Happiness – Have you explored it?

Tripod

What does it take to genuinely be happy?

A lot of people feel that happiness is a destination, but miss out on the fact that it’s a journey. Every single day we have a choice to make. Almost like being on a river where as you meander down, something beautiful pops up on one side and something negative on the other; and these polar opposites switch sides at any moment so we need to be vigilant and change our focus. Otherwise at any particular moment we may miss the beauty that exists around us.

As a youngster I found myself sitting at the Aramis counter with nothing to do. The store had just started extended opening hours until 7pm Monday to Thursdays. There were minimal customers this Tuesday evening. I sat quietly at our counter with thoughts buzzing my head. So I grabbed one of the dockets we used to print receipts on and started writing.

I’d like to share my thoughts I wrote about happiness and enjoying life with you:

 

  1. Take pleasure in life’s little gifts. Warm and comforting smiles of those around you; some of the most magnificent sunsets the world has to offer.
  2. Don’t underestimate the power of your thoughts.
  3. Be gracious in defeat and humble in victory.
  4. Cherish laughter – especially with family.
  5. Whenever you look in the mirror – SMILE! That’s the best friend you will ever have.
  6. You never stop learning so don’t stop teaching.
  7. To look good, you have to feel good. To feel good you have to be great!
  8. Enjoy little moments with friends and family and sometimes even with a stranger – these little moments are chocolates for the soul.
  9. Keep sacred places sacred and places to relax relaxing.
  10. Take note of what colours keep you warm inside.
  11. Things that are personal to you – never let anyone outside interfere, for example your house. Decorate it as you see fit, not how others do.
  12. Be generous and you will receive it back three fold. Be miserly and you will end up alone.
  13. Remember: wealth, love, good news and joy are nothing without somebody to share it with.
  14. Companionship is the foundation for personal growth, to realise your faults and have the courage to challenge them.
  15. Some of the most difficult things in your life will turn out to be your nicest.
  16. Hardships last as long as you allow them, prosperity is forever.
  17. Acknowledgement is for the weak people, true doers do it for self-fulfilment.
  18. The best feeling in the world is to hear somebody laugh because of you.
  19. Everybody makes mistakes – not everybody learns from them. Learn to forgive, the quicker you forgive the lighter your soul. Negative emotions clutter the soul and prevent our true selves to shine and give warmth to others.
  20. Always make the most of what you have – even disabilities give you an advantage, you appreciate what you otherwise would have taken for granted.
  21. Being deaf in my left ear means I’m so thankful that I can hear in my right ear. This leads me to having ‘Andrew moments’ – moments in which I can stop and go ‘Thank God I can hear in my right ear!’
  22. Never forget where you come from and who helped you along the way – who listened when you were in need of it, who gave you advice, guidance – a choice. Was charitable in times of need.
  23. You always enjoy life when you’re in a good mood – so choose to be happy every morning when you wake up and start the day off with a bang – usually a smile.
  24. Sometimes in order to be strong you have to be weak, to be happy you have to hurt.
  25. Remember – bad experiences always make us appreciate the good ones even more when they come along.
  26. Life isn’t always fair, accept that.
  27. You can never lie to yourself – you can try fooling yourself into believing something – but eventually you’ll have to face up to the truth.
  28. Listen to your guardian angel
  29. Take note of what people around you experience and try applying it to yourself.
  30. Be kind to yourself and every now and then spoil yourself, you’re allowed to.
  31. You can never tell somebody you love them too many times – just don’t let it become redundant. Don’t ever say it just to hear it back; say it because you mean it.
  32. Talk about your problems, a problem shared is a problem halved.
  33. Remember, some secrets are best kept to yourself – not everything about you needs to be known by others. Keep some parts of yourself private and to yourself.

 

Have you ever taken the time to sit down with yourself and think about what happiness means to you?

I was 22 when I wrote this and still relatively untainted by the realities of adulthood. I look back on this list now as a marker of how I’ve lived up to my own ideals; that poured out of me as though a tap had been turned on in my mind that wonderful day.

It was probably the first seed planted in my mind about writing too.

Why not pour your favourite glass of wine or get a cup of coffee – and take some time out to write down your own list.

And then?

Well – just enjoy your boat ride every day and use your list to make sure you see the beauty around you.

No matter which side of the river it pops up.

Men – Start Leading by Example

father-hugging-daughter

“I’m buying a shotgun when my daughters are old enough to date”

This is one of the most archaic things I hear. A sign we have a much larger problem in the world today.

Men’s behaviour: specifically towards women.

I may not have daughters but I have a sister, a mother, and female friends; and as a man I am appalled at the general treatment of women. Just look at the horrendous rape stats that exist. I think it’s time for men, specifically the good ones, to stand up and start calling out the majority who are complete idiots. This kind of behaviour is no longer going to be accepted.

One of my favourite movies The Boondock Saints has a line very early on that I think is very relevant to what I am talking about:

Now, we must all fear evil men. But, there is another kind of evil which we must fear most … and that is the indifference of good men!

Spot on.

Do guys not get it? That if you, as a father, changed your behaviour positively towards women – then automatically you become the example for your daughters on what they deserve? I am in no way trying to simplify this problem down into one simple solution but I think it’s a great start so hear me out.

A man I know well has this gunshot credo, but I have told him that because he’s such an amazing husband AND father, his daughters are growing up in an environment where they’re being taught their value and how women should be valued and treated; every single day – so they won’t accept anything less when it’s their turn to choose a partner. Though sometimes we don’t choose who we fall in love with and it’s someone everyone thinks is wrong for us. It happens. I’ll bet you can relate to this but if you analyse it properly I am sure you got a tremendous lesson out of it. But just for a moment let’s leave that out of the conversation.

We live in a society where the objectification of women is rife. Women are constantly made to feel insecure about how they look. Photoshop means the women on the cover of magazines don’t even look like that in real life. So what does all of this boil down to?

Self-worth.

That comes from within and is built on our experiences and I believe needs to be cultivated in young girls and boys. They say that we do not allow anyone to treat us worse than we already treat ourselves. In other words, the woman jumping from abusive relationship to abusive relationship is not bad luck – she’s attracting men into her life that treat her the way she feels she deserves to be treated; the way she already ‘beats’ herself up in her head. That brings me to another topic but that I will discuss in another post: victim mentality and blaming everybody else for our problems.

So how are we treating out daughters? What are we teaching them at an early age?

This problem is so engrained in our society that at every turn the talk is of what women wear; or how they act or what they should do. When in actual fact the focus should be on what men do and should start doing.

Guys go out hunting for their next notch on their belt. Have competitions with their mates on who has slept with more. All fuelled by some really ridiculous articles in magazines like ‘32 ways to seduce women’ – WTactualF – Really!?! And guys wonder why women don’t have many positive things to discuss when it comes to men. How about more articles of substance like ‘6 ways to improve your communication skills’ or maybe ‘7 ways to stop being a complete dick’ instead by the leading publications? I do believe that people are moving away from the sex sells era and want genuine substance.

There’s a lot of focus on sex and I think a lot of people would save themselves loads of headaches if they stopped equating sex with intimacy. If and when I have daughters this is the advice I will give them:

Your body is your own. No-one…and I mean no-one, makes the rules about it but you. When you like a guy and you not sure think about these two scenarios: I could sleep with him and there’s a chance I’ll never hear from or see him again. Or, I could wait and he won’t want to so leave anyway. Now in which scenario will I feel better?

If and when I have a son my advice to him will be:

Your body is your own. No-one…and I mean no-one, makes the rules about it but you. When you like a girl and you not sure think about these two scenarios: I could sleep with her and there’s a chance I’ll never hear from or see her again. Or, I could wait and she won’t want to so leave anyway. Now in which scenario will I feel better?

Again there are many variables I am sure people will argue about that aren’t listed. The point is I think the earlier we learn that our actions have consequences the more empowered we are to make smart decisions. We are all going to make a bad decision at some point in our lives. It’s one of the ways we learn. None of us will escape this and it’s not always about what happens to us that is the defining moment (though most people chose to make it so); the defining moment is deciding what to do about it.

Here is my challenge to all men.

Be the role model for your son on how to treat women. Be the role model for your daughters on how they should be treated and become the yard stick with which any man wanting to date them is measured against.

Maybe one day men will put down their shotguns, and trade it with a mirror.

Dating, Society & why it’s a mess

Let’s be brutally honest.

The divorce rate in South Africa is on the incline. Conversely the instances of marriage are on the decline. People are not happy. Yet all around, I am still hearing the stock standard societal prescriptors as gospel.

Why aren’t you married yet?

As recently as a week ago an old school friend asked me when he was going to see my relationship status change to “engaged”. I’m a 36 year old man who’s never been married. I guess I just haven’t met my wife yet? Perhaps she’s playing the world’s most insane game of ‘Hide & Seek’ anyone’s ever seen.

“Well how did marriage work out for you buddy?”

No need to answer, he’s busy going through a divorce.

The current system is broken. I personally believe people buy into the ideals and the hype. The promise, if you will, of how much better your life will be when you get married. Almost seeing marriage as the end point; instead of the beginning point. How is getting divorced a fun experience of life? It’s painful. God forbid you have kids, that really amplifies the drama for everyone – especially for the kids.

So my simple question is – why is it so surprising to people that I wait to get married? Especially that you and your prior experiences of personal growth (for both parties) put you in a better position to be more aware of what you want, without compromising on the core principles of who you are. Is it better to get married in your twenties when the chance of you both changing so dramatically raises the chance of get divorced? One in two chance. 1 in 2…

Why are we in such a rush? I understand from the female perspective that the biological clock makes things a bit trickier. I’m just not sure rushing into marriage just so you can have kids is the right way of going about it. Not in this day and age of adoption. One of my friends has a step dad that she is closer to than her actual biological dad. Just because you didn’t ‘make them’ doesn’t mean you can’t raise one of the world’s greatest human beings.

I’ve had three serious relationships where the women were all eight years older than me. I think mainly because older women in general have a better sense of who they are and what they want – in my eyes a prerequisite to having a successful relationship. If you don’t know yourself and love yourself then how can you expect another person to? However, to this point I have always felt that age is just a number. I’ve met 28 year olds and I’ve met 28 year olds. In the last six months I’ve met a 44 year old that behaved worse than a teenager and I’ve met a 20 year old that behaved with the maturity, poise and confidence of a self-aware fifty year old.

There are two aspects I’d like to discuss regarding this. Firstly, that as we pass through life we are given opportunities at every turn to learn about ourselves and others. It’s up to us to decide whether we use these lessons to better understand relationship dynamics and ourselves. Secondly, the people around us’ reactions to situations that falls outside of ‘the norm’.

I’ve recently experienced an ‘outside of the norm’ (my own prescribed norm for that matter) but being on a journey of self-discovery and constant improvement I’ve come to understand certain debilitating behaviours – like creating scenarios about the future that may not even come to pass. Trying to neatly box or categorise the scenario. I had to stop myself from letting preconceived ideas destroy the opportunity for love. To just breath. And just be.

It was a position I had promised I would never put myself in. I suppose we should never tempt fate. You should probably also know I have come to have a very strong belief and realisation that no-one and nothing belongs to us for any amount of time. That we should be appreciative of just 5 minutes with someone that stirs emotions in us that creates heaven on earth. That the mark someone leaves on us in life is not dependent on the amount of time spent with them – but rather the quality of the interaction we have with them. Kind of like being exposed to Swiss chocolate once. Just because you haven’t eaten it for years on end, doesn’t mean you won’t always remember that ‘Swiss experience’ and not compare other chocolate to that experience.

We hear so often things like ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ but how many of us actually practice that simple credo? Not many. Instead of judging someone based on the tattoos they have or parties they frequent or a job they do – I’d love people to think ‘that person looks interesting – I wonder what stories they have to share’. What a different world this would be; one cultivating a mind-set of understanding.  I doubt any civilisation ever complained about the level of understanding they experienced. Just ask the Native Americans.

The second part becomes a bit trickier, because this deals with other peoples own perceptions and experiences which we can’t control and can vary so much from person to person. It’s why multiple people can look at the exact same thing and all give different interpretations. And that’s okay. The problem comes in where we try and enforce socially these ‘ideals’. In some cases we don’t even know we’re doing it because we have become so entrenched.

It becomes the difference between asking questions to get to know someone versus having preconceived ideas and judgements and acting towards that person as though what we thought, is how they actually are. HUGE MISTAKE. I think about my experience. I have no idea what will transpire out of this or how long it will last; but does that matter? In a world where we have such hatred, ambiguity, game playing and underhanded behaviour, how many people would say ‘NO!” to a genuine opportunity to experiencing love? Seeing someone look at you in a way that feels as pure as the world’s first love? With no expectation. No hidden agenda. No games. Just all the beauty in the world shining through someone’s eyes as though a star had just been born in the galaxy.

You see, at the end of the day, it all boils down to our individual experiences and understanding of who we are and what we want. Taking advice from others about our dating is like making your mind up about a food dish based on what others experienced eating it when you’ve never had a single bite.

How many amazing experiences have we passed up because we based our next action on what society deemed correct? What we thought others would perhaps think of us? Why do we need to label and categorise things immediately, without making decisions based on what we know because we’ve experienced it? My motto (within  reason of course this wouldn’t pertain to murder) is I cannot have an opinion about something unless I’ve experienced it. Online dating. Older women. Younger women. Chocolate on pizzas. Skinny dipping in the Atlantic in June. It doesn’t matter. If you don’t actually put yourself out there to experience things you will never know. Yes you may prevent heartache and pain by being cautious and holding back, but doesn’t that help build our character?

One of the best descriptions about this comes from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross:

“The most beautiful people we have ever known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen”

We don’t learn to ride a bike by reading a book. It’s only in the actions and doing that we build our experience. It’s just such a pity that we become so scared to trust ourselves and do what we feel is right for us and become inclined to listen to others and let societies perceptions govern our actions.

At what cost? What magic have you missed out in your life because you didn’t trust your own instincts.

The good news is: You can always start today.

What is your definition of support?

Support.

What does it actually mean? As a proud sporting nation we recently experienced one of the most humiliating and embarrassing defeats I think the world will ever see. Japan beat the Springboks. I think that equates to something like Bafana Bafana beating Brazil at the soccer world cup. As much as the defeat hurt – how some of the ‘fans’ reacted hurt even more. Yes we were disappointed. If you weren’t then I doubt your level of commitment to the team to begin with; but to hear people saying things like ‘I’m not supporting the Springboks anymore’ or ‘I’m going to start supporting the All Blacks’ revealed something to me about what the nature of ‘support’ has become to mean. There are some interesting parallels to be seen in how these attitudes affect personal relationships as well.

I believe support means being there no matter what. Through the good times and more importantly through the tough times. It’s easy to support your team (or partner) when things are going well. When you winning. It’s how most people suddenly became Manchester United fans. I believe these are the people to avoid dating (or even as friends) at all costs. Support is needed most when your team is down. Help them get back up. Things are going to go wrong and it’s not about that; it’s about how you react and ultimately rise to the challenge. We share their pain. We share their disappointment. Switching alliances at the first sign of problems reveals nothing more than your fickle nature; that when times are tough you are not someone to be counted on or trusted.

Yes the pain of losing to Japan was immense and I am sure many people decided to ‘give up’ on the boks. My question is: when we win the World Cup, and I have a gut feeling we will, what will you say then? How will your alliances to the All Blacks be affected? Will you suddenly switch back?

Let’s look at this in more detail and explore people’s decisions.

My question is what about your adopted rugby team and country do you know? Have you bothered to investigate what the New Zealanders past regarding Maoris is? Are you aware of the current state of affairs for Maoris is? Do you know the Haka? Their national anthem? The questions seek to understand your integrity and belief system and why you switch allegiances. I have no problem accepting a South African supporting the All Blacks if they can give me a better reason than ‘The All Blacks Brand of rugby is what I like’ or the old ‘because of apartheid’ line…. a statement to be discussed in another article. Simply put: supporting the All Blacks because of Apartheid nowadays is like not buying a German car because of Hitler.

My blood is green. It was when we suffered the humiliating 49-0 loss to Australia before we won the World Cup the following year. It was when we lost 52-16 to England at Twickenham only to have beaten them at their fortress every year since then and remain unbeaten to England for twelve years including handing them their 36-0 hiding in the group stages in 2007 (largest defeat to a defending World Champion side) and subsequently in final to win the 2007 World Cup.

You see, when you come to understand the true definition of support you realise no team is immune to troughs or bad patches. In fact it’s sometimes these exact things that can propel a team to heights they never knew existed. They choose to use the experience to make them a better team. Better people. Better supporters. The losses make victories that much sweeter. Rewarding.

Heart ache is a part of life. It’s how we choose to deal with it and learn from it that separates great people from the average whining mob. These instances are great reminders about why certain people are in my life; why others will be nothing more than a lesson learned on this fantastic road called life.

I find sport a very special opportunity to get insights into people and who they really are. Our boys are doing their best; and if they are not then they will not be Springboks for long. Let’s not forget that the more passionate and steadfast our support is for them – the greater the honour for them to put that green and gold jersey on becomes. Playing for your country should be the highest honour. I am one of the proudest Springbok supporters and I am even more proud since hearing about the guard of honour given to Japanese supporters at Brighton train station. Would English fans have done that? All Black fans? I have my reservations. What a moment. What respect shown in a world where we are so quick to jump to social media and air our pain. These are reasons we as South Africans are so highly respected around the world. If you travel you can proudly state ‘I am South African’ and flash that smile laced with our African suns warmth.

Let’s uphold the true definition of support. Let Springbok supporters become synonymous with that; the pinnacle.

We’re into the semis now and whether we win or come fourth – my blood is green and all I expect is those fifteen warriors to play with the passion with which we support them. For our support to be unwavering from that day on when we hold the trophy aloft for a record third time.