Happiness and Success Pitfalls to Avoid

                                        Stop doing things that don't help

                              your happiness and success and

                              do what does...

Forget mistakes, forget failures, forget everything, except what you're going to do now and do it. Today is your lucky day." - Will Durant

Don't Let Your History Be A Trap For You
Where you've been and what's happened to you aren't important now. As Wayne Dyer said, "A boat's wake doesn't propel it forward." Propel yourself to where you're headed now, and what you're going to do today to get there. That's what really counts.

How can we make this happen? As the famed lecturer and author Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "What lies behind us, and what lies before us, are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." You have the resources and aptitude to do many things. Work to discover what they, set goals and develop a plan to make them happen. Goals will inspire you as you move throughout your life. You may revise them along the way, but the main idea is not to sit stagnating, and getting nowhere. Remember to find satisfaction in the journey along the way too. It's not just the end that counts. As you move down the road toward your own success, you'll get further clues about should be next. This section provides some cautions to keep you from getting sidetracked.

"You can't have a better tomorrow, if you are thinking about yesterday all the time." - Charles Kettering

Stumbling On Happiness - Dan Gilbert

You probably have seen Dr. Dan Gilbert, a Professor of Psychology at Harvard, many times on television and not realized it. He is the spokesperson for a large insurance company encouraging people to give thought to planning their financial futures. The ad shows a number of people who are asked to place a large colored dot on a wall corresponding to the age of the oldest person they have known. The idea is that you could live a long time too, so you should plan for your financial future. That's a sensible idea, whether you use that company or not. (The oldest man I knew was a very feisty gentleman, who was a friend of my father's, who lived to be 103. As a boy, I remember his flannel shirt pocket being filled  with cigars. He lit one off the other for most of his life. Another George Burns. Dr. Gilbert's book is a good read and its entertaining. Among many other things, he says that we overestimate good events likely to happen, which leads us to be unrealistically optimistic about the future. Reading Stumbling on Happiness, and remembering the principles he espouses in it, is a strong step toward preventing self-delusion - the kind that can cause us to make serious mistakes in judgment.

- We treat details of future events that we don't imagine, as though they were not going to happen. (Effectively, he says we need to keep our heads out of the sand and to think more realistically.)

- Futures we imagine contain some details that our brains invented and lack some details our brains ignored. (Our imagination of future scenarios is flawed because of this. We might envision changing jobs or "moving to the shore" as something that's likely to increase our level of happiness. But in these and other cases, we may be creating a rosier scenario than will actually be likely to exist, and forgetting some things that could subtract from the future experience. So in making decisions affecting happiness, think more globally and get further input to avoid making mistakes.)

- We think we're "thinking outside the box", only because we can't see how big the box really is. (This is a common, and somewhat ad naseum, business axiom : "We need to 'start thinking outside the box'." The problem is, in both business and in personal decisions, we will likely limit our thinking to things that most likely have some relationship to what we are already doing and where we already are. For example, someone who is a computer programmer may be thinking about moving into a similar position with a different company. Some might define thinking outside the box as moving into software development instead. But what about thinking about being a middle school math teacher or opening an auto parts store?

Dr.Gilbert's message is that we need to think far more broadly than we do, and to allow for many more possibilities, to arrive at the best decision. It is a principle of management decision-making that one of the most important steps in the process is determining as many alternative solutions to a problem or opportunity as you can think of. The best decision can't possibly be reached, if the alternatives offered in the first place were too narrow, and didn't include the best option. You can't select it if it's not there.)

- What we feel as we imagine the future is often a response to what's happening in the present. (So don't let your present lock you into your future.)

- Don't compare the present with the past, compare it to the possible.

- The experience of a single randomly selected individual can sometimes provide a better basis for predicting the future than our own imagination can ... The best way to predict our feelings tomorrow is to see how others are feeling today. We don't realize how similar we all are... (Our memory is a flawed and faithless friend that makes our own imagination unreliable. (We like to think that we are all so different that another's experience isn't likely to be what ours will be. Dr. Gilbert says that that is very likely not true. Look to what's happened to others in similar situations, and pay attention to it ,or you could find yourself in the same fix they're in.)

- When we imagine future circumstances, we fill in details that won't really come to pass and leave out details that will....The features and consequences we fail to consider are often quite important. (Take your time. Don't be in a big rush to make decisions that will affect your future.)

DWI’s/DUI’s and Your Future

The following was written by the Texas law firm of Gray, Granbury of Bryan, Texas. It was directed to college students, but it just as easily can apply to high school students, or to any driver:

College Students – How A DWI Can Affect Your Future

A DWI/DUI conviction is serious for anyone, but carries potentially unforeseen consequences for college students. Punishments can be harsh and include fines, loss of privileges, and even jail time. What many younger people do not realize is that this information becomes part of their permanent court record and has life-long consequences. Because a DWI/DUI conviction can lead to difficulty with things such as getting or maintaining a job, school admission, or even renting an apartment, college students are best served by hiring experienced attorneys who handle alcohol-related charges to avoid conviction, if that is possible.

Effects of A Recorded DWI/DUI Conviction

DWI/DUI is a criminal offense that generates a criminal record. Even those who have never committed any type of crime will have a permanent criminal record, if convicted. Attorneys who handle alcohol-related charges caution that a DWI/DUI conviction will show up on a person’s background check for life.

It is important to know that in the state of Texas, it is generally not possible to get a DWI/DUI record expunged, which makes that record permanent. (Check with an attorney in your own state to determine if it can be expunged in your own state.) Experienced attorneys who help clients with alcohol-related charges may be able to obtain a non-disclosure statement for someone who has been convicted, meaning only certain agencies can see the offense. However, the law reserves this for a small number of specific cases with specific facts. The best way to avoid the aftermath of a DWI/DUI conviction is avoid drinking and driving in the first place.

Future Negative Impacts of A DWI Record

A criminal record – even just for a DWI/DUI conviction – is significant in many ways and may be perceived as a black mark on a person’s character. Defense attorneys handling alcohol-related charges understand how troublesome this can be for college students and the negative effects of a DWI/DUI conviction. The following are some consequences of a DWI/DUI conviction which may be unique to college students:
•Education – College students charged with DWI/DUI can find themselves in a great deal of trouble with their school. Defense attorneys who handle these cases advise that many schools will not admit students with a criminal record of any kind. Most schools maintain a policy that anyone charged with a crime while enrolled must report the incident to the school within a certain period of time or face being temporarily suspended or expelled. A conviction may lead to immediate expulsion. At some schools, a convicted student can show the completion of an appropriate alcohol counseling program assigned with the conviction to avoid an expulsion. A DWI/DUI conviction may also affect scholarships or financial aid due to requirements of character or school hours that cannot be obtained because of suspension from school.
•Employment – Many companies will not hire anyone with a criminal record, including a DWI/DUI conviction, particularly if a valid driver’s license is required. Defense attorneys who handle alcohol-related charges note that applicants with an alcohol-related conviction are frequently viewed as high risk: a trait that many companies do not want in its employees. College students convicted of a DWI/DUI could graduate and then, as a result of the conviction, become unemployable in their chosen field.

It is critical for college students to understand that a DWI/DUI conviction may lead to lifelong consequences. A conviction may not only have an effect on school attendance and future desired careers, but also on things such as being able to borrow money or rent an apartment. Due to the serious nature of such an offense, as well as how the state of Texas views DWI/DUI offenders, the best advice from attorneys handling alcohol-related charges is to not engage in any behavior that might result in a DWI/DUI charge or conviction. If you are a college student facing a DWI/DUI charge, then seek out an attorney experienced in handling alcohol-related offenses.

Fighting Depression - Lawrence J. Danks

I've posted a number of  my articles on the AuthorsDen .com website. Their stats counter shows that at the time of this writing approximately 8,000 people have clickedt his article about depression, more than any other article I posted there. That tells me that many good people face this problem. This article might help you or someone else you know that could use it.

When we're in a depressed state, it seems as if it's never going to end. But everything changes over time. We can facilitate the rapidity of a change to more positive territory through actions of our own, such as those suggested below. No matter how bad things might be, or get, you always have hope. You also have God, a higher power, if you are a believer, or "the universe" too, In any case, it's always good to know that you're not alone. Have someone else to turn to and to lean on when you need to.

1. See Your Doctor and/or A Trained Professional
It is important to determine if your depression has a physical cause or whether a referral is needed to a trained psychiatrist or other mental health professional. Sometimes people say, "I've been there already and it didn't help." My suggestion is to try another counselor. Every counselor is not good, nor are they all suitable for us. Just keep at it until you find someone who can help.

2. Don't Try To Go It Alone
Talk with trusted family members and friends who you can rely upon to keep your confidences. Don't feel like a burden. What goes around in life often comes around. You can be there for them in the future when they need some help.

It's going to get better. Change is one constant in life we can rely on. Listen to other people's advice. It's not all going to be good, but it can help you think about things differently, so be willing to try something new, particularly since what you might be doing now might not be working too well. Talking it out can provide you with improved perspectives you may not have had otherwise, even if the advice you got in the process wasn't that helpful.

3. Take The Focus Off Of Yourself
Thinking about your problems 20 hours a day is not helpful. Maybe you can't always get help, but you can always give it. It will help renew your own self-esteem when you see the power you have helping someone else. It also puts your own problems into perspective. Doing this is an important step to getting yourself out of the woods to the point where you can see a clearing ahead that you can keep walking toward. It's ok to crawl sometimes too. Just keep your head up and keep moving in the right direction.

4. Just Do The Next Thing
Sometimes depression can immobilize us to the point where we seem overwhelmed by everything and can't seem to get ourselves to do anything - just dead in the water. Just do the very next thing. Don't worry about tonight, tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. Just do the next thing. If you're depressed when you get up, then wash your face. Then brush your teeth, then get a shower, then get dressed, then put on the coffee,then do the dishwasher, etc, etc. One thing at a time. Just do the next thing and don't think about anything else until you're finished that. Then decide what the next thing is to do. After a while you're going to see that you are staying active and getting things done. Staying active is a big help because it takes your mind off of you and substitutes accomplishments, even if they are very modest, for obsessing about your problems.

5. Get Out!
Don't stay in the house. Get out and take a walk, take a college course or one at the area Adult School, go to the mall, volunteer, or ask someone to go to lunch or dinner with you. It is very important to stay busy at night, but not just watching television. Read, challenge yourself, do something that gets you into a state of "flow" where you are so absorbed in something positive and challenging that you lose track of time. Idle time can be a real enemy when we're pressed down by concerns. Many people can deal with things during the day when they are busier, but nights can be very lonely. Whenever you feel tired, take a short nap and stay up at night until you feel tired enough to go to sleep without a struggle. Sleep helps.

6. Self-Help Reading
This should be a lifetime habit. There are research tested ways for people to be happier. Learn what they are. I have compiled an excellent list of recommended books about happiness in my "Ezine Articles" article : "Be Happy 101: The Happiness Course", which can be located by putting the article title in your search box. One I would particularly call to your attention in dealing with depression is written by Dr.Gordon Livingston M.D., a practicing psychiatrist, who wrote the national best seller: Too Soon Old,Too Late Smart. It contains many positive suggestions for dealing with depression and many common problems that people seek professional advice for.

7. Prayer and/or Meditation
Both provide the opportunity to stop and reflect and to enable us to gain perspective again. Either or both may be helpful.

8. Stop Worrying
The Bible has a wonderful quotation about worry that has helped me many times:

"You worry all day and what do you have to show for it."

How much has your worrying accomplished? Whenever you have a worrisome thought come into your mind, just fight it off by saying, "No! I'm not going there." After you do that for a while, you'll find that the handy affirmation will help you in clearing your head of junk thoughts that don't provide any benefit.

9. Get Physical
I wish I could tell you that I am a model for this, but I'm not even close. However, I do not doubt the wisdom of what I read everywhere. If you can get to the gym (having a trainer helps enforce the discipline), engage in a sport or just walk, it can help. My father had a heart attack when he was about 55 and his doctor told him to start walking. He did until he died at 87. It can't hurt.

10. Regain Perspective and Improve Your Thinking
It's hard to move ahead when you're not thinking straight. Get away from the situation. Take a trip or visit a friend or relative somewhere else. It's can't just be for two days. Stay away for a week or more if you can. Being removed from the situation and doing and seeing different things can help you re-evaluate where you are and provide fresh insights to help you make changes you may need to make.

Economist,essayist and humorist Ben Stein has commented that most problems we face are found right between our ears. A famous "Pogo" cartoon similarly said: "We have met the enemy, and he is us." No real improvement takes place until we improve the way we think about our problems. It's good to remember that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. That strength will help us face many problems in the future with a clearer head and with greater equanimity.

11. Conquering Death and The Loss of A Love
Two of life's great stressors are the death of a loved one and the loss of a love. Both are very difficult to deal with and can immobilize us for a long time. The important thing to remember in both cases is that we still have a valuable life of our own. One of the best tributes we can give to someone we loved who has died is to live a meaningful and enjoyable life. The person who has died certainly would not want mourning of his/her loss to stand in the way of that.

Loss of a love or unreturned love has a pain all its own. It's important to just face reality. Sometimes it's good to realize that we should be careful of what we wish for. A famous quotation says: "Not getting what we wish for can be a stroke of luck." Lives should not be put on hold because we can't get what we want. Just ask yourself how much sleep the person pined for is losing. Usually none. So don't torture yourself. It is not worth it. You will surely recognize this later, but it's better to do it now. The best cure is to get busy finding someone who loves you in the way you need to be loved.

12. Make The Most of Your Unfinished Life
Think about others and be kinder. It doesn't have to be earth shattering. Little kindnesses extended frequently can have excellent impact on others and ourselves.(Chapter 7 of my book, Your Unfinished Life, is entitled "40 Ways To Be Kind". You will be able to think of many other ways that suit your own talents and personality. The entire book is near the end of this online course.)

If being happier by being kinder and taking the emphasis off of ourselves sounds like mumbo-jumbo to you, here's what famed intellectual and philosopher Aldous Huxley had to say about it:

"People often asked me what is the most effective technique for transforming their life. It is a little embarrassing that after years and years of research and experimentation, I have to say that the best answer is - just be a little kinder."

Virtually all positive psychologists say too that true gratification in life is found not in focusing on ourselves and our egos, or by basing our life on material things, but in the service of something higher. Pick something that's meaningful to you. It will improve your self-esteem, and provide you with the peace of mind, personal fulfillment and happiness you seek.

"Bank On Better Sleep" - Money - Get Healthy/Get Wealthy

"Economists Matthew Gibson and Jeffrey Shrader found that one extra hour's sleep per week can result in 5% higher wages."

Mathias Basner, a professor of sleep and chronobiology at The University of Pennsylvania says: "When you're sleep deprived, your productivity is lowered, your mood changes, and your creativity is impaired."

One in three Americans get fewer than the recommended minimum of seven hours a night, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation survey found.

"A chronic lack of z's is also linked to a host of illnesses, including diabetes, obesity and heart disease", says David Brown, a fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and author of Sleeping Your Way To The Top. (Heart disease is New Jersey's leading cause of death.)

(Opinions about "getting more done" on less sleep are about as valid as those who feel they get more done by "multi-tasking" Research shows otherwise. Get more sleep, even if only an extra half hour is added for a while, until that can be increased to an hour. And focus on what you're doing, instead of trying to do three things at once. The improved results should be noticeable. As mentioned in an earlier segment, they were for Arianna Huffington - and she has lots to do!)

Being Too Hard on Yourself

In her book, Radical Acceptance, Tara Brach tells the story of a woman sitting by her dying mother's bedside. Most of the time her mother remained unconscious, but "one morning before dawn she suddenly opened her eyes and looked cleared and intently at her daughter and said, "You know", she whispered softly, "all my life I thought something was wrong with me." Shaking her head as if to say, "What a waste." She closed her eyes and drifted back ito a coma. Several hours later she passed away.

Don't waste your life. It's probably not uncommon to occasionally feel, at some points in a lifetime, that maybe something is wrong with us, but when we do, we should shake it off and have better thoughts. We are what we are, largely what we have made ourselves to be. Spending a lifetime not thinking well of ourselves is surely not a key to finding success and happiness. We all have talents. Use yours and think more about others than about yourself. That's an important step in making real progress to being the best person you can be and one worthy of your own admiration.

Avoid Greed and Selfishness

Too great of an acquisitive want can be a great obstacle to finding happiness. Joel Osteen tells the story of " The Monkeys and the Barrel." Men who were trying to catch monkeys would put bananas in a barrel and then cut a hole in the side of it. The moneys would come and reach inside the barrel and grasp a banana, but they wouldn't let go of it enough to be able to pull it out, making themselves easy prey for capture. When we hold on too tightly to getting materials things we want, we can lose things that are far more important. Set your priorities properly and live by them. Research shows you will be far happier if you do.

Focusing and Avoiding Obstacles


Another element in achieving what you seek is to develop a set of personal guidelines to measure any activities against that you're considering making a part of your overall happiness and helpfulness plan. These self-developed guidelines aren't necessarily those others would seek. They're just ones that you've customized to guide you.To give you an idea of what I mean, I've included my own here, and some rationales:

- Diverse (Need variety.)

- Interesting (Don't want to waste time doing boring things.)

- Flexible (Want to allow for doing a variety of things.)

- Not overly time consuming (Want time to do other things.)

- Alone (Prefer to work alone and do not like working with others.)

- Non-Teaching and Non Public Speaking (Have taught for over forty years. Have no craving to stand in front of more people, other than what I currently do teaching.)

-Non Real Estate (Twenty five years of real estate teaching and three real estate books is enough.)

Now what about you? What customized guidelines can you set for yourself? Use these to determine, if what becomes available to you, meets your guidelines. It doesn't mean the guidelines have to be straitjackets. If something seems very appealing, maybe you need to broaden your guidelines.

Eliminating Obstacles

It's also important to avoid obstacles to happiness, service and success. Television evangelist Charles Stanley has identified these as:

- Fear
- Doubt
- Excuses
- Procrastination
- Laziness
- Violation of Conscience
- Greed

"Help your life be fuller and happier by helping others live better lives. As Joel Osteen says, "You will never be truly fulfilled as a human being, until you learn the simple secret of how to give your life away." Let it be said of you that you were last seen happy - doing good.

Banish Fear:

Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway - Susan Jeffers

Our troublesome heads talking to us:

"You’d better not change your situation... There’s nothing else out there for you... You’ll never make it on your own. You know the voice I'm talking about: “Don’t take a chance... You might make a mistake... Boy, will you be sorry.”

There probably isn't anyone who hasn't been stopped or slowed down because of fear, either now or previously in their lives. Susan Jeffers offers some excellent suggestions for beating back the dragon so you can achieve what's meaningful to you:

Chapter 1

If you knew you could handle anything that came your way, what would you possibly have to fear? Answer: Nothing.

All you have to do to diminish your fear is to develop more trust in your ability to handle whatever comes your way.

Every time you feel afraid remind yourself that it’s simply because you’re not feeling good enough about yourself.

Lack of trust in yourself is stopping you from getting what you want out of life. Knowing this creates a very clear, even laser-like focus on what needs to be changed.

Whatever happens to me given any situation. I can handle it.

Chapter 2

Feel frightened and unsure of yourself? Just keep putting yourself out there. Eventually, the fear will go away.

The fear will never go away, as long as I continue to grow, as long as I continue to stretch my capabilities. As long as I continue to take risks in making my dreams come true.

The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it. Fear dissolves when finally confronted. The doing it comes before the fear goes away.

Not only am I going to experience fear whenever I’m one unfamiliar territory. So is everyone else.

Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness. The more helpless we feel, the more severe is the undercurrent of dread that comes with knowing there are situations in life over which we have no control.

People who refuse to take risks live life with a feeling of dread, that is far more severe than what they would feel if they took the risk necessary to make them less helpless.

Chapter 3

The real issue has nothing to do with fear itself, but rather how we hold the fear. The secret of handling fear is to move yourself from a position of pain to a position of power. The fact that you have the fear then becomes irrelevant. (I can handle it.)

The kind of power I’m talking about leaves you free, since you don’t expect the rest of the world to fill you up. It’s the ability to get yourself to do what you want to do. If you do not own this kind of power, you lose your sense of peace. You are in a very vulnerable place. The truth is that love and power go together. With power, one can really begin to open up the heart.

An ancient sage once said: “The pathway is smooth, why do you throw rocks before you?”

Don’t take yourself too seriously, remember that, “Angels fly because they take themselves lightly.“ You can drop an awful lot of excess baggage, if you learn to play with life instead of fighting it.

Before you take an action ask yourself: Is this action moving me to a more powerful place?

To be really powerful, you need to be in charge of all aspects of your life, work relationships environment, body, etc.

Most of us operate within a zone that feels right, outside of which we are uncomfortable. All of us make decisions based on the confines of that comfortable space. Each day do something that widens that space for you. Take a risk a day, one small or bold stroke, that will make you feel great, once you’ve done it. Even if it doesn’t work out the way you wanted to, at least you’ve tried. You didn’t sit back powerless. Watch what happens when you start to expand your comfort zone. Each time you move out of what feels comfortable. You become more powerful.

Take only those risks each day to build your sense of self-worth. I am not talking about pulling the power in from any outside source. Inside of you, just waiting to emerge, is incredible source of energy.

Chapter 4

If you’re in a job you hate, are you a victim or are you taking responsibility for your life? For some reason, you are consciously or unconsciously choosing to be in that lousy job, choosing to sabotage anything good in your life or whatever else it may be for you. It is very upsetting when you begin to see yourself as your own worst enemy, on the other hand, this realization is your biggest blessing. If you know you can create your own misery, it stands to reason that you can also create your own joy. (For practical reasons, you may not be able to leave your job, but as The Dalai Lama and others suggest, try to design it in such a way so it will feel like a calling.

Taking responsibility means never blaming anyone else for anything you are being, doing, having or feeling.

Taking responsibility means not blaming yourself. The tendency to punish yourself to put yourself down, there is no need to be upset with your past, present or future. Behavior is all simply part of the learning process. The process of moving yourself from pain to power, and it takes time. You must be patient with yourself. There is never any need to be down on yourself.

Taking responsibility means being aware of where and when you are not taking responsibility so that you can eventually change. There is really only one person in the world who can make me happy and that is you.

"Your chatterbox" is making you a victim. Commit yourself to replacing it with a loving voice. You don’t have to hang out with enemies, even if they are within yourself.

Three choices with work:

- Stay where you are in continue to be miserable.

- Stay where you are and choose to enjoy the job or change it in some way to make it more acceptable.

- Find a more satisfying job.

Taking responsibility means figuring out what you want in life and acting on it. Set your goals, and then go out and work toward them. Most of us do not sculpt our lives. We accept what comes our way, then we gripe about it. There is no need to wait for anyone to give you anything in life. You have the power to create what you need. Given commitment, clear goals and action, it’s just a matter of time (until you can make it happen.)

Taking responsibility means being aware of the multitude of choices you have any given situation. It is important to realize that it at every moment you are choosing the way you feel any time a difficult situation comes into your life. It is possible to tune into your mind and say “O. K., choose.” Are you going to make yourself miserable or content? Are you going to visualize scarcity or abundance? Pick the one that contributes most to your likeness and growth.

Be aware of all the options you have during the course of a given day.

Start noticing what you say in conversations see if it includes a lot of complaining about other people.

Listen to many choices available to you that can change presently upsetting experiences into positive ones. In every situation, there are many ways to change your point of view.
Determine what you want in life and act on it. Stop waiting for someone to give it to you. You'll be waiting a long time.
Choose the path that contributes to your growth and makes you feel at peace with yourself and others.

Chapter 5

90% of what we worry about never happens.

"The best way out is only through” -- Helen Keller.
Only state affirmations in the present:
Wrong: I will handle my fears

Right: I am now handling my fears

Chapter 6

Do the very thing you fear. What we resist, persists.

For his own mental health, he had to give it a try. He might fail, but he didn’t go ahead with it, he would spend the rest of his life doing what he didn’t want to do. He felt the fear, and did it anyway.

The most important thing is for you to be your own best friend. Begin to discover, which is the path of the heart for you, which life will make you grow. That’s the path to take.

Chapter 7

All you have to do to change your world is change the way you think about it. You can actually shift your thinking in such a way as to make a wrong decision or mistake an impossibility when making in decision. Each is an opportunity, despite the outcome. If something happens and it doesn’t work out, I know I’ll handle it. You learn to trust that you will survive no matter what happens. In this way, your fears are diminished immeasurably

The knowledge that you can handle anything that comes your way is the key to allowing yourself to take risk. Perhaps the lucky ones in life are those who have been forced to face things in their lives that we all hope we will never have to face things such as: losing a job, the death of a loved one, divorce, bankruptcy, illness. Once you have handled any of those things, we emerge a much stronger person. You discover that security is not having things, it’s handling things. When you can answer all your “what ifs” with, “I can handle it.”, you can approach all things with a new no-lose guarantee and their fear disappears.

Before Making A Decision:

Focus on: “I can’t lose regardless of the outcome of the decision”. Push out thoughts of what you can lose and allow only thoughts of what can be gained.

You’re not a failure if you don’t make it. You’re a success because you try.

Intention is a powerful tool in creating something you want in your life.

Discover how to best order your priorities. Allow yourself confusion in the searching process. Through confusion that you finally come to clarity.

Trust your impulses. Your body sometimes gives some good clues about which way to go. Trust your gut, listen when something inside, you says “go for it“.

Most people take themselves and their decisions very seriously. Nothing is that important. If as a result of the decision you make, you lose some money, no problem. You learn to deal with losing money, whatever happens as a result of your decision, you’ll handle it.

After Making A Decision:

Accept total responsibility for your decisions.

Commit yourself to any decision you make and give it all you’ve got. If it doesn’t work out, change it.

If it doesn’t feel right anymore, it’s time to change. Remember the quality of your life is at stake.

The trick in life is not to worry about making a wrong decision, it’s learning when to correct. Two obvious clues: confusion and dissatisfaction. They tell you you’re off course in some way and you need to find your way back.

Mental pain is telling you that something is wrong with the way your life is going. It’s a sign that something needs correction. The pain is simply saying, “Hey, that’s not it.” When you are constantly aware of the clues that signal time to correct, you will always end up in the right spot -- or at least in the vicinity.

Just as each decision is an opportunity to learn each mistake is also an opportunity to learn, rendering it impossible to make a mistake.

Shift from being afraid of making a mistake to being afraid of not making a mistake. If I am not making any mistakes I can be sure I am not learning and growing.

If I make a mistake, so what. I’ll handle it.

Look at clues in your life that suggest you are off course and begin making your game plan to correct the situation.

Worry: Tips for Dealing With It

Here's some very useful advice for not deterring your progress by worry. To what's below, I add a few of my favorite quotations, the first one Biblical:

"You worry all day, and what do you have to show for it?"

And another: "Worry is like a fast getaway on a dead horse."

"Tips For Dealing With Worry"

- Becoming Aware... How To Repattern Your Brain and Revitalize Your Life, Lisa Garr

1. Visualize what will go right instead of what will go wrong.

2. Don't repeat or dwell on stories of past mistakes. Move on as fast as possible.

3. Ask yourself, "What did I learn?" rather than beating yourself up for making mistakes.

4. Try to avoid beginning a conversation with the words, "I had the worst day yesterday." Avoid bringing the negative energy from yesterday into today. Today is a new day.

5. Focus your mind on the positive, like that beautiful oak tree and those leaves blowing in that refreshing breeze, rather than focusing on what bad thing could happen. Stay in the present moment.

6. Even if you had a stressful day, commit yourself to having a great night and a restful sleep, knowing that tomorrow will be a better day.

Post this someplace where you can see it regularly!

Dealing With Midlife Crisis: The Happiness Curve - Jonathan Rauch

Midlife Crisis and Improving Our Circumstances

(Excerpted from my book: It's a Matter of Life and Death: Growing Up in a Funeral Home and What I Learned Since - Lawrence J. Danks)

The following is my commentary on the outstanding book, The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50  by Jonathan Rauck, followed by accompanying text of mine. Rauck says that the stress and dissatisfaction which can trouble us at different times of our life often eases off with age. We start feeling better about ourselves too.

Some of the lack of contentment might come from the realization that you aren’t likely to progress organizationally to where you had hoped, that you have the feeling you’re wasting your life, not achieving the dreams you may have had, or you find yourself mired in what many call a midlife crisis. Economist Hannes Schwandt called it: “that obnoxious sensation of being both puzzled and trapped”.

One of the the book’s major premises is that our life follows a “U-shaped” life-satisfaction curve. After a typical period of high satisfaction in our twenties and early thirties, there is a substantial drop off in “the middle years of adult life, that are often the most restless, stressed and unhappy. He points out that this is true “on average, not for every person.” […] “It’s not an inevitability, it’s a tendency.”

Jonathan Rauch is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He explores these and other facets of life in his well-researched and hopeful book. If you’re fifty or over, it’s a book you should read. It will explain what happens in this sometimes troublesome time frame. If you’re younger, it will provide a preview of what may be in store for you. Knowing what’s to come can forearm you to deal with it a whole lot better.

Rauch chooses the apt masterwork, “The Voyage of Life” by Thomas Cole to model life’s passages. “The Voyage of Life” is a series of four huge paintings on Childhood, Youth, Manhood, and Old Age showing a figure in a boat, assisted by a guardian angel, passing through major phases of life. They are romantic and arresting works. Unfortunately, Cole didn’t get to experience all these phases himself, but obviously reflected on them a great deal. He died at forty-seven, but left a great gift of contemplation on the passages of life most of us live long enough to sail through. The 1842 versions of these paintings reside in The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

The author includes himself in the book as an example of the U- curve phenomenon. I could certainly see myself in it too, as I believe many of you could, asking questions similar to mine: Why didn’t I get a Ph.D or a law degree? Why didn’t I become a Dean (which I narrowly escaped becoming), or a more successful business owner? What happened to my “plan” to retire at fifty-five?

We’re far from alone in these situations. Rauch says that about 80% of people have been affected by “optimism bias” – believing something is going to come true, which doesn’t. Effectively, we aren’t good predictors of what’s likely to happen in the future. (This is confirmed by Harvard’s Dan Gilbert in his highly engaging book that anyone can easily see themselves and their thinking in: Stumbling on Happiness.)

I remember reading this pregnant phase about our decision making: “And who was the only one present for all these possibilities envisioned and the decisions made?” It was each of us. Sometimes we’re affected by uncontrollable, outside events, but for the most part, what happens in our lives is the result of what we did, and how well we did it, or what we didn’t do when we should have done something.

Be careful what you wish for. As the old expression goes, “Lord, protect me from my dreams. They might come true”. Value what you have and be grateful for it – a message Rauch stressed as a true help in finding happiness.

But for a few lucky turns of events, I could have been in deeper trouble economically and otherwise. I applied for a Dean’s position many years ago. I was one of the two finalists, but didn’t get the job. At the time, I was greatly disappointed. In retrospect, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. For many reasons, I would have been wholly unsuited for it and probably very unhappy. The perspective of time tells us how fortunate we may have been – something that is likely wholly unclear at the time.

Similarly, the pension fund I was required to join as a college professor many years ago, has become my largest asset. Other than steering it in certain investment directions, the fact that I have it was something I didn’t do voluntarily, it was done to me. We’re sometimes the beneficiaries of things we had little to do with.

“Midlife Crisis”is Not A Crisis

What is often called a “midlife crisis” Rauch says is wrong. “We need to understand why midlife satisfaction is, for the large majority of people, not a ‘crisis’, but a natural and healthy transition. […] Some sociologists call this new stage of life, encore adulthood. (Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life by James Hollis is a useful guide for entering this new phase of life.)

Rauch identifies that over time there is a change: “And often, seemingly as inexplicably as it had descended, the fog began to lift.” When the rubber hits the road again and we have a more realistic view of what possibilities remain for us and we come to terms with it: “Emotionally we lower our sights and learn to settle. Settling increases our contentment.”

This low period might sometimes call for medical intervention because it could be clinical depression. But Rauch says this is rare. Most often it’s not “a mood disorder, but a contentment disorder.” Counseling can help with that or having suitable friends or mentors listen to provide perspective.

The author cites John F. Helliwell, a prominent figure in happiness economics, who quotes Aristotle: “Deeper satisfaction comes not from feeling good, but from doing good: from cultivating and maintaining virtuous habits that balance one’s own life and create and deepen ties with others.” Strong social ties are often cited in research as not only something that can better our lives, but also as a factor that can cause us to live longer.

Comparisons can also be detrimental to happiness. Rauch said that “Self-critical voices that pestered me about wasting my life insisted on comparing upward, which is the worst thing you can do. As Richard Layard, a pioneering happiness economist writes, ‘One secret of happiness is to ignore comparisons with people who are more successful that you are: always compare downward, not upwards’ ”. If there is anything that probably causes us to be more grateful for our lives, making comparisons downward is probably it.

Rauck points to Elliott Jacques, a Canadian psychoanalyst who in “Death and the Midlife Crisis” (The International Journal of Psychoanalysis), wrote “The midlife crisis is a reaction which occurs not only in creative genius, but manifests itself in some form in everyone”. […] “In middle age we are forced to resign ourselves to all that we cannot be or do”. […] Important things that the individual would have liked to achieve, would have desired to become, would have longed to have, will not be realized.”

The better news is that most people adjust to this realization and operate from an improved plateau. As part of the process, the greatly overused expression to “think outside the box” is often heard. The better approach is to realize that the box for you is probably much larger than you think:

“There are many more facets to us  than the last role we played” – Betty Aberlin, Actor

- Best known for her role as Lady Aberlin on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood

Factors in Determining Happiness

Your genes play a role in happiness too. We get about 50% of our immutable “set point” personality structure and basic happiness level from our parents. Research by Sonia Lyubomirsky confirms this in her book, The How of Happiness. Happily, some of the remaining portion is within our ability to influence.

Relatedly, Rauch indicates that Martin Seligman’s previously mentioned Authentic Happiness offers a formula for happiness:

“H=S+C=V where H is your enduring level of happiness, S is your set range, C is the circumstances of your life, and V represents factors under your voluntary control.

Rauch says we should add a “T” to that for “time”, more specifically aging. Through their research, Andrew Oswald from the University of Warwick and David Blanchflower from Dartmouth University postulated that, “Age, all by itself, plays a role as a determinant of happiness.” That provides hope for all of us in the future. If things are difficult, if you keep breathing long enough, your perspective is likely to improve, even if your situation doesn’t.

Rauck uses examples of many respondents to his questionnaire who he subsequently interviewed. He mentioned Anthony, who at age forty-six, believed he had peaked. “His best personal growth and most exciting days are behind him, or so he thinks. He is very likely mistaken.”

If you are thinking this way, maybe you are too, so have hope and keep moving forward. That sometimes means moving sideways too. Anthony said his passage was a “new normal”- “the last death of childhood”. We learn to move forward to find a truer, and often highly improved, self.

Rauch also speaks of the “V-shaped curve” where one’s life is going along well, but then takes a steep dive far below the U-shaped curve. We all make mistakes, but the message is to avoid the truly big ones because recovery from them can be difficult and sometimes impossible.

How Can We Help the Situation?
Develop a Proper Mindset

Jonathan Haidt, who Rauch identified as one of the world’s most innovative thinkers, said he thought of his own life “much less as a project or city to be built, and much more as giving myself the right kinds of experience and exposure and letting time do the work.” Rauch noted that “Voluminous research shows that the undercurrent that drags us lower normally does switch around the time you think it never will.” Unfortunately, some abandon hope too soon, not realizing that substantive relief and improvement were close at hand.

Accept Life

The author asked his ninety-four year old neighbor Nora about what the key to satisfaction was. She said, “I would enjoy every day as it comes. Take what the day brings. Acceptance – and not worrying.” The Bible says it well: “You worry all day and what do you have to show for it?” Akin to the ultimate acceptance expressed by the renowned Indian philosopher Krishnamurti: “I don’t mind what happens.”

Take Things by the Smooth Handle

This was one of Thomas Jefferson’s “Decalogue of Canons for the Conduct of Life”. Rauck asked his father how he was able to put anger issues he had earlier in life to bed. His father said, “I just stopped having five-dollar reactions to nickel provocations.” Obviously, a learned art. I’m still working on it.

Take the Emphasis Off Yourself

Be kinder. Look for opportunities small and large to do it. Even if you’re facing problems yourself, you can’t always get help, but you can always give it. That helps someone else – and it will help you too.

Live in the Present

The past is over. The future isn’t here yet. Focus on the present. It’s what builds a better future. If the past is standing in your way, cognitive therapy can help to reframe matters and enable us to refocus on making meaningful progress.

Avoid sudden, risky moves.

Think things through. Sample if you can. Make “little bets”, as Peter Sims says in the title of his book by the same name. Take some time to accumulate savings needed to make a successful transition. If the thought enters your mind to just quit your job, in most cases, it’s probably far better to get good advice, plan, and take your time. And if you do go, it’s better to exit professionally. Don’t burn any bridges behind you. You may need to cross back over them later. I left a previous employer on good terms and was able to return almost five years later. A highly regarded engineer I knew was able to do the same in a very tight employment market. Rauck says, if you are going to move, “move laterally (into something that’s related), incrementally, constructively and logically. That reduces the odds of impulsive mistakes and helps keep the downside manageable.”

Be Patient

Sometimes it might be the time to take action and to make a change. Other times, it may be better to wait. Rauch says of the U-shaped trough, “It gets better. […] “Waiting is a way of working with time and letting time work with us.” Implied in this is having enough patience to let matters unfold without forcing the issue.

You’re Not As Old As You Think

Think you’re getting too old for all this? Consider the wisdom of Elizabeth, a member of a women’s group primarily in their sixties. Rauch said “She was eighty, not sixty-five, and she wanted to say that time was not as short as others assumed. ‘You all sound like you think sixty-five is old because the world tells you sixty-five is old, she admonished. As a few years go by, you’ll realize that sixty-five is pretty young.”

Most people probably have more time than they think. Remember: Plan to live to be one hundred. Even if you don’t, you can fill your time achieving goals really meaningful to you, for as long as you do live. That will give you a better and happier life.

Being Resilient and Bouncing Back:

"How Resilience Works" - Diane L. Coutu

We all face pitfalls as we go through life, some of them very consequential. An important step in trying to find happiness and success is the ability to recover from them and to bounce back. This partial summary of her article offers excellent suggests on how to do it:

"Resilience is something you realize you have after the fact.

Resilient people possess three defining characteristics:

- they coolly accept the harsh realities facing them ( becoming a widow/widower, losing a child, losing your job, losing a love, losing an election, realizing that you are getting older and that your time here my be comparatively limited, etc.)

- they find meaning in terrible times

- they have an uncanny ability to improvise, making do with whatever is at hand

A person's level of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails.

Apply these practices:

- Take a sober, down-to-earth view of the reality of your situation, training yourself to survive before the fact, such as Admiral Jim Stockdale, a POW, who accepted that he could be held for a long time. He was held for eight years. (Being realistic about how long he might be held helped him to survive his ordeal rather than thinking like some others who thought they would be home by Christmas.)

- Devise constructs about your suffering to create meaning for yourself and for others. Those bridges will make the present manageable, by removing the sense that the present is overwhelming. Creating concrete goals can help rise above the suffering of the moment.

- When disaster hits, be inventive. Imagine possibilities others don't see. (Talk with a counselor or trusted advisor to help you because we can't always see those possibilities ourselves.)

"The Healing Power of Nature" - Alexandra Sufferlin, Time

An obvious pitfall to happiness is poor health. This very interesting article provides insight into how a very basic step can be helpful to your well-being:

" Spending time outside is good for the heart. Visiting green space may be a simple and affordable way to improve heart health. A large 2016 study found that nearly 10% pf people could get their hypertension (high blood pressure) under control if they spent thirty minutes or more in a park per week.

Exposure to nature can also increase awe which brings a number of health benefits, says Paul Piff of the University of California - Irvine. Experiences of awe attune people to things larger than themselves. They cause individuals to feel less entitled, selfish and to behave in more generous and helping ways."

Such an easy excursion to increase health and to help keep the ego in the right place, both contributors to increased happiness and success.