Speaking of Joy: Beginnings

This weekend marks the beginning of summer – three glorious months of warm sunshine, late evening walks and much-needed vacations. 

And for many, summer is also wedding season.   

That’s the case for our family – and for the third year in a row, too.

This time, my sister is the bride.  She arrived from Texas this week to put the finishing touches on her Colorado wedding now just a few months away.

It makes me, well, a bit teary-eyed to think of my little sister getting married.  I understand the path she’s taken.  We were both married once.  We both loved our husbands.  And yet, we both found ourselves divorced. 

And then, we both spent 20 years as 24/7 single working moms to our two children.  It’s ironic that our journeys look so similar but as tough as it was sometimes, there was magic in those new beginnings, too.

My sister is both a nurse and a mom and she has done an incredible job at both.  Her oldest daughter has her masters degree from Texas Tech and her younger daughter is a Texas A&M graduate now in nursing school. 

But after dedicating her life to her two girls and her career, my sister has found love again. 

It’s a new beginning for her and one with perfect timing.  Just as she was turning the page to close that first long chapter, a new chapter came to life.  One she didn’t expect and never predicted.

It’s magical really the way our life can unfold when we embrace the roads we don’t always pick but sometimes find ourselves traveling anyway.   

My sister is a lesson in how to take that trip with joy, grace and gratitude.  She’s a glass full-to-the-top-and-overflowing if you know what I mean.  She never gave up, never gave in and never stopped standing in that hard place between what she wanted versus what she was facing.

Her small wedding will be in a park on the shore of Grand Lake – our family’s happy place.  It’s a stunningly beautiful spot with clear, glistening blue water surrounded by the towering peaks of the Colorado Rockies.

After years of standing strong, it’s her turn to relax in the warm summer sunshine.

There is indeed a magical force in new beginnings.

Until next week, I hope your life is full of joy and gratitude and new beginnings, too.

linda

Linda Sterling Sease is an author, professional speaker and career coach on the power of joy to transform companies, homes and communities.  To explore how Linda can work with your organization, call 303-319-5829 or email her at Linda at SterlingSease.com.

Speaking of Joy: Little Things

With intention this week, I took notice of the small things in my life that bring me happiness.  

Those itty-bitty things that rarely warrant a passing glance in the midst of laundry to be done, lawnmowers growing restless and dogs begging for a walk.    

And as I paid attention, one tiny little treasure stood out. 

In 2010, my youngest son Zach gave me a small lavender orchid.  It was a gift marking a special event – our first Mother’s Day in a new home.

He bought it at our local grocery store.  Every May you see these delicate flowers lined up at Krogers, Walgreens and CostCo just waiting to be adopted by dutiful sons and daughters.  They boast velvet blooms of rich scarlet, pure white and perfect pink set off by oversized glossy green leaves.

They are a lovely gift but I don’t let myself get too attached.  Past experience indicates they’ll likely live 60 to 90 days and then rest eternally as mulch in my garden. 

But this tiny delight has been different. 

Sitting by my kitchen sink, it has been a daily reminder of how fortunate I am to be his mom.  Ours is not the typical mother-son relationship that you might imagine or maybe it is. 

I’m the other mom – the second mom.  And yet, I’ve never felt like anything but a real mom.  His mom.

I’ve managed to keep that little orchid green and healthy for the past 6 years.  It should be easier than it is.  I’ve learned that it takes more than just shelter, water and food to grow an orchid. 

It also takes faith and patience.

Now after 6 years of hopeful watering, filtered sunshine and no small amount of sweet-talk, it’s about to bloom.  For only the second time in its young life.

During that same 6 years, raising this once-very-young-and-new-to-me son has been an exercise in faith and patience, too.  He has now graduated from high school and will begin his sophomore year this fall at the University of Colorado

Like that little lavender orchid, Zach has blossomed, too.

Seems that faith, patience and sweet-talk are as good for growing strong young men as they are for growing beautiful orchids.

Until next week, I hope your life is full of joy and gratitude and no small amount of sweet talk to the things that delight you, too. 

linda

Linda Sterling Sease is a professional speaker, author and career coach on the power of joy to transform companies, homes and communities.  To explore how Linda can work with your organization, call 303-319-5829 or email her at Linda at SterlingSease.com.

Speaking of Joy: Sharing Our Best

Do you ever wonder about the impact you have on other people? Are you a central part of the happiness they feel?  Or are you merely a neutral bystander observing from afar?  Or maybe worse – a contributor to other people’s unhappiness?

Rarely do we live a life without both positive and negative influences on the people around us.  And I’m not talking about just family and friends.  I’m talking about strangers, too.

A friend of mine experienced a magical moment last year.  She was in line at Target and checking out in front of her was a young man.  He looked to be in his mid 20’s.  But it was his grocery cart that first caught her eye.  

He was buying cleaning supplies and his list was a long one.  He had a mop, a broom, a bottle of Pine-Sol – and lots more, too.  It looked like he was going to be busy that afternoon.    

When he went to check out, his credit card was declined.  He stepped aside to call his bank and my friend said she knew exactly what he was feeling – anxiety, embarrassment, panic.  Most of us have been there, too.

His bill was a meager $37 so she quickly paid his tab and why not?  He was a kid buying cleaning supplies and she was not about to let insufficient funds keep him from mopping his kitchen!   

As she walked towards the door, he chased her down and with tears in his eyes, asked if he could hug her.  After a very brief exchange they both walked away in different directions but she was now smiling and she knew he was, too.  

I’ve thought about the two of them often and what a bargain she got for a mere $37 bucks.  He got a bargin, too – a renewed faith in the kindness of others and a clean floor to go with it. 

There’s science that confirms why our happiness expands when we help someone else and with no expectation for return.  Simply put - the more good we do for others, the more good we do for ourselves. 

The father of a dear friend just moved to a new home – one for assisted living.   Harold is 95 years old. He’s partially blind now.  His sweet wife of 71 years, Doris, died only a few years ago.    

His daughter was a little apprehensive about his transition to this new home.  Not only was he now alone, he was now alone in a very unfamiliar place and with limited eyesight. 

But then she got a call from his new caretakers.  They said he was so full of joy and light that he had made all of them rethink their own life.  If he could be so happy in the midst of so much change, then most certainly they could be happier in their life, too.

You have a young man early on life’s path, buying cleaning supplies and doing his best.

And you have an elderly gentleman late on life’s path, no longer buying much of anything but still doing his best, too.

And both of them doubling joy around them with every step.

Until next week, I hope you share double joy and double gratitude with family, friends and strangers, too.

linda

Linda Sterling Sease is an author, speaker and career coach on the power of joy to transform companies, homes and communities.  To explore how Linda can work with your organization, call 303-319-5829 or email her at Linda at SterlingSease.com.

Speaking of Joy: A New Book

I have good news today.  My book, Many Shades of Joy, is now available both here and at Amazon.com.

It's part happiness primer and part coloring book for grown-ups.   It features 24 hand illustrated mandalas paired with 24 happy habits to help you find more joy in life.

Now I’m sure you are wondering why I would create a coloring book for grown-ups?  That’s an easy answer – for the same reason coloring books are good for kids.

When my son was young, I would often go to chapel with his kindergarten class.  I would sit in the middle of these 5-year-old boys and attempt to create some form of attention on the service.

It was like sitting in a bucket of worms.  I was in over my head.   

Thirty little boys – all wiggling and squirming, taking off their shoes and blowing bubbles with their spit.    

Now contrast that with the afternoons I’d volunteer to help in art class.  The minute those bubble blowing stinkers got a crayon in their hand?  Well, it was like watching Picasso at work. 

They were quiet, still and intent on expressing their creativity.

Research now confirms that coloring helps our brains reach a state of relaxation similar to meditation.  When we color, our brain becomes very focused.  And that concentration allows our amygdala – which is our brain’s stress signaler among other things - to take a much needed rest.

That little mini-vacation for our mind creates a relaxed yet focused state much like meditation.

Our brain loves a regular vacation but most brains never really get one.   Even when we drag our tired bodies on vacation, our brains are almost always still hard at work assuaging our worries and solving our problems.

Coloring is a simple way to quiet your mind and give it a rest.  And there are other benefits, too.

Our vision gets a work-out and so does our hand-eye coordination.   And together they work to polish our fine motor skills. 

Our right brain benefits from the logical process of connecting forms and shapes while our left brain enjoys playing with the design and color relationships. 

And when we color, we are also deeply involved in creative self-expression – both negative and positive emotions are often revealed in our art.

By combining the science of happiness with creativity, Many Shades of Joy makes it easy to learn new happy habits while also giving a boost to both your left and right brain.  I hope you’ll give it a try.

Until next week, here’s to a big colorful life full of joy and gratitude,

linda

Linda Sterling Sease is an author, speaker and career coach on the power of joy to transform companies, homes and communities.  To explore how Linda can work with your organization, call 303-319-5829 or email her at Linda at SterlingSease.com.

Speaking of Joy: Ordinary Things

The idea of finding joy in the ordinary might not be very motivating to us.  After all, the ordinary is not something we generally desire.

The dictionary defines ordinary as “uninteresting, commonplace, normal, with no special features.”   That’s not at all appealing in the super-charged world we live in today.

I'm a good example. I have books with not a single fingerprint after the first chapter. I got bored.  I make a hasty and early exit 15 minutes into a dull movie.  Sitting in a waiting room is foot-tapping torture. 

This demand for engagement and entertainment is why we are so addicted to our phones, our televisions and YouTube.  We live a life interrupted with pings, dings and rings.   We bounce from one channel to the next with barely a two-second pause.  I suggest it all started with the remote control.

Last year there was a popular statistic that many people noted on social media – our attention span as compared to that of a goldfish.  The research from Microsoft Canada indicated that our average continuous attention span may now be as short as 8 seconds.   And supposedly, that’s one second less than a goldfish.

Now I really don’t know how you would measure the attention span of a goldfish. I couldn’t find any reliable data to support this alleged “fact.”  But regardless, I did find a great deal of credible research speaking to the impact that technology is having on our attention spans. 

So no wonder it’s hard to find joy in the ordinary.  We often don’t focus on it long enough to actually experience it.

Finding joy in our everyday life is a choice and that takes work.  

It’s a choice to stop and listen longer than a goldfish might.   I’m sitting on my back porch as I write this and what I hear most is the clack, clack, clack of my computer keys.  

But when I choose to stop, to be quiet and to listen?

I hear the wind rustling through the trees.  I notice the soft trickling of water in the stream behind my house.  And then I hear a bird feathering her nest for little babies on the way.   Right there, building a home under the eaves over my porch.

All very ordinary things and yet suddenly, they seem extraordinary.   

with joy and gratitude,

linda

Linda Sterling Sease is a professional speaker, career coach & author on the power of joy to transform companies, homes and communities.  To explore how Linda can work with your organization, call 303-319-5829 or email her at Linda at SterlingSease.com.

Speaking of Joy: Kaizen Change

Do you like the change of seasons?

I do – especially summer into fall and winter into spring.  We’ve had an early spring here in Denver with a blizzard last week sandwiched in between our recent pretty days.

When seasons change, we often find ourselves attracted to personal change, too.  In the spring, we immerse ourselves in healthy recipes.  We clean out our garages.  We try out new haircuts.

We are suddenly all about change.

But what about changing those things in ourselves that we really wish were different?  That can be work.

We all have a list.  Maybe we’d like to be more grateful.  Or maybe we’d like to be more positive.   Or maybe we know we should exercise more often.

Changing ourselves is usually not much fun.  I think that’s because there’s no quick reward, no easy fix, no one and done. 

Noted American psychologist Carl Rogers said the “curious paradox” is that changing ourselves starts with accepting ourselves.

So how do we first, accept ourselves, and second, begin the process of change?

Self-acceptance is the opposite of self-inflicted judgment.  Let’s be honest.  Most of us are trash talkers.  And the subject of our verbal abuse is ourselves. 

But what if we unconditionally accepted our sticky-widgets, hot buttons and inevitable shortcomings.   And not for any reason other to just accept, without shame, those things about yourself that you know to be true.

And then consider this for a plan:  Kaizen change.

You might be familiar with the idea of Kaizen change.  Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning “change for the better.”  It’s most often associated with business change and has been used extensively by Toyota.

But it’s a solid idea for personal change, too.

Kaizen change is the idea of focusing on small, incremental change – the kind that is easier for us to make.  And when we string incremental change together that in turn creates the big changes that often seem so improbable to us.   

Here’s an example.  If you’ve not exercised in a long time, just carve out 10 minutes every day for the next week and go for a brisk walk.  The week after, make it 15 minutes.  Within five weeks, you’ll be walking 30 minutes a day.  If you eat healthy and take that walk every day for a year, you’ll burn enough calories to loose about 18 pounds. Small changes can equal big changes.

But it all begins with acceptance not judgment. 

Until next week, I hope your life is full of joy and gratitude and plenty of early spring walks,

linda

Linda Sterling Sease is a professional speaker, career coach & writer on the power of joy to transform companies, homes and communities.  To explore how Linda can work with your organization, call 303-319-5829 or email her at Linda at SterlingSease.com.

Speaking of Joy: Our Invincible Summer

Winter plays bait and switch games here in the Rockies.  Maybe where you live, too. Snow one day, flip-flop weather the next.

Have you ever endured a winter that just did not want to end?   Where every morning was just one more in a long line of cold, damp, gray days? 

I had a winter like that one year in Cincinnati.  It was bitter cold, constant snow and dark skies.  I’d wake up every morning hoping for sunshine and see only my breath instead.

Winter is making its slow exit here in the Rockies and there are signs of an early spring.  We will have more snow this year but our hardware store is already stocked for the early-bird gardeners. 

There’s a nectarine tree right outside my office window.  When spring arrives, the branches begin to look as though they are blanketed in pink powder puffs.  And with the windows open, my entire office smells like a fine French perfume.

As I enjoy this early spring feast for the senses, it’s hard to remember that only a few short months ago that now lovely tree was barren.  Its branches were a withered brown with absolutely no sign of the delicate blossoms to come.

But now those branches are full of pink powder puffs.  They disappear way too quickly.  And then just as the summer solstice arrives and those puffs of pink have fallen away, the promise of plump red nectarines begin to take their place.   And the wait is always worth it. 

Sometimes our life is like that, too.   There are times when it feels like one long, never-ending winter - bleak, dark and sad.

Troubles at work, cranky marriages, kids being kids – there are as many ways to struggle in this world as there are people to struggle.

But winter never lasts.  Even at the South Pole.  When summer arrives there, the temperature may be only a few degrees but it’s joined by 24 hours of sunlight. 

We all have our wicked winters but don’t loose hope.  In the midst of our most melancholy days and heartfelt sorrows, summer is there deep down just waiting.

Don’t give up.

Your invincible summer will come again.

Until next week, I hope your life is full of joy and gratitude and little pink puffs of spring, too.

linda

Linda Sterling Sease is a professional speaker, career coach & writer on the power of joy to transform companies, homes and communities.  To explore how Linda can work with your organization, call 303-319-5829 or email her at Linda at SterlingSease.com.

Speaking of Joy: Faith in Change

When we think about change, it often looks like this: it starts with tiny thoughts that transition into small choices that expand into significant decisions that blossom into really big things.

But that transformation is rarely easy.

A new marriage, a new career, a move to a new city - they all require courage and determination. 

But that’s not the most difficult part of change.   

To grow into something new, we often have to leave behind things we love – and that requires faith. 

I was reminded of this yesterday as Peyton Manning gave his retirement speech.  An injury as a Colt in Indy led to a curtain call career as a Bronco in Denver.  And now, after 18 years in the NFL, he said good-bye.   He left a life he loved for something totally unknown. 

That’s frightening, right?  It’s a leap of faith – sometimes we willingly jump and sometimes, we’re pushed. 

Regardless, when we face major changes in our life, it can be so easy to cling tightly to what we’ve always known.  It takes guts and grit to carve out new experiences.

But in those small moments of resolve, we often find very big things waiting for us.

I saw recently on Facebook that a high school friend was leaving her hometown, selling her house and moving several hours away.  She was willingly leaving all that she had known for over 50 years.

Why?  Well, she had a big thing waiting for her - grandchildren. 

She was setting aside a lifetime of certainty in exchange for a faithful desire to spend Saturday afternoons eating ice cream, watching little league and playing Monopoly.

It reminds me of a move my family made many years ago to Denver.

It was scary.  Moving to a city of strangers is stressful.  It was really far from family and friends.  And then there were the two little ones in the backseat hitching a ride.

But I had faith that my children would love the mountains as much as I did.  And that Denver would become our home for generations to come.   

That was 21 years ago and I don’t think anyone is going anywhere anytime soon.  For me, it’s quite a big thing from such a tiny beginning.

Until next week, I hope your life is full of joy, gratitude and many small beginnings,

linda

Linda Sterling Sease is a professional speaker, career coach & writer on the power of joy to transform companies, homes and communities.  To explore how Linda can work with your organization, call 303-319-5829 or email her at Linda at SterlingSease.com.

Speaking of Joy: The Genius in You

I come from a long line of green thumbs. And even though I love to garden, I'm not very good at it. 

Both my father and grandfather were talented gardeners.   My grandfather, Sammie, was a mechanic by day and a gardener by night.   His hands were always caked with either grease or mud. His fingers spent half the day working with hard, cold metal, and the other half digging in the soft, warm earth.

His garden stretched almost a block in little Anton, Texas.   The front yard was dominated by an immense cutting garden with row-after-row of zinnias, gladiolus and black-eyed Susans.   The back yard was home to a riot of roses and vegetables, a busy potting shed, and a root cellar that doubled as a tornado shelter much of the spring and summer.

Poppy, as we called him, was a simple man and a genius, too.  He could see what others could not.   His specialty was crossing roses.  He loved the process of invention - the idea that connecting two similar things might create something entirely new.  It was the same at his garage.  He could see a new engine in a pile of discarded parts.

So often we miss our potential because we can’t see, touch, or smell what’s not yet here.  We’re impatient when things don’t evolve as we thought they would and we quickly abandon hope.  We lack confidence in our own genius and in the genius of those we love, too.

My grandfather had incredible faith in the seeds he planted, but even more so in his every nurturing act that followed.  His genius began with a tiny seed; but it was his loving care and cultivation that turned those small seeds into beauty, sustenance and shade.

It is the same for our endeavors.

with joy & gratitude,

linda

Linda Sterling Sease is a professional speaker, career coach & writer on The Power of Joy to transform companies, homes and communities.  To explore how Linda can work with your organization, call 303-319-5829 or email her at Linda at SterlingSease.com.

Speaking of Joy: The Inside Job

Aristotle was right.

Happiness is an inside job.  

We think of joy as this idyllic state that arrives when life suddenly becomes perfect.   And that elusive paradise we search for?   We think it’s full of the stuff we don’t yet have but really want - the who, the what, the this and the that.

But that’s not really how it works.

Finding more happiness in life isn’t about stuff and that's because we are really skilled at quickly acclimating to change.   Scientists call it hedonic adaptation.

Sonja Lyubomirsky has done extensive research on this idea at The University of California in Riverside.  It’s the foundation of her book The Myths of Happiness.

In a nutshell, the new car, new house, new job that we thought would make us happy?  Nope. It may have made us happier for a short time but research shows that we quickly adjust. It’s not long before we take those things for granted and go in search of new and better stuff.

If happiness depends on us, what can we do to have a happier life? Well, here are just a few quick ideas.

First, we need to embrace our power.  We do get to choose our attitude.

I’ve discovered that I’m happier when I choose to be happy.  And when we’re unhappy?   Well sometimes it’s warranted; but, we can still remind ourselves that we are making a choice.  

Second, try to be a benefit finder.  Try looking for the good in the midst of maybe the not-so-good.   And not just in others but in yourself, too.   It’s a cynical world out there and it’s so easy to be critical.  But that’s not a habit that creates more joy. 

And third, remind yourself that you are blessed beyond measure to have family, friends and, in many cases, dogs and cats, too, that love you and need you.    It’s hard to be miserable when we feel loved.

If you have an insider tip on creating more happiness, I hope you’ll share it with me either on the blog or on my Facebook page.

Until next week, here’s to a life full of joy and gratitude,

linda

Linda Sterling Sease is a professional speaker, career coach & writer on the power of joy to transform companies, homes and communities.  To explore how Linda can work with your organization, call 303-319-5829 or email her at Linda at SterlingSease.com.

Speaking of Joy: The Nightingale

If we recorded every word we said for 24 hours straight what would we hear when we hit replay? 

It’s a scary thought isn’t it?

Would our recording sound like the gripe fest of the Australian Channel Billed Cuckoo highlighting every little thing not going our way?

Or would it sound more like the sing-song of the Nightingale full of joy and wonder? 

The cries of the Channel Billed Cuckoo have been described as “pterodactyl."  Those were the winged reptilian birds that bring to mind Jurassic Park.  Their screeches are a pre-historic cry full of fury and angst.

Nightingales, on the other hand, are known for having the most beautiful voice of all the songbirds.   And they are so named because they sing 24/7 – night and day.   They have an impressive collection of trills, whistles and chirps.  And when there’s noise around them, they sing even louder.

What we say and how we say it reveals a great deal about our life and our hearts.

My husband often reminds me that words have both positive and negative power.

The more we fuss and complain about our troubles, the more they seem to take over our life.

On the other hand, the more we talk about what is good in our world, the less influence our problems seem to carry. 

What if we did our best to begin and end every conversation with a positive thought rather than a negative one?   And maybe added a positive thought or two in the middle just for good measure?

I think if we made the choice to share first, last and most often the joy in our life rather than the headaches, our life would be more good than bad.

We would be much more like the Nightingale and a lot less like the Cuckoo.

Until next week, I hope your life is full of joy and gratitude,

linda

Speaking of Joy: Happy Valentine's Day

It’s Valentine’s week and that means sweet cards, fresh flowers and romantic dinners.

My favorite quote about love has been attributed to Walt Whitman but it’s actually a loose paraphrase of a line from his poetry.  I love the sentiment anyway.

“We were together.  I forget the rest.”

It’s a tight, skillful edit of what really matters – being together.  And forgetting, maybe even forgiving, everything else. 

Being together comes easy especially in the beginning.  Research shows that when we fall in love, the most primal and powerful part of our brain instinctually reacts. Studies done by Helen Fisher have shown that falling in love induces our reptilian brain to shower the rest of our brain with dopamine.

Even the way we describe it - "falling in love" - does not make it sound like a choice.  It sounds more like a willing desire to jump off a cliff. 

When love puts a spell on us, that dopamine turns us into a hyper-focused and highly motivated pleasure seeker.   Much like a drug addict.   

But what happens when the dopamine effect declines over time?   How do we stay together and “forget the rest?”

Most relationships die of neglect, boredom and resentment.  If you’re not growing together, you’re growing apart. 

When we have a love we want to hold onto, how can we forget and if necessary, forgive, too?

Here’s one simple step.  If we can forget then we likely don't have much need to forgive.  We may just need to get rid of our junk and hit the delete button.  Forgetting the little stuff is an act of grace.   It’s the extension of both respect and acceptance.  

Forgetting is looking the other way when our partner can’t seem to hit the laundry basket or repeatedly forgets to take off their muddy shoes at the back door.  Or my favorite?  Why do some people just refuse to throw away empty boxes in the freezer?  I can’t answer that question!

But I do know that a simple strategy to a happier union is to ignore life’s natural imperfections as much as we can. 

And ironically, if we can’t forget then it’s likely we really do need to forgive.  So how do we forgive?  How do we forgive and hold on to love rather than move on?

I think in romantic love forgiveness is easier when we first, let go of resentment; second, appreciate the good in our partner; and third, express love even when we may not feel very loving.

Unlike leaping off that cliff into love, forgetting and forgiveness are choices.    And in the pursuit of staying in love, those are two of the best choices we can make. 

Until next week, I hope your life is full of joy and gratitude,

linda

Speaking of Joy: It Can't Wait

Are you a procrastinator?   I think many of us are and I certainly can be, too.  It’s a terrible habit, isn’t it?

It’s self-sabotage really.  And I hate the side-effects -  frustration, stress and many sleepless nights.

And yet most of us do it.  

Now why is that?  Why do we stall, defer and delay those things that we know we should do?

Canada’s Carleton University has done a great deal of research on that question and their work refers to it as “the gap between intention and action.”  

When you study the habits of great writers, they are a very disciplined bunch.   They write at the same time, in the same place and for a certain period of time or a certain number of words.  They are self-regulators.   They’ve set up a system and they follow the system.

E.B. White, who penned the charming childhood favorite “Charlotte’s Web” once said, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

I would offer the same thought on joy.   When we postpone joy, we risk never experiencing the many happy moments that come our way every single day.

There’s a very effective strategy for dealing with procrastination called the 5-Minute Take-off.   It’s a simple concept.  You commit to starting the thing you’re postponing and even if you only do it for 5 minutes.

Once we reach the 5 minute bell, we often find ourselves engaged, energized and frankly, relieved to have finally started.

I’d like to propose that we use the same strategy for finding more happiness in life.

Next time you feel cranky, disillusioned or flat-out-tired-of-it-all, give your attitude a 5-Minute Take-off.   Say to yourself “For the next 5 minutes, I’m going to focus my thoughts on only the things in my life that bring me joy.”  And then set the timer on your phone and do it.  

Combine the intention to be happier in life with the action to make it so.

It won’t solve all your problems.  We know that.  But it will make life more meaningful in spite of those problems.

Mark Twain once said of his writing process “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

I’d offer the same when it comes to creating a more joyful life.

Just get started.

Until next week, I hope your life is full of joy and gratitude,

linda

Linda Sterling Sease is a professional speaker, career coach & writer on the power of a joyocracy to transform companies, homes and communities.  To explore how Linda can work with your organization, call 303-319-5829 or email her at Linda at SterlingSease.com.

Speaking of Joy: Life Cycles

In his book “The Four Loves”, C. S. Lewis says “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.”   To really understand what Lewis meant, we have to split a few hairs.

Lewis was actually paraphrasing the writings of Saint Augustine.  The good saint was desolate over the death of a friend.  He lamented that one should give his heart only to God since all humans will die.  

Lewis disagreed.  He didn’t believe that our love should be reserved exclusively for God and in hopes of avoiding pain. 

But Lewis did say that Saint Augustine’s position made “excellent sense” when applied to material things like “goods” and “a home.”         

Loss is something we experience almost every day but usually in ways that are more frustrating than painful.

My husband looses his wallet several times a year.  He misplaces his phone several times a month.   And don’t get me started about his car keys – that’s a weekly occurrence.  

Now that would drive me crazy but my husband takes it in stride.  He rarely gets frustrated or angry with himself.   He just accepts the current state of things and sets about asking everyone he sees if they have his car keys.  He has definitely taken the words of Lewis to heart.  His happiness is never related to losing stuff.

I once read that every time we lose something regardless of its importance, we go through a cycle of grief.   We experience denial, anger, depression, bargaining and eventually, acceptance.   The cycle is always present but the intensity and duration of our pain is entirely dependent on the gravity of our loss.  

Many years ago, I lost my home in the midst of a divorce.   I quickly learned that the loss of a house did not compare to the loss of a partnership and a future imagined.  After a long cycle of grief, I realized that loss is inevitable and so is the unhappiness it brings. 

But that does not mean our losses have to be long-term joy breakers.  They are just one of many cycles in life.

When that difficult cycle had completed its rotation in my life, the wheels of joy turned again in my favor.  And when you experience loss, they’ll one day turn again in your favor, too.

Until next week, I hope your life is full of joy and gratitude even in the midst of loss,

linda

Linda Sterling Sease is a professional speaker, career coach & writer on the power of joy to transform companies, homes and communities.  To explore how Linda can work with your organization, call 303-319-5829 or email her at Linda at SterlingSease.com.

Speaking of Joy: Second Chances

Alleluia for second chances!  Third and fourth ones, too.

It’s amazing how many I’ve been given and that’s a blessing since I can be extraordinarily adept at making a wreck of things.

Big changes are often the result of failures and flub-ups.  We’ve all had them but very few of us really want to talk about them. 

And we’re not too terribly interested in being honest about the role we play in creating our own disasters. 

How does blaming someone else feel?   It feels great which is why so many of us make a habit of it!

But here’s the problem.

If you’re always blaming everyone else, then you really never get that second chance.  You’re stuck in your mistake – trapped, really.  

When we deny our errors, we deny ourselves the potential of positive change that comes through difficult growth.

If we viewed our mistakes from that perspective, maybe we’d be more willing to claim our junk.  Maybe we’d step up, fix our messes and move on to the next foul-up.  And yes, there will always be more.

So why don’t we own our fiascos?  

I think it’s because we hate the thought of actually being human.

We’d much rather be Superman or Wonder Woman – the perfect package.   And even though we know that perfection is an illogical aspiration, we long for the ideal self.

Maybe a better ambition is to embrace perfectly our imperfections – to love every flaw, dent and chip. 

And to love them for the second, third and fourth chance they give us to take another swing of the bat.  

It is the very definition of hope:  giving it all another go.

Until next week, I hope your life is full of second chances. 

linda

Linda Sterling Sease is a professional speaker, career coach & writer on the power of joy to transform companies, homes and communities.  To explore how Linda can work with your organization, call 303-319-5829 or email her at Linda at SterlingSease.com.

Speaking of Joy: Our Natural State

My friend is a new grandmother.  Her daughter-in-law is documenting the baby’s development with a weekly post on Facebook. 

Every week, the changes are so obvious with one exception.   His bright eyes always look the same.  They are brimming with joy. 

As Dr. Wayne Dyer once said, our “natural state is joy.”   The eyes of a baby quickly confirm his observation. 

It’s quite the contrast to what I see sometimes in the eyes of neighbors, friends and people on the street.  

Our once-natural-state-of-joy can quickly become a permanent-state-of-sick-and-tired.    I call it becoming “adultified” – a term I borrowed from a favorite Cincinnati art teacher.

Many years ago, I took his painting class on Saturday mornings.  Serious adults made up half of the class.  Most were secret wanna-be-artist.   The other half of the class were giggling children usually with paint in their hair.

Early on, my teacher gently told me that my process was “adultified.”   He didn’t elaborate but I got the gist.  

My brush strokes were tentative and lacking in spontaneity.  And the more critical I was, the worse my work became.

Suddenly, Saturday mornings weren’t fun any more.   I was painting with a desired result in mind and when that didn’t happen, I was disappointed and judgmental. 

Watching the children paint was in sharp contrast to my process.  They were 100% confident that their flowers were the prettiest every painted.  Move over Van Gogh.  Step aside Monet.

These little artists were happy, optimistic and certain of their work.  

     “Blue is my favorite color so I made a big sky.”  

     “My house looks just like this but with a red door.”

     “I wish I had a bird.  I like yellow wings.”

Their happiness was in every brush stroke.   They had no outcome in mind and they were not one bit worried about what anyone else might think.

In fact, not once did any child ask me if I liked their painting.   Their creative expression didn’t need my approval.   It was about their natural joy and imagination.  And it showed in their work.

There’s a lesson in that for all of us adults.  

Until next week, I hope your life is naturally joyful and a lot less adultified. 

linda

Linda Sterling Sease is a professional speaker, career coach & writer on the power of joy to transform companies, homes and communities.  To explore how Linda can work with your organization, call 303-319-5829 or email her at Linda at SterlingSease.com.

Speaking of Joy: Life Goes On

As we begin a new year, I’m reminded of the words of Robert Frost who wrote,  “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life.  It goes on.”

The sun has risen every day of my life so far – yours, too.   And most days, we are grateful for that security – that sense of sameness and dependability.

But there are days when we’d love for the world to go dark and meet us in our darkness.  

And yet, the world has her own set-up.   The days kept coming with as much urgency and demand as every day before.

Did you know that over this next year, our little planet Earth will travel 600 million miles as she makes a full orbit around the sun? 

And to get there and back in 365 days, she’ll have to travel at a speed of 66,000 miles per hour. 

And let’s not forget that in the midst of that long trip, she’s doing her own little pirouette – spinning as much as a 1000 miles per hour near the Equator as she brings us the setting sun and the rising moon every 24 hours.   

And in spite of that extraordinary expenditure of energy, gravity makes it seem as if she and us, too, are standing still. 

We do see evidence of her power and vigor:  clouds rushing in, storms gathering, winds howling.   But while she’s hurtling through space, we defy gravity only with the help of Ferris wheels, bungie cords and jet engines.  

Day after day in the midst of our own whirling pirouettes and million-mile orbits, we need to keep going, too.       

Many years ago, I went through a difficult divorce.   I had never been a runner before then.  But for the next several years, I became one. 

Like Forest Gump, I kept moving.   It became my metaphor for resilience. 

Running helped me accept that things would be difficult.  Running reassured me that this, too, will pass.   And running was a reminder with every step that life goes on.  

And that is what encouraged me to eventually do the same. 

Until next week, I hope you keep moving through your own million-mile orbit,

linda

Linda Sterling Sease is a professional speaker, career coach & writer on the power of joy to transform companies, homes and communities.  To explore how Linda can work with your organization, call 303-319-5829 or email her at Linda at SterlingSease.com.

Speaking of Joy: Our Destiny in the New Year

As the new year arrives, our thoughts turn to the future.  What will 2016 bring with it?   Will it be a year of happiness or will it be the year we look back on as our annus horribilis?  We’ve all had those tough years.

Much of what comes for us in 2016 will be beyond our control.  The Farmers Almanac says this winter will be a brutal one and there’s not much to be done about that beyond preparing as best we can.

Many years ago a young friend told me that we should be able to control what comes our way.  No.  We can’t even control the decisions of our family much less the actions of strangers.

And yet we love to try, don’t we?

What if instead, we embraced the words of Shakespeare who said that the future is not in the stars but rather in ourselves?

What if we made 2016 the year we decided to own our destiny rather than just wish on a star?

What would you choose to do differently in the coming new year?  

Research from the University of Scranton proves that the resolution made more than any other every single year is…you guessed it:   to loose weight.  

And our recent proximity to Holiday Enemy #1, pecan pie and whip cream, has definitely influenced that destiny. 

Our choice to loose weight is a rhetorical choice – easy-as-pie really.

But here’s the problem - the research also shows keeping that resolution is no piece-of-cake.   Only 8% of us will be successful.

Now why is that?

We’ve made the big choice.  And we’re ready - we bought the shoes, the new gym membership, the combination lock.  

Don’t get me wrong.   That big choice matters.  The research also shows that goal-setters who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to succeed than those who don’t. 

But we all know saying and doing are not the same.  The tough duty is in the daily meta choices that we make. 

So what is a meta choice?

It’s those little choices we make all day, every day.  And those are the choices that are almost automatic.  We make them without even thinking about them.  But if you really want to own your destiny, it’s the meta choices that really matter.

Success comes when we choose to be mindful of that meta choice. In fact, we have to understand that we are choosing to choose.  We are choosing to take that walk, that run, that trip to the gym.  We are choosing to order a salad - with the dressing on the side, please.

The mindful choice to choose is the star we should hitch our wagon to if we really want to change our destiny.

Here’s to the mindful meta choices we make in 2016.

Cheers and I’ll see you in the New Year.

linda

Linda Sterling Sease is a professional speaker, career coach & writer on the power of joy to transform companies, homes and communities.  To explore how Linda can work with your organization, call 303-319-5829 or email her at Linda at SterlingSease.com.

Speaking of Joy: Joy to the World

Christmas week is finally here – only a few days away now.

We are so fortunate in this country.  We each have the right to spend December 25, and every day that comes before and after, celebrating our religious beliefs as we wish. 

But we are in the world’s minority. 

A study released this year by the Pew Research Center indicated that 77% of the world’s population“were living in countries with a high or very high overall levels of restrictions on religion.” China, India, Russia, Pakistan and Indonesia top the list. 

And for perspective, Christians and Muslims around the world “together make up more than half of the global population” according to the study and face harassment in 52% and 50% of the world’s countries respectively.

So as we easily celebrate the Christmas holiday this week, it’s just as easy to loose sight of how very blessed we are to have this fundamental freedom. 

And it calls to mind a fitting holiday song – “Joy to the World” - an English hymn based on Psalms 98.   

Speaking of Joy:  Linda Sterling Sease

One of my favorite performances of this holiday classic is by Libera, the London-based angelic all-boy choir.   Ironically, Libera translated from Latin means “to free.”   The group takes it’s name from the “Libera Me” section of the Catholic Church’s Requiem Mass. 

Take a quick break from your shopping, wrapping and cooking and listen to this beautiful tribute to a freedom that we enjoy and so many others long for this holiday season. 

Joy to the world – and to you and your family, too.

linda

Linda Sterling Sease is a professional speaker, career coach & writer on the power of joy to transform companies, homes and communities.  To explore how Linda can work with your organization, call 303-319-5829 or email her at Linda at SterlingSease.com.

Speaking of Joy: Giving Can Make You Rich

This is day 15 in our “25 Days to See Joy” in our holiday season.  I hope the writings of Helen Keller are motivating you to look for those happy moments every day – and I hope you’ll share them with me on Facebook, too.

Have you ever heard of the German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer?  He was not an ordinary man nor did he lead an “ordinary life” which is why his quote so resonates with me.

He says:

“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”

Bonhoeffer wrote that sentiment in a letter to his parents from prison on September 13, 1943.  A Lutheran pastor and anti-Nazi dissident, Bonhoeffer was hanged by the Nazi’s nineteen months later on April 9, 1945 – mere days before Allied Forces began liberating the concentration camps. 

His note was specifically in gratitude for the care he was receiving from family and friends for the books and letters they were sending him while in prison. 

Even in the face of likely death, Bonhoeffer expressed gratitude for that and a multitude of other things in his writings from prison.

I think I know what the ledger of my life would look like if I created 2 columns and noted on the left side “received” and on the right side “gave.”

Speaking of Joy:  Linda Sterling Sease

The “received” side would look like I-90, the longest freeway in the U.S. running from Boston to Seattle.   I have received so much. 

The “gave” side?  I don’t know - maybe the length of my driveway?  I’m not a selfish person but I do not think my giving has kept up with my receiving.

The lopsidedness of our fortunate life becomes so evident with that exercise. 

But what if we flipped Bonhoeffer’s observation?

What if maybe, just maybe, we also rarely receive what we actually deserve?

Now that’s something to ponder.  And likely even more reason to be grateful for a life of riches.  

Until next week, I hope your life is full of joy and gratitude,

linda

Linda Sterling Sease is a professional speaker, career coach & writer on the power of joy to transform companies, homes and communities.  To explore how Linda can work with your organization, call 303-319-5829 or email her at Linda at SterlingSease.com.