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Personal Development

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.

Summary

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)

 

Steven Cox Life Lessons

44 Life Lessons on my Birthday

By Life Lessons, Motivational, My Writings 6 Comments

A couple weeks ago, I grew another year wiser. It was the big 44!

I don’t know if you’ve experienced this where, one day, you kind of wake up and realize you’re in the mid-part of your life. It’s surreal. It’s surprising. It’s life.

Honestly, I really feel wonderful. Life just keeps getting better and I feel more centered, fortunate, blessed, and happy than I’ve ever been. I guess time has a way of making things better.

This morning, I woke up and wrote down 44 things I’ve learned over the past 44 years. Things about love, work, drive, direction, purpose, health, and curiosity. Things that have become beliefs. Things that have shaped my view of the world. Things I hold as important.

I’m writing these so when life takes a downward turn, I can go back and remind myself of what’s important. But, perhaps you might find something in here as well that you can apply to your life to make it a bit more fulfilling. If that turns out to be the case, then I’d be a happy man to know I’ve helped you out in a small way.

Enjoy! I’d love for you to comment below and let me know what your favorites are:

Steven Cox Life Lessons

44 Things I’ve Learned in 44 Years.

 

  1. The value of life is not in what is owned, but what we experience, who we experience it with, and the quality of love we give.
  2. Live life in a way that makes a positive lasting difference on others and your environment.
  3. The air I breathe is borrowed.
  4. When considering happiness, set the bar low. Make it easy for you to find reasons to be happy.
  5. Practice kindness daily.
  6. We are allowed to make mistakes and still be awesome.
  7. Our happiness depends greatly on what we choose to focus on.
  8. We are all one.
  9. Meditate daily.
  10. Character is determined when no one is watching.
  11. There is a difference between looking at someone, and truly seeing them. Focus on the latter.
  12. If you randomly think of someone, stop for a moment and send them positive energy.
  13. Give love freely, for, it is infinite. Receive love openly. You are worthy of love.
  14. Instead of asking what your mate can do for you, ask if you have the character to be the man she needs you to be.
  15. Never stop touching.
  16. It’s OK to cry.
  17. A short, hand-written note is more meaningful than a text or email.
  18. Make a photo book of your friends, family, and events every year.
  19. Friendships must be cultivated, watered, and grown.
  20. At the next party you go to, make it a point to ask questions, be interested, and listen three times more than you talk.
  21. Travel Often. Let curiosity be your guide.
  22. Trade your time only for WOW!
  23. Dress up on Halloween
  24. Go see live theatre
  25. Every so often, only listen to new music for a week. It could be a new station, a new band, or a new genre that you normally woudn’t listen to. Get out of your routine.
  26. Take time to play.
  27. Discover the artist within you without judging him or her.
  28. Risk more than is comfortable. Take a step. Even when you’re unsure, step anyway.
  29. Exercise your body and mind 5 days a week.
  30. Your health matters more than your bank account.
  31. Every so often, do fruit, veggie, raw diets for a few days, and don’t drink during that time.
  32. Buy fewer things of higher value.
  33. Commit to taking full responsibility in every area of your life.
  34. People aren’t watching and talking about you as much as you think they are.
  35. Our greatest challenges yield the most beautiful memories.
  36. Money is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.
  37. When you feel arrogance in yourself, ask what you’re afraid of.
  38. Surround yourself with people who play at things you have to work at
  39. Set stretch goals. The greatest value is not in what you accomplish, but the type of person you become while working on it
  40. Strive for excellence over perfection
  41. Many times, the race is won by those who keep running.
  42. You are not your work. It is a part of what you do, but it is not who you are.
  43. We never have another day to make this day meaningful, so spend more time working on things worth dying for.
  44. Love. Then, love more.

 

Change Your Point of View – A Poem About Success

By Entrepreneur Insights, Life Lessons, Motivational, My Writings, Speaking One Comment

My good friend, Adam Hudson, just finished putting on an incredible event called Radius, for entrepreneurs. The whole concept is that by elevating your thinking, your radius widens and you can see things from a different point of view. Pretty cool, right?

I attended last year and he asked me to say a few words at the event this year for the group. So, I gave an update of what our business was able to accomplish, and shared how I feel I’ve just become a better human being – more grounded, and able to work through my own shit.

Radius conference

 

I also wrote a poem called Point of View for them to take away and think about. I presented it to them as a gift.

I’ll also present it to you as my gift. Hope you enjoy…

———————————

Success… we give our best.

Move to the right, then to the left,

Chasing, racing, facing our dest-iny.

We seek, to see our dreams, more clearly,

So ready, for what could be.

We want the dollar, the cash, the money.

We want to feel love from our family.

We want these blinded eyes to see,

And be, who we were meant to be.

To believe, for once, without internal doubt.

We vow, to live, to grow, and discover how.

But it’s not about, the doubt, that comes our way.

It’s not about, what we face each day,

But rather, if we make life fun, and play.

Is it a black night, or just a little gray?

It’s in what we do, and what we say, every day.

So, don’t dismay, because it’s up to you, to,

Turn the gray, into blue, to turn the old, into new,

To change your point of view.

You can change your point of view.

 

 

Success… No time to rest, we pound our chest.

We put our mind and body, to the test,

But if we’re real, we’d confess, sometimes

It feels like life is just a guess,

Of which way’s right, tonight, and which way’s wrong,

Which road do we walk, and which road’s already gone,

Which words fit into our song, of life.

It cuts like a knife. We try and try, to fly so high

Only to be shot out of the sky. Bye-bye.

And inside, it messes with our mind, we find

No release. Our doubting demons never cease.

We need, and need, before we let ourselves be at peace.

We tell ourselves, that when we reach that elusive place,

When we become more than just a face, in the crowd,

Somehow, when we feel we can keep up this frantic pace,

Then we’ll let ourselves be in a happy place.

Challenge that thought.

Make an about face.

Now is the time to be content, free from resentment.

Free to float more, and steer less. Free to love more and fear less.

Free to be the brightest star.

Free to love ourselves just as we are.

When we get real, and truth be told,

We don’t, have tomorrow, we don’t know, if we’ll grow old.

We’ve told, ourselves that we have to wait

Before we’re enough, before we let ourselves be great.

It’s today! Today is our date, there’s no debate.

Our truth is, we don’t have to wait.

That’s not how it has to be.

Right now, we can live simply, beautifully, perfectly.

You see, when we change how we decide to steer,

We can be fulfilled, right now, right here.

We can choose love instead of fear.

It’s always up to you, to,

Change the gray into blue.

To turn the old into new.

To Change… to change your point of view.

 

Success… we are blessed,

with the chance to give our best,

With our ability, to see, more than what is,

But what can be.

We have, within our power, in this hour

A new way to see.

From when we were born, until we turn back to dust

Til all our materialism turns back to rust,

When the rains of life fall, and the wind’s gust,

Trust, because you are on a cusp…

Of something new, of turning gray into blue; don’t dismay

You were made, made to lead, made to build, made for love,

Made to fill,

up your cup, and others, too,

So that they might see, from another point of view.

It’s made

Made in you, it’s made in me,

and made in us.

We make the world a better place, when we raise,

When we elevate, our own, Radius.

 

* The line, “float more, and steer less. Free to love more and fear less.” was borrowed from my friend, John Styn. Thank you for the inspiration John!

 

The Journey of Success: 5 Guidelines on Life, Love, and Business

By Business Philosophy, Entrepreneur Insights, Life Lessons, Motivational, Speaking No Comments

The Delta Sigma Pi chapter at San Diego State University asked me to speak to them about what I’ve learned about success, personal growth, and business.

Here are five things I’ve learned about life, love, and business. What’s great about these guidelines is that they can apply in every area of your life. They are timeless, and just as relevant for relationships as they are for startups.

  1. Take responsibility
  2. Know your outcome
  3. Prioritize
  4. Give yourself time to become awesome
  5. Commit to constant and never ending improvement

 

Give Yourself Time to Become Awesome

A Goal Template for the Month: How to Get More Things Done

By Entrepreneur Insights, Goals, Motivational, Personal Development, Uncategorized No Comments

Last week, one of my employees stopped by my desk and asked me if I had any recommendations on how she could better accomplish her goals during the upcoming month. She had been struggling figuring out what to work on and then taking action on the right things.

Since it was the beginning of the month, I wrote out a simple goal template for her to follow that would (a) get her working on the right things and (b) give her a higher probability of getting her goals accomplished. Below, I’ve shared it with you.

Goal Template

Check out the goal template on Google Docs that will allow you to follow along. NOTE: After pulling it up, go to File > Download As > Microsoft Word. This will allow you to save it to your computer where you can edit it to your heart’s content and use it month after month.

5 Categories: The 5 “F’s”

First, divide your life into five categories:

  • Friends and Family
  • Finance and Work
  • Fun
  • Fitness
  • Faith

Notice how all of them start with “F”? That’s a little trick to help you remember the different life areas. I learned from Phil Richards, Founder of DreamFunda, a site designed to help athletes crowdsouce funds so they can follow their dreams.

Career, Family, Personal Goals

Pick Meaningful Personal and Professional Goals

Second, pick one thing in each category that, if you accomplished it well, would make the most significant and positive impact on your life. Don’t pick two – just one. The goal should be something you really want – something that moves the needle and stretches you.  Each one of these should be specific, measurable, and you should have the ability to accomplish it within 30 days.

As an example, for my Fitness category, I want to lose weight. But instead of listing my goal as “I want to lose weight”, my goal is listed as, “By August 31, I weigh 186 lbs., which is a 5 lb. drop.”  The key is that I’ve written this goal “as if” I’ve already accomplished it. Instead of saying, “I want to”, I state that I already am that which I want. This is a big key to start training your mind to act as if you’re already there. It’s subtle, but important.

Also, the best goals are very specific and measurable. Notice how I gave a specific amount that I wanted to weigh, and by what date. The goal is measurable, meaning I’ll know on August 31 whether I accomplished this goal or whether I didn’t.

Image via dreamchoosers.com

Image via dreamchoosers.com

Feel the Future

Third, after you’ve picked a goal in each category that really moves you, write down how you’ll feel at the end of the month when you accomplish it. Close your eyes and envision what it will feel like. Really put yourself there! Here’s an example: “I weigh 185 and I feel incredible! I have more energy, people are noticing, and my favorite jeans fit me again!”

Post It Up

Fourth, print multiple copies of the sheet. Put one on your fridge, one in the car, one in your briefcase or purse, one on the bathroom mirror. Give yourself the luxury of reminding yourself daily what you’ve set out to do and how you’re going to feel afterwards.

Goals and Accountability

After you type out your goals, post them where you constantly see them.

 

Track Your Goal Progress

Fifth, each week, keep track of where you are vs. where you need to be in order to accomplish the goal. I do mine on Sundays, but you can do it another day that best suits you. For instance, since I know my goal is to lose 5 lbs. this month, I need to be at about 1.5 lbs. lost per week. This habit of keeping tabs on yourself help you see where you are during the month relative to where you should be. Then you know when to turn on the gas in case you fall behind.

Celebrate!

Finally, at the end of the month, celebrate! Give yourself high-fives and kudos for first, setting goals and, second, accomplishing them. After you’re done partying, go back and do the process over for the next month.

Follow these steps and you’ll find yourself further along than you can imagine.

~Steven

Raise Your Game

Raising Your Game

By At Work, Business Philosophy, Motivational One Comment

This month is an incredibly busy month for the team at TakeLessons. You can feel the added focus and pressure to get out a major software release on time. Here’s a note I sent to my peeps today. I thought it might encourage you to raise your game as well…

Raise Your Game

Can you feel it?

This month, there’s a lot of pressure.

A lot of stress.

A lot of BOLD initiatives winding up towards a release.

A GIANT release in just two weeks.

Just like a world-class athlete, you’re probably feeling the pressure of pushing past your comfort zone and into a realm of pain.

Mounting task items… Mounting tickets… Mounting deadlines.

And it’s painful.

It’s irritating.

And It’s uncomfortable.

Right now, when we feel this way, we have two choices.

We can coast and miss our deliverables, miss the busy buying season, settle for mediocre performance, and release something short of what we’re capable of.

Or we can reach inside, get centered, stay calm and collected, focus on First Things First, and commit to raising our game.

And raising our game is what it takes to be world-class.Raising our game is what is required.

It’s required to win.

To pave our way.

To control our own destiny.

Raising our game is what we need to do for our customers. They want it.

Raising our game is what we need to do to build our own skill set. We should expect it out of each other.

So I’m committing to raising my game this month and doing my part to deliver an exceptional outcome on this next release.

Join me in recommitting this month to pushing past the pain, requiring more out of ourselves, finding a way to get it done, and bettering ourselves in the process.

Two weeks – we have the biggest product release in our history.

You’re making history – and that is never easy –  but outside the comfort zone is where the magic happens.