There are some books that I read, perhaps take a few notes, and then move on. There are others that are dog-eared, have my notes in the margin, and become reference guides. Today I am sharing one of those books.
This is one that I will recommend to aspiring leaders everywhere. It’s written by Richard Sheridan, CEO and cofounder of Ann Arbor-based Menlo Innovations. Menlo has won the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility for six straight years and many other awards.
Lightning strikes a tree and alters the course of a stream causing two rivers to join.
You’ve heard of the butterfly effect, where one small creature flapping its wings and creating a small wind current causes a chain reaction that alters hemispheric weather patterns half a world away.
When I think back on my own life, there are a few of those major moments that changed my life. Had just one person, one event, one little part of the equation been altered, even the slightest bit, who knows how different my own life would be.
“A good life is a collection of happy moments.” -Denis Waitley
One of those moments happened in 1990. I walked into a crowded room, looked up, and met eyes with the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Everything slowed down for a moment, the world tipping on its axis, freezing time long
enough to suspend us for a few seconds. It was immediate. It was intense. It was like nothing I’d known before.
Only a short time later, this week in 1992, she stood in the back of a church, the light flooding in through a stained-glass window behind her. She seemed to almost float there, as if she were an angel who was given the option to become fully human and was making her choice by joining her life with mine. From the front of the church, I sang to her, and she walked up the aisle and then we sang a duet together. Our lives forever changed. Yes, it was exactly like one of those Hallmark movies, the story line either inspiring or sickeningly sweet, depending on your perspective.
Others are gone, too: aunts, friends, my other grandparents, who were so gracious that day. My grandmother looked in the camera and thanked my wife “for being one of us now.”
Time marches forward. I’m now that guy that can tell others how to make a marriage last twenty-five years.
There are other moments that stand out:
Buying our first home together. How we managed, I’m not sure, but we did on a shoestring budget. We remember our near panic when we received that first utility bill, wondering how we would pay it.
The birth of our daughter in 1997. We recall every single minute. My wife’s elated cry out to me when her water broke. Hours later, my daughter surprising the nurses by tracking me by my voice.
A health scare. Only months afterward, we were surprised again with another altering moment. I’ll never forget the doctor coming out, telling me that my wife had breast cancer, and that she was about to come out of anesthesia. We would have to tell her together. It was advanced enough to require radiation and chemotherapy. She lost her hair but never her spirit. In a few months’ time, her faith began to sprout faster than her hair, and she has never wavered in her belief.
“It is in our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” -Aristotle Onassis
Life-threatening disease. Years later, we learned she had another cancer. This one even more insidious, threatening once again to steal her away, to shatter the glass of our lives. We’ve learned to pray more in these moments. No one prays in good times quite the same as in challenging times. We don’t know the why behind them. Perhaps God uses them to get our attention, perhaps because we’re finally still enough to see what is always there, and yet we miss it as we race by the important on the way to the meaningless.
Then there are the career moments. When she left hers to fight cancer and stay home to raise our daughter. When my promotions started. Her belief in me fueled my success. From the outside, my job promotions looked miraculous. The truth behind them was more struggle, political battles, and more work than you’d want to know. Nothing came easy. And it seems we moved so often that my wife put our furniture on wheels. In fact, it was our move to Columbus from Nashville that opened our eyes into how much junk we were carting around, stuff from decades ago, some of it in boxes not opened in several moves.
Want to be happier? Try these 12 steps and move in the right direction.
Look for opportunities to compliment others today everywhere you go. Be genuine and sincere. No sarcasm. Write a thank you note.
“Thank you for checking me out so quickly.”
“I appreciate your attention to detail.”
“Your children are very well behaved.”
Studies show that nothing raises happiness more than helping others in need. If you can volunteer at a soup kitchen, shelter, or nursing home, you will be happier. Almost any act of helping others in need will boost your happiness. And it’s not just volunteer activities. Try holding open a door for someone; shoveling a neighbor’s walk; letting someone pull in front of you in traffic. Put others before yourself.
Slow down and listen. Really listen and connect. There’s something magical when you understand someone’s views.
Find someone to express your love and gratitude. Happiness always goes up in the presence of those we love.
Start something new and exciting. When your brain is learning and your body is moving, you will be engaged and create good feelings.
Countless studies show the benefits of exercise. It can get you out of a rut and boost chemicals in your brain to make you happier.
The opposite of starting is accomplishing. When you are crossing off important “to do” items, it will increase your satisfaction.
March 20 is officially the International Day of Happiness. Somehow I missed the announcement, but in 2012 the General Assembly of the United Nations created this day to recognize “the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world and the importance of their recognition in public policy objectives.”
I’m all for celebrating and for happiness. With that in mind, I selected some of my favorite quotes on all things happiness.
“It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy that makes happiness.” -Charles Spurgeon