Monday, 9 July 2018

It's cold- be happy!


Today is a bit of a gloomy winters day, overcast and damp.  Not a very inspiring day.  I am looking for my cozy cocoon. Yes, I am one of those people who can be severely affected by the weather.  Of course, my mood can be greatly improved by a mug of steaming coffee!
So, sitting here in the study, the aroma of aforementioned beverage fortifying my spirit, I am contemplating the concept of happiness.  There is so much that can be said about this topic, but I do not really have the time to go into a lengthy discussion, so I will just share a few thoughts on the subject.

We all come into this world as innocent souls.  Our needs are basic and so easily met.  Babies do not contemplate happiness, they just are.  Happy, that is.  They are so quick to smile and they laugh so easily, and with total abandon, at the silliest of things. Yet, as they grow older they smile less and their laughter loses its sparkle.  Happiness becomes an elusive commodity that has to be searched for, researched and the loss of it mourned.  Happiness has become the victim of daily living.  

I have identified a number of culprits responsible for the demise of happiness.
The first one is FEAR.  As we grow older (not necessarily wiser) we become afraid of getting hurt.  We are afraid to show our emotions, we fear ridicule and failure.

The next culprit is our OWN beliefs.  We believe that happiness is meant for others.  We start to attach conditions to our happiness.  We believe that happiness has to be earned or deserved.  If I do this, then I will be happy, etc. We start believing that happiness will come from the fulfillment of my desires.  We think we will be happy once we get that promotion, or when I marry my lover.  We equate a new car or a bigger house with happiness. This is simply not true.  Happiness is free to all.  It has no price tag or a set of rules to comply with.  

EXPECTATION is another enemy of happiness.  We expect our lives to go in a certain direction, we expect people to react to us in a certain manner or we expect a specific outcome and when that does not happen we blame it for our unhappiness.  The extent to which our needs and expectations are met equals our level of happiness.  As long as we have this mindset we will continue to miss out on real happiness.

Most of us have PRECONCEPTIONS.  We have an idea of what our ideal partner should be like, what marriage should be like, what my life at forty should be like.  These expectations are often set in stone and when faced with real life, and that it often sucks, we are unhappy.  We have been so focused on these expectations that we cannot see beyond our disappointment.

SELF-DEPRECATION is a mortal enemy of happiness.  We are often so hard on ourselves.  We torment ourselves with thoughts of not being good enough, not deserving enough and disappointing ourselves.  We have to learn to forgive ourselves and to embrace ourselves for the wonderful, unique beings we have been created to be.  We will never find the happiness we are seeking as long as we run ourselves down.  Instead nurture yourself and make peace with yourself.  Remind yourself that you have been created worthy of love and happiness.  

So, in summary.  Let go of fear.  Re-evaluate your beliefs.  Have realistic expectations.  Relinquish your preconceptions and bury the hatchet you are holding over your own head. Make a conscious choice, not one day, but right now, right where you are.  Choose happiness every moment of the day.  Be happy!

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Be a Weed



Today I read about Trudy Smith, a 102 year old painter from Australia who only started painting at the age of 85.  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-05-01/trudy-smith-102-year-old-painter/9710314 .  She calls herself a loner and does not really enjoy talking about herself.  What a wonderful example she is to all of us who so readily use the excuse of being too old to do this thing or that.  Society tends to put people in categories.  We get evaluated, judged, labeled and filed into little boxes.  Few of us are brave enough to break free from those constraints.  We fear what the world would say if we dare prove their labeling system wrong.   It is this fear which keeps our dreams earthbound, and eventually they die with us.
Almost daily I encounter people who tell me that they have always thought that they would have loved painting, or dancing or running marathons, but that they believed that they are not talented enough, that people would think them silly or that they are too old to do it.  "I have had my chance at life, now it is too late" they say.  What absolute nonsense!  They have bought into the lie society has told them.  The truth is, it is NEVER too late to pursue your dreams, but we have many reasons why we believe we can't.  What is your reason?  Are you too busy?  Is it maybe not the opportune time?  Perhaps you think you have too little knowledge or experience?  Maybe you consider yourself too young/ too old or maybe you feel that it would cost too much to make your dream a reality.  Whatever your reason, and no matter how much you truly believe that it is a valid excuse, I want to tell you that it is a smokescreen.  The real reason is much simpler.
So, what is it that actually stands between you and your dreams?  
It is FEAR!!!!
Everything you dream of, everything you desire and hope for is on the other side of the wall which fear has erected between you and your dreams and your life's purpose.
You are NOT too busy, you are afraid that people will say you are wasting your time.  You are afraid to invest the extra hours it might ask of you.  It IS the best time, because NOW is the only time which is ours.  Postponing our dream ultimately leads to it being packed into a dusty box somewhere in the attic of our minds and ultimately to regret.  Maybe you do not know everything you should, maybe you are inexperienced, but knowledge is the click of a button away, and experience come with time while you are DOING your dream.  Too Young?  Youth is an advantage.  Your zest and energy will more than make up for your youthfulness.  Too old?  Never.  With age comes wisdom, patience and perseverance.  
Something which Trudy Smith said has struck a chord with me.  She said: "Be a weed — then you belong to everywhere or anywhere."
We all know how hardy a weed is.  Its grip on the earth is quite tenacious.  A weed also does not ask permission to grow somewhere, it just does.  It does not care what the other flowers and plants have to say about it.  Weeds withstand wind, rain and drought.  No matter what, they keep on growing.  The bees, butterflies and birds feed on their nectar and seeds, some weeds are even used in the manufacture of perfume.  Interestingly, often what some people may call weeds, others cultivate in their gardens.
So, no more excuses.  What is your dream?  Now, go on, start living it!

Monday, 30 April 2018

Perfect Plan



This weekend I visited a friend of mine I have not seen in a while.  I noticed that she seemed quite preoccupied.  When I asked her what was bothering her she answered that she and her husband were facing a difficult decision.  Neither of them knew what the best choice would be and none of the advice friends had given them made their decision any easier.  What a relief it would be to them if only somebody could wave a magic wand and fix all their problems.
Their situation reminded me about a story I have heard some years ago.

A little boy was walking along and in the veld he found a cocoon, he picked it up and noticed that on the inside there was a butterfly struggling to come out. He immediately took out his pocket knife and cut the cocoon open. Very proud of himself, he helped the butterfly out and placed it on the nearest flower. However, instead of spreading its wings to fly off, it fluttered weakly for a few moments and then fell over and died. Dismayed the little boy ran home and told his father about the incident. The father explained to the little boy that the butterfly needed to struggle its own way out of the cocoon in order to grow its wings strong enough to survive. When the time was right, it would have emerged from the cocoon, delicate yet strong. This story struck a chord with me. So often, when we find ourselves in a difficult situation, we wait for somebody to come along and help us out. Some knight in shining armour to fight our battle for us, some Samaritan to help carry the burden and often we will just give up the fight, but it is in the struggle, in overcoming, that our strength lies. The butterfly is exquisitely and perfectly created by God, and the inborn struggle it has to go through is also part of God's perfect plan, it serves a divine purpose. When the time is right, God's plan will reveal itself to us, and looking back we can see how it all worked together to complete the picture. Without that time spend in the cocoon, the struggle towards freedom, the caterpillar would forever stay just that, a caterpillar. In Jer. 29: 11 the Lord promises that He has plans for us, plans that we may prosper, not plans to harm us, but when the time is right, his perfect time......

Monday, 16 April 2018

Road Trip!



One thing which is a characteristic of most humans is the desire to move from one point in our lives to another.  We all have an inborn need to progress, to achieve more or discover new horizons.  Having goals and aspirations give our lives direction and momentum.  It helps us to feel invigorated and fills us with a sense of hope and anticipation.  
Many people, however, never seem to achieve their goals.  They have dreams and wishes, but eventually their enthusiasm fizzles out till there is nothing left but the mundane and ordinary.  They become depressed and disillusioned.
The reason for this is that they had no clear plan, and no action backing up their dreams.
Life is often compared to a journey.  I absolutely agree with that view.
In order to turn our dreams into reality, we have to approach it as one would when undertaking a journey.
First of all we need to know exactly where we want to go.  We have to know the destination.  We certainly do not just get into our vehicles and aimlessly start driving around hoping we will get somewhere wonderful.  We need to decide where we want to go and why we want to go there.
Without a clear understanding of our destination it will be easy to be sidetracked onto roads meandering nowhere.
Once we know where we are heading it is important to have a map of the road we have to travel to get there.  What is the best way to go about reaching your destination?  Do I have to take a few workshops or enroll for a course in order to better equip myself?  Maybe it is necessary to work for a few years as an apprentice to gain the necessary skills I need before I can venture out on my own.  Whatever it is, do not delay, map your road ahead.
Once we have settled on the route to take it is necessary to gather everything we need for the journey ahead. Just like a car needs oil and fuel for the road ahead, we need the essentials for our journey.  How much money will be needed, what skills are necessary and what resources will be useful along the way.  I also have to plan what pit stops I need to make on my journey.  I have to break my journey up into smaller manageable sections, smaller goals, that will ultimately take me to my destination.
After deciding on the destination, planning the route, gathering all the things needed for the journey and determining where we need to rest along the journey it is time to take action.  This is the stage where many people lose the impetus.  They get caught up in the excitement of the planning, but never go over into action.  We have to get in the car, turn the ignition and step on the accelerator.  Forward is the only way to go, all the time keeping the destination in mind.  However, it is crucial that we enjoy the journey and take in the scenery along the way.  Finally it is advisable that we regularly take a moment to review the journey we have undertaken. We have to take note of what we have learned along the way and what adjustments we have to make.  Were there any detours we had to negotiate?  Are we still on course or do have to recalculate our route?
As we travel along on our journey we have to constantly remind ourselves about the reason we are travelling to our destination and we have to keep our goal in mind.  Although it is important to now and again check our rear-view mirror, we must keep our eyes firmly on the road ahead, because that is the way we have to go.  Above all, enjoy the trip!

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

A Wonderful Legacy


As parents we all know that feeling of wanting to give our children the very best of everything. We would love to give them the moon, the stars and all the world has to offer.  Most of us work hard and often overtime in order to build a nest egg, not merely for our old age, but also to leave our children an inheritance.
However, our true legacy cannot be counted in money or material possessions.  It is found in the things we taught our children, the example of our actions and in the way we loved them.  We leave behind a legacy with every moment we spend with them, gently guide them, listen to them and love them unconditionally.
Every time we encourage somebody instead of criticizing, we invest in them.  The way we make people feel will be engraved on their hearts long after our image has faded from their minds.  Our legacy is every life we have touched with kindness, every person we have inspired and every smile we have sent out into the world.
The greatest inheritance I have received from my parents is the relationship I have with the Lord, their greatest legacy is their words of wisdom which I in turn am passing onto my children.  What will be your legacy?

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Release it


A friend of mine from school was a lepidopterist.  He invited a group of us to view his collection.  He really had quite a variety of butterflies, but I was horrified by it.  Although I knew that the life cycle of butterflies are short, I was saddened by the fact that they could no longer fly around.  Though no longer alive, they were forever held captive by the pins spreading their delicate wings.
This morning I realized that often, we too, tend to be lepidopterists.  We trap our free souring spirits and keep them pinned down with our obsession with the past.  We keep all our past mistakes and hurts neatly pinned down in a display case and we constantly go back there to refresh our memories lest we forget our pain and the lessons learned.  However, the result of this is that we can never be free of the past, we can never soar into the skies of our dreams and hopes. 
Holding onto the past is a sure way to deny ourselves the happiness which can only be found in the now, in this moment.  It prevents us from celebrating what we have today.  Instead of being happy and enjoying what is now, we again read the old newspaper of our lives in the hope that it has something new to tell us.  The past is the past, nothing can change it, it is done.  Let it be.  Make a paper aeroplane  or fold an origami butterfly from it and throw it into the wind.  Let it float away and land in the water.  Let the stream sweep it away.  Release the dead butterflies of the past.  They don't fly anymore.  We have today, we are alive and we are breathing.  Rejoice and be happy.

Monday, 12 March 2018

What is the Point?


An important part of being happy is our ability to take responsibility for our own lives and actions.  We have to be truthful with ourselves.  However, we often deny the role we play in our own lives and happiness. Facing ourselves, our shortcomings and obligations pushes us out of our comfort zones.  It is easier to point our finger at somebody or something else, thus putting the blame elsewhere.  In a way this re-assignment of blame folds us into a cocoon of false happiness, but instead of feeling happy we become more stressed, and more agitated.  When we constantly blame other people or situations we enter a realm of denial.  In this kingdom of denial I become the victim of a "conspiracy".  "Everybody is against me, every situation turns against me and the whole world conspires to make my life miserable."  We are no longer in control of our lives.  This mindset leads as down a slippery road to misery.
In order top regain control of our selves we have to face the truth.  We have to stop pointing fingers at others and start admitting the role I play in my own life.  I have to take responsibility for my own actions.  Nobody can "make" me feel or act in a certain way, because the CHOICE is mine as to how I am going to re-act to their words or actions.  I am not a victim in my life, I am a participant.  It is up to myself to take ownership of my decisions, my actions and re-actions.  I am responsible for my own thoughts and feelings, my past and my future.  It is my choice to ask for guidance and my choice to follow the advice of others or my own ideas.
So, stop pointing a finger at others, because, lo and behold, there are three others pointing back at you.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Be Brave.



Welcome to the next step in our discovery of happiness.
Yes, we all desire to be happy and we want our children to be happy as well.  In fact, we want all our loved ones and our friends to experience happiness. Yet, there are many things which stand between us and our happiness.  One such a thing is fear.  Now, I know that many of you will deny that you are afraid, but even more will ask how, living in the world we are living in today, can we NOT be afraid?
Fear is real and we all experience some form of fear on a daily basis.  Yes, of course the ideal would be to eradicate all feelings of fear from our lives, however, because we live in a real world, with real problems and dangers, filled with real people acting out their own agendas, fear cannot simply be ignored. After all, bravery does not mean the absence of fear, but it means taking action in the presence of fear.  We have to become the master of fear.
Fear has a way to keep us trapped.  It ties us up in knots of inaction.  We cannot pursue our dreams, because we are too afraid.  We cannot apply for that new job, join a new group or go on an adventure because we are simply too scared.  Scared of what?  This is the answer we need to look for.  We have to identify the monster.  As long as we simply say that we are afraid, the monster is faceless and so fierce.  We have to come face to face with it, see its features.  What is it you are afraid of?  Failure, rejection or ridicule?  Do you fear loneliness, attention or commitment?  Maybe you fear disappointment, being caught off-guard or feeling that you are in the dark?
Whatever it is, you have to understand the origin of it.  Knowledge is one of our strongest weapons against fear.  Be Aware of what it is that you fear.
Once you have identified your fear, it is time to banish it from your life.  Renounce it.  Refuse to allow your fear to have authority over you any longer.
Now you need to take stock of your abilities, your talents and your potential.  Acknowledge your strengths.
However, we have to do more than simply recognizing our abilities and strengths, we have to take action and do so with assertiveness. Taking action validates our skills and competence.
 This all in turn empowers us to be brave.  When we are brave we loosen the ties which bind us to the fear monster.  It releases us from its stranglehold. 
Go on, let go of your fear, be brave :
B - Be aware
R - Renounce
A - Acknowledge
V - Validate
E - Empower

... and be happy!


Monday, 5 March 2018

Perspective



During March we are going in pursuit of Happiness.  We want to look at ways to create more happiness in our lives.  It is not so much finding a path to happiness but realizing that happiness IS the path.  Today I want to look at perspective.  We all know the age old question: Is the glass half full or half empty?  It is actually the same thing.  The liquid level is exactly in the middle, but it is the way we look at it which makes all the difference.
These days one can walk in on any conversation and the overall mood of the group would be one of dissatisfaction.  They would be complaining about anything and everything.  Joining such a group soon affects even the happiest person's mood.  Before long the light at the end of the tunnel is not merely switched off, but the globe has fused all together.
We are all aware that it is important to have a more optimistic mindset, but how do we change this culture of negativity which has taken hold of us?  It is all a matter of perspective, the way in which we look at every given situation.  Whenever we are faced with difficult situations and challenges a positive mindset usually leads to positive solutions and actions.  Negativity has a way of keeping us stuck in one place, it results in tunnel vision and deprives us of hope, while a positive mindset opens our eyes to new possibilities and it sets us free.  
Complaining is the easy way out.  Complaining is passive.  We don't have to do anything except express our dissatisfaction.  However, being positive is a choice and an action.  I have to actively look for the good in every situation and take the appropriate action to make life better.
I share with you this quote by Harry Truman:

“A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.” 

Come on, raise your glass, it is half full, life is good.