Your happiness depends on YOU!
“E” for Effort October 13, 2014
Watching college football this weekend I learned something about life. I learned that even the smallest efforts matter and that the littlest things can sometimes make the biggest difference.
The game that taught me this wasn’t the OU-Texas battle that I attended in Dallas, but rather the Alabama-Arkansas game, which Bama won 14-13. It was a close and hard fought game but what proved to be the difference between a loss and either overtime or a tie was a blocked extra point kick by a Crimson Tide player Jonathan Allen. It ended up being the play of the day. No one probably imagined that Allen would wind of the hero, including Allen himself.
You don’t see missed extra point kicks very often and they aren’t usually a part of the game where players “give it their all” unless the game is on the line. None of this was the case here. At the time of the kick, the game was far from being on the line and yet Allen made that extra effort to reach just a little bit higher and essentially win the game for Bama.
That happens in life too. They say you should always be kinder than necessary, but maybe we should also try harder than necessary at making something good happen to or for someone else. Those little extra efforts you make or those that others make, well, they make a difference.
My nephew’s fiancé always makes him a big breakfast on Sundays before they settle in for a day of NFL games. She enjoys football as much as he does and I’m sure she’d love it if sometimes he made breakfast or even went out to get it, but she takes the time to scramble those eggs and assemble those breakfast tacos herself, and it’s made a difference. It matters to him. He appreciates it.
A good friend of mine recently experienced a “flight from hell” going from Dallas to Chicago but was treated by her husband with a limo ride to her parents’ home in Indiana upon arrival. I know for a fact he didn’t enjoy spending the extra money on a limo, but his doing so mattered. It made a difference.
Think about these things the next time you want to give up or not give something your 100 percent. It truly is the little things and being willing to extend that extra “reach” for someone that makes you not only a hero of sorts, but a better person.
It’s true that every accomplishment begins with a simple decision to try and that the difference between “try” and “triumph” is merely a little “umph,” but how often do we choose not to try our hardest or to not do something that could truly make a difference or make someone feel loved or happy? If you find yourself constantly saying, “I just don’t have the time or energy,” consider this:
“Don’t’ say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein,” warns H. Jackson Brown, Jr. You could add Jonathan Allen to that group today.
Maybe you’re afraid of failure and maybe sometimes that’s what keeps you from going the extra mile. Maybe, like me, you don’t like change. Whatever is holding you back, try thinking about it differently. Don’t focus on the possibility of failure; focus on the possibility of accomplishment. And, don’t think of it as change, think of it as something new and exciting or maybe even a new challenge.
“Many of life’s failures happen when we don’t realize how close we were to success when we gave up.” Thomas Edison
Finally, like the little turtle above, think big. Go for it. If you stumble, make it a dance. If you fail, learn from it. Always shoot for the moon and the stars; even if you miss you’ll land among the stars. Jonathan Allen reached for the stars and won. You can too.
The Endless Accumulation of Stuff October 7, 2014
“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
I’ve been on a cleaning and disposing rampage lately. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe I just want to organize; maybe I want to discard unhappy memories or clutter. Whatever the case, my recent binge of “Fall Cleaning” has been both enlightening and a lightening of my load! I’ve scoured through my closet, getting rid of bags of clothes and shoes; I’ve cleaned out my desk and files; and I’ve cleared out space after space throughout our home.
In the midst of this purging frenzy, I received encouragement in a most unlikely place: my yoga classes. Instructor Nicki suggested we use the Fall Equinox and the New Moon to set a class intention of letting go and making space for something beautiful. Think about your priorities, she suggested, and think about what to keep and what you may need to discard. Namaste!
At the same time, I was inspired even more when I went to read the September chapter of Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project,” which focuses on…duh, duh, duh…possessions. We own our possessions, but sometimes our possessions own us. And not in a good way.
As Rubin details in her book, many argue that we should not rely on our possessions to make us happy but they do, in fact, matter when it comes to someone’s happiness. I tend to agree and I would bet you do too even though most of us often deny the importance of what we own and what we covet.
“One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.” Iris Murdoch
The possessions that make me happiest however, aren’t a fancy car or a big house, it’s all those little things that I’ve filled our home with: handprint art from Kristen, photographs, souvenirs I’ve picked up on my travels, even my “Alpha Chi Mom” coffee mug. Is it really the items that bring a smile to my face, or the memories they invoke? In contrast, owning a dog makes me happy and so does buying myself fresh flowers, but neither induces memories of any kind. They simply cheer me and comfort me.
The difference between owning possessions and them owning you, is making sure they don’t master you or your happiness. Thoughts like “I would be happier with a better car” or “if only we had a pool” are not healthy and will unlikely lead to any increased level of joy. I, however, can be guilty as charged. Right now I’m thinking a pair of cute booties would be great. Would they make my life happier though? Doubtful.
It’s also important to not become materialistic, as studies show and Rubin reports, materialistic people –those who place too much importance on owning things and showing them off – are less happy. Apparently keeping up with the Joneses doesn’t make the Smiths any happier.
Rubin goes on to say that, yes, money can’t buy happiness per se but, well-spent, money can buy things that may contribute to increased levels of contentment. Money can help us support causes we believe in; keep in touch with far away family members; and even participate in activities that make us happy such as travel, sporting events, and the arts.
So, back to my household purging. I am amazed at how much calmer (and happier?) I am walking into my closet and seeing less hanging items. What I hadn’t worn in a year, what was out of style regardless of how much I like it, and what just didn’t fit or flatter my figure was tossed or donated. I even got rid of many pairs of shoes which, as I’ve chronicled numerous times, are my Achilles’ heel. Pardon the pun!
Hi, my name is Carla, I’m a Taurus, and I like things orderly. Yep, I’m an organizing freak and purging allowed me to organize to death. I may have too many things that drive my family members nuts, but I know where each one is and they are all, for the most part, neatly organized. Orderliness makes me happy. Loosing things makes me crazy!
“Outer order contributes to inner calm,” writes Rubin. I’ve always heard this but I had no idea that creating order can lead to a boost of energy and joyfulness. I will say, however, that after cleaning and clearing stuff out, I feel better and I feel fresher.
So what about all those things in your home that you’ve been “saving” but never use? Some of those things contribute to clutter, others may be neatly stored away, but do you really need them? Keep in mind that the longer you hold on to things, the harder they are to discard, So ……
“Happiness is not about having less; happiness is not about having more;
happiness is wanting what I have.”
Gretchen Rubin, “The Happiness Project”
Starting today I’m going to be smarter about what I buy and what I own. Do I need it? Do I love it? Can I afford it? If I answer “yes” to all three, then the purchase is worth considering. If not, walk away Carla and take comfort in the quiet knowing that you don’t need another possession to be happy.
Family Ties October 4, 2014
“There is no such thing as ‘fun for the whole family.” Jerry Seinfeld
Where have I been and what have I been watching? Those are the questions I asked myself last night as I watched, for the first time, the television show “Parenthood.” What a great program so why hadn’t I seen it until now, its last season? Good question, but thanks to Neflix I will be watching it episode after episode.
Although I’ve only seen the pilot and this week’s episode, “Parenthood” looked like a good family drama so I’m somewhat surprised to hear this season is its final. A friend of mine believes this is because it doesn’t have enough sex and violence to merit “hit series” status. I hope this won’t be the case with “Duck Dynasty,” another family-driven show. Nothing like a real family with real values, right?
Families are important. Done. End of blog.
Yes, a family unit is indeed significant in many ways, but did you know that nearly every expert you talk to says feeling part of a family is vital to a person’s success?
Apparently the single most important thing you can do to strengthen your family and the members of it is to develop a strong family narrative. This means knowing where your grandma went to school, where your grandpa grew up, and other multi-generational facts and stories. Research conducted by Emory University and reported in “Readers Digest” found that a child who knows where her grandmother went to school may be more resilient than a child who doesn’t. Having a strong “intergenerational self” also allows kids to know (not just think, but know) they belong to something bigger than themselves. The more children know about their family history, the higher their self-esteem tends to be and the more self-control they exhibit.
Following the tragic events of 9/11, researchers re-evaluated children affected by the tragedy and found that the ones who knew more about their families were more resilient. The military and sociology experts also report similar findings and experiences.
I’ve always liked the quote about giving your children both “roots and wings,” and now I know just how important those deep and strong roots really are.
This was music to the ears of this mom of an “only.” Kristen is our only child and I don’t even have to go into detail about what many automatically believe about children who don’t have siblings. Spoiled. Self-centered. Introverted. Unsocial. Can’t share. How can my only acquire all those advantages of family awareness when her “family” consists of mom and dad?
First off, let me first address all those misconceptions about onlies. Single children are not only often very social and confident; they tend to achieve high levels of education and occupational prestige. Pity the poor only? Au contraire!
I was happy to read something that I always felt, that even without siblings, children benefit from knowing their extended families. I know for a fact that Kristen values her cousins more than perhaps others with lots of siblings might and that she hates the fact that her mom and dad aren’t necessarily close to all of their siblings. Kristen never really wished for siblings, but she does wish she had a physically closer extended family. She loves her family even if getting to know all members is somewhat challenging being that we are spread literally coast-to-coast. This is the sad truth of most American families today, but thanks to technology, staying in touch is much easier even if it will never replace living down the street from grandma and grandpa or going to the same schools as your cousins.
I love that at the end of each episode of “Duck Dynasty” cast members share a prayer and a family dinner. The Robertsons may be back-woods bubbas, but they are clearly onto something simple yet smart as family meals, much like a communicated family history, can actually result in a child’s better grades and healthier future relationships.
I remember when Kristen was younger we would sit down to dinner, say grace, and then we’d do our “highs and lows.” We would go around the table and say what our “high” of the day was and what our “low” was. We don’t do so any more, but I’m glad we did it for as many years as we did. Statistics would agree.
Teens that have regular meals with their parents often boast better grades, are less likely to be depressed, have higher self-esteem, and have better peer and opposite sex relationships. On the other hand, teens that have two or fewer family dinners a week are more likely to smoke, drink, hang out with sexually active friends, and smoke marijuana.
“It is difficult to know what counts most in the world, but I am beginning to see that the things that really matter take place not in the boardrooms, but in the kitchens of the world.” Gary Allen Sledge
It’s a tough world for kids today. Their family “role models” are “Modern Family,” “Two and a Half Men,” and the Kardashians. Long gone are the days of the “Cosby Show,” “Seventh Heaven” and the “Brady Bunch.” Call me naïve and old-fashioned, but many a lesson was learned from Dr. Huxtable, lessons somewhat lost on today’s generation and households with a TV in every room.
The most recent Census Figures show that 66 percent of American households in 2012 were “family households,” down from 81 percent in 1970. Equally alarming is that between 1970 and 2012, the share of households that were married couples with children under age 18 dropped from 40 percent to a mere 20 percent.
But, I digress.
Despite the trends, how can any and all families raise stronger and happier children? Start by developing and keeping family traditions that can be passed down generation to generation and share your extended family’s history with your kids. Be sure to create memories by taking family trips and work to ensure family members feel comfortable communicating with each other both in good times and bad. No one needs to know they have the “perfect” family. Way more beneficial is knowing they have a supportive and solid family.
Lastly, appreciate your family. Let members know you value them and choose your battles. Tell them you love them even if you don’t always agree with them. After all, it’s the only you’ve got.