Change Starts with Personal Awareness

This photo was provided by our own JB. The two pictured are her children’s great grand parents.

It is our hope that we have reached critical mass as a country. Along with a pandemic that continues to wreck havoc on the world, we have widespread social unrest. People have taken to the streets to protest, riot, and loot. The social unrest erupted at the unnecessary and tragic death of George Floyd. There are a lot of varied takes on the situation but no one can dispute how wrong and horrific that event (and those similar) was. While we do not condone rioting and looting, we want to caution the reader that poor behavior is always a symptom of a larger problem (poor behavior encapsulates all acts of violence: rioting, looting, and police brutality).

The larger problem is this: Racism is still prevalent and we have large portions of our black communities who feel unheard, unvalued, and deeply wronged. Long story short, these violent behaviors, are happening because all other cries for help have fallen on deaf ears. Or, simply, positive change has not happened fast enough. Regardless of what each of our personal feelings are on this topic, the numbers do not lie. People of color do not have an even playing field in our society. This needs to change.

The contributors of this site have zero tolerance for racism. In this great world that we live in, it still is bewildering that racism is still as prevalent as it is. It is high time for all of us to stand firm and push this darkness out of the world. This post is dedicated to how ALL of us can take action in our own lives to ensure that we eradicate this ugly beast. To be clear ALL of us need to take action for this change to be sustainable.

A strong theme throughout many of the posts on this site carry the following message:

Do not expect lasting change to happen externally if you have not changed within.

We can fund, defund, elect, remove, riot, loot, and fight all we want but those things are merely just sticks planted in a river. Sure they impede some of the water but it does little to nothing to change the flow and direction of the river. We, the people, are the river.

Societal change only happens when personal change has happened. When enough of us change our heart the world will flow to a better place. So how can we change to make sure that all of our cultures are taken care of? Awareness, education, and action.

Let’s start with awareness. Awareness is like flicking a light switch on in a dark room…you begin to see things. Once you see things you can start to take action to change things. In this vein, I want to flip the light switch on one thing: Everyone has bias in their life.

Having bias is not a right or wrong thing. It is a natural process. Biases develop and is a normal process of the brain. The key here is that this is how we are wired as human beings. We have experiences and form thoughts and feelings around those experiences. Our brain, to be efficient, associates past experiences with current circumstances to protect itself. A simple example is as follows: A boy is bitten by a dog when he is young. For the rest of his life they avoid dogs because their brain is telling him dogs equal pain. It goes in the other direction too. A boy is raised with a dog and has only positive experiences with it. For the rest of his life they get excited when they see a dog because it reminds him of love and home. In both cases, the boy has is relying on past information to influence current action.

However, here is where biases get us into trouble. Biases become problematic when we are not even aware that we have them. So often we take blind action without a conscious thought. It further becomes troubling when we group with others who feel the same way as it reinforces that our belief is correct.

When we blindly act we model for the world on how we do business. We also model these behaviors for our children to pick up on. They can assume our biases as “this is how it is supposed to be”. To learn more about biases and how they develop and how to unroot them please check out this article: Think you’re not biased? Think again. Alison Pearce Stevens does a great job in outlining how the mind works, how biases are created, and what we can do to become aware of them.

The great thing about becoming aware of a bias is that you can chose a better action in light of the brain’s conditioning. Become aware and chose the highest. Over time, we will undo the biases that we have that do not serve us and our world.

I would like to reinforce to the reader that it is perfectly ok to question your beliefs (political, religious and whatever else you hold onto!) as well. It is ok to questions all of your silent preferences. Shine them to the light and see if they still hold value. And don’t shame yourself for questioning all of your beliefs. When we question, It does not mean that we are no longer faithful or lack loyalty as we are merely figuring out if they are worth keeping around. This really is the first step into becoming and independent thinker (don’t let others do your thinking for you).

So the next time you have a negative or visceral reaction to something that happened automatically, take pause. Think about why that happened. Examine your thoughts, feelings, and memories that produced the negativity. Weed the garden of the mind. Why do we do what we do? Why do we get triggered on certain topics? How do we get off of the automatic pilot mode of life?

The answers we seek cannot be found in our media outlets or through our politicians. All of our answers are found in the heart.

Next week we will touch upon education and action in light of our current social climate.

Be well


Photo from JB

Engage, Share Stories and Love One Another

“Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity. Racism can, will, and must be defeated.” 
― Kofi Annan

I’m a middle aged white woman, living in suburban Massachusetts.  I have two children, and my husband is one quarter Jamaican.  On the surface, that doesn’t sound like much pigmentation, but I have observed over the years and generations that in families with multiple kids, one child tends to be considerably darker than the other.  In my husband and his brother, it’s my hubby.  In my kids, it’s my daughter. 

So these have been a few interesting weeks for me.  I always kind of wondered with a smile, which of my children would be darker.  I didn’t smile, however, when the nurse in the hospital shortly after my little girl’s birth looked at me sharply and said, “No, REALLY, who is the father?”  When I indicated my husband, she said it simply wasn’t possible as my daughter had an birthmark “only” from children of African American descent. 

The racism I encounter is slight, and generally unobtrusive, but the undertones of white supremacy are intensifying around me.  Sometimes people don’t believe that my kids are of mixed races (and it’s a fascinating mix we are), and one even went so far as to tell me that if I believed people should be able to tell their experiences around race, even the painful ones, my entire family must be both violent and Marxist. 

I don’t pretend to have the answers, but I do know that I will continue telling the story of our combined family heritage to anyone who will listen and I will teach my children to not whitewash (gloss over/cover up) history.  I know that poverty is an outcome of slavery, and I have worked with populations trapped in economic cycles very similar to slavery, yes, in the modern United States. 

It’s no longer enough for me to pray for unity and peace.  Instead I will raise my ears to listen, my heart to value all people who are hurting, and reach out my hands in relationship with those who are different from me.  Do I have white privilege?  Absolutely.  But maybe that will be useful in an audience that otherwise may disregard any voice they don’t recognize.  

Be kind,


Photo by Clay Banks via Unsplash

Unearthing the Call

“The opposite of depression isn’t happiness, it is purpose” -Cathy Heller

Our last post (You Have Been Called) our main theme revolved around the importance of authenticity and that the world needs you to be you. In today’s post we are going to provide insight on how to use our authenticity to find our Calling. Our ultimate goal is how to sift through the noise of life so we can identify our uniqueness, our gifts, and set up an incredibly meaningful life.

“Your profession is not what brings home your weekly paycheck, your profession is what you’re put here on earth to do, with such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling.” 
― Vincent van Gogh

I wish I had an easy formula for us to follow. It would be great if we could find a fail proof road map on uncovering our unique Calling. It would also be awesome if we could take a magic pill that gives us courage and clarity….

Let’s be clear and upfront on this: There is no formula, map, or magic pill that can unearth our Calling or the song that is singing in our heart. Finding our Calling is a process of discovery and can only be found by taking action while observing our feelings/results. Our Calling leaves clues all over the place if we know where to look…as it is never explicitly stated.

The path that we are looking to take has never been walked before. We are entering the woods where there is no preexisting trail or sign posts to guide our journey. The only thing we know is the song in our heart. This song whispers to us, urges us to enter the woods and begin our journey.

“I believe there’s a calling for all of us. I know that every human being has value and purpose. The real work of our lives is to become aware. And awakened. To answer the call.” 
― Oprah Winfrey

Let’s get to it then….where do we start? Where do we push aside the branches and start our adventure? I use the following three questions to triangulate and to get me aimed in the right direction. Even after we are on the path we can use these questions to remind ourself of our purpose.

  1. What do you do best? What comes natural to you? What do you do so well that an outside observer my say…you’re just a natural? Our answers can be all over the map. I love starting with this type of question because it is a great momentum builder. Everyone has things that they are great at. Our answers can be based on physical (I am great at building things or athletics), intellectual (I am a great problem solver or organizer), or emotional (I am a great listener and empathy is easy for me).
  2. What are the things in life that you carry the most passion for? What are those things that light you up? What are the things that put the wind in your sails and gets you energized? These questions are where the fun and inspiration are found. When answering these questions our focus should be on those things that we find the most enjoyment in. What gets us up early on the weekend? What can’t we wait to do? These are the things that once we begin we lose track of time and forget to eat.
  3. What is most meaningful to you? What do you feel your duty is?These questions are not quite as clear as the other two but it perhaps is the most important. This is a personal values based question and may take more thought to net out a clear answer. Another way to position this question is: What are the things if left undone would make us feel personal betrayal at the end of our lives? What needs to be done? Examples of this answer may look like: “I want to be the best parent possible” or “I want to teach others all that I know about such and such”. Spend time with this question because this will be the litmus test as we take action (are we producing the results that are most meaningful to us?).

Understanding our talents, passions, and what matters most providers a wonderful clarity on how to show up in the world. Once we have answered these questions it is time to start to blend them together. This is where our true journey starts. These answers define what action we are to take, how we are meant to interact with others, and what legacy we are to leave behind.

Unearthing our Calling is much like locating and digging out a buried treasure. We have to dig deep. We have to sweat and work it out. Then, once discovered, unearthed, and opened…we are to give it freely to the world.

Make your Calling a priority. Write down your answers and read them often. Create a personal mission statement about them. Shifting your attitude towards your talents, passion, and purpose will amplify the song you hear….this is the path.

As you begin with this new found clarity you may notice the life conforms around you and supports you. Food tastes better, the air smells sweeter, and gratefulness becomes a more natural state.

Say good-bye to mediocrity and merely surviving your day to day struggles. It is time we move the mountains only we were created to move.

Be well


Photo by Matt Noble via Unsplash

You Have Been Called

The whisper in our heart…the urging of our soul…the familiar voice that we drown out with life’s busyness and noise…Let’s give it a moment and tune in…

Have you ever stopped to think about how unique and special you are? The odds of you being you, alive in this moment come out to around 1 in 400 quadrillion (that is right a 4 with seventeen zeros! This doesn’t even take all the factors into consideration). When you take time to really think about these numbers (or all of the variables/decisions that were made to bring you to this exact moment) life can all seem very random and chaotic. For me, I cannot grasp too well odds over a million so let’s just say that I feel lucky, privileged, and grateful to be here…and you should too. We should all feel special and valued when engaged with those thoughts.

You see, there has never been another one of you in this world. Never was there one and never will there ever be another you to walk this earth. You are unique! No one else has thought your thoughts or walked in your shoes the exact same way you have. Also, no one else has the unique blend of traits and skills that you have. Your life experience is unique to you and you alone…it will never be replicated or repeated again.

Let’s switch angles on this stream of thinking. Let’s get inspirational! You and I are not random. We were not brought into this world at the roll of a dice as the odds would suggest. I am a firm believer that we all have purpose and that we are here for specific reasons. You and I are not random and the fact that we are still drawing breath indicates that we are needed.


“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls”.– Joseph Campbell

You are needed in this world in a way that ONLY you can be.

Similarly, you are not in this world to continually meet someone else’s ideas or expectations of you. When we chase other’s ideas and expectations we are wasting out precious time.

This uniqueness that you are is what is needed to be developed and given to the world. Yes, our life is a gift and we need to learn to give it.

What is that whisper within your heart? What is it saying? Have you listened to its urging? Have you followed it to see where it takes you? Within that voice we find our authenticity and purpose.

Our authenticity is our gift to the world. It is why we are here. When we develop this whisper into a strong voice we begin to find our purpose. When we cultivate and live our authenticity life fills in and shapes around us.

Satisfaction/contentment in life comes from living out the voice in our heart and giving it to the world…giving it to others.

The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”– Joseph Campbell

Who will we become if we fully develop the whisper into a loud beautiful song. How will the world transform when we give this song freely?

The world needs you to be you.

Staying in your comfort zone is a stagnant proposition. It is a waste. Stagnant water is dead water…water needs to flow. For things to flow there needs to be an opening…and the opening is your heart. Listen to it….it knows the way.

You are good enough. You have a special uniqueness and you have true value. The world needs you or you wouldn’t be here (there are no mistakes). It is time for you to step up and start living your authenticity.

Release the comfort of coasting along…be still and listen…move to the whisper…follow the whisper. As you seek the whisper the voice will get stronger. Continue on and follow it…it will get stronger and stronger…then, over time you will recognize that this was your true voice all along and not the fear based voice in your mind.

The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure”.– Joseph Campbell

You are needed and you have been called! Live the life on your terms and give your authenticity to the world….and watch the magic happen….get rid of your distractions…get quiet and cultivate the whisper.

You have been called….

Be Well


Photo by Katrim Hauf via Unsplash

Certainty in Uncertain Times

Don’t be controlled by fear. Fear is a liar.

It has been a while. It has been about eight weeks since I chose to step away to focus on family while the world turned upside down. Things got bizarre out there for sure. While we have all been struggling and coming to terms with a world wide pandemic, I have been busy. Busy, yes in work (lucky to still have my job), but more of mentally preparing for tomorrow…our new tomorrow. Things won’t be the same as this whole thing shakes out…but that is ok. You are ok. Let me repeat that: You…are…ok!….ok?

Everything feels uncertain nowadays. I guess that is to be expected, this feeling of unease and constant anxiety. If we check in to our news stations they pedal fear hoping to attract us to buy into the hysteria longer…or at least until the next commercial break (hint). If we tune into social media, we get more of the same but at least there are people we know and stories we share (a better choice in my books). This is all noise and the longer we try to fight the noise (or surf it), the longer we stay with fear and anxiety. I for one do not like uncertainty. Uncertainty drains peace of mind and it makes you fight phantoms that do not exist. Phantoms that only appear between the six inches between your ears….yet there is a better way.

There is a better way through this time. Now, we cannot control the pandemic or snap our fingers and make it go away (does anyone have 6 Infinity Stones?) but we can find certainty. We can have peace of mind. We can have stillness, faith, gratitude, and love.

You have control. You have control of you. Each day you chose what to feed your brain. Each day you chose what to focus on. What you focus on becomes your reality.

We can focus on death tolls, social distancing and whether or not we should where a mask…or we can focus on doing the right thing (where the mask), helping each other out, and being of service to one another. The choice is always ours to make.

I have many posts to write and I am very happy and excited to be writing again. It has been a very difficult time but we all will get through this. Remember what you focus on and dwell on becomes your reality. Our brain is wired to only notice what matches our internal beliefs and our internal contexts (Google: Reticular Activating System). Long story short on our thoughts: Work to eliminate the negative while accentuating the positive….habits will form and peace of mind will return.

When everything is chaos: BE THE CERTAINTY OF YOUR LIFE

To finish out this post I will end it will an old Cherokee tale: The Two Wolves.

One evening, an elderly Cherokee brave told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside all people.

He said “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside of us all. One is EVIL. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is GOOD. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied,
“The one that you feed.”

Feed your mind well and prepare for a better tomorrow. The world needs yous.

Be well


Photo by Jasmin Sessier via Unsplash

A Digital Spring Cleaning

“Clutter is not just the stuff on your floor. It’s anything that stands between you and the life you want to be living”- Peter Walsh

It is that time of year where the temperature starts to rise and we open the windows to let the fresh air in. Spring cleaning seems to be a rite of passage for those of us in New England. Smelling the spring air waft through your living space is a wonderful moment as it signals that warmer days are upon us. As spring fever sets in we work to put away winter clothes and to sweep away the thoughts of a cold winter.

Spring often represents new beginnings and a fresh start. It is an exciting time where the world comes alive again. This year not only did our household start spring cleaning early (shout out here to my wife!) I took it upon myself to clear out my phone! Yes-my electronic device received a thorough cleaning. In many respects digital clutter is just as bad as physical clutter. It distracts our mind, makes things harder to find and can cause stress with the sense of being overwhelmed.

In my digital declutter effort I focused on two areas; unused applications and photos. What a world of difference this effort has made. I can now see the background photo on my phone and I can easily locate the applications I regularly use. Also, removing all photos (delete or back-up) that held no value makes all of my favorite photos easier to find (imagine trying to find your kids in a larger crowd…so much easier when the crowd is gone!).

Through this process I found two gem worthy items from my photos that I have populated here. This first one is from the book Philosophy for Life by Jules Evens. The four steps below outline the Socratic tradition. In many respects the Champion Dad mindset is a stoic mindset and wonderfully align with these thoughts.

  1. Humans can know themselves. We can use our reason to examine out unconscious beliefs and values.
  2. Humans can change themselves. We can use our reason to change our beliefs. This will change our emotions, because our emotions follow our beliefs.
  3. Humans can consciously create new habits of thinking, feeling and acting.
  4. If we follow philosophy as a way of life, we can live more flourishing lives.

The second thing, posted below in green, I have no idea where I found it or who wrote it! So if anyone can identify who this is please let me know so I can provide credit (Contact). I am putting it here because it is a great reminder that we only have one life to live. To have the greatest impact on others we must first start with taking care of the self. This one really hit home with all of the trials I have gone through this winter:

You’re going to realize it one day- that happiness was never about your job or your degree or being in a relationship. Happiness was never about following in the footsteps of all of those who came before you; it was never about being like the others. One day, you’re going to see it- that happiness was always about the discovery, the hope, the listening to your heart and following it wherever it chose to go. Happiness was always about being kinder to yourself; it was always about embracing the person you were becoming. One day, you will understand that happiness was always about learning how to live with yourself, that your happiness was never in the hands of others. It was always about you. It was always about you.

WOW! So true! Follow your bliss and then be of service to the world to help others do the same thing!

Get cleaning and let the fresh air fill your soul will excitement and love!

Be well


Photo by Daniel von Append via Unsplash

5 Techniques to Improve Your Listening Skills

Guess what? I am a terrible listener. I am especially bad when I am in the middle of a task or if someone is talking to me while I am watching my kids. You see, I am sharp enough to believe that I can “multi-task” but if I am not fully locked on to the person just about all of my retention goes bye-bye.

This drives my wife bonkers and leads her to not feel valued. A real life example of how something small thing can corrode a relationship is as follows:

A few weeks ago while I was unloading the dishwasher my wife was explaining (for the second time) how to make iced-tea the way that the kids and her like it. I half listened and gave her all the verbal cues that I got it. In that moment I conceptually understood what she was saying and thought I got it but the reality is it never stuck. One week later, my wife asked me to make some iced-tea before I went to bed. I thought “I got this!” but I had a problem: I couldn’t remember the right mix of tea to use. So I asked through text but being late I never received a response. As such, I took my best guess and made it incorrectly…you can imagine the delightful conversation that ensued the following day.

You may think that my example is no big deal and it is just iced-tea but is this really about tea? No, it is really about my inability to listen and make my wife feel heard and valued. Small things and big things; we if do not listen we are hurting the relationship. Feelings of not being valued do not care about circumstance.

Here are a few things that we all can work on to ensure that we truly listen to the other person. When we employ these techniques not only will we retain what they are saying but they will also feel honored.

  1. Stop what you are doing and square up with that person. This first step is really critical. First, stopping what we are doing allows us to shift gear and focus solely on the person talking. Second, squaring up with the person (turning so our body is is facing them directly) signals to them that they have our full attention. Squaring up also will help our brain focus and drop the other task it was in the process of doing.
  2. Mirror what the other person is saying. This is as simple repeating the last two or three words of their last sentence. Example: Wife: “Let me show you how to make the iced-tea correctly”. Me: “Iced-tea correctly?”. Mirroring in this nature invites the speaker to tell you more and makes them feel honored. Also, when we verbalize and repeat what we hear we to start to lock it in our long term memory.
  3. Label ANY emotions that you pick up on. Using the example above labeling would sound like: “Seems like you are frustrated” or “Sounds like you are agitated”. What is so great about this technique is labeling negative emotions will decrease that emotion for the other person. Labeling positive emotions will have the opposite effect; they will increase! Additional tip: Don’t use phrases like “I think I am hearing” as these do not work. Placing “I” when labeling puts the focus on us and we don’t want that. Remember, the focus needs to be on the speaker.
  4. When, and only when, the speaker is done speaking, paraphrase what you have heard so they know that you understand. The goal of paraphrasing is to make sure we got everything important that they said. We will know when we have done a great job when you hear back “That’s right”. That’s right is confirmation that they have been heard and that we understand what they are communicating.
  5. If needed, write down what you need to remember. This is so simple and allows us the grace to return to our task without worry that we will forget the conversation. From my original example, I now have a note on a bulletin board in our kitchen on how to make great iced-tea!

Good listening is a true art form. It takes practice to do it well. I am still not the best listener but I am sure working at it. Employing these techniques will work wonders. They will make the other person feel validated (stronger relationship) and help us meet any expectations we have agreed to.

Be well


Photo by Ellie Lord via Unsplash

Cultivation Joy part 3: Family Principles

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”– Mark Twain

For this week’s post I could have taken part 2 and amplified it to include others in your life. Yet, that would seem too easy. So for today’s post we are going to walk through some basic principles that are the foundation for joy to manifest in a family setting.

Belonging & Community: Families that thrive in joy have a deep relationship to self and their community. Regardless of personality type or demographics (religion, nationality, age, or gender) a person’s greatest need (yearning) is to be seen, heard, validated and understood. Joy appears in the places where a person can be their authentic self and share their uniqueness with others (see post: The Balance: Authenticity & Belonging). The beautiful thing about environments that support authenticity is they allow the individuals to grow at their own pace and in their own way. Safe environments are fertile soil where joy can take root.

Nature: Spend time as a family outside in nature. Make it an automatic for your children (and you) to spend time outside each day (regardless of weather). Nature can alleviate all anxiety and depression. It increases resilience, self-image, and the ability to engage socially. The long story short on nature is that it heals the brain. As we spend time in nature we are stimulated by all of our senses. This is because nature is not a controlled environment. Sights, sounds and obstacles happen all on their own and we have to navigate them. Nature prompts us to forget about the self (think of all the times you got completely lost in something and forgot self and time…..this only happens through joy. It never happens when the brain is fixated on the self with anxiety).

Next time in nature watch your children…I bet you they are playing fully in the moment and not consumed with thoughts of self. And as such, they most likely are exhibiting spontaneous acts of joy.

Sense of Higher Power: Higher power can mean different things to different people. You may have your own definition (God, religion, spiritual sense or philosophical constructs) but for our purposes here we will define it at a high level. Higher power is that life is greater than the individual. No matter how much we learn or discover we will never have all the answers on why we are here and what this life is all about. Overall, there is something greater at play than what our minds can comprehend. Allow time to contemplate the mystery of it all and how we each fit beautifully into life’s continual play. Having an understanding of a higher power or higher order prompts us to keep things in perspective. Maintaining an element of mystery in our lives allows life to shine its novelty and can even pull us out of our darkest moments. Having a sense of high power allows us to savor the time we embrace those around us.

Risk: Risk is important because it pushes the soul. I don’t mean risking of life but trying things even when the outcome is unknown. When we push forward and don’t know how it will end we are experiencing life fully. We live on the edge and feel truly alive. Think of some of your greatest moments from your life. I bet most of what you can think of contains an element of risk and the unknown. Big and small victories in our life contain the element of risk.

Risk is crucial for the development of children (see post: 5 “Dangerous” Things Your Kids Should Do and Outdoors and Unsupervised…Let’em Play). Life is full of risks and challenges and children need opportunities to develop the skills with managing risk and making informed judgements about risk. Risk in play helps children to develop important life skills that pay-off later in life. Risk management is an essential building block that all children should practice. 

Humor and Play: I love to be a goofy dad whenever I can. Making my kids laugh is one of the greatest treasures of fatherhood. We also play a lot of games…even chores we turn into a fun activity. Creating environments where humor and play are the norm allows joy to manifest and become habitual. For more information on creating more laughter check out post: 5 Ways to Increase Laughter in Your Home.

“Laughter is the GPS of the spirit. It is the sun that drives winter from the human face. It grounds us in a place of hope and is a source of creativity.” -Jeanine Fitzgerald

There is nothing better than creating joyous experiences for you and your family. As you go through your day reflect on those things that bring you joy or that you get completely lost in. It is those things that will provide you guidance on building environments where joy is the norm.

Be well


Photo by Karina Thomson via Unsplash

Cultivating Joy part 2: Personal Habits

Last week we covered the main difference between happiness and joy. As a super light recap, happiness is something that we chase and is fleeting (cannot hold on to) while joy emerges through the process of a life well lived (sustainable). This week we will take a dive into the habits that have shown to provide the best chance to live a fulfilled and joyous life.

Note that these bullet points are not listed in any order of significance. As you read you may see that you already do some of these while others may seem a bit foreign…that’s ok. To plant the seeds of a joyous life you do not need to master all of these. Usually, if you are progressing on a few the benefits will show.

  • Work towards a dream, vision, or a goal. Why do you wake in the morning? When you add up all of your actions throughout the day where is it taking you? When we have a vision for our life we have a star to guide us. Also, we can have many different goals (big and small) or destinations along the way. Those who are tethered to a goal/dream experience less depression and anxiety as they walk with purpose.

I can personally attest to this. Prior to following my dream my life was a grind. My pursuits, while fun, often left me hollow when achieved. Take time to build goals to aim towards. Doing this will breathe oxygen into your life.

  • Move! I could have stated exercise here but that word tends to come with a lot of extra baggage (routines, club memberships, pain…). Just get up and move more than you did yesterday. Moving the body immediately changes the chemistry of the mind and kicks off all of your happy chemicals. If you can, move OUTSIDE. Nature entices all of our senses and heals the mind. Go outside and smell the fresh air, hear the sounds, feel the earth under your feet.

My personal favorite is walking. This form of exercise all of us can do. We are designed to do it and it is magic to clear the mind of all of the unnecessary thoughts that have clogged our day.

  • Create healthy relationships by expressing gratitude often. I am sure you have heard of adopting an attitude of gratitude. Well, this really works. Gratitude puts things in perspective (what matters) and when shared with others it strengthens relationships. We so often walk through life thankless. I challenge you to express more gratitude each day. You will be amazed how it changes your mindset to joy and will provide joy to the other person. Learn to praise and thank the ordinary (Ex. The barista provides your favorite latte perfect everyday…tell them how awesome it is). Often it is what we take for granted that needs the boost of gratitude.

On the flip side, if you have some unhealthy relationships learn to place some boundaries around them. I tend to struggle with this one. I often put too much energy in trying to win another person over who has no desire to change or meet me half way. Remember: attitudes are contagious. Carry gratitude at all times and walk away from those are discordant.

  • Maintain a positive attitudes when things don’t go well. Sometimes we don’t win the game or achieve what we set out to do. This is ok and all we need to do is keep a healthy perspective to move on. It is best to understand that winning and losing are only mindsets. Having a better attitude in any situation will create a win even when the chips are down. Either we are winning or we are learning. Cherish our wins with gratitude and seek out the silver lining when we don’t come out on top.
  • Be of service to others! Magic happens when you give your time, money, and attention to another. Volunteering is a wonderful way to be of service. Just like moving (listed above) taking time to be of service to others wards off depression. Moreover, adopt a service mindset. What I mean by this is when you look at your life as a life of service (who can I help now?) we drop the habitual attitude of narcissism. Life becomes fulfilling when we look at our lives as a part of a whole instead of the vacuum of the me, me, me, attitude.
  • Take full responsibility for your life and don’t take things personally. This point I can write another post on (and most likely will). There are no victims in life. Everything that we have decided and chosen to do has brought us to this moment…and brought the results that we are experiencing now. Take ownership of your past, present, and your future. Even if you believe in victimhood it is better to adopt an ownership attitude. Taking full responsibility gives you control and places you in the drivers seat. Own your life and drive it to the destination you have defined above (Vision, Dreams, Goals).

Taking on this attitude helped me pull myself out of a serious depression about twenty years ago. I cannot stress this point enough and the power it will give you. Ownership clears out all of the self-defeating excuses. It also makes the journey more rewarding as your life unfolds. Now, certainly we cannot control the world and how it interacts with us but we can own how we move and take action (or reaction) going forward.

Hopefully you have found a couple of habits to work on here. These are tried and true in my life. The results of these habits have spoken for themselves in my day to day. Not every day is perfect but I find myself with a sunny disposition more often than not!

Next week we will elevate these concepts to parenting and the home environment. Stay tuned….

Be well


Photo by Anastasia Petrova via Unsplash

Cultivating Joy part I: Happiness vs. Joy

Today’s post will be the the first of a three part series: Cultivating Joy. In this post I would like to bring some awareness on the differences between happiness and Joy. There are clear distinctions between the two and understanding these differences can help you cultivate wellness in you and your family’s life. The second post we will offer up great habits to adopt to cultivate lasting joy in your life. The third post we will work through how to coach your family to stop chasing happiness and bring up some good strategies on growing joy.

Below (in yellow) is from the page: Champion Dad’s Vision. Joy is a pillar that all dad’s (people) should strive for.

Joy: Through their encouragement of others they have a positive impact on everyone they meet. They tend to be happy go lucky by nature and are willing to try new things to experience life fully. They are the rock, or the person called when things go wrong. They are able to endure hardships with a sense of playfulness. Their actions speak to a win, win, win (expansion of self, expansion of others, expansion of community).

While on a recent vacation with my family I watched my kids closely on what makes them happy. Over a few days a pattern emerged and I could determine what gave them happiness and what allowed joy to emerge. From these observations I started to watch other families and the same pattern applied.

Coming back from our vacation I pulled together all of my notes that I could find on happiness and joy (yes, I collect and write down anything that speaks to me through life, training, movies, work…you name it…I am a collector of thoughts). What I found aligns with everything that I observed. With this, let us take a moment to delineate the difference between happiness and Joy. Having this basic awareness will give us a foundation to stand on for our next two posts.

Happy: feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.

Joy: a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.

Boy, those two definitions sound very much the same don’t they?! Well, they really do point at each other so let’s analyze.

Joy is manifested through living a good life. It is the result of living up to our values and living out our authenticity through our actions. It is a positive response to things going well and being lead well. Joy is something that emerges within us. Joy usually comes through the giving of the self to something or others. Joy is steady and is most often found in wonder and gratitude. Joy involves self forgetting.

Happiness is an emotion that is pursued. Happiness typically comes from achievement. Happiness is briefly attained when we receive something. It is fleeting and comes and goes like all other emotions. Happiness is the dopamine hit the brain triggers when we get something we desire.

Here are a couple of examples of each from my vacation I noted above:

Happiness example: Our hotel had an arcade, water park, and professional climbing walls. My kids chased happiness to go to the arcade. They were happy on the walk there (anticipation). They were then quickly consumed with desire to play the candy claw game. Happiness returned when they received candy. Once the candy was obtained they were consumed by their next achievable desire. They chased happiness bug all around the arcade until their money ran out. Their excitement and happiness was fleeting at best and not sustainable.

Joy example: My son each day worked on the climbing walls at the hotel. Over three days he got better and better. On the third day he completed the hardest climbing wall to the amazement of all who watched (he just turned six). Moreover, my daughter completed a hard balancing pool obstacle on day two. She was scared but pushed through it to the end. Their contentment was pure and could be seen for days after. My joy watching them give themselves to an effort (self-forgetting) and living up to their goals was something that will never go away (sustainable).

So next week we will really flesh out some great personal strategies to manifest Joy. Over this next week, take time to review things in your life that you chase for happiness and note all things you do where joy emerges. The ultimate goal is to realize that joy is sustainable and is found in the process of living….happiness, on the other hand, is fleeting and comes and goes based on what we achieve or get in the moment.

Aim for sustainable enjoyment….life is more peaceful that way.

Be well


Photo by Sebastian Leon Prado via Unsplash

Home Culture Part 4: Wellness for All

Wellness is a balance of the external and internal environments of a person

Through this series we have identified our values, taken a look at our personalities, and reviewed how trust is built between people. In this post we will put it all together and discuss elements of a home filled with wellness.

A household that operates in full wellness is one that is functioning with authenticity while providing feelings of belonging. The household’s environment ensures everyone’s needs are met and they are safe to be their authentic self.

“Wellness is not the absence of adversities, but intentionally designing the conditions of an environment to support optimal functioning.” – Jeanine Fitzgerald

The importance of identifying household values is so that the family can get on the same page and aim in the same direction. By understanding these values a family can align their short and long term actions to them. A family can also correct or eliminate any areas of non-alignment.

By understanding our own nature (personality) and the nature of the other members of our home we can ensure that we are developing a deep connection. When we develop a deep connection with each other we are honoring their authenticity while providing a sense of belonging (remember: people gravitate to where they feel most acknowledged and accepted). Out of this each member of the family can derive meaning and a purpose for their life.

Values, personality identification, and trust building are all internal elements of wellness. What about the external?

What is the perfect physical home environment? There is no perfect recipe that works for all households. In fact, every home will have its own ingredients for success and wellness. Here are some tips that can help you build an environment that draw out the best in its members:

  • D/I personalities are often on the move. Look to create areas of open space so flowing movement can happen.
  • S/C personalities? Look to create areas where concentration and solitude can be found.
  • Keep the environment flexible as the house should change with the changing needs of the individuals. My wife and I have had four living room set-up changes since our kids were born (oldest is 7).
  • Art work, decorations, and themed rooms should all align with the values of the household. By creating visual harmony we subtly reinforce household values and can create an appropriate tone for day to day living.
  • Work through the rooms of your house and analyze your stuff (furniture, decorations, and space usage). Remove items that hold no value or get in the way of optimal wellness. Less stuff=more freedom.
  • Allow your kids to create their own room design. This is a fun activity where kids can figure out what they like best. Allow them to change often to test things out.

Hopefully this series has provided some value for you. Keep in mind that life and parenting are not games where perfection can be achieved. Life and parenting are more about constant discovery and continuous learning. By using your values as guidance and cultivating your relationships you can develop strong resiliency and wellness of all members of the home.

Be well


Photo by Michal Parzuchowski via Unsplash