Happiness Is Your Birthright

Like most people, I used to look for happiness in places I never found.

We often come across highly successful people who are miserable in private, even with all their status and power.

I once came across a house being sold when the old man in there passed away. None of his 4 sons wanted anything to do with it. They sold the house “as is,” with all the furniture, junk, and 30 to 40 years of memories along with it, with family photographs strewn in the basement, and an old car that did not run properly in the garage. The house smelled of sadness. The home was abandoned a long time ago, and lacked even the slightest traces of love. The sons did not want anything to do with the memories. The house could have only equalled pain in their deepest, most private corner of their hearts.

If we were to end our lives like this old man, what is the point of life? Despite what damaging role he had played in his family, this man was human, with blood running in his veins… and he had feelings. Likely, even if his actions went against the outcome, he likely wanted happiness out of life. Like all of us.

Likely, he did not know where to look for it.

Did he look for it in a career? Did he continuously move onto the next thing, while he missed out on the important relationships in life? Did he chase after getting high with his drug of choice, whether that was work, alcohol, or being unable to stop himself from contaminating his loved ones with negativity and abuse?

Where did his life go so wrong? And what are the 4 sons doing about their own lives? Could they be repeating the cycle that they so desperately wanted to escape? Did they think that ignoring their old man, and abandoning their past, will help them become happy?

~

born to be happy

For much of my 20’s, I looked for happiness in food, alcohol, relationships, and forgetting about my worries and life’s challenges while I killed time with insignificant friends, who were also in this same cycle.

Some of these friends focused on education to carve out a path, just to stick to something, without thinking whether it was the right fit for them.

Some of them pursued careers that they did not want, because they felt they needed to do so in order to please others, or to gain approval.

Some, like me, decided to focus on a relationship that was a fixer-upper.

Newsflash: Happiness never came. Instead, the unhappiness became even more unbearable. It is the worst place to be at, to keep spinning your wheels, and not seeing the results you desire.

It took me years – almost 18 years – to find the truth. The truth is that, we are already born happy. Because happiness is your birthright.

Have you ever heard of a baby who is born unhappy? Negative? Cynical?

Even sick babies, as much as they may be uncomfortable, they are content and happy. Discomfort is conditional and momentary, based on their situation. They are able to recover to their happy state very quickly. We are born to be content. Then, as we grow older, we get bombarded with cynicism, and get taken away from who we are and what we aspire for ourselves. We don’t learn to handle life’s hurdles in a way that gives us courage to get up again. We are convinced, conditioned, crushed, suppressed, made fun of, and punched in the face over and over, until we give up and say, “Fine, this is how life is, and I accept it.”

Don’t accept it. Your life is not supposed to play out like this.

Happiness is in you. Once you dare  yourself to be free of negative attachments, it is unconditionally yours. Only you can give happiness to yourself. You become the voice of courage, the example, and the love that you most need. You define your purpose. With such clarity, you will never be knocked away from your truth and your happiness again. It is yours for keeps, forever.

Go on, LIVE, and be happy!

The Path to Happiness

download

 

Be content with everything that has happened in your life.

Does this sound ridiculous? Impossible? Some sugar-coated self-help crap?

Maybe. If this is your perspective, likely, life is always going to be tough. It’s tough for me too. I haven’t had it so easy. Nothing was ever handed to me. It took me years of discontent, depression, being negative, while helplessly surviving. Being in this state, we never make favourable life choices. So this went on for years. I drew my life on a canvas of suffering and surviving. For more than a decade, I was making small progress, taking small steps at a time.

All small efforts, done consistently, add up.

There is the point when the branch can no longer bend, so it snaps.

I came to a point when I refused to accept the fact that it always has to be this way.

I dared to become free.

In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill begins his chapter “Desire” with the caption, “The starting point of all achievement.”

“Hope” does not do. It is DESIRE where it all begins.

All these thoughts came to me one evening, in my old, mouldy flat… while I was brushing my teeth.

Strange timing to have deep thoughts? Not so much. When we focus our mind on something for so long, brewing ideas can synthesize during random times. Brushing teeth is a moment of quiet. Breakthroughs happen in an instant.

They can happen in mundane, vacant moments.

I realized this bit of enlightenment:

Everyone has happiness in their reach. Everyone has the ability to be fulfilled, once they are able to distill meaning out of the things that happened to them. All of it. The good, the bad, and the horrible.

Why did it happen to me? Why is my life like this? These are all great questions, but they don’t solve the problems. Unless we gain perspective.

When I say horrible occurrences, I even mean things like assault and violence. How did I distill meaning into this something like this? As a woman who has experienced violence, it is my purpose to forever promote and protect other women. It is my mission to raise a daughter who will never tolerate abuse in her life. If I have not had this experience, I may never come to understand what it feels like to be a woman in these situations.

Perspective and distilling meaning helps us move forward. And when we create meaning, we are writing our own story. We are the author. We can write ourselves out of any nightmare.

What happened next? In a month, I moved out of that apartment. I found a small, clean, modern flat. I actively began to seek the path that will take me towards the freedom I desire. Once I was in a comfortable home, I was able to think more clearly and focus on my path.

Once you tap into your unconditional happiness, it is impossible to take it away. You will be certain. You have the skills to reconcile any demons, and welcome, with open arms, all terrors and inconveniences, as they all come together to support your path.

Your purpose.

Birthday Lessons

Do you have rituals on your birthday?

I used to love my birthday. Every year, I planned and thought about something special to do. Something fun to look forward to. Something delicious to eat.

Today, I turn 34. I had the plainest birthday ever.

The most special one in my life.

Most parents want their children off somewhere so they can enjoy some time to themselves. Not me. The last few years when they were over at their dad’s, I felt extremely lonely and sad afterwards. If birthdays are supposed to be so special, it should be spent with the most special people. One year, I had plans to go clubbing, which I never made it to. Every year, I found myself spending “my special day” with people who were not meaningful, nor understood me for who I am. For what? For the sake of FUN.

What is fun?

I decided that I was going to make this birthday as meaningful as possible. So I kept the children at home. I still had to work. But I just wanted them with me, and they felt the same. So we call in “sick” to school.

Bad parenting moment? I am not confident in the school system, and I would homeschool them if I could. So not much loss there.

My best friend calls me first thing in the morning from NY. Of course she remembered.

I got a ginormous surprise bouquet delivery from my brother. He remembered! I know that sometimes, for busy people, it is hard. He lives in Holland right now, and I am in Vancouver. He timed it perfectly. Impressed. I shed a few tears.

We even talk, later in the day, with video on. Often, this is also hard to coordinate, with time difference and busy lives, and opposite schedules.

The kids and I bake cookies together. Sort of healthy, with spelt flour and coconut oil. Almost vegan, except for the egg and the dairy in the chocolate chip. So not vegan, but healthy-ish.

 

With sugar from the cookies, tons of Easter chocolates kicking around, trying to work from home, and bored children (no matter how much we love each other), we had a crazy day.

My best friend sends me an Indigo gift card, because she knows how much I like to read. We recently had conversations about how much I have gotten back into reading, after many years of hiatus after having children and being busy all the time. She is extremely thoughtful.

We talk some more in the evening. A quick Facetime before getting the critters to bed.

The kids finally settle down and I take a moment to myself.

I start crying. Out of gratefulness.

Today was the best birthday. I spoke to all the right people. All the special people who are real and true were in my life today, no matter the distance nor the time difference. We had meaningful conversations, saw each other’s faces, and shared laughters.

My best friend sent me a note, along with her gift card. It reads:

-Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames- - Rumi

How much these words distilled what was in my heart… As soon as I read them, the words hit me like a cold wave. They were fresh, woke me up from my state, and splashed me with clarity. They perfectly described my lifelong search for truth. They made me realize the amazing fact… even when I didn’t know it, even when I was not aware, even when I was struggling, in pain, dealing with horrible circumstances, the fact of the matter is, that I had won life’s greatest lottery.

My team.

Learning to Bike

child bike

Were you a bicycle child prodigy?

Did you hop on a bike for the very first time and start riding hands free?

If you are like most people, perhaps 99.99% of the population (I made up this statistic), you were likely not a bicycle child prodigy. You fell, lost balance, maybe even had some really traumatic, scary moments related to biking, and likely, it took you years to feel like a master of this fun leisure activity.

So why is it that we, as adults, expect new ventures to work out immediately? Why do we expect new habits to change our lives tomorrow, new businesses to show results now, and expect that speed is the only thing that determines whether something new is working for us or not?

Part of it is media bias. We used to live at a time when we were not as bombarded by countless overnight success stories, stories of people who have money pouring in when all they do is take selfies at luxury vacation spots. And no, I am not talking about Kim K here, I have major respect for her ability to market herself. She seems to not do anything, but what she does is highly strategic and complex marketing.

What happens with media bias is that we never see the whole picture. Stories of success may brush on the challenges that the person had, but the dark times are never the focus. In fact, the difficult hustling days and their countless failures are romanticized, making it seem as real as an old, soundless black and white film screening. It is flashier to talk about how much money they are making per year, what gorgeous lifestyle they live, and other sugary helpings of information that truly, is irrelevant to the truth of the matter. They fell, just like you are falling, hit their knees and head against the concrete, blood oozing out, feeling like the fight is endless, not knowing exactly where they will end up. Like the countless times you lost control over your bike, accidentally drove yourself into the bushes, ran the wheels over sharp pins, or even lost the group that you were biking with. If you sit down and really try to recall your learning to bike journey, it comes to no surprise that we should feel difficulty over losing weight, making any money in our business, learning a new skill, and facing the challenges of any transition.

Every time you feel that you are not up to the level of your peers, feel lack of confidence, or feel that life is not working out the way you want, just remember yourself as a child who learned to ride a bike. You learned a skill that you never knew how to do. And you did it, and you did it well. As long as you keep practising and give yourself time, you will notice the progress and rewards coming your way.

Thrive on!

 

 

 

NEVER GIVE UP!

Do you know that there is this “something” that you were meant to do? You know you are good at something, but there were many reasons why you never pursued it?

I have a ton of them. One of them was being an entrepreneur.

I watched my dad run his business since I was small. He never worked for anybody but himself.

Even though his plans for me were different (become a teacher, get married, have kids), I knew that I would never be happy in that life. I never became a teacher. However, I did do many things that he wanted me to do. Getting a university degree, become a mom, etc. I also horribly failed in life because I followed his dreams for me, and not my own.

I ended up in a relationship that did not nurture me as who I am. I separated with 2 young kids by the time I was 29. I am sure that this is not the life my father meant for me to have. However, as children, we have a funny way of fulfilling our parent’s wishes, whether we like it or not. Until we completely change our belief systems. It is pretty hard to outsmart your own brain, the way it was wired, even before being aware of your thought patterns.

After years of not enjoying being employed, I decided to go self-employed last year, however, the format I pursued was to be employed as a broker for a well-known company. This year, I found a better opportunity to venture out entirely on my own.

I am often so scared that I have thoughts about being an employee again. Every time I do that, I remember reading “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.” Hands down the best book I have read.

Because of not believing in myself, I spent the last 4 years working for someone else, even when I knew that I want to build something for myself. Today, during my shower, I had that thought of applying for a job creep up again. I got blasted by icy cold water, then found myself screaming, “I can do it! I can do it!”

It was subconscious. My inner self, or my physical body reacted to my thought pattern. I am very certain that entrepreneurship is the right path for me. There will be many days that don’t fold out well. There will be setbacks. That is the reality.

But perseverance of 4 years, I will not be employed by someone else, making someone else a fortune. In 4 years, I have the chance to be financially independent. In 4 years, the efforts will show.

What have you always known to be your path, and you have not done it? Will you still let the time and the opportunity pass you by?

Read to Win

If you follow me on Instagram, you will see that I post a lot about the books I am reading.

This is not to show off that I read a lot. I have a literature degree from university. However, I spent a good amount of years after graduation NOT reading.

Reading was always a huge part of my life. My childhood was filled with encyclopedias (remember those?), volume sets on famous literary classics, etc. Reading and intellectualism was highly encouraged in my family.

When I stopped reading, my whole life went downhill. I didn’t make the connection between reading and having a good life, until I recently turned to books again, as I used to, as a child.

How did this start? First of all, I had to read a lot of books that I hated in university. Looking back, formal education taught me a lot, but it did not serve me in the way that I would have like to. I needed more guidance in life, rather than intellectual knowing.

Second, I started dating a guy who didn’t read. He was older, so he seemed to know so much more and have his life figured out. To my 21 year-old self, he seemed to have the answer to everything.

He had a lot of books in his house, from classics, to fiction, to some of the greatest literary work of all time. As a literature girl, I was so impressed. I asked him if he had read them. He said no. Jokingly, he said that he had them there to “impress girls.”

As a 33 year-old now, thinking back to that, I think, “What a fraud.” I know for a fact that no 30 year-old woman is going to take that as a positive. Every 20 something woman I talk to, I want to tell them to be careful of men like these.

With the education system having jaded me, at 21, I liked his attitude. What I didn’t realize is that reading and intellectual habits were not the problem, it was the lack of life guidance. Things that were NOT taught in school, that were perhaps more important than knowing a lot. For example, not knowing anything about money. Not understanding people. I didn’t have a mentor. I took books away from my life, and it made me navigate life truly alone. At that point, I was not even learning from books on how to navigate life.

With this guy who represented mediocrity, I spent too many of my years. I had all the desire to get better, but life just didn’t seem to improve, and luck was not “on my side.” I became less fulfilled, then became anxious and depressive.

In the more recent years, long after I left that relationship, I got back into my love of books. It had been 10 years since my graduation. 10 years of wasted time. I read some books in between, but far from the rate that I used to. I used to learn every day from books. I stopped that habit, and put my trust on a person who was older and completely mediocre, and had an expensive lesson to pay. Too many life lessons. Too many mistakes. Too much TIME LOST.

It is important to pick up the right book, just as it is important to choose who you include in your daily circle. Don’t just read/date/befriend anything. Pick up books/people that can help you better an area of your life that you are struggling with. Choose nurture over lessons hard learned. Focus on learning and being entertained by the process.

I hope you are reading your life to win. If you are not, I hope you start and take charge of your precious life.

UNSHAKEABLE by Tony Robbins – Review

book-image

 

I read the whole book. Was it worth it? YES. Every minute of reading it.

I am personally a Tony fan. If he is not your cup of tea… let him be your cup of coffee.

This book is a wake-up call for a lot of people. I work in finance, so many things are routine repeat to me. However, I know myself before I got into the career, like most people, I was almost completely financially illiterate.

What does this mean? I didn’t know what anything meant on the fund facts or prospectus, which is a one or two pager that explains your investments. I live in Canada, so the registered plans Tony talks about are different, as they are all American. There are some similarities, such as the 401(k) in the US and RRSP in Canada. Most people truly do not understand what tax savings and early investing and compounding can do for their financial future.

Tony stressed a lot on huge fees and avoiding them. I play the devil’s advocate in this. Some people really don’t want to take charge of their finances and learn everything, and do the investing themselves. In this case, using an advisor and paying the fees is worthwhile. Otherwise, people become paralyzed and don’t take action. That is worse than taking action and paying some fees.

Also, one thing Tony does not mention is that debt compounds too. This is one thing that people should understand before taking out any loans, especially credit card loans. We live in a consumer driven world. Think again before you max out another credit card, or take out a loan to buy something that immediately decreases in value.

The biggest takeaway here is the mindset. People know technical terms and understand them, yet are not able to manage their FEAR towards the economy, and acting on fear to fix it. Acting in any negative emotion will never give the desired results.

There is more on mindset. In fact, he has a whole section on it, which is very much like Tony. Our minds are truly our biggest obstacle. Learn to manage your own mind, and you can conquer anything.

This is a great book for anyone who wants to better their financial future. He taps into very important points in saving on taxes, and why you need insurance.

I could rant on about the insurance thing. Working in finance, I run into people and families without any type of life insurance, disability, critical illness insurance. If you don’t think anything can happen to you, take a look on Go Fund Me and see how many families suffer because they didn’t plan for the future, and just did not believe or understand insurance. Link here.

Again, mindset. People only realize they need help after they are between a rock and a hard place. Usually, it is too late.

So take charge of your life and pick up this book, and take action!

 

Be the One You Need The Most

I find it so interesting that people often feel sorry for me that I am single.

And, I have 2 school aged children.

Wow… I must have a horrible life!

REALLY?

I must admit that I often feel sorry for couples. Not all couples, of course. I feel sorry for couples who do not get the most out of each other. Those who do not make each other better. Those who allowed themselves to go “downhill” after committing. They always tell you that now they have different priorities, and come to have different dreams, so it is okay that they let go of themselves. There are these people who are so miserable, that every word and belief system that comes out of them is negative and pushes them further into their state of learned helplessness.

This is why I am so bewildered at people who feel sorry for me. Often, these miserable people are the ones who volunteer to feel sorry for me. They apply their world view on others as if that is the ultimate answer.

I was once one of those committed couples. People assumed that I was happy. People assumed that I had a great life, because I had a husband. Sometimes I do think back and try to remember my life from 5 years ago. It was much worse than it is now. I would never want to go back to that.

We live in a world of personal bias, of people imposing their belief systems and values on others. Single people feel bad for parents, because of the load of responsibilities. Parents feel bad for single people, because they will never understand unconditional love the way they do. Couples always want to know if their single friends have found someone. And I, as an empowered, single mother who came into her own power after 2 children, feel bad for so many people. I feel bad for people who are dependent, those who don’t know their own potential, those who cannot take charge, get things done and commit to positive changes… those who are stuck living in the comfort of their own habits, who stopped experimenting and learning… those who have stopped growing at a speed.

I found out the hard way that people judge single mothers a lot. It was a surprise. I didn’t know this until I became one. They assume that I am poor, without any evidence, and that I will be poor forever. My failed marriage is a “life sentence.” They assume that I need to, and want to be with someone. They assume that I probably cry in a dark corner in my room all because I am single and I have two kids.

I used to get offended by judgments that I encountered unexpectedly, but over the last 5 years, I learned that this judgment is due to ignorance. As soon as a woman is successful, people don’t think twice to attributing any stereotype to this person, whether she is single or married. I think of J. K. Rowling often, whenever this happens. Nobody remembers that she escaped a horrible marriage with a baby, was broke for a long time, and eventually, after many failures, she made huge successes. She believed in herself. I will bet that she faced loads of awful encounters with judgmental people, until the world came to love her writing.

If only so many single mothers are given the chance to believe in themselves, instead of being judged, we would be doing a favour to so many families and children. It could perhaps be an effective way to decrease poverty in single parent households.

I meet strong single mothers often. They have different professions in all different fields. The ones that get ahead are the ones that believe in themselves. They are the ones who have a much stronger foundation than a married person with emotional codependency. Single mothers that I speak of are determined to provide and win for their children. Quite the opposite of the image of a single mother who cannot parent. I remembered this as I watched once, a woman who had judged my happiness level due to my marital status, screamed her head off at her child, in public, because her child was not waiting for her where she was supposed to be. I would never want to be her child! She is a married woman, so she was probably just having a bad day. If she was a single mom, she would be judged for her parenting.

The single moms I meet, who are the best women I know, believe in themselves. They are also auto-efficient. They become the one who they need the most.

They nurture themselves and their children. When they don’t know something, they learn it, or reach out for help. They excel in self-help in their daily habits. They prepare well. They don’t sit around waiting for opportunities to come.

I wonder how often the judgmental ones become the one that they need the most?

 

Be Brave

Jump into cold water. Every day.

I am not unique nor special when I say that such simple ritual works to refine the mindset. So who can attest to this? Tony Robbins shared that he does this every morning. This is part of his morning routine. He has a custom-built mini pool-like hole in the ground on his property where he immerses himself into cold water as he gets ready for his day. He is a results driven guy, and the cold water helps to jump start his mind and body to get to that high performance level immediately.

I have heard of countless coaches and thought leaders who make cold water baths and showers as a part of their routine. I have taken up cold showers as a part of my routine. It made a lot of sense once I started hearing their stories. Not to mention, I remembered a story about a monk who only took cold baths. I start with a warm shower, but at the very end, I blast myself in cold for about 30 seconds.

What does this do? It gives an interesting effect. First, it gets the mind over the resistance of being in cold water. The toughest part is cranking the shower lever to C (or the blue zone!) and letting it stay there. Once you get past that stage, it is quite soothing.

As humans we have the tendency to want comfort. I noticed that in many instances, when I did not get the results that I want in life, it was because I chose the comfortable path. The cold shower is a metaphor to choosing the challenging path, the unbeaten path, the path that we want to resist even when we know that it probably is the right thing to do. This is a practice for the mind. This is picking up the phone and cold-calling businesses. To some people, this is learning to admit mistakes and saying sorry. To others, wanting something and not going for a shopping spree, and deciding to save that money instead. It is about not overeating or drinking too much for some people. It is a test to the mental strength. It is practising discomfort by resisting temptation right now for a better tomorrow. It is awakening the senses to feel more. It is knowing that the cold will be over, that the discomfort is a phase, and actually enjoying the discomfort while in it. It is about becoming more clear and engaged.

Be brave. Allow yourself to win just by trying. Allow yourself to overcome challenges by getting into a mental state of heightened senses. The more I try to reach for the results I want, I realize that I already have many of the tools. The best way to learn is by practice. Reading and attending workshops are great, but what delivers results is the action. We can learn bravery from a cold shower, which is available for most people. We practice every day, and bravery becomes easier to choose in our daily lives.

Work-Life Integration

What if you never needed a vacation? EVER!

This is something that I am working towards. In the past, I believed in traditional work, where paid vacations were considered a great perk. I no longer have this mindset, because I have taken charge as the designer of my life.

It took me a long time to get to a place where I no longer believe in work-life balance. There is no such thing. One side always wins. Nature favours chaos over order, imbalance over equilibrium. Work-life integration is where both sides win. When work and life are one, there is no need to take a break, need a vacation, or live towards weekends. When I do what I love, I really don’t care about weekends. TGIF is BS. Work that I love is part of my being.

Think of it when we were kids. Every morning, we woke up with a spring attached to the bottom of our feet. There always was an exciting thing to do. New things to explore. New crafts and projects to get our hands on. For me, it was practising on the piano and drawing. I could barely sleep in. I used to get up and get to school 1 hour early to practice classical piano in the school music room. It is time to reconnect with that child. For kids, play is learning. For adults, work should equal the pleasures of play.

I am very aware that some people would laugh at this. Some people just cannot see it as something possible. In the last 4.5 years, I went through some major changes. I would call this period my metamorphosis. How did I come up with this crazy idea to design my life towards work-life integration? In my working life, I had challenges in choosing a career. In this process I realized that work that makes me wait for downtime is not worth my time. I am wasting other people’s time too. I am not going to be as productive. I learned a lot from working in traditional jobs. However, reading about successful people has really come to influence me. Every successful person love their jobs so much that they never retire, never look forward for weekends, nor take long vacations. Their work is their life. One of the greatest blessings in life. A definite element to the pursuit of happiness.

This is not to say that time with family does not matter. Of course it does. It is a priority. This is why I truly believe in work-life integration. Family and health are integrated. They are a part of this equation.

I am in this process and I really love it. Life is short, but it is also very long for most of us. The human life span is getting longer and longer. It makes your life hell to work in a job that you trade in hours of unhappiness for the exchange of 1 or 2 months of “freedom.”

What is your take?