Contemplation often makes life miserable

“Contemplation often makes life miserable. We should act more, think less, and stop watching ourselves live.”

Nicolas Chamfort, 16th Century French writer

Image from Unsplash by Lucas Vasquez

Ed Kotch was the mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989. In his efforts to be a good mayor and serve the city well, he would often ask How am I doing? to gain feedback and enhance his efforts.

How often do you evaluate your own efforts and contemplate how you are doing? Where are you judging yourself and making comparisons to others to see how you stack up? Where is this habit causing you misery?


How would taking yourself out from under your microscope of judgement free you up to simply act more and think less about your life?

How would assuming that you are doing just fine at being who you are help you be far happier and satisfied with your life?

Out of moderation a pure happiness springs

“Out of moderation a pure happiness springs.”

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, 17th Century German playwright, scientist, & statesman

Image from Unsplash by Aziz Acharki

Where did the concept of moderation go out the window over the holidays? Consider the following list and add some of your own:

  • Food and drink
  • Gift giving/spending money
  • Staying up late and missing out on sleep
  • Staying in bed and too much leisure
  • Excessive media consumption
  • Lack of physical activity

Where did getting out of balance present a cost that you regret? Where was the payoff worth it?


How and where might you pursue the happiness found in moderation as you settle into the rhythm of the new year?

Happiness is like jam

“Happiness is like jam. You can’t spread even a little without getting some on yourself.”


Ella and Weston, Barry’s grandchildren

For the past few years my wife Wendy, our daughter Rachel, and I engage in a multi-day peach preserve project. With 75 pounds of Georgia’s best, we blanche, peel, chop, can, and seal over five dozen jars of this sweet precious goo.

Doing our best to avoid cuts, burns, and keeping our relationship intact, we always feel very satisfied when the job is done. Given Wendy’s generous nature, about four dozen go out as gifts to sweeten the lives of others throughout the year.


What are some ways that you plan to spread a little happiness around this holiday season and into the year ahead?

So many conditions of happiness are available

“So many conditions of happiness are available. You don’t have to run into the future in order to get more.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh, late Vietnamese Thiền Buddhist monk

Image from Amazon

As part of my coaching process, I introduce my clients to a concept called “creative tension” coined by Robert Frisk in his book, The Path of Least Resistance from the early 90’s.

The idea that an envisioned or expected future has the power to excite and pull us toward it has been a classic and useful tool in leadership training and enrolling people in new opportunities for millennia. It turns out that people tend to be pretty happy and engaged when their efforts lead to progress toward a desired future.

This means of generating a sense of happiness is, however, not the only condition available to us.


How can you use your amazing memory as well as your mindfulness capacities to examine the past and present to bolster your ability to seek and find more happiness?

“Look beyond yourself, see a need and meet it.”

“Look beyond yourself, see a need and meet it.”

Joshua Becker, author of Becoming Minimalist

Image from Amazon

There seems to be a continuum between selfish and selfless tendencies for most of us. On one hand, sustainable happiness and life satisfaction are rarely seen by focusing solely on ourselves. On the other, the complete focus only on the needs of others  — although noble — has been demonstrated to also have a down side, including burnout and health challenges.

Where do you see yourself between these two poles?

How do you meet your own needs to have the capacity to serve and support others in your communities?


Where and when is it appropriate to be SELF-ISH to meet your own needs, or to be OTHER-ISH to meet the needs of others?  How would doing so meet your own need for purpose and a more meaningful life?  Consider checking out Joshua Becker’s new book, Things That Matter, for additional ideas on this subject.

Joy is the emotional expression of the courageous yes to one’s own true being

“Joy is the emotional expression of the courageous yes to one’s own true being.”

—Paul Tillich, 20th Century German-American existentialist philosopher

Image from Unsplash by Zachary Nelson

How often do you jump for joy? When was the last time you experienced this feeling, lifting you to new heights of self-expression?

One way to explore this topic and perhaps make a few more leaps in the years ahead is to examine all the roles you play in life. How you spend your time and who you spend it with will offer clues to where and when you give yourself permission to shout yes to your own true being.


Who are the happiest and most joyful people you know? What is it about them that attracts you and others to them? How might you use their example to be more joyful yourself? If your list is a bit short, look to the children in your life for some coaching.

The heart is very much like a miraculous balloon. Its lightness comes from

“The heart is very much like a miraculous balloon. Its lightness comes from staying full. Meeting the days with our heart prevents collapse.”

—Mark Nepo, Author of The Book of Awakening

Image from Unsplash by Ali Goldstein

Last year around this time my daughter and grandson — who was then 2½ — came to spend part of the holidays with Wendy and me in Michigan. Since little Weston had a far more limited selection of toys at grand-mom’s and pop-pop’s house, we did our best to entertain him.

Among his favorite diversions that week was a small happy birthday balloon we had kept on our window sill, still fully inflated from the previous year’s celebration.

It was a miracle that a two-dollar balloon could fill this little boy’s heart with such joy for the entire time. His engagement with this shiny orb and lots of heartfelt attention filled us all with lightness and the joy of being together.


What balloons do you intend to fill this holiday season? What heartfelt activities will you bring to the days with those you love to keep things light?