Category: Lifestyle

You Can Choose to be Happy

In all honesty this is something that I never believed.  Self help literature will tell you this.  My parents told me this (they phrased it as ” PMA or Positive Mental Attitude”), but when you’re bummed this advice can seem anywhere from asinine to downright malicious.  Well since it’s Valentine’s Day –  a day that traditionally breaks to either Way Too High Expectations or Total Misery depending on whether or not you’re in a relationship – I figured we could all use some PMA.

But first let me get to the origin of this post.  I work at a massive corporate book store (you can probably guess which one since as far as I know, it’s the only one still around).  We on the sales floor have a quota that we have to meet for signing up new customers for the company’s Membership program. It costs $25.00 per year, offers a 10% discount, and if we don’t consistently make our quota we get fired.  Naturally this can be a hard sell. When people do the math they realize they would need to spend $250.00 per year at our company just to break even. While it’s a very good deal for very specific types of people, our average customer would lose money by getting one.  As such, small transactions (anything under $50) are bad news for the cashiers because they make for a very tough sell.  Very small transactions ($2-5.00) are the bane of our existence because the sale is all but impossible.

Normally I’m a pretty good salesman. I almost always exceed my quota. However this month I’ve been doing very poorly. Getting a talking-to from my managers kind of poorly. The kind of poorly that I thought would not happen at a job ever again.  So I really, really need to sell some Memberships.  On top of all that, it’s the day before Valentine’s day – a time of year that I typically hate and get depressed about – and I’m feeling pretty lonely. T

he only sales that I make all day are Valentine’s Day cards. Hundreds of them. Destroying my already meager quota numbers and making me feel worse and worse as the day goes on. Finally I clock out and  go home feeling about as dark and dismal as I can. I spend the rest of the day like that.  But then I watched this very inspiring video, a TED talk from Alain de Botton

That got me thinking about what I was doing with my life, and more importantly how I felt about it. I decided it was time for some PMA. So I wrote in my journal about things that I wanted to change. I also wrote about how I wanted to feel.  I was in such a dark place the day before Valentine’s day. But what if I decided that on February 14th I was going to be happy? How nice would it be to wake up on a day that is typically the worst one of the year, and actually enjoy it? I made the decision that Today, I am going to be Happy.

I went to bed with that thought. I woke up with that thought. It’s cold and gray and snowing outside. I am alone on the day of love. And you know what? I’m actually happy. I really am enjoying what I have been given – one more day being alive. The fact that I chose to be happy and actually feel happy makes me even happier.  I think that this is a big pivot point in my life.  The knowledge that being a bummer is completely my choice makes it much less appealing than if it were something that just happened to me. The choice is mine. Just like the choice is yours.

What do you think of this idea? Is it something you have tried in your own life? Leave a comment and let me know.

Begin a Journey of One-Thousand Miles

When you were a child, did your parents force you to take piano lessons? But you hated them and quit as soon as you could.  And now you wish you stuck with it? Think about all of the activities that you’ve started and never followed through with – or never started at all.  Imagine how good you would be if you just kept at those piano lessons.  It’s staggering.

Now think about all of the things that you’ve always wanted to learn – a language, a skill, a hobby.  What is the one thing that you most wish you knew how to do?

Pick that thing and start learning it.

Pretty intimidating right?  There’s so much to learn. It would take so much time.  How can I possibly do all this? The phrase comes to mind – a journey of one thousand miles begins with one step.  It’s just like the piano lessons.  You start off pretty bad or worse.  It’s embarrassing. You don’t want anyone to know about it. You’re vulnerable.  But imagine ten years from now, how amazing you’ll be. How accomplished you’ll feel. How glad that you committed to learning that thing that you really want to learn.

Maybe just practice in a sound proof room for a while.

Get Organized

It can be tough to stay on top of all the things you need to do in any given day or week.  If you’re like me working side gigs on top of a regular job, you need help staying on top of all the different tasks vying for your attention.  Here are a few things I’ve found to work:

Keep a journal.  Every day I spend 30-45 minutes writing down my thoughts, as well as my goals and what I am grateful for.  It’s incredibly good at keeping me focused and setting good intentions for the day, as well as tracking my goals over time.

Get a wall calender.  They give you a quick visual of how much time you have to achieve various deadlines, or when you committed to meeting a friend for lunch.  I like to mark each day with colored sharpie when I achieve the goals I set for myself in my journal.

Make a list of priorities.  What projects are you working on now?  What steps do you need to do in order to complete those projects? How long should each project take?  I take on new tasks all the time, and sometimes forget about old ones before I have a chance to finish them.  Listing every commitment or project I have keeps me accountable to them.  Ordering them from most important to least important allows me to knock out the big stuff first and feel really good about what I’ve accomplished.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  Because I have so many projects open all at once, it is very easy to feel overwhelmed by them.  Know your limits for how much you can take on without drowning.  The only thing worse than feeling like you aren’t accomplishing anything is to actually do nothing because you’ve given yourself too much to do.  You’ll be happier and more productive with a smaller work load.

Keep an ideas folder.  Anything that you cannot take on right now but really want to do in the future can go in this folder.  You can crack it open if you’re ever bored and looking for something to do.  It’s great for filing away thoughts and ideas that keep nagging you and distracting you from your current task.

There you have it, five ways to get and stay organized.  There are plenty of tools available to help with this.  Evernote is my personal favorite for cross platform support and being able to save articles from the web.  If you aren’t technologically savvy (or even if you are), a good old pen and paper is still the best way to draft new ideas and keep them for posterity.

Don’t be an Asshole

Seems pretty obvious, but it can be harder than it sounds.  Almost nobody who you would call an asshole believes that they are one.  They probably think that they’re nice people.

Since it’s groundhog day, I thought I’d talk about what we can learn from Groundhog Day.  Bill Murray, an Asshole, is trapped for eternity in Punxsutawney Pennsylvania. Repeating the same day over and over again, until he can finally get it right.  His character Phil journeys from being one of the biggest assholes you could probably meet, to becoming a kindhearted and passionate man of many talents.  He helps everybody in the town and gets to move on because he stopped thinking about himself. The line that sums this up is “What can I do for you today?”

Put another way by Rango (yeah I’m gonna quote Rango),

“It’s not about you, it’s about them.”

Be about other people.  Like other people. Be interested in what they have to say. Most importantly put them before you. Don’t subjugate yourself, just care about them.

I’ve been an asshole most of my adult life because I have been selfish and self-centered.  I still am, but I’m trying to bring awareness to that in my day to day life. Making an effort to live for other people is a step toward actually doing it.  I wish someone had sat me down and told me that ten years ago..

All you have to do is your best.