The Power of Accountability

5 Steps to Achieve the Outcomes You Desire Through Greater Responsibility

There is great power in being accountable, which means being responsible or answerable, to yourself, your family, your employees, your employer, your faith, your cause, etc. In this article accountability and responsibility are interchangeable. Being accountable will help you be more fulfilled at work and in your personal life. Interested? Often we think the key to being fulfilled is dependent on external circumstances. External circumstance may include: Being treated fairly by management, or ownership; competent direct reports; efficient systems and processes; and positive culture, etc.

Although these external circumstances are desirable and can help with satisfaction and fulfillment, they are not the answer. Fulfillment comes when we begin to take responsibility for all outcomes in our work and life. Each of us has the power to choose how we will think and act regardless of external circumstance.

Steven Covey said, “Responsibility is the ability to choose your response.” Recognizing we create outcomes, by choosing our response to the events in our lives, is empowering. Take a moment to look in the mirror and catalogue what you have achieved in your life so far. The results you are experiencing in your career, your happiness and the quality of your relationships come from the thoughts and actions of the person looking back at you! Sounds too simple? The concept is simple but difficult in practice.

One of the biggest reasons it is hard to be personally accountable has to do with how our brains operate. The brain is designed to keep us safe. Sometimes, it can interpret discomfort the same way as physical danger. Many of our life experiences conspire against us. How we were rewarded, how we were punished and how we react when a situation is overwhelming creates strong neural pathways in our brains. These then create patterned responses. These habits of thought and behavior that can hold us back. We may say things like, “this is just the way I am.” Or we blame our ancestry: “I am Latin”, or “I am German”, or “I am Irish”. In moments of tension or when we feel overwhelmed, the mind rebels and wants to keep us in our comfort zone. It gives in to fear and doubt. It will delete, distort and simplify information to keep us safe. When this happens we limit our ability to respond effectively.

We live in a society where avoiding responsibility and placing blame is deeply rooted in our culture. Science has proven that attitudes can literally catch and spread like a virus. This can infect all of us. Blaming is an infectious disease. Blaming is often associated with strong emotional feelings. Author Daniel Goleman writes, “…emotions are contagious. We ‘catch’ strong emotions much as we do a rhinovirus – and so can come down with the emotional equivalent of a cold.” (Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence) American Psychiatrist, Daniel Stern, says our minds are continually interacting through a type of neural WiFi. (Daniel Stern, The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life, 2004, p. 76)

 Parents blame teachers for low test scores, teachers blame parents for unruly children, employees blame their bosses when work gets too hard, and citizens blame the government for their economic woes.

So how do we overcome our own physiology and social influence to start being more accountable? Here are five suggestions:

  1. Power in Purpose:

    The first step of being 100% accountable is to get clear about what is important to you. What do you value?Values represent our guiding principles and influence our attitudes and how we act. I used to think identifying values was just a good idea. Then I learned what happens when behavior is truly aligned with what we say we want. There are several processes to help you determine your values. A good coach can help you identify these.Take responsibility for the things that are most important to you. How does this give you power? If you allow life to happen to you, it will fill up with trivial activities. I hear others and myself from time to time say, “I am too busy!” Make time for the things you value most. It will energize you. It will force you to be more efficient and effective. You are practicing taking back power over your life.If you believe family is important, schedule family events first. Twice a week my son has volleyball games at 5pm. I want to be there to support him. That means I schedule time to attend his games and adjust work hours earlier.

    Having a purpose in your life gives you power. As you look back at your days and weeks you have made time for the most important things in your life. You will have a greater sense of satisfaction as you exercise more power and control over your life.

  2. Be the Cause:

    Forget blame. Be accountable even when things that go wrong which are not your fault. Recognize you make mistakes. When you are willing to shoulder more responsibility, more opportunity will come your way. Be the cause means you recognize your results are caused by your actions. It is the law of the harvest. You reap what you sow.

    The Newtonian physics law of cause and effect is very applicable in our lives. What is cause and effect? I can’t say this enough…you are the cause. Believing this gives you power. Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”The truth is that no matter what challenges or stimulus we experience, we have time to choose our response. When we have created conditioned thought patterns, that space is milliseconds, yet there is a space.Viktor Frankl lost his entire family in the Nazi concentration camps. In the camps, everything was taken from him, EXCEPT the one thing he and you and I have that can never be taken, choice of what we think.

  3. Fail Forward:

    learn from your mistakes: I haven’t always made great decisions. At one point, I started a business without having done my due diligence. Four years later, we had depleted our savings and our home was in foreclosure. In the end, we were forced to give it back to the bank. This was devastating. It was not the bank or the government that caused me to lose our home. It was a consequence of my choices and actions. I changed direction with my business, we found a nice rental house, and life continued.I know first-hand how painful it is to lose a home. But blaming others for our predicaments only hurts us….we give away our power to change. If we believe our problems are generated externally, we may think we have no choice. If we think nothing we do will matter, we may choose to do nothing. This will cause us to remain stuck in our current situation. The more we think like this, the less power we have to change our circumstances.This thought from Viktor Frankl applies: “When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change our selves.” This is the heart of accountability.

  4. Learn up:

    Learn from those who have the ability to teach you something. Kids in school often would rather listen to their classmates and friends rather than to the teacher who could help them learn up. A great example of this principle is John Wooden, the most winning Basketball Coach in NCAA history. He won ten NCAA championships in 12 years at UCLA. A record, which has not been broken yet! He began winning in his late 50’s!!! He said “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” This is a man who understands we are never finished growing!

    We have all heard knowledge is power. I believe taking responsibility to increase our abilities to act and then taking action and being accountable for those actions is power. Think about the cost and impotence of being ignorant. Alvin Toffler said, “The Illiterate of the future are not those who can’t read or write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Can you afford to not be responsible for your constant learning and development? Find mentors, experts and coaches who can help you learn up.

  5. Choose your thoughts wisely:

    David O. McKay said, “Your thoughts are the architects of your destiny.” What you read, watch and listen to will create positive or negative thoughts leading to positive or negative patterned responses which will lead to outcomes.Everything in the world is made of Atoms. Atoms are made of energy. Energy is made out of thought. This has enormous implications for the power of your thoughts. Your thoughts determine your results in business and in your personal life. Napoleon Hill says, “thoughts are things.” Sounds nice, but do you believe it?Perhaps you have heard of the self-fulfilling prophecy. The science behind the self-fulfilling prophecy is intriguing. Dutch physicists Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg discovered the mere act of observing sub-atomic particles influenced the way they behaved (Heisenberg Principle). Meaning our thoughts influence matter. Thought is what the universe is made of. Matter and energy are two of the forms that thought takes.The Heisenberg principle has been applied in psychology. We know that just observing people in test group’s influences the outcome of the experiment. Your employees probably behave differently when you are watching. You may behave differently when your boss is watching.

The power of accountability is about recognizing that choosing to take responsibility for the results in our lives gives us power. It gives us power to take more responsibility, which gives us more opportunity. Choosing to be accountable causes us to avoid making excuses and blaming external circumstances. When we blame external circumstances for the results in our lives, we become victims. When we think the cause of our problems is external, we may not change and grow to get a different result. We don’t have power to change the economy, our boss, our partner, etc. We do, however, have power to change ourselves. When we understand this, we have the power to change our circumstances and results.

The author Spencer Horn is President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. You may also enjoy: “The Help You Need To Achieve Your Resolutions”, “Silence Your Saboteur

Disengagement And The “Love What You Do” Myth

5 Dynamics of Increased Engagement

Diseangaged Employees

I am not sure how many times I have heard the saying, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” (Marc Anthony) If you are like me, you have heard this or something like it a bunch. When I heard this, I felt inspired to search for what I love, because after all, I don’t like to work! My life experience, and the experience of some very successful people I know, has taught me this philosophy is costing business, relationships and families dearly.

Have you ever had an employee that you were so excited to hire and it didn’t turn out well? Have you been the employee and starting a job with so much hope and enthusiasm only to find out it was not what you thought or expected? Have you experienced team members who became disengaged, frustrated, or angry and left?

Have you ever been in a relationship that started of with great promise? You found your soul mate, only to realize that initial feeling was not sustainable? When this happens, many leave their current partner and go off in search of the ideal they thought they found the last time. This cycle can be repeated again and again searching for the perfect ideal.

What is going on here? According to Gallup, 70% of employees are disengaged. Disengagement caused by unrealized expectations is the problem. Well-meaning parents and other mentors in our life want to inspire and encourage us. They tell us how great we are. They tell us we deserve the best things and the best people in our life. They tell us to follow our passion. They tell us we will be most successful when follow our passion. You want to believe this. I want to believe this! Who wouldn’t want to believe this?!

It is important to follow our passions and interests. It certainly makes life better. However, take caution about “never working a day in your life.” A quote by the singer Toni Braxton adds balance to the Marc Anthony quote: “To do what you love can sometimes be stressful.” We need to be prepared to handle the adversity and challenges of life that will surely come. What happens when things don’t work out like you planned? How do you react when things don’t go your way? I know that this has happened in my life and in the lives of almost everyone I know. We have had jobs and careers were we were following our passion and doing what we loved. However, even in these circumstances, we all had to do things we were not excited about, that felt like work.

Many of the youth today and our current workforce are not equipped to handle the challenging environments of business. They have not learned how to work. They are not prepared to handle the disappointments of relationships. Many give up when things don’t go the way they had expected. They may quit a job or relationship. Or worse, they stay and are miserable. It is how we behave in these challenging times which defines individuals as leaders, and as dedicated spouses and significant others. Many who are not equipped to handle disappointment show up in a way that is detrimental to the business or to the relationship.

The point here is not that we can’t pursue our ideal and passions; it is that we learn how to manage our disappointments, challenges and setbacks. There are definitely valid reasons to leave personal or work relationships. There are also many relationships that can be saved, improved, and become deeply fulfilling when we fight through the storms.

Five dynamics of increased engagement.

  1. Create a great culture:

    When ranking job satisfaction., 72% of respondents indicated that respectful treatment of employees at all levels was “very important”. This was the top contributor to overall employee satisfaction. This ranked higher than pay and benefits. Hiring and HR professionals must ensure their workplace culture and employee engagement strategies are of equal importance to compensation, benefits and other responsibilities. Here is an additional reason to develop a great culture!

  2. Be honest: 

    64% of employees rated trusting their senior management as the second most important contributor to job satisfaction. (SHRM, Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Study, 2015) Be open about the way it really is at your company. Don’t paint the picture that everything is perfect. Let candidates know there are challenges. The pay received is based on work, which requires effort. Being honest will help develop trust with leadership and narrow the gap between expectation and reality, which are necessary ingredients of employee engagement.

  3. Hire for behavior, train for skill:

    Find the people who are willing to be flexible and fight through adversity. Use effective tools, these will help remove the frustration of hiring by helping you, better match people to jobs. There are effective tools to create accurate job models based on your best performers and input from management. With the correct application of these tools, you will more effectively attract the best candidates. These tools will also help hiring managers ask the right questions to find the best possible person for the job. When you effectively match people to positions, you will strengthen the culture, increase employee engagement, increase productivity and reduce turnover and waste.

  4. Provide the right praise:  

    Many of the younger generation, coming in to the work place, do not know how to respond well to adversity and criticism. Many are part of a generation, which have been praised by well-meaning parents who told them how smart and talented they are. Sporting programs meaning to boost self-esteem may also be contributing to the problem by providing awards for kids who just show up. The result is well stated by the psychologist, Carol Dweck, “many can’t function without getting a sticker for their every move.” (Mindset, Carol Dweck, 2006) Employers are perpetuating the problem through recognition programs to support these employees who need constant reassurance and can’t take criticism. The alternative is to praise for taking initiative, for commitment, for overcoming a setback, for learning something new.

  5. Develop your people:

    Organizations that dedicate a portion of their budget to professional development send a message that they invest in their employees. Additional benefits of professional development include personal development and greater opportunities for career advancement. Although employees continue to place value on professional development opportunities, fewer organizations are investing in these types of benefits. (Society for Human Resource Management, 2014. Workplace Visions: Trends in Workplace Professional Development. Issue 3)
 As more and more of the experienced workforce retire, developing employees becomes more necessary. Employees are more likely to be engaged when they feel their employers are invested in helping them develop their careers.

Implementing these suggestions takes commitment. The payoff will be worth the investment!

Silence Your Saboteur!

Learn How We Derail Our Goals And Steps To Get Back On Track

Several years ago I had the opportunity to work with a personal coach. I learned how I (and others) self-sabotage when working towards our goals. In my initial meetings through various processes, my coach discovered my values and goals in several areas of my life. Subsequently, I would meet with her weekly on the telephone and discuss how I was doing in my business and in my personal life. I would report on my progress toward achieving my various goals. Through this process, I discovered a saboteur that would show up from time to time and stop or slow my progress towards my goals. This saboteur was no foreign or domestic terrorist. This saboteur was grown much closer to home.

I had declared I really wanted to achieve certain financial goals. When I didn’t achieve these goals as expected, I would become frustrated. This caused me to push harder to achieve my goal. You might be thinking, “bravo Spencer, push on!” What I found was the harder I pushed the further I would get from my goal. I would become cranky and curt with co-workers and loved ones. In these moments, my way of being was blocking me from achieving my goals. My coach asked me to give my sabotaging behavior a name so I could recognize it when it showed up.

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Captain Insano

The purpose of this exercise was to help me identify my saboteur. I worked to understand what my saboteur would sound like when he talked. I identified his fears and more importantly, his values. I needed to understand how the saboteur’s values would hijack and terrorize my declared values for his values. The name I gave my saboteur was Captain Insano, made famous by Adam Sandler’s “Water Boy”. In the movie, Captain Insano is a wrestler who the Water Boy idolizes. He offers his services to Captain Insano through a nationally televised fan show. When captain Insano learns the Water Boy is 31 years old, he maniacally laughs at him in front of the TV audience. In this moment his vulnerability is exposed, and his hopes and dreams of working with his idol have been sabotaged.Block What you think

After this original inspiration for the name of my saboteur, I learned that the Urban Dictionary defines “Captain Insano” as an individual who may or may not be at fault for their habitual stupidity due to their bi-polar nature and lack of general common sense. My saboteur would show up at vulnerable times and stop me in my tracks. Many of us construct saboteurs as a self-protection mechanism. Most often they protect us in an awkward way. They will say to us, “stay where you are at, it is more comfortable here!” “It is okay to be mediocre because not as many demands and expectations are made of you!” In a relationship, a saboteur might tell us to avoid taking a chance so we won’t get hurt.

When I declared I wanted to write a book. Captain Insano showed up and asks, “what have you got to say that people want read?” He convinces me I am neither interesting nor unique. When I became CEO of a company that had been struggling, I would hear Captain Insano tell me the fight I was experiencing was not one I could win. He said I should just give up and not put myself through unnecessary pain and misery. He told me I deserved to be successful and perhaps that could be achieved elsewhere. He justified for me why it was okay to give up and give in. If you are like me and want to achieve your goals, it is time to stop the saboteur inside your head for good.

Steps to defeat your merciless saboteur:

  1. Identify your saboteur:

    Notice when you feel frustrated, angry, sarcastic, dismissive, afraid, unmotivated or upset. Your specific block to success could be fear of failure, fear of success, conflict avoidance, verbally attacking others, steamrolling others, need to be right, focus on problems, inability to say no, controlling, inflexible, have to work too hard, need to be liked, fear of embarrassment, fear of rejection, overly skeptical, overly agreeable, analysis paralysis, critical, procrastination and many more. Consider asking someone you trust for help identifying your self-sabotaging behaviors.

  2. Name your saboteur:

    Notice what is happening when the above negative feelings arise. Begin to understand what situations give your saboteur power. Recognizing that you are recognizing will help you regain control of your thoughts and behaviors. Naming your saboteur will help you to not take yourself so seriously and become more objective about your behavior.

  3. Focus on the outcomes of success you have declared:

    When you hear the saboteur talking negatively in your ear, Block focus-on-where-you-want-to-go-not-on-what-you-fearstate the outcome you desire. For example, when Captain Insano tells me no one wants to read or hear what I want to say, I tell myself “people are interested in what I have to say. I have ability to influence people to achieve positive results.” As I focus on these positive statements, I hear the saboteur less and I begin to program my subconscious thoughts to start supporting my goals declared by my conscious thoughts.Block celebrate-what-youve-accomplished-but-raise-the-bar-a-little-higher-each-time-you-succeed-mia-hamm

  4. Celebrate your progress:

    Recognize that you are making improvement. If your saboteur is strong, understand it will take time to defeat and be kind to yourself. You may have years of practice listening to your saboteur. Avoid letting your saboteur talk bad about you. When you start to notice any improvement, it is okay to cheer yourself on. Gain confidence with each small victory and keep moving forward, even after a challenging time where you may have taken a step or two back to your old habits.

  5. Get out of your comfort zone:

    Look for opportunities to get outside of your comfort zone. This is where you will learn new empowering behaviors. Recognize the conversations with your saboteur are designed to keep you in your comfort zone. When that happens, you will not move towards your goals. Do something uncomfortable everyday. Call a new prospect, ask for help that you need, get up and give a presentation, etc.

  6. Breathe:

    When you are frustrated upset or angry, often during these moments you are not breathing effectively and the lack of oxygen encourages your saboteur. Slow down and breath. Oxygen helps Captain Insano fall asleep.

As I have gotten control of my saboteur, my results have dramatically improved. He still shows up from time to time. I am more equipped to deal with him. As a result, I feel much happier and more confident.

Start now to defeat your saboteur. Achieve the success you deserve! If you feel you are getting stuck, work with an expert who can help you, do it today! Remember…Block insanoThe author Spencer Horn, is President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. You may also enjoy these additional articles: “The Help You Need To Achieve Your Resolutions”,“The Power of Accountability;” “Act As If Today”

Look Ahead

A little over two years ago, I began mountain biking. What began, as an activity to replace playing basketball when my knees began causing me problems, has become a passion that I can’t seem to get enough of. In addition to the health benefits and the low impact on my knees, I love the many challenges the sport has to offer. One of the challenges of riding off road trails is effectively negotiating all the obstacles. This requires riders to look ahead.

I have learned from experience that when I look back while riding, even for a moment, I almost always go off the trail. When I look ahead, I am able to see and avoid obstacles. Looking ahead works best when you look where you want to go. I also notice when I look ahead and I focus on the obstacles instead of where I want to go, I often run into those obstacles.

Looking ahead applies to life as well as mountain biking. As we look ahead and focus where we want to go, we have a much better chance of achieving our desired outcomes and goals. There are reasons to look back while riding and in life. I look back when riding to know if another rider is coming up behind and wants to pass. This must be done very briefly to avoid crashing. Another reason to look back is to compare current times with past times to measure improvement.
Mountain Bike CrashMountain Biking

Let us look ahead to individual and organizational success. Look for the outcomes you wish to achieve. There are and will be obstacles to overcome. Keep your eye on your goal. Look back to measure your growth. If you find you are hitting obstacles and going off the trail, refocus and look ahead.

10 Ideas For Your Pursuit of Happiness

If you are like most of us on the planet, you are searching for happiness in your life. Where do you believe we find happiness: fame, riches, power? Do you know someone that has these things and is not happy? Or conversely has none of these things and is supremely happy? I believe that each of us has it within our power to be happy. How is it done? Here are a few simple rules which I find make a difference:

  1. Increase your gratitude:

    Increasing your feelings of gratitude can impact your happiness and so much more. When I am frustrated or upset, I am thinking about what is wrong in my life. Since we get what we focus on, dwelling on frustrations will only erode our happiness. The next time you are experiencing frustration that robs you of happiness, I invite you to focus on an event in your life that brings you intense feelings of gratitude. It could be the birth of a child or an act of kindness that was proffered on your behalf, etc. Our minds cannot focus on negative and positive feelings at the same time. If your gratitude feelings are strong enough, they will quickly chase away your frustrations and negative feelings.

  2. Do something for someone else:

    For many, the pursuit of happiness is a self-centered process. However, when you take a moment to stop thinking about

    how events and people impact you and think about how you impact others, you will be much closer to your goal. Helping someone else will allow you to take your focus off your own challenges. It will energize you, give you a sense of value and contribution. Focusing on others who may have needs greater than your own will also increase your gratitude for what you have. You don’t have to look far for opportunities to help someone else. Nor do you have to go to great lengths to make a difference. Take time to notice someone in need. Listen, console, give of your time and labor, write a note or letter, give a gift, etc.

  3. Look for the good:

    Look for the good in every situation. No matter how bleak things may seem, there is always good that may come. I know from personal experience that when something I perceive is negative happens to me, I have a choice. I can feel self pity and become depressed, or I can use my creative energy to focus on what good may come. I found that that as I look back on events that were challenging, I invariably gained experienced or developed talents that I might not have had, but for the challenging experience. Looking for the good puts our creative energy to work for us in our pursuit of happiness.

  4. Surround yourself with good:

    Be very careful about what you put into your mind. make sure what you read, watch and listen to reinforces your happiness. Our minds are the most powerful computers in the universe. They search and find whatever we program them to find. This means everything we put into our minds will take us further or closer to our goal of happiness. Surround yourself with good people who will hold you accountable to your goals and will let you know when are off course. Make sure you read good books, listen to good music and watch only media that reinforces good.

  5. Find life balance:

    I know many people who feel great fulfillment in their work, so they neglect other areas of their life. The best way to find happiness is to find balance in many areas of life including: financial; emotional; spiritual; physical; relational; recreational, and intellectual. You may find that all of these pursuits are interrelated. I personally find my self out of balance often. However, when I take the time to work on life balance, I feel greater happiness.

  6. Exercise:

    This is a part of life balance. Exercise releases chemicals that can help us feel great and think more clearly. Remember life balance. Some feel that since exercise makes them feel good, more is better. An excessive focus on any pursuit may take us further from our goal.

  7. Develop your talents:

    Learn something new. Improving your abilities brings a sense of satisfaction and increases your ability to help yourself and others.

  8. Avoid criticizing others:

    Along with looking for the good, avoid criticizing others. We find what we look for. More importantly, how we treat others has a way of coming back to us. Call it karma, law of the harvest, universe or what you will. Thinking good of others will do much to bring those good thoughts back to us.

  9. Let go of the past:

    While it is true that we have control over our thoughts, we can’t always control what happens to us. When something bad happens, it is hard to think of the good. Holding on to negative feelings about something or somebody will only rob us of reaching our goal of happiness. We have the power to give meaning to our thoughts. They can only control us if we give them power to do so. Letting go of the past requires us reframe our thoughts. For some, this process may be difficult and require professional assistance. Being willing to get help if you need it is a good thing and will help you get one step closer to being happy.

  10. Live by a morale code:

    Some people believe anything goes when pursuing happiness. When you choose to be disciplined in following a moral code, you are closer to finding happiness. A friend of mine shared his experience with this principle with me. When his children were young, he and his wife set boundaries of behavior. They had friends that took a different approach with their children. They chose to let their children behave without boundaries or restrictions. This couple would criticize my friend for being strict with their children. My friend and his wife were more interested in being parents than friends. As the children grew older the results of the two approaches was clear. The children of my friend loved their parents and respected them. They had a strong rewarding relationship. Their friends children did not respect their parents. They were self centered and spoiled.

It is not the events or situations of our lives that determine happiness. Rather, it is our own behavior and thought process. I am sure there are many more ways to be happy than I have listed above. I would love to hear from you. What have you found that makes you happy?

Is Happiness A Choice?

I have heard that events that happen to us in life are neither “good” nor “bad”. These are only titles we choose to assign to how we feel about things that happen to us. Further, I have learned that our happiness depends on our assignment of the “good”or “bad” titles we apply to these events in our lives. Do you believe that?

It is my opinion and experience that our happiness absolutely depends on how we decide to feel about the events in our lives and consequently the actions we take or don’t take in response to those feelings. This is not to say that I do not believe in good or bad, I do. I believe there is great good in the world and I believe there is terrible evil. What I have learned is that our happiness does not depend upon only good things happening to us all the time. Thank goodness for that, because I do not know of a single person that has what most would interpret as good things happen to them all the time. Since we all don’t have good things happen to us all the time, why are there happy people in the world? Why aren’t we all unhappy since bad things happen to all of us? The answer is choice!

You Hold Your Happiness in Your Hands
You Hold Your Happiness in Your Hands

Let me illustrate by using one personal example: My father had a very successful business. He provided a specialized color separation service for the printing industry for over 20 years. He was looking for a new accountant. At the time, I was seventeen and I knew that one of my church leaders was an accountant. I told my dad that this man was an accountant and he must be a good man because he was a member of our church. It turned out that this man saw an opportunity in my father’s trust and worked to take control of the company. Because of the stress of the situation, my father had a massive stroke at age 59. He was in intensive care for a month. He lost his business, his home, his wife and almost all his earthly possessions. We were devastated as a family. There were some members of the family that criticized my father for his poor decision to hire this accountant after he began recovering from the stroke. Personally, I was devastated because I lost the father I knew who loved life and loved being active. I lost the future opportunity to run the business and reap the rewards of family succession. Our family felt by all accounts, these events were bad and we had reason to be unhappy. My father certainly had reason to be depressed and feel sorry for himself. Instead, he taught me a very valuable lesson.

My father chose to look at these events as good. He recognized that he could be angry at the person who defrauded him. However, that would just make him miserable. Instead, he decided to forgive the person. This took a huge burden off his shoulders. No longer did he waste precious thoughts on revenge or anger. My father had worked very hard his entire life. He rarely took time for himself. Now, he had time to study and learn. He took time to do much of what he had not done up until now. After these events, my father was almost always happy friendly and outgoing to people he met. Even though he was partially paralyzed from the stroke, he chose to laugh at his awkwardness and slurred speech. He chose to look at every day as a gift.

I believe this is an example of an event that could definitely be interpreted as bad. However, since my father decided to look at the event in a positive light, he took the opportunity to use his time in ways that he never did before his stroke and loss off business. Because of his choice, he was happy until the day he died at age 79 on February 16, 2008. I miss my father, and I am grateful for the valuable lesson he taught me about choosing happiness. There are some members of my family who have decided to look at these events as negative. To this day, they hold resentment and frustration that robs them of happiness. How can the same event produce such different attitudes and feelings of happiness? It has nothing to do with whether the events are good or bad and 100 percent to do with how we choose to interpret if events are good or bad. In fact, I believe that events that many would interpret as bad can have the biggest opportunity for good and even happiness in our life. The choice is ours.I Choose to Be Happy

Living at Cause

April 8th, 2011 Today I received an email from a friend who I had spoken to about a year ago about the importance of living at cause. He wrote: “The transition to living in cause is full of surprises and continues everyday. I often think of the moment when you pulled me aside and “warned” me about the difficulties and pitfalls of changing from living in cause to living in effect. Thank you for your words that day and know the lessons I learned at Rapport are with me still.” Living at cause means you make the choice about how you act and respond to the circumstance of life. It means that you are the cause of the outcomes in your life. On the other hand, being in effect means circumstances affect the outcomes of your life and there is no choice.

My friend had graduated from one of our leadership classes last year and made the declaration that he was now going to live at cause in every situation. Meaning, no matter what life dished out, he was going to choose to look at it in a positive light. He was going to be the master and commander of his life. You may think that such a life perspective is only for the Pollyanna’s of the world. There is too much that happens in life that is out of our control. I explained to my friend that his commitment was admirable and I warned him that it would not be easy and it worth it. I teach the importance of living at cause and it is difficult

Create your futurefor me. I find that I go into effect when I do not live according to my core values, especially when I know better! Then I remember, I am at choice.

I believe that we determine our own outcomes of life. True, we cannot choose all the circumstances in our life, we can choose our responses to those circumstances. Stephen Covey states that 10% of life is what happens to us, 90% of life is how we choose to respond. This is a difficult doctrine because it means that we cannot blame spouses, bosses, friends, enemies or God for what happens to us. It means we are accountable and we cannot deflect blame. Nothing is PermanentThe email from my friend is more poignant to me, because today is the funeral of our mutual friend. This friend leaves us after losing his fight with cancer. He leaves behind a wife and young children who depended upon him for their support. At times like these, it is truly difficult to stay at cause. So why not just give in and be in effect? That is an option for each of us. Instead, I choose to do what I can to support his family. I choose to believe that my friend is no longer in pain. I choose to believe that as difficult as it will be for his wife and children to move forward, they may choose to do so and as a result, their lives will be blessed by the strength they develop. They will always have the memory of a beloved husband and father. Soon enough, I choose to believe they will all be joyously reunited. I choose to live at cause, it is worth the effort.