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Three Thoughts to Make You Instantly Happier

Three Thoughts to Make You Instantly Happier

My fiancee’s sister is in town, along with her five-year-old niece, which means I’ve been temporarily set aside for long bouts of playing “house” and discussions about the new baby on the way in May.

Rather than become upset about my relocation to the periphery of attention, I’m enjoying some extra time to think.

One of the most striking observations I had over the weekend was that many people go out in search of “happiness.”

We really look for happiness in three things: the people around us, the work we do, and our current situation.

This would be fine, if any of these things actually make us happy.  They don’t.

Here are three truths most people never realize until they travel the world, do what they love, and achieve an impossible goal:

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1) No matter where you live, people will be pretty much the same

“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” -Dagobert D. Runes

I’ve lived in three different countries now and have traveled to 9 (I think), and I’ve found this to be absolutely true.  Once you peel back some of the strange ways people do things, you really see that people are the same everywhere.  In Afghanistan, I met slick salesmen and devoted husbands.  In Turkey, I have known noisy neighbors and horrible gossips.  Lately, in Turkey, there’s a huge surge in Justin Bieber fanaticism.  Some people work hard and are happy; some people are very lazy and bored.  Some are happy; some are not.

When I lived in America, I saw much the same habits from the people around me.  Some were happy while others complained.  Some were honorable while others cheated in an attempt to get ahead.  There really is no difference in people on a human level, and once you’ve lived in a foreign country for a few months, you realize this.

I’m not saying there are no differences in culture or thoughts; just that the strange people you find so fascinating are available in your own neighbor hoods, if you care to notice them.

2) Everybody, even people who love their jobs, sometimes hate getting up and going to work

“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” –Steve Jobs

Okay, okay, we’re probably using Steve Jobs’ quotes a little too often, but the man had a good philosophy on work.  I’m told he was horrible to wait on in a restaurant, but that’s neither here nor there.

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Steve Jobs was a strong believer in doing what you love every day.  He refused to work on something which didn’t fill him with passion.  I believe this led to much of his success.

If you read the quote carefully, you will notice he says “too many days in a row.”  Not “today” but “too many.”  There’s a great message there.  He didn’t wake up every day excited to go to work.  Most days, yes, but not every day.

I do what I love for a living.  I get to spend my working hours helping people, answering questions, writing blogs and books, and generally getting to nerd out.  It’s a dream job I worked hard to create for myself.

Even so, some days I want to stay in bed and watch Lord of the Rings.

Every person I know, whether they work for a company or themselves, has days they don’t “feel it.”  Pushing through these days and getting the job done is essential if you want to succeed.

That being said, if EVERY day over the course of season feels like this, you should move on to something else.

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Understand, we all have days we don’t want to work, even those of us living our dreams.

3) Whatever you’re going through, it will pass soon, for better or worse

“This too shall pass…” –mistakenly attributed to The Bible

Full disclaimer: I’m a Christian and for years I believed this was part of a Bible Verse.  Imagine my surprise when I learned this is nowhere in the Bible.

Regardless if this came from the Bible or not, it’s still a great truth for all of us to remember.

Think back on your happiest memory, that single moment in time when everything was going right.  Got it?  Are you still every bit as excited as you were then?  I’m betting (unless reading this post is the happiest moment of your life, which if that’s the case, I’m very flattered) you have lost some of that excitement.

Now, think back on the lowest moment of your life, when everything seemed hopeless and you saw no relief on the horizon.  Got it?  Are you still as depressed and scared as you were then?  If you are, please don’t blame my writing style.  Leave your suggestions in the comments section below and I will furiously work to be less depressing (I promise).

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Either way, the ups and the downs have passed and will pass you again.  This is the natural way our lives work.

We all have rough times and good times; great successes and failures; deep love and crushing heartache.  Life does this to us, and it’s the best part of life.  If we didn’t experience the down times, we wouldn’t appreciate the great moments.  If we didn’t have the great moments, we wouldn’t understand when things weren’t going well.

As I write these closing words, I think on them once again and I’m smiling.  I realize that even though I live in a foreign country, do work I enjoy every day, and understand how fleeting life’s moments are, I could easily be just as happy back in Nashville, working at Dell.

I’ll close with Abraham Lincoln as he said “Folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Wise words for all of us to remember.

Trent

P.S.  There is actually very little evidence Abraham Lincoln said this.  Dr. Frank Crane first published this in a newspaper in 1914, attributing the quote to President Lincoln.  There has been nothing to suggest this quote ever surfaced before then.  Fun fact. :)

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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