Happily Alive!

Men are that they might have joy...

Month: February 2015

When Will I Get There?

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”

Henry David Thoreau

This morning after I dropped my children off at school, I came home to begin my workday. As soon as I walked into the house I thought to myself, “I know what I want out of this life. I know where I want to be, and I know what I want to do. When on Earth am I going to get there?” I pondered at the many wonderful blessing that I have around me, yet I still found myself asking the question of when I would “arrive” at where I want to be. I reflected on the people I know who are a lot closer to where I want to be and I wondered what goes through their minds every day. I finally came to the conclusion that they probably think in a very similar way to the way I do. Each day they are also striving for something greater. 

You see, you will never, ever “arrive” at your destination. You might know what you want in this life, but there will never be a day where you have “arrived”, for if you “arrive”, then you will cease to grow. You will cease to improve. When we set goals for ourselves, we set measurements by which we can gauge our “success”. Once we have achieved these goals however, it opens the gate for us to accomplish so much more! We will have grown immensely through our accomplishments, and will thereby create the opportunity for even greater growth! Goals are amazing! It’s how wonderful things are accomplished! Everyone should have high goals and aspirations that they work toward and put solid effort into. We just can’t allow the dream of the future and of our unseen achievements cloud our vision of what is right in front of us… right this minute.

So when will I get there? I realized that I will never “get there” because I already am there! There isn’t a point in life where time stands still and we have “arrived”. What we have… ALL that we have, is what sits right in front of our eyes! Of course we have dreams and aspirations, but if we don’t recognize the fact that we might not be alive five minutes from now, much less five years from now, then we will miss out on what is right before us! In my favorite musical, The Music Man, Professor Harold Hill states the following:

”You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays.” 

He makes the point that if we are so focused on our goals and dreams of a future reality that we don’t see what we have for what it is right now, then we will just end up with a life filled with emptiness and regret. Look around you right now!!! You have so much to be thankful for! You have so many blessings right at the end of your nose! Cherish every minute that you have, for you never know when the next minute will be your last! Look around you and be grateful for what you have. I truly believe that until you learn true gratitude for what you have already, you will not be given more. Gratitude is the first step. Love what have, love who you are, and love the world around you! Learn to do this, and watch the world around you change right before your eyes…

Finding Happiness

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

― Haruki Murakami

 

 

There are few things in this life that I find more invigorating than a huge, black storm heading my way! I absolutely love it!!! It’s strange, but the prospect of that storm coming to beat down on the earth in order to help it flourish and grow is almost spiritual in its power over me.

Last night I had the unique opportunity to go to one of my favorite places on Earth. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In my church, we have special buildings that I’m sure you have heard of or seen. These buildings are called temples. The temple is a place that you are allowed to enter when you meet certain criteria that will allow you to feel of the spirit that is within the walls of that sacred place. These criteria aren’t a question of ecclesiastical knowledge or anything of that sort, but rather of how one is living his or her life. If a church member is living his or her life in accordance to the commandments of God (barring natural imperfections), then they may enter the temple.

So there I was last night, sitting in one of my favorite places on Earth. It has been quite a while since I have been. My entire life has been completely twisted and flipped upside down since the last time I went. I have been beaten, crushed, turned into a pulp, and then picked up again, just enough to be beaten down again, and again, and you know what? I couldn’t be more thankful for the beatings that I have received because of who I have become as a result. Last night I was able to feel God’s love for me and I was able to recognize His hand in everything that has happened in my life. I came to the realization that He is moulding me into what I need to become through these experiences.

So I finally came to the realization that in order to be happy in this life, we absolutely have to go through the storms of it! We can’t know happiness without first knowing sorrow. We can’t be happy if we don’t know sadness. If you are experiencing the sadness of a loss right now, or sadness from any circumstance, remember that it is through this sadness that you will one day know an even greater joy! Without feeling the way you feel when you are in the moments of sorrow, the absolute joys of life would just seem mundane. They would just be another day! In order to know what it’s like to be happy, you have to know what it’s like to be sad! There has to be opposition in all things in order for us to live the plan that our Heavenly Father has for us. His plan truly is a plan of happiness, and that’s why we experience sorrow!!! Weird, huh?

“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so… righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.” (2 Nephi 2:11)

I know that when you are in the thick of it, hope seems bleak. Life in general can seem bleak. I am here to tell you however, that there is a purpose behind all of it. You will see one day that what you are going through right now is one of the best things that could ever have happened to you! Right now, that’s hard to see. I want to help give you hope that there truly is a light at the end of the tunnel. Remember, in order for a chunk of coal to become a diamond, it has to go through more heat and pressure… and TIME, than we can even imagine. I believe that God gives us these things as reminders that He works the same way. So the more pressure you are under, the more fire you are passing through, and the more time that seems to be passing, remember who is in control, and let Him guide you through it. You will come out much better in the end. You’ll see!

 

“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.”

― Cynthia Occelli

The choice is yours. Which way will you go?

I absolutely love the time we live in! I think that ours is one of the most unbelievably spectacular times in which to live! The fact that I can wake up in the morning, sit down with a small piece of metal and plastic, and without approval from any form of publishing company, publish my own works to the world at the push of a button! We have the entire world’s worth of knowledge and wisdom literally at our fingertips every second of every day! If I wake up at 3:00 in the morning because Einstein’s theory of relativity is bothering me, I can sit up, not even having to get out of bed, and begin researching not only his theory, but also learn about other theories from other people. I can fill by head with knowledge from the ages within minutes! It really is spectacular.

Even when I was little, I had no idea what the “future” was going to be like. In my mind, the year 2015 would be exactly as Marty McFly experienced it. Flying cars, automated cafés, the works! As it turns out, thirty years comes and goes pretty quickly and the world changes on its own terms. Sure, we’ve got flying cars and somewhat-automated cafés, they’re obviously not mainstream yet, but they exist. What we do have however, is this amazing technology that is allowing you to be sitting right where you are at, reading this awesome blog! We also have this awesome Star Trek technology sitting in our front pockets each and every day!

So what do we do with this amazing world we live in? I don’t think that even when I was in high school I could have imagined the world being what it is today. It changes so quickly! What we have to learn to do is change with it. Does that mean that we should change our moral standards as the world changes?  The world’s moral standard is changing about as frequently as the technology we have the privilege of using each day. It seems to be falling at an unprecedented speed.

This is nothing new. The moral standard has been falling for a long time. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is our ability to participate in the world’s lowered standard. In 1984, if a person had an addiction to pornography, that person would have to get up off their couch, run down to the adult bookstore, and from there satisfy their addiction. Or if they were sneaky, they could find some secret way to subscribe to a magazine. Nowadays all it requires is that same little amazing piece of equipment sitting in each of our front pockets. The standard has lowered as it always has, but will we lower ourselves to the same standard, just because it’s easy?

I have high hopes for humanity. I believe that each of us has the ability to contribute to this world in a positive and substantial way. Through the use of this technology, we can spread our light to everyone we have ever met, and onward to many more whom we never have met nor likely ever will. We never know the impact we may have by simply taking a stand for what we believe to be right and morally just. Most people that I have met will agree with the fact that the moral standard has fallen. Some of those people see no problem with it, despite recognizing the change.

I was listening to the radio a couple of years ago and a song came on that really helped me to better understand where the world is at right now. This song spoke of the “naiveté” of believing and living by the words of a 2,000 year-old book, which doesn’t speak of anything in our time. How can we live by what was taught 2,000 years ago, when our world is an entirely different place now from what it was then? I was shocked by the lyrics of this song, and shocked that people would be supporting it, while at the same time grateful to live in a country where such words are freely expressed without judgment. The artist had some points that could easily be considered to be valid points.

He questioned believing in a being that can’t be seen or heard and implied that it was a foolish notion to do so. I’m here to tell you my friends, that he was wrong. Our Heavenly Father is there now every bit as much as He has been through the ages. If we want to hear Him, we have to seek Him. If we want to know that He is real, that He hears us, and that He will speak to us, we have to seek Him out through prayer, study,  and through service to others. I know that He is there not because someone else told me so, but because I have seen His influence in my own life. He has done more for me than I have ever deserved!

So what will you choose? Will you choose to follow the path of moral deficiency and continue down the path that the rest of the world is following? I assure you, the when you hear of Heaven and Hell, these aren’t necessarily referring to places, but more of a state of being. The simple fact is that to follow God’s plan brings happiness and complete joy. To follow the path that the world set brings temporary pleasure but in the end, it brings misery and a broken life. It’s not worth it my friends, but the choice is up to each of us individually which path we choose to follow. Each man chooses his own destiny. Will you choose a happy life, or will you choose misery?

“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2 Nephi Chapter 2, verse 27, The Book of Mormon)

Whether you are religious or not, I encourage you to consider the consequences of the choices you make each day. It’s your life! You get to choose how you will live it! You get to choose your own consequences. You get to choose happiness or misery. Make the choice that will bring you happiness and joy. It is worth it! Follow your own path rather than allowing the world to dictate the path you will follow. You were given the agency to choose for yourself. Choose wisely!

Growing Up

Do you remember the old adage, “Don’t step on the crack, or you’ll break your mother’s back?” I first heard that when I was probably in the first grade or thereabouts. For some reason it had a great impact on me and from there forward I always avoided stepping on the cracks! Fast forward 26 years to today, and I still find myself avoiding the cracks wherever I walk!  Yesterday morning I was out for a morning walk through my neighborhood and I was noticing this subconscious habit. Then I started to wonder what other parts of me are still there from when I was just a child. I’m sure that at least 85% of who I am was decided when I was little. I’m sure there is some study in the American Psychological Journal or whatever it’s called regarding the exact number. I don’t feel like Googling it so we are going to stick with 85%. Seems legit.

I remember being 9 years old. I remember what a strong impact my parents had on me. My dad was my hero. I looked up to him immensely. Now I look at my son, who is 9 years old and I think, “Holy Crap, this kid’s gonna’ remember all of this!” Then yesterday afternoon I went to his parent teacher conference, where I had a discussion with the school counselor as well. Ahhh… the memories! She showed me her notes that she took while visiting with my son. She said that the one thing he talks about most is me. I saw her notes and there were things on there that I didn’t even think he knew about! I was completely shocked as to how in tune he was to my life and everything that goes on in it. He knows everything about my job, my relationships, my hobbies, the whole nine yards!

I’m not gonna’ lie, it put a lot of pressure on me. It helped me to realize the heavy responsibility that I have on me as a father. It scared me a bit to know how much impact I have on this little boy along with my other two kids. What kind of impact am I having on my children with every little choice that I make? It made me thankful that I have made most of the decisions I have made. When I saw those notes, there was thankfully nothing negative on there about me, which made me feel better that I am at least somewhat on the right track. I know that just as my dad was my hero, I am my son’s hero. He doesn’t see the flaws that I see. After this experience, I began to see my flaws much more clearly. I began to see how my changing for the better would have a massive impact on him and my other two children.

Right now, I am blessed with the unique opportunity to focus entirely on my kids and on establishing a household where they can feel safe and protected. I try to make my home a place of learning and growing for them. I am so thankful for the opportunity I have to see things the way I saw them yesterday, which allows me to mould them into great people. After all, if 85% of who they will be at age 32 comes from what their lives are now, what am I going to do to help that 85% be the best experience possible? What will their 85% be like? Will it be filled with trauma from divorce and a broken home? Or will it be filled with sweet memories of time together at the park, or time together reading and studying, will they have memories of a father who was always there to listen and to be a support when they feel broken? I know that what I want for them is pure happiness. I don’t want them to be filled with trauma and regret. It’s our opportunity to be the best that we can be for our kids!

I have been so impressed at the other single parents that I have met! I’ve had the amazing and unique opportunity to get to know one of them incredibly well and she absolutely floors me in her ability to manage her home, her job, and to keep her children well grounded. It has been amazing to me to see her and several other people who I have met provide a stronger foundation for these children than they ever had even when their parents were together. I would encourage anyone reading this to take a look at some of their single parent friends and see what they are doing. I think you will find yourself to be pleasantly surprised. The burden falls completely on them without the spouse there to support them in their home. It’s really neat to see! Again, I feel that I have a long way to go, but I’m thankful to have these wonderful people as examples to me and how I can be better at what I do. I try to look at the world around me and take in whatever good I can find. A little from over here, a little from over there, and I use that to create my own good here.

Remember the impact that you have on your kids. They are watching every move you make… unbeknownst to even you! Be the best that you can be for them. They deserve it!

The Gift of Wonder

When I think of the many gifts that we have been given here on the earth by our creator, I stand in wonder and awe to think that He could be so generous. He truly loves us far beyond our own comprehension. How often to we just sit back and wonder at the world around us? Or are we too distracted by Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram to notice? Are we able to focus on the beautiful mountain scene before us, or are we more concerned about taking a “selfie” in front of those mountains to make sure everyone else “likes” it too? There is truly so much around us that is easy to take for granted! A good friend shared a poem with me a while back, and I would like to share it with you:

The Gift of Wonder
“As daily now man conquers time and space,
And ways of stars and moon grow commonplace,
Dear God, let us not lose from sated eyes
The gift of wonder there – the glad surprise.

Let miracles be ours, awesome things –
The deepened sense of reverence wonder brings.
As stars of Heaven lose their distance far,
Let it not dim the glory of the star.

Let us not lose the vision and the dream
In bitter conquest, calculated scheme;
Nor cease to marvel at the Unseen Hand
That guides the fortunes of this Wonderland.

Give us a humbleness within the heart
To see that God and man each plays a part,
That we may heed the call of frontier skies,
The light of reverent wonder in our eyes.”
-G. K. Chesterton

It reminds us that there is so much around us that we can so easily take for granted! Through our technology and innovation that now clouds our world and often our minds, it can be easy to not see the wonder that surrounds us! When was the last time you found yourself looking up and marveling at the beauty of the stars, or the gift of a sunrise?

How often do you find yourself walking down the beaten path, and you discover a dandelion springing up in the middle of the road, despite all odds against it? Has it been decades since you last laid in the grass, making shapes out of the clouds, or contemplated your own nothingness in the cosmic scheme of things? Everything around us is a miracle! If you just stop and look around you today, you will see miracles in every part of your life! These miracles are all God’s gifts to us. He knew what would bring us joy and happiness in this life! Let us not forget those gifts. Let’s put down the cellphone, walk away from the computer, and enjoy the gift of wonder all around us…

Living a Fulfilled Life

“We must not hope to be mowers,

And to gather the ripe gold ears,

Unless we have first been sowers

And watered the furrows with tears.

It is not just as we take it,

This mystical world of ours,

Life’s field will yield as we make it

A harvest of thorns or of flowers.”

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Right now, It’s an unusually beautiful February day and I’m sitting outside on my porch writing while watching my 9 year-old son ride his bike while my 2 year-old daughter plays with her little purse, trying to hide it in a tree. I love the innocence of childhood! I was observing my son a few minutes ago and just feeling grateful to be that little boy’s father. I’ve been very blessed! As I look at these children,  I also feel the burden that comes with the responsibility of being a good father.

I don’t want to be a good father so that one day when my children are grown they like me. I don’t want to be a good father to show the world that I am one. I want to be a good father because I want my children to grow up and be genuinely happy people. I know that all of the experiences that I have had in my life are there so that not only I can learn from them, but also so that I might teach my children through my own experiences. Part of the work of being a parent isn’t just the yesses, no’s, disciplining, and headaches that we go through each day, but rather the pains that we go through as we have our own difficult experiences and watch our children pass through their own difficult experiences.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it for you here folks… life is hard, and it’s meant to be that way! What we can do however, is sow what we want to reap from it! With our kids, we can teach them by example the best way to handle difficult situations. I often have found myself when in a difficult situation, much more short tempered than is natural for me to be. I am not as patient with my kids as I would like to be in those moments. What does that teach them? It teaches them that when then going gets rough, it’s time to lose patience and throw our hands in the air!

So if my goal is to raise my children to be happy and joyful people, I need to sow the seeds of happiness and joy! I have to purposefully react to those situations in a way that shows them the best way to live and be happy. I have to intentionally react to my circumstances in the ways that I believe are best for them to see, rather than allowing my circumstances to rule the way I react. Everything in this life is a choice. Every second of every minute of every day, we are making choices. Right now, you are choosing to read this article. Thank you! I am choosing to write it! With every choice we make, we have the option to let our upbringing, culture, or beliefs choose for us, or we have the option to consciously choose for ourselves how we will react. I prefer having the control. It’s much more fun!

We have to live our lives on purpose! If we don’t purposefully live our lives, then our life is going to live us and we’re just going to be observers on the sidelines! I know what I want out of this life. I know that you know what you want out of this life. It’s time that we each sit down and write out what it is we want out of this life, and then write out what it is that will be required of us to get whatever that is. Everything is feasible my friends… it is up to us to write the plan of how to get there and begin to execute.

We can choose whether we are going to reap flowers or thorns. It’s all a question of what we sow. That which is worth reaping, is worth sowing through blood, sweat, and tears. It rings true for parenting, relationships, careers, and anything else we want to achieve greatness in in this life. I’m sorry to break the news to you my friends, but the blood, sweat, and tears are a requirement for anything worthwhile in this life. If it’s worth having, it’s worth fighting for! I believe that with my whole heart. So let’s get out there and bleed! Let’s get out there and sweat! Let’s get out there and feel sorrow and cry! It’s worth every second. Let’s get out there and fight!

Conquering

“The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge, while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse.”

-Carlos Castaneda

Every day we are each faced with new things. We have choices regarding what we do with these new things. I wrote a post a while back (which is now among the lost posts) about dealing with trials. In that post, I talked about how I like to refer to trials as adventures rather than trials. My brother quoted what Carlos Castaneda said to me, and I was able to relate. I really like the way he considers it a challenge to overcome, rather than a blessing or a curse. Everything is a challenge to conquer! We have the chance each day to be a warrior in our own right. With each choice we are faced with, we have the opportunity to start a brand new adventure! How awesome is that?!

So if we were to look at what we consider to be “blessings” or “curses”, how can we convert those into challenges to be conquered? Everything in our life, both good and bad, gives us the chance to grow. We can choose to grow from it, or we can let it control us. Personally, I like to have control over my own life rather than allowing my life to have control over me. Can we control all of our circumstances? No way! Honestly, we can’t control the majority of them! What we can control however, is how we react to those circumstances. Perhaps right now, you are reading this and sitting in the middle of a pile of challenges that you don’t know what to do with. I get it! It can be very difficult to conquer those challenges when they are right in your face! My recommendation? Face them. Don’t worry about conquering them yet. If that means crying, then by all means… CRY!!! It’s therapeutic at any rate, and I promise that if you first give it a good cry, it WILL feel better. The circumstance won’t change, but the way you view it will. Once you can see it for what it truly is, you will be able to conquer it, step by step.

Right now, I am faced with one of the biggest challenges to conquer that my life has ever presented me with. I am finding myself having to return to all of the advice that I have been giving you, my readers, over the past few months! Faced with the situation I am in, I have two choices: I can let this new circumstance defeat me and completely rule my life, or I can accept that my new reality is exactly that, my new reality, and I can learn from what I am feeling and I can grow into the stronger man that I know I am capable of becoming! I have been through more than my share of challenges to conquer over the past year. Without a doubt, more challenges to conquer than I have ever experienced in my life, and you know what? My life is 1,000 times more amazing than I could ever have imagined! All of the heartache, all of the pain, all of the sorrow, and all of the times I have fallen, have all left scars, but they have made me into a stronger man! I would not be who I am were it not for all of these things and I am truthfully grateful for them. Even though when I am in the middle of them… they suck.

So my challenge to you my friend, is to take each of your challenges right now, look them square in the eye, feel whatever emotion you need to feel toward them, and then make a plan to conquer them! You can do it if you put your soul into it! Remember…

“…And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” (Doctrine and Covenants 122:7. Emphasis added)

As always… here’s to you my conquering friend! Go be the warrior that you know you are capable of being! Cheers!

Here is one of my favorite songs regarding conquering challenges, may it inspire you as well!

Finding Peace

Sometimes you have days or weeks (or even years sometimes!) where things just don’t seem to be going your way. You have a deadline that needs to be met, nothing is going right with it, your kids are in the other room screaming at each other, you have bills that are getting farther and farther behind with each passing month, and you just don’t know what to do about it! I totally get it… I’ve been there! Last week was one of those weeks where everything seemed to hit the fan all at once. It was very easy to get discouraged. I consider myself to be an incurable optimist, yet there are still times where I find it a new challenge to stay optimistic during some of those times. So what to do?

So what can you do when the whole world seems to be crashing down on you? Sometimes it takes simply removing everything in your life that is complicated, even if it’s just for a while. You need to give yourself room to breathe! Each and every one of us has the same opportunity to do this, and it isn’t difficult! God made this earth for us. I truly believe that. He made it so that we could enjoy the beauty of it. He made it so that we could be out in it, not cramped up inside an office, our home, or car. He made this place, our home, such a perfect place to forget all of our cares and worries! He made it so that we could go outside, leaving the rest of the world behind, and enjoy this wonderful gift that He has given us. He knows each of us personally and He knew what would get us back to ourselves, so we need to take advantage of this wonder we call home!

Tonight, after a very well-scheduled and accomplished day, I sat down in my office and realized that I was going to be alone for the remainder of the evening. What I chose to do with my time was entirely up to me. I love having the opportunity that each of us has to create my own life. So I decided that I was going to go out on a short bike ride to enjoy the crisp January air under the light of this beautiful full moon. I went out and was gone for only about thirty minutes. That thirty minutes was the best part of my day! I felt so alive! Nothing could go wrong during my time enjoying nature and the gift that I have been given. I even dropped my phone during the process and the screen shattered entirely. To me tonight however, it didn’t matter! Nothing did. All that mattered was that I was outside and I was happy! There is an amazing power in being outside and enjoying this wonderful gift!

My challenge to you is to get out there and be happy! I know how much the pressures of the world often weigh down on you. I know how seemingly impossible life can be at times. All you want to do sometimes is go to sleep so that, for a short period of time, you can escape! That only gets you so far, as I’m sure you already know. Get outside! Go for a walk! Leave your stresses and problems at the front door and go enjoy this wonder that God has given us. Do this whenever it gets hard. Trust me, it’s one of the many keys to being happily alive!

Here’s to you my friend!

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