Stressed Out? Can’t Seem to Shake It Off?

woman pulling her hair out

You’re Not Alone.

It is said that pressure is standing over a 5-foot putt to win the Masters Golf Tournament when you know you have trained as hard as you can train for this moment. Stress is standing over a 5-foot putt to win the Masters when you know you haven’t trained.

For the non-golfer, pressure is having to make an ‘A’ on a calculus exam when you have studied and know the material inside and out. Stress is having to make an ‘A’ on a calculus exam when you were out with friends all weekend. Okay, enough about sports and academia; how does stress differ from pressure in our daily lives? Below, in multiple choice format, I’ve outlined a few of the things that may have caused stress in your life. See if any of these sound familiar:

a) Air conditioner, drier, and transmission all fail the same week (and it’s mid-July)

b) Child raising – pick a year or decade

c) Paying the mortgage

d) Work, and Co-workers, bosses, employees, & deadlines

e) ALL OF THE ABOVE

collage of words stress shedule busy timeIf you didn’t choose ‘e’ you either haven’t lived long enough or you’ve been very fortunate! But, for most of us, it can sometimes be a little overwhelming, don’t you think?

Several years ago, there was a time in my life where for 18 months, give or take a month or two, I felt as if I were standing over that 5-foot putt to win the Masters. I was confronted with a serious health condition as well as a business that I had started 20 years earlier that was struggling to stay afloat. Can anything else go wrong? It can! Imagine standing over a putt for 18 months, or studying for a calculus exam for 18 months. That’s how this felt.

During this 18-month period I thought I was stressed out. (Now, don’t get me wrong. I was thankful for the fact that I was still standing. And, I have always been thankful for the successful years I’ve had. It just seemed that no matter what I tried to do to turn things around, everything made things worse). I tried all the normal stress relief activities. You know the gig, I’m sure: exercise, yoga, reading, A pressure gauge in the redmeditating, praying, walks in nature (well okay that doesn’t count for me since that is my job), but you name it, I tried it.

Stress or Pressure?

Then one day it dawned on me:

I did all these things to relieve stress yet when I laid down to go to sleep at night all of those challenges that were stressing me out were still there.

This isn’t stress after all, I thought, this is pressure. It was pressure to perform the way I knew I could. All the days in life leading up to this period had trained me for this moment. Think about that calculus exam. It’s not just the material on the exam, but it’s a lifetime of studying and practicing math that all play a part in the final performance.

As we all know, sometimes life can be extra challenging. These challenges don’t go away just because we do a 45-minute yoga session. Sure, you may feel better, but the problems, obstacles, and challenges are still there.

When we can understand that our previous life experiences have prepared for these moments, we can put these challenging times into a context of our entire life. And actually, that is what all the stress-relieving activities do for us. They help us to see our challenges in the proper context. Thus, they become something that is very manageable and not so overwhelming.

Stressed? You’ve Got This.

When I had realized that all my struggles and so-called misfortunes in life had prepared me for this moment, albeit an 18-month moment, it totally changed my perspective on the situation I was facing. And as I gained this new perspective, miraculously the stress went away.

Of course, if instead of studying for that calculus exam, you were outside looking at leaves, twigs, and earth worms, maybe, just maybe it’s time to make a life change! You may be stressed! And the pressure is getting to you. See what I did there? 🙂 A blog for another day.

In the meantime, to live a happier life, try looking at the stress points in your life and see if you can put them in the proper context so you too can gain a new perspective and a happier life.

What a game-changer moment in life!

Song: 

Reader Choice: Choose the happiest/ feel good song you know. I chose “Cheeseburger in Paradise” by Jimmy Buffett. Probably had to do more with the diet I’m on than anything else. Another day and time, I may have chosen something different.

Game Exercise/Life Changer: 

While listening to your chosen song, write down a few stress points in your life. Are they going to go away with Yoga or whatever your stress release may be? Now look at these stress points as pressure points that you have been training your whole life for.

Soulful Quote: 

“Stress and Pressure. One is perceived, one is real, both come from within.”

 

I think this is Fascinating! You?

Isn’t that fascinating!

I was recently having a conversation with someone, who was telling me about something that was really fascinating to them. I could tell they truly were fascinated because of the emphatic way in which they were describing the event. Of course, it was something that was unfolding on a newscast and pertained to politics, both of which are major turn-offs for me these days; my thoughts were wanting to go someplace else. Eventually, I lost the battle of trying hard to listen and let my thoughts drift where they wished.

Surprisingly enough, where my thoughts took me were somewhere fascinating. No, literally fascinating, because I People on cellphonesthought about the word itself and what is fascinating to me. Naturally, before they had finished speaking I had already formulated my response, which I hate doing because it means that I wasn’t listening, right? Okay, that’s my confession for the day; now on to my response.

You know what I find fascinating?

So, you think that’s fascinating, huh? You know what I think is fascinating? I think that my life is fascinating. Each day I wake, I find a whole new set of challenges. There are so called “bad things” that occur and there are also “good things” that occur. Generally, it is some combination of the two. When you wake every morning, you just never know what the mix of bad and good might be that day. Isn’t that fascinating? With so much fascination contained within my own life, I just can’t imagine why someone would want to turn on the television and watch the fascination with someone else’s life.

Now don’t get me wrong: I totally understand how it is easy to get caught up in these moments. Back in the day, it was just television that drew people into this situation, but today we have social media which just begs us to get fascinated with other’s lives.

It’s you.

Person in silhouette of tv screen of white noiseAs a person who likes to promote happiness within people, I want to ask you: What are you fascinated with? Is it your own life? Through my life, I have known and met a lot of people. Enough to know that all of us have fascinating lives. I like to think of them as stories, fascinating stories. And that’s it. Because each day holds an adventure for each and every one of us. Please make sure that you enjoy your adventure, and if you are fascinated with another’s story, that’s okay; just don’t be consumed by it. Remember, you’re life is fascinating.

Don’t be a Cow! Become fascinated with your own life.

Soulful Quote: ” … don’t be fooled by the radio, the TV or the magazines/ They show you photographs of how your life should be/ But they’re just someone else’s fantasy”  – Songwriter Dennis De Young. Lyrics from the song “Grand Illusion”

Song: Grand Illusion, Styx

Game Exercise/Life Changer: A toughie this week. Go one day without television or social media. Then throughout the day as you pick up your phone to check social media, ask yourself what is the fascination with my life? Believe me. it’s there; you just need to take time to find it.

 

 

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11 BOOKS to read to improve your social skills

Man speaking in front of a group

We are thrilled to be included in this list of books to read to improve social skills.

And we’re in very good company. Please take a moment to look at the list, make a comment or share. It will mean a lot to us. And if you don’t have a copy of Don’t Be a Cow! or would like to share with a friend or family, be sure and take a look!

Many folks have told us we have already empowered them to “find their own paths.

 

Connecting your Kids to Nature better

We recently came across this article on the Mom Blog Society, and being huge fans of Mother Nature, wanted to share these great tips.

By the way, not only are are big fans of Nature, but with every sale of a Don’t Be a Cow! book, a portion of the profit goes toward Lands and Trees Unlimited, a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation (wise use) of our nation’s land and trees. Think about it…land and trees serve as more than America’s natural resources…they help us create memories that last forever.

“How to get your kids closer to nature”

Procrastination: Are you guilty? Would you like to end the control it has over your life?

fighting procrastination concept - do it phrase on color sticky notes posted on a cork bulletin board

There are actually two types of procrastination that I learned recently:

  1. Procrastination with deadlines – with this type of procrastination the effects are contained due to the deadline itself
  2. Procrastination without deadlines – with this type of procrastination the effects are not contained, as there is no deadline. This type of procrastination is long-term, can lead to unhappiness, and regrets. He says “the frustration was not that they could never achieve their dreams, but that they couldn’t even start chasing them.”

We all Procrastinate.

I learned this from a great presentation by Tim Urban, “Inside the mind of a master procrastinator.” Tim goes on to say that he thinks that we are all procrastinators to some extent. I tend to agree; however, I don’t believe that this is a function of procrastination as much as it is a function of not really knowing what it is you want. It is the ole “what do I want to be when, I grow up?” (when your 60). Sometimes it might sound more like this: “when I retire, I’m going to do ‘X.’” If you can procrastinate for 30+ years until you retire, I would say that you are a pretty good procrastinator.

I think this goes beyond procrastination: I call this “cowism.” It’s going through life not thinking about what it is you really want to do and be (Wait for retirement? Really?). 

What happens when we don’t think about what it is WE want to do? We end up following the lead of others. Someone give me a ‘moo’ please, MOOOOOO! Thank you!   

When did we get here?

“How could this happen, and certainly not me!” I hear you say. Careful, it creeps up on you so very subtly, and it can go on for many years. It’s no wonder why so many people feel like they are going through life not living up to their full potential. Feeling like something is missing. Because they are.

The Don’t Be A Cow! lifestyle is the answer. As I lay out in our interactive book, I’m going to share with you a Soulful Quote and Song.

Soulful Quote: From the lyrics from “The Impossible Dream” Man of La Mancha

“This is my quest, to follow that star

No matter how hopeless, no matter how far

To be willing to give when there’s no more to give

To be willing to die so that honor and justice may live

And I know if I’ll only be true to this glorious quest

That my heart will lie peaceful and calm when I’m laid to rest”

What is your quest?

Song: Digging deep for this one: “Dream Weaver” by Gary Wright

Game Exercise/Life Changer: What’s your dream? What do you want?  Find a quiet comfy place maybe even include some comfort food, lean back and allow yourself to dream. Don’t allow the voices of the herd to creep in and tell you things like “it’s unrealistic” just dream and enjoy the moment.

BONUS: Check out Tim Tebow talk about his new book, “This is the Day.”

Have You Checked Your Pride Lately?

What I ‘m talking about is internal pride: That pride that gives us self-confidence, makes us believe in ourselves, and makes us happy and productive individuals.

This time of the year there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of pride in the air. It’s often easy to see pride displayed when it comes to our favorite ball team. But, what about when you look in the mirror? Pride is something we often don’t think about on a daily basis, but pride provides the foundation to who we are. Pride can be a very positive asset; it can also be somewhat detrimental as I think we have all see this displayed in the sporting world.

What I want to talk about, however, is that internal pride. The pride that gives us self-confidence, makes us believe in ourselves and makes us happy and productive individuals.

Which would you prefer?

Now, how I came upon this particular subject matter at this time was from listening to a local radio program. The deejays – I guess they still call them that – were discussing a poll that asked people if they were given the choice of someone giving them a million dollars or the choice to work and earn a million dollars which would they choose? In both cases, a million dollars was guaranteed and there were no specifics on time; therefore, you would have been given the million dollars in the same time span that it would have taken to earn the million dollars.  So, which would you choose?

I was in disbelieve that the majority of people would rather be given a million dollars than to be given the opportunity to earn a million dollars. This is the perfect example of pride, or should I say, the lack thereof.

We all accomplish many things each and every day. Yes, many of these may seem rather small and of no value, but our daily accomplishments fuel the pride that should exist within us all.

Photo of Peggy Wills the "We Can Do it" Model for the poster

Peggy Wills, the “We Can Do It!” Girl

Give yourself some credit

We as humans build on our accomplishments through life. It is these accomplishments that give us a sense of worth, and ultimately, give us self-confidence and pride. What accomplishment is achieved from someone giving you something? The problem is, we develop this disillusion that our accomplishments need to be on the scale of earning a million dollars, and if not, then we consider it useless. When we refuse to give ourselves credit for our daily accomplishments, no matter how big or small, we can develop a sense of worthlessness. A feeling of worthlessness can lead to many places: none of which is good.

I’m fearful that in today’s world, with so much sensationalizing from television and social media, there are far too many people that don’t understand. Hence, why so many people are willing to just be given the million dollars? Remember, when given the million dollars, the worthlessness still exists. It’s just in a bigger nicer house.

I would rather earn $100 than be given a $1,000,000, because the $100 is worth so much more!

I feel like this has had to have been said by someone before me and if so I apologize for not giving credit: If not, heck I’ll take credit! Hey an accomplishment woo who!

Make your Bed.

Navy Seal Admiral Mc Raven explained at a University of Texas commencement why making your bed every day means you accomplish something  at the start of every day.  Accomplishments don’t have to extraordinary but when you stack all of yours on top of one another you have quite a few. Let accomplishments serve as the base for your pride.

Accomplishments are to be built upon and not rested upon. And yes, there are some days where making out bed would be a great accomplishment. I’ve had days where I’ve thought merely making it out of bed was a great accomplishment.

In our Book, Don’t Be a Cow!, our interactive guide on finding happiness, we share soulful quotes and game exercises for each day’s topic. Here’s one for this blog post:

Soulful Quote: 

“If the accomplishments of yesterday are still a big deal to you today, then you haven’t done much today” 

Mikhail Gorbachev

Game Exercise/Life Changer:

Make a list of your accomplishments, give special attention to the small ones (at least small in your mind – likely not so small in the minds of others). Use this list as your pride check and use your pride check to improve your self -confidence.

… and if you want to pursue your own path to happiness, or know someone who could use a little encouragement, please consider purchasing Don’t Be a Cow! 

Do you make time for yourself? Meditate

Clock with the words Make time for what matters

Ancient Chinese Proverb: Meditate for 20 minutes every day, if you don’t have 20 minutes meditate for 60 minutes every day.

On my journey through life, I can’t over emphasis the importance of taking a little time everyday for yourself. It’s really easier than you think to get started. First, forget everything you have ever heard or seen about meditating. Forget about the 20 minutes or any set amount of time. It is as easy as doing the Game Exercise below every day. (In our book, Don’t Be a Cow!, every day ends with a Game Exercise)

Soulful Quote:“Remember: In life time is all you really have, and you are your greatest asset. Doesn’t it make sense to spend time with your greatest asset-You?” Yours truly.

Jim Croce musicianSong:  “Time in a Bottle” – Jim Croce

Sing it to yourself! (That should be entertaining! – remember I love laughing and keeping things light-hearted)

Game Exercise/Life Changer: Each day this week, take time out of your day for you. This may even be a pause while sitting at your desk, on a walk, lying in bed prior to falling asleep. Or when you first wake up … or the shower – it’s always a good spot! You may even want to slip off and buy yourself an ice cream cone or some other treat. I’m certain you deserve it.

If it has been awhile since you have spent time with yourself, try answering these questions:

            ❋ Who am I?

            ❋ What do I enjoy doing?

            ❋ What do I love doing?

            ❋ Who do I like being with?

           ❋ What would I eat/drink everyday if it weren’t for dietary restrictions?

Have fun with it! Put no limitations on your answers. i.e. “I enjoy ‘X’ but it costs too much.”

And if you want to take it to the next level, actually write your answers down, and think of other questions you would like to ask yourself. This will begin the process of spending time with you. Who knows, you might discover another you. 🙂

– Joe

 

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Be Who You Are! The first step in living a life of happiness!

Be Yourself Quote from Isaac Newton

“Happiness is actually an art of living, which is in us.”

It sounds so simple, right? Be yourself. Be unique. The fact is, I imagine almost everyone struggles with it at times, if not often, within their life time. Why? Because the problem is that when we are truly ourselves, our uniqueness will shine through. This uniqueness makes us different. Although this uniqueness should make us shout from the mountain tops, it often has just the opposite effect. I think some of that stems from a simple matter of semantics: Being “unique” has a nice ring to it; however, when we see ourselves as being “different,” often we have the tendency to go negative and feel “like an odd ball,” or someone who isn’t liked. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Why? Your friends are your friends because of your uniqueness, not in spite of it.

Just remember: your friends are your friends for your uniqueness. If it were for your sameness – and we were all the same – then everyone would be everyone’s friend and eveyone would be the same. My head hurts.

How to: It begins with risk, as in are you willing to risk being seen as who you truly are?

Risk has always been a fascinating word to me. When looking at risk from a dictionary definition, risk always equates with danger or adverse circumstances. But, there is another side to risk. It is the side that also holds the potential for great things to happen. Sometimes it feels like we risk our lives for the great thrill of a roller coaster ride. But there are times when we truly do risk our lives, for better or worse. What I really like about risk is that it is this great balancing act between the possibility of a negative outcome and a great outcome.

In the world of finance, this great balance is described as risk vs. return. In finance this balance is directly correlated. This means that the greater the risk the greater the return. Like Newton’s Law’s of Relativity, this law of risk vs. return is absolute. ( Note: believe in this law. Anytime someone offers you great returns on an investment, the risk is directly correlated. Just like the saying “going out on a limb,” we also have “if it’s too good to be true …” both adages based in truth, and risk vs. reward.) But this is an blog on happiness not finance, right? So what does all this have to do with happiness?

It’s really quite simple: If you want an abundance of happiness in your life, be willing to take the risk. A lot of it. You see, I think most of us live somewhere in the middle. We are willing to risk somethings, sometimes; however, often it’s hard to make the next step toward “risking” being happy. Therefore we have good days and bad days.Take the next step. Take the risk in becoming happier.

In our book Don’t Be A Cow! at the end of each chapter we offer a Soulful Quote and Song to round out that day’s exercise. Here’s a quote and a song for today’s blog:

Soulful Quote: “Cause the greatest risk we’ll ever take is by far to stand in the light and be seen as we are” -from the song,  “Stand in the Light” by Jordan Smith

Song: “Stand in the Light” by Jordan Smith

Game Exercise/Life Changer:

Change – Change to a Happier You

I am always humored when I hear people say things to the effect, “I’m not going to change, I like being the way I am,” or “It’s not going to change me.” News Bulletin: Change occurs, you don’t have a choice in the matter. The only say you have in the matter is in which direction do you wish to change. You basically have three choices:

  • Direct my change to where I want to go
  • Change how others want me to be
  • Happenstance – just drift around going wherever the currents take you

Change Happens

For those who have their heels dug in refusing to submit to change, I suggest you go back and take a look at some photos of yourself, family and friends (people you see on a regular basis) that are five, ten years old. This is really a good exercise for us all to do from time to time. Change is often so slight, so incremental that it goes totally unnoticed.

When we start embracing the change that is naturally occurring in our lives on a daily basis, we can then begin to manage it, lest I say actually control it – well at least in part. There will always be things in our life that are beyond our control.

Use this Technique

Same tree 15 years later

Same tree, fifteen years later

Remember doing fractions in school? Reducing everything down to its ‘least common denominator”? This is also a major philosophy employed in problem solving. Strip away all the minutia, all the distractions surrounding the issue, and get down to the core of the problem.

Now let’s try to apply this technique to change in our lives. Let’s reduce it down to its least common denominator. Change occurs daily (actually by the minute and by the second, but we won’t go there!) For this exercise, I am also assuming you have chosen the first bullet from the list above and want to direct the change in your life, for this is the only way to a happier you.

We must first strip away everything down to the least common denominator. And in the case of change, since it occurs daily, it only makes sense that we consider only the changes of today – this day.

How might this look in our lives?

  • I need to eat healthy today
  • I need to exercise today
  • I need to put a little money into savings today
  • I need to call an old friend today
  • I need to ………………………. today

Does this seem ridiculously simplistic?  Maybe, I also understand that you may say this works with some things but not all things. But remember, problem solving techniques work on all types of problems. Whether its math, what to wear or changing a hairstyle, even a job,  problem solving is a logical sequence of procedures to, well, solve a problem. No matter the problem, it always works.

Putting it to work

Let me put in context from the list above. Today “I am going to exercise and eat healthier.” Doesn’t that sound much easier and more doable then, “I have to lose ten pounds this month”? I get started, I’ve made the commitment to do this diet and jog every day. I will do this by diet and jogging every day.

Day one I sprain my knee. So much for that plan. What next? Change to a new plan!

To incorporate the Don’t Be A Cow!lifestyle into your life, you must learn to embrace and direct the change in your life on a day-to-day basis.

Because remember:

  • “Today is all you have, yesterday is gone, and tomorrow never comes!”

Soulful Quote:“We are the change we seek” President Barack Obama

Song:(From Day 28 – Don’t Be A Cow!)Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitude. Jimmy Buffett

Game Exercise/Life Changer:Look back at some old photographs, take one or several with you today so you can look at them throughout the day. Make a mental note: “I have changed.” Then give yourself one little thing to change for only today.

*An exercise guaranteed to help you live a happier life!!

Don’t Be A Cow!Be You, Be Happy!