Being A $imple Man Part Four

“You can’t buy happiness.” Bologna! (Well, sort of.) Money can allow us to have moments we treasure. Happiness does not come from money, rather happiness comes from memories.  Most people who go on cruises look happy, and they are making memories. Isn’t that part of happiness; enjoying life. So, in this aspect, money does effect our happiness.

In part one, the statement “A simple life does not mean a poor life” was made. We are often quick to judge people who live on an economically sound budget. What makes us judge others by what they drive, what they wear, or where they live?

It is human nature to size ourselves with others. This is how we evaluate how we are doing in life. Not everyone grows out of this stage. But for those that do, life begins to make sense and happiness is found. This brings me to a quick interjection.

There are only two things to do in life:

Live life. This means work, pay taxes, AKA adulting. Go to local festivals, museums, or parks. Try new experiences. Read educational books to continue learning. You get the picture.

Be happy. That’s all. Just be happy. I had to learn how to be happy. I could take any situation and tell you how terrible it was. I don’t know exactly when it hit me, but I decided to change my perspective. What if there was no negative; just yes and not yet. By abstaining from looking at the negative side I learnt how to see the positive in every situation. Yes, I became “that guy”.

Anywho, back to money-talk. Whether we make a lot-of-money or a little-of-money, we need a budget. No one with good sense goes without a budget. We cannot just look at our bank account and say “oh look I have money, I can afford it.” Don’t do that.

So, let’s pretend we do not know how to budget. Trust me, none of us come into this world knowing how to balance a check book. Each bill or expense is an eager nemesis waiting to devour our pay check. Our job should be to save our pay check from being totally devoured. By allotting a percentage to each expense, we allow for growth.

Table time.

Giving 10% Transportation 10%
Saving 10% Health 5%
Food 10% Insurance 10%
Utilities 5% Personal Spending 5%
Housing Cost 25% Recreation 5%
Monthly Spending 95% Wiggle Room 5%

The table above is an example I like to use. One budget does not fit all so please feel free to change any variables. This only an example. Remember, a person making $7.25/hr is going to have less to spend than someone making $15.00/hr. I know this is common sense. However, I am always surprised with I see someone trying to live outside of their means. Doing this will always set us up for failure. This is why we need a budget.

Money has a huge impact on our potential for happiness. I say potential because in the end, whether we have money or not, our happiness is dependent on us. Our financial budget will give us peace of mind that bills are being paid, if we are within our means. We will also have the opportunity to save up for recreational moments (concerts for example). By staying on a budget we may feel as though we only work, eat, sleep. However, our happiness is a reflection of us. We control our emotions. Yes, times can get tense. This is why it is important to stop and relax. (As stated in part three of this  blog series. It’s all coming together Bwhahaha!)

Until the next blog, live life, be happy, and find life’s happiness.

at1_retired@yahoo.com

Steve Curtis

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Being A $imple Man Part Three

Now we take a look at putting the brakes on and coming to a complete stop. As difficult as this task may be, we need to pause and collect ourselves. Its simple as sitting, close our eyes, and take deep breaths. This is a perfect after lunch activity. Trust me. Doing this once a day is a huge step towards happiness.

Here’s how. As the day progresses obstacles get in our way, our bodies tense, and stress rises. Taking a “moment” allows us to relax, unwind, and collect our thoughts. By breathing deeply we slow our heart rate. This allows our brain to release endorphins. You know, the “happy” chemical.

Another aspect of stopping is abstaining from technology. Are you addicted to your phone? How long can you go without looking at it? In truth most of us are addicted to this little gadget; and why not. It provides so much information in a compact format. Ever start searching for a pair of jeans and end up looking at videos of pets being funny? Yea, me neither. Any-who, this rambling of information can provide a huge tax on the brain. We need to take the time to stop and think about nothing. No TV, internet, blogs, or cute videos. Just as we give our muscles breaks we need to do the same with our brain.

Believe it or not, a lot of people tell me they’re too busy to stop. There isn’t a five to fifteen minute break available in their day. They are on the go! And yet these same people have the time to stop when they become ill, or worse, have a complete break down. As harsh as this may seem, its true. If we have time to be sick, then we have time to be well.

Take the five minutes Janet (random name).

We owe it to ourselves.

We will always make excuses for not changing our life style. Life is chaotic and once we have our pattern of serenity in place, we don’t want to lose it. How serene is our life if we never take a moment to breathe? Stop and smell the roses. It’s not just an aphorism. It how we keep our sanity.

Until the next blog, live life, be happy, and find life’s happiness.

at1_retired@yahoo.com

Steve Curtis

Being A $imple Man Part Two

“Life is easy. People make it complicated.” This was a saying I used a lot when I was in my twenties. Anyone who has watched a crowd will understand the simple logic behind “one person is smart but get a crowd together and that individual intelligence is changed”. Why? Glad you asked. Let’s say I give you a compass and say face east in a uniform manner. Naturally you will look at the compass and face east.  Because there is only one of you, everything is uniform. Easy, right? Now let’s say I give ten people compasses and ask the same thing. Some will turn their whole body east while others will only turn their heads. No so uniform. So which stance is correct and why should others choose that stance over the other. Welcome to group logic. We tend to solve this problem by choosing the majority. If the majority just turned their heads then everyone should follow suit.

What if your compass shows west being east? Of course you face the direction in which your compass shows you. Then you realize you are faced opposing everyone. Do you go with the crowd or do you trust your owe compass? This is a prime example of what happens when our moral compass opposes the majority. Yes, people will look at you and wonder why you aren’t facing their direction. They will also try to help you read your compass only to tell you that its broke. If following our compass brings happiness without harming others, then by all means follow that path. However, if it doesn’t lead to happiness and strife and despair is all that is found, then perhaps we should have it recalibrated. It is possible to have bad morals. But, for the most part, everyone knows what is right and wrong. This does mean “right and wrong” will lead us down different paths. There is an infinite number of choices to make in one life time.  This is why it is important for us not to judge others for their choices in life. We have no right to judge when we are trying to navigate our own lives.

How does this pertain to a simple life? Everyone in the crowd above was given a compass. No one was directed to look at any other compass, nor were they instructed to follow other compasses. In a simple life we keep our nose to our own compass. If that means we face a different direction than others, then so be it. How boring of a life this would be if we all marched to the same beat, or followed the same path. Combine the first blog in this series with part two and things will start to fall into place. NOTE: I never said it would be easy. However, the rewards are great.

Until the next blog, live life, be happy, and find life’s happiness.

at1_retired@yahoo.com

Steve Curtis

 

Being A $imple Man Part One

My Beginnings

Growing up in the 80’s was an experience I will never forget. The neon colors, funky hair styles, and hip-hop was hitting the mainstream. Live big or go home was everywhere. If you didn’t have name brand clothes, then you were out. Yup! I was out. We lived on a modest budget. My mother had her hands full raising three boys during those rough economic times. Everyone was cutting back. However, media kept showing how grand life was for the rich and famous. Oh how I wanted to be rich and famous. I still chuckle at such childish thoughts.

I cherish the fact I learnt the value of a penny. Seriously, I remember being eleven years old, walking parking lots looking for dropped change so I could go to the convenient store and buy some Now-or-Laters. Simple times, right? Despite hating being poor, I wouldn’t change a thing. That dirt poor kid grew up to be a successful man. But here’s the kicker; I maintain a modest appearance. If you met me out in town, you wouldn’t know I’m  successful. Ever get the long nose stare from others? Honestly, it brings a smile to my face. Snoots and Preps are people too… just with Polo’s and Saab’s.

Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington wrote a song titled “Simple Man”. I have learnt a lot from this song. Before we go too far into this subject, I’d like to take a moment to say “man” is short for human; just as “Hey guys!” isn’t a salutation to only males. A simple life does not mean a poor life. No, it’s being happy with less. Yes, it’s nice to have things to show off; like that 700″ TV (do they even make that?). However, sipping wine and chatting with friends on the back porch is just as equally as nice. (nicer, in my opinion.)

To spend less than one makes each month will produce a healthy emergency fund. But we need to keep our happiness in check. Do we hoard our money or do we spend it all? This is where I began to look at entertainment as a bill. I set a certain percentage of my pay back each month and when I needed to go out, I’d look at that funding and see how much fun was allowed. Trust me, it works.

Life can be complicated. It’s up to us to un-complicate it. We should never take what we have for granted. Appreciating less will enable us to value having more. This is what makes us successful. Being able to sustain a lifestyle that nurtures our happiness. Keeping that lifestyle simple helps ensure we will maintain it.

Until the next blog, live life, be happy, and find life’s happiness.

at1_retired@yahoo.com

Steve Curtis

 

Happiness And Pets

 

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Oh the feeling of seeing our favorite four-legged friends after a hard day at work. With unbiased excitement, they are so eager to greet us. A beckoning for our attention ensues to show just how glad they are to see us back home. And who can forget the casual visit when we are just chilling as they climb up to do the same. This is another reason I prefer smaller pets.

According to James E Gern, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, pets can lower a child’s allergy development by 33%. Speaking of child development, when I was young, feeding, walking, and bathing our dog was one of the first steps in learning responsibility. Pet owners often show decreased blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides. All have a huge impact on our heart’s health.

So there we have it folks, pets do so much for us, and require so little from us. But wait, there’s more. These four-legged pals have been known to help us get over the blues faster, provide unconditional love, and give their provider a sense of purpose. Loneliness doesn’t stand a chance with these companions around. Yup, these little bundle of loves are showing signs of being a necessity.

Imagine if we could take them to work with us. Or, maybe we could have an office pet. Believe it or not some companies, like Inverse Square, are turning to this idea. And why not? An office space is full of negativity and stress. The question “who’ll take care of the pet?” will come up and what about allergies and little accidents. These become small issues when one takes a look at what having a pet around can do for us. The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) found pet providers save $11.37 billion on physician office visits. Those of us who walk their pets five times or more per week show lower body fat. This translates to a saving of $419 million in health care. Perhaps, having a feline coworker isn’t so bad after all.

In a world full of negativity, we need all the help we can get. What better place to find that help, than from our little friends. Is a pet right for everyone? No. But with such a positive impact, the possibility is worth investigating. So, until the next blog live life, be happy, and find life’s happiness.

 

at1_retired@yahoo.com

Steve Curtis

Product Of My Environment

What is our environment? In simplest terms, it’s everything around us. The air, water, food, buildings, noise, people, animals, and much more make up our environment. No two environments are the same. Similar as they may be, no one lives in our house, goes to our work, or sets at our desk at the exact time we do. So, one could conclude that environments are unique as fingerprints.

Does our environment affect who we are? To a degree, the answer is yes. If we work nights, then our sleep may be compromised by the bustling world around us. Air pollution may play havoc with our ability to breathe. Our diet may be affected by our choice of eating fast food everyday. So, yes, our environment can have a huge effect on us. But, does it change who we are? Will these attributes make us less kind? Will we be ill tempered? It is up to each of us how we act and react to our environment. If our work has a negative effect on us, then we need to find a new job. If the people around us are not good quality, then we need to change who we associate with. Notice that we did not say we will have them correct who they are. Everyone is not compatible with everyone. We need to find those we enjoy.

What if we cannot move from a bad environment, what do we do? Never give up. Identify what makes our environment bad. Bad water needs a filter, noisy environment needs ear plugs, and our bad attitude needs changing. Yup, you hear me. The last one was a hard pill for me to swallow, but I had to face the fact that life is exactly how I see it. Whether we believe life is terrible or we believe life is grand, we are correct. We will see exactly what we focus on. Focus on the heartaches and aggravations around us, and that is what we will see. Life has so much good to offer us. It is up to us to recognize and seize it. We need to stay in control of our attitude. Do not allow others to control our attitude.

May I Have Your Moderated Attention Please

Oh how some of us crave attention. And why not… what is wrong with wanting the limelight. Everyone has their turn in it, why shouldn’t we have our’s. A man wiser than I once stated attention is healthy. Far be it from me to dispute this. However, craving constant affection from a crowd or a person is not healthy. For one, it puts undue stress on the group or individual we are sourcing attention. Secondly, we do not deserve the emotional roller coaster. So, how do we find a balance? Let’s go back to the beginning.

Our parents started our cycle of wanting attention. But, wait! They aren’t the cause. Sorry Freud. Some of us were praised for doing good, while others received no recognition. The same can be said for when we did wrong. This brings us to two types of attention; positive and negative. I’m sure we can figure out which attention belongs to what scenario. So, I will jump to the next point. What if one only received attention when they did wrong. Enter the “mislabeled problem child”. Keep in mind that negative attention is still attention. As a child we need nurturing. We need a healthy amount of focus. Our inner voice screams:

“Recognize me.”

“Give me special treatment.”

“I want the spotlight.”

“Don’t ignore me.”

Even as adults we have the same inner voice. Maybe our parents gave us attention and we thought the whole world was going to give us the same amount. Or perhaps, we were neglected and the first positive attention came from our teachers. Have you ever heard of the child who was an angel at home and a little devil at school? (or the other way around). Does this shine a light on a possible cause?

This is where discipline comes in. No, not the belt, brooms, torches or pitchforks. I’m talking about self discipline. We must learn to refrain from our craving. This brings us to our favorite topic. BRAIN CHEMICALS. Bwhahaha. I mean, a positive experience provides dopamine. Oh, how we love dopamine…  Did you know getting yelled at can cause your body to produce adrenaline.  Its part of the fight-or-flight defense. If this pattern continues there is likely chance we will associate adrenaline with the getting attention. Thus starts a state of mental confusion. This is not to a mental illness. Think of it as a misunderstood word. One would have to relearn to associate dopamine with getting positive recognition; just as one would have to learn inflammable actually means capable of being set on fire. True life story.

Recognition should be a dopamine experience, not adrenaline. We should not experience an elevated heart rate nor fight-or-flight. That mindset is not healthy. Attention should feel relaxing and calming. A sense of “I did it.” should be at hand, not “Whew, I survived.”

We now take a look at ourselves. Do we need attention on a daily basis, hourly, or even each minute? Be honest. How often do we seek approval? “Look at what I did.” Have we ever asked for an opinion then debated why our opinion was better? I feel that at some point in our age of learning we have all done this. Let’s not look at whether its good or bad. Rather, we should see it shows that we all want attention. There is nothing wrong with wanting attention, but moderation is needed.

Our need for recognition is just as important as our peers need for recognition. When was the last compliment we gave? How sincere was it? Did we notice the smile we received? Giving attention is just as important as receiving. Sounds like a gift, doesn’t it? If we neglect our peers, what are the chances they will act out in a negative manner? Remember, negative attention is still attention. As juvenile as it may be, we need to recognize it. If someone is demanding more attention than we are able to give, then we need to explain why we cannot provide that attention. Yes, setting down and talking takes time away from other business matters. But, in doing so, we are setting ourselves up for future success. Communication is key. Stay positive. Stay professional.

Moderated attention is what we need and what we need to give. Take a moment and think of each person we interact with each day. Are we proactive with our praises and constructive with our reprimands? Is the attention we give positive or negative? Are we seeking too much attention? As one can see there is a lot to take in when factoring how we interact with others. The key is to exercise moderation in ourselves and in others. Find a balance that won’t cause one to be overtaxed.

Until the next blog here’s to living life, being happy, and finding life’s happiness.

at1_retired@yahoo.com

Steve Curtis