What makes you happy?

smiles

What makes people happy?

This is a question that has been on my mind a lot lately. Would a better job, more money, more friends, more stuff, or more vacation time make you a happier person in general?

A study from San Francisco State University made some headlines recently. The study concluded that you should spend your money on experiences instead of more stuff if you want to be happy. You can read one article about the study here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/03/life-experiences-happier-material-things_n_5072591.html

So my question to you is what would make you happy? When you got your tax returns (if you got a return this year), did you think about where you wanted to go or what you wanted to buy? Did you think about either one?

A lot of people are so in debt right now that they aren’t worried about buying more stuff or spending money on experiences. They want money to help them climb out of what seems to be a never ending financial hole. Lack of money is one of if not the biggest reason that I hear about when people talk about being unhappy.

At this point in my life I’m by no means rich. I am in a better position financially than some, but I don’t get to travel with my family like I will one day. Regardless of the fact that I am not pulling down the big bucks just yet, I am a happy person most of the time.

I have been told on more than one occasion that I live in a land of unicorns and rainbows. I guess that might be true. I’m a firm believer in the fact that it will all work out in the end for me. I’m very grateful for everyone who has helped me get to where I am today. I know that no matter what it looks like right now, things will be alright.

It seems like in every time I take a look at my Facebook feed there is a new article, book, or a blog post that gives a list of things that are proven to make you happy. There are lots of things that seem to end up on these lists and sometimes I compare one list with another list.

These lists inculde things like doing yoga in the morning, fake it ’til you make it, and getting enough sleep. There does seem to be one thing that is on basically every list for living a happier life. The key to happiness seems to be gratitude.

Gratitude seems so easy and it really is something that everyone can put into practice. It starts with being grateful for the small things. A friend of mine started a gratitude journal online years ago. I don’t know if she still keeps up with it, but I thought it was an awesome idea. My wife and I took time out each night for a while to write down things that we were grateful for from the day. I found that for me personally, it is important to take time out and remember that I have so many reasons to be grateful.

Maybe you don’t think that you have anything to write in a gratitude journal. That could be one of the reasons that you don’t live a life filled with joy. If you seem to be down a lot, take some time out and inspect your life for opportunities to be grateful. It will be time well spent.

Remember that worrying about what may or may not happen will do you no good. All we can do is control what we can control and respond to the things that come our way. Your response will determine if you live a happy life or not.

That is my view on the subject. Everyone is free to have their own view.

Presidential Campaigns = Avoid Social Media

The 2016 Presidential election won’t occur for 573 days. This weekend Hillary Clinton announced that she would be running for President. You can watch the video in case you missed it:

She is the 4th candidate to make the announcement that they will be running in the upcoming election and she won’t be the last. According to this article there are at least 13 more people who are “probably” running.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/us/politics/2016-presidential-candidates.html

There will also be a bunch of candidates that no one hears about because they don’t have million dollar Super PAC’s to buy them time on TV.

I will be taking time off from commenting and probably even checking my Facebook feed for most of the year. The reason is not that I don’t want to know what my friends around the world are doing, it is because I don’t want to have to sift through all the negative articles posted about the people that my friends don’t want to see as our next President.

It has just started and yesterday I saw four articles in a row about why I shouldn’t want to see Hillary Clinton in the Whitehouse. What I want people to understand is this: I care more about who you want to see in the Whitehouse than who you don’t want to see.

You are not going to change my mind by posting negative things about a candidate. What will actually make me stop and read an article would be a positive article about the candidate of your choice and what position they take on the issues facing the United States right now.

Maybe other people can be swayed by you posting all of the reasons you don’t like someone who is in the race. I don’t see how that is the most effective way to actually get someone elected. I think it really just makes you look like you are only voting for the candidate of your choice so that the other person will lose. That is not a good reason to vote for anyone. Elections shouldn’t be about picking the lesser of two evils. It should be about picking the person you feel would best represent you and the things you hold to be important when they reach the highest office in the land.

This is probably not my last political post, but it will be the last one where I address my disdain for negative campaigning.

Hello old friend…

old friends It has been a LONG time since I posted anything on here. It isn’t that I forgot I had a blog, I just had other things that took priority.

One thing I have decided over the past couple weeks is that my writing has to be a priority that comes second to my family…and not much else.

I don’t use this blog to post things that I want to publish, this is really just an outlet for my thoughts and somewhere that I can make sure that I continue to write when I’m not working on a book or a story.

What is posted here is always just my opinion and from time to time I write something that others seem to care about as well. My goal is to write several posts a week during the spring and see if that helps me get a book started. I guess time will tell. Hopefully you will enjoy the journey as much as I do as we walk down this road of life together.

Who controls what you think you ‘want’

Want vs. Need is a discussion that could go on forever. I’m not here to tell anyone that they have to only survive with their basic needs being met and anything above that is wrong. What I am going to do is ask you why you desire the things you desire.

Who programs us to want the things that we line up for on Black Friday? What is the driving force behind the items that we make best sellers on amazon.com?

You don’t think you’re a programmed? Really? Take a look in your cupboards and tell me if you know the commercials associated with the products you see.

Look at your wardrobe and tell me what celebrity or tv personality is closest to “your style”….because it is your style right? You haven’t ever seen anything that would make you think it was acceptable to wear what you wear?

What about your car, or the decorations in your house? Where did the inspiration come from for the things that you own?

Companies spend millions on advertising each year to get you to own the idea of choice. You feel that you are the one in control because you went to Arby’s instead of McDonald’s.

We are constantly told what will make us happy. We are shown pictures of people who are generally better looking than us, by the standards of society, enjoying things that now we want. We didn’t know that those products would bring us such joy. Now that we do, we must have them so we can fill our lives with that joy.

The problem with this is not the products. It is with the illusion that those things will bring you joy.

Joy is not gained by things, it is experienced by enjoying time with family and friends.

This is obvious by the amount of suicides and overdoses in Hollywood. Powerful, famous, beautiful people decide that life is not worth living. We can’t understand it. People say, “If I had what they had, I would be so happy!” That is the illusion.

Basic needs have to be met in order to enjoy life…and keep on living. Beyond that it comes down to attitude and companions.

So what do we do about this illusion problem? How do we combat the barrage of images tell us what we must have to be happy? Those are the questions I want you to answer. We can’t move forward as a society unless we acknowledge that something is wrong. Once we acknowledge the problem, we have to work together to come up with the solution.

If you don’t think that you have a problem, then carry on. If what I said makes sense and you want to adjust the world around you, sit down and talk with your friends. Solutions come from community.

What is it all about?

My question to you today is simple:

What is it all about?

We go to work, usually doing something we don’t really enjoy, so we can have money to buy stuff that is supposed to make us enjoy our time away from work.

I understand that we have to eat, we need somewhere to live, and we need clothes of some kind. I get that…but why are we not helping each other fulfill our basic needs so we can all go out and do the things we love.

Lately I have met a lot of people who didn’t have anyone encourage them to follow after what they loved doing. Instead they were told to play it safe and fit into the mold.

The mold for a life today seems to be broken. There are over five times as many vacant homes as we have homeless people (who number the same amount of people as live in Los Angeles btw). That seems wrong.

The only city I have heard about that is addressing this issue is Salt Lake City. They looked at the bottom line and saw it cost more to have people on the street than it would to house them and assign a case worker. They are working to get the homeless people back on their feet.

Think about what would happen if we did something like that all over the country. Not to save money, but because people matter more than the bottom line.

How would it change the world if we gave away the 40% of food that goes to waste every day in the US?

What would your community look like if we reached out to the parents of young children and helped them on a daily basis with their kids instead of having to work an extra job to send them to daycare to be raised by teachers?

How would the landscape of job market change if children were encouraged to study what they loved and they were mentored by people who are already doing those jobs?

I believe that we all care about others. I believe that we all want a better future. I think we are getting to a point in time where a change is coming. I want to help. Let’s do it together.

It’s all about money…but we already knew that

I ran across an article that just bothered me today. Here it is:

Potential candidates hoping to hit is big in Las Vegas

It is just a regular political piece about potential presidential candidates hoping to find big donors that will contribute to their upcoming bid to be the next leader of the world’s largest economy.

It bothered me, not because I don’t think this kind of things happens, but because it doesn’t seem to bother anyone else. It doesn’t seem to be a big deal that we have millionaires kissing up to millionaires so that they will donate and help them get elected. It doesn’t bother people that the only way to win an election for the highest office in this country is to spend more money than the vast majority of the world will ever see in their lifetime. It is not a big deal that instead of speaking to the masses, they speak to the few who will get them airtime on TV, radio, and build a stronger web presence so that we will vote for them…or at least so that we will vote against the person that they are running against.

It is not about right or wrong, it is not even really about what their stance is on the issues for the most part. It is about money and who can get it. Money will get you more ads, more people to pay to make phone calls to likely voters, more mailers sent out…etc.

The candidates are trying to prove that they are not as bad as the guy across the aisle from them, so you should vote for them. They are trying to make you think that they will do exactly what you think is right when they get into office. You need to feel connected to the candidate, so they will go on talk shows and have heart felt commercials that show them as regular people.

All of this costs money, lots of money, more money than you would think it would take considering all the advances in technology that have connected people all over the world.

It bothers me that without money, you can’t get elected. Those who don’t have the backing might be the right person for the job, but you will never hear their voice. They can’t buy their way onto the stage for the debate.

It bothers me, it might not bother you. I don’t know what I am going to do about it, I’m not sure that there is anything I can do about it. I just felt like I wanted to share.

Congress gets reelected 90% of the time with an approval rating of 17%…what???

Shortly after the government shutdown last year it seemed like everyone was talking about the abysmal approval rating of Congress. Here are a couple of examples:

The 9%: Congress’s Approval Rating Hits the Single Digits

Congress Job Approval Drops to All-Time Low for 2013

It didn’t seem to matter what political party you were a part of, no one was happy with Congress. The approval rating by party for 2013 was something like this:

Democrats: 16%   Republicans: 13%  Independents: 14%

Impressive, since we had just elected all of these members of Congress in 2012. Not only did we elect ALL of these members of Congress who now had such a low approval rating, but we reelected incumbents at a rate of 90%. This was astonishing to me in 2012 because the approval rating at that time was only 17%

So what you’re telling me is that as a country, only 17% of America was happy with the job Congress was doing and still 90% of them got reelected.  How does that work exactly? Why do we keep reelecting the same people over and over again, even though each time they get reelected we get less satisfied with the job they are doing?

Over the past 40 years, the highest approval rating Congress has received was a resounding 56% in 2001. Most years the approval rating doesn’t get over 40%. In contrast to that, since 1964, the reelection rate for Congress has NEVER dropped below 85% (it was 85% in 1970 and 2010).

This leads me to believe one of two things. Either we are like goldfish when it comes time to elect members of Congress and we have absolutely no long term memory, or we are happy with our representative…even though we aren’t happy with anyone else.

How can we be like goldfish? How can we not remember all the things that Congress did, or didn’t do in the time they had in office? Oh that’s right, because all we see are the commercials and campaign promises. We see stats on how our rep voted on certain issues that matter to us, and we make our choices based on a handful of votes made on an even smaller amount of hot topics. We never look for an alternative outside our party or outside of the mainstream media coverage. We don’t vote for idealists or people who are not part of the system because that would be throwing away our vote on someone who can’t possibly win.

Why can’t they win if they aren’t part of the system? They don’t have the money. You don’t win a Senate seat or even a House seat by grass-roots campaigning. You win with money. In 2012 the average Senate winner spent $10.2 million and the average for a seat in the House cost a measly $1.5 million. If you tell me that money doesn’t pave the way to Congress then you aren’t looking at the facts. If you think that you are truly voting your ‘conscience’ then you simply aren’t paying attention anymore. You’re voting for who you’re supposed to vote for based on the right commercials, the right phrases stated during the televised debates, and the right spin put on the candidate during the news.

*stats for cost to win election based on several sources, here are 3 of them: 1, 2, and 3

If you say that this is not what is going on. You voted for your incumbent because you really like what they are doing and what they stand for, even though all the other members of Congress can’t do their jobs. So why did your rep still have to spend millions to get elected? If they are doing such a bang-up job, then why not let their record speak for itself? No one lets their job speak for them, they spend money to shout it from the roof tops and try to make their opponents look like crooks trying to ruin America.

There is a third option that is what most people will actually tell you is the problem. If they are a Democrat, the problem is the Republicans. If they are Republicans, the problem is the Democrats. If they are Independents, the problem is everyone else. That is actually the most consistent thing I have heard as I have traveled around the country. I have lived in WA, CA, OR, OK, AR, and NY. Some of the most liberal and some of the most conservative states in the country. No one thinks that the party they are a part of is really the problem. It is always the other guys that cause all the problems in Congress.

The Democrats feel that the Republicans are a bunch of rich white guys who are out of touch with America. The Republicans think that the Democrats are socialists trying to turn our country into a 1980’s USSR. If you’re an Independent then both of the other parties are corporate puppets. We are so polarized and convinced that our way is the only way that we will ever have a country worth living in is by electing people who share our party affiliation.

Real change won’t come from our elected officials. It will come from the people of this country reaching out and actually helping those that are around us. There are a lot of options out there, we just have to start looking for them. Mainstream politics/media will not point them out.