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Reflect Out Loud

"The unexamined life is not worth living." – Socrates

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practice

Happiness is a Lifestyle

And then it dawned on me… happiness is more than just a feeling, it’s a lifestyle.

If you want to run a marathon, you have to train.
If you want to perform a song, you have to rehearse.
If you want to be physically fit, you have to exercise.
And if you want to be happy, you have to practice.

It is easy to be happy when life’s smooth sailing. When you get the promotion. You get the house. Your health is phenomenal. There is money in the bank and that new stock you just purchased skyrockets beyond belief. When you catch all the shiny green lights underneath a clear blue sky on your merry drive to work. When the bartender buys you an extra shot of whiskey. When your in-laws never make it to the Sunday brunch (just kidding with that one… haha).

But being happy only when unicorns are splashing magical pixie dust on your path is too conditional to yield lifelong sustainable happiness. Life can be a straight up asshole sometimes. This is why if you want to live consistently happy you must practice happiness as a lifestyle and not simply as an emotional response to desirable experiences. Happiness is a tool you can whip out of your pocket especially when circumstances are trying. It’s like that Optimus Prime type Swiss-army knife you’re gonna wanna carry around with you wherever you go. Because what happens when things don’t go exactly as planned? What happens when you don’t get the promotion? When your finances become unstable? When your health is compromised? When you have to change that flat tire in the middle of a snow storm? When the in-laws actually make it to Sunday brunch!?  (Yeah. I went there!).

I’ll tell you what happens. Happiness often gets thrown out the window.  It gets donated to the nearest Goodwill along with those purple suede bell bottom jeans you have no idea what possessed you to buy in the first place! But this is when you need happiness most.

Absurd, right!? Being asked to be happy when situations have gone wrong.

But here is my question: Do you want to be happy or not?
If you answer yes, then two things:
1) You must seriously choose and commit to be happy
2) You must act in alignment to your choice to be happy

CAVEAT: IT WILL NOT BE EASY. Just like it isn’t easy to get those 6 pack abs everyone so desperately wants.

The ease of the challenge will depend on how much a particular undesirable circumstance impacts you. For instance, it’ll be much easier to exercise your happiness muscle when a simple undesirable circumstance, like spilling some coffee on your white shirt occurs, whereas losing your job will require having had quite some practice.

There is more to be said on the subject as it is not as straight forward as I’m describing it to be. There is an entire process that involves processing and accepting your current emotional state before actively choosing happiness as the preferred state of being. I will write another post to clarify in more detail exactly what this process entails. For now, I kind of just want to throw this out there to get some kind of ball rolling.

But essentially, what I have noticed is that if I want to lead a consistently happy life, I have to actively practice happiness as a way of being and not only as a response to my desired experiences. This doesn’t mean I’ll always get it right and it doesn’t mean that it’ll always be easy (and that’s okay), but the more I make happiness a regular habit the more happiness I’ll experience.

*Image credit to google images

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People Pleasing

“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, yet there will still be people who hate peaches.” Vita Von Teese

I have been guilty of being a people pleaser. Often saying “yes” when I really mean “no.” Often putting the happiness of others over mine. I am guilty of wanting to make the whole world happy, because if I make everyone happy then everyone will love and accept me – and then maybe I’ll be happy. Even as I am writing this now, I am trying to please you, reader, by not making grammatical errors so that you will like and respect me. I am trying not to make mistakes, because if I make mistakes then I probably won’t be accepted and respected by you. Right?

From childhood, many of us are rewarded and praised for being “good” but punished and scolded for being “bad.” My mother, for instance, would punish me if I fidgeted in church because that was “bad” and rewarded me if I sat quietly and still because that was “good.” I was told to “act like a lady” and to “eat with your mouth closed” because that’s the “right” and “acceptable” way. I was praised when I behaved in accordance to my family’s values and lectured when I strayed from their world view. As we grow up, we become wired to believe that if we are good, whatever that means, then we will be rewarded and people will, praise, love and accept us. But if we are bad, whatever that means, then we will be punished and people will scold, hate and reject us. So how do we get love? By being “good,” whatever that means, to others.

Now this puts us in a bind for many reasons. We don’t all agree on what’s good or bad. Some of us find it good to be reserved and introverted, others find it good to be outgoing and extraverted. Some like chocolate others like vanilla. Some like Bush others like Clinton. And in the end, we find ourselves pleasing some while disappointing others no matter which choice we make. Additionally, when we live only to make others happy, we fail to be true to ourselves and consequently suffer.

We all want to be accepted in some way or another – by someone or another. It hurts to be told that “you are not welcome here.” And if you’re anything like me, you find yourself putting others first because you don’t want to upset them, because to upset them means they’re unhappy and if they’re unhappy they will leave us. This search for approval and strong desire to be liked by everyone only becomes more complicated when you are torn by people whose pleasures are derived from different “good” standards. Your mom wants you to be a doctor, your dad wants you to work in the family business, and you want to be DJ, which they both loath. You want to move to California, your partner wants to stay in New York. What to do!?

First, and foremost, no matter what you do, someone out there will be unhappy. Some will adore you, some will despise you, while others won’t give a damn either way. Living a life that is designed around making others happy in order to receive love is a recipe for failure and pain. It is not your job to make anyone happy, nor is it anyone’s job to make you happy. When we place our happiness on anything that is external, we always lose because nothing external is guaranteed or permanent.

When you were born, you were there, and when you die, you will be there. You are the only one who will always be with you – no matter what, no matter where. For this reason, cultivating a life of love for yourself is crucial to freeing yourself from seeking validation outside of yourself. Everything else will follow from there. Once you are grounded in yourself, having the approval of others will not be required to validate your life because you will already have validated yourself.

Here are some tips on how to stop pleasing everyone while forgetting yourself.

  1. Practice saying “no” when you mean “no.”
    If you tend to say “yes” when you mean “no” only so that others can be happy with you, next time, when your gut feeling and real intent is no, say “no.” You don’t have to stretch yourself thin only because you are too afraid to say no. Saying no does not make you a bad person. You are putting yourself first and that is always important. It is like they tell you in the air plane, “secure the mask on yourself first, before putting it on your child.” You must take care of you first and be true to yourself first before you can tend to the agenda of others.

    2. Speak your mind.
    You are here to be expressed! The world needs your perspective. Your thoughts and feelings are valid. Do not hide your voice because you think others will be displeased with you if you speak up. Let the world hear your truth! You may be surprised to see that it isn’t as scary as it seems to speak your mind.

    3. Remember, you can’t please everyone and that’s perfectly ok
    .
    It is not your job to be the basis of happiness for others. You are not here to be the court jester of anyone. No matter what you do or don’t do, someone somewhere will have some negative thing to say about it. There is no way to please the whole world because we are all different and experience the world from a unique paradigm. Remind yourself that you are valued just the way you are and that it is not required of you to always be there for everyone all the time.
    4. Practice self-validating rituals.
    When you feel like you are “bad” because you aren’t pleasing everyone, practice self- validating rituals that refocus your attention back to who you really are and that help you let go of expectations. Tell yourself (as many times as necessary to sink in):
    I am enough as I am.
    I am valid and my feelings are valid.
    I am not bad for speaking my truth.
    I am not bad for saying “no.”
    I am not wrong for standing up for myself.
    There is nothing wrong with me.
    I am whole, complete, just the way I am.

    5. Give yourself a pep-talk.
    Sometimes you gotta be your own coach. When you feel like you’ve let others down by putting yourself first, give yourself a talk. Proudly proclaim to yourself:
    This is YOU time!
    You’ve already done what you can, now it’s time for YOU.
    You got this! You rock!
    You can’t be there for others when you’re not even there for yourself. So just BREATHE. Don’t you dare feel bad. You’re amazing!
    This is ALL ABOUT YOU NOW! Walk out there strong, and ROCK IT!
    #TEAMYOU

    I hope this is helpful to you.
    Always remember that you can’t please the whole world, but you can please yourself by being true to yourself simply because you’re worth it. You are important – live like it!

Dance With Your Life

“Everything – the good and bad, pleasure and pain, approval and disapproval, achievements and mistakes, fame and shame – all come and go. Everything has a beginning and an ending and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.” – Richard Carlson

Life can be so unpredictable. One moment you are sitting there smiling, sipping some coffee – the next you’re in tears because of unexpected events beyond your control.

We cannot control what happens outside of us. A plate breaks, someone yells at you in traffic, a woman cuts you in line at the grocery store, your company downsizes and you are cut from the team, the kids are in trouble at school, there is a sickness in the family, the list is endless. Nevertheless, you can control how you react to your external circumstances.

When you live your life from the inside out, you finally come to a place where you always have control. You always have a choice when it comes to your internal feelings about the chaos going on all around you. Life will hand you curve balls. Inevitably, something will eventually go wrong, and it is at this moment where you can breathe and tell yourself “I am in control of how I respond and of how feel about this situation.” You can think to yourself, “Will I react by feeling defeated, angry, and upset? Or will I let go, breathe and invite peace into my heart as I take deliberate, intuitive steps to bring myself out of this situation?” You always have the power to choose the latter. You do not have to choose to feel bad when the car breaks down or when you lose your job or whatever other difficulty. It may not be easy at first to realize that you have the power within you to switch from painful reactions to peaceful ones. But with practice and awareness you will come to see that you do have a choice as to what you harbor in your internal space and how you will react to your external world.

Life will always hand us troubles and because of this it is important to become a peaceful warrior. Challenges are opportunities for our growth. We learn from our mistakes and from our difficult circumstances. We learn to let go and realize that when one door closes it also opens new doors of opportunities. One day, we will all eventually let go of everything – this is called death – the total letting go of all. So why not practice now? Let go of painful reactions and embrace peaceful responses that allow you to dance with the unexpected maneuvers of life rather than battle with them only to bring yourself more pain. Dance with your life!

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