How Do You Enjoy Life?

Before I begin, I cannot say how thrilled I am to welcome summer. Because of this, I will be taking the next several months off and will be coming back in the fall with all-new articles. Until then, you can catch me on Twitter where I am updating my “Year of Thanks” tweets, and on Instagram where I am posting photos of life as it happens.

In the meantime, this is what is on my mind this week:

What is it that makes some people jolly and others miserable? In fact, let me turn the question on its head. Does money buy happiness? After all, is that not what everyone looks to when thinking about being satisfied?

I am sure that if you think about it for a moment, money is the furthest thought on your mind when it comes to happiness. Right? We all want love, joy, peace, comfort, none of which we can attain without first understanding what happiness is.

Ah, but I hear someone say, “Money will certainly buy me comfort—a new sofa, a new bed, a new car, house, wardrobe.”

Yes, I agree, but for how long? Once the newness fades, then what? I can see why some folks end up in a cycle of going to work, buying stuff, paying the bills for the stuff they bought, and going out to buy other stuff to protect their stuff. Meanwhile, as the home becomes fuller, life becomes emptier.

This is why I would like you to think about this next question. Take your time and really think about it. If you want, you can leave a comment—or not. It is entirely up to you. This is all about you, and you really do not have to share a thing.

So here is my question:

How do you enjoy life?

Again, take your time to think about it. It all has to do with the perception of happiness. What do you perceive happiness being?

I will start it off. For me, happiness is spending time with my family, sharing experiences with friends, and praying and listening to God. Add to that good food, travel, and fulfillment with everything else that I do, there you have a perfect composite of me enjoying life.

Now, what about you?

How to Practice the Golden Rule

When I asked my friends the other day, what they thought the golden rule was they looked at me bewildered. I do not believe I was speaking another language, so yes I was surprised to discover they really had no clue what I was talking about.

The golden rule states:

“Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31 NIV).

Where I grew up though, it was more like, do it to others before they do it to you. A rough neighborhood and kids being kids, we did not have any sense of what was right and wrong.

All joking aside, another translation is: do to others as you would have them do to yourself.

But what if you hate yourself? What then? Does this mean you ought to hate others as you hate yourself?

The golden rule is not talking about that. It is not saying, first take care of your self-esteem then look after everyone else. Because it would be easy to duck responsibility, to sit in a dark hole somewhere and wallow in misery while life passes us by. On the contrary, the golden rule promotes active participation in the lives of others, and a byproduct of that participation is happiness.

A lack of self-esteem comes from guilt. Guilt causes depression, which then leads to thoughts of doing unimaginable things to the self. The fallen angel of light knows this and wants God’s children to live useless lives contemplating on the sins they have committed.

However, we do not need to worry about any of that. God has sacrificed his son Jesus so that we do not have to pay for our own sins (John 3:16). Now when we commit sin, we experience short-term guilt, which leads to repentance (2 Cor. 7:8-10). And that is an awesome thing. No longer is worthiness an issue. Nothing we can do can earn us salvation. God has given it to us freely through his grace (Eph. 1:7).

Knowing this, practicing the golden rule then becomes part of our nature.

It would be easy for us to share of our blanket with someone who is cold. We would not have a problem rationing half of our dinner with someone who is hungry. And we would be happy to provide a portion of our drink to someone who thirsts.

The homeless would have homes. The sick would be well. And the poor would have a share to give. For as we see others in their time of need, we would see ourselves.

Small acts of kindness change people. If everyone practiced the golden rule, the world would be a changed place.

How to Recognize God’s Favor

Luana and I recently celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. With it being the huge milestone that it was, we wanted to do something special. We also needed to stay close to home because Luana was still finishing off her RHN designation in holistic nutrition, and with exams and assignments due, we had to get back quickly.

We decided to drive to Toronto for several days and enjoy the comfort of a five-star hotel. Since it was a special occasion, we wanted to splurge a little. I mean, we scrimp and save so much throughout the year, even using coupons when we can, that with this being an once-in-a-lifetime event, we expected a lot. So six months prior, I booked an upscale 500-square-foot room in the heart of the city with plans to have dinner at the rotating restaurant at the top of the CN Tower while the sun was setting.

When the day finally came, it was raining. Suffice it to say, I was disappointed. We would not be able to see the sunset as I had hoped. Being the optimist that she was, Luana said, “Think about it, Jack. No kids. No responsibilities. I am so looking forward to soaking in a hot bath and enjoying the silence.”

Little did I realize God was setting us up for a huge blessing.

The night before, I had received an email from the hotel confirming the reservation. But something did not look right. Instead of $476 per-night that I was quoted when I had made the booking, the notification said the room would be $299 instead. The hotel gave us a free upgrade. I could not believe it.

But it did not end there. When God blesses, he blesses big.

Arriving at check-in, the concierge welcomed us, and we proceeded to complete the details for our stay. We exchanged pleasantries and then I asked about the tub.

“Is it a Jacuzzi or a soaker?”

“Neither. A shower.” He said. “A King bed and a shower.”

“Any chance of getting a tub?”

“Let me see what is available.”

As he typed away, Luana and I chatted about the Victorian décor and the elegant look to the lobby. We could not help but appreciate the rich architecture all around us.

“I have another room that may work for you.” The concierge said. “It is in our renovated wing. It is a step up from the original room. It has a tub and two Queen beds.”

Luana is practical, so she nixed the idea with one of those what-are-we-going-to-do-with-two-queen-beds look.

“This is the reason we have been married for twenty-five years.” I said. ”The original room will be fine.”

He laughed, and then went back to typing on his terminal. And for a while, there was silence. It was a good five minutes before he said anything else. “I have one more option. The room has a King bed and a tub. It also has a sitting room adjacent the bedroom. A bit more spacious than the room with the two Queens. Is that something you might be interested in?”

Was he kidding? Of course! When the concierge gave us our pass cards to the room, he also handed us two gift certificates. One was for two sparkling wines and the other was for a dessert of our choice at the hotel’s lounge that evening. We were at a loss for words. We did thank him eventually, but it took some time to realize God’s favor was on us and the best had yet to come.

After we reached the top floor of the hotel, Luana and I made our way to our room. By this time, we had had so many surprises spring up on us that we thought there could not be any more.

We were wrong. Our pass cards had two room numbers, which I thought was odd. We could enter our room through two doors from opposite ends of the hall.

Once inside, we dropped our bags, stunned. There was a King bed, bath, TV, sitting area in one room—yes, one room—and in the adjacent room was another bath, TV and sitting area. The hotel had given us a 1,000-square-foot room, which was almost $1,000 a night for $299.

The first thing we said to each other was, “This is God’s favor.”

We recognized it. We knew it. It was an extraordinary doing in an ordinary setting. No way could we have pulled off anything like this on our own. This was meticulously planned and perfectly executed. God’s hand was all over this one.

Later that evening we did end up having dinner at the top of the CN Tower. It was rainy, but Luana and I did not mind. We were together, and that is all that mattered.

We went back to the hotel for dessert.

5 Tricks to Get Along with Others

We see our friend from across the room. He smiles. He laughs with his buddies. When we slowly navigate our way through the crowd to offer our hand, he takes a step back and looks at us as if we had just dropped from a nearby galaxy.

Life could not be more perfect.

Why are some people so difficult to appreciate? Is there a sign on our foreheads that invites others to walk all over us? Or, are we simply too sensitive to understand the nature of relationships and how they work?

1. Be Honest

Every relationship we have comes from an event we either approved or disapproved.

The relationship is there, it is alive, and it will not be going anywhere. Good or bad, it will always be there.

The first step to cooperating with one another is to admit we have to cooperate with one another. As simple as it sounds, it is one of the most challenging things to do. Being honest with those around us will make all the difference.

If we are in a situation where someone asks us our opinion, we need to tell the truth all the time. Some may feel that is a drast

ic step. Why tell the truth? Why expose us to possible criticism?

Because it is easier to remember the truth than to remember a lie.

2. Show Manners

We walk into a store, find the item we are looking for, and head to the counter for the purchase. Somehow, the cashier has not had the best of days, and she is looking to us as another excuse to vent her frustration with life and the pursuit of happiness.

But we decide to engage her on another level.

She hands us the avocados, and we say thank you. She asks if we will need a bag. We say yes, thank you. We ask her to hand us the receipt instead of placing it in the bag, please. She does so.

We walk out and notice, looking back, a slight smile cresting on her face. Could it have been something we said?

A please and a thank-you can change a situation quickly, diffusing bad feelings, and transforming a potential nuclear event into a kitten’s purr.

3. Appreciate Everyone

When was the last time we patted someone on the back? For some, it may be a meaningless gesture, but for others, it translates to a positive experience.

Let us take a moment to think about how it would feel if someone came to us and expressed their gratitude for something we did. Picture their face. Hear their words—if there were words.

Random acts of appreciation bond people.

Whenever we take it upon ourselves to make someone happy, we, in turn, by extension, make ourselves happy. Silly, is it not? It is true, though. Can someone say feelings of euphoria do not course through our veins when we show gratitude toward others?

That little bit of wonderful happens whenever we give of ourselves to others in a selfless and meaningful way.

4. It Is Not All About Us

Sometimes we are the ones who are the biggest stumbling blocks for others.

Either we face the reality that the world will continue on its merry way with or without us, or we continue believing everything we do deserves a spotlight.

There comes a time in one’s life that being a contributing member of society is far better than living in drama.

Here is an example: Johnny decided he was not going to attend his best friend’s wedding. He could not bring himself to shake the jealousy he feels when he sees his best friend with the girl who once rejected him. So he came up with the flimsy excuse that he will be in Europe that same weekend. What Johnny failed to tell his best friend is that he made his plans for Europe the very moment he received the wedding invitation.

Another example is the story of Mary, who hates that her sister bought a new home. Every time her sister posts a photo of the house on Facebook, Mary skips the post and moves on to other items on her newsfeed. One day Mary came upon one too many photos, that she unfriended her sister. Yes, it was an awful thing to do. Of course, she did later regret it and tried to explain it away. Apparently, Facebook had a glitch that unfriended people on her list arbitrarily. Or so she said.

In both cases, Johnny and Mary allowed envy to take root and skew their perspectives. Instead of being happy for his best friend’s upcoming marriage, Johnny drove a wedge between them that will forever affect their friendship. As for Mary, she may have gotten away with lying to her sister this time, but how many more times will she do the same and not hurt their relationship?

Any one of us can become Johnny or Mary.

To prevent this from happening, we have to remain focused and not succumb to the temptation of always wanting to be the center of attention.

5. Help Whenever You Can

The homeless person on the corner of that hectic intersection needs something to eat. What do we do? Do we give money? Do we hand over a portion of our lunch? Or do we extend an invitation for a meal together?

It is easy to turn away people in need. All we have to do is say we are busy and look the part. No one bothers busy people.

But is that something we want to do?

Days before his crucifixion, Jesus said, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’” (Matthew 25:34-40 ESV).

Getting along with others is not just about agreeing and moving forward. It is about getting involved and making a difference in someone’s life.

This also means helping those who do not like us.

Imagine what a world it would be if we all did that.

How to Appreciate What You Have

Life is more than what we can get from other people. It has to do with love, joy, peace, happiness. It is not taking advantage of a situation because of a weakness or flaw in someone else’s reasoning skills. Not everyone is equal. Everyone is different, and with differences come challenges. That is what life is all about, to meet those challenges head on and to grow into better versions of ourselves.

I did not always feel this way.

If anything, I was one of those people who would swoop into a jammed parking lot, steal the last empty spot from an old lady so that I could finish my own Christmas shopping.

I was the guy who would take advantage of a two-for-one sale, going back to the store several times to make many purchases of the same product, in spite of quantities being limited.

And I was the jerk who did not believe in garbage cans. The city made sidewalks more than for walking. At least that is what I believed.

But, I have grown. I have matured. What seemed so important years ago does not seem so much that now. With a change in heart comes an appreciation for the simple things in life.

The simple things make life special.

I so love the way an ice cream cone twirls at the top when ordering it from a truck in the middle of summer.

I cannot get enough of the clouds dancing along the edge of the sky while playing a game of “Guess What I Am”.

I look forward to sitting at the table with my family, talking about how everyone’s day went, and discovering something I did not know before.

My nightly routine involves reading God’s word as a way to ease my mind of the day’s troubles.

And nothing compares to holding someone I love in my arms. Nothing comes close.

Is that all there is to it?

Well, yes. I look at the little things, and they are the things that make me happy. That is how I am able to appreciate what I have. As long as I keep the little things in mind, life goes a whole lot smoother.

I would not want it any other way.

5 Ways to Break a Bad Habit

We all have them but are too afraid to admit it. They dominate our lives, they control our routines, and they sour our mood.

What are they? They are bad habits. And bad habits is bad news for those wanting to live happy and abundant lives.

Let us take a moment to have a look at five ways we can break bad habits, and the benefits that come from overcoming weaknesses.

1. Confess the Habit

Mildred: “Judy, you may not believe it, but I bite my nails, bad.”

Judy: “I noticed, you have yet to gnaw off your cuticle to the bone.”

Admitting you have a problem is the first step to beating a bad habit. What better way to admit you have a problem than to confess it to a friend or loved one.

As difficult as it sounds, it really is easy to do. The problem lies with forgetting about your ego so you can grow into a better person.

If you find you cannot tell your bad habits to someone around you, you can take to writing them down on paper. Once you read them to yourself several times, you can either burn or introduce scissors to them.

In my case, I have done both. I have written them down and destroyed them, and I have told Luana about my deepest, darkest secrets as a way to throw away the insecurities caused by my weaknesses.

Yes, you may think that is extreme, but confessing our bad habits to others liberates us from carrying the burden ourselves.

2. Recognize the Triggers

Central to every bad habit rests a trigger. That trigger could be the innocent whiff of a scrumptious cake, the sight of a beautiful woman, or simply the craving for something that will calm the nerves.

Whatever the trigger, it will lead you to where you do not want to go. Therefore, recognize it. Tame it. And move on to bigger and better things.

It is easy to say, but incredibly hard to do. How do you recognize the very thing that causes you to stumble?

Self-reflection is an awesome power that all of us bad-habit harbingers possess. By finding a quiet spot and reflecting on what causes us to fall, we can identify the trigger. It will not happen overnight, but every moment we spend on improving ourselves is a moment spent overcoming a bad habit.

Sometimes, it is a matter of working through mock scenarios in order to determine the origin of the bad habit. Again, it will take time, but do not ever think it is time spent in a useless pursuit.

You will find the trigger. You will overcome your bad habit.

3. Replace the Bad with the Good

What is your bad habit? Is it eating late-night snacks before bed? Are you saddled with debt but cannot help spending more money on that fancy new vacation? Do you drink more than you should, even though you know it will lead to long-term health problems?

The best way to throw away a bad habit is to replace it with a good habit. Positive reinforcement is better than negative execution. Find the bad and lift away its effects on your life by flooding it with good.

You would love to eat a slew of late-night snacks. I understand that. Try drinking water, it will fill you and act as a cleanser. You have so much debt that you do not know how you will handle it in several months when the creditors start knocking on your door to repossess your home. Forget about that vacation and work at cutting down your spending. After all, you would like to have a future without worrying about who you owe, right? And that cocktail you are thinking about consuming? Consider having a soda, or, better yet, a tea. Always think about the future. Learn how your actions today will shape your tomorrow.

Do you bite your nails? Snack on carrots. Do you have a problem with wandering eyes? Think of the one you love. Are you prone to laziness? Find something to do other than watching television. It may sound harsh, but we are talking about getting rid of the things that hold us back from achieving our true potential.

4. Make New Friends

Every bad habit carries with it baggage. That baggage includes friends who are enablers. And enablers only have one thing on their mind—their own self-gratification.

Surround yourself with people who genuinely love you for who you are.

When you are with enablers, they will tear your down, strip you of your character, and allow you to struggle and fall in a pool of your own misery. What you need to do is identify the enablers and cut them from your life. How far do you go?

Think of them as if they never existed.

You never knew them.

The other side of it is you now have the chance to meet new people who will build you up, carry you forward, and believe in you for the person you are and not the person they think you ought to be.

New friends mean new experiences, which translates to new opportunities for growth.

5. Bring God to the Fight

Everyone may have a concept of what or who God is. For me, God is the creator of all things, the one who sacrificed his only son, Jesus, for the salvation of the many. Without God, I do not know where I would be.

When faced with a destructive pattern, it is good to know that a higher power, such as God, is there to fight on our behalf. We do not have to fight alone. Whatever the frailty, strength is always available. We can tap into it and not worry about the cost.

When our minds focus on eternity, the awful behaviors that plague us now do not seem so unstoppable. We can continue living, knowing there is always someone there to pick us up after a fall.

The trick is to permit that strength to course through our lives. In so doing, breaking a bad habit then becomes possible.

How to Overcome Fear

Everyone is afraid of something. You can be afraid of heights (Acrophobia), afraid of open spaces (Agoraphobia), or simply afraid of spiders (Arachnophobia).

In my case, I have always been afraid of public speaking. I recently discovered my fear goes by the name Glossophobia, which is really speech anxiety. I would have thought, though, a fear such as this would have gone by a better name. Something like Heartinmythroatphobia would make more sense. I would even accept KillmenowbeforeIgoonstagephobia.

I have learned, however, that fear avoidance does nothing more than delay the inevitable. Eventually the same challenge will appear and I will have to tackle it one way or another.

Facing My Fears

To overcome my fear of public speaking I do what any normal human being would do. I immerse myself in situations where I cannot avoid public speaking.

I realize it sounds counterintuitive. After all, who does that? Who confronts the very thing that promotes that queasy feeling in the pit of the stomach that renders a person sick as a billy goat?

Well, I do.

Whenever there is an opportunity to make a speech, say a few words on behalf of an event, or have a need to make my opinion known, I am there. I do it because I know that if I choose to stay quiet, I will not grow and be a better individual. I will remain the same.

Sameness makes a person lukewarm.

And a long time ago, I promised myself I would never be lukewarm for something I care about a great deal.

God Fights on My Behalf

The other thing I have yet to mention that gives me the courage to step outside of myself and face my fears is I have God fight my battles for me:

“Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you’” (Isa. 35: 4 NLT).

Imagine your fear being a big bully waiting for you at the end of the street. In the past, you turned the corner and went the other way. But on this occasion, right ahead is God who will ensure your safety. He will fight in your stead. He will vanquish your enemies and turn them into dust.

With a thought like that is it a wonder anyone has any fear at all.

Will Fear Ever Vanish?

Yet, every so often, I still have that queasy feeling whenever all eyes are gazing at me. And I am fine with that because I know as I move forward toward overcoming my insecurity I will be a better version of myself.

In that sense, it is all a matter of facing the challenge head on, and tackling it so that I can control it as opposed to it controlling me.

Add to that God’s help, and I know I have nothing to fear.