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Happiness - Steven Cox | San Diego, CA

Happy in Paris

Try This Instead: Learn to Set the Bar LOW

By Life Lessons, Motivational One Comment
Set the bar high

We’re all taught to set the bar high. Does that always work?

We’ve all heard these pep talks before…

“Expect more out of yourself!”

“Be all you can be!”

“Good enough is never good enough!”

“Set the bar HIGH!”

Your parents, your boss, your childhood soccer coach, and of course every self help book you’ve ever attempted to read has made these statements at one time or another.

These mantras are the melody of success for high achievers. We spend most of our days in a constant state of movement attempting to make ourselves better, richer, and smarter.

High achievers often beat themselves up about past mistakes and fret over the possibility of making new ones in the future. We’re so caught up in engaging in personal and professional growth that we miss the moment here and now. We read The Power of Now. We think we are enlightened. And, then we forget how it works by the very next day.

These mantras aim to push us to do more, be more, and learn more. They are ultimately what drives us to try what’s not been tried and do what’s not been done.

And, when we engage in these high-achiever tendencies, we do in fact get better. We lose the extra 5 pounds. We connect with our kids more. We make our spouses feel more satisfied.

Life is good. We’re happy.

But sometimes, despite our best efforts, life throws us a curve.

Our company downsizes. Our kids fail a class. We gain the 5 pounds back.

And, that happy, enlightened feeling you had just a day ago? Well, that has disappeared in just a matter of seconds.

And, all of a sudden, we’re not so pleasant to be around. We snap at the Starbucks barista who uses whole milk instead of non-fat. Our head feels cloudy. Our chest tightens up. The little things become harder to deal with.

We tell ourselves that when we get life back on track, we will definitely feel better.

But, in that moment, we are not happy. Things are not going our way.

For the most part, setting the bar high is an admirable and worthwhile way of thinking.

Except when it relates to our happiness.

When it comes to being happy. We need to change our way of thinking. Instead of requiring perfection before allowing ourselves to feel joy, we need to make it easier for us to actually experience happiness.

We need to set the bar LOW.

That’s right. I know. I know. It goes against everything we high achievers tell ourselves on a daily basis.

But, it’s true. We need to set the bar LOW. Hear me out and imagine this scene.

Let’s imagine Mike (name made up). Mike is on track for success. He has a beautiful wife and family. He is well educated, and he maintains a good job and a good living. Mike is moving in the right direction!

Mike should be happy, but he is not satisfied.

He thinks he needs to make more money. He wants his kids to do better in school. He knows he needs to drop some pounds. According to Mike, if all of this happens, then he will really be able to feel good about life.

So, Mike keeps on pushing the boulder up the hill, and most days, he feels pretty mediocre at best.

Mike plays a continuous record in his head that says, “When I just get to the next level, I’ll be much happier”

Does that sound familiar?

Why isn’t Mike happy now? It’s not because his life sucks. It’s because he hasn’t given himself permission to be happy, to be joyful for the moment he is in right now.

Happy in Paris

Set the Happiness Bar low. Give yourself every chance to be happy.

His Happiness Bar is too high.

It’s a delusion for Mike to think that the ‘next level’ will be the answer to his happiness. It never is, because as soon as we climb the mountain, there’s another one right over the horizon. We never get there.

Fancy what would happen if Mike lowered the bar? What if he made it drop-dead easy to feel joy? What if he changed his perception about what needs to happen before he can feel happy?

Today, what if Mike just decided he needed to accomplish these two things in order to feel joy in his life:

1. He has to wake up

2. His wife and kids need to wake up, too.

That’s it. If those two things happen, Mike is allowed to feel happy.

What do you think Mike’s chance of success would be? It’s certainly not foolproof, but at least for this one day, his mindset would change, his attitude would change, and his level of happiness would change.

If Mike decides to make a more consistent effort to think differently, 99.9% of the time, he could choose to be happy. He could realize that happiness is a state of mind that can be altered.

Because he set the Happiness Bar LOW.

A couple tools to helping us set the Happiness Bar low is practicing positivity and prioritizing people. In a recent article on happiness on the FirstRound blog, Scott Crabtree, CEO of Happy Brain Science, says that these two factors are key to helping us build the necessary muscle to rewire our brain.

Practicing positivity helps because the brain only holds one thought at a time. The more positive thoughts we have, the less time and energy we spend on negative thoughts and emotion. When you focus on negative though, you’re phasing out your ability at that time to focus on what’s not going right.

The number one factor in happiness is the quality of our relationships, according to Crabtree:

“When you focus time and attention on your relationships, they improve, and that improves your happiness. You also improve your coping ability because you have more support. Bottom line: Warm relationships can fuel happiness more than any other single factor we have found.”

So, there’s more than just cliche behind practicing positivity, and the key to jumpstart your happiness is to make sure you’re sepending time building high-quality relationships.


How high is your Happiness Bar? Would you consider trying to lower it for couple weeks? You just might like all the joy and bliss that comes along with setting that bar closer to the floor instead of the ceiling.

 (Thanks to Natalie Susi for helping me edit)


The Power of Now

By Books & Learning, Life Lessons One Comment


Cover of Cover via Amazon

I was turned on to Eckart Tolle by friend and big-thinker, Dmitry Shapiro.

I read The Power of Now twice now because it’s truly an incredible look at the mind, and how we might calm the thoughts in order to truly live in the moment. Personally, it has helped me in my relationships and running my company. It allows me to stay focused on what “is”, instead of what’s continually running through my head. If you get a chance, I recommend it.

I gave the book to a friend a while back. She recently wrote me this email back. It’s a good testament of how it’s helped her, so she agreed to let me post her email here.

“Hi there,

I know you’re busy, but I just wanted to send you a quick note.

I have made it almost through the entire “Power of Now” book and wish so much that I would have been less stubborn and read this things years ago when you started to. Heck, if I’m wishing…I wish I would have read this when I started to read! It might have actually altered the path of my entire life, let alone our current situation, in a good way.

None the less, as skeptical of it as I was at the start, I cant put it down. It’s describing me and my thoughts so perfectly that I’m finding myself underlining every sentence in the entire book. I never realized before just how damaging my thought behaviors have been. I can honestly say that they have single handedly caused me so much pain, unhappiness, and fear throughout my entire life.

I’ve always known that I’ve had the power to control my thoughts, but never have I learned HOW. It’s so enlightening to understand that your mind is the key to true happiness, but also the culprit to extreme unhappiness and borderline insanity. I’ve experienced so much unhappiness by my thoughts, that at times they’ve absolutely consumed me. And now, having a better understanding of how to silence it and alter the dysfunctional patterns that it has automatically ran on, is so freeing and peaceful!!!

I’m not quite finished with it yet, but so-far the last couple weeks have been a real eye opener as far as how I’ve lived my life and how poisonous my mind has actually been during it. I’m a person that lives in the past and it’s such an obvious, yet difficult thing to condition your mind not to live there. Especially when it no longer exists. Watching my thoughts and letting go of the judgments, constant analyzing, and fear they inflict has been liberating. I understand now! I understand just how much this book changed your life. I understand it, because it’s changing mine…little by little. =)

I just wanted to tell you thank you! Thank you for being so persistent in encouraging me to read it and thank you for giving it to me. It may just be the most important and greatest gift anyone has ever given me. Jeez! I sound like a ridiculous advertisement to get people to read this thing. Part of it could be due to the fact that I Just got back from the most amazing yoga practice, and I think I’m turning into a spiritual freak! It’s partially your fault….and I love it!

Just thought I’d share. I may sound like a weirdo, but I don’t f*cking care anymore. I AM A WEIRDO!!!!

Hope you have a fantastic rest of the week.

55 Ways to Get More Energy Into Your Life

By Goals No Comments

Steven’s note: The original post is from a great site called Zen Habits and is edited by Leo Babauta. This is a guest post from Greg Go, co-author of Wise Bread’s new book, 10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget. 

If you’re tired all the time, a change in what you eat (diet) or
what you do all day (activity pattern) may be all you need to turn
things around 180°.

You won’t be able to do everything on this list all the time — you’d
tire yourself out trying to get more energy — but do try them all to
see which ones work for you and your schedule. Add a few of these tips
to your regular routine. Or mix them up to keep things interesting.

1. Change your socks for refreshment.

It’s an amazing trick. Bring a change of socks to work, and change
your socks midway through the day (say, after lunch). You’ll be amazed
at how much fresher you’ll feel. This trick is especially handy on days
with lots of walking — like during a hike or family outing to the
amusement park.

2. Rock out loud.

Whether you work alone or in a room with coworkers, a quick one-song
rock out loud session is an effective way to beat back exhaustion.

In a cube farm? Get everyone to sing along! The key is to choose a song that everyone can sing along with. (I like Kokomo.)
The energy boosting effect comes from bobbing your head and singing out
loud. One song, 3 minutes. That’s a quick boost of adrenaline that
lasts for a bit. You’ll be singing to yourself the rest of the never
ending project delivery night.

3. Get rid of the stuffy nose.

If allergies have your sinuses blocked, you may be feeling more
tired and cranky. An over-the-counter allergy medication should clear
up your sinuses (and your mind).

4. Work with your body’s clock.

There is a natural ebb and flow of energy throughout the day. We
start off sluggish after waking up, even after a solid 8 hours of
sleep. Our energy peaks mid-morning, and it’s natural to want a siesta
in the afternoon. We get a second spike of energy in the early evening,
followed by our lowest energy point just before bedtime. Once you
understand this natural rhythm of energy throughout the day, you can
work on the important tasks during your peak hours and avoid early
afternoon snoozefests (meetings).

5. Have a piece of chocolate.

Not too much, but if you’re going to have some candy, it might as
well be chocolate. We get an endorphin buzz from chocolate (not to
mention the energy boost from the slight bit of caffeine chocolate
contains). Dark chocolate has more caffeine than milk chocolate.

An afternoon snack of yogurt, berries, and nuts will provide the boost of energy to carry you through the day. Photo by lepiaf.geo / Flickr)

afternoon snack of yogurt, berries, and nuts will provide the boost of
energy to carry you through the day. Photo by lepiaf.geo / Flickr

6. Have an afternoon power snack.

A small healthy snack
that is low in sugar and has protein and/or fiber a couple hours after
lunch helps you finish off the day strong. Some suggestions:

  • mixed nuts
  • nonfat yogurt
  • apple and peanut butter
  • frozen berrie smoothie
  • trail mix
  • granola bar

7. Hit up the water cooler for inconsequential banter.

A little midday gossip and random banter is a great pick-me-up for
your tired mind. It works because it gets your mind on zero-stress
thoughts for a while. The mental break for just a few minutes will
revitalize you.

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