom and keep you excited and involved with life and all the great things that life can bring. To start, just do a web search for “list of ideas to overcome boredom” or anything similar to that search and you’ll come up with list after list of activities and projects that almost certainly will lift anyone out of boredom.

Here is just a small sample of items gathered from several of those lists that grabbed me. And after that list I’ve complied a short list of items that did nothing at all for me but would no doubt work for some of you. To each his own and we are all certainly different.

So here are the items that grabbed my attention:

  • Take new trips to new cities, countries and places
  • Play tennis (Or, in my case, play more tennis.)
  • Go cycling
  • Take long walks to different places
  • Volunteer
  • Write an autobiography
  • Start a blog (Oops, I already did this one!)
  • Become a tour guide
  • Become a mentor
  • Teach a class
  • Research your family genealogy

And the things that didn’t grab me but might be just the thing for you:

  • Knit
  • Create crafts
  • Take cooking class
  • Go hunting
  • Go fishing
  • Restore old furniture
  • Be a pet sitter
  • Plant a garden
  • Go bird watching

Believe me, you will find dozens and dozens more ideas on the internet plus you can always ask for suggestions from family and friends. Ask them what they think would really appeal to you and would excite and enhance your life. They may see what you need better than you do. So, go ahead and get started on your boredom crushing list right now!

 

The Big 5 and Brain Stimulation

October 14, 2016 by  
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Okay, I must start out this week exclaiming … WOW, WOW, DOUBLE WOW! That’s the kind of brain reaction most humans have when they experience something totally new, unexpected, and novel. I’ve had a ton of novel experiences in my 72 years of living and certainly a big part of that has been new places I’ve visited, new things I’ve seen, the people I met, and the activities I’ve been involved with in the 84 different countries I’ve visited.

In the last two weeks, however, I saw and experienced something totally different that I’ve ever seen or done before. And yes it was in a country that I’ve never even come close to before. In fact, four new countries in total. It was an African Safari! I never had it on my bucket list but some friends did it and said it was fantastic so I thought I’d give it a try even though just the thought of it made me very nervous.

We started the adventure by flying into Johannesburg, South Africa and after a few days we headed for Kruger National park. There we met out guide and his spotter man who rode on a platform on the front of the jeep, on the lookout for one of the “Big 5” (the 5 most dangerous animals for humans to hunt or to be around) and yes, he was armed with a big powerful rifle. So off we went looking for the wild ones. Less than an hour later the jeep stopped and the lookout man got off with his rifle in hand. He had spotted lion tracks. Off he went on foot into the wild using a radio to let our guide know exactly where he was and what he was seeing.

A short time later we left the beat up dirt road and dove over trees, bushes and huge rocks that I swear were about to tip us over. About 15 minutes later, there they were–a pride of 14 lions, 7 of which were cubs. My wife and I and a dear friend from Park City, Utah who joined us on the trip, were frozen in our seats as the lions slowly approached our very wide open jeep. The jeep had stopped but let me tell you my heart rate didn’t–it doubled! All I could think of was how easy it would be for the papa lion to leap into the jeep and have me for lunch. But slowly the entire pride walked by us, looking us in the eye and coming within 6 or 8 feet of the jeep! We watch as they walked away and then drove on to look for the next on the list of the big 5.

I want to talk more about what other brain pumping stuff we saw but I do want to emphasize that to introduce yourself to novel experiences and sights that really stimulate your brain you don’t actually have to travel to foreign countries, so please don’t think you have to go far and wide to pump up your brain. However, visiting other cultures and or countries or even other religions does help. There are lots of very simple things you can do that don’t cost a ton of money or take a lot of time that will pump up your brain.

My son David, for example, gets this with 2 AM phone calls for his volunteer search and rescue work which is very challenging. It takes him into the mountains, on cliffs, and into rivers and lakes. It’s very exciting, brain pumping, and life enhancing stuff for him and it’s all in areas not far from where he lives.

Next week I will talk about and suggest some other simple things each of us can do to pump up our brains and, as a result, enhance our lives.

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The Advantage of Honest Answers

August 7, 2015 by  
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There are certain questions that most of us hear nearly everyday. They go something like:

  • How are you doing?
  • How are you feeling?
  • How’s everything in your life these days?

And what is our usual response?

  • I’m doing fine.
  • Oh, I feel pretty good.
  • Things are moving along.

The answers that you normally don’t hear are:

  • Not too good today.
  • Oh man, I am feeling very depressed.
  • Things are not going well in my life right now.

In our polite society we usually don’t dump our problems on others, not even our relatives or close friends. In most situations, that’s a good and considerate thing.  But sometimes it might be a good for you and me to open up and tell the full truth, voice the negative or tough things that are going on in our lives and in our minds. Why? Because many times friends and relatives can be a big help.

It’s kind of strange that it’s perfectly acceptable in our society to tell someone that you have a cold but it’s a no-no to tell a friend you’re feeling down or depressed. Both conditions are real and there are treatments for both.

Recently, I met a longtime friend who said in the usual manner, “Hey Mark, how are you doing?”  Suddenly, and to my surprise, I found myself telling him the truth, saying “Man oh man … I’ve really been depressed lately.”

Next thing I knew I was quickly apologizing for dumping my personal problems on him. But to my surprise he was not taken aback by my honesty but rather told me in turn that he too gets down and depressed.  I was surprised to hear him say that because he always seems to be on top of the world and so very happy.

He then gave me some very good advice on things I could do to pull myself out of my slump and in a very short order I began to feel better.  The advice he gave me were things I already knew but had slowly stopped doing. Things like eating foods that improve your mood and taking supplements like 5HTP and Saint John’s Wort. And just as important as all the rest … pushing myself to stay busy and keep connected to friends and relatives.

I think because I am a healthy and very wealthy person, people look at me and think I am always upbeat and positive and never get depressed.  But, many times the problem is my advantages in life also make it difficult to feel motivated–I don’t have to work and I don’t have to do anything if I don’t want to. Even though that might seem to be a very good thing, it can be such a bad thing and can almost drive you crazy.

We all need to keep busy. We need to stay engaged and connected to friends and relatives. We also need challenges which mean constantly setting goals for ourselves and staying on track as we pursue those goals.  Yes, I am preaching an old subject to you but I am very definitely preaching to myself! Because we all need a little reminder now and then. And to get that, sometimes all it takes is giving a friendly question an honest answer.

The Magic of Nature and the Human Connection

July 10, 2015 by  
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I’ve been hiking up Millcreek Canyon ever since it turned so very hot here in Salt Lake City. It’s been 100 plus degrees on many days.  And let me tell you, the Millcreek Canyon hike is something to behold and as a big plus the trail I take has a wonderful canopy of trees blocking the sun for probably 80% of the hike. There is something magical about the great outdoors and for me it’s even more magical in the mountains or on the beach.  I don’t know what it is but I’m sure scientist have an explanation for what nature does to our brains that lifts and jump starts our spirits to a much higher level.  If you don’t believe me, the next time you are a bit down in the dumps, just take a walk outside, preferably in the mountains, on the beach, or at least out in the country side, and see if you don’t find your mood changed.

For me there is an extra boost to my mind, mood and spirit when I hike trails where others are hiking.  As I’ve talked about before, I love to drop $2 dollar bills on the trail when I see a father or mother hiking with small children–ideally in that 6 to 10 age range.  If you give a 3 year old a $2 dollar bill they don’t know what it is and usually drop it in a short time. They need to be old enough to understand what they’ve found.

My normal routine is to say to the parents as they are approaching, “Hey, have you taught your kids to pick up paper or litter when they see it on the ground?” and then I drop the money and keep walking and I hear the kids shouting out in delight and almost always the kids also scream out a big “Thank you!” Wow. Does that ever warm my heart! The kids love it but I think I love it more and get more out of it than they do.

I also love to meet people when I am out on my usual 2 or 3 hour hikes and that also lifts my spirits.  I have some standard lines that I use over and over because they usually work to start a short conversation or a quick exchange of pleasantries.  For instance, as I am approaching couples, whether young or old, with the guy in front and the gal behind, I say to the guy as I pass, “Hey, don’t look now but there is a beautiful lady following you.” That always brings big smiles and an exchange of upbeat comments.  They love it and so do I.

With these few words and small gestures, spirits are lifted. Plus it sometimes leads both parties to stop and have a short upbeat chat.  Yesterday I used one of my other standard lines when I’m on a particularly steep part of the hike and passing people.  I simply ask “Hey, how much further to the 7-11?” It usually brings a big laugh but yesterday it also lead to a conversation and a big coincidence.

After saying this to two ladies who laughed at my comment, I noted the younger woman had a French accent so I asked her where she was from. After telling me she lived a couple hundred kilometers north of Paris, I told her we love Paris and France and have a very, very good friend from Normandy by the name of Franchoise and she is married to the skiing legend Stein Eriksen. When I mentioned this, the older lady said “Hey, I know who you are, Mark Haroldsen, the author. And I know Franchoise. Her son plays tennis with my son.” So again that brief encounter lifted our spirits with a nice conversation and a fun coincidence and we all walked away with smiles on our faces.

The bottom line here is that I think all of us should get out in nature more and go out of our way to meet other human beings.  It’s a win-win and as I preach this to you, believe me, I am preaching it to myself to do more of that!

 

 

 

What We Can Discover in Other People’s Worlds

June 19, 2015 by  
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I don’t know about you but I absolutely love to travel, especially to foreign countries and places I’ve never ventured into before. It excites my mind and does good things for me physically as well. Psychologists have told us for years that the human brain craves and thrives on novelty and also that a brain that gets excited can many times coax or persuade the body to maintain or even create better health. It sure seems to do that for me!

My wife and I just got back yesterday from Europe. Even though I have visited the Netherlands a few times before this last trip, this visit still stimulated my mind and body quite a bit. I am sure part of that was that I’d never taken the high speed train from Paris to Amsterdam and viewed that marvelous scenery. We also stayed in an old and quaint yet very different hotel right on one of Amsterdam’s famous canals.

A few days later my wife and I again took the train but to a city I’d never visited before. Just outside the city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch (commonly known as Den Bosch) we were privileged to watch from our nice fourth row seats a great tennis tournament played on grass as a warm up tournament for the renowned Wimbledon tournament. Interacting and getting to know a few of the wonderfully friendly Dutch people was tremendously fun as well as interesting and mind expanding. I even learned that the Dutch are, on average, the tallest people on the planet.

I’ve thought many times how different the world would probably be if virtually everyone could travel and visit dozens of different countries and cultures. I can’t help but believe that if this were to happen and we all took the time to really study and get to know and understand other people, we would grow to be so much more accepting and sympathetic. It would, no doubt, greatly diminish and maybe even halt the huge conflicts and wars of the world.

Just think about how you try to help one of your kids or friends that are having problems. Most of us try to understand the causes of those problems and the more we discover, the sympathetic we are and the more we can help out. Getting to know and understand other cultures makes it more likely that we will be able to accept, and when needed, help these others people that previously we may have thought were rather strange. Next time you travel to a new place you might want to keep that in mind and see what you might discover.

 

Lesson from the Life of Billy Crystal

January 16, 2015 by  
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I want to continue discussing the theme we had last week on writing your thoughts, ideas and life into a journal. I have strong and passionate feelings about this process of making a record of your life, about having the ability to read over all those ups and downs and the lessons we learn along the way.

This past week, I read about the fascinating life and thoughts of Billy Crystal in his incredible autobiography Still Foolin’ ‘Em. He wrote the book when he was turning 65 and it’s really a great read. It’s packed full of very funny stuff but I was quite a bit more impressed by his deep thoughts and feelings on everything from his family including his wonderful wife, kids and grand-kids plus the big impact his father, mother and grandmother had on him, to his numerous famous friends and not so famous friends and business associates.  I’ll tell you, if you read his book you will quickly grow to love and admire this man. He inspires you and gives you some great insights into the human mind and behavior.

He and his famous friends certainly lived the philosophy of “feel the fear and do it anyway”. That is something we all need to remind ourselves to believe in and practice. I think most of us look at famous and really successful people and think that they don’t have great fears like us but nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone has fears, but the key to success and a great life is to plow right through those fears and “do it anyway”.

The other great lesson I learned from Billy Crystal, or I should say I re-learned and reminded myself to do more of, was the huge value of people networking. I was astounded at how many friends and business contacts Billy had. Even though Billy is super talented I don’t believe he would have soared nearly as high as he did without his people networking. I’m talking hundreds of incredibly influential people he got to know who helped him on his path to such tremendous success. And did he ever soar! His success was not only as a stand-up comedian but as an actor in all those wonderful movies, TV shows and even on the Broadway stage. He made us laugh which is so very good for our minds and souls plus he gave us so many hours of movie and TV entertainment. Now through his book, he is giving even more.

I certainly don’t think Billy is even close to being finished as he approaches his 67th birthday on March 14th of this year. The biggest lesson I think we should take away from Mr. Billy Chrystal is that all of us need to record our life, our activities and, most importantly, our thinking. This can be not only helpful to ourselves when we re-read what our thoughts were at different stages of our lives but also that your autobiography will be equally helpful to others. So keep making those journal entries and leave a legacy for your family, friends and everyone to enjoy as well as learning some great lessons from your own life.

Money Can Buy Novelty

November 14, 2014 by  
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It’s too bad that much of the time money, especially having a ton of it, gets a bad rap. The negative view of money probably started a very long time ago, maybe even before the Christian bible made the comment that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” I do believe that tons of money can ruin some people’s lives, especially if they come into that money overnight and not by their own hard work over many years. But let me talk about one super wonderful thing that money can do for you, especially if you are wise enough to do the right things with that money.

It seems that way too many people think that the best thing to do with lots of money is to go out and buy a lot of stuff, especially fancy and high status goods. But that stuff can quickly become worn out and/or very boring. Consider the following as an alternative and one that can, and will, jump start and excite your brain as well as lasting a very long time.

This is all about giving your brain a huge dopamine boost through experiencing new and novel things. You see, the human brain craves novelty, and money makes it so much easier to give yourself novel experiences. Gregory Berns in his book Satisfaction says, “Novel experiences are the surest route to satisfaction.”

As I write these words my wife and I are on a flight to the French Rivera. Just minutes ago we had lift off and as we did, believe me my brain got a big dose of dopamine and that’s just the beginning. We’ll be staying in Cannes at the Carlton Intercontinental Hotel and then later in another 5 star hotel in Nice. Then we’ll drive to the Italian town of San Remo to meet an old Swiss friend, Reto Moro, who I met 30 years ago on a tennis court in the south of Germany. We are visiting places, some of which are totally new to me or, in other words, ‘novel’.

Castles, old churches, new restaurants and all that I will see will pump my brain with dopamine. As you probably know dopamine is the natural brain chemical that makes you feel so very satisfied. I just love it. For years I didn’t have a clue about this thing called dopamine that was making me feel so good, but I certainly knew that I got a huge charge and brain boost by my visits to new places, so much so I came up with my bucket list of trying to visit every country in the world. I currently have hit 84 countries and my wife tells me that since I am now 70 years old I better pick up the pace—there are, at present, 196 countries in the world!

I guess I could have spent my money on fancy new cars and other expensive stuff but I’m pretty sure the novelty of a new car wouldn’t last very long. Traveling to new places has given me great memories that will last for many, many years, especially since I can easily re-stimulate my brain chemicals with so many pictures and videos!

The bottom line is, it’s true that money can’t necessarily buy happiness, but it can open up so many possibilities and make it easier to obtain more novel experiences. It gives one more time to carefully and creatively design, plan and carry out a wide range of novel experiences. So now I hope I have given you another good reason to push yourself to earn, save and invest your earnings.

 

The Missing 777 and Overcoming Fear

March 21, 2014 by  
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Have you heard anyone say recently that they are not going to take any trips by airplane, because of fear since the 777 Jet went missing?  I’ve only heard one person allude to that, but I’ll be watching to see if airline ticket sales drop because of the fear factor since the Malaysian jet disappeared.

Fear is a very interesting human reaction hooked to so many things in our lives.  Much of the time it has little or no basis to reality or logic.  As you may know the fear of flying is one of the more common human fears although it is statistically extremely safe.  If you were to choose, at random, a commercial flight every single day for the rest of your life, guess how long it would be (statistically) before you got on an airplane that crashed? And, drum roll …would you believe it would take 19,000 years? Yes, that’s right, nearly 7 million flights/days until your statistical chance would be up!  I’ve talked to many people and gave them these numbers and they are STILL afraid of flying.  They know the numbers but their fear trumps the facts.

Fear holds so many people back from fulfilling their big dreams and goals for what are often illogical reasons. Many years ago I wrote a book titled The Courage to be Rich. In my book I talk a great deal about using “courage” to overcome fear.  Building up your courage to be rich, to give a speech to 1000 people, to write a book, to travel to a distant and strange new country or to be super successful in anything  requires you to identify what fears are holding you back and replacing those fears with positive thoughts and actions.

One of my favorite tricks or ways I overcome fear is to use the IGDS philosophy.  Quoting from my Courage to be Rich book, “What is IGDS?  It is accepting the truth that “I’m Going to Die Someday”……so why not really live life now?  Why not really go for it? What have you got to lose?”   I am not saying you should take wild crazy, life threatening risks but I am saying to face your fears and go after what you want with all you energy, zest and strength. Take some calculated risks realizing that you’re going to die some day and you don’t want  to have to say to yourself what Henry David Thoreau said many years ago, “Oh God, to have reached the point of death, only to find that you have never lived at all.”

 

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