happiness

Please Remain Calm

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Who would have ever thought changing health insurance companies would cause such a stressful day?  Apparently, my naiveté was responsible for yesterday’s tiring experience. Upon attempting to get a prescription refilled for the first time on our new insurance, I was told I had no prescription benefits. Well, since we have a fairly nice, shiny new policy, I did the only thing I could.  I got mad.  I didn’t take out my anger on the pharmacy tech (who apologized profusely over what was going on).  No, I prepared myself to let the health insurance customer service agent truly have it.  I dialed the number, and many frustrating automated prompts later, I was warmly treated to

…A BUSY SIGNAL!

Here I was in line at the pharmacy window and this new company, who had so gladly accepted my first premium payment, did not even have the decency to put me on hold? My anger level had increased from a simmer to a boil.  I came home and sat at my desk, dialed again, and finally was placed in the queue.  The next escalation of my frustration came when the robotic voice said my hold time was likely to be “in excess of 60 minutes.” Now, I had left simmering and boiling, and had moved straight to explosive!  Especially since the hold music I was forced to listen to only had two songs, both of which could only be described as terrible elevator music.

I tried to get some work done in the meantime.  I tried to settle down.  But, the longer they made me wait, the greater my headache grew.  It was around the three hour mark in my hold-time journey that something snapped in me.  All of the sudden, my thoughts were not on how rudely I was being treated, but on how rough of a day the customer service reps were having.  The job of these representatives is to listen to people complain all day long, and here they were with a hold time that they had no control over.  Imagine the screaming and yelling that had been directed at them all day long.

My attitude changed.

And, when, at the three hour and twenty-three minute mark, Trevor answered the phone, I was no longer angry.  I even tried to empathize with him by asking him if he was surviving this tough day.  His answer, “You’re the first person to ask.  I’m hanging in there, but thanks for asking.”  He fixed my problem, and the pharmacy was able to process the refill (for free due to my new benefits, I might add).  Just before I hung up, he wished me a good day, and I know I heard a smile on the other end of the line.  Maybe it was a smile that helped Trevor survive the rest of the day.  I pulled my emotions back in line, and instead of ruining someone else’s day, I made his day better.

What would the world look like if making someone else’s day brighter was our daily goal?

The Sun Can’t Shine Every Day

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The forecast for our area calls for two to three inches of rain over today and tomorrow. This has been the forecast for a week, now, and the rain has already started to fall. Even with the advanced warning, I still saw this post on my Facebook feed this morning:

“It’s so gloomy. I want sunshine.”

I wonder how much we focus on wanting more sunshine instead of making the world a brighter place with our own light. We require that our happiness comes from the environment around us, and when that environment turns gloomy, we lose our joy. Of course, the problem with that as a way of life? It WILL get gloomy.

One thing I do know is that the sun cannot shine every day. Even in the beauty of the garden, the rain is seen as just as necessary as sunshine. In fact, without rain and the cloudy skies that come with it, we would all be living in a desert. Nature finds the clouds and the rain as refreshing. Maybe the gloom in our lives sometimes comes with refreshing rain as well.

This past summer, our family made a trip to Walt Disney World before a weekend speaking engagement in Orlando. The beginning of our trip was marred by a tropical storm that refused to move beyond central Florida. It rained. A ton. So much rain and gloom that we found ourselves longing for the sunshine. Once the rain cleared, however, we learned the true meaning of the word “sauna.” It was so hot and so miserable that we found ourselves longing for the rain again. Our happiness was being derived from the weather, which was way out of our control. That kind of external reliance is a way of life for so many, and it does not work.

Life will send problems. It is only a foundation of happiness and positive living that allows us to retain our joy when the dark times come. Maybe it sounds too trite to say that simply choosing to be happy will make you happy, but have you tried it? Maybe dismissing the idea as too simple is simply an excuse for those not willing to give it a try.

Give it a shot. Choose to be happy…to live happy, and see where that choice gets you the next time the gloomy problems of life show up! I cannot promise it will be easy, but I can promise that if you truly commit to happiness, nothing will ever steal your joy.

Wounds That Define Who We Are

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For the past week, I have dreaded going on Facebook.  Not because it is a black hole that sucks away my time (though it is), and not because I didn’t want to hear anything about the Olympics (since I’m DVR’ing it and watching later).  Rather, my dread came from the general anger and outrage over the statements made by the owner of Chick-fil-a.

I’m not going to further beat that dead horse by bringing up more arguments regarding the statements made, but rather focus on something else that I believe is a much deeper problem.  So many of the comments on Facebook this week were not about discussing the statements that Mr. Cathy made, nor were they even about the issue(s) brought up by what he said.  The vast majority of threads on the subject seemed to quickly devolve into shouting matches filled with hateful speech and pointless rhetoric from both sides.

And…it’s gotten us nowhere.

Never mind the fact that Facebook has to be the worst place for convincing someone else that your opinion is the only correct opinion (maybe Twitter would even be better because it would force people to be succinct in stating their cases).  The social media platform, instead, simply served to worsen the already deep wounds that are so prevalent in our society.  I believe those wounds have to heal before we can have any conversations in our country that aren’t reduced to neanderthalic, mud-slinging events.  So, why are these wounds unable to heal?

Because we let our wounds define who we are.

I hope it doesn’t come as too much of a surprise that I have been discriminated against in every way possible.  I have seen and heard it all.  Don’t think for a second that hateful comments towards me haven’t left wounds.  That would make me a robot.  The difference in my life is that I have CHOSEN to not let those wounds define who I am.

If the scars of past statements and actions of others could alter my personality and beliefs, I would have become bitter and angry long ago.  I believe that our society holds on to these scars either because being pitied can be addicting, or because they have not found anything to fill those holes in their lives.  Either way, it is no way to truly live.  You can become enslaved to these wounds to the point where you can’t live a positive life, and instead you simply become a fight waiting to happen.  It is a broken existence.

Instead, the deep cuts that I have endured in life have made me stronger, and allowed me to serve others because I know what it feels like to be hurt.  I am in a somewhat unique situation, and can help when other people are knocked down in life simply due to what I’ve experienced.  How is that possible?

Jesus.

The ability to take an imperfect body like mine, and make it a life that is perfect in the eyes of God is solely credited to Jesus.  My wounds can’t define who I am because HE defines who I am.  And, while the scars may still be visible, the deep cuts have long ago healed through His love for me.  That healing allows me to be free.  It allows me not only to live, but to live happily.

I have no doubt that each and every person who chooses to read this has been hurt by someone else.  I believe you when you say those pains run deep, and that it is hard to let go.  What I refuse to believe is that you can’t let go.  What happens to you is often out of your control, but your reaction to those events is 100% within your power.  Your default reaction to pain can be re-learned to the point where you let your hurt go the moment after you have been wronged.

I don’t believe for a second that the vile nature that came out all over Facebook this week is simply because of the issue at hand.  More likely, the spiteful things typed out on the social media giant’s site this week were born out of hurt.  Hurt that has been building up for years, and explodes at every turn.

I challenge you to take that hurt…that pain…and give to God.  He is big enough to manage your hurt while you take the time to heal.  And, once you are on the path to healing, find others along the way who also need healing and care for them.  Caring for each other is the only path towards a discrimination-free society…because it is hard to hate while you are loving.

Dealing With a Cell Phone Addicted Society

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Stop Cell Phone AddictionMy wife, daughter and I were on our way out of a fast-food restaurant a few days ago when a car pulled up in front of us.  Out the of the car emerged a husband and wife who were both totally engrossed not in each other, but each in their own cell phone conversations.  They didn’t speak a word to each other…totally devoting their attention to the person they were speaking to on the phone.  Neither spoke to us even though I smiled and said, “Hello.”  He didn’t hold the door for her, and while I didn’t see them once they were inside the restaurant, I would imagine they didn’t stop their conversations before ordering their food.

What kind of society do we live in?  One that has a cell phone addiction.  Seriously…I dare you to go into a public place and find ONE person that doesn’t have a cell phone.  It’s crazy…when did we get to the point that we had to be connected to everyone, all the time?

My wife has teased me ever since we got married about my lack of cell phone usage. I hate cell phones. I think they might as well be shown as the ball & chain that they are.  Think about it for a second.  Why do you need to be reached 24/7?  Some might say for an emergency, and for that reason, I would agree. 

But, does your office have your cell phone number?  Why do they need to reach you outside of office hours?  Do they own you?  Up until recently, I never had my cell phone on.  As I viewed it, the purpose of my cell phone was in case I needed to call someone in an emergency.  Recently, I’ve been using it for speaking contacts, so it is on, but I don’t always answer it.  If you call me after office hours, and I don’t recognize the number as a family member or a friend, I won’t answer…for ANY reason. 

The way I see it, my priorities are set, and no one can change them but me.  I don’t mean that to say that you aren’t important to me, but rather, you are not as important as my down-time with my family.  We have to put limits on outside interruptions when we are with people that matter to us the most.  

So…try turning your cell phone OFF next time you are with your family.  Not to the vibrate/silent mode…I mean OFF.  Put a limit on how often you can be interrupted.  I promise the world won’t fall apart without you.  Learn to enjoy not being needed all the time.  

How to Be Whole – Maybe We’re Looking in the Wrong Places

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A recent TV ad I saw claimed that 20,000 people a DAY join the online dating service, Match.com.  20,000 people a day…is that not staggering?  Does the figure surprise you?  It sure blew me away.  20,000 people a day…starving for love so badly that would head towards online dating.  

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I don’t believe there is anything fundamentally wrong with online dating.  And, if you found your spouse through the Internet, more power to you.  But, I would wager a guess that online dating isn’t the method of first attempt.  I mean, usually, we seek out partners through offline social interaction first before heading to the Internet.  So, 20,000 people a day have become frustrated enough to go online in search of love…despite the perils of online anonymity.

Could it be that our society seeks love in “all the wrong places?” (to quote an old country music song)  I would challenge that you first must love yourself before heading offline or online in search of love.  You must be a whole person before you can give part of yourself to another.  How do you get there?  It isn’t an overnight process, but I’m glad to be able to give out a couple of starting tips:

  1. Get Rid of Negative Influences – When I’ve spoken at schools before, I always make it a point to tell my student audiences that they must rid themselves of people who drag them down.  If you have friends, co-workers, parents, family, etc, who are constantly putting you down and telling you how worthless you are, you MUST get rid of that influence in your life.  I suggest confronting that person and explaining to them how much their words hurt.  If they don’t listen, you must find a way to diminish their influence on you.  If it is a friend, break off the friendship.  If it is a co-worker, go to the boss or HR and explain the situation.  I hope it isn’t a parent, but if it is, try and get other family members to confront the offender with you.  In order to feel better about yourself, you have to surround yourself with positive people.
     
  2. Smile, Constantly – What I’m suggesting here as a way to combat unhappiness is to smile for no reason.  Put aside ulterior motives of trying to get a favor from someone, or trying to get something for nothing and just smile.  Your smile can literally change someone’s day.  In the process of changing someone else’s day, you can easily change your own attitude.  Smile as if the world depends on it…because it does!

Start slow…begin to focus on changing, make little daily changes in your attitude, behavior, and your actions.  Pretty soon, you’ll realize that living a happy, fulfilled life is the only true way to live.  My new book goes into great detail on this subject, and I’ll be announcing, here, when it is ready to be ordered.  Watch this space in the next week or two for further details and remember, SMILE!