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 Not to Settle for Second Best

This article is not about being Number One. It is not about having a winning attitude. Nor is it about succeeding at whatever we put our hand to do. Contrary to what the title implies, it has nothing to do with competing against, contending with, challenging or opposing an opponent.

The only real opponent anyone ought to face is the one that stares at us from the mirror every morning after we get up out of bed. Even then, the battle may not head anywhere because we may not feel like making an effort.

And that is not good.

Not settling for second best means trying our best, giving our best at whatever we attempt to do. If we end up a technical failure, then who is it who determines that? Well, we do, of course. But who is to say we have to accept it?

We need to rise from defeat, pat the dirt off our clothes, and move forward. Second best is a term others have coined to ease the pain of losing. Yet, how can it be a loss if the chance is always there to succeed?

So we did not make the grade this go around. It should not bother us. We have only discovered that we were not ready. With better preparation next time, we will certainly do better. We should not feel, however, that we have experienced a setback. In that respect, we have all experienced setbacks. How we deal with it determines if we have given it our best.

Trying our best and failing does not mean we are second best. It means we have tried. And really, in the context of our short life here on earth, there are many more opportunities to do better.

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.

3 Things We Can Do to Stay Positive

No one likes a sourpuss. If you do not know what that is, a quick Google search reveals it is a person who is bad-tempered or habitually sullen. For someone like that, it may take some effort to snap out of the blues. It would have been far better not to fall into a mindset of negativity in the first place.

How can we do that? How can we avoid the vortex of a swirling drain when there is just so much more to gain by living a life filled with hope?

1. Keep Moving

As cliché as it sounds, it is hard to hit a moving target. Isaac Newton put it another way, “A body in motion stays in motion. A body at rest stays at rest.”

When we are on the move, we expend energy—energy that we would have otherwise consumed for other things. Sometimes, and this happens more often than we think, those other things are not conducive toward our betterment as human beings.

The solution is to keep moving. Our focus should be on volunteer activities. Community programs are a great way to lift the spirits. The moment we see others suffer is when we become aware of our own blessings.

That is not the end of it, though. The very act of providing for the needs of others changes our attitude and makes us humble. Attitude plays a big part with maintaining a positive outlook. We can own the world, but really, what good would it do if we lose our souls?

2. Enjoy the Music

Music calms the savage beast. Is that not a saying from somewhere?

Have we ever thought how our mood changes when we listen to music? It would be a difficult thing to do to be happy if a sad song is playing in the background of a restaurant. How many times have you heard Mozart’s Requiem while wolfing down a pizza at some bar and grill?

Music plays such a big role when it comes to setting a mood. Music can make us happy. Music can make us sad. That is why it is so important to pay attention to what goes into the ears. All it takes is one song to change our attitude.

Have fun with music. Create mixes that inspire creativity. Listen to music that challenges our very being. If after hearing a song we feel awful, it may be time to forget that song ever existed.

Let us allow music to give life to our bones. The right kind of music will make us grow for the better.

3. Forgive

So much time goes to waste playing the “he said, she said” game. So what if he or she said something bad about us. If we are happy with who we are what difference does it make what others think?

Bringing God into the conversation will help with this point:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mat. 5: 43-48 NIV).

As much as it is opposite to how we, mere humans, think, forgiving an enemy releases us from the perils of hatred. Would it not be more beneficial to live a life without enemies than to spend time thinking about how we can do harm to those who have harmed us?

Even more so, forgiving those who are not worthy is more of a testimony on us. For when we forgive, we release ourselves of negativity from our lives. No longer are we captive to the chains of evil, but we are free to do good works inspired by the gifts of grace.

It may be hard to understand at first, and that is fine, however, the blessings that come with forgiving someone go beyond the forgiver to touch the lives of everyone involved.

With That in Mind

Once these techniques become part of our routine, it will be difficult to fall into a dark or glum state. We will find life more fulfilling, more rewarding and rich in positive experiences. No longer will we have to hide behind a fake smile or a performance laugh. We can be ourselves and live a happy, abundant life bursting with joy.

So keep moving, enjoy the music and let things go. After all, it is far better to be a role model than to become a case study.

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.

7 Keys to Achieve Success

Why do some people succeed with their goals while others fail? Is it because those who succeed have a plan? Or is it that they have the strands of success so ingrained in their DNA that nothing will prevent them from achieving their true potential?

7 Keys to Achieve SuccessI have often wondered this myself. But then again, over the course of three years, I did write a bestselling book trilogy while publishing three articles a week in support of my effort. So, I suppose, I do have some insight in what it takes to be successful.

Below is the template I use whenever I set out to accomplish anything that is beyond what I can accomplish on my own. You can use this template for just about anything. It will encourage you to keep pressing forward, never to surrender.

If one day, because of these seven keys, you become President of the United States, remember me as the guy who put you there. I take cash, bank draft, money order and certified check. However, I think I would be more useful as your Vice President.

1. Create a Mission Statement

Every success story has a beginning, and every beginning sparks from a single thought. You cannot know where you are going if you do not have a destination.

Begin by thinking about what you want to achieve, sit down and write it down. Your goals will not become reality if you do not write them down.

7 Keys to Achieve SuccessWhen you have your goals written down in the form where you can see them, touch them, and read them back to yourself, they become real.

Think of your goals as Mission Statements. Simply writing the words, “Rock Star” on a piece of paper will not make it so. Instead, be specific: “In one year I will lead a rock band, and in five years I will put out my first single.”

The more specific you are with your Mission Statement the more it will become an accomplished goal.

You can do the same thing with life goals: “By this time next year, I will have bought a house, paid my first mortgage installment and looked after my own lawn.”

Seeing your goals detailed on paper will bring your goals to life.

Create your Mission Statement now.

2. Prepare an Action Plan

Writing down your Mission Statement is only the first step to achieve success. You will now need an Action Plan to move you along the journey.

How are you going to get to where you want to go? A good driver will have counted the cost of travel. A good driver will have also planned the route, landmarks to look for and destination. A good driver will know when the journey is complete.

Similarly, if you are thinking about completing your degree in Physics, you will need to create an Action Plan that details the courses you will need, the cost, time and effort you will need to expend to achieve this success.

An Action Plan can be as simple as this:

  • Make $5,000 in tuition working at Mom and Pop’s Grocery for four months
  • Take 2 electives
  • Write my thesis
  • Graduate top of my class within a year of registering

Notice that the Action Plan contains a detailed timeline, cost estimate of the goal and a success benchmark. In this case, the success benchmark is graduating top of the class.

3. Stay Healthy

Once you begin your journey toward success, you will need one vital component to maintain your stamina. That very important component is your health.

Without good health, no matter how strong or positive you think you are, either it will take you longer to achieve success, or you will not achieve it at all.

7 Keys to Achieve SuccessGood health, however, comes with a price tag.

It means sleeping as much as you can so that the body can repair itself. It means eating right—fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and fish. If you can afford organic, buy organic. Organic food contains all the vitamins and minerals intact. A good multi-vitamin supplement will also go a long way toward improving your health.

Get rid of the junk food. Most junk food contains vast amounts of sugar, salt and fat that cause all sorts of ugly things to happen in the body. That goes for processed foods as well. If you grow a third arm, do not say I did not say so.

Most of all, exercise. Keep your blood flowing throughout all parts of your body. The more you exercise, the more you will feel energetic to tackle bigger and better tasks.

4. Schedule Downtime

Every week I take one day to unplug from social media. That is, I take one day to avoid logging into my site, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and all other forms of online activity.

You might think that is crazy. In a sense, it is crazy.

Doing so, though, allows me to take stock of my life without the distraction of pings, whistles, bings, dings and dongs. Rather, I will sit quietly reading and meditating on my achievements from the past week.

Scheduling downtime is an art. I nearly fell off my chair recently when I had read that some European companies offer their employees unlimited vacation time. Can you imagine having two months off from work lying on a beach in Italy eating healthy meals while North Americans slave away late into the evening just to make a buck?

As humans, we need time away in order to recharge and stay sane.

7 Keys to Achieve SuccessTime away or downtime does not mean unproductive time, though.

I get my best ideas when I am waking up or doing absolutely nothing. I cannot say how many times a good idea has raced through my mind while shaving.

Downtime presents you with a great opportunity to look at your Action Plan to ensure you are meeting your milestones based on your Mission Statement.

5. Leave Room for Incidentals

Things happen in life. Sometimes life throws you circumstances that will make it seem as if there is no way you will achieve what you have set out to do.

And that is okay. That is life. You will need to leave room for incidentals.

If you have given yourself a timeline, it may be that you will need to extend the timeline as a means to accommodate surprises.

Again, life events play into this, too. The only thing you can do is ride it out and once it is all over, do your best to get back on track.

In other words, accept it and move on.

6. Never Give Up

If I could stress anything more than anything, it would be for you never to give up.

Always look to the goal. Always keep your Mission Statement at the tip of your tongue. Repeat it several times as a reminder of what you committed to when you wrote it. Review your Action Plan to see where you are. Every time you feel the urge to give up, shake it off. Go for a walk. Go for a run.

7 Keys to Achieve SuccessPush those insecurities from your mind. You have counted the cost. You knew it was not going to be easy. Yet, you went ahead with your Action Plan anyway. You did it because you knew it was what you wanted to do.

Forget about what people may think of you. Let them think what they will. Your job is to continue on that journey to success. Nothing will stop you from that.

Nothing will prevent you from achieving your dreams.

7. Keep God in the Picture

This last point may be different for everyone. For me it means all the difference between success and failure.

God is my center, as I know Jesus is his son. I involve God in everything I do. Whenever I create a Mission Statement and write an Action Plan, God is there with me to put it all together.

God’s words in Jeremiah 29:11 are always on my mind, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (NIV).

7 Keys to Achieve SuccessEveryone needs someone great to believe in. For me it is God.

He has my back.

One More Thing

After achieving success several times with this plan, you will ask yourself this question: What more is there?

The best answer I have is this: Share this knowledge with everyone you know so that others may have the opportunity to make their dreams come true.

Knowledge shared is knowledge earned.