Author and Motivational Speaker George Barker (Don’t Be a Cow!) offers insights toward happiness and empowering yourself.

A tasty diversion during COVID 19

George discovers a bonus while enjoying a tasty treat in this Age of Coronavirus #LivehappierLiveWell #Liveahappierlife #Stayathome

 

Why is Smiling so Important to Being Happy? I’ll give you 3 reasons

I’ve found it interesting, and yet so true, what smiling can do for your life. In fact, I have found it so amusing that when I stop and think about it long enough it actually makes me chuckle.

This mongoose is here because he’s funny.

I’ll never forget, many years ago, thumbing through books at a local copy shop while waiting (patiently, of course) for my

copies to be ready. I came across a book entitled Convince them in 90 seconds by Nicholas Boothman. As I was flipping through the pages I saw the word “Smile.” The book went on to explain the importance of smiling when trying to convincing someone of something, and to the need to do it in 90 seconds. I thought it a little odd, but only becThis M

it seemed so simple, so obvious. As I was returning to the office with my fresh copies, I really began to think about this whole smiling thing. Then I began to wonder, do I smile? I think I do.

Are you smiling? Enough?

From that day forward, I began to make a conscious effort to smile. I would like to think by now that it is a habit, but I find that I still have to remind myself from time to time. I have also tested smiling in a number of environments and can truly attest to the effectiveness in smiling. It effectiveness still, to this day, amazes me.

Here are 3 reasons I promised you.

Smiling face wearing cool sunglassesWhy I believe smiling is paramount in living the happiness lifestyle:

  • Reverse property – I think there is a technical mathematical expression for this, but basically it states that if something works one way then it will work in reverse as well. e.g. Happy=Smile; Smile=Happy. This works, even though it may not be instantaneously and … you have to want to and some days that can be a real challenge!
  • Confidence – Smiling makes you feel better about yourself and you are the foundation of you; therefore smiling will help you build self esteem and confidence.
  • Friendly – Smiling makes you more inviting, which means others are more likely to engage with you in conversation. Not always a great thing for introverts, however; but, it is for this very reason that also makes people more trusting of you and more likely to do business with you or hire you because being around a “frowny face” is a downer. IT OPENS DOORS!

Something as simple as smiling can be a life changer. Think about all the other things you’ve tried in life. Maybe  the only thing you really need to do is smile to live a happier Life.

Here’s a video I hope makes you smile.

We made when we first launched our book (and the first edition cover). “Learning to Smile” is also chapter two of “Don’t Be A Cow!”

Take Action: Smile today and everyday!

Can Roses Really Bring Happiness? Absolutely!

Valentines and Roses

Because of the time of year, I know where many of your think I’m going with this message. But, trust me, this is not a blog promoting the florist industry (well not exactly)!

The Soul of the Rose (1908) – John William Waterhouse

We are all familiar with the phrase “stop and smell the roses.” It’s one of those time-tested phrases that I’m sure we’ve all heard and have probably even said a time or two. And yes, we all know it to be true, but do we believe in it enough to actually ascribe to it? And if so, how often, and how long should we carry out the act of stopping to smell the roses?

Stopping to smell the roses is simply an idiomatic expression to remind us to take time out of our busy schedules to appreciate all that we do have. This phrase as been around for ages, and I’m sure that it has always been applicable. Today, in our world that never sleeps, it has never been more applicable. In fact, there is scientific evidence that appreciating the meaningful things and people in our lives may play an even larger role in our overall happiness than previously thought.

Related: There’s science behind stopping to smell the roses!

Are we there yet?

Our working lives, and much of our social lives, are all centered around getting somewhere. You know, that goal setting thing! But, what about where you are today, right now at this very moment? Is it from goals set years ago, days ago, or is it from happenstance, or a set of circumstances? Probably, for most of us, it is a combination.

We often become so focused on the “goal,” the “end game,” that we forget to enjoy the “here and now.” Visiting with friends, family or yourself. Enjoying a movie or lunch with a long-time friend; a nice stroll through a park {😊} with a friend or family member. If you’re one of those people who are really busy, find a quiet spot to simply take in a big breath of air (as if smelling a beautiful rose), and while slowing exhaling, think of all the blessings you have in your life.  The simple fact that you are here now!

 

For a Happier Life:

Stop and Smell the Roses (Being grateful for what you have) DAILY!

This only needs to be briefly: Smelling roses too long can lead to bee stings!

Include a friend or family member regularly

With that being said, I would be remiss if I did not use this as an excellent lead in to a special Valentine’s message.

Where do you fall in your opinion of Valentine’s Day? 

* “It’s just a day created by Hallmark, the florist and chocolatiers!”

* “We celebrate our love every day, why single out just one day?”

* “Flowers and cards have led to extravagant dinners and jeweler’s panacea.

I’ve always found Valentine’s Day sort of interesting: I like to call it the Valentine’s pendulum because opinions run the gamut and tend to swing from one year to the next. It seems more so than any other recognized day.

Won’t you be my Valentine?

As with most things, commercialism has stolen the spot light. To me, Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate the relationships in our lives. Remember back in grade school, when you gave everyone in the class a valentine? I think that sometimes the intimacy gets in the way of the true valentine spirit. After all, it is an opportunity to celebrate! What can be wrong with that?

Whatever your belief or feeling is regarding Valentine’s Day, I hope that you will use it to stop and smell the roses. Sure, it may seem like a silly holiday, but it can serve as an opportunity to appreciate all you have and celebrate it.

I must say that I feel truly blessed with all the relationships in my life including all of you that read this blog and support our cause to Live A Happier Life! I am also very blessed that my most special Valentine is also my very best friend!

I love you Rachel! You have made this adventure a true celebration!

And yes, I supported the florist industry as I do every year because she oh-so-loves flowers – a true horticulturalist!

Live Happier: Celebrate every chance you get!

Join in the conversation. What are your thoughts?

 

Is there really such a thing as Easy Street?

I always imagined that Easy Street was this place…

where faucets never dripped, lawns never got weeds, the houses never required painting, all the neighbors got along and frequently had BBQ’s, and pets never defecated. Well, it just so happens that one time I did actually find myself on Easy Street.

It was a hot and steamy July day in a small town in South Carolina. This was many, many years ago (15?20?) and I was inventorying trees* on the city’s rights of way. As a consulting Arborist/Forester, it is something I have spent a lot of time doing over the last 30 years. Now, as the case,  “hot” and “steamy” prior to July is not necessary when talking about the southeastern U.S., but this particular day one seemed worse than most.

I had a friend helping and it was getting late; we were trying to finish all the streets in this one neighborhood before calling it a day. As we rounded the corner from one street to the next, low and behold, there was only one street left. As we approached this last street, we both saw the street sign at the same time; we turned towards each other and gave each other a high-five.

We made it. Except …

Talk about two jubilant people. The day was hot and it had been long, but at last we had finally made it to, you guessed it, “Easy Street.”

How appropriate for the last street of the day. There were houses with no trees on one side and the other side of the street there were no houses at all. I almost shouted “and it’s a for real easy street! We will knock this out in no time.” (I realize that as an arborist, I shouldn’t show such excitement about a street with no trees, but the heat had been working on me). As we got about half-way down the block, we realized that although the other side of the street didn’t have any houses, it had lots of trees on the rights of way. The trees were hidden by a thick mass (a small jungle actually) of smaller vegetation such as briars, poison ivy and lord-only-knows what else. By the time we had finished fighting with the jungle, it was dark, and we looked as if we had been in a fight with a mountain lion. Needless to say, our time on Easy Street turned out to be anything but! However, it was the feeling of success at achieving what we had set out to do that made being on Easy Street worthwhile.

Where is your Easy Street.

1) Believe: First, you have to believe that Easy Street really exists which means changing your mind set and stop ascribing to thoughts such as:

  • No pain, no gain
  • You have to work hard to get to the top
  • You have to pay your dues
  • If you want to succeed, you have to give blood, sweat, and tears
  • Only the strong survive

Small log cabin in mountains2) What does your Easy Street look like?

Are there big houses or small cabins?

  • Is your house the only house or are there many?
  • Are there trees, or maybe a pasture or rows of crops?
  • Do you have street parties or is there a quiet place you can sit and read in silence?

Oddly enough, in reflection, I think that the Easy Street that I was on that hot July day so many years ago in South Carolina was my Easy Street!

Here’s what I have since discovered: 

  • The open side of the street with no trees: this represented the opportunities that were and are available to me. This showed me how to reflect on my circumstances.
  • The other side of the street had plenty of trees, and as an arborist, they represent my livelihood and the many gifts and blessings I currently have.
  • The briar patches: The great humbling factor. They build strength and remind us to be thankful of the non-briar patches we have in our lives.

We all have a place that could be an Easy Street. Maybe it’s a house, maybe an apartment. How about a log cabin or even a Yurt? Whatever it is, if you are easier on yourself – and you look at the opportunities, solutions and character-building situations that abound, you may find that that place you believe in can be reachableIt just all depends on what your Easy Street looks like to you. Just know it exists, and on it, happiness abounds. Hope to see ya there soon!

Take Action:

Take a sheet of paper and write down or use pictures or symbols of what your Easy Street looks like. A fun exercise is to get a big pad of large drawing paper and tape it to the wall. Don’t get frustrated. Remember this is a game, a fun game at that. As your life experiences change, and this happens daily whether you realize it or not, your Easy Street will change as well.

*Tree InventoryWalking the streets and collecting information on trees growing on the city’s rights of way. This generally extends 10 – 20 feet beyond the pavement. Information collected includes the type (species) of tree, diameter, height, condition, and maintenance needs such as pruning. In addition to streets it is often done on other city property as well such as parks and public buildings such as libraries and City Hall.

Positively Positive

It has always been amazing to me …

… how easy it is to pick up words and phrases that are tossed around in society.

It’s funny because I have noticed that often when I first hear one of these words or phrases I don’t even like it; I start using it in a mocking way. Then the next thing I know without even being conscious of it, I’m using the word with regularity. To make it even worse, most of these words carry negative connotations with them especially in the context in which they are used. That isn’t a way to be happier.

Many, many years ago when our oldest offspring (“Thing 1”) was 3 or 4, we were in the living room one evening playing games and just goofing off while the TV was on. It just so happened to be an episode of Seinfeld. It was an episode where they were constantly using the phrase “damn it.” We were busy doing other things, so I really didn’t think anything of it. Until … the next day when our sweet little child was walking through the house saying, yes, you guessed it, “damn it.” Damn it! Damn it! Damn it!

Being infiltrated by negativity?

I tell this story as example of how non-desired things ever so unassumingly enter our lives. One of the things that can infiltrate our lives is negative words and phrases. It goes like this:

  • We hear them

  • We say them

  • We live them (Eww, that hurts!)

We have all experienced a “Negative Nelly” somewhere in our lives. That is someone who is always negative, never has anything nice or good to say. Everything is just awful for them. And they are going to share that with you.

We also know that we never enjoy being around that person because we know that after awhile it affects us and not in a good way.

Yes, Negative Nellies are the extreme cases that really stand out and are obvious, but as with so many things in life, the same phenomenon occurs in much smaller degrees.

So small that often we never notice them. Here are a few of the words I’m talking about:

  • Hard

  • Difficult

  • Disappointed 

  • Offended

  • Can’t 

  • Don’t 

  • Won’t

You can google Enchanted Learning‘ and find a long list of not only negative words but positive words as well. And the positive ones are the ones I’m wanting to talk about here.

Don’t be skeptical. Be pragmatic.

I’m detecting a little skepticism out there so just bare with me.   

We accomplish this by taking small steps every day.
Let me demonstrate: take the words hard and difficult. Remove them from your vocabulary and replace them with the words challenge or challenging. Who wants to do something hard? I don’t, but if you challenge me, it’s game on. Losing that last five pounds is sooo hard, but let someone double dog dare you that there is no way you can lose it and that challenge becomes a goal.

All positive: It changes your attitude and your entire energy level. It can work the same with all of these words:

  • Disappointed – My expectations were too high

  • Offended – Permanently erase with no replacement, it simply means someone else is controlling your thoughts

  • Can’t, Don’t, Won’t – I choose to do something else

To live a happier life, we have to focus on the positive and erase the negative. positive thinkingWe can do this in small steps by simply removing negative words from our vocabulary. Don’t forget that the herd has a way of trying to slowly and unassumingly turn you back to the negatives. Don’t Be a Cow! stay focused on the positive for a happier life!

Take Action: 

Examine your vocabulary.

Find words and phrases with negative connotations and see how you can replace them with positive ones.

Two resolutions that will bring about real, positive change

It’s been a week. How ya doin’?

What I find so comical about New Year’s resolutions is that we spend as much time discussing how long it will be before they are broken as we do the resolutions themselves. It’s almost as if we are setting ourselves up for failure right from the very start.

Now I realize that many of these resolutions are made in fun and probably after too much New Year’s Eve cheer, but let me offer an alternative that may actually bring more happiness and success to your 2020.

My two Resolution Solution

  • Focus on the positive in you and not the negative

  • Make your resolution for a day, not for a year or some arbitrary goal

Too often my resolutions have focused on negative attributes and/or behaviors and not the positive. And, I’m not alone. The list below was from a Google search and the list was from a Time magazine in 2012.

  1. Lose weight & get fit
  2. Quit smoking
  3. Learn Something new
  4. Eat healthier & diet
  5. Get out of debt and save money
  6. Spend more time with family
  7. Travel to new places
  8. Be less stressed
  9. Volunteer
  10. Drink Less

And from what I saw this year, nothing much has changed.

This list, or whatever yours may be, are constant reminders of things we are not good at, things we want to improve. I’m all for self-improvement but from a slightly different angle.

Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative

Why not create a list, and the list may consist of only one thing that you really enjoy doing, something that you do well. Your goal is to develop a plan on how to become better at it.

Develop a plan on how to make it the center of your life. I know there are nay-sayers out there that will come up with all kinds of excuses why that won’t work, but keep in mind the list above is created out of excuses for not doing them in the first place.

Think about it. First, your new list is going to be way shorter 🙂

But, in a way, the list is endless because it could start with new degrees, new careers, new hobbies, new friends, new [fill in the blank].  But, you simply start by believing in yourself. And choose that one thing that’s best fits you!

“Been there. Done that”

In order to help ourselves become more confident, which ultimately leads to believing in ourselves, we need to do the things we are good at. We can discover the things we are good at by starting with the things we enjoy doing. The problem with the run-of-the-mill, “been there/done that” resolutions like the ones listed above is they are simply reminders of our short comings. Who needs that in their life! When we dwell too much on our short-comings, we have a tough time building our self-esteem.

The journey begins with a single step

The second resolution: We are all familiar with the phrase “live life day by day,” but have you ever really tried? (Before I go further, we can take anything to extremes so please believe me when say that I do understand the importance of longer than a day planning and goal setting, but bare with me.)

The importance of daily resolutions stems from the fact that life changes every day. Every day we learn new things, we experience new things, and unexpected things happen. For example, if your resolution is to save more money and on January 3rd you get notified a distant aunt passed leaving you a large sum of money, all of a sudden, saving money may not seem such a big deal. However, making it last for 5, 10, even 30 years will require a plan that will change over time.

Or, you have the resolution to lose weight and you start out well, then you receive some tragic news, and all of a sudden losing that extra 15 pounds isn’t such a big deal anyway. But, perhaps it also is the realization that, life can’t be taken for granted and it’s time to really make getting in shape a goal. That’s when it hits you. Baby steps, one at a time, can lead to big changes. (Granted these are extremes but sometimes I find that when we look at extremes, it shines a little light on the seemingly little, non-assuming things that can have a huge impact over the long term.)

As we start another year, I hope you will look towards your positive attributes and take the time to hone those attributes even more. I also hope you will practice the great theory of living day to day. Trust me. Though it may seem challenging at the outset, but if your goal is to do it “in a year” you have 366 days to practice getting there (well, 355 now … time flies)

Making today the goal:
Put a small note pad next to your bed. When you wake in the morning write a list, and it may be only one thing, that you would like to do that day (and you can wait until you’ve had your morning coffee). Before going to bed, look at your list and see how you did. On the next day make a new list and feel free to repeat things from the list from the day before. Remember to focus your list primarily on things you are good at, and by all means, enjoy.

… Merry Christmas!

Do You Ever Feel Like This Poor Little Pine Tree?

We have a nice little walking trail around our yard. Part of this trail goes between a few rows of pine trees that we planted many, many years ago. After our original planting, we came back years later and filled in some holes with more pines. Because the original trees had a head start, the younger trees have grown slowly as they compete for sunlight and nutrients. Although they have been slow growing they have maintained a good level of vigor and health. That is until recently.

A few weeks ago, one of our younger trees finally drooped over. It was as if the little guy finally said “I’m tired, I’m done, I can no longer fight the good fight.” This morning as I was taking my walk, and let me add that I have been feverishly fighting a sinus infection, I looked at our little bent-over friend and said “I know exactly how you feel little buddy!”

Fighting the Good Fight

I don’t know about you, but I have the hardest time telling myself “I’m sick!” I would much rather say “I’m not feeling well.” I think this is because if I tell myself I’m sick, I feel as though I should be at home in bed – or on the couch anyway. If, on the other hand, I’m just “not feeling well,” I can continue to forge ahead
with my life, and when I say forge ahead, I mean at full speed. Why should I cut myself any slack for not accomplishing that lofty list of goals for the week? After all, it’s just a little sniffle. Suck it up, Buttercup! And so it goes and I continue to plod onward.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

And, that got me to thinking: it seems kinda silly that I never want to cut myself any slack when I’m not feeling well. I mean, must I always be so abusive to myself? Then, I had another thought as I sat on the couch that afternoon. What about all the times that I’m not sick. When my body is perfectly healthy (if there is such a thing after 40!); why am I still this hard on myself?  Do I tell myself at times that I don’t measure up? Do I get on to myself when I can’t figure something out? Am I sometimes just not smart enough in my own eyes? I need to do a better job on my diet, I need to exercise more, I need to, need to, need to … And with each passing thought, I slowly begin to look like that sagging pine tree.

Stop Beating Yourself Up

Here’s the difference between that pine tree and your beaten-up self. The pine tree looks like that because it’s being crowded out by other trees around it. But, when you beat yourself up, it’s from self inflicted wounds. It seems kind of ridiculous when you think about it. Take a look at these quotes: 

    • “The shortest shot on the golf course is 6 inches, the six inches between your ears.”
    • “If we don’t beat ourselves, I like our chances of winning the game.”
    • “We are our own worst enemy.”
    • “What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (Unlike our little tree that gets crowded out from what “lies” around it, it’s what lies inside of us).
    • Just recently making the list, while waiting in a doctor’s office, from the cover of Golf Digest “I had to stop saying I suck” Max Homa, Professional golfer, and the list could go on forever. I realized that I’m not alone.

I realize from a lifetime of living and raising children, there’s a big world out there. That world can often seem as if it’s trying to crowd you out, trying to grab all the light and nutrients. You have to accept that challenge.

Get Out of the Way

The one thing I have come to realize is that you can overcome any challenge if you just get out of your own way. Yes, that world out there is going to keep coming after you, so you just need to have yourself on your side. When you can accomplish that, you can accomplish anything.

As this year winds down, and a new year is looming, I hope you can reflect on when you may be being hard on yourself and to stop and get you on your side. This will always present a challenge, but through perseverance you can win this battle and live a much happier life as a result. And not get too bent out of shape over little things like when you spill a cup of hot coffee in your lap because you were trying to carry too many things at once. You know, for example 🙂

Game Exercise: Start catching yourself doing something right. There is a great little leadership develop book entitled: The One Minute Manager by Ken Blachard and Spenser Johnson. It is a great read and I encourage you to read it. The basic premise is that so often we go through life pointing out mistakes and faults as opposed to recognizing achievement and talents. I have started the habit of catching myself doing things right and praising myself instead of punishing myself. Yes, it can be challenging and I’m sure it will be an never-ending endeavor but one that I have already witnessed the rewards. Try it yourself. And live a happier life.

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HAPPY HOLIDAY SPECIAL.

Our book Don’t Be a Cow! will be on sale through the holidays for just $9.99.