Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Three Practices for a Happier Life

“Practice is the best master.”

“You can't hire someone to practice for you.”

I have a very short amount of time to write.  This morning I’m taking my two youngest girls to the airport and I really want everything to go as peacefully and as well as possible.  There are few things scarier than missing a flight.  I’ve missed two in my life – one because I overslept and the other because I got off the plane during a layover and when I returned, the plane was taking off.  Another time my family missed a flight because the check-in was at a different airline.  All of those incidents were so stressful.  Just writing about it causes stress.  So I think I’ll stop and go to the end of those stories.  They all turned out well.  Everyone got where they needed to be eventually.
And that’s the key, isn’t it?  I could focus on how bad I felt all three of those times or I can remember that it all turned out fine.  It almost always does.  But I’m also aware that for millions of people, things don’t turn out fine.  I realize that I’m incredibly fortunate and blessed.  I have people who love me, amazing children, a good job and a car that runs.  I live in one of the most beautiful cities on earth.  I am healthy and I have a lot of choices open to me.  If I quit my job, I could probably get a new one pretty easily.  I can honestly do almost whatever I want.  I could change my life today if I chose.  Yes, there are difficulties and potential challenges, but look at how good I have it.
So what do I do with all this goodness?
First, I practice gratitude.  This is something I don’t do enough.  I spend too much time focusing on what is wrong rather than what is right.  Yes, I hate being stuck at traffic lights, but I would hate being stuck in prison or a hospital bed more.  I am embarrassed by the amount of complaining I do.  In the book The Magic, Rhonda Byrne shares how there are several areas of our lives for which we can be grateful, including health, money and relationships.  Every major faith mentions gratitude as a powerful component to joy.
Next, I practice generosity.  I give where I can.  This includes my time, talent and money.  I don’t believe my purpose in life is to be comfortable, well-clothed and well-fed.  I want those things, but they should be results, not goals.  I want to give back to the world.  This is part of the reason I adopted two children and two dogs.  And that’s nothing.  I know a family who is adopting their fourth child.   
Finally, I practice my craft.  One of the reasons I write is because I know, based on what so many have told me, that it encourages and inspires others.  So I offer it as a gift to the world.  Would I like to make money from it?  Of course.  But I’m happy to share these blogs with as many people as possible until and after I do.
In the origin of Spider-Man, Stan Lee wrote, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  This seems to be a trait that most superheroes share.  They recognize that they have powers beyond the abilities of normal humans and they use those powers to fight evil and make the world a better place.  Although I cannot fly or lift two tons, I have the power to write.  I recognize it for what it is.  I realize it is special gift and it is not given to everybody.  But everybody is given a gift.  And for some reason, the gift of writing was given to me. 
I also take joy knowing that of all the professions he could have chosen, Superman, the premier superhero, chose to be a writer.  History and civilization all hinge on good writing.  Even God chose the written word, in the Ten Commandments and in the Bible.  So when I write, I know I am in good company. 
Those three practices, gratitude, generosity and my craft, are enough to change my life and my outlook.  I feel very privileged to be able to do this.  I feel very grateful.  Yesterday, I saw these beautiful flowers while walking with my daughters and I was reminded of what was truly important.
It is truly important to Get Started and Keep Going and to keep practicing.