Tag Archives: William Arthur Ward

Finding Joy

I have heard it said that the key to happiness is being able to find joy in your daily life, in the seemingly mundane things that make up our everyday routines. And my experience, particularly in more recent years, has proven that to be quite true. The problem is that for so many of us, we do not pause long enough to see that joy.  It’s not that there is no joy to be had, it is that we just don’t see it, even when it is right in front of us.

It is no secret, nor should it be a surprise to anyone, that we all get so caught up in the day to day happenings of our very busy modern lives to the point that not only do we not find joy in our lives, but we seldom even notice the people and things around us that could bring us joy if only we stopped for a moment to take them in, appreciate them for who and what they are, and gives thanks for them.

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” – William Arthur Ward

Some people refer to this phenomenon of going through the motions of life without really being present as living in a robot-like or zombie-like state. Regardless of the words we use to label or describe it, the bottom line is that we are not present in the moment. We don’t see the people and things right in front of us for the beautiful, amazing creatures and opportunities that they are.  We are so focused on where we are going next, on the goal we are trying to achieve, on getting through the day, on getting to our next day off or our next vacation, on getting to the next thing on our To Do list, on reaching retirement, on getting the next job or house, etc. (you get the idea here), that we go through virtually every waking moment of each day not noticing most of who and what is around us, let alone see any joy in those things.  The sad and ironic thing is that for many people when they reach their destination (be it the end of their To Do list, the weekend, that next vacation, their next job, the completion of their goal, etc.), they usually find no more happiness than they had previously.  Why?  Because joy and happiness doesn’t come at the end of your journey to that place you wanted to reach – joy and happiness is found throughout that journey.

“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” – Greg Anderson

Like most of us, I spent many years living for the next thing. I was never quite happy, but I was certain I would be after the next thing. But then I wasn’t.  It was a vicious, rather depressing cycle.  When I finally decided to let go of the next thing and really experience each moment as it came and went, careful not to become too attached to any one moment though as that can be problematic in and of itself, I finally began to enjoy my life and all the people and things in it.  I had spent so much of my life looking for joy and happiness and what I came to realize is that it was always right here, in front of me, the entire time…I was just too busy, too side-tracked, too distracted to notice it.

It is so easy to get wrapped up in the trappings of this modern world, but if we are conscious about the choices we are making, focusing on each individual moment, I do believe we would all experience more joy in our lives. While reaching a specific destination in our lives is important, let us not forget that what is even more important are the experiences along the way – opportunities to learn and grow, to appreciate the people and things in our lives, to give thanks, to create something new, and to experience true joy and happiness.

So let go of your expectations and the single-minded focus on the end goal. Be present in each moment as it unfolds. Even when things become difficult of challenging, there is beauty and joy to be had.  Pause to reflect in the moment.  Give thanks for what the moment has to offer you, even if it is a difficult lesson.  And always remember that at the end of the day, it is about the journey, not the destination.  That’s where the joy resides.

Finding Balance

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” – Thomas Merton

Have you ever noticed how much we talk about finding balance in our lives? We try hard to find balance between work and home. We try to eat a balanced diet.  We attempt to balance all the responsibilities we have.  We talk about everything in moderation (which is just another way of saying we try to find ways to balance all the things we want to have, eat, etc.).  We seem to know, somehow, that life is about balance, yet achieving that balance is often times very difficult.  And spending so much time, energy, and focus attempting to achieve that balance is, in and of itself, quite draining.  As I continually work toward finding the balance within my own life I find myself wondering what balance really is…how do I find balance…how do I know when I have achieved it?

The dictionary definition of balance, as it pertains to this conversation, is a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions. Sounds beautiful doesn’t it? If only the different elements in our lives would be equal or in the correct proportion…but we all know that is seldom the case for so many different reasons.  So our job becomes that of finding ways to strike that balance as best we can each day…knowing that each day will be different and as such the balance we will attain on any given day will vary as well.

But that still brings me back to the questions of how do I find balance and how do I know when I have it? It might seem obvious that you would know when you have balance in your life, but with so many fast moving parts in our lives, will we know or will we be so distracted by everything else around us? I certainly would like to think that we would know when we have reached that balanced state, even if it is only temporary, but I often wonder how many of us miss times when we are there, in a state of balance, because our focus is on the next thing, or the things that still aren’t in balance.  For example, I know for myself personally there have been times when I have had really good balance in my personal life, but I did not see the balance I had at that time because my focus was on the things I was not doing or hadn’t accomplished yet.  In retrospect I can see now that I had good balance but I never took the time to reflect and notice it – I allowed my focus to be on the next thing instead of where I was at that moment.  So to answer the question of how will I know when I have reached that state of balance…to be sure I think there is a feeling associated with it, but without taking the time to reflect and be focused on the present moment I do think you can miss it.  I know I have.

And even if I am able to tell when I am in that state of balance once I reach it, I still have to get there…so how do I do that? That’s a much trickier question, because as you might expect there is no simple answer. I think it is somewhat different for everyone, though there may be some universal techniques we can all use.  I have found that taking time to reflect, keeping things in perspective, living in the present, allowing myself to be human (i.e. allow myself to make mistakes from which I can learn and grow), and a good sense of humor are all things that help me strike a balance in my life.

“A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life.” – William Arthur Ward

You might have other things that work for you too, but those five things are what I have successfully incorporated into my life such that I feel like I have more balance now than ever before. And balance tends to mean less stress, which is always a good thing.

You don’t have to stop in order to find balance. But you do sometimes have to slow down enough to see where you are, what you are doing, and make wise decisions about how to move more into balance.

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein

Giving Thanks!

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” – William Arthur Ward

Since this weekend is the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, I thought it appropriate to say thank you for some of the things I am grateful for in my life. If you have never taken a moment to just sit and make a list of the things you are grateful for and why you are grateful for them, I highly recommend it…especially when you are having a bad day or are feeling a bit depressed…it is amazing how uplifting, re-centering, and rejuvenating making such a simple list can be. That’s also why so many people promote having a daily gratitude journal.  I have been keeping a gratitude journal – writing down one thing every day for which I am thankful – for almost a year now and it truly has helped me appreciate the blessings in my life much more fully and deeply than I ever have before.  Check out my daily gratitude journal here.

In an effort to not make this the longest blog ever, I am only going to list the 10 things for which I am most grateful today. I am not specifically listing my friends and family, the roof over my head, my job, my health, etc. as I am grateful for those things every day…but rather I am choosing to focus on some of the more simple things in life…the small things if you will…that bring a smile to my face and joy to my life. Often I find that when you can be grateful for these things life just seems to be a little better every day and so-called obstacles in your life become much less troublesome.

* I am thankful for the view from my back porch…the beauty and majesty of nature is breath-taking and awe-inspiring. It reminds me daily of just how small I am in this great universe and of just how much I have to be thankful for…it is truly humbling.

* I am thankful for creativity and the many venues through which I am afforded the opportunity to express mine as I feel so much more alive when I am able to express myself creatively.

* I am thankful for a delicious cup of coffee or hot tea in the morning as I wake up and prepare to face my day. It’s a simple pleasure many take for granted…but I try to sit quietly and enjoy each sip knowing that being able to do so is a blessing in and of itself.

* I am thankful for the spirit of the holidays. As the Christmas season comes, I am grateful for the spirit of the season itself…when people are more likely to act out of loving kindness toward others. I am grateful for that spirit…and I pray it would last longer than just the Christmas season.

* I am thankful for damp, dreary days. Yep, I am grateful for even those yucky days! Nothing motivates me more to curl up with a good book and a nice cup of hot tea than one of those drab, rainy days…as I love a good excuse for reading!

* I am thankful for sunrises (and sunsets). There is no more beautiful way to start (or end) a day than to watch the amazing light show put on by the sun as it awakens each morning (or goes to sleep each night). Such a glorious array of colors stretching across the horizon…so mesmerizing…so marvelous.

* I am thankful for the sound of birds singing in the spring (a funny thing to write about since we are settling into winter right now). There is just something about the sound of birds in the spring, more than any other time of the year, that just makes me smile. Not sure I can explain it…but I sure do like it!

* I am thankful for technology. Frustrating as it can be at times when it doesn’t work quite right, with it the world is a smaller place where we can all interact and learn from one another in so many amazing ways. It provides us with not only a means for communication, but it also serves as a bridge between time, space, cultures, languages, etc. Technology opens doors for many people that otherwise would remain closed.

* I am thankful for home-made holiday treats. Pumpkin roll, apple pie, snicker doodle cookies, gingerbread, etc. There is nothing quite like all those yummy home-made goodies!  I admit that I am still perplexed as to how they get so much love in those holidays treats because I have never been able to find a bottle of love on the spice shelf in the grocery store, but I am pretty sure that is the ingredient that makes all the difference!

* I am thankful for the people I meet every day. Some make me smile instantly, while others challenge me to remain positive. Some inspire me, while others push me to confront my biases and prejudices.  Some remind me of the beauty of life, while others test my belief in the goodness of humans.  Regardless though I am grateful for them all…without each and every one of them I would never grow and expand and become a better person.

 

It is very possible, maybe even probable, that some of the things on my gratitude list would never make it onto your gratitude list and that’s okay. We all appreciate different things and therefore will be thankful for different things. Just remember that it is often our perspective and our attitudes about things that determine how we respond to those things.  I work hard to be grateful for all things in my life, even the things that I didn’t ask for, want or need.  Even those things that challenge us, try to hold us back, and/or bring us down have a purpose in life and deserve our gratitude…because without them we would never grow and never become the people we are meant to be.

A Little More Love

“A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.” – William Arthur Ward

I am often struck at how disconnected we have become as a society…at how little we see of what is really happening in the world beyond our immediate selves…at how little we actually interact with one another in general. When you factor in the reality that life is so fast-paced these days, that we have so many things going on in our daily lives, and that we are, for the most part, interacting less and less in person with one another, it’s not hard to understand why we, as a society, have become so disconnected from one another. But my wonder surrounding this topic is not related to the reasons for these things (that is a whole other topic we could probably debate for a very long period of time…not my intention here today), but rather on what it has done to us as humans in this society and more importantly on how just a little love and kindness can turn things around.

For many of us, when we do see someone in need, we hesitate to help because we were taught to be afraid, to not get involved, or to look away. Somewhere along the way we have forgotten that we are all human and have the same basic need for love and acceptance. Instead we have learned to be cautious or even suspicious of anyone that is not like us. Our ability to have compassion for others seems to have waned over the years. I know I catch myself in situations where I know the right thing to do is to offer help, whether it be coming across a homeless person asking for some money for food or a stranger needing assistance with something as simple as carrying something, but that voice in my head that has been so well trained over the years almost always convinces me not to help for any of a number of “good, logical sounding reasons”. It is something that weighs heavy on my heart as it continually proves to be a challenge to break away from that mindset. And I know I am not alone in this, as many of us face this same challenge.

Even when it comes to people we know (family, friends, and colleagues), we frequently ignore or don’t see when they are in need. We are often so accustomed to our family and friends being there for us that we can sometimes forget to ask if they need anything from us in return. Or we may be so wrapped up in our own daily lives that we have blinders on to what is happening around us for those with whom we are closest. Seldom do we have/take the time to sit down with our friends, family, or colleagues to talk about how each one of us is doing…how we are each feeling…what each of us might need. It’s just not something many of us do.

I don’t think any of this is something that is intentionally done on most people’s accounts though…I truly think we have become products of our environment, our society, and our upbringing. Regardless of the how or why though, the fact is we have lost touch with so much of the human side of interacting with one another. We have forgotten the power and importance of expressing love and kindness toward one another…both those we know and those we do not. Simple things like a smile, a hello, or a random act of kindness can turn someone around relatively quickly. Whether someone is mad at the world, frustrated, sad, hurting, in need, etc., it can all melt away, even if only for short while, when a smile or a general sense of kindness is directed toward them. And it isn’t unusual to even see them sit/stand a little taller as a result of your kind interaction with them. As humans, we want and need to feel loved, seen, and cared for.

Your kindness can have a profound impact on others, even a complete stranger. Challenge yourself to reconnect with the people you see each day, whether you know them or not. Break those old habits and mindsets. Do what your heart and soul are telling you is the right thing to do – care about and take care of others. This is a challenge I give myself each day and while it is not easy and it certainly takes time, I know it is a worthwhile endeavor. So smile and share a little kindness with the people you see today – you never know the incredible impact that may have on a person by adding just a little more love to the world.