Amping Up the Joy

The more humans focus on themselves to pursue greater happiness and recognition, the more the opposite happens.

When you focus too much on yourself, you become disconnected and alienated from others and as the Dali Lama wrote in his book on joy, “In the end, you also become alienated from yourself, since the need for connection with others is such a fundamental part of who we are as human beings.”

The more you pursue a butterfly, the more it eludes you.

Sit back and allow it to land, and the more you will enjoy it.

Same is true in finding joy in life.

Stress-Busting Plants

A new study reveals that simply looking at a live plant on your desk can considerably reduce stress.

You don’t even have to care for the plant, forcing yourself to look at it or interacting with it in any way.

Just the fact that a plant is in your sight brings anxiety reducing benefits.

Too much screen time even for things that we believe are pleasurable along with lack of in-person interaction may be some of the things causing a buildup of stress in addition to life’s challenges.

Stress-busting plants — a big claim so I’m linking to the study.

Slowing Down Conquers Too Much To Do

When we get overwhelmed with too much on our plate, our instincts tell us to work faster.

Work faster and pay for it with increased anxiety, headaches and the feeling of helplessness.

Slowing down has the opposite effect.

It takes discipline but forcing yourself to actually go slower means you are more focused. Instead of feeling slammed, you begin to feel like you are accomplishing something.

But what about all those things that are overwhelming you?

At a slower pace, instead of frantically trying to keep up, you begin to ask “is this critical”, “do I need to do it”, “do I need to do it today?”

Less may be more, but slower is less stressful and more effective no matter how many things are overwhelming you.

Small Accomplishments

Small accomplishments feel the same as big ones.

The euphoria lasts about the same – generally a lot shorter than we’d like to think.  (Even winning a pay raise wears off too quickly, it seems).

But here’s where small accomplishments come up so huge.

They make us feel good about ourselves no matter how small the victory.

And they help with sour moods or even depression because devoting time to accomplish something new is a diversion from dwelling on a nagging problem.

In this new year, most people don’t need lofty or ambitious resolutions that seem to fade away before the end of January.

They need an accomplishment each day – maybe even two or three little ones.

Anxiety is a product of worrying about worry.

Staying busy in productive ways is the residue of focusing on the now.

Starting Over

Starting over is not always better than staying with it.

As frustrating as it can be, each minute of continued frustration can also bring you closer to the prize.

Starting anew is an option that should be reserved for when you lose the passion.

For everything else endurance is what gets you to your goal.

Being Right

Being right is not as important as doing what is right.

Doing what is right often has a downside.

Being right tends to be a bet on the upside.

One thing matters – doing what is right in spite of the consequences and you will always have made the right – if not most difficult – decision.

Why Change is So Difficult and How to Make it Easier

The prolific self-help author Wayne Dyer famously wrote:

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”

Not change the things you do.

Not put a bandage on it.

Or try something different.

Change the way you look at things and that paves the way for more intuitive decisions.

It’s why hitting “reset” at the New Year seldom works – there are no magic solutions to fixing the things that may be broken in life.  It’s a temporary fix.

But look at your problems in a different way, from a different perspective, in a more global way and it is amazing how people can alter behavior and accomplish what previously was so difficult.

Living in the Now

During a class discussion recently on careers in the music business, my students were in virtually 100% agreement that their 30’s is the decade that they think of for optimum success and happiness.

That’s probably right from a lot of perspectives but not exclusive to any one decade of life.

Over the recent holiday break, I saw an 88-year old clergyman conducting Christmas Eve services with the acuity and vigor you would expect to see in, say, a 38-year old.

And I met a breast cancer survivor – 51 years old who had the deadliest form of this cancer at 32 and survived after a double mastectomy.  She is living life with new-found enthusiasm that comes from being a survivor.

I know a leukemia survivor who also has lung cancer and she is actively riding in bike marathons from South Jersey to the ocean, a living lesson in what it means to live in the now.  Can you do that?  I can’t.

As hard as it may be, living in the now is the only option.

And after meeting adversity, it often turns out to be the best.

The Journey is the Joy

Most of us see ourselves on a long journey … coming by train.

And from the window we drink in the passing scenes of cars on nearby highways…

…of children waving at crossings…

…of cattle grazing on hillsides.

But, uppermost in our conscious minds is our final destination – that certain day … certain hour … when our train will pull into the station with bands playing and flags waving!

And, once that day comes…dreams come true.

So, restlessly we pace the aisles, peering ahead … waiting … waiting for the station.  Once we reach the station, that will be it.

When we’re 18.

When we win that promotion.

Buy that sports car.

Put the last kid through college.

Pay off the mortgage.

Have a nest egg for retirement.

We await each station with such anticipation.

Sooner or later, however, we learn that – there IS no station.  There is NO place to arrive once and for all.

The station is an illusion.  The station constantly outdistances us.

The journey is the joy.

So…stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles.

Instead…swim more rivers…

Climb more mountains…

Kiss more babies…

Count more stars…

Go barefoot more often…

Eat more ice cream…

Watch more sunsets…

Ride more merry-go-rounds…

Life is to be lived today.

This was from a broadcast by Paul Harvey on August 27, 1985.

How to NOT be Overwhelmed

The World War II war general, hero and later, president Dwight Eisenhower had a special system for keeping critical things in perspective and less important things from getting in the way.

This system is now known as the Eisenhower Matrix.

Divide everything you have to do into three categories:  1) Urgent;  2) Not Urgent and 3) Not Important.

Urgent – requires immediate action or attention.

We know what Not Urgent and Not Important are but we all somehow let these things usurp our valuable time sometimes because they are easier to do not more important.

Trying to do everything is no way to be effective.

Today, try asking the question:  “what is so critical (urgent) that I must do it now” and let a famous general help to declare war on being overwhelmed.