Thursday, December 30, 2004

Happiness is a Choice

"Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds
to be."
-Abraham Lincoln
It's true.... because the only thing we really have control over is our thoughts.

We can choose to complain about our life and wallow in self-pitty. Or we can take charge of our thoughts and change our perspective.

This week I have begun the ominous task of clearing the clutter from my home office, getting my work space re-organized, evaluating what I've accomplished this year, and brainstorming about what I want to do next year. And I'm determined NOT to get overwhelmed... an easy, but very "unhappy" thing for me to get into.

I spent all morning yesterday, going through a 20-inch high stack of information I'd printed out over past several weeks. Then I got side-tracked on a writing project that I thought would only take an hour or so, but instead, took all afternoon.

As I was rushing to get ready for an early evening appointment, I felt the frustration coming on, realizing that this clearing-the-clutter project was going to take way more time than I thought. And I felt the overwhelm monster beginning to raise it's ugly head.

Luckily, instead of going down that road, I decided to stop and give myself a time-out. I thought about how wonderful it was going to be to walk into a clutter-free, organized office without having to follow the paper-stack-lined trail to get to my desk. I imagined how productive I would be and how good it would feel to easily finish all my projects next year in an organized, workable space.....

Then I decided to be happy instead of frustrated. I have this week and next week to get organized. I don't have to do it all today, or even tomorrow.

And that was a very happy relief!

Here's to continuing the Journey... taking charge of our thoughts and choosing happiness!


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

If There Is To Be Peace

If there is to be peace in the world, there must be peace.... in the heart.

Lao-Tse, legendary founder of Taoism from 5th century BCE, wrote these words in Tao Te Ching, translated, The Way of Life. You can read the whole poem in the December issue of Create a Happy 'Tude.

Going backwards, from world, to nation, to city, to neighbor, to home and to heart, he gently nudges this sometimes illusive concept of "world peace" back into our own hands, showing us that it's OUR responsibility.

Peace begins in your heart and in my heart. Once our hearts and our homes are filled with peace, then it can't help but spill over into our neighborhoods, our cities, our nations and our world.

As the song says, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me." (Jill Jackson Miller, 1955.) May there be peace in your heart and peace in your home this holiday season and into the coming year.

Here's to continuing the Journey... and spreading peace wherever we go.


P.S. For more "Peace" ideas and inspirations, check out the December issue of my newsletter, Create a Happy 'Tude.

Friday, December 17, 2004

'Tis the Season...

... to be stressed out to the max!

Christmas programs, office parties, friends' parties, presents to buy, goodies to bake, meals to plan and prepare, decorations to put up, gifts to wrap...... all to ensure that everybody has a Merry Christmas?

Bah humbug.

Does it HAVE to be so busy?

Several years ago, my sister and I decided to just go the "token gift" route because, after all, the real gift of the season was spending time together as a family. Right?

Well that thinking lasted until all the "supposed to's" kicked in, which was promptly followed by an over dose of worry and guilt.

Buying someone a gift - regardless of price - is a major worry event for me. I spend a great deal of time debating in my head whether or not the receiver will like it or even want it. I also weigh into the equation what the odds might be of this gift being relegated to their White Elephant gift list.

So when my sister and I decided to do "token" gifts, my worry meter went up about 105% when I actually started trying to figure out what in the world to give!

Basically, I hate Christmas. Or rather, I hate what it has become. It's riddled with "shoulds" - all the things we do and feel because someone else told us that's what we should do or feel.

Now, these are not all bad. There are some very good things about the season.... getting together with family you haven't seen for awhile, showing appreciation to other people in your life.... anything done, said or given freely without obligation or agenda.... these are good.

However, doing things out of obligation is not. Being swept up in the middle of someone else's agenda is not. These things suck the life out of me and get my radical, break-all-the-rules blood boiling.

What if.... no one gave gifts one Christmas? What if it was the "norm" to give your time to someone outside your regular sphere of friends or family? What if you anonymous hid $1, $5, or even $10 or $20 bills as you went about your day, leaving them for someone else to find? What if you made a game out of seeing just how many different people you could look into their eyes and say a sincere "Merry Christmas"?

What if....?

Here's to continuing the Journey... finding time to breathe and having the courage to spread the real joy of the season.


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

What's the Purpose?

Monday I finished up the next-to-the-last project in a long list of commitments I agreed to in September. Talk about a weight being lifted off my shoulders! This week, I only have one project to work on and it feels great - almost like begin on vacation!

I have a bad habit of piling too many things on my plate. Then, I start to feel overwhelmed and trapped when due dates start coming around.

These trapped, overwhelm feelings also happen because I haven't been purposeful about scheduling time to work on each project as soon as it's agreed to. Instead, I tend to go merrily along with all these To-Do's labeled as "future" events in my head. Then, when the lead time has been reduced to emergency status, tunnel-vision kicks in and it's full-force ahead, all-engines-go! As a result, all projects behind the current one get put even further behind, the stress level increases and the cycle continues.

And in the middle of my exhaustion, I wonder.... What's the purpose? Why do I continue to do this to myself? What do I really want?

Do I agree to do things because "yes" is my default answer? Or do I decide to do them because they are in line with my purpose in life?

Sadly, I realize the answer is that I'm living more by default than on purpose.

Unfortunately, living on default is like living on the defense, reacting to everything, which eventually begins to feel like everything is beyond my control. When I feel like I have no choice, the stress level goes up and tempers become short.

The truth is, though, I DO have a choice. And that choice is to continue to agree to anything and everything that comes along without discretion, or the choice to take a minute and think about whether this new project will move me more toward my purpose or away from my purpose.

One thing I have begun to realize over the past couple of years is that just because I CAN do something, doesn't mean I HAVE to do it. Guess I need to take that one step further and start filtering in how each potential project fits into my life purpose, which is....

... to live with passion and open-hearted awareness, and to inspire others to do the same by digging deep into their souls and discovering the Truth.

Here's to continuing the Journey.... learning to make better choices and living on Purpose.


Monday, December 06, 2004

Finding the Balance - Dictator vs Enabler

As a teacher, I am always conscious of the fine line between the two extremes - setting guidelines for the student and giving constructive feedback, verses giving the student room to explore their own creativity and space to discover their own answers.

With my music students, how do I encourage their creativity and love of music while building a solid musical foundation? How do I help them memorize and eventually internalize the "rules" that make the language of music enjoyable without dampening their enthusiasm and weighing them down with.... well, the "rules?"

As for myself, I have never liked being told what to do or how to do it - especially when it comes to my creativity. Yet, on the other hand, whether it's music, writing, working on a job or project, or finding myself in a new situation - I want to know what the "rules" are. Mainly, so that I can change, challenge or stretch them if they don't suit me!

However, I've noticed throughout my life that I don't always give others this same privilege. When directing other people in creative projects, I tend to become a Creative Dictator instead of a Creativity Enabler.

Thinking back over a rehearsal I directed last night, I see that the Dictator took the leading roll most of the evening. I wish I had allowed more of the Enabler to shine through.

Being the Enabler requires trust. Trust in the abilities and talents of the people you're working with, for sure. But even more, it requires trust in the Creative Process.

Last night was our first rehearsal - a band rehearsal for a Christmas musical production. I meant it to be more of an information session - a chance to give music cues, let them know what's happening where in the drama and on stage, as well as a chance to go through the music together and assign vocal parts, instrumental leads and such.

This was not the time to dictate exactly what they would play, which was fairly easy with the drums and guitars because I don't play them. The keyboard, however, was a different story. And, looking back, I feel like I went a little overboard.... or gave my suggestions to the keyboard guy just a little too strongly. I apologize for this.

Also, in those think-on-my-feet situations, I have a tendency to come across a little more dictator-like than how I really mean. This comes from a lifetime habit of trying to say something in the least amount of words.... which is a by-product of growing up shy. The result, unfortunately, is that what I really mean doesn't always come out in the first few words that come out of my mouth. And those first words often come out as a really bad Reader's Digest version that sometimes misses the whole point entirely!

.... And I tend to worry.... being especially sensitive to Creative Dictators personally, and knowing that there are more than a few examples in my history of being one myself, I am acutely aware that I do that thing that I hate the most!

Why do I do that!?

.... A question for another day. For now, I'll just continue to be aware of my Creative Dictator tendency and be on the look out for opportunities to give the Creative Enabler the staring role.

Here's to continuing the Journey... finding balance and trusting the creative process.

- Becky