Keep Calm and Carry On.

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I debated on if I would continue this site after I had completed my year with this project. I had set a goal to explore my values and how improving them would affect my happiness. And for all intensive purposes I have successfully completed that goal. I have looked at my values, I have researched different information on happiness, and I have attempted to apply what I have learned. But after doing this I realized that there is so much more to learn and so much more to share.

I wanted to share that the year of 2021 was a year that brought me a lot of happiness but at times I experiences great sadness and fear. I realized that at times my post often reflected the happiness while omitting the sadness and fear. But when I think about happiness, sometimes fear and sadness only serves to reinforce and strengthen the experiences of joy in our lives.

I enjoy watching the Disney move Inside Out. It helps me to understand that the array of emotions that I have serve a purpose in my life. While I am busy trying to stay happy I sometimes need to realize that not everything is going to go the way that I would like it to go. During the difficult times in my life I am learning to appreciate and learn from each experience.

So……… I will continue to keep this blog to help me (and maybe you) appreciate the wonderful life that we have. So for the following year I will continue to Keep Calm and Carry On.

It’s a Wonderful Life!

What a wonderful year! In the last year I have been working to understand what makes people happy. I’ve read many books, magazines and research papers on the subject. But my greatest teacher has been experiencing life to the fullest.

I’ve learned so much about myself and the world around me. I’ve learned which values are truly important to me and I’ve also learned how to improve on some a little bit more. I’ve explored places I’ve always wanted to visit and learned new hobbies and skills along the way. I’ve selfishly taken care of myself but also given to others who were in need. I’ve laughed (a lot), I’ve cried (a little) and sought to improve mistakes along the way. Life is a journey so this will continue to be my goal, to be happy.

I love the Christmas program “It’s a wonderful life”. As George struggles with the thought that he is “better off dead” you can see how important he really is. Even with all of life’s struggles and heartache and disappointment, It’s a wonderful Life!

Wrap it up and put a bow on it!

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My Aunt had the talent of making gifts look beautiful. If you don’t think gift wrapping is a talent then you can’t imagine my struggle at Birthday’s and Christmas time. Plain brown boxes are transformed with beautiful paper, bows and tags. As I think of wrapping up the year of my happiness project I think of the Beautiful paper and bows. I never thought I would have spent the entire year writing a blog. I’ve never been much for writing.

My project started as a plain brown box. I started with the question “What makes people happy? And what can be done to improve the odds of increasing someone’s happiness?” So I decided to explore this question on a more personal level by asking this question of myself. What makes me happy and how can I improve my happiness? I had lots of ideas but decided that I would look at how my core values played into my happiness. I have had many supportive people who helped me along the way. Over the last eleven months I have wrote about the values that have been important to me. I started exploring my values and working on each one for a month. I started out by identifying which values I believed were important to me. And it really has made a difference in the last year on my happiness and satisfaction. During this month I am reflecting on all the things I have worked on and all that I have learned.

As the year is coming to an end I realize that the pursuit of happiness will continue on. This little experiment that I created for myself has helped me to recognize the good in other people and in myself. So in this busy month I will work to incorporate all my values in my day to day routine. So here is to wrapping it up and putting a bow on it to make it pretty.

Gratitude in giving

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We are quickly approaching the season of giving. Thanksgiving and Christmas have common themes of giving thanks for what we have or showing love by giving to others. In staying with the theme of giving back to my community I have been looking for ways to give back to people in the community. I know that a lot of other people use this time of year to give to others as well.

There are many charitable causes that focus on giving to those who many not have the things that I sometimes take for granted. So many people do without, not only during the holidays but through-out their lives. Finding something meaningful to you and giving to that cause is such a wonderful gift. And it doesn’t have to be money or tangible items, it can be your time and attention.

I receive gratitude in giving. Most of the time, the people I give to never know that I have provided a service or gift to them. The gratitude I receive comes from knowing that I have helped another person who is in need. There truly is gratitude in giving.

Thankful to be giving

During the Month of November I am focusing on community involvement and helping others. I believe that there is a strong connection between social connection and happiness. There is an idea called the “6 degrees of separation” that states that anyone on the planet is connected to any other person through a chain of acquaintances with no more than five links. It is also know as the “small world” phenomenon. I am not real sure how this works but I find it fascinating. If we are all 6 degrees from knowing the same people that tells me that connectiveness is an important part of our lives.

When I was young my parents did not have a lot of money. Our socioeconomic status was below poverty. We were never homeless but my parents had learned to make a little bit of money go a long way. The reason I mention this is because I believe it is important to help our fellow man and woman along the way. Just like I mentioned in my last post, we are better together.

This month in the United States, we have two holidays that give us the opportunity to give thanks and recognize the sacrifices that those before us and currently have made. So I will continue to make an effort to help those in need just as many before me have done their part to help me.

“Ubuntu: “I am because we are”

We are better together

In June 2009, in the swearing-in remarks as US Department of state Special Representative for Global Partnerships, Global Partnership Initiative, Office of the Secretary of State, Elizabeth Frawley Bagley discussed ubuntu in the context of American foreign policy, stating: “In understanding the responsibilities that come with our interconnectedness, we realize that we must rely on each other to lift our World from where it is now to where we want it to be in our lifetime, while casting aside our worn out preconceptions, and our outdated modes of statecraft.” I am saddened that 12 years later we still struggle to come together to help one another.

I see this competitive spirit in schools, businesses and other social settings. Instead of building each other up we tend to try to out do the other person. I am reminded of the saying that “he with the most toys wins”. History has show where we have literally crushed other people to get what or where we want to be.

I read a story on Facebook which may or may not be true but it is worth telling just the same. This is what it said: An anthropologist showed a game to the children of an African tribe. He placed a basket of delicious fruits near a tree trunk and told them: “The first child to reach the tree will get the basket.” When he gave them the start signal, he was surprised that they were walking together, holding hands until they reached the tree and shared the fruit! When he asked them why they did that when every one of them could get the basket only for himself. They answered with astonishment: Ubuntu – “That is, how can one of us be happy while the rest are miserable?” Ubuntu in their civilization means: I am because we are. That tribe knows the secret of happiness.

In my graduate class I was told that as you climb the ladder of success reach down and pull others along with you. Imagine a world where instead of walking over top of people to get where we want to be that we hold our hands arm in arm. In my month of Intentionality I hope that I intentionally reach down and help others along the way.

Intentional Kindness

Coffee is good. I love Paper City Coffee, a local coffee shop in my community. The food and coffee are delicious and the staff are friendly and helpful. I always feel like they care about me, not only as a customer but also as a person. They are always giving back to the community. They have a mentoring project that matches adults with children in the community. This was one of the many reasons I kept coming to this place when I first moved here. Whenever someone comes to visit me from out of town I love bringing them here.

I’m only able to visit the coffee shop on Friday and Saturday (they’re closed Sunday) because of my work schedule, but I love going and having a good cup of coffee and relaxing before the day begins.

During this month I have been practicing intentionally giving back to my community as well. Each time I visit I have been paying it forward. I buy my coffee and breakfast and offer for someone after me to get a free drink. It makes me feel good and I’ve witnessed the joy that it brings to others. So it’s a really good thing to strive for intentional kindness. Try it you won’t be disappointed. Have a blessed day. And if you’re ever in the small town of Chillicothe Ohio enjoy a cup of coffee at Paper City Coffee.

Personal Vision statement

A light to show the way

Have you ever thought about what is important to you? Have you ever thought about where you are, and where you want to be? Most businesses usually have a mission statement (The purpose of the company and how it serves it’s customers) and a vision statement (what they want to achieve). Well, I was thinking about this as I explore the value of “Intentionality”. I decided to write my personal vision statement. I believe, to be intentional I first needed to map out the future me I wanted to be.

I started writing my personal vision statement by asking myself several questions.

1. Where do I want to go from here?

2. What can I realistically achieve?

3. What problems do I intend to solve?

4. What changes can I make to help others?

5. How will things be different if the vision is realized?

6. What phrases or key words describe the type of person or outcome I want for my life?

After Answering these questions I was able to come up with my own personal vision statement. I challenge you to think about these questions for yourself. Have you ever intentionally thought about what you want for your life?

The next part of my plan was to share my vision statement here on my blog, so here is my personal vision statement:

To use my time and space in a more focused and organized manner, to allow quality time for the people and things that are important to me. To bring meaning and purpose to my life.

I wasn’t quit finished with my vision statement, because to have achieve the vision I also had to have a plan. So I came up with a list of 6 steps. Under each step I developed smaller goals (because I realized that I had some pretty big plans, that would take time and work to be able to accomplish).

So this month I am beginning to take the steps that will bring about my vision statement. I have set aside time to look at my list and prioritize the tasks. Being intentional, planning and acting on the vision that I believe is the legacy that I will eventually leave behind. So, here’s to being Intentional.

Tuning in to Life!

In gathering information about meditation it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the information that is out there. In doing a simple search with Google Scholar, the word “meditation” had over 128,000,000 articles to appear. I also picked up a special Edition by the Los Angeles Times on Wellness (full of many informative articles). In my search I identified 9 different types of meditation (although I’m sure there are many more). With all of this information it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

The one theme that seems to be true for all of them is that it is a practice to help bring about awareness and a feeling of calmness to the participants. Study after study praises the benefits of practicing meditation on a regular basis. It even boasts benefits when only practicing for short periods of time. The benefits listed were physical, mentally and spiritually.

When I started this project I came across the concept of Shoshin or Beginners mind. In one of the articles in the Wellness magazine, it explains that when we are expecting to see something new we are already in a state of noticing. This practice also opens our mind for new experiences and learning. If we go into a situation as if it were the first time we turn our minds on to learn or see things differently.

Think back to the first time you did something new. Maybe it was trying a new hobby, or a new food, maybe it was going somewhere that you’d never been before. In each of these situations I would guess that there was a sense of anticipation or a sense of wonder. Being open to a new experience helps us learn. We can practice shoshin even in our every day routines.

Have you ever been driving in your car to a familiar plan and you switch to automatic pilot? You might not be really paying attention to what happened between point “A” and point “B”. Paying attention helps in all kinds of ways. We’re more aware and in-tuned to our surroundings. Maybe you go through the work day on Automatic pilot. Or you are just sleep walking through your life.

Try this. Try experiencing something routine as if it was the first time. When you look at your spouse or children really pay attention to them. When you go to work, learn or experience something as if it’s something new and exciting. Take a walk and really look at the details. What a wonderful world we live in. Mindfulness and Shoshin helps us experience things like it’s all exciting and brand new (because if you think about it, every moment is brand new). Try doing something mindful: try tuning in to life. It’s really a wonderful experience.

Mindful of my Destiny

Since I’ve stated practicing mindfulness, I’m amazed at the bombardment of thoughts that run through my head (for even a short period of time). I am working on being present in the moment but sometimes that isn’t an easy task. After watching several videos, it is somewhat comforting to know that even people who are considered experts have to bring their thoughts back to the present moment.

I wonder what it is about the human nature that we sometimes struggle with letting go of the past or striving for the future. I sometimes struggle with living in the moment, or actively accepting things as they are. I believe that by practicing mindfulness that this struggle can be lessened and that it will bring more peace and happiness to my life.

Jon Kabat-Zinn suggest 9 attitudes of Mindfulness. Just watching the video gave me a certain peaceful feeling.

1 Beginners mind- seeing each situation as if it was the first time.

2. Non-judging – Jon Kabat-Zinn states that we often see things as bad or good, want or not want, right or wrong, etc., but in mindfulness, when practicing being non-judgmental you recognize situations and the thoughts feelings or actions without judging. He states we do this by just noticing.

3 Acceptance-Active recognition of things as they are.

4 Letting go-Letting things be as they are, receiving and releasing. Letting go allows for a certain sense of freedom. Just as in the example of the Monkey trap, to be free you need to let go.

5 Trust- Trusting in the natural rhythm of the body. By trusting that the body is working just as it is intended. By practicing trust in self we shift our trust to others. Just as the body inhales there is a rhythm that occurs that follows with the exhale.

6 Patience– Very often we are missing the moment. Mindfulness helps us to intentionally practicing patience . By practicing patience we learn things unfold in their own time. With patience comes acceptance and wisdom.

7 Non striving- Or non doing. We shift from trying to control everything to not trying to make things happen. This isn’t just throwing up your hands and giving up its more like acceptance and being content with what is. This attitude can be both restorative and healing.

8. Gratitude- not taking things for granted

9 Generosity- giving to others for the joy of just doing for others.

That brings me to the quote at the top of the page. I believe that our thoughts are often in a constant battle of what was, what is, what can be. And as we think about these things we often interject judgement which frequently causes us stress and discontentment. All of these values we place on our thoughts leads us to act in certain ways and in the end our actions are our story, our destiny. What if by practicing Mindfulness I learn to let go, accept, live in the moment with trust, gratitude and generosity? How much better would it be? I think it’s definitely worth it to try. I’m going to practice being more mindful, with the intention to be more at peace with my life and my destiny.

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