5 Suggestions For Achieving Happiness In Life & Business…John Page Burton

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As a coach, “I just want to be happy” is something I hear on a regular basis. Happiness is relevant and means different things to different people. One person may be extremely happy because they received a promotion at work while another person is equally happy because they are able to move off the streets and into a shelter. In reality, most of us define happiness based on the level of comfort we experience in any given moment. I have found in my personal and professional life that when I focus on the following 5 suggestions, my life and business thrive. When I deviate from them, I tend to experience discomfort and frustration. Let’s take a closer look….

1. Be PRESENT. When we dwell on the past or obsess about what may or may not happen in the future, we are missing our present moment experience. We problem solve from our past, we create in the present. Most of us have a pretty good present moment going on and the only way to ruin it is to jump back into the past or zip into the future. Stay focused on NOW and observe how your “happy meter” skyrockets.

2. Check the facts, don’t make assumptions. At one time or another, all of us have been guilty of making assumptions about someone or something. For example, we may have “assumed” that our boss was out to get us, our spouse was having an affair, our neighbor was a drug dealer or our teenager didn’t like us. By asking questions rather than making assumptions, we may learn that our boss’s decision to give us more work responsibility is because he is grooming us for a promotion. Our spouse is actually working late to earn extra money to surprise the family with a European vacation. Our neighbor works from home and because he met all of his sales goals he treated himself to a brand new BMW. Our teenager is actually being bullied at school and doesn’t know how to express their sadness and fear. By asking better questions and checking our facts, we can save ourselves and others a great deal of unhappiness and confusion.

3. Run your own race. Comparing ourselves to others only distracts us from reaching our full potential. Far too many of us base our success on the perceived success of others. The key word is “perceived”. I have known quite a few people who lived in gorgeous homes that were in foreclosure or who drove beautiful cars  that were on the verge of repossession. On the other hand, I know numerous people who live modestly, drive older model vehicles and enjoy 7 figure portfolios.YOU CAN’T JUDGE A BOOK BY IT’S COVER SO STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS AND RUN YOUR RACE!!!

4. Happiness is a CHOICE.  I am not going to be a Pollyanna and pretend that bad things don’t happen to good people or that life is all wine, roses and chocolate. Life can be very challenging. Choosing happiness means that we look for the blessing in every adverse situation we face. The blessing is there, our job is to find and embrace the lesson.

5. Listen to and learn to trust your inner voice. Our inner voice is a divine voice. When we listen to and trust our inner voice we are listening to and trusting our creator. We have all had those moments when we kicked ourselves for not trusting our gut. We knew something didn’t add up but we forged ahead anyway and lo and behold something was indeed wrong. We can save ourselves a great deal of unhappiness and regret by simply learning to trust our inner voice.

I hope these 5 suggestions will help you enjoy more happiness and less stress in your life and career.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

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5 Things We Can Learn From ANGRY People…John Page Burton

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Is it just me or does it seem like there are a lot of angry people buzzing around our planet? Most angry people are two faced. They exhibit a public face and a private face. For example, the other day a man driving a high end vehicle, dressed in a suit and tie swerved his car and nearly ran me off the road. When I pulled up next to him at the stoplight and gave him a puzzled look, he promptly reached down under his seat and with a smirk on his face, brandished a hand gun! I certainly don’t care to do business with him! My social media streams feature countless posts “attacking” religious choice, sexual preferences, race, political affiliation or anything else that is determined different from the posters belief system. One of my clients recently asked me “why so many people seem so angry”? It’s a reasonable question. Many are quick to blame their anger on the economy, world problems, political agenda’s and even technology. I routinely interact with people who “ooze pissed off”. When I ask them why they are so angry it’s not uncommon for them to snap back… “I’m not angry”. Be honest, all of us get angry from time to time, it’s human nature.  As a coach, I routinely see the effects of unresolved anger. Divorce, illness, job loss and family challenges are some of the unfortunate consequences of unresolved anger. I have identified 5 characteristics commonly found in angry people. Also, here are five things I have learned on my own journey as a “recovering angry person”…

Acceptance. Because they have never completely accepted themselves, angry people struggle to accept others. Most of the angry people I have known share the common characteristic of being fearful people. Angry people have an above average fear of failure and are prone to anger when they find themselves roaming outside of their comfort zone. Angry people are quick to judge others because it is easier than facing their own fear.  I have learned to face my fears when they come up and to give myself some grace when things don’t happen EXACTLY the way I want them to. I remind myself that life tends to happen when we are making other plans.
Neurotic. Angry people tend to be compulsive worriers.  “95% of what we worry about never happens and the other 5% never looks as bad as we envisioned”. This quote is a reminder to focus on what we can control rather than on what may or may not happen at a future point in time. I have learned to stay in the present moment as much as humanly possible. I problem solve from my past, I create in the present.
Grudges. Angry people tend to hold grudges. My mother had a falling out with her two brothers over the disbursement of my grandmothers estate. Tragically, my mother passed away having not spoken to her brothers for over thirty years. Grudges rob us of our joy and over time, holding grudges may bring about physical or emotional health challenges. I have learned to speak my truth and move on. I remind myself that resentment only robs me of the energy I need to move toward a compelling future.
Reactive. Angry people tend to be reactive people. This is where the saying “they really have a chip on their shoulder” comes into play. Last evening I ran into a person who unbeknownst to me has been holding a long standing grudge toward me for not continuing to donate money to the charitable organization they represent. When I explained that I had decided to donate elsewhere because I had not received a thank you note or receipt for my previous donations they bristled and began to make it personal. “You misspelled my name when you signed my book” was one of the many “digs” this person leveled at me in an attempt to dodge any role they may have played in my decision to donate elsewhere.  In short, reactive people usually hear what they want to hear. Rather than be proactive and seek to understand they tend to pounce! As a “recovering reactive person”, I have learned to count to ten before offering my thoughts. “Seek to understand, then to be understood”. (Covey)
Yesterday. Angry people spend a great deal of time living in the past. They robotically recount the details of past hurts and disappointments and carry much of this anger into their present reality. Someone who disagrees with or upsets them may suddenly take on the identity of an unfavorable person from their past. A current spouse begins to remind them of an abusive parent, a new love interest does something that reminds them of a former spouse, an innocent mistake by a long time friend instantly becomes a betrayal of epic proportion or an admonishment from an employer becomes the voice of a demanding, perfectionist parent. I have learned that dwelling on the past only distracts me from the present. I get to CHOOSE what I focus on and I CHOOSE to focus on NOW!
We all get angry, it’s actually good for us to let off a little steam from time to time. If we find ourselves becoming an angry, ticking time bomb, it’s time for a check up from the neck up! A good coach or therapist can help us clear the clutter and allow us to live the joyful life we deserve.
As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback. Cheers!

Loving The HATERS…John Page Burton

Hate has always been present in my life. I wish this was not the case but unfortunately it’s true. All of us are exposed to a certain degree of hate and many of us have been victimized far more than others. The hater targets people who they classify as being different and who don’t fit into their view of how the world should look. Differences may include, sexual orientation, religious views, politics and ethnicity. Hate shows up in different forms and is often covertly displayed. For example, covert hate in the workplace may cause qualified people to be passed up for promotions, re-assigned or may lead to alienation by co-workers. YES this still goes on in 2014. As of late, hate seems to be inspiring certain religious organizations to boycott businesses owned by people who are not in alignment with their world view. In essence, certain religious leaders are saying…because you don’t agree with our point of view we will do everything in our power to destroy your business. This sounds pretty HATEFUL to me! This scenario is currently being played out as it pertains to Michael Sam, an openly gay, African American football player who was recently drafted by the St. Louis Rams. Visa is among the companies one particular religious organization is “demanding” that it’s “flock” boycott in order to “punish” Visa for sponsoring/supporting an openly gay athlete. In all fairness, there are numerous high profile gay celebrities requesting that their followers “punish” any business owner who opposes same sex marriage. Again this is sounding a bit HATEFUL all the way around. I am traveling to San Diego this weekend to celebrate the marriage of a same sex couple. Their marital choice is different from my marital choice yet I can still RESPECT, ENJOY and CELEBRATE them for being the amazing people they are. I have an African American friend who has published two books on the challenges of infertility. Everyday she speaks an uplifting message of hope for couples struggling with infertility. I RESPECT her for embracing Gods word and sharing her life experiences with those in need of understanding, grace and hope. If I had allowed sexual orientation or race to keep me from engaging with these amazing people I would have missed out on a truly enriching experience.

UNDERSTANDING…

Once we understand why someone CHOOSES to engage in a hateful behavior it becomes easier to understand how we can learn to LOVE and accept them for who and where they currently reside. The key word is currently… it is their CHOICE to remain there. LOVE may not be an easy assignment but one we must be willing to embrace if we truly desire to make a difference in the world. It is imperative that we teach our children to show grace and have compassion. Hate must never be an option!

HATERS…

Hurting. Haters live in pain. Their model of the world is based on a me against you mindset. Because you are different, you pose a direct threat to my way of life. I will get you before you get me. When a person is confined to this type of mindset they are never at peace. Angst, anger and fear are the dominant emotions that rule their life. Most haters have spent their lifetime living in pain.

OUR CHALLENGE is to view the hater with compassionate understanding. Recognizing that none of us were born to hate is the first step in this process. Hate is a learned behavior.

Attention. All of us crave attention and most of us will do whatever it takes to fit into a specific social group. This insatiable need to fit in will often lead the most gullible members of our society down a very dark road. We were ALL born into the light but shortly thereafter many of us were exposed to and remain in a very bleak emotional place. Haters seek out other haters because it is a way to bond and continue to feed their internal anger. Like Vampires, haters resist the light.

OUR CHALLENGE is to not play into the “haters trap”. When we practice “reverse hate” we are adding fuel to an ugly fire, one that if not extinguished has the potential to burn forever.

Taught. Hate is taught. The tenets of hate are passed down from generation to generation in much the same way as Great Grandmother’s fine China.

OUR CHALLENGE is to remember that we are offered two choices… LOVE or Hate. Our experience of the world will be shaped by which emotion we feed!

Ego. The chief function of the Ego is to create separation from others. This occurs most commonly in the form of jealousy, fear, envy and anger. On the other hand, LOVE encourages us to co-exist unconditionally.

OUR CHALLENGE is to ask the question…what would LOVE do? When we come from a place of LOVE we can show grace to even the most hateful people.

Resistance. Haters are resistant to anything new or different because it means they will have to give up control. Haters engage in this behavior because they view it (however dysfunctional it seems) as a way of exerting control in a world that for them has always been out of control.

OUR CHALLENGE is to release OUR desire that members of society behave a certain way. OUR personal power comes from knowing that we can control OUR response to another person’s behavior.

Stuck. Haters are emotionally stuck at a specific point in time (normally childhood). They have failed or are unwilling to move past this point. Haters will fight tooth and nail to keep from expanding or growing into a new point of view. Their hateful behavior will often accelerate in order to solidify their misguided beliefs.

OUR CHALLENGE is to bless the hater and realize that this is their chosen path. It may not make sense to us, however, it is where they currently reside. We can choose to step out of their energy.

We are free to choose our response to hate. We can return hate or we can bless the hater and be on our way. I tend to view a person spewing hate from the perspective of an extremely wounded child. This is their response to fear, change and uncertainty. Some of the most profound directives found in the Christian Bible encourage us to stay away from judgement, treat everyone with respect and dignity and we are reminded that we are NOT our brothers keeper. The Christian Bible is also very clear that any type of revenge or corrective action should be left in the capable hands of our creator, not man. Many religions and their revered spiritual teachers also encourage us to love our enemies. I admit that this can be very challenging to say the least. In the end the ball is left in our court…Love or Hate?

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

Communicating with “Bully Kids”…John Page Burton

Last week I watched as a national news story unfolded involving two 12 year old Florida girls who were arrested and charged with “stalking” another girl who subsequently died of injuries sustained from jumping off of a construction tower. The 12 year old that chose to end her life was a victim of intense bullying. The arresting officers characterized one of the “stalkers” as being “unfeeling and cold”. Labeling this dysfunctional behavior as “stalking” or “bullying” is a matter of semantics as we are seeing more deaths that are the direct result of bullying. A new tactic, “Cyber Bullying”, takes the act of bullying from the school playground to a potential world wide audience. The more heinous the bullying becomes, the greater the odds are that the act will go viral. Understandably, this type of exposure is far more than most young adults are equipped to handle and many choose to take their own lives.

Bullying has always been an integral part of the childhood experience. Most of us were either a perpetrator or the victim. Growing up as the son of a school principal, I experienced my fair share of bullying. To this day I have  a “no tolerance policy” toward bullies. In many cases “bully behavior” transcends into adulthood. I recently experienced an incident of “adult bullying” that came in the form of road rage. I am a firm believer that bullying is a learned behavior. Bullying is a fear based emotion whereby the bully adheres to the tenet “I will inflict pain on you in order to deflect the emotional pain I am feeling”. Bullies tend to align themselves with and seek approval from other wounded people. Together, they form a type of “pack” and set out to inflict emotional and physical pain on the perceived weaker members of the community . Adult bullying is not as “public” in nature but is equally destructive. It shows up in relationships, marriage, the workplace and as stated earlier, even on the open roads! As long as the bully believes they are getting the results they desire, their behavior will continue. As parents it is important to be mindful of “bullying” traits in our children and not be afraid to address the behavior when it presents itself. Remember, there is a distinct difference between “kids just being kids” and children who are using bully tactics in a cruel, insensitive or life threatening manner. We should be grooming our next generation to be compassionate people who recognize and accept the differences in others.

The definition of bullying…”Bullying is the use of force, threat or coercion to abuse, intimidate or aggressively impose domination over others”.  Sounds quite Mafioso to me!

Let’s take a closer look at the word “bully” and begin seeking ways that parents, teachers and other people of influence can interrupt this dysfunctional behavior pattern before it becomes problematic for the children involved. *It is important to remember that bullying is an often repeated behavior that quickly becomes a habit. We must also be willing to examine the areas in our lives where we may be employing bully tactics. They can be quite subtle yet destructive. When adults employ bully tactics, we effectively teach our kids that bullying is an acceptable form of behavior.

B-Belief. Bullies believe they hold power over and have gained the respect of their victims. This is a false illusion. The bully is getting an emotional fix and the victim has nothing but contempt for the bully. Similar to other addictive behaviors, as long as the bully is able to satisfy their craving for approval and attention, their behavior will continue. This is precisely why bullies rarely “work alone”. Once we have identified bullying behavior in our children we must encourage them to re-direct their energy into a more productive activity such as sports or the performing arts. This will also allow them to continue to get the approval and attention they desire without causing emotional or physical harm to others. This is a win-win. The most effective way to learn what is driving a bullies behavior is to open a dialogue, ask questions and listen to the answers from a non-judgmental place. Remember, bullying is a fear based action.

U-Unhealed. Bullies are wounded! They are acting out on their emotional pain. Having never healed emotionally or mentally we may carry our “bully behavior” into adulthood. As a parent when we sense that something doesn’t seem right, the time to act is NOW. As parents it can be easy for us to dismiss certain behaviors as “part of growing up” or even worse, tuning out certain behavior in the hope that it will go away. The emotional pain a child is experiencing may have nothing to do with their home life but rather something that is going on outside the home. For example, they may be a victim of bullying. As parents, we must pay attention to our children’s behavior and not be afraid to ask questions. We are the parent, not the child’s best friend. Emotionally healthy children don’t bully others. Unresolved emotional pain carries into adulthood and is passed on to the next generation.

L-Love. When we don’t love ourselves it is difficult to show compassion and love for others. When we encourage our children to express unconditional love toward others we are taking the important first steps toward preventing bully behavior in our children. When we teach our children that everyone is born under different circumstances and many will experience extreme challenges, we are effectively teaching compassion. In order to share this message we must engage in an active, on going dialogue with our kids. When bullying behavior surfaces, we can calmly open a dialogue that teaches the tenets of love and compassion.

L-Limiting. Bullying is a limiting behavior. Nobody enjoys being bullied and most of us will do just about anything to stay clear of those who employ bully tactics. When we teach our children that bullying is not the way to win friends and influence people and that attempting to get our way through bully tactics will never contribute to producing any meaningful results in our lives, we are planting the seeds for an expanded, healthy, world view. Introducing and enrolling our children into empowering activities is also a great counter balance to what I commonly refer to as the “cyber socialization” of our children.

Y-Yellow. The informal definition of yellow is to be cowardly in ones nature. The bully is afraid in a manner that keeps them from doing the right thing. When we teach our children that being a bully is not a courageous act but rather an act of cowardice we are planting seeds of disapproval for this type of behavior. Starting at an early age, we must routinely share examples of what it means to be a truly courageous person and encourage our children to strive to become this. When we teach and reward courage we are effectively planting seeds of approval for this type of behavior.

In summation, it is important to recognize that posturing for position is an important part of the childhood experience. There will be children that are more popular, more athletically gifted, more academically gifted and more socially gifted than others and there will be kids who will employ bullying and intimidation tactics to secure their corner of the playground. It is our job as parents to make sure that our children have a deeper understanding of what it really means to be a bully. The only way this will happen is through awareness and communication. I don’t want to see anymore kids end their life because someone who is seeking approval chooses to disapprove of them. It makes no sense to me.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

“You Can’t Go Home Again”…John Page Burton

Recently, I enjoyed a wonderful evening of food and laughter with some good friends. We share the commonality of having grown up in a small town and thus a conversation began around how uncomfortable we usually felt when we returned home to visit. We laughed about the “zingers” we routinely endure from family and friends. These “zingers” come in various forms but the common theme seems to be centered around “how we could have possibly given up all of this (home town) to go there”. I shared a story of returning home shortly after my forty fifth birthday and how surprised I was to see my childhood friend George, still cruising main street with his wife cuddled next to him in the front seat. As I enjoyed dinner at a sidewalk cafe overlooking the avenue, George passed by at least ten times. I remembered as teenagers how George and I routinely cruised from one end of town to the other, all the while talking about our dreams and how we were going to “blow this place” after we graduated. I couldn’t help but feel a profound sadness that George had never “blown the place”. I am also reminded of a quote by the late author, Thomas Wolf, who so eloquently stated “you cant go home again”. I can’t help but draw a parallel to another quote I have grown to appreciate, “an expanded mind never returns to it’s original size”. Here are some of the reasons why I believe it is so uncomfortable for most of us to return home.

The crab pot analogy. If you have spent any time around the ocean you may have come upon a crab pot. As crabs are caught they are thrown into a pot that doesn’t have a lid. You might be thinking to yourself…wouldn’t the crabs just crawl out and return to the ocean? The answer is NO, but not for a lack of trying. As a crab begins to climb up the side of the pot and make a break for freedom, another crab will attach himself to the freedom seeking crab and pull him back down into the pot. This process repeats itself time and again and therefore there is never a need to put a lid on a crab pot. Anytime we venture out of our comfort zone to explore new worlds or experience new things, we are bound to encounter people, often well meaning friends and family members, who desire to “pull us down” in order to keep us from disrupting their COMFORT ZONE. They will use criticism, sarcasm or other deflection techniques to counter their deep seeded fear of “leaving home”. We must keep CLIMBING!!!

Dumbing down. When we expand and grow, we become aware of just how many amazing opportunities are available to us. Much like a child visiting Disneyland for the first time, we become consumed with the adventure and develop an unquenchable thirst for more. We now know what lies beyond the city limits and we are excited to return home to share our new found knowledge with the people we love and care about. Sadly, a short time after our arrival, we can’t help but notice that in our absence something has dramatically changed. We experience a noticeable disconnect and we find ourselves “dumbing down” in order to hold a conversation. Our friends and family gaze at us with vacant stares and robotically nod their heads as we talk about our “brave new world”.  Within hours we are feeling stifled, frustrated and yearning to leave home again. We must keep LEARNING and GROWING!!!

Guilt. After choosing to leave the city limits of our youth, many of us find ourselves feeling guilty for making the decision to move forward. It was never our intention to hurt the feelings of our family and friends but we knew that staying around for their benefit would mean giving up on our dreams. Life is a process of trial and error and quite frankly most of us experience a great deal of error. When we return home and begin sharing our life lessons, we are often reminded by our loved ones just how “good we had it” and how sad everyone is that “we chose to leave them behind”. Initially, this drama can be easy to buy into and we may even entertain thoughts that we are being selfish and self centered. We must remember that this is our personal journey and it is good to be SELF CENTERED!!!

“Going home again” may be a physical visit or it may be a trip down memory lane. Once we have left the confines of “home” and entered the bigger picture we will never be the same. It is our acceptance of who we are today, combined with an appreciation of our past that allows us to step into our future.

As always, I appreciate your thoughts and feedback.