So this post is partly to share this message and partly as a start to something really big.
I have set myself the goal of being on a TED Talk and this is the message I want to share. If you read what is below and feel it is an important message please nominate me here: http://www.ted.com/nominate/speaker
So here goes.
I believe that it is time to change our definition of success. According to Dictionary.com, success is:
- The favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals.
- The attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.
I agree that success is “the accomplishment of one’s goals” but it is the second line which concerns me. That the “goals” which we inherently define as “success-worthy” are: money, fame, and power.
Beyond the dictionary I think most of us would agree that if a person is called a success we would naturally assume they had achieved some level of wealth, fame, or power. But let’s start challenging that “natural” assumption.
I think we should redefine success so that it does not mean: money, fame, and power. I believe we should focus inward on identity and purpose.
Imagine a world where people do not strive for power or wealth, but for self-knowledge and living their purpose in life, pursuing their calling.
Yes, one’s purpose or calling might lead them to become a banker or politician, but they’d do it not for the power or money which comes with the role, but for the sheer joy they get from living their dream-job and helping others through that.
Can you imagine our world if politicians weren’t in it for the money or power, if bankers and brokers were out there to help people not amass wealth? Wouldn’t that be a world you would want to live in? Would that be a world you’d want to help create for your children?
How would our world be different today if Hitler had pursued painting instead of politics?
I am not wealthy or powerful or well known, but I consider myself to be a success because I know who I am (a fool) and I am pursuing my calling in life (to write), living my purpose (to inspire and entertain, making the world a happier place).
Perhaps it is time we all started thinking a little differently, changing the definition of success and changing the world along with that.
What do you think?
I have a lot more to say around this, but to hear it, you’ll have to nominate me for that TED talk and let me say it there…
So, there I was smiling like a maniac after realizing I was experiencing a lot of the symptoms of depression.
I’ll get to that.
First a little explanation as to why I was depressed and how I got to this place. After all I am the “Happiness Guy”, shouldn’t I know better? Should I have been able to prevent this?
The short answer is yes.
The long answer is, life is not always that straight forward. Even though I had recently rediscovered or accepted that my calling was to be a writer and was enjoying delving much more into that, there was still roughly three years of minor stresses that had built up before that from various sources and the whole twenty years of denying my passion to myself which probably had put some kinks in my ability to feel as happy as I’d want. Sorry, that was a long sentence.
Anyway, to boil it down, I think I had enough “junk” in my thoughts and in my life built up over the last three years (this last year in particular) that even though I had a spike of joy from accepting my passion and working on it, there had been enough underlying “stress” in my life such that if there were any major incidents, I might just fall into depression.
So guess what happened … well it wasn’t a major incident, but there was a series of moderate ones and I did not cope well. The culmination of these incidents was the week where my phone and computer died (my phone just needed a new battery, but my computer was well and truly fried). I did not handle these well. Sure I may have looked fine on the surface, but I was feeling a big hunk of anger and anxiety and frustration below the surface which was dragging me down…a lot. I was becoming more and more irritable and tense.
I didn’t think it was depression, though. I thought it was stress and anger and such, but not depression. Then, just today, I went over my own research on depression and guess what I found? Below are a few excerpts from my depression research:
- May feel tense or irritable instead
- Having little energy and feeling fatigued much of the time
- Having trouble sleeping
- Men are more likely to feel angry and discouraged instead of hopeless and helpless
Guess what…that hit my experience right on the head. I have been very angry and irritable and discourage this past week in particular. Additionally I’d been having so much trouble with sleeping and fatigue recently that I’d gone to a sleep clinic and guess what they found? I was sleeping just fine, but my brain wasn’t, it was getting up several times a night (without me waking up) because it was too active (often because of stress and anxiety).
I’d been wondering for AGES what was wrong with my sleep and why I was so tired. I had been sleeping more and more just to feel rested.
When I did go over my depression info and realized I am most likely suffering from minor to moderate subsyndromal depression well that explained a lot of what had been happening in my life recently including the whole sleep thing!
So there I was, smiling, as a learned I was most likely depressed (still not confirmed by a professional yet, I should note) BECAUSE it made a whole bunch of the other things in my life start to make sense!
It’s like having a bunch of symptoms and knowing you’re sick without knowing what disease you actually have. Then, when you do find out, even though having that disease sucks, at least now you know what you have and can do something about it.
So there you go.
I am most likely mildly to moderately depressed and I couldn’t be happier about it. That is the oddity that is me. Don’t you love the little quirks in life!
So I finished the story that I was so inspired to write and, as I had posted last week, I was feeling a little empty about it.
So I’ve been looking around for inspiration for something new. I have thought of a couple new ideas, but nothing has really had that strong “pull” to work on it, so I’ve left them be for a moment.
However this morning I found two things which inspired me.
The first was as I pulled into the parking lot. There, not five feet away was a small bird of prey, probably a hawk or falcon. I got curious because even though I’d driven up next to it, it hadn’t moved. I began to wonder if it was hurt, but no, it was just guarding its prey. It had just taken down another, smaller, bird and was sitting on it. But the predator itself was such an amazing sight, smaller than a crow but still deadly and (to my odd sensibilities) kind of cute. This got be thinking of a character who had a small bird of prey as a companion. Maybe they could talk to each other? What would that be like? Within an hour and a half I’d outlined a story (mixing it with another thought I’d had previously which hadn’t had as much inspiration, but now, together with this, it did).
The second one was a picture and a song which go together. It’s one of the epic songs I like to listen to on Youtube sometimes called Ocean Princess by Thomas Bergersen (I own the MP3 album but when I play them like that they don’t have pictures). If you skip to about a minute and thirty seconds into the song you’ll see the image I was thinking of, a woman clothed in water, walking on waves. This has been nagging at me for a while, there is something about the song and that image which inspires me. Some time ago I’d come up with a basic story idea of a woman who is the daughter of a God of the Sea. Well now I have looked at that again and fleshed out that plot, fully expanding the idea to another story outline.
So, now I have two outlines I could work on if I wanted to.
I just have to see which has the stronger pull .
But my point here is this. Inspiration is always there, all around us. You only need to open your eyes and be curious about that image, that song, that bird, that whatever. Don’t let yourself think that there is nothing inspiring in your life. We encounter inspiring things every day. So open your awareness and see what inspires you today.
If you want to know more about inspiration, send me an email and we can chat.
Some of you, depending on where you are in the world, may not be able to relate to the story I am about to tell.
We have had a lot of snow this winter. This morning yet more was waiting for me to clear it from my driveway before I headed out for the day. Having shovelled twice already over the weekend, I was a little put off by this but not too much I had expected there would be snow this morning and I was ready to deal with it.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the wind. The snow itself was fine, but the wind had blown it into great drifts on part of my driveway and as opposed to being only a few inches all over it was nearly three feet in spots.
Add in the stinging wind itself blowing what I shovelled back into my face as I dug into these drifts and by the time I was done I was quite frustrated with winter.
Now for those of you who can’t relate to this (can I come visit?), well the point I’m trying to make is this: often our negative moods, anger, frustration, etc, are not caused by just one thing. Often it is a bunch of little things (and perhaps some big things) which come together and then we just reach a point where we can’t laugh it off any more and we get upset.
But because these little things are…little we don’t notice them individually. But they build up over time and eventually get to us, making us angry or frustrated at some final little thing, our negative emotions far exceeding the scope of the actual trigger event.
So what does this all mean?
Well we can use this information in two ways.
First, deal with little things as they come up. Simply don’t let them build. If some little thing irks you, stop, think about it, deal with it, get the anger and frustration out, and move on. Sometimes this is not possible in the moment the thing happens, but try to get that little bit of negativity out of you as soon as possible, don’t let it fester. The last thing you want is to be thinking about it later. This will prevent those little things from building up and causing you to snap.
Second, we can use this whole “little thing” idea to our advantage as well. Enjoy all the GOOD little things which happen to you. Let them build up and make you feel better and better. The more you focus on the positive and savor those little things as they happen, the more resistance you’ll have to negative events, large and small, which befall you.
So remember as you go about your daily lives, look for all the positive little things and deal with all the negative little things as they come up. If you can master his, happiness is yours to claim.
Yesterday I finished writing a short novel. It took me two weeks to write 50,000 words.
So, what’s up with this ho-hum feeling I’ve got?
Well, actually I know exactly what’s up with it. It’s the same feeling I got after I completed my first novel years ago (roughly 1999).
That first one, I’d been working on for MONTHS, almost a full year actually and I finally finished it late one night beside a dying fire in my parents basement at Christmas time. So much time and effort went into it and I sat there feeling hollow, not the joyous celebratory, elation I though I should feel.
Yesterday when I finished the book I did feel awesome, I felt happy and excited and elated, everything I should have felt after that first one so long ago. BUT after less than a day, here I am with that same hollow feeling.
I want to fill it, I want to start working on another book. That’s a great feeling to have, to want to work on more writing, but… I think it’s misplaced.
Remember all my talk about inspiration?
Well I was super inspired to write this last work (hence completing it in two weeks). This sense of “I really want to start something new and keep writing” I have now isn’t coming from inspiration, I think it’s coming more from desperation. I have no project I had planned to work on at this point, I’m still mulling that over. I think this “need” to start something new it more to get over this hollow feeling of a goal accomplished.
Happiness research tells us over and over again that completing goals is fine, but it is WORKING ON goals (actually doing the work and putting in the time and energy) that makes us really happy.
So what is the solution?
Never accomplish any of your goals…sorry, bad joke, couldn’t help myself. No that’s not it.
It’s mindfulness and hard work. I know this doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but it’s the truth.
We are a society of overworkers (in general) who have no idea what to do with ourselves once we actually get what we’ve been working toward. We immediately seek out the next goal, the next “high” if you will (like I’m doing with this need to write something new), when what we should be doing is stopping…breathing…smelling the roses (metaphorically being aware of the awesome thing we just accomplished), and celebrating it!
I’m already making plans with my wife for how we’re going to celebrate this book being finished (as well as the book I put on amazon earlier this week). I have so much to celebrate.
Now I just need to be mindful – every time I start feeling down – that I just did something awesome! Then I need to do the hard work of choosing to change how I feel and purposefully feeling happy and satisfied. It is work, but it’s very rewarding work because the result is more happiness in your life.
So the next time you accomplish something, big or small it doesn’t matter, remember to take a moment (or a few days) and really tell yourself how awesome you are!
Because we are all awesome in our own ways, but sometimes we have trouble remembering it.
Well, actually I’ve written many books and stories in my life and this is far from the first, BUT it is the first available for others to enjoy!
Check out my author site at: rmichaelcard.com and my new novella: The Goblin King.
Here’s the back cover description:
No Goblin has been able to unite the warring tribes in more than one hundred years. Yet more and more evidence suggests a new Goblin King is gathering the tribes in the east for a war on the Seven Kingdoms of Man.
Eight heroes gather to face this new threat, one champion from each of the Seven Kingdoms and their guide through the wilds of the east. Farion Quin, Knight Captain of Lorest, is far from being the strongest, or fastest, or most experienced of the group, and he fears he may be the loose thread that unravels this secret quest.
But soon enough the hordes of Goblins are upon them and there is no more room for fear, for to fail means death and the fall of the Seven Kingdoms.
So if you’ve been following my more recent posts you’ve probably notice I haven’t posted in a week. That’s because all my spare time has been taken up with writing (stories not posts obviously).
If you wanted a concrete example of the effects inspiration can have on a person, here it is. I started a new story on the 8th, less than two weeks ago. Since then I have written like a maniac and I am currently more than 41,000 words into the book. That’s an average of more than three thousand words per day! For those of you who aren’t in the writing trade – that’s a lot for working on something in your free moments.
When I talked in my previous post on inspiration, about the “Pull” to act, to do something, well, I’ve been feeling an incredible pull and at times it was hard to do anything but write. This story is just working for me (trust me, not all of them do).
Over the holidays my wife wrote 50,000 words on a new project in less than three weeks. She was inspired as well.
When you are in this place it is a rather intense feeling. It isn’t there all the time, but most of the time, you just want to DO whatever it is you are feeling pulled to do. Have you ever felt that way? You just couldn’t seem to stop yourself from doing something (something productive and good)? That is what it feels like to be inspired.
You’ll note my comment about the thing you’re doing being productive and good. Because when you’re feeling really compelled to do something which you know (some part of you knows) isn’t good for you, then that’s not inspiration. It may be any number of things: desperation, compulsion, and so on.
I’m defining inspiration as a “good” pull, not one pulling you to do things you know you really shouldn’t.
So, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to get back to writing.
I hope you are able to find something in your life which inspires you as much as this story inspires me!
Tata for now…
I have, for probably close to a year now, been feeling progressively more fatigued and not in good health.
Let me stress, that it has been a VERY slow decline and in truth I didn’t even really notice it until about September or so last year (when I finally booked a doctor’s appointment). Even then I simply thought it was just sleep issues, but since then, over the holidays, I started to feel worse and I am now very aware that I am not the hale and healthy self I was a year ago this time.
I don’t know what it is yet. I’ve had some tests and I’m waiting to hear back from the doctor. I’m hoping it’s something easily dealt with, but we’ll see.
But that’s not really what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to share the effect of this general “ill” health on my happiness.
As many of you have probably noticed, it can be REALLY hard to be happy when you are physically feeling like crap. Well even for me, someone who is well practices in the ways of happiness, I am the same way.
Can I still be happy when I’m feeling “blah” physically?
Is it easy?
Health can play a very significant role in happiness. As I have mentioned (a long time ago) when I talked about the “How of Happiness” – one of those “hows” was Taking Care of Your Body. Because well…yeah, it can be really tough to find happiness when your body is doing nasty things to you.
For me I find it is fatigue and tiredness which affect me most. I can be sick and still be happy (most of the time), but it’s when I’m feeling utterly exhausted that I find my happiness most challenged. For you it may be something different or other physical challenges which affect you most.
The point is this.
Can you still smile? Usually, yes. Can you still be grateful for all the OTHER things you have in your life, or for all the times you were healthy? Yes. Can you still find and appreciate the little moments of joy? Yes.
Remember, as much as our physical state affects our happiness, happiness is an emotion (ie not physical).
Sure our emotions tend to go to a “down” and “blah” place when our bodies are not feeling well, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still work on our happiness.
Sure we probably won’t be happy all the time (I know right now I’m not happy all the time. I feel like crap and wonder why and get a little depressed about it) BUT, we can still be WORKING on our happiness. Be conscious of our emotions and try to build in some more buoyant ones. Try to laugh when we can. Try to smile as often as we can, take joy wherever we can.
Why would you want to do this? Why even try to be happy when you’re feeling “blah”?
Because… it helps.
I don’t have the studies in front of me now, but there is proof that happy people get sick less and when they do, it’s less severe and for less time. Furthermore, certain specific happiness related emotions (positivity, optimism) have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and other grave illnesses!
So, yeah, it may be hard (trust me, right now, I know how hard it can be) but give it your best. Try working on your happiness when you’re feeling physically “ick”.
AND when you are feeling better – work on your health itself. This is a two way street. When we feel physically good, we’re more likely to be happier, and when we feel happier, we’re more likely to feel physically good.
Health goes a long way toward happiness.
And happiness goes a long way toward health.
I got an assignment from my coach this week.
Approach a stranger at crowded coffee shop, ask to sit with them and (if they say yes) start up a conversation.
To any staunch introvert this would be a long stretch, perhaps terrifying, for me (a social introvert) it’s still going to be bit a challenge. Thinking about it now, I am fine, but I am fairly certain that when the time actually comes, I will be quite nervous.
But I have committed to doing this and I will do it and I choose to see it as an adventure.
And all of your extraverts out there (the majority of the population) say – really? That’s an adventure for you? That’s nothing!
One of my favourite movies is “Hook”, the retelling of Peter Pan with Robin Williams as an adult Pan. At the end of that movie there is a great quote (and I may not remember it word for word) which went something like: “To live, that would be the greatest adventure of all.”
Here’s the thing. Most of us look at those people who climb the highest mountains, or brave the worst rapids, or travel to the extreme edges of the world as ‘adventurers’. Yes, these people are adventurers, true enough, but when we start making a stark black and white distinction like this, we discount anything and everything we may do as adventurous.
I say, why not look at all of life, everything we do as an adventure!
Sure, some things are more adventurous than others. Jumping out of a plane, by most people, would be considered more adventurous than say managing to get up and go to work on a Monday.
But I want to turn that notion on its head.
There are lots of us who got up the courage to strap on a parachute and jump out of plane and it is an exhilarating, nerve-wracking rush. To me that is the ‘easy’ adventure. The ‘hard’ adventure is the person who gets up every day and goes to that job they know is far from their dream job, but they do it to make ends meet and support their family. This is soul-draining, life-sucking stuff and we do it every day. Surviving that is one hell of an adventure.
As a writer, let me make this a bit more ‘metaphorical’ for you. A hero who jumps off of a cliff knowing his has the ability to slow his descent so he hits the ground below lightly – well big deal. Sure it’s exciting, but he wasn’t in any real danger. But let’s compare that to another type of hero, who walks into the lair of a deadly vampiric life-sucking monster, putting himself in its grip for days, weeks, months, years at a time, knowing that he is saving the lives of his family by doing so! That is sacrifice, that is deep and meaningful adventure.
Sure we all want our dream jobs, and we can get them too, if we work at it long enough, hard enough. But as I said in my recent post The Truth About Following Your Heart it may take some time to get that dream job, and you may have to work some life-sucking part time job to get there, but perhaps now you can see that it doesn’t mean you’re a sap or a looser.
It means you are one of the staunchest, bravest adventurers of all.
So yeah, I’ll talk to a stranger, and it may be difficult for me, but it will be a grand adventure. Because it is doing the difficult things, whatever they may be, that brings out the true adventurer in all of us.
Being an inspirational speaker and a writer (who requires inspiration for stories to bloom) I thought I’d talk a little about inspiration itself.
So, what is inspiration?
Paraphrasing from dictionary.com – Inspiration is: an animating influence.
Essentially inspiration is anything which causes you to “act”.
As a speaker this is my goal, to just inform and educate, and also to get you to a place where you are ready to DO something about what you learned. An truly inspiring speech would be one where you are moved to act either right there and then (buy a book on changing your life or sign up for coaching or whatever) or where you firmly intend to take action on something as soon as you are able (write poetry when you get home, tomorrow at work ask for a raise, etc).
In terms of being inspired to write, this comes as some influence (sometimes external, sometimes internal) which causes me to get a certain feeling, a “need” if you will, to write as soon as possible. It is a strong pull to get to the nearest keyboard or piece of paper and get that certain scene or idea down as soon as I can before it is lost.
But how exactly do you identify “inspiration” against all of the other emotions and thoughts which push and pull us in various directions?
Well this can be very hard to separate, so let me give you some examples.
The first Romantic-Fantasy novella I wrote was inspired by a statuette myself and my friends got my wife to celebrate her first publication. It was a “fairy” statuette of a woman with a massive sword as tall as she was. I thought about this for some time, I was inspired by this driving thought of: how could a woman (who appears to be quite slender and, for lack of a better word, “weak”) wield such a sword? Is it magic? Is it some fated sword she is meant to wield? Is the sword much lighter than it looks? Is she much stronger than she looks? Also how did she come by such a weapon? Where did it come from? Who would think to give a massive sword to a girl?
All of the thoughts and wonder which I got from that one statuette began to brew a story in my mind of mystical weapons and those fated to wield them (even if they did not know they were fated to wield such a weapon). It took a while for those thought to build to a strong pull to write about it, but when they did, I couldn’t help but start the story.
More recently, I have heard a song by Imagine Dragons called “Demons” which (even though I already had this story idea in mind) is really inspiring me to write it. The song talks of the demons in side of us and I have a dark character who I imagine having a whole lot of internal demons, so every time I hear that song (including when I play it over and over on youtube) I think of this character and get inspired to write about him and develop who he is and how he reacts to the story and the world around him. Just thinking about it name makes me want to be writing that instead of this post.
The above two examples, I must stress, come with an intense emotional “pull” toward the ideas and stories I mention. Compare that to the following…
Actually it’s really very difficult for me to come up with these examples, because the ideas and emotions behind them are fleeting and fade away quickly (hence much harder to remember now after the fact), but let me see if I can dredge one up.
Ok, here’s one.
A few nights ago I had a dream. It was one of those very vivid dreams you have just before waking up, that you keep thinking about after you wake up to make sense of. It was about a helicopter and when you put on the helmet to pilot it, it created a neural interface with the Artificial Intelligence of the helicopter and you could talk to it. The helicopter has a simple name (an acronym of course) which you could call it, and you chatted with it like any other person.
Great idea, which lingered in my head for some time … but it didn’t have a great amount of that emotional “pull” behind it to make me DO anything about it. It was nice to think about, but nothing ever got done about it.
So if you want some inspiration, look around you. I find it almost anywhere, a song, a statue, a sunset, a speech, a scene in a movie, or pretty much any other “s” word (sorry couldn’t help myself). See all of the wonder around you and then see what elements of it “Pull” at your emotions strong enough to make you really-really want to act on it.