Do you ever wonder why some people are happier than others? How did they get that way?
People at every age, and every walk of life, list happiness as one of the things they want. Everyone wants to be happy. So, most people get busy trying to figure out what will bring them happiness. They start looking to their friends, hoping they will make them happy. They buy toys and luxuries, thinking these material things will bring happiness TO them. Some people believe their activities, like sports and hobbies, will satisfy their need for happiness. And then there’s always the hope that more money will make life fulfilling.
But all of us know people who have a ton of friends, or expensive toys, or lots of activities – and they’re still not happy.
All of these strategies are based on a common success theory that’s a combination of “IF and “THEN”: IF I get a promotion, THEN I’ll be happy. IF I get my spouse to change, THEN I’ll be happy. IF I get a new car, THEN I’ll be happy. Basically, we believe that IF we achieve success at something, THEN we’ll be happy. So why are so many successful people unhappy? And why are people only temporarily happy when they get a promotion, a new wife, or a new car?
Answer: Because the Success = Happiness formula is a lie!
That’s right… success is not the way to happiness. In fact – let this thought sink in for a minute: “There is no WAY to happiness; happiness IS the Way.” (Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen master)
What does THAT mean? It means that happiness is a choice people make. It is a way of thinking and acting every single day. Most importantly, success tends to follow happy people, not the other way around. You’re more likely to be successful once you decide to be happy!
Over 200 research studies have shown that happiness leads to success in school, friendships, sports, business, and marriage. If you’re looking for some tips on how to do that, here are five strategies that the researchers at the National Institute for Mental Health discovered:
Write down three things that went well at the end of every day.
Be thankful for three things every day and keep a Gratitude Journal.
Write a “Forgiveness Letter” to someone, even if you never send it.
Use an optimistic style of explaining the unfortunate things that happen.
Set aside time for meditation or prayer daily.
These techniques really work if you do them every day. You’ll still have some bummer days, but there’s a reason why some people are generally happier than others. They choose happy, and everything from their smile to their swagger says it most of the time.
The choice is yours. You can choose “unhappy”, or you can choose “happy”– and endure, or enjoy, the results. William James said, “I don’t sing because I’m happy. I’m happy because I sing.”
It’s time to start singing!
David Benzel, Growing Champions for Life
One of my favorite speeches by President J.F. Kennedy was given at Rice University in Texas. He had recently announced our intention to put a man on the moon and bring him back safely by the end of the decade. He said, “People ask why are we going to the moon?” His answer was, “We choose to put a man on the moon because it is hard.”
Most people like to avoid the hard things. Their lack of self-discipline points them toward other easier choices. I was talking with a group of competitive swimmers and I asked, “What’s most difficult about swimming? A young swimmer raised his hand and said, “At 5:30 in the morning my bed is much warmer than the pool.” The bottom line is that self-discipline is tough because there are always attractive, easier options luring us away from what’s best for us in the long-run.
- A brownie is more attractive than a carrot or apple
- Watching a movie is more attractive than studying for a test
- Hanging out with friends if more attractive than practicing drills
Self-discipline usually involves doing the HARD THING. So, on the surface it’s the least attractive option. We are constantly presented with choices between immediate gratification and long-term benefits.
This raises the key question for parents: How do we teach our children this important life skill of CHOOSING to do the things you don’t feel like doing, but you know are good for you?
I have three suggestions to help you with this lesson.
Break large projects down into smaller bite-size pieces. Thirteen-year-old Nicholas had to prepare for a promotion exam that would elevate him to a Brown Belt in Karate. He had 30 days to practice his skills, but the task seemed over-whelming due to the number of skills. Procrastination was setting in! His mother helped him by providing a calendar so he could schedule just a few skills to practice every day. Breaking down the task into manageable daily bites gave Nicholas the confidence to chip away at his list of skills a little bit at a time. Learning self-discipline in smaller doses helps young athletes.
Give children some control over making tough choices. Another strategy for strengthening self-discipline is to have your children practice doing the hard thing the majority of time, but less than 100% of the time. If the goal is to eat healthy snacks, allow your children to choose their snacks throughout the week, but they can only choose junk food 3 times per week…all other choices need to be healthy. This strengthens the self-discipline muscle. Teachers accomplish the same thing when they give a math assignment of 20 tough problems, but tell their students to choose 15 to solve. A sense of control over one’s choices also strengthens the self-discipline muscle.
Put triggers in their environment. The third strategy involves the use of triggers, or visual cues that remind us to do the hard thing. A runner who places his shoes at the foot of his bed is giving himself a visual reminder to go out and run first thing in the morning. When our son was in grade school he struggled to learn his spelling words each week. Starring at the words on a page didn’t get the job done. So, we placed a large white board in his room. Each day he would repeatedly write some of the spelling words on the board. The presence of the whiteboard was a trigger to remind him to do the work, and it made the memorization more fun. Triggers work!
In the long run, life is easier for people who practice self-discipline….and we can’t call it self-discipline if someone else is making us do it. Self-discipline is choosing to do the hard thing, instead of the easy thing, because we know it will pay big dividends later on. Jim Rohn said, “We must all suffer one of two pains; the pain of self-discipline, or the pain of regret. The difference is self-discipline weighs ounces, but regret weighs tons.”
Founder, Growing Champions for Life
A prospective parent applying for the HAT program recently asked a great question that I want to share with you all. She asked, “What makes the High Altitude summer camp different from the [shoe brand] summer camps that I have researched which are located here and throughout the U.S.?” I love questions like that, and my response was shaped in the form of a story of sorts.
What was my response? I described the scenario which we have all experienced when you get onto an airplane: you get comfy in your seat and begin a surface level encounter with a very nice person sitting next to you. You don’t feel as if you have a choice since you will be spending the next three hours next to this person and you don’t want to seem rude or anti-social. So, you make the most of it. And, besides, you might learn something new!
You open up the conversation by asking if they are returning home or heading off for vacation and the conversation continues from there. By the end of the three hour flight, you have learned some very basic, surface-level information about the person next to you. And, who knows, maybe you exchange cards so you can grab coffee sometime in the future (in my experience, even in the best of connections, the likelihood of actually grabbing coffee is near zilch). Ninety-nine percent of the time, this encounter does not get beyond the initial conversation. There is just typically not enough time or genuine interest to delve into deeper issues that may be going on in each of your lives.
This is what makes High Altitude Tennis Academy unique. We take great pride in delving deeper to understand what makes each individual student tick. The vast majority of general summer academy offerings sponsored by local colleges and big name-brand shoes are not meant to go beyond this surface-level encounter. And if you look close enough and ask the right questions, you will find just that. This is not a bad thing by the way! With roughly 25% of the families that I talk to, the student is not yet ready for intensive training and is 100% suited to attend a basic camp. And I always recommend and refer them appropriately if this is the case. The feedback I recieve weekly is that there are a large pool of players who have enjoyed and had fun with this type of program but have realized that they have now outgrown this experience and are craving more. A portion of that group is just at a loss and not clearly able to articulate the breakdown they are having. They sense that this fun but non-intensive camp experience won’t get their child to their ultimate goals, yet they aren’t sure what else is out there…That’s where we come in!
If the young scholar-athlete is “driving the bus” and asking for more intensive training and curriculum that includes competition with players from around the world and mom and dad are supportive of not only their child’s aspirations but our champion methodology, that’s a family we are looking for!
At the end of the conversation, I emphasized strongly to the prospective parent to have a fun but serious talk about what their young athlete is ready for and, based on that conversation, invest their money appropriately. So, that’s the question I leave you all with today: are you looking for a surface level encounter? Or are you looking for something deeper and more meaningful? I would speculate that this is a question that can be thought provoking concerning all parts of your life in today’s fast-paced, over-stimulated, instant-gratification world. But we will leave that for a different article!
Do you have a specific question you would like to see answered by me in a future article? E-mail me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, and thank you from the bottom our hearts for allowing us to be a part of your child’s journey!
By: Ryan Segelke
CEO & CO-Founder, High Altitude Tennis Academy
Click here to register for the HAT Summer Camp in Denver http://bit.ly/HATSummerCamp2018