On July 4th, 1776, members of the U.S. Congress wrote a document to the British empire called the Declaration of Independence. In this document, Congress told the "royal crown" that they no longer wanted to be a part of the British empire and that they wanted to govern themselves. Within this document is this famous line: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
The "pursuit of happiness" is the portion that we Americans love to focus on. We want to be happy. We want to do anything that makes us happy. We want to support other people's quest for happiness. You even have scientific research on happiness. If we're depressed for any reason, we do whatever we can to be happy again -- even if it means taking pills, doing drugs, or indulging in any sort of hedonist (self-gratifying) activities.
With all this obsessive focus on happiness, we don't ask ourselves if we're being happy about the right things. Instead of learning what to be happy about, we want to just do anything that makes us happy.
How many of you have said, "If only I had [fill in the blank], I could be happy?" Yes, admit it, you have at one time in your life thought that getting something in particular would make you happy. Admit that at one time, you thought that if things in your life would have moved in one particular direction, you would eventually be able to smile again. Admit that at one point in your life, you thought that you could never be happy unless [fill in the blank].
Here's the thing about happiness: it's a learned skill. It's a skill, because you need to know what to be about happy. Naturally, you get happy with anything that immediately satisfies you. But we don't always get happy about the right things. For instance, my children would definitely be happy if they could have donuts and milkshakes for breakfast, jellybeans and cookies for lunch, and cake for dinner. Hey, that would make YOU happy, wouldn't it? But I'd be a horrible parent if I allowed my kids to eat like that knowing well that they could get heart disease and diabetes with such a diet.
So, my kids would be happy for the wrong things. They ought to be happy to eat food that makes their bodies healthy. But being happy to eat healthy food takes practice.
Nobody is naturally happy to eat carrots and celery sticks!
Nobody is naturally happy having to sacrifice time to exercise.
Nobody is naturally happy about having to cut down their favorite foods and beverages.
But EVERYBODY could learn to be happy about things that benefit them in a healthy way.
As parents, we want our kids to pursue careers that make them happy right? Well, what if my daughter wants to be a stripper? What if my son wants to open up a porn business? Should I just sit back and give my kids my blessing to pursue whatever they want as long as they are happy? Of course not! As a parent, part of my job is to TEACH my children the way they should go and to not let them be guided by their various desires. If they have the wrong desires, they will make choices that will ultimately devastate them.
Right now, you're thinking, "If only I had..." and you're living life waiting for this one thing to happen for you. But ask yourself, "Why am I waiting for this one thing to happen for me? Would I really not be happy if I didn't have it?"
You see, we focus on all the wrong things that make us happy. If we don't get those things, then we will be miserable. We would have resolved to not be happy until things go our way -- and let me tell you, that is a horrible way to live. Why? Because you will never live a life where everything goes your way.
Before I got married, I was happy being single. I mean, I wasn't jumping for joy, but I was fine just being me. It's not as if I wanted to be single. I preferred marriage. But I wasn't going to be that person who lives and breathes marriage. I didn't want to be that person who "absolutely needed somebody in his life." No, I was fine with being just me and God. And listen, since I have already determined that I would accept a life of celibacy, I didn't choose the wrong person to marry.
In college, I was surrounded by MANY lovely girls. I've met some really good ones, and one of those college girls could have been my wife. But, I decided that all of these lovely ladies that I've met were not right for me. I've spent FIVE years in this one particular college in Texas, and I left it without one woman by my side. However, back in New York, I met a woman online on a Christian website -- and when I first saw her, I immediately thought that she was the one. Now, almost 12 years and two children later, I still don't regret marrying her.
You see, when you determine to be happy about the right things, you won't make any decisions that will devastate you. Just imagine if I was so miserable about being single that I would have married just any girl. The marriage could have been a rough one! But because I determined to not be miserable because of my singleness, I was able to make the RIGHT choice in whom I would marry. I didn't rush marriage. I waited for the right one. And believe it or not, when I was a teenager, my goal was to date only ONE woman and to marry her. I didn't care to jump from girl to girl to girl trying to figure out which is the best one for me.
YOU need to determine to be happy with the right things and to not be miserable if things don't go as planned. Didn't get the job you wanted? Be happy. Didn't get married yet? Be happy. Car is broke down? Be happy. Don't have a lot of food in your house? Be happy. Got fired? Be happy. What are you being happy about? You're happy simply because you CAN be happy. You are happy because you CHOSE to be happy. You are happy because being miserable doesn't feel good.
So, when you pursue happiness, what are you really pursuing? And most importantly, would this pursuit truly make you happy? If you think getting something in particular would make you happy, then you have already set yourself up for failure. When you base your happiness on something in particular, trust me, you will eventually be miserable again. Don't believe me? Just look at children. Happy one moment, miserable the next. Doesn't matter if they got one new game for Christmas. Their friends got two new games, so now they are miserable that they don't have two new games.
Whether or not things go your way, be happy. This takes practice. Nobody is naturally happy when life's outcomes aren't what they expected. Just train yourself now to be happy both in the rain and in the sunshine. You may not be all giddy and bubbly, but at least you could be at peace in any situation you find yourself in, whether good or bad.
Looking back in my life, I realized that life never happened exactly the way I pictured it. So, I just don't care to stress about what I want to be "when I grow up." Whatever it is that I dream of becoming is most likely not going to happen anyway -- at least not in the way I'd imagine it would happen.
How many of you could honestly say that everything in your life happened exactly the way you've planned it? Okay, I don't expect anybody to raise their hands at that one. How many of you could say that MOST of what you've planned for in life actually happened? Hmmm...I still see no hands up. Oh, wait, I think I see one hand in the back, and I see someone raising their hand half-way up.
No, life never happens completely as we've pictured it would happen. Even if you wanted to become a doctor when you were a child and have actually followed through with your plan by completing your residency, you probably aren't working where you'd thought you'd be working. At the gym where I work, the general manager is actually a doctor! He used to work in emergency medicine, but quit because he couldn't work in that environment. Inside of getting paid a six-figure salary and living in a home on the hill, he's working in a gym and I'm pretty sure he's getting paid nowhere near a six-figure income.
As for me, life didn't happen the way I thought it would. Everything that I've planned to do NEVER happened exactly as I pictured it would. So, I'm at the point where I don't even stress about all the details in my future, because most of what I'd planned to do may never happen.
However, this doesn't mean that I live my life completely by default. I don't just simply go with the flow. Instead, I just walk in the general direction of where I want my life to go. In other words, I have a general picture of my future, but I don't have any specifics laid out.
For example, I knew that I wanted to leave New York City. My specific plan was to move to Texas, but that never worked out. I wanted to be a school teacher, but then I've lost desire for it after teaching for a very brief period. I wanted to advance in emergency medical services, but that didn't work out. I pictured that I would teach adult Bible classes at church, but winded up teaching physical activities to the children. All the stuff that I originally wanted to do never happened, so why fool myself into thinking that anything would change if I keep planning out all the details for my future?
Now, having said all that, what is important to me is that I learn to recognize and grasp the opportunities that are presented to me. That is more important than planning out every detail in my life. My wife and I have spent all of our marriage grasping different opportunities as they presented themselves, and we found ourselves moving forward that way than by trying to plan out all the details of our future.
Okay, I see you're getting a little lost. Let me give this example. When I started my delivery gig, I knew that I would need a fuel efficient car, and I knew what my budget was. I didn't get caught up in the color of the car, the kind of tires it would have, the mileage it had, if it still had any warranties, if the interior was leather or fabric, etc. My general goal was to have a fuel efficient car for such and such a price. The Prius came to mind as the best choice, and in no time did we find one. The car didn't have all the best features of newer models, but then again, I wasn't even looking for those features to begin with -- most likely because I knew that I wasn't going to get those features with my budget!
So far, that Prius has saved us a lot of money on gas. It's doing exactly what I needed. The car isn't exactly what I pictured it would be, but it gets the job done.
Let me give this other example. When we were looking for a new place to stay, my main concern was that it would be cheaper than where we were staying and that it didn't have any carpet. I didn't get caught up in anything else. In no time, we found the perfect place for us, in a great location, close to friends, and close to all the places where I make money at. And it had no carpet -- that probably meant more to me than all of the other perks.
Here's another example. When looking for a job, I knew that I wanted to have something with a flexible schedule where I could see my family very often. I didn't want a job where I had to do any thinking. I wanted something simple, and I wanted the salary to be something that I could work with. Again, in no time, I found something that was just right.
So, what am I saying? If you get caught up in all the specifics in your life, you might find that you'd be going nowhere. If you have a more general picture of your life, you'd start seeing more options out there for you.
Remember that the more specific you are, the more opportunities you weed out. In some cases, this is a good thing, especially when you have to make a hefty, financial investment. But for most cases in life, being too specific is just a way of limiting yourself. Ever heard that "the sky's the limit?" Well, the more specific you are, the less likely you are to even get your feet off the ground!
When I first started searching for a wife, I had all these qualifications that she had to have. We all do it, right? We all write an unrealistic list of criteria that our future spouse must meet. But then, I became more generalized about my picture of this women, because I understood that NO PERSON is perfect. Everybody will have flaws that you'd just have to be willing to work with. My attitude was that I could learn to work with flaws, because I would have flaws that she would have to deal with. It didn't take long for me to find the right person -- online of all places! Over 11 years and two kids later, we're still happily married.
Do you want to reduce yourself to very little, or do you want to open up endless doors of opportunities?
Someone who says, "There are no jobs out there," fails to understand that there are jobs EVERYWHERE. That person needs to widen their options so that they could get to work right away instead of waiting for that one, perfect, once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity job that would most likely not come. The person who waits for everything to be just right would be the same person begging friends and family for food. The person who has an open-mind will always have bread to eat.
So, I just stopped getting tied up with all the specific details in my life. I know where I generally want to go in life, so I could focus on looking for opportunities that would take me there instead of mapping out how I'd get there. I choose to RELAX and see what my options are than to be uptight and rule out almost every opportunity that I see because they don't line up with my strict expectations.
If you're not where you are right now, it's probably not because you didn't plan enough. It's probably because you planned too much. Let go a little bit. Ask yourself where you'd generally want to be in the future. What are the things that are most important to you? Once you figure those things out, then the small details will take care of themselves.
Again, this is not to say to plan nothing, but to not get so caught up in the planning that you'd miss all the rescue boats that are sailing past you.
In response to the election's results, one of my Facebook friends wrote the following on her status: "Well, it's time again to sit down with...my son, and tell him that this nation doesn't care about him and that they don't think his life matters." She's black, by the way.
My sister told me that a child asked his grandmother if blacks were going to be slaves again now that Trump is in office.
One thing that upsets me is that parents wish to load their fears onto their children who never had any reason to be scared in the first place.
After the day of the presidential elections, my kids woke up happy. Why? Because they had no reason not to be happy. We never told them to be afraid of our government. We never talked badly about either of the candidates, and I never told them whom I voted for. My wife told my kids that they should just pray for whoever that takes office.
See, we don't spread fear to our children. Even when they see something that could scare them, I would ask them, "Does Daddy look scared?" They would say "No" and I would tell them, "Then there's no reason to be scared."
Have you ever been scared of something, but you just don't know why? You can't seem to make sense of your fears. That's because your fears were passed down. Or in other words, you INHERITED your fears. You never asked for the fears -- they were just given to you.
Many of our fears, I dare say, have been passed down. We never saw any reason to fear to begin with, but because other people insisted that we get scared, then we start getting scared.
Now, passing down fears can be a good thing. If you don't watch both ways before crossing the street, you'd get run down by cars. But see, you could make sense of that fear, especially since you hear about people getting hit by cars. Other kinds of fears don't make sense, but since you've been exposed to those having such fears for so long, it's hard to shake those fears off.
I think about kids when it comes to fears. While young, they seem to take more risks than adults. Why? Because they haven't learned what to fear. When they climb up trees, we tell them there's danger of falling off. We tell them to wash their hands before eating or else they could get sick. And sometimes, we tell them to not hang around certain people because of the fears that were passed down to us.
Be careful about whom you hang out with. People tend to pass down foolish fears to those who never asked for it.
Do you know people who are always scared about something? Why is that? No child is born scared of everything. Eventually, we all become victims of other people's fears -- and those fears could keep us from going forward.
Doctors tell us what to fear. Media tells us what to fear. Our bosses, friends, co-workers, all of these tell us what we need to be scared of. It's time to start asking yourself, "Do I really need to be scared of this?"
Fear is healthy when it's there to protect you. Fear becomes a lord when it guides your entire life. Or in other words, fear is a wonderful servant, but a horrible master. Fear is our aide, not our teacher. Fear gives us a hand. It's not there to take care of our every need.
It's time to just stop being scared. Being scared all the time is a HARD way to live life. Imagine being one of those folks who walk around paranoid of things that may never happen. Do you wish to live like that for the rest of your life? No? Then start evaluating what scares you and ask yourself how much sense does it make to be scared of it.
Take your life back by tossing foolish fears. Start making bolder choices so that you finally move forward in life.
You have old folks who "age gracefully" and you have old folks who "halted" their age because of how they took care of themselves when they were younger.
My father is seventy-five years old and barely looks like he's in his fifties. He doesn't have one wrinkle on him, no saggy skin, and he isn't on any medications. He had no plastic surgery done. He still lives in New York City and he gets around town with his bike. He still attempts to make work-out videos. When I saw him recently, I was a bit amazed that he looked like that he had gotten younger.
There's a former fitness participant who used to come to my fitness classes religiously. I knew she was significantly older than me, but I had no idea that she was pushing sixty years old! She had only a few wrinkles in her face, but not enough to make me think she was that old. She had nicely-toned arms and legs and a well-defined back.
There's another person I've met some time ago when I was working in Lowe's Garden Center. He was seventy years old, but I would have thought around mid fifties, with a slight possibility of being in his low sixties. He had a nicely-defined body and you could tell that he works out.
Then you have a woman who religiously participates in my ZUMBA fitness classes who was 69 years old from the last I've checked. No, she doesn't look it. Not only does she takes my classes, but I would see her around the church's neighborhood power-walking.
These are just a FEW examples of our seniors who look younger than they are because they take care of what they have: their bodies. The better you take care of that body, the longer it will last you.
Then, there are people who are my age who look much older than they are. I'm not talking about simply having a mature look, but an aging look. On Facebook, I look at the friends that I went to college with who look older than I do! What's funny is that back in college, I was the one who looked older than everybody else. I was 17 when I went to college and people thought I was in my thirties. Now, it looks like the tables are turning. Why? Well, because when you start taking care of yourself, you could "halt your age" so that you could look, feel, and even act younger than you really are.
Some people just have the genes to age gracefully, even if they don't work out. But then you would hear all the health problems they have: high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, with a side of fries. They are taking medications for this, that, and the other. They look good, but internally, they are a mess. These people could brag about how good they look, but they can't brag about how good they FEEL.
Now, here's the good news for everybody: it's never too late to start being a good steward of your body.
The main reason you start breaking down is because the body sees no reason to "renew" itself. For example, the older you get, the higher your chances for getting osteoarthritis. This is the condition where your joint cartilage starts to deteriorate. Why do they deteriorate? Because the body is not renewing the cells that keep the cartilage "active." There is no reason to, especially if you barely move your body. However, once you start exercising and nourishing your body, then you could halt the deterioration process and start building up cartilage cells.
It's no big wonder why many of my ZUMBA participants are at least in their 40s. The older you get, the more you start to "feel your age." Getting older with all the aches and pains become a reality and you'll see how limiting these aches and pains are. You don't care to live a life where you're always tired and hurting.
While death is promised to everybody, everybody doesn't have to lie helplessly waiting for death to take them away. Everybody doesn't have to look forward to a life where they're building a library of medication. Everybody doesn't have to always look forward to naps. Everybody could start doing something NOW to take care of what they got...or whatever they have left.
Right now, you might be thinking that you're good to go. Yes, you're older but you don't have any aches or pains. You feel great! Well, that's wonderful. Don't you want to maintain that good feeling? Trust me, if you don't maintain the good thing that you have going on, the body won't maintain it for you. The body would hold onto good health only as long as it can, and then one day, it would feel that everything is going wrong at the same time! This is the "deceit of good health": everything looks like it's going well, but everything will abruptly change if you don't maintain your good health.
If you are young and feeling invincible, your time is coming and it could come with everything it got all at once. More and more of the younger crowd is having more of the "old people problems." There is one guy at church who was a few years younger than me, and he was walking around with aches and pain. His reasoning? "I'm just getting old." He said this when he was twenty-seven years old!
You have one body to live in. Take care of it as a good steward. In fact, take care of anything that you have -- or whatever you have left. You may not have all of your teeth, but you could take care of the teeth that you have left. You may have bad vision, but you could take care of whatever vision you have left. You may not have the best knees, but you could take care of whatever knees you have that's functioning.
If you sit back and do nothing, the precious thing that you have, your body, will deteriorate fast. Yes, I know you're busy. Yes, I know you got this, that, and the other to think of. But think about this: you don't know how old you may live to. You might live well into your nineties. How do you want to spend those years? You may only live to be in your seventies. How do you want to spend those years? You may only live to be in your fifties. Again, how do you want to spend those years? Don't put off your health because you're not expecting to live past a certain age. I've been in enough nursing homes to see plenty of older folks who live well into their nineties but they could barely do anything for themselves.
Never take your health lightly. Don't think that just because you pass your physical exams that you don't have anything to worry about. Just because the doctor didn't detect anything doesn't mean you don't have something else going on. Blood work may come back good because the damage that has already been done isn't bad enough yet. In fact, I say that physical exams are "false negatives" -- that is, you may appear well when you are really not. It's like getting a car inspection: just because you pass the inspection doesn't mean that there is nothing wrong with the car. It's just that the inspectors only check what they are concerned about.
If you've been slacked with your health, the good news is that you could still do something about it now. You don't have to come to my classes. But do something to take care of yourself. Just because you don't smoke doesn't mean you're in the clear. You could get lung cancer without ever smoking a cigarette. Just because you don't eat junk food also doesn't mean you're in the clear. Don't think that just because you don't participate in certain behaviors that you are good to go. Good health involves active, intentional participation that maintains the good thing that you have going on.
Be active in maintaining your health. No one is so busy that they can't think about their health. Believe me, if you're too busy to focus on your health now, one day you will have plenty of time to devote to your health. This could happen when you are too sick to work on your job anymore.
All information in this blog are for inspirational purposes only. Unless otherwise stated, all content is written and copyrighted by Aiyo A. Jones.