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My Part in Your Happiness

Wake for Video

We’ve all heard happiness comes from within. Someone else cannot make us happy. We must create our own happiness.  That we are not responsible for another person’s behavior, only for how we behave in response.

I agree. Yes, I am in charge of choosing to be happy, for seeing my glass as full rather than empty, for concentrating on the light at the end of the tunnel, for not depending on others for my overall peace and joy, and for opting NOT to ego-box with people who behave rudely.

Yet, the longer I live, the more I observe the daily interactions we have, I am convinced there is another side to the personal happiness coin that needs a lot more press.  The flip side is you are not the only one responsible for your happiness. I play a role too, because my behavior creates a wake of energy sent outward just like a rock creates ripples on a still body of water.

When I was young, I often went out on the boat with my dad. He liked to fish and I enjoyed being with him. I adored the chill of the early morning air and the sunlight dancing on the surface. I was in awe of my dad’s skill as he took aim, casting the lure between the branches of a long-dead tree, now partly submerged in the water near shore.

To reach the magical spot I enjoyed, we first had to cross a big lake. My father made certain my life jacket was on tight. Then he pushed the boat away from the dock. Once we were safely clear, he put the motor in high gear and we were off, speeding toward our destination.

I didn’t enjoy facing into the strong wind created by the high speed. Holding on tight I looked backward, observing the effect the boat had on the water as we raced over the calm surface. Spray shot up over the bow, wetting us. Buoys jerked up and down as we sped by. A flock of ducks quickly took flight, their tranquil morning disturbed by our waves. When we were closer to land, our boat’s wake crashed hard against the shore.

After what seemed an eternity, we arrived. My dad slowed the boat down and turned the noisy, smelly, water-churning engine off. He moved up front to an electric trolling motor that silently propelled us the rest of the way, leaving only a small ripple as evidence of our passing.

As we moved slowly, without upsetting the wildlife, I delighted when dragonflies landed on the boat. Fish swam close by, undisturbed by our presence. Once, a bird came and sat for a brief moment on the steering wheel.

When it came time to head back, I became disappointed. Too soon we were off again, zooming across the lake, our wake disturbing the water and everything on it as we went by.

Many years later, during an especially hard period, it dawned on me: I am like a boat. I too, leave a wake as I travel through life. Today I choose to move at a slower, more purposeful pace, although I have not always selected the right speed and direction – in the form of responsible behavior – that represented me well to myself and the world.

When I wrote a check that bounced, embarrassment caused me to take my frustration out on the people at the mean old bank. When I had loud parties, I ignored the impact on my neighbors. The plastic cup, or bag, or take-out container I carelessly threw in the gutter became part of a swirling mass of trash in the Pacific Ocean. As a smoker I rarely considered the negative impact my cigarettes had on others or my pets. I did not think about who was responsible for cleaning up the cigarette butts I threw on a public street.

The same was true about leaving my shopping cart behind a car, or in the middle of the parking lot with the rationalization, “someone is paid to put it away.” When I was financially irresponsible, it was not responsible to expect family, friends, the government, or strangers to bail me out.

There was a time when I behaved as a fast boat, churning up waves of drama and chaos that crashed hard over me and others. Looking back, I realize my careless behavior was the result of not thinking about anyone but myself. Finally it dawned on me I could not possibly be the only person who is impacted by the results of MY behavior. That open-hearted aha moment was what it took for me to stop seeing myself as separate and alone and to start seeing myself as one part of our Earth family.

Asking “How will it feel?” is the key which opened the door to my heart. Taking time to put myself in another person’s shoes before I act allows me to be aware of how uncomfortable, frustrated, or lonely it feels to be on the receiving end of rude and thoughtless behavior. It does not feel good to be jerked up and down like a buoy. Being sprayed with or battered by the wake of another person’s unconscious behavior is not enjoyable.

Yes, your overall contentment with life is absolutely your responsibility. And, the other half of that truth is that no matter how much you take responsibility for creating your own happiness – Congratulations by the way! – what I do DOES impact your happiness factor.

You are not going to be happy no matter how much deep breathing you do if I have a cell phone conversation during the middle of your child’s play, a movie, or at a concert.  You can focus all your energy on remaining peaceful but happiness will elude you when I ignore traffic signs and make an illegal U-turn causing a traffic jam. Your calm and balance will go out the window when I behave thoughtlessly and cause a ripple effect that washes negatively over you.

The flip-sided truth to your happiness factor is that although I may live in a free country, I am not entitled to behave as I please! I am not free to do what I want without regard to the consequences of my actions. Action without accountability is not free. There are always consequences!

Our satisfaction and fulfillment in life comes from actively creating and nurturing good relationships with everyone, not just our family and friends. I learned good relationships are not possible if I speed through life carelessly behaving as if I have a special pass to do whatever I want. Today I realize caring about the effect my actions cause is what makes me feel fantastic about me. I now accept there is nothing naïve, submissive, or weak about choosing to stop rushing through life without paying attention to my actions. Real courage is slowing down to keep my heart open to care about you too. That is the responsibility I have for your happiness. Caring about the wake your behavior leaves is the responsibility you have for the happiness of others too.

Positive Skepticism

What The

Do you believe people starring in fast-food commercials actually eat fast food on a regular basis? Do you think your 50 year old wrinkles will go away and you’ll look like the 18 year old in the magazine face-cream commercial? Do you believe you’ll finally be happy when you get the big car, fancy house, cool wardrobe, and hot partner? While there is supposed to be truth in advertising guess what, advertisers lie.

Sure they do with photo shop, by hiring skinny actors who NEVER eat fast food, through deception, altered imagery, and by leading us to believe things are sexy.  How stupid do they think we are?  Pretty stupid because we’re buying their lies hook, line and sinker.

The woman who is wearing the leather mini-skirt does not come with the car you purchase. Dying your grey hair will not have young hot chicks knocking down your door. One fast-food meal packs more calories, fat, sodium, sugar, and preservatives than those commercial actors eat in a month. Those 18 year old cosmetic model photos have been doctored to the point their facial features are perfect. Not to mention the 100,000 dollar lighting system and high-paid photographers. But hey we buy the lies, never once questioning how come our butt can’t fit into our pants since we started the fast-food routine?

How come our 50 year old wrinkles don’t magically disappear? How come all those things we surround ourselves with don’t make us jump for joy 24-hours a day. People who sell us stuff will do anything to sell us stuff.  We have to be smarter and ask ourselves if it’s too good to be true then it is.  Happiness, personal satisfaction and fulfillment in life come from what we put into our hearts – pleasant memories, being helpful and kind, self-respect, family, friends, what we do to give back – not how we look, how much money we make or what size we wear.

The time has come to be honest with ourselves about the dishonesty of the consumeristic society in which we are living. We must be the ones who change this by educating ourselves so we don’t fall for the next tonic salesman who pulls into town. Think for yourself because when it comes to selling, advertisers, newscasters, and corrupt politicians all have swamp land they are eager to unload. We must be smarter than to think miracles come in the form of sexy, or fast, big and shiny things or that we can trust habitual liars to grow a conscious and tell the truth. The time has come to stop selling ourselves so short.

Your Success is the Goal

Success

What does being a success mean to you?  Have you thought about it?  I mean really considered what success means to you?  For many years I just went along with the idea of success other people imposed on me.

I went to junior college and got an associates degree. Then on to a university for my bachelor’s degree.  Then I continued my education and got a master’s degree.   Today I can honestly say I am grateful for my formal education.  On this side I know how pursuing a formal education fueled my desire to stay a well-informed person.  But a formal education alone did not ever make me feel like a success.

I had great jobs and with some of the jobs came a big corner office.  But my life was so busy with work that my relationships suffered.  I was too busy with work with no time to play or spend quality time with my partner, friends and pets.

I got the big house, fancy car and stylish wardrobe.  Even though I had a good job that paid well I spent well beyond my means.  What I wore, what I drove, where I lived became more important than being financially responsible.  I was trying to paint a picture of what I thought, what I’d been told success is.

I grew up with family, the television, advertisers telling me what it meant to be successful.  So I blindly followed the crowd.  I attempted to keep up with an unrealistic standard of what it means to be successful as defined by other people.

Honestly, would you consider someone a success who is $35,000 in credit card debt? Someone who could not afford regular health check-up, dentist examinations, or visits to the veterinary for her pets. Would you think I was successful when I could not afford to take a vacation?  Someone who lay awake at night in a panic from fear of how I was going to pay off all the debt?

Today I realize I was not a success. For many years I had been disillusioned to believe success was surrounding myself with things.  So I spent irresponsibly.  I did not stop to consider if things really brought me happiness.  I can tell you I was extremely unhappy being so much in debt to the point I lived in fear and constant stress.

Today I am debt free.  I paid all of the $35,000 back.  It was important for me to do so because the act of assuming responsibility taught me what it really means to be successful.

We live in a consumerist world that deems us successful when we attain wealth, honors, notoriety, a big house, big car, excellent education and other things that are supposed to define us. If we wear a certain size, drive a certain car, live in a certain neighborhood, etc.  But things are not who we really are.

Things do not feel. Things do not provide genuine validation of who we are.  Things do not establish us as people who are truly admired.  Things are sold to us by people who are in the business of selling things.  Advertisers will deem what is successful based on the items they sell.

The same is true of fashion and what size we are to be. Again those who are making and selling a product or look deem what it means to be successful according to their standards.  But what if we do not fit the mold or model of their standard?  Does that mean we are a failure?

Success is a term that really has no meaning until we take the time to determine what it means to us.  Regardless what anyone else thinks of success, take time to define success for yourself.  Don’t depend on advertisers, family, friends, co-workers, etc. to tall you what it means for you to be a success.  Define it for yourself.

Sit down and make a list of each area in your life in which you want to feel successful.  What are your financial goals?  What amount of retirement/savings do you want to achieve over your lifetime?  How much will you need in order to have the quality of life you desire? How much will you need to donate to the causes you support?  What about term life insurance to ensure your families financial stability should something happen to you unexpectedly?  What about long-term care should you become disabled or suffer an extended illness?  Do you have a medical directive and have you assigned power of attorney to someone you trust to handle your affairs?  Do you have a will?

What are your relationship goals?  Do you desire a partner to grow with spiritually?  Do you want someone who enjoys the same activities you do?  Do you want a partner to complement you, to support you, to respect you?  What are the values – kindness, responsibility, loyalty, open and honest communication, etc. that you want in someone?  Are these already a part of who you are today?  Do you need to work on your issues so you do not bring them into a relationship?

What are your educational/career goals?  Where would you like to be in a year, 5 years, and 10 years?

What are your health/physical goals?  Are you overweight?  Do you smoke?  What changes do you know you need to make to ensure you have a healthy body and good quality of life?

What are your parenting goals?  Or have you decided to not become a parent?  Would you prefer to adopt a child?

Creating a successful life gets easier when you take time to determine what success means to you.  Refuse to let anyone tell you that you are only a success when you have achieved their idea of success?  You will not be fulfilled working for the goals of someone else.  You will find fulfillment and self-respect when you set your own standard of success and you work to achieve the goals for yourself.

Who’s Out There Depends on What’s In You

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I was forty-eight years old before I found my right partner. It happened only after I stopped focusing on finding someone and started concentrating completely on being someone worth finding.

I am so glad to have learned how important it is for you and me to be the moral, ethical, and spiritual person we want to attract.  By knowing ourselves intimately and by being honest  with ourselves  about our strengths and weaknesses, we know what we are comfortable with in another person.

This took me many years to figure out. I grew up on fairy tales which lead me to believe I’d magically meet the perfect person of my dreams and we’d ride off into the sunset and have the perfect life.  What a load of crap.

It was after the hard breakup of my sixth in a series of not good relationships when I started to really wonder what was wrong with me.  Yes, at first I was focused on blaming others. I came from a victim, why me perspective. But after some soul searching I realized I was the common denominator.

Those six people were not bad folks.  Well one was a thief, liar, and alcoholic. But the other five were not horrible people who abused me and used me.

The truth is I did not know myself so how in the world could I share the real me with other people.  If I was not being who I really was, if I was not honest with myself about myself, then how could I know what to look for in a partner? Until that wake-up call, I’d never considered the values, spiritual beliefs, and behaviors that were important to me in relationships. And, I did not realize the importance of needing to actually live these values for myself before I could find someone else with them, too.

To have any chance of creating the fulfilling, positive relationship I wanted, I first had to determine who I was, what I wanted in a partner, and how I needed to behave in a relationship.

Who am I? Taking time to seriously think about all I was, the positive and negative, allowed me to identify areas that needed change. I was kind, loyal, generous, organized, determined, and hard-working, and I loved animals and the natural world. Then I focused on honestly listing negative beliefs or behaviors that limited me.

Being insecure, closed, cautious, and emotionally unavailable permeated my relationships. My low self-esteem disconnected me from my feelings and did not allow me to communicate clearly. Codependent, I sought validation from the outside world. Unresolved issues of abandonment and unworthiness made me fear being alone. Setting healthy boundaries out of love and respect for myself was not part of my skill set.

I rushed from relationship to relationship, yet, once in, I became distant, not wanting to be hurt or used. While projecting my pain, negative thoughts, anger, and suspicions onto others, I also looked to other people to rescue me from a confusing and painful past.

The negative list was revealing, but instead of feeling saddened by the process of candidly identifying my limiting beliefs and behaviors, I felt empowered. Having the courage to look at myself honestly generated a crucial to-do list.

After completing a personal inventory, I made a list of what I wanted in a relationship. Then I had to make certain the values and beliefs I identified were a genuine part of me. Why? Because if I was not patient I could not identify someone who was also patient. If I was not kind I would accept someone who was cruel.  If I was dishonest I would, and did, date a liar and thief. Each of these went against my core values.  But to be the real me I had to start living those values, not just telling myself I was a patient, kind and honest person.

I had to be what I wanted in another person. I wanted clear, open, and honest communication, so I focused on learning to be a good communicator. Since I desired someone who had either worked through or was actively addressing their limiting personal issues, I became devoted to healing my emotional wounds.

Desiring trust, forgiveness, and support, I became trustworthy, forgiving, and supportive. Wanting a responsible and dependable partner, I became accountable and reliable. I concentrated on growing my individuality and spirituality so I would be in the position to encourage and support the same in someone else. I wanted a respectful relationship, so I agreed to treat myself and other people with reverence.

Desiring kindness, honesty, and openness, I focused on being caring, truthful, and friendly. I wanted calm and became dedicated to maintaining a peaceful way of life. Enjoying play, I wanted someone who also consciously made time for fun. Because I desired encouragement, I learned to support others. Desiring intimacy, I became emotionally available, to myself and to other people. Longing to share my dreams, concerns, and wants, I readily became a person who holds the aspirations, apprehension, and desires of others safely within my heart.

When I took time to identify what makes up a good partnership, I also realized the important role compatibility plays in finding a suitable companion. Knowing I wanted to be in a monogamous relationship allowed me to exclude those who practice infidelity. My love of animals caused me to question the reality of having a good relationship with someone who disliked my furry friends. Valuing promptness and neatness, I stopped myself from getting involved with someone who was continuously late or who did not value personal hygiene and tidiness. Placing great importance on spirituality, I desired someone who would support, encourage, and be patient with my heart-growth.

One of our principal reasons for being alive is to learn to live with principles. Through the personal planning process, I realized to have the best life we need to bring the best of ourselves to life. To be our best, it is necessary to assess our strengths and weaknesses.

Take time to determine which values (such as honesty, loyalty, compassion, promptness, respect, cooperation, patience, think of as many as you can) are currently among your advantages, or, if absent, your disadvantages. This is an opportunity to be completely honest and open with yourself.

After determining your values, strengths, and limitations, spend time determining your objectives in a relationship. What is important to you in terms of finances, monogamy, pets, having children and how to raise them, spirituality, savings, accumulation of things vs. memories, etc.  The goal is not to make someone over into who you want them to be.  The goal is to find someone who shares your values.  They put the toilet seat down because they are courteous.  They pick up their clothes because they are neat.  They share their thoughts and feelings with you because they value the intimacy that comes from clear and honest communication.

Your relationships will not be successful if you try to mold someone into the person you want them to be. Look for someone who already holds the basic values you hold dear.  Then you will be able to weather any relationship storm because respect and clear communication is the foundation upon which you have come together to create a better life together than you would have on your own. Who’s out there for you depends on what’s already within you.