When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.

I am very fortunate.  I do not have the shopping gene most women seem to be born with.  I prefer to avoid malls and going shoe shopping is a violation of my Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment.  That doesn’t mean, though, that I never use retail therapy.

I drive through Starbucks for an iced chai tea latte because I’ve had a hard day.  I buy a book I want to read instead of waiting for the library (or at least paperback) because I want to divert myself from emotions I’d rather not deal with.  Someone hurts my feelings and I go out for a hot fudge brownie ala mode.

None of these are bad things; it’s only bad when I use them to substitute dealing with life.  Nothing I can buy will buy me happiness.  Not a new house.  Not a new car.  Not even a nice new desktop computer and desk so I don’t write sitting hunched over on the floor (although that might bring me better posture).

Time to practice being content with what I have in order to practice happiness.   I don’t have anything at home to make a chai tea latte?  Then I can have peppermint tea and I’ll still be fine (and not put on a few pounds by the end of the week).  I don’t have a computer desk?  Then I should spend a little more time away from the computer– it’s better for my eyes, too.

I’m going to practice being content with what I have and not buying anything outside of necessities for the next week.  Hold me accountable!

Contentment isn’t about getting what you want, but about being happy with what you have.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.  – Hebrews 13:5

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I don’t like some of the people I’ve been.  I’ve been selfish, stupid, angry, hasty, naïve, overly-sensitive, callous, and irresponsible.  But I’m not those people anymore, so I don’t know why I keep dragging them out when I want to beat myself over the head.

One of  my favorite parts of my faith is that I believe a person can change if they truly want to change. I also believe in giving others second (and third, and fourth…) chances.  So why don’t I give the same to myself?

Even though I don’t have the best memory in the world, I can remember every mistake and misstep that I’ve made.  Because I’m constantly looking back at these mistake and missteps, I keep making them.  It’s hard to walk a straight line forward when you’re looking back.

So, today I vow to start looking at who I am, not who I’ve been.  I am a strong, amazing woman who has persevered through quite a bit to get to where I am.  I have some pretty amazing friends who seem to think I’m amazing in turn… and who am I to tell them they’re wrong?  I am more than who I am and more than who I’ve been… and I can wait to see who I’m going to be, because I’m going to enjoy this person I am.

The next time I try to dredge up my past and rehash woulda-coulda-shoulda until I’m in tears, I’m going to focus on will-can-did.  I can do something right today.  I will do it well.  I DID do it well.

If I keep it up long enough, then it’s bound to be true.

Always remember, your focus determines your reality. – Qui-Gon to Anakin in Star Wars Episode 1.

It is a product of thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real. But fear is a choice. – Will Smith, After Earth.

I disappeared for a long while.  I’m not even sure if I have any readers left.  But I took a break so I could get some things settled in my life.  I think I’m finally at a place where I can start blogging regularly again.

I was skimming the internet for articles today and found one on the “22 Habits of Unhappy People”.  It was a pretty good list, so I started searching out the habits of happy people as well.  I’ve certainly struggled with joy in the last few years; I’d like to be more of the joyous, energetic person I know I can be and less of the tired, run-down, gloomy person I’ve become.

While taking 21 days to form a habit has been largely disproven as a myth, I thought I’d try taking Lent to find my happiness.  (If I were Stella, I’d be getting my groove back.)  So, each day between now and Easter, I’m going to focus on a different aspect of happiness while still maintaining the ones from before.  After all, this isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it thing.  This is a drill-it-into-my-brain-until-I-remember thing.  I’m starting with today.

Day One: Don’t Complain; Make a Change

If you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change your attitude.  Don’t complain.  – Maya Angelou

I am a world-class complainer.  I wrap it up in pretty disguises: that’s so unsafe, (s)he hurt me, it might be better if… .  It’s still complaining.

For the next 46 days, I may not complain.  I may not vent.  I may not whine, whimper, wail, or bemoan.  If I don’t like something, I can work on changing it.  If something goes wrong, I can ask for prayer or assistance.  But this complaining thing?  It’s gone.  Bye-bye.  Hasta la vista, baby without the I’ll be back.  Because, really, what do I have to complain about?  I have a job, a place to live, food to eat, family and friends who love me, and relatively good health.

I am blessed.  If I don’t like it, then I can change it.

 

Have you ever had a great idea… but didn’t do anything with it?  Or maybe you started a project with lots of steam, but never quite got to the end?  I’ve been there many times myself.  I’ve noticed, most often, that I fail if I don’t follow five easy steps toward success.

1.  Take a step.  You’ll never finish what you don’t start, so do something right now.

“The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Lao Tzu

I have a treasure chest of things that were great ideas that I just never did.  Songs I never composed, letters I never wrote, words I never said.  In each instance, I just never got started at all.

Sometimes I let fear hold me back.  Failure is an awfully scary prospect, after all.  Sometimes I procrastinated until the moment passed.  Sometimes I just wasn’t sure where to start.

Here’s the key: start anyway.  Do something about your idea.  Write it down.  Do research.  Get a plan.  Just do something and do it now.

2.  Make a map.  Every undertaking, even the small ones, fares better with a plan.

“You can do anything, but not everything.”  David Allen

Far too often, we try to do everything at once.  I do it all the time.  I get so caught up in the excitement of getting started that I think I can do it all in one day.  Then I burn out four days later and the idea goes away completely.

Do yourself a favor.  Make a plan.

Start with the big picture.  Where do you want to go, what do you want to do, and why?  Write it down, because you’ll need this information again and again.

Outline the very biggest steps to get to your goal.  Say you want to become a published author.  The big steps are brainstorm ideas, research the market or idea, write the book, and market the book.  Huge steps, but a clear roadmap.

See if you need to go back and break down the big steps into even smaller steps.  This isn’t always necessary, but if you’re writing a book, you may break your book down into pre-writing, outlining, writing, editing, and rewriting.

Finally, make a to do list every single day.  Use a piece of paper.  Get a calendar or planner.  Put it in your Outlook calendar online or on your phone.  Make it as detailed (hour by hour) or simple (a checklist) as you want.

Now you have a map of where to go.

3.  Start walking.  Work on your idea or project every single day.

“Many people who succeed in the face of seemingly impossible conditions are people who simply didn’t know how to quit.”  Robert Schuller

Go run a marathon.  Go on, right now.  No?  Okay, maybe you can’t run a marathon today.  But you can probably do a marathon distance, little by little, if you work at it everyday.  You might even be able to do a real marathon by the end of it… if you work on it every day.

Remember the to-do list?  Here is where it’s essential.  Every single day, make yourself a to-do list of at least three items.  Do not go to bed until those three items are finished.

“One of the secrets of getting more done is to make a to do list every day, keep it visible, and use it as a guide to action as you go through the day.”  Jean de la Fontaine

4.  Always have a destination.  Remember why you’re doing this.

“Remember that your own resolution to succeed is far more important than any other.”  Abraham Lincoln

Remember when I said do write down WHY you’re doing this?  It’s important.

You don’t usually take a trip without knowing where you’re going.  Don’t start a project or goal without knowing why you need to get there, either.  This motivation will carry you past slumps, rocky moments, and plain old laziness.

Ever started a diet just because you felt you should lose a few pounds?  Those diets are generally not successful.  Go on a diet because your health is at stake and you suddenly have motivation.

Keep it at the forefront of your mind.  Use a photo, a key phrase, or just a single word, but always know WHY you’re doing this.

5.  Reach your destination.  Never quit until you’re finished.

“We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  Aristotle

You can eat an elephant if you just keep taking bites.  You can run a marathon if you just keep taking steps.  You can reach your goal if you just don’t stop.

That doesn’t mean not to take breaks.  If it’s a long-term goal, schedule some rest breaks.  But then start right back up again.  The important thing is to never, ever quit.

Use these five steps, throw in your own willpower, talent, and life experience, and you’ll finish what you started, with flying colors.