Happily Ever After

“It is only possible to live happily ever after on a daily basis,” Margaret Bonnano

You know the basic Hollywood or Disney story. Girl lives hard and unsatisfying life. Girl struggles through it for years. Girl finds amazing man to complete her. They live happily ever after. This is not how real life goes down. This is for both guys and girls, the girl example was used because that was the first scenario that came to mind.

If you are waiting for something or someone to complete your life and make you live the rest of your life happily, you are in for a rude awakening. Even if you do find that something or someone you believe will make you happy you will find a reason to be unhappy if your happiness is based on external factors. Happiness has to come from the inside. You have probably heard this a thousand times but it really is true. If you are not satisfied with who you are and what your place is in this world then you will never truly be happy.

If you rely on external factors for your happiness then it will only end in sadness and suffering. Everything in this world is impermanent and once you base your happiness on something external from yourself it is only a matter of time before it changes and your world crashes down with it.

Happiness is also a choice. A choice that you can and should make today. Stop worrying about what happened in the past or what is going to happen in the future. You can’t change what has already happened and you definitely cannot predict what will happen in the future. Try to focus on where you are in this moment.  Too many things are missed by our lack of awareness of the present moment. Endless worry about what will become of our life will only end in anxiety in things that you think will come true but in reality very rarely even happen. Fear is only finding fault with the future, and since the future is unpredictable there is nothing to be fearful of. All you can do is live life in the present today and try to live up to the values that you want to guide your life.


Poor and Being Happy


There are numerous studies that show that people from poor countries are still happy even though they don’t have all the luxuries that people in the U.S. have.  Then you look at people that win the lottery and their life goes down the drain.  I do not want to say that living poor is great and we all need to be poor to live happy, I am just trying to introduce another way to look at the issue of happiness and wealth.  So the question for the day is: What makes people that are very poor and living a life of uncertainty happy?  I believe this is a two part answer.

Number one is that the human mind is great at adapting to life situations.  When you get a raise or a new item you momentarily gain satisfaction with what you have gained, but after a little time you will be back to the base level of contentment that you started at.  This is very important because that means that we can adapt to having less things.  It may be hard at first when you are used to living in the lap of luxury, but over time by forcing yourself to live with less or dealing with uncomfortable situations, over time you will learn to live with it.  Some examples of doing this are turning your heat or a/c lower to use less energy.  Riding a bike instead of taking the car.  Not buying any clothing for a few months.  The level of being uncomfortable will be different from person to person, but it will make you appreciate the life you have by giving some things up.  It will also make you a more badass human being because you will be able to live with less and be more resilient to the bad things that are bound to happen in your life.

Number two is that people that live with uncertainty (whether it is where they are going to sleep the next day to what they are going to eat) have opened up to the realization that pain is inevitable in life and that they have to live with it.  They have accepted that life is ephemeral and out of their control so they spend time creating relationships with their family and neighbors to work together towards making a living and for their well being.  They focus more on relationships than what they may be able to get in the future.  They focus on living their life at the present time then gaining more and more.  When you are constantly waiting for the next raise or the next new gadget you buy to make you happy you enter a never ending cycle of wanting more.  Uncertainty gives life more flavor and keeps you on your toes to see what will happen next.

Again, this isn’t to say that being poor and without anything is great or that you can only be happy when you are poor.  I am just pointing out that our focus is usually misguided and based on things that we think will fulfill us but actually don’t.  All of this makes sense if you think about the evolution of humans.  Scarcity was the thing that controlled human life up until recent times.  There were very few people who had the luxury of excess and many who struggled every day to stay alive.  This is true to a certain extent in some areas of the world today, but in the U.S. and many other first world countries almost everyone lives in extravagance.  We still have the urge to horde as many resources as possible because of the hardwired scarcity of the past in a time when we can get anything we went with a quick trip to the store.  Our evolution has made us go haywire where we are all consumerists instead of creative, loving human beings.

By keeping our focus on things that will actually make us happy instead of following the lies that are fed to us every day in advertisements, we will all be better off.  Everyone will have a different life ideal but here are some other proven things that will lead to happiness.  Focus on your spiritual life.  Instead of using the money we are making to buy a bunch of stuff we don’t need we should try saving it for more lofty goals in life.  We can save to the point where we don’t have to work until we are 65, or save enough that we can actually have enough money to make an impact on other people’s lives through giving.  We can use our money for experiences rather than material goods that promise an endless amount of things that will not occur with the purchase of them.  We can work less so that we have more time with our families and hobbies.  We should be striving for more time not more money in our lives as a whole.  These are just a few ideas of many.

Changing Habits

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit,” Aristotle.

I have just finished “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg and decided to sum some of the book up here and give my take on it.  There is a really good interview that Jonathon Fields did with Charles Duhigg, at this site: http://www.goodlifeproject.com/charles-duhigg-nyt-reporter-author/.  If you want to get more info on the book take some time to watch it.

Most of our day is filled with unconscious acts that are formed by years of doing something over and over.  Just to show you how unconscious we really are during the day, try to notice when you zone out during your morning commute.  Notice how you can drive without really thinking about where you are going.  It is actually a little frightening.  Next time you eat a meal notice yourself chewing, breathing, the feel of the food in your mouth, the taste of the food on your tongue, swallowing, opening and closing your mouth, etc.  This is called mindful eating and is a good way to meditate and live in the present during your day.  You will be amazed how many actions are involved in eating and how we just do it automatically.

Habits are created four main steps:

  1. There is a trigger or cue
  2. The actual activity
  3. The reward
  4. A craving to make the habit loop run

Habits are deeply ingrained through path ways in your brain.  It is very difficult to just stop something that you have been doing for a long time without replacing it with something.  There are multiple ways to change a habit.  You can avoid the cue so that you are not enticed into completing the activity.  You can do another activity when your old cue appears.  To stop a habit you really need to find what your cues are, which can be a time of day, a feeling, the people you are around, the place you are at, or a specific action cue that lead to the habit.  Once you figure this out you are better able to avoid the cue.  If you can’t avoid the cue then find out what your reward for do that activity is.  Is it to socialize with others, relax for a little while, a feeling you get.  Once you find out what you are really craving by doing an activity than you are in a better position to change the unwanted habit.

For example if you smoke your trigger might be a morning coffee.  Once you have the coffee you light up a cigarette and your reward is the calming feeling you get from smoking.  The craving may be for nicotine but it could also be the time you get alone.  To stop smoking you will have to try and stop the trigger from occurring.  Don’t drink the coffee in the morning.  Instead drink a glass of juice or tea and then exercise to get that calming feeling.

You can also use these steps to create new habits.  Read the example below.

If you want to run every day do the following:  put your running shoes out next to your bed so that when you get up in the morning you see them (cue); put on your running shoes and go outside for a run (habit); get home and treat yourself to some chocolate(reward).  Eventually you should be able to run without actually eating the chocolate because the running will have become a habit.  The craving for the action will be the feeling you get from running and the results you are attaining may become an additional reward.

I highly recommend “The Power of Habit,” by Charles Duhigg.  It doesn’t just talk about personal habits but also habits of organizations and societies.  I really enjoyed the habits of organizations section, especially when he goes into the marketing that companies like Target do to get consumers to buy things.  Go out and get a copy for yourself (or go to the library like I did)!

Parenting and Criticism

While reading Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” I was really moved by the essay posted below.  My favorite sentence in it is: The habit of finding fault, a reprimanding – this was my reward to you for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too much of youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.

Now that I have been a parent for a couple of years I have continually tried to think about how I want my child to grow up and the values that I am showing her on a daily basis.  It never ceases to amaze me how much you have to learn as you grow up.  You literally come into this world knowing nothing, and it shows by how young children act. Ever since I read this I have become more mindful of how angry I get at my baby for the things that she does (like when she throws the cat food in the cat’s water four times in one day, haha).  It really does become a habit to instantly get angry at her actions before thinking that she is really just interested in playing and trying new things out in the world.  I cannot view my experience in the world and expect her to know what to do and not to do.  She has many years left to learn.  My wife and I will just have to keep guiding her in the right direction and hope that she turns out as a good person.

This story talks about a parent to child relationship but it goes much further than that.  On an everyday basis you expect people to act like you want them to, and when they don’t you criticize and are offended by their actions and “intentions.”  The problem is you can’t expect people to act like you because everyone grew up and live different experiences on a daily basis.  As for intentions, you will never know what the intentions of others actions are, so why worry about it.  Try to see others actions at a deeper then what you believe their intentions convey.

Please take a minute to read the story below.  I hope it touches others in the same way it did to me.

W.Livingston Larned

Listen, son: I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guiltily I came to your bedside.

There are the things I was thinking, son: I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face merely a dab with a towel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor.

At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a hand and called, “Goodbye, Daddy!” and I frowned, and said in reply, “Hold your shoulders back!”

Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came up the road I spied you, down on your knees, playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated you before your boyfriends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Stockings were expensive – and if you had to buy them you would be more careful! Imagine that, son, from a father!

Do you remember, later, when I was reading in the library, how you came in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. “What is it you want?” I snapped.

You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither. And then you were gone, pattering up the stairs.

Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me? The habit of finding fault, a reprimanding – this was my reward to you for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too much of youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.

And there was so much that was good and fine and true in your character. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself over the wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your bedside in the darkness, and I have knelt there, ashamed!

It is a feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours. But tomorrow I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you laugh. I will bite my tounge when impatient words come. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual: “He is nothing but a boy – a little boy!”

I am afraid I have visualised you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday you were in your mother’s arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.

Live Every Day Like it is Your Last

This is one of the most cliché lines most of us know but I think people really should stop and think about it more.

We waste time doing things every day that are meaningless: like watching TV, browsing the internet, or just vegging out in our living rooms.  If you think about it we don’t really have the luxury of wasting our time, we don’t have that much of it.  Everyone wants to accomplish more in their life whether it be exercising, starting a business or just making more time for anything that you love.  Most people end up doing nothing, or doing something that they don’t enjoy just because they are lazy or scared.  Some of the “reasons” you hear for them doing nothing are:

  • “I don’t have enough time”
  • “I am not good enough”
  • “There are already too many people doing that”
  • “I don’t have the resources to do that”
  • “I am not smart enough”
  • “If only I had…”

The excuses and reasons for not doing something that you really want to do in your life are endless.  The main reason you don’t want to do something is because you are afraid of failing.  That fear manifests itself into all of the above excuses.  All of the above excuses are just the resistance trying to stop you from living a successful and happy life.  “If you are paralyzed with fear it’s a good sign. It shows you what you have to do,” Steven Pressfield.  In his book, “The War of Art” Steven Pressfield calls it discusses overcoming the resistance. The resistance doesn’t want you to succeed, it just wants you to be average and be safe.  Don’t fall for what the resistance is telling you.    This is where another quote comes in, ‘When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did,” H. Jackson Brown, Jr.  Sometimes you just have to try something even when you are terrified.  You will be glad you did after you are done and can look back later in life and be proud of what you accomplished.

Another piece of living everyday like it is your last is the stress people feel from their day-to-day lives.  Is it worth stressing about every little thing during the day?  I just don’t think it is worth all the effort it takes to worry about everything.  All you do is kill yourself faster by worrying about little things that will sort themselves out on their own with time.  I think you should be thankful for the life that you have and make the most of it.  Everyone has stress in their life but just take it one moment at a time.  Everything in life is ephemeral.  You will adapt and things will get better even if they don’t feel like that in the moment.

What really got me thinking about this is a post I read about volunteering at a cancer ward and asking the patients if playing it safe in life would be what they would do if they had another chance.  You really don’t think about how fickle life really is until you stare death in the face.  It is a shame that it takes a lot of people getting to this point to realize that they didn’t live the life that they really wanted to live.  The main point that I want to get across is to just live and enjoy life.  Take risks, make mistakes, just live.  And as hard as it may be on a day-to-day basis, keep reminding yourself that you only have one life and you should live the hell out of it.  The best quote that I have read recently embracing this advice is the following:  “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” Steve Jobs.

The way I am trying to beat the resistance is by starting this blog and trying to get into hobbies that I enjoy.  You can take a look at my photography site if you want to at: http://www.elegantdelightphotography.com/.  I have always wanted to start a blog but never did it. Recently I have felt the need to start writing and sharing my life experiences, which is the reason for this blog and my way to contribute to the world (no matter how negligible it may seem).

Get out there and do something that you have been wanting to do!

Daily Choices of Success or Failure

“Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don’t fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day,” Jim Rome.

This is a very good quote on how important it is to live intentionally on a daily basis.  Usually people don’t become a success or failure because one bad thing happened to them or because of just one decision that they have made.  The daily decisions and activities that you take a part in over time make much more of an impact then one single decision.

You will not become over weight and unhealthy from eating a bowl of ice cream.  You aren’t going to be buff and thin and then eat one bowl of ice cream and all of a sudden be fat and out of shape.  But if you eat junk every day then it can contribute to becoming over weight after years of doing this.  You will not become broke from purchasing one thing, but you will become broke by spending a small amount of money every day or every month for years on end.  Take purchasing a Starbucks every day.  Let’s just create a scenario where you spend $5 a day 30 times a month which is $150 a month.  This is probably more than most people save in a month, and people wonder why they have no savings.  Multiply this by a year and you have $1,800.  Multiply this by 18 years and it is $32,400.  The savings every year would be more than enough to put your child through school, especially with interest added on.  So that $5 daily decision really is a big deal.

If something so small can make such a big impact, think about the other decisions you make on a daily basis.  Just think if you took a little time every day to work out, read, meditate, learn something new, write, or just start working on a business you have been dreaming about one little step at a time.  These habits and activities will accumulate to create something great.  Don’t let laziness and bad habits that seem inconsequential to you on a daily basis add up to create a mountain of failure.


I have recently started to meditate and want to share my experiences with it as I grow and learn more about the practice.  I have always been interested in meditation for some reason.  I have always thought that humans need to go to a different consciousness level to connect with something that is bigger than our selves.  I have always wondered why we need to sleep and go through different sleep cycles during the night.  I think there is a connection here that we need to think about on a deeper level in relation to the cycles of our waking hours.

Most of of go through our day in an unconscious fog, not aware of anything that is going on around us in the present moment.  Instead of living and being thankful for our lives in the moment we are constantly living in the past and future, or being caught up in our daily activities with no awareness of what we are doing.  Meditation is a good way to learn how to be aware and mindful in a sitting practice where you are not caught up in daily activities, so that when you are living your daily life you may become more aware of the present moment.  It is about being yourself and not trying to become anything that you are not already.  Meditation helps us to not be caught in the turbulence of life, and rather be able to sit back and listen to what life is saying and then let life take us where we are to go, letting life guide us instead of drag us along.

Even though I have been interested in meditation for a long time I never really knew where to start.  Hopefully through my shared experiences more people can step off the dock and try to get into meditation.  My journey started earlier this year when I read the book “Mindfulness in Plain English,” by Bhante Gunaratana.   I had read it but never instituted into practice the things that I was learning.  Recently I decided to read it again with a more open mind and actually put into practice what I was learning.  I decided to purchase a Zafu, which is just a meditation pillow to sit on.  I had tried using a blanket and sitting on the floor earlier this year but my back would really start hurting.  With the use of the Zafu I have been able to sit for 10-20 minute periods without pain.  I would really recommend this book to anyone that is interested in the practice of meditation because he explains things so well in it.  In the book he teaches Vipassana (or insight) meditation.  There is no way to explain what it is in a single post so I will continually try to post new information as separate blog posts in the future.

To practice meditation you don’t have to be Buddhist or believe anything that the Buddha taught, but there are a lot of ties to the Buddhist belief system that will help you on your journey.  The main thing I like about Buddhism is the fact that there are no dogmas or deities.  The way to enlightenment is reached through your own life experiences.  You don’t need the help of a deity to enter a spiritual or divine realm.  Buddhism is more akin to psychology than the theological religions most people in the Western part of the world are used to.  Buddhism is a way to pick apart the screen of lies and delusions through which we normally view the world to see the ultimate reality that we live in.  Vipassana meditation is used as a tool to do this.  I won’t share any more in this post because it will start going in every which direction, but will continue to post experiences that I have with meditation, the benefits of meditation, and more about the Buddhist way of thought in future posts.