Creating real happiness in our lives

A Moment of Grace

Happy woman handshaking with a mechanic after a good serviceMany years ago, I walked into a retreat center in rural Missouri on road-shaky legs. I’d driven 9 hours from my home in Milwaukee through driving rain, and the last 3 hours led me deep into the rural Ozarks on snaking, hilly roads. I remember saying, “Where am I?” as I passed homes flying Confederate flags and a roadside revival meeting place. At last, I turned off the main paved road and crawled along for another mile on a graded gravel road, crossing two low concrete bridges that went through rather than over the creek, until I reached a hill top and the place I thought I was supposed to be… Read more

Got Expectations?

“Sow an expectation, reap a disappointment.”Skier in the air

This adage confounded me for a long, long time. How can I not have expectations?  For example, if I pay for my groceries, I expect that I will be allowed to take them home. If I’m in a relationship, I expect to be treated with kindness and not be abused. These seem like reasonable, even healthy, expectations.

It finally dawned on me one day that I was confusing standards with expectations. The clear, hard light of reality shone through this word and revealed it to be illusory, a dream. Aha!  If I expect things to go a certain way, then when they don’t, I will surely be disappointed. Yet another way that I create my own suffering, again and again.

I’d like to say that I came to this realization years ago and have been so much more peaceful ever since, but I’ve only had hold of it for a few weeks. It took the process of selling two homes and buying one to open my mind to the truth about expectations. Almost nothing met my expectations. Read more

What do you do?

Postman delivering mailThis question causes me to stumble and trip over my words more times than I like to admit. I have so many answers, and they’re all true: I coach, facilitate, teach, train, consult, advise, coordinate, manage, lead, design, write.

This morning, this thought popped into my head: “I will do anything I can to help people see things from new perspectives.”

Hearing someone say, “I never thought of it that way,” excites me more than just about anything on the planet. It means there is an opening, a loosening, a letting go of a fixed idea about How Things Should Be or the way we want them to turn out. It means stepping out of certainty and into curiosity and creativity.

So that’s what I get excited about in my work with people and organizations.

I think it’s really important for each of us to redefine what we “do.” Instead of listing our tasks, job titles or functions, what if we stated our guiding principles and passions?

What is your guiding principle? What is the value that you can find in your work, no matter what you do?

For example, if you work at the post office counter, your guiding principle could be, “My goal is to make each person’s day a little brighter and give them a reason to smile.”

Guiding principles transcend the tasks, such as selling stamps or whatever it is you do, and focus on the value or the nature of how we go about our work. When we commit to caring about what we value, we maintain satisfaction in our roles even if the tasks themselves aren’t what we feel called to do in life.

And, we can change the world. There’s a lot of research that shows that just being in proximity to happy people increases your own happiness.

What if everyone you encountered in your day was living according to their guiding principles, values and passions? What if you did? You’d generate happiness and contentment in yourself, and everyone around would benefit.

As the saying goes, it’s not what we do, but how we do it that matters. And we all matter, no matter what we “do.”

A Pebble in Your Shoe

Imagine yourself walking on a gentle path on a hill beside the sea.   It’s  a glorious sunny day, warm but with a slight cooling breeze, puffy white clouds drifting across the bluest of blue skies.  Your destination is a seaside cafe where a dear friend awaits.  Perfection.

And then…

You get a tiny little pebble in your shoe.  All of your focus immediately shifts to the pain in the ball of your foot and the need to not have it hurt.  You might try to ignore it and hobble along, hoping it will shift or somehow just disappear.   After all, it’s a bother to stop and take off your shoe to deal with it, and your friend is waiting.  There’s no time to deal with this, and it’s so annoying to have this intrude on what was a perfectly good walk.  Darn it all!

Of course, it doesn’t go away but just gets lodged more firmly.  Unicorns and rainbows might suddenly appear for all you know, but you won’t notice because you’re so distracted. Read more