As a dad, I try my hardest to instill in my kids the values and ideals I hold dear. Sometimes these teaching moments come by way of one of my boys not knowing what to do in a particular situation. Other times, it’s when they’ve misbehaved and I’m guiding them towards doing better next time.
Take a look at my list of things that I believe contribute to creating a happy life. Some are more obvious than others, but all of them can lead to more fulfilling interactions with others and can ultimately give you more satisfaction with your life.
1. Be a Good Role Model
Everyone is a role model to someone else, whether they realize it or not. So, use your powers for the greater good – do things that inspire folks to be better people.
Recently, my sons were spending time with their cousin. Now, this kid is only a few years older than my eldest son, but to kids, just a couple of years spells huge maturity. Their cousin is a great kid – he’s cool, calm and nice to everyone around him. His attitude goes a long way; everyone loves spending time with him. My oldest son told me on this trip, “I want to be more like my cousin.”
This simple statement goes to show the power of role models. We all know that positive person in our life who we want to emulate – that person who lets us know we can be better people. Don’t forget that you may be that person for someone else.
2. Politics, Shmolitics
When it comes to politics, most of America is slightly right of center. Still, this doesn’t mean that you’ll always agree with family, friends and neighbors about the latest policy or the most recent statement by Politician X. Don’t let these disagreements ruin your relationships.
Growing up, my family was relatively “non-political.” We didn’t talk politics at the dinner table, after watching the nightly news, or anytime, really. So, for the most part, I went roughly the first 25 years of my life without political discourse. And I was A-OK. I led a very rich and interesting life.
Now, while my life is more focused on what’s going on in Washington, I still take a break and know the boundaries. I don’t argue politics. With some of my friends and family members, we never even broach the topic.
A perfect example is the group of my closest friends from college. We spend time together and have a blast. And guess what? I don’t agree with all of their politics, but we don’t focus on those differences. Instead, we value our friendship and leave the political discussions behind in favor of the golf course. This practice gives me better relationships with the people who mean the most to me.
3. Try One New Recipe a Month
My family and I were recently in upper Michigan where you can get delicious, fresh, blueberries. After getting some of these blue beauties from a local farm stand, I went straight to the kitchen. I wanted to make a blueberry cobbler.
Now, I should say that I have never in my life made a cobbler. I should also say that I’m not a great cook. But, that’s the wonder of the internet – there is a slew of recipes online. I surfed until I found one that looked good and easy to follow, and then set about putting dessert together.
The entire process took about two hours, and what emerged from the oven was a pretty darn good cobbler. My family and I enjoyed it, but what was most enjoyable for me was trying something new. I encourage my boys all the time to try new things, and this advice never gets old. So, whether you set about making a brand-new recipe, or just putting a twist on an old favorite, my advice is to get in the kitchen and get creative.
4. Permit Yourself to Get Away
One of the perks of our modern world is that it’s easy to stay connected, no matter where you are. Take advantage of technology and give yourself permission to take trips when you need them, even if you can’t let go of all of your responsibilities.
Ever heard of the 80/20 Principle? This idea says that 20% of our work is 80% of what’s important. So, put this rule to work for you. When you’re away, focus on the top 20% and stay productive while still being free to explore and spend time with family and friends. So long as you prioritize your time, you can enjoy a wonderful time away even if you still need to be plugged into the office.
5. Go to the Party
Getting into a habit of evening inertia is easy. You’ve got an event to attend, but you don’t feel like going after a long day of work. Go anyway; nine out of ten times you will have a much better time than you thought. You’re going to be faced with this situation many times in your life, so make a decision to go every time you can, and it will likely be a better experience than you expected.
6. Walk into a Physical Bookstore
I’ve gotten so used to Amazon that I probably haven’t been in a bookstore for almost a decade. I forgot what I was missing! There’s no virtual way to wander and have books catch your eye the way they do in a well-stocked bookstore. My advice is to walk into one and explore.
My son and I recently visited a bookstore because he was lured by a T-Rex toy in the window. We ended up buying a book about Michigan, a book of quotations, a Wired technology magazine, a stuffed animal and a DVD for the car ride home. Wow, I feel like we covered every medium! And the thing is, we wouldn’t have been exposed to all of those neat new buys had we not gone to an actual store.
7. Save Money Using This Easy Method
When it comes to saving, I believe the very best way to do it is to automate the process. This way, you don’t notice – or miss – the money that you’re saving. I’ve found that this simple, easy method far less stinging than writing a physical check, yet many of us don’t do it. I say, make your savings automatic to take that sting out.
When it comes to my 401(k) and my kids’ 529 Plans, all of these contributions are automatic. I don’t miss the money because it never comes my way. Whether you’re saving 10% or 25%, do it automatically and you’ll thank yourself.
8. Give Genuine Compliments
While most of us love the people in our lives, too often we don’t express ourselves by giving compliments.
Right now, I’m working on teaching my kids how to pay nice compliments. One thing I told my boys was that a lot of how you compliment people is in how you say it; the compliments have to be genuine and sincere, and the more descriptive, the better. I also remind them that you can find a compliment for anyone.
The simple sincerity of a compliment is what makes it so meaningful. So, start giving out more genuine compliments. It will brighten other people’s day, and will likely put a smile on your face, too.