7 Success Strategies For 2018

People are more anxious and stressed these days. They are working harder with diminishing returns. Just focusing on accomplishing more is not enough in 2018. Research supports the idea that focus on increasing joy and happiness in your life will help you achieve the success you desire. (Over 200 happiness studies of 275,000 people worldwide. “The Happiness Advantage”, Shawn Achor)

This means we have to think differently about success. Happiness is not a by-product of success; instead, happiness leads to success. The following strategies will help you release the brakes and accelerate toward the success you desire. Learn to reduce stress and anxiety, increase your joy, and your productivity will increase.

  1. Take breaks and vacations:

    According to a recent U.S. survey, the average American employee only takes half of their available vacation time. Studies report that taking breaks and vacations from your business reduces stress and heart disease, increases productivity, and improves sleep. The effects are long lasting. When you are happy, relationships, work and life are easier. Just the act of planning a vacation can improve productivity. According to a 2010 study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, Having something to look forward to can make you happier, and energize you to be more productive. The study suggests taking shorter vacations more often to take advantage of this phenomenon.

    Regular time off is also important. My son in-law has two degrees from Harvard University. He explained the demands on students to perform are great. Many suffer anxiety and stress from the pressure. They would study seven days a week with the occasional self-medicating break. My son in-law would take a break from his studies on Sunday and perform faith-based service (more about this later). He reports this break did not disadvantage him, rather enabled him to refocus his efforts. With these regular breaks, he was able to graduate at the top of his class in his undergraduate and graduate degrees.

    For many years, Bill gates would get away from his business for two separate weeks each year. He called these “Think Weeks” and many innovations at Microsoft emerged from these retreats.

  2. Eliminate energy drains that depress productivity and happiness:

    a. Paper & document handling: Do something with it now, delegate it, defer it, destroy it.
    b. Manage the “Got a minute?” interruptions: By setting a time you are available to give focused attention. Being in control of your day will significantly increase your energy and satisfaction.
    c. Emails: Check only 2x a day. Avoid the dopamine fix of looking every few minutes. This interrupts your concentration and workflow. Stay focused on activities that are most important. It is etiquette to respond within 24 hours. c. d. Smart phones: The irony is these amazing tools are making us dumb, people don’t have to think, they can ask Google or Siri just about anything. We spend a great deal of our productive time distracted by social media. There is a statistic that says using a smartphone is equivalent to smoking two joints. The constant interruptions distract you from being present. One addiction therapist says giving your child a smartphone is like “giving them a gram of cocaine”(Mandy Saligari, June 7, 2017). The smartphone emerged 10 years ago; many of these “addicted” children are distracted workers in our business today.

    Adults are no less connected with the Internet, social media, texts, news alerts and more causing constant interruption. Don’t look at social media during work hours unless it is part of your job. Take time to unplug and turn off your alerts. Take a vacation from your smart devices. You will be happier and more productive.

  3. Learn how to set effective goals:

    Achieving your goals is incredibly satisfying and boosts self-confidence. Having a clear purpose and focus can help you get out of bed in the morning and give you a spring in your step. For goals to be more effective focus on the activities that will help you achieve your goals and eliminate the obstacles. Develop a system that will help track and implement your goal-focused activities.

    For example: If you want to increase your income in 2018, and you have identified a goal you believe you can achieve and a date to achieve that, you are off to a good start. Now work backwards from that date and identify all the activities you must do differently or more of than you are currently doing. These actions may include: cold calling, attending networking events and making new contacts, asking for referrals, making sales presentations and more. These activities are called leading indicators. Engaging in these activities daily will lead to your goal achievement.

    To do lists alone are not enough to help you achieve your goals. You must have a system to integrate your activities into your calendar. A system will keep you focused on activities that move you towards your goals. A system also helps keep you accountable. An example of a system is an activity tracking tool. You may use a program that tracks activities like ASANA, Coach.me, Habitify, Goalplus, Todoist, or any other of your choosing. The best ones integrate with your calendar. You may wish to have an accountability partner or coach you report to on at least a weekly basis. If you need extra help, report daily. Marshall Goldsmith suggests creating a system called the daily questions. This enables you to focus on your goal achieving activities and measure your effort and success everyday.

  4. Manage your energy not your time:

    I took over as CEO of a company needing a major turn around. I worked long hours and took few breaks. My stress increased and my energy decreased. Many executives are in similar situations pushing themselves further and harder. Since the number of hours you have a day is fixed, focus on increasing your energy so the time you spend is more effective.

    In their article “Manage Your Energy Not Your Time”, authors Schwartz and McCarthy conducted a study at Wachovia Bank, which focused on increasing physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energy. Revenue for the participants increased 13-20% over the control group.

    What can you do increase your energy?

    Plan to leave work by 5:30pm. You will find with a deadline, you will get more done. You will have more time for renewing activities like exercise, time with family, reading good books, meditating, etc. Some of the most productive people work shorter hours.

    Understand that your cognitive abilities will vary predictably throughout the day. Research shows that the impact of time-of-day accounts for 20% of cognitive performance variance. How you use the time of day will allow you to leverage your energy and cognitive abilities. For most us, our executive brain function, and our ability to concentrate and engage in analytical efforts peaks in the morning until about noon. Our cognitive sharpness and energy fall drastically in the afternoon. This is a great time to engage in more mundane activities like checking email, organization, and expense reports. This would not be a good time to hold a staff meeting that requires the creative participation of all involved.

    In the late afternoon and evening we begin to recover. Psychologists, Mareike Weith and Rose Zacks believe this time is best suited to creative or collaborative thinking which requires less focus than algorithmic thinking of our mornings. Of course, these time trends vary for someone like my wife who finds her greatest ability to concentrate at night and finds her creative rebound in the late morning. The key is to identify your energy and focus rhythm’s and match the work required of you to the time of day where your energy and focus is best applied.

    Exercise more often. Intense exercise helps increase your neurotransmitters and grows new brain cells. Do it five times a week. When you exercise also matters. Morning exercise will help you burn 20% more fat than later after meal workouts. Early exercise also give you’re the advantage of boosting your mood throughout the day. (For more information on exercise and cognitive performance variance, read: “When, The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” by Daniel Pink)

    Improve your diet to improve your energy. The food we eat provides the energy we burn all day. There is a great disparity of the quality of food fuel available. Don’t skip meals; eating the best foods regularly increases your metabolism and available energy.

    Get 7-9 hours of sleep. This will increase your mood, energy, and your ability to concentrate.

  5. Develop personal relationships:

    I have always prided myself on being task focused. I know how to get things done. The problem is that this usually comes at the expense of developing relationships. I suggest scheduling lunch meetings each week with people you want to develop relationships with. Network with people who can mentor you and give you career advice. If you are in a position to be a mentor, make time to help others on your team. This can make a huge impact on the team culture and engagement. It will give you a sense of satisfaction and happiness. It may also provide you with opportunities for increased credibility, responsibility, and income.

    One of my client’s has created a mentorship program where a senior employee is paired with a younger employee to help them with their career goals. Having a senior employee available for mentorship meetings and to advocate on behalf of their mentee’s is strengthen the culture an improving the engagement and satisfaction of all involved.

    If you are a senior executive, network with people outside of the company who can support you. Finding a coach or board of experts that can help hold you accountable and advise you on your goals and strategies. Your personal joy and happiness is tied to your ability to learn and grow as person. Often we are happiest when we are challenged to step outside of our comfort zones.

  6. Help someone in need:

    During 2017, we had a number of natural disasters in the U.S. alone, including floods in Houston, Hurricanes in Florida and Puerto Rico, and fires in California. These events and others have provided numerous opportunities to serve. A less dramatic opportunity to serve came recently to my nineteen-year-old son just before Christmas. He was asked to join a group of young men and young women ages 12-18 that were going caroling to several families in need. He was asked to dress up like Santa Claus. At first he was reluctant. He came back feeling terrific.

    He said he realized that he was able to bring so much joy to the little children in the homes that he visited. He realized, this was not about how he felt, but rather, how he could use his talents to benefit others. We discussed that often he and other youth don’t want to go to service events because they would rather follow selfish pursuits like playing video games, being with their friends “chilling” or even studying. In my sons case, he reported that each time he overcame these selfish desires to serve, he always returned feeling “filled” with joy and gratitude.

    Taking a portion of your time to serve others in your community has multiple benefits. First, it boosts your self-worth and esteem as you engage in helping others that benefit from your experience or efforts on their behalf. Not only does service make you feel better, it has several health benefits including: physical health, mental health, emotional stability, reduces stress, prolongs life, reduces the risk of alzheimer’s disease, and more. It can also boost your career prospects and benefit your business as you engage in corporate philanthropy and employee volunteer programs.

    Find a cause you believe in to support. You don’t have to look far, there are many worthy causes right in your own community. Justserve.org will help you find someone to help in your backyard.

  7. Learn to say no:

    Though there are many worthy causes that merit your attention, saying yes to too many will increase stress and dissatisfaction. If you take on too much, you may do many things poorly instead of a few things well. We all have limits to what we can accomplish. Saying no to some things means we can say yes to our own mental well-being and to the most important things in our lives; like family, faith, and health.

    Saying no can be very difficult for different personalities. Some people are afraid if they say no, no one else will do it. Some are uncomfortable saying no because they feel they are letting others down. Some truly believe they can help everyone and they focus their talents and energy on everyone but themselves. This can lead to burnout and compassion fatigue. This can happen to anyone, but especially health-care providers and non-profit employees. Often their own health suffers as they go about “saving the world.” The danger is their ability to give and help is not sustainable. We want to be able to sustain our efforts. There are certainly seasons in our life when we will be out of balance. We just have to be careful to say no, or our health and energy will say no for us.

Theses strategies will go a long way to helping you have a happy and successful 2018. Feeling better physically, emotionally, and mentally will help you focus the best of you on activities that matters most to you. It will also make you more resilient and prepared to manage the challenges you may face.

The author Spencer Horn is President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC, Face Your Fears; Learn From Mistakes; Start Beating Yourself Up; The Help You Need To Achieve Your Resolutions; How To Create Success From Failure

The Value of Your Values

How Living Your Values Increases Happiness & Power

The first step to taking 100% responsibility for the outcomes in your life is to get clear about what is important to you. What do you value? Values represent our guiding principles, our broadest motivations. They are the attitudes and ideas we hold that influence how we act. This applies to individuals, organizations and societies. I used to think identifying values was just a good idea. Then I learned the power created when behavior is truly aligned with what we say we want. When we make time for the things we identify as most important, our satisfaction expands.

There are many kinds of values. To keep things simple I will mention two: Core Values and Aspirational Values. Unlike belief systems, which must be regularly examined and updated, core values must remain constant if they are to be an effective tool. For example, the northern star is valuable to navigators because it remains consistently fixed in the heavens. It is a tool that provides accurate direction when needed no matter where the person is located; it is a constant in a world full of variables.

Aspirational values are those behaviors, attitudes and characteristics that you are working towards. The distinction is important because of the impact on engagement. If you were to state innovation as a core value and your policies and the behavior of leadership do not reinforce or support this value, you will create cynicism and disengagement. You may reduce innovation because your most innovative employees may leave. However, if you state this as an aspirational value, you are more honest about the need to be more innovative. It will not create a false expectation that can come back to haunt you.

Companies spend a great deal of time and money defining values that are important to them. The challenge seems to be; behaving in harmony with those values. I have experienced first hand how making decisions and behaving in alignment with your stated values improves personal and employee satisfaction. Just as important, it improves efficiency and productivity. Not only is behaving in alignment with your stated values the right thing to do, it will benefit your bottom line. Following the constant guidance of positive values will lead you inexorably to the situation and outcome you desire.

Here are some ways to identify your values:

  1. What drives you crazy– Take a moment to identify what drives you crazy. Think about the opposite of that and you will identify what you value.
  2. A PEAK Experience –Think of a time in your life when you were excited, happy or fulfilled- Tell the story to someone and ask them to help you identify what you valued about those experiences.
  3. Suppressed Values – Things you long for but are not getting. (I love to be out in nature.)
  4. Invisible Values – These values are honored naturally, you do not think about them. Quirks (Have to have the pillows straight) Hugh Grant movies make me squirm. I don’t like to look foolish or stupid. I value being competent polished, etc.
  5. Must Haves – Look at what you must have in your life beyond food, shelter, and community.
  6. Obsessive Expression – Do you insist on honoring a value as a demand. Look for places you take a value to extreme. (The need to be right, to be in control, to avoid conflict at all cost, resistance to being managed or following rules, the need to work hard, focus on problems, worry, unrealistic expectations, overly sensitive to being embarrassed, thinking about what you will say vs. listening, compulsive need to be heard, needing to be liked, fear of rejection, indecisive, overly agreeable, deferring, overly skeptical, slow to trust, over planning, perfectionism, inflexible, constant need for variety, enjoying interruptions, need for autonomy and independence and more.) These can hold you back.
  7. Your Future Self – Think about who you wish to become or who you are becoming.

Identify and take responsibility for the things that are most important to you. How does this give you power? When you allow life to happen to you, you take what comes. Your schedule is at the mercy of others and it will fill up with trivial activities and interruptions. I hear my clients say from time to time: “I am too busy…to exercise, or to socialize, or to enjoy some quiet time!” Make time for the things you value most. It will energize you, it will force you to be more efficient and effective. You will begin to take back power over your life. YOU get to decide where you will spend your time and energy. If family is important, schedule time for them. If work, making money, exercise and sports, family, friends, church, etc. are important to you, schedule time in your week for them. Schedule time with the people that are important to you.

Dr. Daniel Amen who is a brain disorder specialist who wrote “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life.” He says that we harness our brain’s power when we give it direction and vision. Having a purpose in your life aligned with your values gives you power. As you look back at your days and weeks and you have made time for the most important things in your life, you will have a sense of satisfaction, happiness and power.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: Leadership Is About Impact Not IntentionHow To Prepare Your Next Generation Of LeadersIncrease Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science; How To Create Success From Failure; How To Get Your People To Change TodayCure For The CEO DiseaseThe Importance of Values

Act As If…Today!!!

Experience the fulfillment and happiness of achieving your future goals, your new year’s resolutions TODAY!

Over the years I have learned a principle of success called “act as if”. Believe, think, act, dress, talk and feel like someone who has already achieved success. The idea is to begin to program your subconscious to find ways to help you achieve the success or goals you desire. William James considered by some to be the father of psychology said, “If you want a quality, act as if you have it.” The famous Jack Canfield writes about this principle in his book “The Success Principles”.

It is fascinating how powerful our thoughts are. I heard of a study that looked at why college students drink. Several students reported they drank so they could be more sociable, outgoing and fun. They thought the alcohol helped them to achieve these goals. The experiment divided students into two groups, one with alcohol and the other group were told they were getting alcohol when in fact the drinks where non-alcoholic. The first group with alcohol behaved how you might expect at a college party. The second group, surprisingly, behaved very much the same. Participants laughed and socialized and even behaved as if they were inebriated. The point is; they did not need the alcohol to be outgoing, fun and sociable. They just needed to think they were those things and they were.

If you want to get a promotion at work, start behaving in a way expected of those in the desired position. This will make it easier for management to believe you have the ability to do the job and may help you get the promotion. If you want to lose weight, behave like people who are healthier. If you see yourself as healthy, you will put down the doughnuts and begin eating better and exercising more. As a result, you will lose weight and be healthier. Visualize the success you desire and begin behaving today as if you had achieved the success.

Wayne Dyer wrote a book called, “You’ll See It When You Believe It”. Do you believe this or do you believe the more common maxim, “I’ll believe it when I see it”? If you prefer the scientific method to a principle of faith, consider how many people successful in business, sports, or life believed they would achieve before the evidence of that success appeared. Muhammad Ali said, “I am the greatest. I said that before I even knew I was.”

Perhaps you want more scientific proof that faith works. Within two decades of Einstein discovering his theory of relativity, Dutch physicists Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg made a similarly profound discovery. The units that make up the atom act in a much unexpected way. The mere act of observing atomic particles influenced the way they behaved. Meaning our thoughts influence matter. Thought is what the universe is made of. Matter and energy are two of the forms that thought takes. Everything in the world is made of Atoms. Atoms are made of energy. Energy is made out of thought. This has enormous implications for the power of your thoughts. Your thoughts determine your results in business and in your personal life. Napoleon Hill says “thoughts are things.”

The Heisenberg principle has been applied in psychology. We know that just observing people in test groups influences the outcome of the experiment. You probably behave differently when your boss is watching or your employees behave different when you are watching.

Acting as if, does not mean you have all the answers or know everything you want to know. It means you believe you will know in the future. Several years ago I was consulting for Larry Miller Theater’s in Salt Lake City. I was working for the late, highly successful businessman Larry Miller. He developed one of the largest car dealership operations in the country. He owned the Utah Jazz NBA team and other businesses. My office was right next to the Utah Jazz offices. I was hired to help provide expertise on the IMAX theater Larry was building at his Megaplex development in Sandy, Utah. This was a new venture for him at the time. Larry was very financially successful. I was a consultant with no such wealth. Despite our financial disparity, Larry wanted to learn everything he could from me.

I love the quote, “When you come to a point you have no need to impress anybody, your freedom will begin.” Larry did not need to impress me. He wanted to learn from me, which I believe helped him have more success in his venture. The characteristics exhibited by Larry did not begin when he was successful. They started before and continued on after.

Act as if you are already successful and you will see success come to you. Here are some of the behaviors successful people I know demonstrate. I will be working hard to “Act as if”, with these suggestions in 2016, WILL YOU?

  1. Acknowledge other people’s ideas and contribution:

    Successful people are confident enough to not be threatened by brilliant contributions of others. Always look to lift others up. This in no way will hold you back. Celebrate others successes. Recognizing others good work and contribution builds trust and respect. This will make it easier to get through tough times with team members it will also help them listen when you have to correct or discipline them.

  2. Apologize for offenses and mistakes quickly:

    Be willing to admit when you make mistakes. No one is perfect. Even the most successful leaders make mistakes. Hiding your mistakes will only make things worse. If you have caused offense, address the situation as soon as possible. You want as much help as possible on the way to your goals. Unfortunately, we are often our own biggest stumbling block. Showing humility will get you back on track faster than ignoring or covering up.

  3. Listen:

    When you are talking, you are not learning.

  4. Speak well of others:

    If you truly do not like someone, take advice from Abraham Lincoln who said, “I don’t like that person. I must get to know them better.” You cannot lift yourself by tearing others down.

  5. Be honest:

    The most successful people I know have high levels of integrity. Always tell the truth. This does not mean we have to be harsh and critical as some popular politicians of our day. I have the most respect for successful people who tell it like it is with dignity and respect.

  6. Ask questions:

    This is one of the fastest ways to success. It requires you to think and listen, two habits of highly successful people. Click here to learn more about this.

  7. Be interested:

    Care about others. Most people are not successful by themselves. They mostly receive the help, mentorship, labor, effort and support of others. Show you care about others and they just might be willing to help you more.

  8. Be in the moment:

    Enjoy today while you are striving for future success. I have heard people say, “never be satisfied”. I believe a better approach is to be constantly improving. Too many of us miss the benefits of being happy with who we are and where we are today. A fear of complacency may be fueling this. Remember successful people, from our perspective, have arrived. They enjoy the fruits of their success. They also enjoyed it along the way. If your eye is always looking to the horizon, you never arrive. Worse, you miss what is happening in your life now. Enjoying today is not complacency. By all means, strive. Just remember to enjoy the ride.

Waiting until you are successful to demonstrate these behaviors will slow your efforts to achieve them. Start today. Act as if. Enjoy the ride!

The author Spencer Horn is President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. You may also enjoy these additional articles: “The Help You Need To Achieve Your Resolutions”, “The Power of Accountability”, “Silence Your Saboteur”

10 Ideas For Your Pursuit of Happiness

If you are like most of us on the planet, you are searching for happiness in your life. Where do you believe we find happiness: fame, riches, power? Do you know someone that has these things and is not happy? Or conversely has none of these things and is supremely happy? I believe that each of us has it within our power to be happy. How is it done? Here are a few simple rules which I find make a difference:

  1. Increase your gratitude:

    Increasing your feelings of gratitude can impact your happiness and so much more. When I am frustrated or upset, I am thinking about what is wrong in my life. Since we get what we focus on, dwelling on frustrations will only erode our happiness. The next time you are experiencing frustration that robs you of happiness, I invite you to focus on an event in your life that brings you intense feelings of gratitude. It could be the birth of a child or an act of kindness that was proffered on your behalf, etc. Our minds cannot focus on negative and positive feelings at the same time. If your gratitude feelings are strong enough, they will quickly chase away your frustrations and negative feelings.

  2. Do something for someone else:

    For many, the pursuit of happiness is a self-centered process. However, when you take a moment to stop thinking about

    how events and people impact you and think about how you impact others, you will be much closer to your goal. Helping someone else will allow you to take your focus off your own challenges. It will energize you, give you a sense of value and contribution. Focusing on others who may have needs greater than your own will also increase your gratitude for what you have. You don’t have to look far for opportunities to help someone else. Nor do you have to go to great lengths to make a difference. Take time to notice someone in need. Listen, console, give of your time and labor, write a note or letter, give a gift, etc.

  3. Look for the good:

    Look for the good in every situation. No matter how bleak things may seem, there is always good that may come. I know from personal experience that when something I perceive is negative happens to me, I have a choice. I can feel self pity and become depressed, or I can use my creative energy to focus on what good may come. I found that that as I look back on events that were challenging, I invariably gained experienced or developed talents that I might not have had, but for the challenging experience. Looking for the good puts our creative energy to work for us in our pursuit of happiness.

  4. Surround yourself with good:

    Be very careful about what you put into your mind. make sure what you read, watch and listen to reinforces your happiness. Our minds are the most powerful computers in the universe. They search and find whatever we program them to find. This means everything we put into our minds will take us further or closer to our goal of happiness. Surround yourself with good people who will hold you accountable to your goals and will let you know when are off course. Make sure you read good books, listen to good music and watch only media that reinforces good.

  5. Find life balance:

    I know many people who feel great fulfillment in their work, so they neglect other areas of their life. The best way to find happiness is to find balance in many areas of life including: financial; emotional; spiritual; physical; relational; recreational, and intellectual. You may find that all of these pursuits are interrelated. I personally find my self out of balance often. However, when I take the time to work on life balance, I feel greater happiness.

  6. Exercise:

    This is a part of life balance. Exercise releases chemicals that can help us feel great and think more clearly. Remember life balance. Some feel that since exercise makes them feel good, more is better. An excessive focus on any pursuit may take us further from our goal.

  7. Develop your talents:

    Learn something new. Improving your abilities brings a sense of satisfaction and increases your ability to help yourself and others.

  8. Avoid criticizing others:

    Along with looking for the good, avoid criticizing others. We find what we look for. More importantly, how we treat others has a way of coming back to us. Call it karma, law of the harvest, universe or what you will. Thinking good of others will do much to bring those good thoughts back to us.

  9. Let go of the past:

    While it is true that we have control over our thoughts, we can’t always control what happens to us. When something bad happens, it is hard to think of the good. Holding on to negative feelings about something or somebody will only rob us of reaching our goal of happiness. We have the power to give meaning to our thoughts. They can only control us if we give them power to do so. Letting go of the past requires us reframe our thoughts. For some, this process may be difficult and require professional assistance. Being willing to get help if you need it is a good thing and will help you get one step closer to being happy.

  10. Live by a morale code:

    Some people believe anything goes when pursuing happiness. When you choose to be disciplined in following a moral code, you are closer to finding happiness. A friend of mine shared his experience with this principle with me. When his children were young, he and his wife set boundaries of behavior. They had friends that took a different approach with their children. They chose to let their children behave without boundaries or restrictions. This couple would criticize my friend for being strict with their children. My friend and his wife were more interested in being parents than friends. As the children grew older the results of the two approaches was clear. The children of my friend loved their parents and respected them. They had a strong rewarding relationship. Their friends children did not respect their parents. They were self centered and spoiled.

It is not the events or situations of our lives that determine happiness. Rather, it is our own behavior and thought process. I am sure there are many more ways to be happy than I have listed above. I would love to hear from you. What have you found that makes you happy?

Is Happiness A Choice?

I have heard that events that happen to us in life are neither “good” nor “bad”. These are only titles we choose to assign to how we feel about things that happen to us. Further, I have learned that our happiness depends on our assignment of the “good”or “bad” titles we apply to these events in our lives. Do you believe that?

It is my opinion and experience that our happiness absolutely depends on how we decide to feel about the events in our lives and consequently the actions we take or don’t take in response to those feelings. This is not to say that I do not believe in good or bad, I do. I believe there is great good in the world and I believe there is terrible evil. What I have learned is that our happiness does not depend upon only good things happening to us all the time. Thank goodness for that, because I do not know of a single person that has what most would interpret as good things happen to them all the time. Since we all don’t have good things happen to us all the time, why are there happy people in the world? Why aren’t we all unhappy since bad things happen to all of us? The answer is choice!

You Hold Your Happiness in Your Hands
You Hold Your Happiness in Your Hands

Let me illustrate by using one personal example: My father had a very successful business. He provided a specialized color separation service for the printing industry for over 20 years. He was looking for a new accountant. At the time, I was seventeen and I knew that one of my church leaders was an accountant. I told my dad that this man was an accountant and he must be a good man because he was a member of our church. It turned out that this man saw an opportunity in my father’s trust and worked to take control of the company. Because of the stress of the situation, my father had a massive stroke at age 59. He was in intensive care for a month. He lost his business, his home, his wife and almost all his earthly possessions. We were devastated as a family. There were some members of the family that criticized my father for his poor decision to hire this accountant after he began recovering from the stroke. Personally, I was devastated because I lost the father I knew who loved life and loved being active. I lost the future opportunity to run the business and reap the rewards of family succession. Our family felt by all accounts, these events were bad and we had reason to be unhappy. My father certainly had reason to be depressed and feel sorry for himself. Instead, he taught me a very valuable lesson.

My father chose to look at these events as good. He recognized that he could be angry at the person who defrauded him. However, that would just make him miserable. Instead, he decided to forgive the person. This took a huge burden off his shoulders. No longer did he waste precious thoughts on revenge or anger. My father had worked very hard his entire life. He rarely took time for himself. Now, he had time to study and learn. He took time to do much of what he had not done up until now. After these events, my father was almost always happy friendly and outgoing to people he met. Even though he was partially paralyzed from the stroke, he chose to laugh at his awkwardness and slurred speech. He chose to look at every day as a gift.

I believe this is an example of an event that could definitely be interpreted as bad. However, since my father decided to look at the event in a positive light, he took the opportunity to use his time in ways that he never did before his stroke and loss off business. Because of his choice, he was happy until the day he died at age 79 on February 16, 2008. I miss my father, and I am grateful for the valuable lesson he taught me about choosing happiness. There are some members of my family who have decided to look at these events as negative. To this day, they hold resentment and frustration that robs them of happiness. How can the same event produce such different attitudes and feelings of happiness? It has nothing to do with whether the events are good or bad and 100 percent to do with how we choose to interpret if events are good or bad. In fact, I believe that events that many would interpret as bad can have the biggest opportunity for good and even happiness in our life. The choice is ours.I Choose to Be Happy

Seize the Moment!

Seize Title We live in a great country where every day, every moment, you and I have the happy opportunity to make choices: Each morning we can get up early or hit the snooze button; watch TV or read a book; rent a movie on Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, etc. or go to the theater; go to college or not; work in the private sector or public; meet minimum performance standards and just get by, or obliterate them. You can let work and life happen to you or seize the moment and make life extraordinary! Seize the moment cliffYou are the captain of your life. While it is true that we may not choose all of the circumstances of our lives, we may absolutely choose our response to circumstances and we may learn to influence and change our circumstances. At the end of the day do you look back at your actions and say; “I gave it everything I had!”? Does there have to be some great project, mission or opportunity for you to get engaged, or are you willing to give it everything you have with everyday things: Every phone call, every conversation, and every assignment no matter how small?! Many of us live waiting for what is next. We say things like: “I can’t wait to get to high school.” “I can’t wait to get out of high school.” When we get out of high school and get a job…”I can’t wait to get a job I like.” When in college…”I can’t wait to graduate.” When single…”I can’t wait to get married.” When married…”I can’t wait to be single.” With small kids…”I can’t wait until my kids grow up.” We can’t wait to have money when we have little, when we have abundantly, we can’t wait to have more. Many of us live on someday isle. “Someday I’ll be home in time to read my children a story and kiss them goodnight!” “Someday I’ll get in shape!” “Someday I’ll finish my degree!” “Someday, I’ll do what it takes to earn a Seize the moment romancepromotion!” We live on someday isle where opportunities pass us by while we are waiting for the “significant” things in our lives to happen. I believe a great indicator of how people will perform in a defining moment is how they perform every day. Make right now your great moment! When you share a conversation, make it great…be present, be invested! When you are given a task you think is beneath you-crush it! Come back to whomever assigned it to you and report it complete ahead of schedule and under budget. You want to prove your value on great things? Prove your value on everyday things. Otherwise, all too soon, our children are grown with children of their own, our careers are over and our short time on this earth is coming to a close and we have failed to act and seize many of the opportunities available to us. Seize the moment TeddyAs the Captain of your life, you have the responsibility to LEAD yourself where you want to go. I don’t believe you need to have followers to be a leader. Start with leading yourself. The word “leader” is derived from Greek and Latin words which mean “to act”. Leadership is not about title or rank, it is about the ability to act and “impact”. Make a positive impact on every person you meet, in every game you play, with every job you undertake! Taking charge and leading your life takes courage. Think of your life to come as Louis and Clark might have approached the vast uncharted Louisiana Territory. We have many choices: We can stay safely in “St. Louis” and enjoy vicariously the adventures that lie beyond the horizon; we can venture out, but stick to the easy trails; However, if we want real adventure, if we want to make a real impact, we must do with our life’s opportunities what Lewis and Clark did in the Louisiana Territory-get off the beaten path and seize new opportunities! It is time to leave complacency and comfort zones behind. It is time enjoy the moments of your life right now. It is time to make a positive impact. It is time to act and seize the moment and make life extraordinary!!

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