Here’s Why I Don’t Focus On Happiness (Anymore)

Who doesn’t want to be happy, right?

I recently went through a happiness “curriculum” from a “happiness guru”. It was delivered through email and worth the few weeks of personal study.

Here’s what I learned about myself. It may resonate with you.

I discovered, that for me, it’s not about happiness. It’s about purpose. It’s about clarity of direction. I crave the certainty. It also provides better stability if I deviate from that path. I’m not saying I don’t want to be happy. More so saying these three prerequisites lead towards it.

Here are my three:

1. Freedom – free in this context means not giving power to a person, goal, object or situation.

I practice giving myself that power. That power is choice. Being free is choosing not to dwell in the past or future. Choosing not to attach to anyone’s opinion either. Freedom is the power to choose. And quite a responsibility too!

2. Competence – The only thing that matters, to me, is making things happen.

I gauge my competence on whether or not I get things done. I have difficult problems that I am solving. Or…wait, I rather phrase that by saying, ‘I have solutions to create.’ The more I improve every day, the more competent I become, the more I get things done, the more problems I solve, the closer I am to happiness.

3. Good relationships – no one is more deserving of love than me and you.

We can’t put love into the world until we love ourself first. In my experience, there’s a learning curve to understanding what loving yourself looks like and how to stay strong in that place even when you feel weak. My first task is cutting certain people from my life if that’s what is required, even if I love them. The second task is putting in the effort to surround myself with people who bring out my best.

When I focus on these three things instead of happiness, I’m happier than not doing so.

Personally, I am following those three guidelines to have purpose and clarity of direction. I have faith the rest will work out. I worry less about the rest

This is from the Healthy Living series

I want to be the strongest version of myself so I have a checklist every day that includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. More about that here

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Morning Moves – Steal Time In Your Day To Make a Move

Here’s this week’s “morning move.” Except it didn’t happen this morning, but that’s okay because it’s not a prescription, it’s a lifestyle, it’s a theme.

Here’s what to do when you miss

Here’s the Concept Behind Morning Moves

The concept is simple: begin your day with the smallest possible “move.” Like first thing out of bed do a plank for 10 seconds. Or an inch worm. Or 25 push ups. I’ve been sending you a new “morning move” to try for seven consecutive days until the next Tuesday morning when I send you another.

– It reinforces positive feelings about yourself
– It breaks negative patterns and associations
– It produces good emotions
– It’s energizing, gets blood flow moving
– It doesn’t have to take long

The premise is that bad physiology reinforces negative feelings. I love Tony Robbins. I read his books. I listen to his videos. He says, “Motion creates emotion.” So changing your physiology means changing your mental state and breaking negative patterns. Or breaking dull patterns. Like sleep walking into the kitchen to get the coffee going. Great physiology leads to great emotions, and that is one of the keys to having a great day and/or getting unstuck.

I get out of bed and immediately perform a movement. I get out of bed and practice a positive mental statement within the “morning move” to calibrate myself for the day. All in just a few minutes of movement. It’s been so powerful for me that I want to share with you.

This Morning I Had To Steal a Different Window

I was in bed way late. I slept in. The margin between getting out of bed and getting to work were slim. So I skipped my normal routine. I drank my coffee like a zombie and found my way to work out of sheer muscle memory. Did I miss my window? No way… I stole another window. I called a friend. I took a 3 mile walk.

Every day you reinvent yourself (physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually). You’re always in motion. But you decide every moment of every day: forward or backward.

Check out previous morning moves

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Sometimes Stop Running


Being alive means we run. Sometimes running from something. Sometimes running towards something, or someone. Often both depending on the season. No matter how fast we are though, there are things we never will be able to outrun. Things that will always catch up to us. No one can out run pain. Sometimes the best thing we can do is to stop running, to let whatever it is catch up and overtake us.

Sunday Newsletter – Hitting Stride

This is the work that I’m immersed. Today I want to share with you what I’ve been doing to find my stride. I’m sharing it with you because my goal is to be the strongest version of myself. My opinion is that the world is a better place if we are all our best version of healthy.

Since New Years Day, I have made a choice every single day. I think to myself: What is wrong is just as available as what is right. I am going to take control of my focus. I will not suffer.

That was initiated because of a break up, but it quickly became less about the break up and more about all aspects of life in-general.

What I found is that my “muscles” were not strong in this department. I was not capable of snapping my fingers, and 90 seconds later, turning what I thought was a problem into a solution. Or changing my perspective. Or redirecting my focus. I’ve been working HARD on this. Now I’m starting to feel the results. They say a new habit takes 21 days to form (though that is highly debated and scientifically unproven). It has been 22 days of practice for me.

I’m not saying everything is rainbows and unicorns. I’m saying what is wrong is just as available as what is right, and I’ve been successful at taking control of my focus. This has improved the quality of my life.

22 days in, and I feel I’ve achieved enough momentum that I’m at a steady pace. I’ve reached the level at which I’ve observed how to function most competently. I can allow the waves of “pain” in stride, and deal with it calmly or “acceptingly.” (is that a word?)

Physical

Small workouts every day that don’t take longer than 12 minutes.

Always waking with 100 push ups, situps and air squats or bulgarian split squats. Then another workout at noon or early evening before dinner.

Yoga every Tuesday. The yoga has been pivotal. Especially for my breath work. Not to mention, that particular yoga community has made me feel very welcome.

Emotional

Meet ups. I’m averaging three or more per week. Just meeting with new people I don’t know well but would like to know. I’m seeking wise people.

I’m listening to people far better.

I’m feeling compassion for everyone.

I’m choosing to bring my best energy to people and I can see how positive the impact is. In general, I want to talk to everyone. I’m curious about people and life. I feel free to be the unique me that is me.

Mental

Writing in my journal every morning. This is honest, raw writing only for me.

Being creative for the heck of it with no agenda.

Writing my stories. Submitting some of them off to other websites.

Writing down all my ideas and taking the first step. Eliminating most of my ideas after taking the first step. Getting SUPER clear on what I want by going over it every day. I’m in a relationship with myself and I am discussing that relationship’s future with myself.

Writing at my blog, on Facebook and to you with no intention other than documenting my process and my journey and hopefully helping you in some way or another.

I’m setting aside personal time to research business models, listen to Tony Robbins or learn of work that a wise person has recommended me.

Spiritual

I meditate. I’ve never meditated in my life, but I have now figured it out. It took a lot of practice.

I have found my breath. I have found my breath for different occasions. I have noticed my breath in different situations.

I have my dream board and the variations of visualizations that go with it. I have a healing visualization. I have incantations I say, or often yell, while driving in the car or jumping rope so that I am not only saying it, but I am feeling it.

I have a half dozen redirections that keep my focus healthy.

I write my gratitudes every day. I have started a list of my all-time great gratitudes. I take the time to write “hard gratitudes” when it’s necessary.

I take notice when I feel the heart squeeze, knotted, nervous stomach, which is what I refer to when I talk of my “pain.” I am able to sit with it. I understand why it’s there and I am so relieved that it’s not actual heart break after all, it’s just unfinished personal growth work.

Every other Sunday, I travel to different Unitarian churches in Michigan. These mini-travels to places like Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor (and my own Kalamazoo) to meet like-minded communities has made my heart grow. I have cried with strangers.

This is what a relationship with myself looks like and feels like, and it’s new to me, and now that I’m finding my stride with it, I feel deeply grateful.

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PS. Yesterday, January 21, 2017 was a historic day for our country. This is how I feel about it and what I offer to you.

Healthy Living – How to Find Alignment Between Your Heart and Mind

I do a gratitude meditation every morning that is working for me. I’m sharing because it might work for you. I do this meditation because I want my heart and mind to be in alignment. I have come to understand that I have caused the most damage to my relationships with others and myself when I am not in alignment with my heart and mind. They are two different animals that don’t always play on the same team. In order for me to be my best self, I need them to practice getting along. I need my heart to take the lead. Here’s how I am doing so.

Reenactment of the morning meditation courtesy of my daughter Ella. I usually stay in bed for this, or I will go to the floor in the living room.

Especially now – with so much anger and fear permeating our climate. You can’t be grateful and angry simultaneously. So every day in the first moments of waking I have to make my first choice: grateful or fear? What kind of person do I want to be? The obvious conclusion for me is that I want to be grateful.

BTW: I originally learned this from Tony Robbins and after doing it for awhile adapted it for me.


It starts with deep breathing. I try to imagine my breathing oscillating up and down my spine.

I do this as long as needed. Then I hold my breath and listen to my beating heart like I’m under water. That’s the first thing I am grateful for: my beating heart. It’s the only heart like it in the entire Universe. It was given to me for a reason, which is the second thing I’m grateful for (currently) because I have the wonderful opportunity of discovering the purpose of my heart every single day. In doing so, I am better able to let go of all the unknowns. I trust that the unknowns will unveil themselves perfectly as they are destined to do so. I trust that as long as I’m doing my work, my practice of being healthy, that things will be as they should. I am getting better every day.

Still with a focus on breathing into my heart, I consider who I want to be.

What kind of person do I want to be? What are my values? Since I’m a word man, I think it terms of words. They come and go with my breath. Words like self respect, integrity, confidence, creativity, committed parent (family), connection, love, courage. I start breathing those words into my heart. They’re like daily vitamins for my heart.

Then I start to let my mind into this… my mind wants to go through the “to-do” list for the day.

That’s fine. I’m compassionate with myself and understand that it’s a commitment to myself. My mind wanders. It wants to solve “problems” and mull over complexities and contradictions that exist between my mind and heart. It wants to worry about things that are currently without a solution. Once I open this door, I succumb to letting in those thoughts. Interestingly, that’s the moment my heart feels the squeeze and my stomach feels knotted and nervous. I start breathing deep into my belly and ready myself for a transition to get my heart and my mind in alignment.

I think of my all-time great gratitudes. Most of the gratitudes I acknowledge are day-of or recent gratitudes.

For example, a recent gratitude is of my almost 8 year old daughter doing the dishes with a smile and saying, “How about some music, Dad? If I’m going to be standing at this sink doing dishes, the least you could do is play music.” I love my daughter. That moment made me smile. I’m grateful for it. But it’s not an all-time great gratitude. Not yet anyway. It’s an in-the-moment gratitude that forces me to be present. Very important for sure because I’m always trying to combat time traveling far into the future or back into the past. The idea, for me, of thinking of the all-time great gratitudes is to get my heart and my mind-body into alignment.

Ella on dish duty

Making sure I have my hand on my heart, I breathe deep (again) into my heart and conger a few all-time great gratitudes.

Like the morning of February 4th 2009, after having been up all night with Kaitlin in labor with Ella, and being witness to the power of the Mother birthing a child into the world, and the birth workers who were present, and Patti and Irma present with camera and pot roast and support. Then finally, the sun coming through the windows and our daughter Ella Rose entering the world in the comfort of our own home and how I made eggs and toast for Kaitlin afterward and held my new daughter as she nourished herself. This is an all-time great gratitude. I step into that memory. I am there again. I hear what I would hear then. I see what I would see then. I fill myself up with that all-time great gratitude. I hold that for a moment.

I then consider how I smile when I feel that gratitude. What’s the look on my face? How am I holding my body? How am I breathing when I’m grateful?

I do this once or twice more. I go to whatever all-time great gratitude that was magical, tremendous and I breathe it and fill up with it.

I step into it and ask ‘What was I so grateful for?’ Or it could be coincidences in the moment, that in retrospect, had a deeper and more significant purpose for entering my life. I hone in on that initial “coincidence” and all the insights and value that resulted from it. I always ask, ‘Was it a coincidence or was I guided?’

Now here is the most important part of the process. Do this to find alignment between your heart and mind.

I return to breathing into my heart. I think about a situation in my life that is unfinished business, or something that is unresolved, or something that is unknown. Maybe it’s something that is stressing me out. I keep breathing. By now I am in a good state so it’s a good opportunity explore these unknowns. I say to myself ‘All I need to focus on… All I need to remember is … (what is it?)… All I need to do in this situation … (is what?).’

Your heart knows the answer. Your heart knows the answer. Your heart knows the answer.

Your mind might not always like the answer. If you practice this meditation enough, you’ll start to find alignment and acceptance between your heart and mind. This is what’s working for me.

Your next steps might be to make a list of your all-time great gratitudes. Your next step might be to give this meditation a try. You don’t have to get it right to get it going. Your next step might be to start a conversation with me about this. I’m your healthy living agent. Subscribe to receive updates here.

Healthy Living – Common Sense Physical Health

Here’s what I know from making exercise and nutrition a priority in my life. Since I’m a personal trainer, I also know it to be true for dozens upon dozens of others.

Nutrition

When I say good nutrition has raised the quality of my life, I mean I haven’t been sick. The worst thing about “sick” is your thoughts are stapled to that sickness. You can’t get rid of it. By being healthy, I’m free.

Exercise

When I say regular exercise has raised the quality of my life, I don’t mean I’m shredded with muscle like Arnold from lifting weights in front of mirrors.  I mean I am a Jedi like Luke Skywalker. Because I can  jump out of a spaceship and land on my feet. I can do summersaults and quickly pop upright to fight with a light saber. I can run so fast that I save the Princess… that’s what me and my kids pretend play when we’re at the beach. I can play that part and that means the world to both of us.

Very First Step

What’s the first step toward making exercise and nutrition a priority in your life? Start doing what you already know. This is common sense.

You don’t have to join a club. You don’t have to go paleo. You don’t have to start juicing for 90 days. Nothing extra is required. Start where you are with what you have. Participate in your health, give yourself a chance.

Immediate Next Action Steps

Here’s how to tap into the common sense you innately have about your own physical health.

Make a list of five things you can do to have better exercise and nutrition. Use common sense.

Here’s an example I made for me. Yours will be different than mine because you’re you. One size never fits all.

1. Processed sugars are bad. Eliminate them 6 days a week. Go wild on ice cream and Oreos one day because rules are meant to be broken sometimes. It’s healthy.

2. Eat as many vegetables as I can whenever I want. Why aren’t I eating more veggies? The Veggie God said I need a w-i-d-e variety of 7-13 servings per day. I’m lucky if I get that in a week. I’ll start with more kale. Take Juice Plus every day.

3. Sleep 8-10 hours. Every night. Rare exceptions being celebrations, vacations, sick kids, epic love making and friends who need a shoulder.

4. Drink half my body weight in ounces of water. Every day. Being hydrated makes everything work better. There is no end to what I’m saying about hydration.

5. Move everyday. It could be shooting basketball  “around-the-world” for 20 minutes at the neighborhood basketball court. It could be a vigorous 45 minute walk. Yoga. Self defense class. Zumba class. During the summer of 2013, my thing was to put my son in the Ergo backpack and my daughter in the stroller and walk up and down Fairview Street, which was the steepest in the neighborhood.

Now Follow Your Advice

It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. It’s not a resolution. It’s not even a goal. It’s a theme labeled physical health. By the way, when you follow your own advice, that’s called wisdom. Be wise.

This post is part of the Healthy Living series I’m putting together for physical,  emotional, mental and spiritual health. Subscribe if you want them delivered to your email.

Sunday Newsletter: Three Ways for How To Handle Pain

Driving home today. I was reminded how much I love a frigid cold morning with the sun shining and icy blue sky while I’m in my car with my music and a coffee. I felt grateful. I was comfortable with being alone. 


Heart squeeze, knotted nervous stomach – that’s my pain. My emotional body has a lifetime of conditioning and therefore 1,001 different triggers and associations that lead to feeling that way. Here’s how I deal with it. My experience is that there are three distinct ways to handle pain.

Connecting with Pain

So I’ll use myself as an example. Shortly after a break up, I was constantly checking to see what my ex was doing on Facebook and Instagram. It was that connection to her social activity that allowed me to connect with her. Accept it was not a real connection, of course. As bad as it felt, it met my aching need to connect. This is why it is comfortable to stay in sadness and sometimes difficult to transcend. Because we are meeting our need for connection. The only way out of this is to have something else you want to connect with more. For me, that’s not the person I wanted to be. I wanted to connect with myself more. Once I made this choice, the pattern was immediately broken. I started making new patterns to connect with myself.

Sitting with Pain

Still using myself as an example. Sometimes, my new patterns to connect with myself weren’t effective at satisfying my need for connection. As hard as it is sometimes, I sit with the painful sensation. For me, it’s a heart squeeze, knotted stomach.

When I was young, on few and far between occasions enjoyed the use of magic mushrooms. In hindsight, the reason I liked them is because it was a fascinating portal to connect with myself. Every time I used these mushrooms, there was a moment when the drug came into my system rapidly and aggressively. It would completely overwhelm me. This is where people can freak out on the stuff, but I learned to dig my heals in and watch it enter my body. The same applies to pain. Recognize it, observe it, and dig your heals in for a few moments as it enters into your body. Then find your breath and watch it.

Redirecting Pain

This is my favorite. It employs the other three aspects of health. For example, I was feeling that familiar heart squeeze, knotted stomach the other day. So I picked up the jump rope, put on my Eminem playlist and skipped for seven minutes straight. The entire time I was yelling out my “being” statement: “I am present, I am connected, I am creative, I am attractive, I am kind. I am confident. I am facing my fears and overcoming them. I am courageous. I breathe deep into my pain. I am opportunistic. I am making my life happen. I love myself. I am enough. I belong.” Physical exercise is a great way to redirect the pain.

Another example is writing in my journal every day. I’m connecting with myself. That pain I feel is being refocused toward writing my noticings, adding thoughts and responses to them then declaring them precious. This is a mental exercise.

The final way to redirect my pain is by being grateful. Especially being grateful about hard things, “hard gratitudes.” Inside every “hard gratitude” is a seed that can blossom into happiness. It’s impossible to be grateful AND angry, or upset. Grateful is grateful. It’s all that can occupy your mind if you’re generally connected to the gratitude.

I’m getting better at these things because I am practicing.

Need practice handling your pain, reach out. I’m here.

Land of Misfit Toys

The land of misfit toys is how I refer to the greenhouse. Put simply, it’s a place where “misfits” gather and spend time – for a paycheck. You probably know that “Land of Misfit Toys” was made famous from the Christmas movie Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I use this phrasing as a term of endearment because only heartless societies throw away “misfit” people. At our greenhouse in particular, we help people stable their lives with a job. My job is not to grow flowers, it’s to grow these people for a season.

Yesterday, the 22 year old kid came into the greenhouse looking for work. It’s that time of the season for us. Brian is the kid’s name. He was with us last year.

He said “Eric, I won’t have school to deal with anymore. You don’t have to work around my schedule.”

I asked, ‘Why not?’

He said “I quit. I’m feeling a little lost these days.”

He looked lost. He seemed unsure of himself. His eyes were that of a deer in headlights. Yet I admired his vulnerability and honesty.

The grower was there. He was sitting in the conversation too. He’s 32, been married for a couple years, bought a house in the suburbs, and contemplates what it all means. He’s starting to contemplate and understand the universal condition we all face at one time our another, which is how to go from misery to meaning.

He looked at Brian then replied, “This is not going to be the first time you feel lost. I’m lost too.”

‘Hey fellas,’ I added. ‘I’m 40. I think I have finally found myself and it scares the shit out of me.’

Neil Young was playing Old Man on the classic rock radio station. I had tingles shiver the hair straight on my arms.

Tapas

I went to a yoga class last night. I haven’t performed yoga in a decade, and back then, I was chasing a girl. This was an “advanced” class, not in poses but ideas. Everyone there knew one another. I arrived alone, feeling a little unsure.

What was I doing there? I am on a journey toward making my relationship with myself the primary relationship in my life. I think yoga can help with that because of the stretching, the lengthening, the breathing, the holding of poses and the many lessons found in yogic concepts. I’m discovering that the community of people involved with this yoga on Tuesday nights is a great group of people too.

The yoga class experience was amazing! Such a gift to myself. I’ll be going every Tuesday. The instructor took me under his wing. The other participants were kind, accepting. I felt as if I belonged too. They’re practicing their thing just like I am. I like the feeling of being amongst like-minded and like-practicing people.

The yoga session touched on all the aspects of health for me: physical, emotional, maybe not so much mental, and spiritual. At one point, I felt tears coming to the surface. At another point, I was sweating with holding a pose, trying to lengthen into it while also keeping my breath steady and natural. In between those moments was gratitude, or simply no thoughts at all.

I was texting with my friend, Megan, about the experience. She’s a yogi. She praised me for going by myself. Then told me about a yoga concept called tapas.

Tapas is that friction caused by doing something new and/or uncomfortable, which leads you closer to your authentic self. Every time we face tapas, we peel another layer and get closer to the true self, the self untouched by anything in the human world. This is what I’m doing. I’m doing tapas every day. These days for me, just being is tapas. I am strong even in those moments when I feel weak.

In the morning, I write in my journal. Today I wrote,

Tapas = How to be strong when I feel weak.

I want happiness as much as the next red blooded human being, but maybe during certain seasons of our lives, it’s not about “happiness.” Maybe it’s about “experience.” Maybe it’s about peeling those layers back until you arrive at the untouched self and live there for awhile.

Introducing Morning Moves

I’m in a process of shifting toward the idea that my primary relationship is my relationship with myself. Novel concept, eh?

If I’m honest with myself, that’s not the space I’ve been in for the previous 16 years! So I’m asking myself what that looks like? How does that feel? When I “find it” how do I stay anchored in it? What do other relationships look like now – are they different than ones I’ve had in my past? Ultimately, what does my life look like under this new paradigm?

But I’m getting far to ahead of myself. Right now… in my pursuit of feeling what a primary relationship with myself feels like and looks like, I have ‘new wiring’ to work through. In a nutshell, I am engaged in practices that help my physical and emotional body make new associations. This consists of routines, rituals, redirection of my focus and plenty of movement.

I’ve always been an avid student of this stuff, but now that I equate not changing these associations with pain, I’m kicking my commitment up a notch. I am the student, I am in the transformation process. And as the student, I’m going to share what I’m doing because this is where I’m hanging my hat for awhile.

Here’s one thing I’ve discovered to be so true:

Bad physiology reinforces negative feelings. As Tony Robbins says, “Motion creates emotion.” So changing your physiology means changing your mental state and breaking negative patterns. Which means great physiology leads to great emotions, and that is one of the keys to … having a great day and getting unstuck.

One thing I’m doing that’s working for me is to get out of bed and immediately perform a movement. I get out of bed, I have a fixed positive mental statement that I’m repeating then calibrate myself for the day with just 3 minutes of movement.

Here are the benefits:

– It reinforces positive feelings
– It breaks negative patterns and associations
– It produces good emotions
– It’s energizing, gets blood flow moving
– It doesn’t take longer than 180 seconds

Want to try this at home for yourself? Sound like this might be something you need? I’ve been doing this for a little while now and I can attest to the positive results. At the very least, if you’re feeling awful, it’s a way to NOT connect with that pain, turn down the dimmer switch on that pain and start the day off with good health.

I’m going to bring you a new morning move every Tuesday. The idea is that you do this move first thing out of bed every morning. Do this one move every morning for seven days. Then on Tuesday (every Tuesday) we’ll switch it up with something new.

I am a master, I know nothing. I am a student, I know something. I’m your healthy living agent and invite you to engage in these types of conversations with yourself, with me, with your family, friends, peers. Our strongest version balances our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health.

Here’s Tuesday’s morning move

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