March 2015 archive

When Customer Service Makes Your Day

IMG_0150I love it when life throws a little happiness at you when you least expect it.

I had a completely different blog post ready for today, but when I went to access my website, I had to call customer service to work out a few kinks.

As soon as my small problem was fixed, the customer service guy (Robert- I’m weirdly good with names) proceeded to chat with me about how much he liked my site and the content I wrote about, even going so far as to recommend that I read the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig (which I’ve now downloaded a sample of for my iPad).

We had a very brief, uplifting conversation. I told him about my love of teaching, he went on to tell me that when customers call in, he adds their site to a ‘list’ of websites he keeps if he thinks he’ll enjoy reading their blog later (How cool is that? Talk about loving your job!).

I really did not expect that a call to Bluehost would be one of the highlights of my day.

Maybe it’s the new ‘thank you economy’ that’s becoming a bigger part of consumer culture (see Seth Godin and/or Gary Vaynerchuk books if you’re curious about this new economy), or maybe I tend to catch people on a good day, or maybe life is full of pleasant surprises.

I promise Bluehost didn’t ask me to promote them in any way, but I had to do my part.

A little happy can go a long way.

Read More and Thrive

IMG_2163The older I get, the more I read.

When I’m happy? I reach for an inspiring book.
When I’m not happy? I reach for an inspiring book.
The end result? I tend to feel energized and surprisingly fulfilled for someone who lives relatively simply.

I associate the act of reading with some of the best adventures of my life:

Story 1: On two different backpacking trips in Europe, some of my fondest memories are of sitting alone on various trains getting lost in a novel.

Story 2: One day I decided to stop watching TV (on a pretty permanent basis, although I didn’t know that at the time) and picked up a novel instead. While reading, I decided it was time to text a friend and finally let her set me up, after a string of ‘okay’ relationships. The next day I was set up with my now husband.

Story 3: During a phase of reading numerous nonfiction, travel-related books, I decided to follow suit with my own blog and book, which has been an incredible journey and led me to some amazing people and authors.

Turn off the TV. Step away from social media (just for a few minutes). Pick up a book and see what adventures and inspiration will follow.

Lessons in Teaching: The (Almost) Seven Year Itch

cropped-IMG_01691.jpgThis happens.

I’ve learned this lesson before (I even wrote about it in my book), and I had to learn it again a few weeks ago.

Here’s the situation: I now split my time between working at home teaching online classes, and teaching on campus in the morning three days a week. I wasn’t getting the same satisfaction from teaching face-to-face that I was used to, and I started wondering if that was it. It was all over.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the seven year itch.

It’s typically used to describe that point in a marriage when things kind of come to a stand still and you’re not sure where to go from there; things are a bit boring. Well, I’ve noticed from conversations with friends that it tends to happen in careers. Especially careers that you’re passionate about (seems a little unfair that humans tend to lose passion for their passions, but all is not lost).

If you’ve ever read the book The Dip by Seth Godin, you understand that going through a ‘dip’ or a lull doesn’t necessarily mean you throw in the towel and move on to something new, it just means that you need to change things up a bit.

I realized that this semester while I’ve been in the classroom, my focus had been on grading as many online assignments between classes as I possibly could (I typically turn tasks like this into a game for myself, so nothing ever feels like drudgery; I consider it a gift). That was all good and fine, and I felt like I was being really productive kind of balancing both things while being extremely efficient.

But I started feeling like I wasn’t getting what I needed from the classroom (very selfish, I know, but I believe you should always be doing something you love).

I made the conscious decision to not bring my laptop to campus for a week, and give my full attention to my students. I engaged in small talk, let myself be present, laughed with them, and enjoyed them as the wonderful people they are.

What a world of difference.

I absolutely love teaching. Sometimes you have to make a change, or break a bad habit (even if you thought is was a good one) to get back to where you need to be. The important thing is to recognize what’s happening, make small adjustments, and try new things until it feels great again.

Happy teaching, everyone!

Happiness Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

IMG_0357I just finished reading the cutest, furriest, most adorable- and enlightening- book about finding happiness.

About a mouse* on a fact-finding mission to discover what makes other wild animals happy.

Yes, the main character is a mouse*.

(*Okay, it’s actually a rat, but I just can’t handle that- so to me, Lucky is a sweet little mouse.)

The author reached out to me about writing a review, and I was a little hesitant. I was absolutely flattered to be asked to review a fellow author’s book on Amazon, but I didn’t know how I felt about animals searching for true happiness.

I soon realized I had nothing to worry about. The book was amazing, easy to read, the perfect length, and the perfect amount of feel-good material.

The best aspect of the book was it’s exploration of different types of happiness.

Most people today feel that they need to be an entrepreneur to be happy, or traveling full-time, going on adventures, practicing yoga, and/or any of the other new trends that those of us pushing the ‘happiness’ brand tend to talk about.

Most people can’t necessarily pursue the above-mentioned lifestyle/s, don’t want to, or aren’t quite ready for them, so I appreciated that Van der Merwe included a variety of different perspectives on happiness.

Here are some insights I picked up from the book:

  • A number of short-lived highs don’t necessarily equal a better life versus 10 years of relaxed, peaceful happiness.
  • You live in your mind. Your state of happiness depends more on how you view the situation than what the situation actually is.
  • Plan fun activities far in advance so you can spend a longer amount of time looking forward to them, thus adding more hours of happiness to your week.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be happy exclusively on the weekends. Plan fun activities and set aside time to make happiness happen every single day, as often as you can.
  • Money never has, and never will, buy happiness.

It will probably be the only book I ever read about self-discovery that features wild animals as the book’s main characters, but the ‘fable’ approach was perfect, and each short story left me feeling uplifted.

For anyone who would like to start with some small doses of happiness in their life, and/or reinforce some positive life values, let Lucky lead the way.

Happy teaching, and happy self-discovery.

 

(Note: The author didn’t ask me to write this post, but I liked the book far too much not to write about it here. For additional information, visit the website: http://www.luckygohappythebook.com/)

Spending Time in Nature: A Small Experiment

IMG_2163A few months ago, I made it a personal goal of mine to spend at least one hour outside every day.

I felt a little pathetic having to make it a point to do something so easy and natural, for such a short amount of time every day, but it seems like we get so wrapped up in our work (even if we’re doing work we love), in our laptops (even if we’re excitedly writing our next novel), and in reading books (even if the author has moved you beyond words), that we forget about one of the very things that makes us human: spending time in our natural environment.

Here are a few things I learned during the past few months by spending quality time in nature:

  1. Driving in the car or sitting in a restaurant while enjoying a great view of a beautiful day does not count as being outside in it.
  2. It’s surprisingly hard to make the effort. When you’ve been working indoors all day, and realize that the whole ‘hour outside’ thing is going to get in the way of your work ethic, it’s quite the wake up call. Re-prioritize. Life first, work second.
  3. Taking an hour long walk outside in the morning, or even sitting outside to read for an hour, feels like an eternity (in a good way). If you’d like for time to move more slowly, move your activities outside.
  4. People are always walking their dogs, and when you’re outside, you get to be amidst the happy pets and pet owners. And whose day isn’t made better when a smiling puppy runs over wagging his tail?
  5. If it’s a beautiful day, take your laptop to the outside tables at a coffee shop. Read that book outside. Eat your lunch outside. Move your workout outside. There are so many opportunities.
  6. Spending time in a place that is not enclosed by 4 walls makes you feel human, free, and childlike, more effectively than an hour of almost anything else can.

I encourage you to switch up your days, actually stop to smell the roses, and spend a little more time slowing down the pace of life, by enjoying the natural beauty that’s all around us.

Happy living.