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Secrets to Authentic Happiness

November 30, 2018 by  
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I think I came across the best reason for keeping a journal of your life or, as my good friend Rich Harvey used to call it, a reason for people to “Journal Their Journey”.

Just the other day I picked up one of my journals dated 10-26-2003 to 6-12-2004. My comments about what was going on in my life at that time quoted a great book that I had totally forgotten about entitled Authentic Happiness, by Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D.

In his book, Dr. Seligman talks about what real authentic happiness is and how we can capture it and keep it. Finding and enjoying real happiness is not done through seeking and finding pleasure and the same goes for seeking happiness through just staying busy – it just doesn’t work. Great and authentic happiness is experienced from gratification. So how do we become gratified?

Much of gratification comes from “production”.  When we produce something of great value to others and/or ourselves, we end up with a great feeling of satisfaction. Here are Dr. Seligman’s 8 common ingredients and psychological components of gratification:

  1. The task is challenging and requires skill.
  2. We have to concentrate.
  3. There are clear goals.
  4. We get immediate feedback.
  5. We have deep effortless involvement.
  6. There is a sense of control.
  7. Sense of self vanishes.
  8. Time seem to stop.

Dr. Seligman goes on to talk about depression in today’s world and how widespread it is. It has increased by a huge amount in the last 40 years and the average age of depressed people is much younger today. That certainly gives more credence to the importance of setting big, tough goals. If your mind is firmly set on your goals, it’s more likely that your mind will not be spending time reflecting how you feel in the moment. Plus, there is the big extra benefit that setting big goals does energize us both physically and mentally because of the chemicals released by our brains, as I talked about in last week’s blog.

But why is depression so high in wealthy and healthy countries? The author’ s theory is “that an ethos that builds unwarranted self-esteem, espouses victimology, and encourages rampant individualism has contributed to that epidemic.” Another reason is our huge reliance on shortcuts to happiness. Every nation builds more and more shortcuts to pleasure … TV, drugs, shopping, spectator sports and high sugar food and drink. Gaining these and many other things take very little effort on our part these days.

A major symptom of depression is self-absorption. The depressed person thinks about how he feels a great deal of the time – excessively so. When a depressed person detects sadness, he ruminates about it, projecting it into the future, this in turn increases his sadness in his life and across all his activities. In contrast, gratification is the absence of feeling sorry for yourself.

What we all need to do more of is realize that there are no shortcuts to the kind of fulfilling gratification we all crave, and realize we need to focus more and more on our goals, big tasks, and our production as well as giving up the constant self-worry and self-absorption. You may have noticed that really happy people, for the most part, spend the least amount of time home alone – they tend to have a rich and fulfilling social life, which really is the opposite of being self-absorbed.

Next week I’m going to talk more about this great thing called “Authentic Happiness” that Martin’s book gives us such super insight into as well as talking about how understanding where it comes from can bump up our happiness factor and enhance our lives.

 

Boosting the Brain with Thanks

November 23, 2018 by  
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Here’s a good question for you: Did you find yourself giving a lot of thanks yesterday? Or were you distracted by all the turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie? I hope you were taking time to give a ton of thanks! Isn’t that what we all should do on that day? After all it is called “Thanksgiving”! But that isn’t the only reason to give thanks this holiday season and throughout the year.

I recently heard on a broadcast that there is one big benefit we all can receive from saying “thanks” or “thank you”. Research into the human brain has shown that saying thank you, or otherwise giving verbal appreciation or gratitude, signals the brain to release the feel good, feel happy brain chemical dopamine.

Sometime ago, I wrote about how when a person smiles, even if it is a forced smile, the brain releases three of the four feel good brain chemicals – dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins (the forth brain chemical is oxytocin). These four chemicals, produced by the brain, not only make you feel more relaxed, they also could lower your blood pressure and your heart rate. Some studies even suggest that if they are released often enough, they can even help you live longer.

Another big benefit from giving thanks to others is that, if accompanied by a big sincere smile, your gesture will cause the other person to smile right back at you and then they are more likely to smile at the next person they encounter. So, you see, you are spreading some good stuff and helping others just by being thankful and letting other people know it.

And here’s another thing that has been shown to lift people’s spirits and that is simply to keep a journal in which you make note of the things you are thankful for. By writing down what, and who, you are grateful for, you are giving your brain more determination. This helps improve and lift your attention, enthusiasm and even lifts your energy.

So, during this holiday season, and beyond, we all need to focus on giving thanks, showing and expressing our gratitude, and, yes, even thinking about our positive qualities and of happy memories in order to boost our serotonin levels.

One last thought… don’t forget that laughing and social interaction both cause the brain to release those great feel good chemicals as well! So, this holiday season, be sure you have plenty of opportunities to boost those feel good chemicals and show your thanks and appreciation.

 

All the Love out There

October 12, 2018 by  
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Last week I ended my blog by writing about the great tears of joy I experienced shortly after posting a picture of me at my daughter’s grave site, a moment that itself was filled with tears of pain and sorrow! So, you may ask, what brought on the great tears of joy?

Shortly after posting the picture of my daughter Kristin’s grave site, I began to receive these wonderful messages of love with many kind words of sympathy, love and support. Wow, did those words of love, coming from several dozen friends, family and even total strangers, ever get to me, bringing on those tears of joy!

That got me thinking about how powerful love is in our lives and how much of it is out there. Even though it’s all around  us you sure don’t hear or see much of that on the news, so, I’m guessing that some people don’t really fully realize how much love there is in the world. But, the opposite of love—that thing called hate—makes the news pretty much every day. Why is that? I think the main reason is because it can be, and usually is, so very sensational, so it really stands out and grabs our attention. Like the mass shooting last year in Las Vegas or the kidnapping of a kid or the rape of a woman and, of course, lately, the terrible things we are hearing about due to the MeToo movement.

The news certainly doesn’t spend much, if any time, on how much love a parent shows his or her kids. Once in a great while the news might have a short story on the great love of a couple on their 50th or 75th wedding anniversary, but the divorce of a couple, especially if they are famous, certainly makes the front page and the top of the hour TV news.

I think we all need to pay more attention to that great thing called “love” and give more of it to those around us and, yes, even people we have just met. We need to Encourage our kids and those around us to share more and more love each day, through words and deeds. And I want to publicly send out a HUGE THANK YOU AND LOVE BACK to those wonderful people who sent words of love, great sympathy, and support to me on what have would have been my daughter’s birthday!

 

Death’s Loving Lesson

October 5, 2018 by  
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This past weekend, on September 30th, I was both celebrating and grieving. That day is my daughter Kristin’s birthday. She would have been 49 but she tragically died many years ago, at the tender age of 16. Yes, I do want to celebrate her birthday but it is a day of mourning and tears at the same time. I don’t always visit her grave because it makes me grieve more but this year I did, taking red roses that I placed on her grave.  Think how much more death would hurt all of us if some of us never had to die. Like that’s going to happen… NOT!

I do think it’s so very interesting that there are lessons that can be learned from a good friend or loved one’s death. I know when my Kristin died it made me a much, much more caring and empathetic person. I wanted to be there, to help, support, and love my friends and family more than I ever did before. From that day on I became so very caring and I really could feel and share other people’s pain and sorrows when they lost someone close to them or even had other problems and difficulties in their lives.

When I was young I had the crazy belief that I would never die since there would be a second coming of Christ and no one would suffer death. I sure remember how so many people, back in 1999, really believed that a second coming would happen as the world moved from the year 1999 to 2000! Well, that didn’t happen.

Let’s face it, death is an absolute fact of life and no one can get out of this life alive. As we age, most of us feel that time moves faster and faster although we’d love it to slow down since we have so much more living we want to do. I think we’d pay almost any price if we could buy an extension on our lives.  Years ago, when I turned 60, I used to joke and say to guys that were in their 30’s, “Hey, if it were possible for us to switch ages and you become 60 and I got to be your age, would you do it if I paid you a million dollars cash?” Believe it or not, about half the young people I asked that question to said yes. Wow… I sure would do it if it were possible, but I heard a rumor that it’s not.

However, we have options – we can take care of ourselves. We can eat good, healthy food, keep our bodies moving, and stay well connected with social groups which will extend our lives to a degree.  Plus, we can concentrate on living every day to the max – it’s a give more and live more concept.  We can love our friends, neighbors, and family as much as we are conceivably able to, including going out of our way to be there for them, helping them when they need us, and bringing more joy and happiness to them which, in return, will bring the same to us.

Yes, death of a loved one is tough but there are lessons to be learned from it and it can make you a better person which is a blessing to everyone, including yourself. Next week I want to tell you what happened that brought tears of great joy right after I posted a picture of myself putting those roses on Kristin’s grave.

Self-Interest That Helps the World

August 10, 2018 by  
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Last week I wrote about how giving to others can and does lift your life and brings more happiness, contentment, and even better health and a longer life. It must have motivated me to practice what I was preaching because later I found myself in my car driving to the high school that all my kids attended and going straight to the office where I made a pretty sizable donation. As I walked out of the building, I felt so good and happy in the center of my heart and brain that I headed for another school. I made a couple more donations that day and felt like I was on top of the world.

It’s very interesting that when I make donations, including all those $2 bills that I often give to kids, I always feel that I get much more out of it than the recipient. What a great feeling it gives me! As science has proved, there is a great connection between the brain and the body. This allows us humans to help and improve our entire physical being by what we run through our heads. Giving is one of those things that can set off a lot of good positive feelings in our bodies.

Most of us, when we talk about giving, tend to think primarily in terms of giving money. But there are so many other ways and things to give. With very little effort, I came up with this list of things we can give to others that can be a huge help to those people and, at the same time, can give a lift to our brains, souls, and bodies.

After you read through my list, see what other things you can think of that can be given to others. These gifts can be given to your kids, grand kids, other relatives, and friends as well as strangers. Then let’s all of us push ourselves to give more. Choose as many items on the list as you feel so inclined to give. Yes, we do need to push ourselves to do this especially on days we might be feeling a bit down. But on those down days it can be a great help to lift us up as we lift others.

Okay, let’s work on giving more of some or all of these:

  1. Money $$$
  2. Good Advice
  3. Direction/Coaching
  4. Mentoring
  5. Appreciation
  6. Encouragement
  7. Praise
  8. Complements
  9. Attention
  10. Friendship
  11. Wisdom
  12. Our time
  13. Help
  14. Service
  15. Love

I’m sure I left off many things that we can give to others but at least this is a start. This list has been motivating me to give more of these gifts to others and now my mind pops up with sayings like: “Give, Give, Give and Live, Live, Live. Give a little, live a little, give a lot, and live a lot. Give big and live big”. I know all this may sound kind of selfish, but maybe it’s a good thing that our brains are designed that way, because doesn’t that type of self-interest help the world?

 

The Grateful List

July 20, 2018 by  
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A few days ago, I walked down my very long driveway to get my newspaper. The walk down the drive and back is about 1500 steps which is a very good start towards my goal of 20,000 steps a day, a goal that motivates and drives me to always keep moving for better health and longevity.

But this day, as I walked, I was thinking about what I said in my last blog, about how most of us humans take so much of the good stuff in our lives for granted. That simple thought led me to begin making a list in my mind of things I am so grateful for but then I began to notice how many things on my mental list were things that I was totally taking for granted! So, I decided I should write them down and take a look at that list at least once a week and push myself to take time to appreciate the wonderful things in my life.

When I got back to the house, I began my list. Doing this simple little exercise has been a great motivator and has begun to make me more at ease with life.  I would encourage you to make your own list of 10, 15 or more things you want to better appreciate in your life and review them regularly. Constantly renew your vows to appreciate those great things in your life and not take them for granted.

Please, go ahead and do it and you’ll see how much it can enhance your life. And yes, why don’t you and I encourage our family and friends to do the same thing and spread the word. This is just another way of paying good stuff forward.

Here is the list of things that I do so much appreciate, and many times take for granted:

  1. My darling, kind, energetic and loving wife.
  2. My super wonderful kids and grandkids— there’s not a bad one in the bunch.
  3. My good and consistent health and the many people that dedicate their lives to be great doctors, surgeons and inventors of great medicines that help cure so many things.
  4. My fairly good game of tennis at age 74.
  5. My warm and supportive friends (especially the ones that let me beat them in tennis, ho ho!)
  6. Living in a great, free country that provides so many opportunities for growth and prosperity.
  7. My many great mentors that have enhanced my life–both in person and through some great books.
  8. The many very smart and hardworking inventors that have given us everything fromautomobiles to jet airplanes to heaters, air conditioners, and so many electronic products.
  9. My FitBit, a great invention that can give people great health and longer lives, that counts my steps and has motivated me to keep moving.
  10. An absolutely gorgeous sunset or star-studded sky.
  11. My great opportunities to travel the world and how easy it is with today’s jet’s, great hotels, guides, and services. Plus, the convenience of cell phones and computers to check up on the kids.
  12. The great, super safe pilots and operators of machines of all types.
  13. All that great music out there that motivates and inspires so many of us.
  14. My many wonderful financial opportunities and all the ambitious, energetic help and assistance I’ve had from employees and partners.

I’ve probably left off other things I don’t appreciate enough…but I think this is a good start for me to work on.  And I did go out of my way to begin by telling my wonderful wife how much I do sincerely appreciate her. I do hope my little list idea will push you a bit to start your own list and feel the same increased satisfaction for life and living as it has for me.

 

Appreciate What Life Has Given You

July 13, 2018 by  
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I think it’s so very amazing that all of us humans have a brain that takes so many things for granted–that is until we lose the very things we took for granted. One of the biggest for most of us is that thing we call “good health”. That sure hit me hard when I began having major pains in my stomach. They got worse by the week and then by the day and then, towards the end, the pain was increasing by the hour. I had scans done, an MRI, and 2 blood tests, but none of those tests found what was causing the pain.

Wow, did I ever start thinking about how I miss all those days, weeks, and years of good, or even great, health and, yes, most of those times I really didn’t even appreciate how good it all was. I just took my good health all for granted!

Finally, the doctors figured it out. My gallbladder was cram packed with cement hard stones. It was so full of stones that I couldn’t eat a single bite of food without great pain. The only thing I could handle was water. Because of that pain, I went more than a week without hardly eating a thing. The only good news was that I had no hunger pains or desire to eat and, yes, I lost 15 pounds. I guess you could call that the new “gallbladder diet”. Fortunately, my doctor was able to arrange his schedule for immediate surgery when the pain quickly got unbearable.

Since the surgery, I’ve felt better and better each day, and now I am so very grateful for not having a huge pain in my gut. Not a single day goes by that I don’t greatly appreciate my good and improving health. I’m bound and determined to NOT take good health for granted!  It is so easy to take so many things for granted. It certainly crossed my mind how we all seem to take for granted the huge progress that us humans have made in the field of medicine. I’m pretty sure that 100 or 150 years ago I would be dead by now.

The bottom line is that all of us need to be constantly aware of all that good things in our life and we should try to take time to appreciate all those good things. There is one simple thing that can help us not to take things for granted and that is to take time to “journal your journey” by writing down what you are doing and experiencing as well as your thoughts and then, from time to time, go back and read and appreciate what life has given you.

Forgiving Ourselves

June 8, 2018 by  
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How do you and I feel when we set our sights and goals very high only to fall short of those objectives?  If you are like me, it’s very easy to get down on yourself and beat yourself up and that can set you back a few miles mentally, making you feel terrible or pretty much worthless.  This can happen to anyone, even the very rich and very famous, as we have sadly seen with a number of super-rich and famous people that have taken their own lives.

I grew up in a culture that pounded into my head the bible scripture of Matthew 5:48 which says “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Quite frankly, I think that did me more harm than good, because as a young boy, I tried and tried but couldn’t seem to be “perfect” in anything at all. I would look around at other people and saw many that seemed to have a perfect life.  Little did I know then that pretty much no one on the planet has had a perfect life. If a person spends too much time and effort trying to become perfect, it can absolutely ruin them. Quite frankly, I think that scripture passage has been the cause of more than a few suicides.

We certainly don’t want to stop trying to reach our lofty goals and become better and better at whatever we choose to do, but we also must learn and practice forgiving ourselves.  It’s kind of strange to me that sometimes it seems easier to forgive someone else when they screw up but much harder to forgive ourselves. I totally agree with John M. Grohol Psy.D. when he wrote his “5 Ways of Letting Go of the Past”

  1. Make a decision to let it go.
  2. Express your pain and your responsibility.
  3. Stop being a victim and blaming others.
  4. Focus on the present, the here and now, and joy.
  5. Forgive them and forgive yourself.

Then there is some super wise advice from a great writer by the name of a Noah St. John. It’s from his book called The Book of AFFORMATIONS®, regarding a program he calls “Permission to Succeed”:

  1. Admit your past mistakes.
  2. Realize you did the best you could do at the time.
  3. Take actions to make sure you don’t repeat those mistakes.

Our brains also play a big a part in our success and failure, as Noah notes in another book of his, Get Rid of Your Head Trash: How to Avoid 3 Big Money Mistakes Even Smart People Make.  I love this title because it really says it all.

In Noah’s book The Secret Code of Success, he maintains that we all need to let up on ourselves and give ourselves breaks and take time to enjoy and celebrate the self. You need to let go of the past when it’s hurting you and accept the present. He states that the key to letting go of the past – and I’d say even if it’s the past of 5 minutes – is to forgive yourself and others that may have mistreated you. That’s great advice that works to make our lives so much better, more successful, and more productive. Perhaps we don’t have not perfect lives, but they can be pretty darn good ones with so much less stress!

 

Failures at First Are Triumphs at Last

May 18, 2018 by  
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I believe everyone has the power and potential to accomplish the impossible if they are willing and wanting to take the proper steps forward. One of those steps, which Mark mentions all the time in his books, is to have a clear and concise plan with written goals.

Once you plan your work; then work your plan.

Those were closing words from Jeff Griffin on last week’s post. This amazing man has accomplished so much since a 40 foot fall parlayed him from the waist down and put him in a wheelchair. That accident certainly didn’t paralyze his brain or his motivation to help himself and to help other people. Read below some more of his story and some of his words of wisdom.

My teaching style, humor, and personality have made me one of the most liked and sought-after teachers during my 16-year career. I would consistently teach my students to give themselves permission to fail so they can succeed. I’ve left a consistent and comfortable paycheck and career to pursue my new dream of public speaking. I may fail but I also know I may succeed.

Because failures at first are triumphs at last, as long as we just don’t quit!

I earned my master’s degree in education and curriculum and created a worldwide peer-to-peer leadership program for third-world countries that was recognized at the United Nations in New York City. I’ve started two successful businesses, one before my teaching career and this one! I’ve created a nonprofit organization called the “Road to Recovery”, which impacts thousands of injured vets and physically disabled persons in my community and around the world. I enjoy mentoring people, distributing wheelchairs to those in need, and giving hope through my humanitarian efforts.

Every great man and woman of history is a person of service.

My greatest accomplishment so far is being married to my best friend for over 20 years. Together, Emily and I have four beautiful children; even after the doctors told me it would be impossible to have one with my condition. I am passionate about progress. I enjoy eating pizza and peanut butter M&Ms. I love playing games and exercising. I understand the frustrations of living a full life while trying to bridge the gap between what is real and what is ideal. Not only do I tell people how to cross this impossible bridge I show them how it’s possible by getting up and out of my wheelchair and take a few steps forward. “I’m going to run again someday!”

I hope this message will spark the eternal tinder inside your minds and give you the resilience to accelerate your own results. I hope it will ignite the seeds of success you’ve already sown. Combined with your vision and help from another, your desires will cultivate into something other people only dream about!

The Blessing of Time

May 4, 2018 by  
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Time seems to move faster and faster as we age, but I must admit that sometimes the passage of time can be a real blessing. 32 years ago, this week, I was hit in the face and heart with the biggest, most shocking tragedy of my entire life. It took years to recover from the overwhelming pain, but those passing years became a huge healing and soothing help.

It was on May 2nd, 1986 that my 16-year-old daughter, Kristin, died. The photo here is of Kristin and her brother on the way back from her last trip to Hawaii. Losing a child must be the biggest tragedy one might have to endure in this life. But what I have discovered is that the passing of time really helps and allows a person to deal with the death of a loved one. It’s true that you really never get over it but time diminishes the pain so you can heal and eventually deal with the tragedy.

It’s so ironic that on March 30, 1986, just 33 days before my beautiful Kristin died, I wrote the following in my journal:

“Big, bright fun, changes and growth. What a difference a few years can make. Life seems so sweet now, so full. I’m so content. I don’t see how life could be any better. With my kids and friends and I guess even my age – I am almost 42 – it all makes life pleasant and full. Spent a fabulous month in Hawaii with all of my kids – super times!! Life doesn’t get any better than this. Life is all it ought to be. If this is how the decade of the 40’s is going to be, then I love it. No wonder they say life begins at 40, mine sure did. I’m beginning to look forward to the next 40 years – that’s 14,600 days. This journal now covers 22 years. Big changes in my thinking and perception of life’s meaning. I wonder what the next 22 years will bring as far as changes.”

My very next entry in my journal was quite different: “Not in my wildest imagination could I have ever dreamed that the biggest tragedy of my life would occur just 33 days after this entry.”

My heart continued to bleed for 4 and half years before I pulled myself out of the deep well of depression and self-pity. Those years helped a ton and helped me to finally realize that I needed to move on with my life. I needed to help and pay attention to my kids and loved ones and see how I could help others who have been faced with great tragedies. The bottom line is, time can be a great teacher of some of the biggest lessons of life! We just have to get up and pay attention.

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