Self-Awareness | Keys to Happiness

I believe in me text with heart in background for self-awareness

Lately, I’ve seen a good number of articles floating through email pertaining to self-awareness.

And of particular interest to me are the articles correlating self-awareness to happiness. As I scan these articles, it’s not the particulars of each one that stands out, nor is it the commonality or the stark contrast that stands out. What stands out to me, is how we humans have the remarkable ability to make the complex out of the simple.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to put anyone down. These articles share good insight, and the supporting research provides validity to the simple-minded such as myself. We even posted one such article on our “insights to happiness” blog on dontbeacow.com. I just feel that too often this type of article overthinks things.

Let me demonstrate my simple-minded approach to correlating self-awareness and happiness:

First of all, let’s break it down into the individual components:

  • Self – One’s own being, consisting of the mind, the body and the soul (or spirit if you prefer)
  • Awareness – Understanding that the soul is the only one of the three that you control 100% of the time, and you certainly can’t control anything beyond the self
    • The Mind – It gets too much influence and commentary from outside sources to be controllable. Plus, the mind likes to do things like make simple things complex to make itself feel smarter;
    • The Body – It can become sick or injured from outside sources far beyond our control;
    • The Soul – It is always beautiful if, like cream, we allow it to rise to the top;
  • Happiness – When you live your life always remembering and being self-aware (yes it requires practice but that’s okay). i.e. stop trying to control things outside of your control.

Now, a few examples:

  • First day of vacation, the body gets a virus. The mind is angry about wasting valuable time off, the soul relishes in the much-needed rest.
  • A beautiful Saturday morning with a final exam on Monday. The mind is anxious because students from the semester before say how hard the final is; the body is worn from a semester of long study especially the past week; the soul understands you know the material front ways and back, and longs to spend the beautiful day with friends and understands the break from study will actually help the brain at test time.
  • The mind worries about tomorrow, a week from now and retirement. The body wears from the worries of the mind, the soul understands that tomorrow never, ever comes no matter how hard we plan; therefore, the soul relishes in the moment!

Finally: How to Get Started

Self awareness Image of a frog made of bronze meditating near a body of water.

  • Meditate daily.It is the only way to shut out the noises of the mind and body. This also takes practice, but be persistent. As with anything, start small; 3 to 5 minutes at a time. The soul will provide step-by-step instructions tailor-made just for you.
  • Believe, believe, believe. Never stop believing!

The cream that rises to the top from within is what we like to call Happiness!

And to get on the path to Happiness, pick up a copy of “Don’t Be a Cow!” my interactive guide to true happiness today!

Tweet, tweet, tweet

Keys to Happiness : Tweet, tweet, tweet

Tweet. Ah, the sweet sounds of the song bird as the sun rises or their signal at dusk of another day’s end. Is there anything as simple or pleasurable as listening to the song of a bird?

But, I know not all of you were thinking about birds when you read tweet, tweet, tweet. How words change meanings over time. Today, I am not interested in how words change over time. No, today I want to look at how a large portion of our lives have changed over the past 10 to 15 years.

Birds chirping in the tree, illustrationTweet. Is there anything as simple or pleasurable as listening to the song of a bird? Tweet. Is there anything more complex in the modern world than social media and all of its nuances?

In years past, life was much simpler, in spite of the lack of today’s modern conveniences and technology. Yes, I understand that part of that nostalgia is a function of age, namely mine; however, even if you are proficient at Insta-this, Face-that, Pinning and tweet, tweet, tweet you have to admit that there is a lot going on within the social media world. Much of this information isn’t even pertinent to our lives; It certainly doesn’t appear to make life any easier. It seems it’s just information out there that absorbs much of our cerebral space, and much of it puts us into comparison/competition mode (see Keys to Happiness: Winning). It can be exhausting just thinking about it.

Again, I ask, is there anything as simple or pleasurable as listening to the song of a bird? Maybe. Read on!

A quick observation:

women circ 1950s drinking coffeeRecently, I was early for an appointment and had a few minutes to spare, so I decided to pop into a local coffee shop, sit down and enjoy a good cup of joe, which I normally would get to go. The shop was quite full, but I was able to find a seat. I had left my phone in the truck and decided not to go back and fetch it. After all, the world could go on without me for 30 minutes. Besides, I always enjoy people-watching and a full coffee shop offered just the place – almost as good as an airport! A good cup of joe and the occasion to observe my fellow human beings. Life was good! Little did I know, I was in for a big disappointment.

As I looked around, trying to be somewhat discreet (nothing worse than getting busted when someone starts watching back), I was amazed to see 99% of the patrons were staring at a device of some sort: a phone, pad, laptop, and one device I seriously couldn’t figure out what it was.

The one percent was me. Now, I am not naturally a very conversational person, but in a situation like this, I will usually try to strike up a conversation with someone as long as the person appears to be somewhat approachable. Nope, not today, not in this coffee shop. Not only did no one look approachable, I could hardly even see a face, as they were so buried in their devices. Even people who appeared to be there together, weren’t talking to each other. Of course, this lack of activity made for some boring people-watching; however, I became so fascinated with it, and curious how long it would last, that I ended up being late for my appointment! I will say that this phenomenon lasted the entire time I was there with not one. word. spoken. There were even two people sitting at the same table who got up and left without saying a word to one another. It was as though there was some type of mental telepathy between them signaling “time to leave.” Of course, all of this lack of conversation got me thinking (I can hear Jane sighing now!).

Is there anything as simple or pleasurable as listening to the song of a bird?

Kids in line looking down at their phonesBecause of our devices, we are now able to carry our own little world around with us everywhere we go. In so doing, how many other worlds are we missing out on? I thought beyond this coffee shop and all the other places and opportunities where we no longer engage with other human beings. Below are a few, from recent memory:

  • Airline flight – The conversations with the person sitting next to you. Now everyone has headsets, blocking out all around them. Back in the day we had to engage in conversation out of shear boredom.
  • The local Watering Hole – After 5, that is, or at least after work anyway. I had to check my theory, and much to my chagrin, I found the same situation I experienced at the coffee shop. Even the bartender kept checking her phone once she knew everyone’s glass was full. I even tried staring at one person and they never even knew I was starring at them. Ha! I’m not a stalker, this was a test!
  • The grocery store – I was bent over getting something, as someone approached from behind talking. I started talking back in response, as she had asked a question. As I stood upright and turned around, I discovered she had been asking the question of the person with whom she was on the phone.
  • Standing in line. Anywhere – And the list goes on and on. I would  love to hear where you have noticed a lack of conversation in your life.

Is there anything as simple or pleasurable as the song of a bird? Yes!

Conversations with total strangers, for one. Think about it. Going in, you know that you are going to walk away from that conversation and likely never see that person again. No biases or prejudices going in or coming out; No strings attached, no agenda, no need to impress and no need to be impressed. Just a simple conversation with another human being about anything or maybe even about nothing. A brief divergence out of your own world and into someone else’s.

Has the erosion of the art of conversation made us less tolerant of others?

Strangers at park having a conversationI like to think of these encounters as meaningless conversations. I like to refer to them as meaningless because they are harmless, but by no means are they meaningless. In fact, as I have already eluded, these conversations have great meaning: What they do is allow us to enter into someone else’s world, someone else’s space. We do this without trying to convert them to some other way of thinking or try to understand a point of view. That’s not what these conversations are about. And, in any event, most of the time if they say something you disagree with, just smile and nod (Yes, I understand that there are people out there who will argue with a brick wall if given a chance). But, why argue? While standing in line or waiting for your plane? What is the point? Just listen and talk; It’s about as simple as it gets.

These conversations – with no judgment or preconceived notions – will bring more meaning and satisfaction into our lives than many of us realize. Wow, could we use some more of that in the world.

I love having my phone and having access to friends and family at anytime. I also love setting it aside at times and engaging a stranger in some meaningless conversation. I hope you will do the same. With so many complexities in life, try enjoying some of the simple and pleasurable ones, and see how much happier your life becomes.

Who knows, maybe one day you and I will bump into each other and engage in a meaningless conversation! Cheers!

A. Regular Joe

Keys to Happiness: Winning

Winning Cup

“Winning isn’t Everything. It’s the Only Thing!”

“There is No Such Thing as a Moral Victory!”

What a time of year for the sports enthusiast! The 2018 baseball season is catching full stride, there are playoffs in hockey and basketball, the NFL draft, the professional golf tour is in full swing, no pun intended (okay maybe it is :-). And, for the non-professional enthusiast out there, you’ve got college and high school softball, baseball, and track that are wide open, and youth baseball and softball diamonds are full … and lest I forget, summertime swimming leagues.

Today, so much of our lives are built around the sports world. There is absolutely something for everyone, as the above-mentioned list didn’t even mention tennis, soccer, bicycling, cricket … well, I think you get the point. Now I know that even with all the options available, there are many of you out there who are still not impressed. Just never got into the sports “thing.” That’s fine, I have found my own interest has waned quite considerably over the last several years; however, there is no escaping the impact that sports and athletics have on our society.

I admit it, I’m a sports junkie

Before I continue, I must admit that I have always been somewhat of a sports junkie. Much more so as a kid than I am now. Beyond the actual competition, which I love, there are so many life lessons contained within the sports world. But, sometimes I do wonder, if somehow, we have allowed the sports mentality to enter into the other parts of our lives, and vice versa? Do we turn other aspects of our lives into a competition? The win-at-all-cost attitude, after all, for some people, it is the “only”thing. Maybe we treat our sports with too much emphasis, taking it too seriously? Instead of treating it as recreation, which it is? (Excluding, of course, that small percentage of those for whom sports is a living).

Two cases, to illustrate the point

Kevin Costner drops the ball in the film Tin Cup

Kevin Costner, in the film, Tin Cup.

Here are two cases to illustrate the point I’m making: One from the cinema; the other from television. (This is sort of ironic for me because I watch very little of either tv or movies.) The first comes from the movie Tin Cup starring Kevin Costner. Costner is a professional golfer with a chance to make it onto the big tour. To do so, he must win the tournament he is currently playing. He is playing the last hole, and all he has to do is hit a safe shot short of a lake, then a nice short shot over the lake onto the green, make a two putt and he wins. Okay, to the layman maybe not so simple; however, he’s a professional and he tells his caddie, “I can reach the green from where I am, I don’t need to lay up,” (a golf term for this particular type of shot). His caddie begs him to lay up and roll to victory. But, Costner can’t do it. He knows he can make this shot – in his mind –  he has to make this shot. He goes for it, and naturally, it finds the lake.

“Play it safe. And win”

His caddie says, “that’s okay you still got this, just play it as we talked about before.” I might also mention that as this is unfolding the sportscasters and analysts are berating his actions. They agree with the caddie. The crowd is also mumbling the same, “play it safe, and win.” The crowd had been pulling for him because he was such an underdog. He looks at his caddie and says, “I can make this shot.” He drops another ball down (the penalty for hitting the ball into the water hazard) and yes, hits it into the lake. He continues to hit several more balls into the lake and has totally eliminated himself from competition. Alas, he drops a ball and hits it like he should have done the first time and it rolls up on the green to within a few feet of the hole. The crowd roars, the media people rejoice as everyone watching has now been emotionally drawn into his struggles. It’s as though everyone can all of a sudden relate to the struggling golfer. They have all realized that maybe there was something going on here larger than the game of golf. At first, they think he is merely having an ego trip, trying to do something against the odds. When in actuality, all he was really trying to do was prove to himself that he could actually do something he believed he could do. Is winning always about out-doing a competitor or is winning about internal victories?

Is It Worth It?

The second illustration comes from the sitcom, Everyone loves RaymondRaymond’s daughter is in the Girl Scouts, and Boxes of Girl Scout cookiesit is Girl Scout cookie time. Raymond vows that this year his daughter is going to be the number one seller of cookies. In the past, another girl has taken this honor as her mother makes sure her daughter gets the prime location at the grocery store and wherever else Raymond and his daughter might go to sell cookies. On this occasion, Raymond and his daughter get to “the spot” early and claim it. The other woman and her daughter arrive and make claim to the spot. It ends with a big fight between the two adults – all to see which girl can come out victorious in the Girl Scout cookie sale. Yes, I understand that nowadays they can get some pretty nice prizes for selling ‘X’ number of cookies, and yes, I realize that this was just a show, but I think we can all agree we see similar things played out in life every day.

This is what I refer to as bringing the competitive sports world into other aspects of our lives. Isn’t the point of selling cookies to raise money for the Girl Scouts and its mission? Aren’t both parents supposed to be working towards the same goal? Shouldn’t they be wanting to help each other and help their daughters succeed? Look around in your life, work, church, school, social circles, and volunteer organizations; I think you will find plenty of examples.

“Winning isn’t Everything. It’s the Only Thing.”

Yes, as long as you are the one who defines winning. To Costner, winning was internal. It was more important to him to be able to make that shot then to win the tournament. When we define winning as overcoming those internal battles, it is okay to extend it beyond the athletic field. When winning is about out-doing a competitor, it is best left on the athletic field.

“There is no such thing as a moral victory.”

Maybe true on the athletic field, but I hope you won’t allow athletics to carry over to the rest of your life. For a happy life, winning (overcoming the internal battles) is a moral victory!

Jane & I hope that you won’t allow the herd to define winning for you. We also hope that you can remember when you are involved in an athletic competition and when you aren’t!

Don’t Be A Cow, Be Happy!

Joe

Related: The Story behind the infamous ‘Tin Cup’ scene

Keys to Happiness : Spring has Sprung!

Bright green leafs with monach butterfly landing on them

Ah spring has sprung!

At least for today, and I realize that many of you to our north have not yet fully evolved into spring; hold on, it’s surely coming.

For this year’s spring, a simple reminder. In today’s society, when we refer to “long green,” we are referring to money and lots of it. This spring I hope you will stop chasing that green long enough to enjoy the beautiful green of springtime. Everywhere we look it’s green. It’s in the trees, it’s in the bushes and it’s on the ground. Wow! what an abundance of green.

We think, man if only my bank account looked this green. The things we could buy, the trips we could take, the people we could impress. Reap the benefits of all those hard years of toil. We have heard and many of us believe that money doesn’t buy happiness. Yet, why do we still keep chasing it as if it did?

Sure, I understand that we have to eat and we need a roof over our heads, and a few comforts, but is it necessary to sacrifice one green for another to achieve this? By sacrificing one for the other, and by that I mean chasing money so we don’t stop to enjoy the natural green that surrounds us in the spring. The green that nature provides this time of year is special. We don’t have to do anything to enjoy it. The weeds are even green, the grass is green without fertilizer, and the insects haven’t begun to eat all the leaves of the trees and shrubs. We do absolutely nothing and we are blessed each day with an abundance of green. What makes all this green seem even better is that we have just come through the long, cold, dreary, colorless winter.

It’s as if your bank account has been dead empty for six months and now all of a sudden, some nice generous person has come along and deposited thousands.

Rejoice!

Sometimes shaking off the drabs of winter can be difficult. Everyone’s vitamin D is low and sometime it’s hard to find the energy to shake out the cob webs. This is where that natural green really comes into play, because it can reverse all of that in no time flat, and it’s totally free of charge! The only thing you have to do to stop long enough to experience it.

From Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” “I see trees of green, red roses too …” A beautiful little song about all the simple things in life. It is these simple and free things that truly make life so wonderful and happy.

It is Jane’s and my hope that you will take the time this spring to get out and enjoy some of the abundance of green. Like that thousands that was deposited into your bank account, it won’t last long. The scorching heat of summer, and the insects won’t hold off forever so get out and enjoy it while you can!

Roots of Leadership, Part 2

Image of the I (heart) Me written in fireworks.

Before we continue our discussion on leadership, a quick synopsis of our beginning discussion. We made a tie into Valentine’s Day, yes, the ‘love’ holiday, but instead of looking at love with our significant other, we put it in the context of love of oneself.

With all the books and publications today dedicated to leadership, why do so many seem to still struggle?

We discussed the importance of achieving love of self before it is possible to lead others. Leadership must start with the leadership of one, and that one being one’s self.

As we move the discussion along, let me convey one of my favorite quotes pertaining to leadership. My apologies for not remembering where I heard it and who to credit: “He has all the attributes of a great leader, just no followers”.

We see examples of this every day:

  • The boss no one respects and only follow because it’s mandated …
  • The person who is in position to tell people what to do but has not the wherewithal to get people to actually follow …
  • The manager who complains about the ineptness of his/her staff, never stopping to think they are simply following his/her lead.

Why? With all the books and publications today dedicated to leadership, why do so many seem to still struggle?

Look at the list below. How would you answer?

a) poor leadership technique
b) no one is interested in going to wherever it is they are being led
c) the boss/manager is just not a leader
d) all of the above
e) none of the above

A case could be made for either a or b. I think it would be a weak case. It can’t be c, because we can all be leaders, remember leaders of self. It might take a little practice, but it lies within us all. Since c cannot be the answer, d is eliminated. Through the process of elimination, the only viable answer is e. To understand my rationale, it is important to look at one’s motive and purpose.

Motive and Purpose

These two words are instrumental when it comes to leadership. Leadership, contrary to popular belief, means serving. When we serve the needs of others, they are more than willing to go where we go. They like being helped. When a boss’s sole motivation is self-promotion, he/she will struggle to get others to follow. When a business’s sole purpose is to show a profit, which we all know is important, they will struggle to get buy-in from its employees.

Believe it or not, these misplaced motives stem from a lack of the love of one self. It is the desire to prove to the world that “I am better, richer, smarter, than you.” It is going through life always thinking you have something to prove. When we have a love of self-first, we believe that each day, the only one we have anything to prove to is ourselves.

Now granted, for many that love of one self involves rising to the top of the corporate ladder, but often we do see in these people the genuine desire to help others along the way. And, generally, the people who do have genuine desire to help others are the ones who make it to the “top.”

When we have love of ourselves, we believe in ourselves. Our motives are pure, and our purpose is always clear. This gives us passion and energy, which far surpasses technique. It always leads to places of interest, otherwise why else would you go? When you are going to a place of interest, others will always want to go with you.

Love, love of one self, the very foundation of leadership. It all begins with the leading of one, one self.

Valentine’s Day, the Root of Leadership.

If you don't love yourself, you cannot love others - Dalai Lama

Today there is much said about “leadership.” Let’s just say that leadership is “in vogue” in our society today. So, let me put my two cents in on the subject as well. I know you must be wondering, okay but a tie-in to Valentine’s Day?

Ground Hog Day

Punxsutawney Phil being held on Groundhog Day

Ground Hog Day – Said to be my favorite holiday, I understand that technically it’s not actually a holiday of the year. Why?

First, it is a day of anticipation, the cold and bitterness of winter has set in and for many there is no relief in sight. People looking for any sign that will say the end of winter is near.

Second, it is a fun and somewhat silly concept like Don’t Be A Cow. Think about the modern day lifestyle with tiny cell phones and computers and all the so-called intelligence of the modern day society, yet so many still put hope in a ground hog!

Third, and final, the movie, one that I think Hollywood should remake. Think of waking everyday and applying the mistakes of the day before in a direct effort to get what it is you want that day. What a concept!

Allow the anticipation of your expectations and the mistakes of yesterday help you make today extraordinary! What are you anticipating today?

-Joe

Spontaneity vs. Planning

As the new year gets rolling to a full head of steam, I’m sure many resolutions have already fallen by the wayside. Of course, I know there are still plenty of you dedicated souls out there still holding true to your aspirations for 2018.

Tis the Season!

Winter_Lodge

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle all the way. I’m dreaming of a White Christmas, dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh. Snow bells ring, are you listening? Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul. Fresh baked cookies, candies, pies, and cakes. Colorful lights that fill the night sky. The sights, sounds, smells, and taste of the Christmas season.

With all the special Christmas recipes, we hope you don’t forget about the two important ingredients for a  Happy Christmas season.

Smile and Laughter!

With all the special Christmas recipes, we hope you don’t forget about the two important ingredients for a  Happy Christmas season.

Smile and Laughter!

They are both contagious. And, unfortunately, are often lost in the hustle and bustle of the season. After all, we must find the perfect gift, we must cook the best roast, we must bake the perfect pie, yet sharing a smile and a laugh can be the greatest gift. One that could last a life time.

And remember cows neither laugh or smile: Don’t Be A Cow!

We hope you enjoy this Christmas season to the fullest.

Joe & Jane

A Thanksgiving Gobble

Gobble, gobble, gobble

Another toast,

A little more wobble!

O, to Thanksgiving

To the feast

That brings forth the day!

O, to family

To friends,

That brings forth the joy!