Shhh! You’re not supposed to tell people it’s hard. It’s supposed to be easy if you just follow my five-step plan and send me $99.99!
But, it’s the truth and we all know it. Changing, learning, and growing is scary and hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it. (Hey you can still send me the $99.99 if you want.)
Why is it so hard and scary to change?
“Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.” — James Belasco and Ralph Stayer
Even if what we’re doing isn’t getting us everything we want, it’s getting us something: It’s comfortable. It’s not that bad. We’re getting by. We’re making a living… We’ve created habits.
We start shoulding on ourselves (and that gets messy fast). I shouldn’t be so selfish in wanting more than I have. I should feel lucky I have a job. I should stop dreaming about things that will never happen.
When I was a little boy I wanted to make a big change. I wanted to stop riding with training wheels and ride a big boy bike. I was scared of getting hurt, but I really wanted to learn. My older brother taught me.
We lived on a hilly street. My brother had me get on the bike at the top of the hill. He would run alongside me holding the bike until we stopped in our driveway. Then we’d walk the bike back to the top of the hill and start the whole process again.
I started getting pretty good. The next time down the hill I was feeling great, I was really moving. I turned into my driveway and was hurtling toward the closed garage door. I yelled to my brother, “Dave, stop. Stop! Dave, stop!” Bam! I crashed right into the garage door.
My brother thought I was doing so well he could let go of the bike and quit running beside me. The problem with that was he didn’t tell me and didn’t teach me how to stop.
It hurt. I had a big lump on my head. But I didn’t say, “Well that bike riding stuff hurts. I’m never doing that again.” I wanted to ride a big-boy bike without training wheels. I wanted to keep up with all the other kids. I wanted to be miles from my house with my parents having no idea where I was!
I put my football helmet on and got back on my bike. I learned how to ride my bike and it was glorious. It also taught me how important pushing through the pain to make a change is.
You might not have a brother who rammed you into a closed garage door, (Thanks, Dave!) but I bet you fell a few times learning to ride your bike. I also bet that didn’t stop you from learning to ride. Why would you risk getting hurt again? Why not give up? Because we all know that short term pain is worth the long term gain.
Question for Comment:
What do you want to change, learn or do?
I know it’s scary and hard.
You will fall. You will get hurt (for a short time).
Get ready for an amazing insight coming at you. People with a good, positive, optimistic attitude tend to enjoy their day more and accomplish more than people with a negative, depressing, pessimistic attitude. See, I told you—deep insight. You’re welcome.
We know this from research and from our own experience. But how do we create and maintain the positive mindset we need to live a happier, healthier life and reach all our goals?
I’ve got some great tips for you, but I want to begin with this:
Start every morning by thinking about all the great things in your life. For most of us it’s pretty easy coming up with at least a short list.
I have a routine I go through every day when I wake up that gets me up on the right side of the bed. I’m a Christian, so for me this ties into my religion. But, you can use the same type of technique whether you’re religious or not. Instead of a thankful prayer list, simply make it your gratitude list.
As I slowly wake up, I start to pray. I thank God for for my wife, my children, my extended family, and my friends. I thank Him for the fact that I have more than enough to provide my family with food, clothing, and shelter. I praise Him for the fact that I was born in the United States of America and I have so many opportunities to create a life of abundance for myself and enough to help others as well. I give thanks for the multiple ways I’m able to earn income doing something I love, and I’m grateful for my excellent health.
I give thanks that I’m not stuck in a job I hate with some guy telling me I need to get my TPS forms in and another guy claiming I stole his stapler.
As I’m saying my prayers, I’m creating beautiful images in my head of everything I’m praying about. As I do this, I can feel my body and spirit coming more and more alive. Feelings of peace and happiness and ambition well up within me and I begin to feel excited about getting out of bed and starting the day. I spend about three minutes doing this. (I know this sounds kind of touchy-feely, but if you try it for a few days I think you will be amazed at the results you get.)
After I’m done giving thanks, I spend the next three to five minutes being grateful for my future life with all my major goals achieved. I put everything in the present tense as if I’m already living the life I want. I’m getting my conscious and subconscious minds focused on my goals, and the best way to do that is to put everything we want in the present tense.
I visualize pursuing my Passionate Purpose at the ultimate level. I imagine achieving my goals in every aspect of my life. If you really want to get excited about your future, describe it in great detail and imagine how it will look, feel, sound, smell, and taste. Get your emotions into it. Play the movie of your extraordinary life in your head. It’s better than any blockbuster at the multiplex.
The more real you make this, the more excited you will become to take on the day, and the more your subconscious mind will help you pursue your goals.
My daughter has a great quote on the lock screen of her phone: “I did not wake up today to be mediocre.” I know you didn’t either. So, let’s GO!
On to the tips!
1)Wake up early enough that you don’t have to rush
Most people wake up with just enough time to race through showering, getting dressed, getting the kids off to school, and grabbing a cup of coffee on the way out the door. How’s that working out for you? Is it really a great way to start the day?
Instead, supercharge the morning by getting up 30 minutes before you normally do in order to read, think, pray, meditate, or exercise. It sounds horrible if you’re not a morning person, but if you make it a new habit you will never stop.
Imagine how good it would feel to take your time in getting ready for greatness.
2)Wake up gently
Being jolted awake by a loud, buzzing alarm clock is actually bad for your health. (Plus, it scares the bleep out of you! Or maybe that’s just me.) The research shows it increases your blood pressure, heart rate, adrenaline and stress. Sounds like a super way to wake up to me, right? All we need now is for a small stroke and we’re ready to start the day.
But, Greg, I’ll sleep right through that. You don’t get me.
Hey, I’m feeling you. One time, at summer camp, my brother slept through a cannon and bugle call they blew every morning. But, trust me. The increasing sound and light together will wake you up. And it will be a much more pleasant way to start the day.
3)Stretch in bed before you get up.
Stress and relax each body part. Start with your toes. Flex and hold for about five seconds. Then relax them. Do that with every body part working your way all the way up to your forehead. It’s feels great and gets your physical body ready for action.
4)Have a wonderful breakfast (or at least something)
I know a lot of people say they don’t have time for it (see tip #1) or they don’t like to cook. I understand it’s not for everyone, but try it at least once a week with everyone in your house. I think you’re going to love it. I make eggs, sausage, toast, and some fruit every morning.
If you can’t do that, at least grab some fruit, and some protein (almonds or peanut butter on a spoon works) on your way out the door. It will get your metabolism going and keep you powered up until lunch.
5)Put your phone in your pocket without looking at it.
This is very hard for me to do, but it’s super rewarding. It will quickly become your new habit. It lets you set your priorities for the day instead of giving that power to your emails and social media. Schedule a set time in the morning to check those things – but NOT when you first wake up.
6)Every time you open your email program write a quick thank you to one person.
The thank you can be for something simple or something big. It doesn’t matter, just make sure it’s a real thank you. When you force yourself to think of who you should thank, and why, you will realize how many people help you and are nice to you – and how often we overlook it.
If you’re being efficient, you should only be checking your emails a couple of times a day. So, you need to come up with only a couple of people to thank.
I think this is my favorite tip on my list. When you do this, your relationships will change.
7)Pick someone you can help today.
Have you noticed that when you help someone else your problems seem to get smaller? It never fails. I don’t do this every day. I get busy. I forget. I worry that the person might not want my help. But, I’ve never felt bad after helping someone else.
Let’s call them goals and really do them right this year.
Here’s what works:
1) Believe you can:
This may sound silly, but common sense and research shows if you don’t believe you can be one of the 8% you won’t be. Hey, someone has to be – why not you?
2) Convince yourself you must achieve this goal:
If this is just something that would be nice to do, you may find yourself in the 92% group before you know it. Did you know 80% of people give up on their resolutions by February? So, ask yourself, why must you make this change and achieve this goal? What would be so great about reaching it? What would be so awful if you didn’t?
3) Convince yourself the short term pain is worth the long term gain:
Pick the top 2 or 3 things that are most important to you. Long lists will sabotage your success for any of them. Remember, you can do anything, but you can’t do everything. We can only change so much, so fast. You also may need to choose to let some less important things slide, so you can focus on what’s vital.
5) Start small and then go big:
I know all the gurus tell you to make massive change, to go big or go home. Well, the gurus are wrong. If you make your goal too big and you feel like you’re failing, you may get discouraged and quit. Don’t get me wrong. Setting big goals is an awesome thing to do. Just don’t let the size of them paralyze you from taking action. Don’t become discouraged because you didn’t change the world in a day.
Instead, take your big goal and break it down. Create smaller goals and benchmarks to get there at the week, month, 3 month, 6 month, and year mark. Take those smaller goals and create daily action plans to reach them. Write new daily action plans each week. Take action every day and watch your small steps turn into something BIG.
6) Make it real easy to measure your success:
How can you tell when you reach your goal? Definite and measurable goals are what work. How can you do this with goals that are difficult to measure? Can you break down a goal, project or task into measurable parts?
Find a trustworthy, supportive friend and agree to be each other’s accountability partners. Check in at least once a week with each other to make sure you’re staying on track.
Set up mini-goals and celebrate every time you hit one. Refocus on why you’re doing this and keep going. That’s how you start small and then go big.
Bonus: Make sure you’re going after the right stuff:
Before you start, you need to know exactly what you want. What’s most important to you and why? Here’s one way to start figuring it out.
Your mission tonight… if you choose to accept it.
Spend one half hour of your limited time writing down what your best life would look like. Done correctly, this is an extremely uplifting exercise. Just organizing and prioritizing your best life can increase your happiness, optimism, and belief that you can accomplish your goals.
When you answer these questions, remember, you’re in Fantasyland. No limits. That’s when our best ideas come.
If you had all the money in the world, how would you spend your time?
What would your perfect day look, feel, sound, smell, taste, and be like? Describe it in as vivid detail as you can.
What activities set your soul on fire?
What would you do if it were impossible to fail?
What would your career be?
What would your marriage be like?
What would your income be?
How much free time would you have?
Where would you live?
How many people could you help?
What would you do even if you didn’t get paid to do it?
What type of relationships would you have with your children?
What would your relationship be with God?
Where would you travel for vacations?
How many vacations would you take each year?
What would you have crossed off your bucket list?
How much would you give away to charity each year?
What would your spiritual life be like?
Where would you volunteer?
How much would you weigh?
What would your physical health be?
Would you play an instrument, speak a foreign language, or know how to dance?
What groups would you belong to?
How would you treat people?
How would people treat you?
These are just some questions to get you started. Come up with some of your own and design your best life.
Question for comments: What questions do you need to ask yourself to get to your best life?
If you’ve ever wanted to be your own boss, I have great news for you – you are!
Um, Greg, you don’t know me, or my job. I am not even close to being my own boss. I don’t run my own company. I’m stuck at a job where I have to do exactly what my boss tells me. I have no control over anything at work. I feel like a cog in a machine. I have to do what I’m told or I won’t be able to pay my bills.
I’m feeling you. That can be truly depressing and soul sucking. I get that you can feel like you have to go to work and you have to do what you’re told, But, when you really think about it, it’s always a choice.
When I first started working, I didn’t understand this and looked at my job as just a way to make some money. It didn’t take long for that mindset to make me miserable.
But once I realized I was really working for myself, that I could make my own decisions and decide what type and quality of work I was going to do, everything changed.
My wife teaches first grade. She told me last week how a child was starting to understand how certain letters make special sounds.
That’s just a little thing. So what?
Well, he was able to use that new understanding to start reading words with those letter groupings. Not such a little thing.
He’s going to build on that throughout this school year. He’ll keep learning “little things.” Those little things will start to grow into big things and one day soon he’ll be reading books and his whole world will explode.
Little things matter (so do super first grade teachers like my wife).
Isn’t that how we continue to grow for our entire lives?
Little thing after little thing adds up to some pretty great big things.
“Most folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” – Unknown (but commonly attributed to Abraham Lincoln)
Oh, come on, Greg, you can’t just make up your mind to be happy. Sometimes, bad things happen and you feel sad. Sometimes your whole life sucks, and you feel sad.
Yes, I agree with that. We all have bad things, bad people, and bad jobs happen to us at times in our lives.
My point isn’t that these circumstances don’t impact our lives, it’s that we get to choose how much, and for how long, they impact us.
My youngest daughter, Summer, is in 10th grade. She has a lot she wants to do. She’s almost finished writing her second book. She plays piano and sings, and she’s working on a set list to play gigs at local restaurants. (I have no idea where Summer gets this ambition and drive from. When I was 15, I spent all my time working on my jump shot and trying to get girls to notice me.)
The other day, Summer said to me, “I’m really frustrated at school. It’s taking all my time. I want to write what I want to write. I want to play what I want to play. Instead I have to do what my teachers want me to do. By the time I get all my schoolwork done, I don’t have time for what I want to do. Some of my classes are really boring. And, little things are getting me down, too. Somebody asked me today if I had straightened my hair. When I said, yes, she told me I missed a spot in the back. Was that nice?”
Ah, high school. Fun, right?
It would be easy to dismiss Summer’s complaints because we think our situations are so much more serious and so much worse, but I think it’s all relative.
I know people who get depressed when their favorite football team loses and I know quadriplegics who are living very happy lives.
What makes the difference? How we choose to respond.
I wanted to help Summer so I started out by giving her advice. I explained to her how we can choose our responses. I told her all about Rational Emotive Therapy and gave her examples. (I know, don’t you wish I were your dad?)
Then, as her eyes started to glaze over, I realized lecture time wasn’t helping. So, I started asking her questions. The same ones we should all ask ourselves.
What could you do today to find moments of happiness in your routine?
How can you create more time for the things you love to do?
How can you use your daily activity to live out your passionate purpose?
How can you reframe your circumstances in the best possible light?
How can you help someone who is feeling down today?
Are you going to give someone else the power to make you feel bad today?
“The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human can alter his life by altering his attitude.” – William James
It’s not always easy to choose to be happy.
I took my Mac out into nature today to write this blog post and was bombarded by bugs. They weren’t biting bugs, they were just annoying. I tried several different spots and they persisted. They were really ticking me off. I had a decision to make. I could let the bugs ruin my outing, or I could choose to ignore them, flick them away when they got too bad, and enjoy myself anyway.
I had to remind myself, you are in control of how you choose to respond to what happens to you today.
It took a little effort, but I went with the second option and I’m glad I got out of the house to work on my blog post. It was one of the yays in my day.
What about you? Are you going to let circumstances determine how happy you are, or are you going give someone or something the power to determine your mood and happiness?
Make creating happiness a priority and a goal. Focus on it and think about it. What we think about and focus on, we get more of.
Take action on three things today to create moments of happiness today.
When something good happens, linger on it and enjoy the moment. Maybe it’s a good conversation with a co-worker, or a great dish at lunch. How about a good walk in the evening with your spouse or reading a bedtime story to your child? Don’t let these moments of happiness slip buy. Savor them.
Focus on the parts of your work that challenge and fulfill you. This is a kind of happiness that is often overlooked.
Plan out how to change at least one recurring situation that hinders your happiness.
List three things everyday that you’re grateful for. Try not to name the same things day after day – list different things each day.
Act as if you’re happy. Research has shown that it’s hard to be sad when you are expressing happy body language – standing tall, smiling, etc.
Choose to frame your day and your life in the best possible way. Take a look at your self-talk – is it negative or positive? Are you taking your circumstances and looking for the worst or best way to frame them? (Read this for more information.)
Find someone to serve or help. Helping someone else will almost always increase your happiness.
Email a friend, colleague, or customer, a positive message.
Do an exercise you enjoy, even if you can only sneak in 10 or 20 minutes.
We all want to be popular. We want as many people as possible to like us and to love our work. But what if that desire stops us from getting the most out of our talents and turning our ordinary work into spectacular art? What if it stops us from giving the world our best?
“Planning our work so it pleases the largest number of people possible often has us censor ourselves, and usually stops us from doing something amazing.”–Greg Knapp
But, Greg, I need people to buy my work. I need to make money.
Absolutely. And you do need to make sure there’s a market for what you’re producing. By all means do your research to find your niche to create something people want.
But, here’s the irony. When we try to make our work popular with everybody we usually end up earning less than when we follow our passion, and do inspired work.
Sure, we’ll be less popular. But the people who love us, really love us. They keep coming back and buying what we have to offer. They tell all their friends about us – because we connected with them.
Plus, it’s a lot more fun than trying to do what you think people want!
Pablo Picasso was an excellent artist from a young age. But, did you know he was classically trained and painted landscapes early in his career? He could have stuck with that and made a good living. But he was inspired to experiment and helped create the Cubism movement.
Not everyone liked his abstract paintings. You could say they were “less popular.” But he was doing the work he really cared about and the people who did like them really liked them. In fact, at the time of his death, Picasso’s net worth was estimated to be $50 million. (He was an artist who didn’t have to wait until he died to make money!)
Get 100% clear on your why and your what. Then, your how will begin to appear. –Greg Knapp
I am very big on the idea of asking yourself empowering questions. We ask ourselves questions all the time. Our brain will come up with an answer no matter what we ask it.
How could I be so stupid?!
You aren’t stupid, but your brain will come up with an answer.
Why does this always happen to me?!
It doesn’t, but your brain will come up with an answer.
Those types of questions don’t help you get where you want to go. They beat you down and waste your time.
Let’s ask questions that lead to the results you want.
Why do you want to change your life?
Because I’m not happy, Greg. Jeez!
I get that things aren’t where you want them to be. I’m not trying to get down on you, I’m just trying to help you get clear on why you must change. That will keep you going when the journey gets tough.
It all starts with your why – your purpose. Then we can get to what you really want and the obstacles holding you back from starting to get it.
During a recent coaching session I asked my client, “Why do you want to change your life?”
He said he’d have to think about it for a minute. He already knew down deep, but I don’t think he’d ever taken the time to articulate it and bring it to his conscious mind.
After a few moments he said, “Greg, I’m tired of just going through the motions. I’m not sure if I know my purpose. I think if I can figure that out, it will help me make the changes to make my life better.”
That was a start. I then followed up with, “What do you mean by better?”
He replied that he wanted to earn an income to provide for his family so they could live in a better neighborhood with better schools and they would have everything they need.
“Beyond that, Greg, I feel stuck. I don’t know where I’m going next. I don’t feel needed where I work, and my self-confidence is low. I want to find purpose in my life and work so I can love what I do and take care of my family.”
Now, we were getting somewhere
Do you want to be more excited about your career, your spouse, your relationships, your family, and your spiritual development?
Do you want freedom to control your own time, career, vacation, and life? Freedom to travel the world with the people you love?
Do you want to generate abundant amounts of income so you can do everything you’ve ever dreamed of, take care of your family, and give to help others?
Why mustyou change your life?
Once you’ve figured that out, you can move on to what you want and how to start doing it.
Ask yourself some empowering questions:
What’s your why?
What’s your gift?
What’s your purpose?
What are you doing when you feel great?
What type of work are you doing when you feel like you’re in the zone or in flow?
What things have you done that you’re passionate about and that bring you joy?
What things have you done that you felt brought meaning to your life?
What are you good, or even great at? (Or what could you become great at?)
What would your dream job entail?
What would a terrific relationship with your spouse look like?
Why do you want tohave to change?
What would be bad about staying exactly the way you are?
What would be great if you changed?
What would make the changes worth all the time and effort it’s going to take?
Get your journal out today and answer these questions. Get quiet and still and think deeply. Surface living isn’t getting you what you want. You need to go down deep into yourself to pull out your “why.”
Take at least 30 minutes to answer these questions and write them down.
Conventional wisdom says we all need to compromise. If only the politicians, bosses, clients, customers, spouses would compromise. Then…what?
The implied promise is that everything would be great! Sure, neither side would get everything, but both sides would get something, and at least we would be getting things done.
Yes, that’s necessary sometimes. We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the better.
But many times, compromise is overrated – and wrong.
It starts with the premise that we are on different sides. Why do we have to be? It moves to the idea that we can’t get what we want and need. Who says? It suggests that if you don’t give in a little, you’re wrong. We’re even shamed into thinking it’s selfish not to compromise.
But, what if you’re right? What if compromising hurts you and those you are trying to help?
All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is surrender. For it is all give and no take.
You shouldn’t compromise on fundamentals. Would you compromise with a serial killer? “How about instead of killing 28 people, you just kill 14. Can’t you meet me half way here?” That just doesn’t work.
For me, I won’t compromise on who I am, what work I do, who I will take on as a client, how I treat others, and how I allow myself to be treated.
When I compromise on these for money, convenience, or lack of a backbone I lose respect for myself and decrease the value of what I have to offer this world. I hate myself when I do it.
I feel great when I reject the idea that life is about compromise. Instead I look to create relationships and work where I’m not competing with another “side.” We’re working together for the same outcomes.
When I’m at my best, I blog about what I value with an honest, vulnerable, but strong voice. I choose my clients carefully. I choose the stories and opinions I talk about on my radio show carefully. I am transparent. I am real.
Of course we can all compromise on the little things that aren’t very important to us. But, if we think everything is a compromise we become ungrounded, disillusioned and fake. That leads to work that isn’t our best and strained relationships with people we don’t even want to be around anymore.
Define your fundamentals that you will not compromise on
Determine who you will – and won’t – work with
Give away the clients who are draining you – You will attract ones who will energize you
Questions for comments: What are your fundamentals you won’t compromise on? How do you feel when you agree to compromise on them anyway? How will you prepare yourself to deal with a situation like that in the future?
If you go deep enough, just about everything we do is in an effort to be happy. Think about it for a second. Why do you want more money? So you can buy things, take care of your family, donate to charities, help people, take trips, go to concerts, and more, right?
And, why do you want the ability to buy things and do stuff? Because, in one form of another, that makes you happy.
It’s the same with your desire for success, loving relationships, better health, deeper faith, or whatever else you want. When you keep asking why do you want it, it’s about being happy.
Even the voluntary sacrifices you make for others help make you happy. That is the outcome you’re looking for – and that doesn’t take away from the good you’re doing.
I think it depends on your definition of happiness. Are you talking about momentary happiness? Daily happiness? Overall happiness? A life of purpose, significance, and meaning? Are you talking about a combination of all those things?
That’s what I want. But for today, the question is how to be happy…generally.
According to who you talk to, that comes down to one, two, or four things.
Curly, in the movie, City Slickers, said it’s all about one thing. What is the one thing? Well, that’s for you to figure out.
Gee, thanks, Curly, I was hoping for a little more there (but I think we all know what he means).
The latest results from a Harvard study that’s been running since 1938 just came out. Every two years they ask the subjects questions about their happiness and well-being.
The study found two things that correlate the most to happiness.
1) Let go of the junk in your life.
People who are able to determine what’s important and what isn’t are happier. If you can ignore the small stuff, let go of past failures, and focus on what makes you happy and what counts the most to you, you will radically increase your happiness.
2) Good, social relationships.
We were created to be in relationships. Isolation hurts us. Close, loving relationships with spouses, friends, and extended family boost our overall happiness and help us through tough times. It also helps if you are able to avoid the toxic people in your life.
Ok, that makes sense to me. But what I’ve found is that happiness comes down to…
1) A purpose.
If you read my blog and book, this should not surprise you. I think it’s impossible to have a truly happy life if you think your life is pointless. A purpose changes everything. I have multiple purposes in my life – from meaningful work, to raising my children, to helping people and more. Purpose is linked to all kinds of physical, mental and emotional changes that lead to more happiness.
I agree big time with the Harvard study on this one. Some alone time in your life is a good thing, but being isolated and lonely is not. A good marriage, good family, and good friends will take you a long way to the happy place. For me, a loving relationship that is essential is the one I’m always working on with Jesus.
3) Good health.
I used to think it was silly when people said, well, at least I still have my health. Then, I tweaked my back. I could barely walk. Every time I moved it hurt. I couldn’t do anything. I was miserable. It’s hard to be happy when you feel like that. Feeling healthy and well rested really helps pump up the happy.
4) Happy moments.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the big, purposeful, meaningful stuff, we forget the small stuff. Yes, this type of small stuff matters! I’m happy when I go to the beach, or eat an ice cream cone with my daughter, or go out to dinner with my wife, or watch my Gators win a football game in the final second, or fall asleep reading a good book. Those moments count.
We need to balance those with the harder, purposeful work we do to build our happiness.
Questions for comments: What do you do to increase your happiness? What do you think is necessary to lead the happiest life you can?