Before our feet ever hit the floor, we must decide whether we will be happy or unhappy for the day.
Now, some people will automatically think that is an oversimplified statement, but really it’s not. Think about it. Everyone knows that one person who is always happy, no matter what. And often that person is not rich and does not have a perfect life. (At the time of this writing there is a documentary on Netflix called “Happy” which highlights this and I highly recommend watching it.)
You see, we often look to outside circumstances and other people to provide our happiness. We may not realize that, but we do. True happiness comes from within ourselves. It is a state of mind – a state of being. If you are a truly happy person, then things that happen around you generally don’t change that.
Make the choice right now to be happy and don’t let anything change that decision.
Stop Waiting for Happiness To Happen
One day a few years ago, I was talking to my father about some life issues when he said, “Angela, if you don’t stop that you will wish your whole life away.”
Wow! What an insight!
He was right. I was always living for the next weekend or vacation. I thought I would be happy when I got a new car, then when it was paid off. Or when I paid off a different bill or accomplished something at work. There was always that one thing that I needed in order to be happy. I had been postponing my happiness for years without really realizing it.
I didn’t really grasp the concept that I could be happy while life was unfolding. It didn’t have to wait for anything. It was as easy as making a one second decision.
All those reasons I was using to not be happy were nothing more than excuses.
The Easiest Way To Happiness
The #1 way to get happy and stay happy is practicing gratitude each and every day.
Those who practice it religiously will tell you that emphatically. When you start every day thinking about the abundance in your life, it is virtually impossible to feel unhappy. Also, your mind cannot think positive and negative thoughts at the same time. It is completely impossible. So while you are thinking off all the things you are thankful for in your life, you are literally pushing all the negative thoughts away.
For example, I begin each day saying “thank you” for everything I can think of. As I get out of bed, take a shower, brush my teeth, etc. Then I also go back to that exercise throughout the day. Sometimes I do that when I eat, or if I encounter a negative situation or person. It immediately puts me back into a happy state of mind.
Most people have better lives than they think because they focus on the negative things instead of the positive ones. Once you start to focus on the good things, then your life will begin to feel more abundant. You will literally feel a shift in your life.
Say it in your head, say it out loud, or even keep a gratitude journal so you can look back at all your blessings over time. Just start today.
Steps To Happiness Everyday
Decide to be happy when you wake each morning.
Decide to be happy right this minute and stop using excuses not to be.
Use gratitude throughout every day to remind you of your wonderful life.
It’s that simple! Start your happiness journey right now!
Change can be a difficult thing to instigate in our lives.
We think about it. We talk about it. We make big plans for it.
But we don’t actually do it.
Why is that? At this point we should all know the steps for changing our lives, right? We have read the books, watched the YouTube videos, studied endless courses, and made lists of everything we want to change.
So why isn’t it happening?
Three words: Lack of action.
We are all planning and no doing. And I can attest to this fact. My last decade has been one long (ever changing) plan to better myself. My intentions are true, but the end result always falls flat.
After much thought and reflection I finally discovered why this keeps happening to me. I bet you will find your reason(s) below as well.
You Are Not Ready
I always think I need just a little more information before I take action. (The next book I read will give me the last piece of the puzzle to be successful, I just know it.) But in this age of information there will always be something new to learn, so you can never learn everything needed to get started. So just start where you are.
2. Need For Perfection
You will never be perfect, no matter how hard you try, so why does your plan have to be? Life is messy, period. Some of us know this (me included), but we still let small details hold us back. This is just another excuse for not going in the direction of a better life. Set a goal and align your actions in a way to direct you toward that goal. If something goes wrong, simply readjust your plan. Sometimes when plans go awry, the end result is better than our original plan. Go for action, not perfection.
3. You Might Fail
The one and only reason this matters is you care what other people think. And when this happens you have given power over your life to other people. Usually, these are people you either don’t like or don’t know. (The ones you DO like and DO know will love/like you either way, and you know that.) Don’t let other people dictate your life. Besides, other people are rarely watching us as much as we think. Put on your blinders and go for it.
4. Change is Scary (Even If It’s Successful)
Humans are creatures of habit. Familiarity feels good to us. That is why abused children often marry abusive spouses, or why we often stay within the socioeconomic class of our parents when we grow up. It takes courage and determination to change any fundamental element in our lives. However, NOT CHANGING can be even scarier when you think about it. You don’t want to look back on your life with regrets. Suck up your courage and start today.
5. The First Step is the Hardest
A plan of action is only as good as its implementation. The only way to get started is to get started. Take an action today. Any action is better than no action at all because it sets up momentum. Small steps lead to great change without you even realizing it sometimes. So take the first step today, no matter how small it might be.
One of my favorite quotes:
“Do something today that your future self will thank you for.”
– Sean Patrick Flanery
6. You Try To Do Too Much at Once
Trying to change a large behavior in a short amount of time almost always fails. The key is to change small things over time – which will lead to big changes in the long run.
For example, instead of making “lose weight” your big change. Decide to leave the sugar out of your morning cereal or oatmeal every morning. Once that has become a habit, move on to the next small change. See the video below for a full explanation. (This may be the best TED Talk I have ever seen because it is so valuable!)
How I Got Started
My own personal goal for change was to become happier and feel better both mentally and physically. So I printed out a table and listed all the things that would move me toward that goal each day. This checklist included things like meditation, gratitude, prayer, specific exercises, etc. Altogether, I have nine separate things I strive to do each day.
Do I check off every one of them every day?
No, but some days I do. Other days I do most of them. And occasionally, I do none of them. But I am definitely moving forward and already reaping the benefits of my plan.
Because of this I am more organized and calm, which leads to doing more of the things on the list since I have more time. It’s a big, beautiful cycle. The steps are beginning to become habits and it feels strange on days I don’t do them.
So decide your first step and do it before you go to sleep tonight. Then do another one before bed tomorrow night. And so on and so on. (Feel free to borrow my check list idea. Get it here.)
Within a short period of time, your life will begin to change. Congratulations!
In this high stress, super hurried, and overly political world, it seems everyone is suffering from “indefinite deference”.
You have probably never heard of that before….mostly because I just made it up.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a real thing. In fact, it is the MOST real thing in millions of people’s lives right now. So what is indefinite deference?
It means putting things off forever. That sounds a little extreme since “forever” is a mighty powerful word, but that is where the meaning lies.
Still confused? Allow me to explain.
How Indefinite Deference Is Ruining Our World
Everyday millions of people get out of bed with the best of intentions. Today I will lose weight. Today I will ask for that promotion. Today I will spend more quality time with my children.
But how many people actually take action and follow through on those intentions? Okay, so some people actually do, but what about the HUGE percentage of people who don’t? How does that affect those lives today, next week, even twenty years from now?
According to Psychological Science, “…people who procrastinate have higher levels of stress and lower well-being”, “Why Wait? The Science Behind Procrastination” by Eric Jaffe. I bet that is not news to you, right? Everyone knows that putting things off usually leads to bad consequences somewhere down the line. We also know those who appear to “have it together” look happier than those who don’t.
But indefinite deference has brought about a whole new realm of unhappiness. We could argue the many reasons individuals and families are stressed and tired and ultimately unhappy, but that is for another article.
We have become a society of putter offers. We put things off because we don’t have time, or we are tired, or because we have to rest our brain for at least five minutes before our brain blows out the top of our head. (Oh, is that just me?) Rules and regulations at most jobs have become overwhelming and the rules and regulations for our personal lives seems to have ramped up as well. This leads to brains that never get to shut down and as we leave a few things done each day, the stack of things left to do grows exponentially.
I am as guilty as anyone else. I often have a to do list that has only a fraction of the items marked off at the end of the day. But things get in the way such as unexpected events at work, soccer practice, dinner, homework, leaky faucets, errands, etc. The list could go on for days and still not cover everything that comes up.
This leads to what I call future thinking. Some time in the future I will be happy.
When I get that raise I will be happy.
When I have a baby I will be happy.
When I buy a house I will be happy.
When I get to travel I will be happy.
When I get to retire I will be happy.
When I die I will be happy. YIKES!!!
When I _________ I will be happy.
(You can fill in the blank.)
You see where this is going? Indefinite deference. Always pushing our happiness to some distance time in the future. Why is it that total, true happiness never seems to arrive with said event?
Instead, we always seem to set a new date for our future happiness.
As long as we think that way, allowing our emotions to be controlled by outside sources and events, then we will never be happy. This is because happiness comes from the inside, not out.
Now, you may be sitting there right now feeling self righteous because you think this does not apply to you. Neither did I – until my father pointed it out one day. I was going on about some insignificant thing that was in the way of my life being desirable and he said, “Angela, you are going to wish your life away.” I argued with him at the time and vehemently denied that I was doing such a thing. But later I reflected on our conversation and realize that was EXACTLY what I was doing.
In this day of rising minimalism, I totally agree that we should all learn how to say “no” and have fewer commitments on our plates. We should definitely scale back our possessions, our responsibilities (if possible), and our stress. But there are a few things we should never neglect and sometime it helps to prioritize these things to help us get a better perspective in life.
In fact, I think indefinite deference is a great thing for most of the busyness in our lives. The key, I believe, is picking the things that should never be deferred and then not worrying about the rest.
For instance, some people turn around one day and find it’s time to retire, but they have neglected to build a retirement fund. Even worse is when the children grow up and move away and you suddenly realize you never made that quality time for them. Indefinite deference can sneak up on you faster than you think.
Four Things You Should Never Defer (a.k.a. THE ANSWER TO HAPPINESS)
Retirement & Savings
Health & Well-Being
Time With Loved Ones
Permission To Be Happy Each Day
Deferring these four areas can all have grave consequences, especially down the road. In fact, if you take care of these four things, the rest of your life will more or less take care of itself. So it makes sense to put all of your energy here.
If an item on your to do list doesn’t tick one of these four boxes, then let it go. But NEVER defer these areas in your life and you will have the recipe for a happy, prosperous life.
In the words of the simplistically wise Winnie the Pooh, “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.”
We should all give ourselves permission to be happy. Right now. This very second. Go ahead. I give you permission too.
In my mind there have always been two types of people: minivan drivers and non-minivan drivers.
Please don’t misunderstand me here. Some of my best friends drive minivans. And they love them. And I love those friends.
I, on the other hand, somehow got it in my mind over the years that a minivan equaled a life without excitement and a lack of self image (cough, cough….others thinking you were uncool.)
You see, we are all conditioned to have certain preconceived notions. This is no one’s fault, really. It just comes with growing up and living in a household, community and culture. And in many ways it is a good thing. It helps us find and bond with kindred spirits (i.e. friends and soul mates) with whom we have things in common. These are the people who you often feel most comfortable with.
But on the flip side of that, it also causes biases that don’t often serve us well in life. And it definitely doesn’t help us be a good minimalist.
Sometimes we have difficulty moving from one phase of our life to the next and that holds us back from cleaning the clutter from our lives. For example, I held on to clothes from my 20’s and later from my 30’s because I still saw myself as the cool, hip girl. Never mind the fact that I was no longer actually wearing most of them. Because (a) they were still in my possession, and (b) I MIGHT wear them SOMEDAY.
Would it surprise you to learn that never happened?
Me neither, looking back at it now.
But there are three things about this type of situation that seem to always hold us back, no matter how long we have been a minimalist:
Holding on to memories. Lots of people have garages or attics full of memories, and let me tell you those memories can take up a gigantic amount of space. Now, I never advocate for getting rid of sentimental items that you can never replace (or that you actually use). I am talking about sports equipment for sports you no longer like. Or old furniture that you know will never be used again. If you don’t use it, lose it. You can always take a picture that will last forever. Maybe you enjoyed that certain activity in college but if that is not you anymore, then it is okay to move those items out of your life. Make a scrapbook with pictures of these items and send them on to someone who can and will use them.
Fearing the next stage. This is definitely where I landed with the minivan. I still thought of myself as the snazzy dresser who attended interesting cultural events and saw the hottest bands in concert. (How would it look if I pulled up to see Foo Fighters in a minivan?) If I wasn’t that cool and happening person anymore, then who was I? Can you say identify crises?
Caring what other people think. This holds most people back in all aspects in life, sometimes without us even realizing it. This was definitely happening to me. But one day something happened and I suddenly JUST DID NOT CARE ANYMORE. It suddenly made more sense for everyone to travel in comfort than for me to look “cool” – whatever that even means.
So the day we purchased a minivan I knew it was the right choice. I then used it to haul multiple loads of extra stuff away from my house and to a place where others could benefit from it. I hate to admit it, but this included some clothing and other items from my “cool” days.
How To See the Light
You see, we are all constantly changing and becoming a better version of ourselves, and with this wisdom comes a few points that we all need reminding of sometimes:
It’s okay to evolve as a person.
People who love you will still love you.
People who don’t like you will still not like you.
There’s no need to impress strangers (or your neighbors, your college ex-roommate, etc.)
And yes, buying a minivan added another vehicle to our driveway, but that is okay because it simplified our lives in other ways. It is now our go to vehicle for trips of any length, and therefore, stays loaded with most items we will need. It also carries all sports equipment and lawn chairs for practices, among other things.
It saves us so much time in planning and physically loading (and unloading) items that it was well worth the purchase.
And looking back now, I can see where our lives could have been much simpler for several years now if I had made the right decision – although my hubby was my partner in crime on that one.
So when working to simplify your life, make sure you look at what serves you best and gives you the most joyful life possible – regardless of what your ego says about your self image.
I was at the beach with my family, and as always, I was looking for something exciting to do. You know, I wanted to tour some historical location or find some quaint little antique shop to peruse or maybe look for an amusement park….anything besides sitting aimlessly on the beach staring out into the horizon for hours. I couldn’t imagine just sitting there being unproductive for a whole day. My brain was relentlessly going over all the reasons that would be a waste of time, boring, and generally NOT fun…….when it hit me.
I had become one of THOSE people!
Somehow I had lost the ability to feel happy and content in silence and tranquility, but instead needed constant entertainment and input. And even worse, I felt like this type of down time was unproductive and wasteful. Now, this truly sneaked up on me because I have always been the type to put down my phone and turn off other electronics. I consciously revel in my alone time.
So I was completely overwhelmed when I realized I lost the ability to enjoy the simplest joys in life – quiet, uncomplicated time that allowed my body and brain to completely rest.
After all, there are many ways to fill our minds and time, right?
Consider this quote from Psychology Today titled “Flooding Your Brain’s Engine: How You Can Have Too Much of a Good Thing” by Joanne Cantor, Ph.D:
“According to a recent international poll by LexisNexis, workers around the world are increasingly overwhelmed by the amount of information they have to manage, and information overload is widely seen as a growing threat to workplace productivity.”
So here’s the problem: We live in a world of constant input. We have gone from a slower, more natural pace of life that evolved around the seasons and agriculture to a life that is always switched on.
Many elements of our modern life have contributed to this shift, but here are the main offenders:
24 hour television stations
24 hour stores
I remember when I was young (which wasn’t THAT long ago) and most stores closed on Sundays….or at least kept shorter hours. In fact, I actually remember when Wal-Mart used to close. Sounds strange now, doesn’t it? (What I can’t get dog treats after 10:00 pm????)
We are used to getting what we want, when we want it. This has caused our addiction to instant gratification. No one has to actually wait for anything now.
Want to watch a movie? Boom……it takes than less than a minute to find it on Netflix or Amazon Prime. How about reading a new book? Download it in about 30 seconds on your Kindle. Or music. No wonder we are all so spoiled and entitled.
And with this comes the need to be the coolest, hippest person in any room. So you try to ready EVERY new best seller-book, and watch EVERY discussion-worthy movie, try EVERY fashionable new recipe, and try to fit in EVERY attraction on vacation so you don’t feel like you are missing something….etc, etc., etc……
Which leads me to the next problem……
How and When to Turn Off the Noise
Let’s be honest. The world of constant input has become our “normal” now. Even those of us young enough to remember a slower life are now acclimated to the constant barrage of information that is currently our world.
So when should we turn it off?
Every chance we get!
I used to mindlessly come home and immediately turn on the television or radio for “background” noise. But why? Because that was my normal. Is that your normal, too?
Here are some ways to cut out some of the noise in your life and also find ways to do nothing and rest your brain.
Place a small fountain in your living/family room and use it instead of turning on television/music.
Open windows and listen to the sounds of nature.
Turn on low, calming music such as classical or slow jazz (instead of other music).
Sit on your front porch with a cup of tea or coffee (we installed an outdoor fan so we could do this more often).
Sit outside at night and watch the stars.
Go on vacation and purposefully plan time to do nothing except sit on the balcony.
Don’t put a television or radio in your camper.
Turn off the radio in your vehicle and just listen to the lulling sounds of the road.
Science has proved that resting our minds and bodies gains more productivity in the long run, so there is your excuse to try all of the above.
How To Find the Joy in Doing Nothing
Okay, you now have a list of ways to do nothing, but how do you learn to enjoy it (instead of constantly thinking about things you could or should be doing)?
This one is simple: Give yourself permission to do so.
It is amazing how simply and easily this works. When I told myself it was perfect and natural to want to some down time and it didn’t matter if I didn’t see every attraction while on vacation, my trip immediately got better. The pressure was off and my time was now mine. I was in complete control of my vacation and no longer felt the urge to cover as much ground as possible while on vacation lest my time and energy be ill spent.
It was so liberating that I wondered why I hadn’t given myself this gift before then. But I guess it all boils down to sometimes not seeing the simplest solutions for our lives.
When we talk about minimalism and removing the clutter from our lives, we can easily forget about the things we can’t see. Giving yourself this permission is also giving yourself love on the most basic level.
And love is like money, you need to give to yourself first. When you love yourself, you have abundant love to give to others.
Things in life can easily sneak up on you. I think most responsible adults know this. But the thing that steals your joy most often can be a real trickster. And no one is too young or old to learn the lesson below, so please read it, use it and pass it on.
I just learned this lesson that I must say keeps popping up over and over in my life. No matter how many times I “discover” this answer to all bad things in my life, it seems I must go down that road again.
Let me explain.
Yesterday was Easter and we (my husband, children and myself) attended church with my mother in law and extended family rather than going to our regular church, which just five minutes (or less) down the road. This church is much like home to me, since my husband grew up there and we have attended it for several years (off and on) while we have been married.
The service was lovely with a mixture of candlelight, spoken parts and musical performances. Everyone was well dressed and cordial. The coffee and donuts during intermission were fresh and tasty. But yet something did not feel right.
Somehow sitting among my family members and friends while holding my baby niece did not give me the peace I was expecting. It was a beautiful, sunny day and all was right in my world, so why did I feel anything other than peace?
Then, somewhere between pastor’s words and my niece plunging her new teeth into my hand, I had a revelation:
I still held bad feeling toward certain people in my life.
There is was. Plain as the nose on my face. In fact, some of the those people were sitting in church with me at that very moment.
Now, let me insert here that I thought I had wiped the slate clean and forgiven everyone in my life for every wrong (or perceived wrong) they had ever sent my way.
Then, a few years later I did it again.
Was there a third time? Hmmm………..
Anyway, while sitting in church I realized two things:
I had not truly thought of everyone I needed to forgive. I needed to put in more effort and not forgive people in small batches, but forgive everyone. Even those I felt did not “deserve” it.
Forgiveness is an ongoing thing.
People are usually not against you, they are just for themselves. Just trying to survive, nothing personal.
So I made the decision to look around the church and make a mental inventory of every person I needed to forgive, then I did just that. I opened my heart and gave the forgiveness and love that was needed to make me feel harmonious.
The people who received my forgiveness never knew the difference. They felt no different after my epiphany. But I felt like a new person. In fact, the weight of the world lifted from me while I sat in that padded seat.
So here is my question to you: Do you need to grant forgiveness to people in your life?
If so, don’t follow the same misguided path as me.
Instead, make a list of every single person you have ever had a negative feeling toward. (Yes, even the stranger who skipped line at Starbucks this morning.) Take a couple days to compile this list if needed, because you want it to be complete.
Then, sit down and make the deliberate decision to forgive every one of them. And don’t just say it. Really mean it. Forgive every person for being human and not being perfect.
Sometimes it can be difficult to forgive people when they have done heinous things to you. When that happens, try to imagine them as a little baby that has not yet faced the trials of life that build up over time and cause people to mistreat others. Or imagine them in their underwear. Whatever it takes to grant them the forgiveness and you the serenity that you need.
Because you need this.
When you talk of simplifying our lives and minimalism, there is nothing better to throw in the trash than resentments and other bad feelings towards others.
I had this in my life and didn’t even see it right in front of my face. Could you be doing the same? Don’t let this be the thing that steals your joy.