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Content with Content

13 May

I love Dairy Queen and Diet Pepsi.  In excess, neither of them is particularly good for me, but indulging in the forbidden now and then is enjoyable.

In my normal environment, I choose not to test the limits of my willpower and deliberately restrict access to both of these.  However, I recently found myself staying in a hotel where DQ guarded the entrance to the food court and Diet Pepsi was on sale (half price!).

Indulging seemed like a good idea at the time.  Because I don’t do this often, once should have been enough, but it wasn’t.  That test of willpower, remember?  A two-day bellyache redefined the term “intestinal” fortitude and reminded me that, although I got what I wanted, I also got some things I didn’t want.

And you know what?  I’m okay with that.  I am content.  I made a choice and I am content with both the content and the consequences of that choice.  After all, I did enjoy the ice cream and I enjoyed the soda, too.  I wasn’t thrilled with the rest of it, but it was my choice.  No one forced me.  It didn’t happen to me.  I made it happen, and I alone am responsible for the consequences of my actions.

Accepting the content of your life and your life choices leads to contentment.

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Happy and Content

6 May

Did you ever notice that you don’t make yourself happy?  That, no matter what you do or how hard you try, you really can’t make yourself happy? 

Did you ever wonder why?

Happiness….  Well, it just “happens.”  Happen-ness.  It happens to you.  You take no action.  It is entirely out of your hands.  Something happens to you and, if you’re lucky, it makes you happy.   You have no control over it.

Read that again: you have no control over your own happiness.

Now, that may sound depressing, but it’s not — because there is something better.

Better than happiness?

You bet.

Contentment.

Happiness is short-term.  It’s an adrenalin rush — that high you get when all feels right with the world for just that brief moment in time.

But like any other adrenalin rush, it can’t last.  What do you do when the moment is gone?  Do you mourn its passing and try to find another rush, another high, another happiness in a never-ending cycle of want, need, and desire for something beyond your control?

That’s a common enough reaction, but it doesn’t have to be.  You do have another option.  When the intensity passes and the excitement wanes, you can do something else.

You can be content.  

Contentment lasts.  Contentment is a choice, something you can and always will control.  That’s the glory of it.  Other things may make you happy, but only you can make you content.

Only you.  It is entirely in your hands.

In our society of over-achievers, “contentment” is often equated with “settling” (often followed by “for less”) but I would argue that contentment is something very different.

Contentment is satisfaction.  

You know that feeling you enjoy over a job well done?  Or maybe the pleasure you get from doing something nice for someone else?  Yeah, that feeling.  

That feeling lasts.  More importantly, it’s something you did.  You control it.  You made yourself satisfied.

And that, my friends — that satisfaction with yourself — is contentment.

Feels good, doesn’t it?

Thank you, Mr. Chevy Truck Driver!

24 Apr

I read that having good manners is making a serious come-back.

Leaving the gym this morning, I watched a guy pack his gear into the honking-big black Chevy truck parked next to my Ford Escape (which looked like a VW beetle by comparison).  He got into his truck and I put my gear in my car.  Then I got into my car.

You can see that, clearly, I’m about a minute behind his progress.  I waited for him to back out before I did, but he didn’t turn on his engine.

I looked over at him and he motioned for me to go first. I smiled and waved that he should go first — after all, he did get there first, and I have no problem with waiting my turn — but he shook his head and waved me on. I waved thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Chevy truck driver. You gave my day a nice start.

Checklists

7 Mar

I’ve never been a big fan of writing lists, but I have grudgingly acknowledged that they can sometimes be of value.

Then I read this: The Checklist Manifesto.

You can get it in hardback, dirt cheap in used paperback, or for your Nook or Kindle.  I don’t care how you get it, but get it and read it.

Not only is it interesting — we’re talking fighter pilots and medicine, David Lee Roth and M&Ms, Walmart and Katrina, that kind of interesting — it will change how you think about checklists.

Trust me on this.  You will thank me.

20 Days and Counting

3 Mar

Three weeks from now, I will be in the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Natura snoring blissfully, weary from overnight travel and the time zone change.

In the past few months, I’ve been preparing for what I’ve been calling my “adventure of a lifetime,” and this is what I think I have achieved:

  • No to Glacier-Splatting: Physical fitness increased for the hike.
  • Yes to Electricity: Converters purchased for the electrical essentials.
  • Maybe to “I’ve been lost here before”: Icelandic pronunciation has improved, and asking for directions might actually include the name of a road instead of fish bait.

Now come the lists:

  • What do I need?  What do I want?  What can I live without?
  • What do I see?  Where do I go?  What do I do?
  • Did I cancel mail delivery?  Did I give the fish their week-long food tablet?  Did I turn down the heat?

I’m open to suggestions!

Luck is a verb.

11 Jul

The other day, someone told me that I was very lucky.  I was a professional photographer (I’ve sold exactly three photographs), professional writer (half a dozen articles), had a good job and a wonderful family.  She said that just doesn’t happen to her.

And she’s right.  I am fortunate and grateful every day that I have had some recognition for my work, that my kids are happy and healthy, and that it’s been a long time since I needed food stamps.

She’s also right that it just doesn’t happen to her.

Why?  Because it doesn’t “just” happen.  To anyone.

Luck “happens” when three “rights” collide: being in the right place at the right time with the right product.  That’s it.  That’s the secret of success.  That product might be the experience you need to land a job, a photograph that someone wants, or — and I’m serious here — a kind word when a kind word is needed.  (That action will pay big dividends down the line in karma alone.  But that’s a different blog.)

So how do you be in the right place at the right time with the right product?

You have do DO something.  It doesn’t just happen.  You have to take action.

If you come home from work and park yourself on the couch or in front of the computer all night, guess what?  Nothing is going to happen.  It won’t.

I’m guilty, too.  I’m guilty of taking a dirty dish out of the dishwasher to wash by hand because I forgot to run it.  (Seriously, folks, what’s the point of having an automatic dishwasher if you forget to turn it on?)

I’ve also been known to spend five minutes with a hair dryer in the morning, burning my fingers trying to dry a pair of hand-washed undies because, instead of doing laundry the night before, I watched Bill Engvall‘s 15 Degrees Off Cool on Netflix (which I highly recommend, by the way).

But you can’t do that every night.  If you want to be lucky, you have to DO something.  You create your own luck.  You can’t sell photos that sit on your computer.  You don’t sell articles that you don’t submit.  You can’t have great relationships if you don’t spend some time with people.

Luck is a verb, folks.  Get out there and do something.  Get lucky!

 

 

Convenience

2 Apr

I find it interesting that we almost universally choose to save time and money, and then wonder why we are not content.

Our fast-food culture has provided us with many amazing conveniences, like instant messaging and instant coffee, but you know what you won’t find on any 99-cent, 60-second-guaranteed delivery “convenience” menu?

Anything worth having and keeping.

How do I know?

Because I’m just like you, and I do it all the time.  I take the fast road to work instead of enjoying the beautiful views of a drive that takes only ten minutes longer.  Worse, I grab a fast-food breakfast on my fast-drive commute, which means I’m not savoring the meal any more than I’m savoring the scenery.

I’m not savoring living.

The next time you think your  life needs a quick, fast fix — stop and think!  What is this worth to you — really worth?  Is it worth having and keeping?  If it is, can you really do it  well in only 60 seconds with a 99-cent budget?

Maybe….but maybe not.

If you’re like most people, probably not.  If you’re like most people…even your hugs don’t last 60 seconds.

Maybe, with just a little more time and a little more energy… well, maybe we’d be just a little more content with our lives.