Now that I’ve written a couple of posts about why people try to buy happiness—even knowing it doesn’t work—I decided it was time to tell a personal story. Although I now understand that true happiness comes from doing what I love with people that I love on a regular basis—and attempting to live SMART 365, I certainly used to act otherwise. In fact, at one time in our lives Thom and I could both be accused of trying to buy happiness just like most people in our country. But fortunately that changed for us at one point—and perhaps in our story is a lesson that others might find useful.
Happy SMART Day Everyone!
After I completed my first article about why people continue to try to buy happiness—even when knowing it won’t work—I realized there was plenty more to say. As I mentioned in the part one post, author James Roberts says that most of us have “short-term amnesia as consumers and could use a lot more self-control.” What he avoided saying was that many of us have what could be considered an all-out addiction to spending. Is that why we continue to spend even though it is but a short-term high? What does such an addiction look like? And if people are addicted to consumption, what can be done about it?
I recently read an interview of a man named James Roberts who is the author of a new book entitled, Shiny Objects—Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have In Search Of Happiness We Can’t Buy. It’s a great title and I’m sure there are very few people who would disagree with what it says. But while we may agree with that statement, most people continue to try to buy happiness every single day. Not only do a large number of people spend money trying to buy stuff they don’t need or oftentimes even use, many actually go into debt in the process. Others spend money so indiscriminately they might as well throw it out of a speeding car window. So, what’s the deal with money? And what are we searching for that we think money can buy?
A favorite story I heard long ago is about how some young boys tried to fool a wise old woman who lived in their village. The boys, who had seen the woman hobble about town just couldn’t understand why the adults always seem to treat her with respect. Putting their heads together, they schemed to find a way to show how pathetic she really was. Routinely they tried to come up with questions they thought she’d never be able to answer—but she always had something wise and relevant to say. Still, they never stopped trying to trip her up.
One day a particularly mischievous boy in the group came up with the perfect question that would be impossible for the old woman to answer correctly. He plotted a plan to hold a small live bird behind his back in his cupped hands. He would then ask the wise woman, “Is the bird in my hands alive or is it dead?” Naturally, if the woman said the bird was alive, the boy intended to quickly squeeze the life out of it and answer, “No, the bird is dead.” If the woman said the bird is dead, then the boy would merely present the live bird proving her wrong. Either way, the boy laughed thinking he couldn’t lose. [Read more…]
Happy SMART Day Everyone!
How many of you have noticed that Costco and a couple of other big-box retailers have already set up their Christmas decorations—and September isn’t even over? That’s right, sometime during the month of September Costco began moving out the summer displays and setting up Christmas trees, neon-flashing Santa’s and boxes of wrapping paper, all designed to get you in the buying mood early this year. And while I’m normally a fan of Costco, I consider their Christmas push to be obscene. As a member of the “club,” this push is a great reminder that Costco’s, (and similar other retail store’s) primary agenda is not to serve customers—but instead to generate income. And that is something very SMART for each of us to remember. [Read more…]
We are all creatures of habit. Don’t believe me? This morning Facebook came out with yet another change to its layout and the comments are: “If I was Facebook’s mom I would ground it for a month.” Or: “HATE: the new Facebook Newsfeed,” or “How do you like the new Facebook layout? So far I can’t stand it! Boooo Hiss Facebook, Boooo Hiss!” Unfortunately, while habits can make our lives easier in many cases, it is also a recipe for a life of boredom, routine and a diminished creativity and brain capacity. When you know the facts, you might consider that Facebook is doing us all a favor.
There is an old Zen story that uses the comments, “Where are you going? Don’t know,” to make its point. For those who may not know, Zen is an ancient spiritual practice related to Buddhism that frequently uses stories, parables or “koans” to explain and deepen its teachings among followers. Many koans are paradoxical and used to shock the mind into enlightenment. So, when you hear a Zen Koan for the first time, it may not make any sense at all. However, at exactly the right time and place, the truth behind it suddenly becomes clear. That’s what happened for me after a few recent events.
Most of us are drama queens—yes, even you, my macho friends! While it is pleasant to hear good news from others, most of us are more easily sucked into situations where something unusual and oftentimes dreadful occurs. Psychologists say that urge comes from an inborn biological imperative in place designed to keep us safe and constantly on the look out of danger. But for most of us, our lives are routinely safe and secure. So, instead of looking out for lions and tigers and bears, we are drawn into the dramas around us with amazing fascination. And instead of choosing something saner or more helpful, we frequently pass it on to others rather than taking the high road and doing otherwise. That’s why it is SMART to let go of your inner drama queen and instead become a queen of calm.
“Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.” –Buddha
Do you realize how much power you possess every time you open your mouth? Or what about when you post something on Facebook or send out that email? Every communication we have with others carries with it the ability to bring a smile to someone’s face and potentially lift one’s spirit. Or, we simultaneously have the power to create fear, doubt, or even worse. While we usually can’t turn another person’s life around without their cooperation, we can, with the simple words we say or write, instantly shift the energy in a person or in a room. Let’s start remembering that the words we share with others are like a wand bestowing blessings or curses.
With the new school year fast approaching, I think it is useful to recognize that people generally have one of two different mindsets when it comes to learning. Some people think you “just have what you were born with” as far as smarts or intelligence goes, while others live their lives with the belief that you can always learn more and become more with effort. Which are you? Sort of like a brain “operating system,” believing and behaving with either a growth mindset or a fixed mindset will go a long way towards determining your success and happiness in this lifetime. The good news is, if you haven’t been getting the results you crave, you can always change your mindset and go from there.