The Pursuit of Happiness

I’ve had four people ask me about happiness in the last week. I give better answers after I’ve had a chance to think – so this blog brings together a few themes from September.

I’m most happy when I’m serene. Because serenity doesn’t look happy – the people around me often wonder if I’m ok.  I’m doing great, thanks.

Over the past two weeks I’ve been thinking about three themes: Young Children; Noise; and the Role of Technology in my life.


Young Children

When Lex (our oldest) was born, I intuitively knew that the main goal of childcare was to keep her alive. This isn’t a joke. I think health & safety is #1 for what we can bring young kids.

What I struggled with was the lack of measurable goals, targets, metrics or anything associated with kids. With a two, or three, year old… there’s not much to achieve.

I thought: What’s going to be most valuable to me at 65 or 75 years old?

I answered: Friendship, companionship and love.

So I’m focusing on two things with Lex: health & safety (always #1) and demonstrating love to the people around her. 

After a disappointing trip in August, I changed a few things for this family vacation.

Rotate the kids with more adults than children. We had one day where all the adults were with all the kids, all day.  We were SHOT by nightfall.  The days where we split up time with Lex went a lot better.

Pace myself with a lot of sleep and never get “too tired.” 

Remove time pressure.  This was the most valuable insight for me. Everything with children takes twice as long as I’d expect. That’s ok because I don’t want to run out of things to do when taking care of a two-year old!  Each day, I’d choose one event that would take about an hour to complete.  Then we’d head off and take 3-4 hours to get it done.  Young kids are some of the least productive people on the planet but that’s ok.

Forget about work and training. My family arrived the day AFTER my event and I took the week off training and coaching.

Remember that the greatest gift of kids is their ability to bring love into the world. When I view my daughter as a little teacher helping me learn to chill out, everything is easier. 

Being loved by a little person makes me happy and that’s enough of a benchmark.

For those of you with experience with Eastern Philosophy, you might recognize the ‘zen’ of two-year olds: respect life, be love and enjoy the journey… easier said than done!


The Role of Technology

Life without technology is much more serene, but I get lost frequently.

At the beginning of the week, it was embarrassing to realize that I could barely think without my phone.  

Truth be told, I borrowed Monica’s phone most days to avoid getting completely lost or to google information on my planned activity with Lex.

My main insight was that there’s nothing wrong with living via technology but I would like to try living my life more with my key three (Monica, the kids and training in nature).  To dial down technology, I need to make changes:

  • Check the news once per day
  • Remove Twitter from my iPhone.
  • Check Facebook and Twitter 1-2x per day.
  • Turn my phone off when I’m not using it.

My goal is to see if I can pull this off until my birthday in late-December.  

The above seems simple but will be tough for me – I was checking my phone a couple times per hour and physically repetitive habits run deep.


Noise, Serenity and Happiness

I’ve been eliminating the sources of noise for the last decade.  There’s been a material improvement in the quality of my life but it has been a challenge given technology’s creep in my life.

The main sources:
  • Media / News / Television
  • Internet / Chat Forums
  • Social Networks
  • Toxic People
  • Attraction To Drama
  • Psychological Issues That Are Unlikely To Resolve
Drama has an emotional hook on me and it’s easy to get addicted to the charge of negative emotions.

Serenity can feel boring compared to irritation, shock, envy, anger… however, it is where I want to take myself so I’ll keep chipping away.


Establishing Priorities

It has been almost two years since I’ve done a cyber vacation. Next week, I’m going electronics free! At the same time, I am going to take a week off from structured training. That’s going to leave a heck of a lot of time to think. So this entry is for both sharing my experiences and prepping myself to consider my 2012 strategic direction.


Last spring, while renovating our house, I spent a few weeks with my desk, bike trainer, clothes and computer in our guest bedroom. About the only thing I was doing outside the room was eating, swimming and running.  I had a realization while spending up to 18 hours per day in my guest room, I was really, really happy. I’ve been considering what was ‘right’ with that block of time for the last six months.  I’ve also made decisions to simply my work-life to free up more time for the things that appear to make me happy – exercise, my wife, and my daughter.  

I’ve paid attention to myself when I have not been enjoying my key three (exercise, wife, daughter) and I’ve noted how best I like to experience my key three.  I’ll share some observations that might be useful for you:

Combining my loves reduces my quality of experience. Going for a run with my wife and carting Lex along in the baby jogger is far less fun than going for a solo run in the hills; going to a playground with Lex and taking Monica out for dinner. We had a rather unfulifilling family vacation in August. It was a good reminder than nearly everything that I need can be found right at home.

Action leads emotion. I manage my mood through sleep, exercise and nutrition. While Monica gives me a lot of support (to the point of dragging me out the door to run with her), ultimately responsibility for my life experience rests with actions that I chose to make and need to keep on making.  As I write this, I am spending a week training-through-fatigue. Given the way my brain works, total rest is one of the worst things I can do for my mental health.  So when I get really tired, I need to manage myself back to normal over a couple weeks.  I also need to take responsbility to managing my fatigue so I don’t get too far gone and sink into depression via poor choices with regard to sleep, exercise and nutrition. It’s a dance that only a minority of people learn to manage – and I’m still working on it myself!

Sleep trumps everything. Well rested, I find my most challenging days entertaining. My amusement feeds into the situation and helps difuse it. This past week, Lex turned into a Tasmanian Devil and started tossing lego blocks all around the room, while screaming.  I was sitting on the toilet chuckling to myself that she was really fired up. I headed out into her room, asked her how she was doing and she settled right now. When tired, I can feel myself wanting to lead by domination.  When rested, I’m able to lead by letting situations run their course.  There have been times in my life when I’ve been chronicly sleep deprived and, therefore, oblivious to my own role in creating my ‘problems.’

September and April have traditionally been the months where I take stock of my life via a personal review.  This year my financial, personal and family lives feel like they are in order – my main issue is ‘what’s next’ for my business life. I’ll let you know if I come up with anything while walking around in the Redwoods.