“My Frederick” Photo Book

The Ebook Version Of My Frederick Has Been Released!

The ebook version of my first photo book, My Frederick, has been published!

Frederick, Maryland, a historic but also hip town located equal distances from the beltways of Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, DC, shames its larger neighbors when it comes to charm.

To see what I mean, click on the book cover for a free preview of the first 15 pages. (For the best viewing, be sure to enlarge the book cover before proceeding. Then, just click on the right side of a page to advance to the next page.)

And The Paper Version Will Follow Soon . . .

The paper version of My Frederick is scheduled for release in June. Stay tuned for more information.

These 5 Practices Will Make You Happier, Healthier And More Successful . . . At Any Age

The tagline for Forever Young Blog is “How To Be Happier, Healthier And More Successful . . . At Any Age” yet it occurred to me that I have never written an article on just that.

To correct my omission, I offer these suggestions.

1. Exercise And Make Healthy Eating Choices. Every Day.


Move your body every day. 30 minutes is optimal, but anything is better than nothing. Establish the exercise habit.

Especially if you are a recovering couch potato, start slowly and build up. (Always consult your physician before starting or radically changing a fitness program.)

Make sure your exercise regime includes cardiovascular exercise and strength training. You need both.

Especially when you are starting out, choose exercises that you like. If you don’t like running, use a cross-trainer. If you don’t like the cross-trainer, swim. If you don’t like swimming, ride a bicycle. Play basketball. Play volleyball. Dance. If you don’t like any other exercise, walk. The fact is, you simply won’t continue doing something you hate. So find exercises you like, or at least dislike the least.

That’s the exercise part. Pretty simple, huh?

Actually, it’s quite simple. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 70% of Americans are overweight (weigh too much) and 35.7% of American adults are obese (have too much body fat, a BMI of 30 or higher). We are the second fattest country in the world, after only Mexico.

To beat these odds, focus on the increased energy and improved outlook that an exercise habit will give you. On the inevitable days you don’t feel like exercising . . . do it anyway. Sometimes you will get into it and be glad you started. Even on days when it never gets easy, you will be satisfied with yourself for toughing it out. Trust me: the benefits are worth working for.

Food plateHealthy eating is as important to your fitness as your exercise program. Maybe more so. Fitness experts often say that you can’t exercise away a bad diet. If you are eating crap, you won’t be fit even with adequate exercise.

Eat foods from all the food groups every day – fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. And eliminate, or minimize, the fitness killers such as fried and processed foods. If you must have them, save doughnuts, french fries, chips, hot dogs, sausages and sugary cereal for your 21st meal, a concept that I created and explain here.

By the way, protein includes more than red meat. Try eggs, fish, avocado and nuts instead of artery-clogging red meat.

The reason this advice to get and stay healthy is listed first is that the rest of the list requires a strong body and the energy that comes with good health and fitness.

Health and fitness will provide a number of unanticipated benefits, too.

Fitness can help overcome injuries. I have some experience with that myself. I have been able to live an active life despite having had a herniated disc in my low back for more than 10 years because I am otherwise in good condition and the muscles surrounding and supporting my injury are strong. (Of course, I am not saying that you can exercise away all injuries. Get your medical advice from your doctor, not from some bozo with a blog.)

Exercise, nutrition and fitness are the best ways to slow the aging process. In fact, studies have shown that most of the maladies we associate with aging are actually caused not by aging but by lack of activity.

Here’s the bottom line: It feels good to feel good. So, clean up your diet and get moving!

2. Keep Learning. Every day.

Keep LearningTo reach your potential, and even just to keep up in this fast-paced world, you must keep learning and improving. If you are not moving forward, you are sliding backward.

You must continually gather new information, learn new skills and improve old ones.

Here’s a counter-intuitive suggestion: explore subjects and study things you don’t already know about and, in fact, might not even think will interest you. Exposure to different things will spur your imagination and creativity by teaching you different perspectives.

Fortunately, this is the best time in the history of the world to learn. Thanks to the Internet – the most important invention during my lifetime and, arguably, in all history – all of the world’s knowledge and wisdom are at your fingertips.

Here a few random, implementing recommendations:

  • Read every day for 1 to 2 hours.

  • Read on your digital products instead of on paper. Paper products are bad for the planet and not as portable or retrievable. So read newspapers, magazines, blogs, etc. on your digital devices.

  • Use one of the fabulous news aggregator apps. My favorite is a free app called Zite (which is now owned by Flipboard). You tell the app what subjects interest you and the app searches the Internet for the best information on your topics and gives it to you in magazine format. It is basically a recommendation engine. For example, although I change this from time to time, my Zite app currently serves me articles about the wide-ranging subjects of entrepreneurship, healthy living, philosophy & spirituality, photography, psychology, social media, sports, technology, travel, productivity and atheism. I start every day sampling this smorgasbord of information on my iPad while I eat breakfast. Without fail, I read something that informs, intrigues or inspires me.

  • Take online courses. There is an educational revolution going on. Anyone with an Internet connection and a desire to learn can take free courses from the most prestigious colleges and universities in the world. Don’t miss this opportunity!

3. Take Action On Your Goals. Right Away And Every Day.

Take Action!Ideas are awesome. Goals are magic. But unless they are married to action, ideas and goals are just dreams.

I recently read a great story about Richard Branson. In the early 80s, he was best known for creating Virgin Records. In 1984, he conceived the idea of creating a high quality airline. Only 3 months later, after leasing a plane, leasing space at airports, getting licenses and hiring staff, Virgin Atlantic Airways was born. 3 Months! I have been told that he took action on his idea the very day it occurred to him. As I was told the story, before the day was over he had leased an airplane and was in the process of leasing airport space and hiring staff.

Wow. You may not have the assets of billionaire Branson (yet), so you may not be able to implement such large ideas immediately (yet), but you can certainly take immediate action on most of your good ideas and goals.

In other words, the best way to start is to start. Get moving. Take action.

Most people never act on their ideas and goals, and most of those who take action quit when they aren’t instantly successful. But you can’t.

Immediate, and then persistent, action is the key to success in all areas of your life.

4. Travel

I surprised even myself with how important I think travel is.

Traveling isn’t just about going on a vacation to escape the stresses of everyday life, although that certainly is valuable.

Traveling is about getting out of your routine, even out of your comfort zone, and exposing yourself to different cultures, people, foods, activities, languages, sights. No curious person comes back from a journey the way they started it.

Through travel you will inevitably start thinking a different way.

You will understand different perspectives and have new insights.

Here is one insight I have reached from traveling: even though different in many ways, people throughout the world have more in common with each other than not. There really aren’t any significant “us” and “them” divisions. It’s just us, the family of man.

If you doubt that, just look at this rendition of the universe.

Earth In Universe

The most important thing all 7 billion of us share is that we are passengers on an insignificantly tiny planet in a vast universe. Compared to that shared reality, such things as national boundaries, different religions and languages and virtually every other difference become insignificant.

5. Live Congruent With Your Core Values.

Live your valuesKnow who you are and what you stand for.

If you have never done this, you should identfy your core values. This article suggests a 3-step process for doing this. And this article lists as many possible values as I could think of or find.

Values are personal, and yours will be different than mine. However, for whatever benefit this example might have, these are my 5 core values (copied straight from my journal, where they are the first entry that I see every day):

  1. Action
  2. Continuous improvement
  3. Achievement
  4. Fairness & Justice
  5. Kindness

There is nothing magic about five core values. You could have two or 22. Or any other number. The important thing is that you recognize what your values are.

Once you know what your values are, live them. Living authentically brings serenity.

Final Thoughts

1. You can start these practices any time. It’s never too soon to start. And it’s never too late. You will always benefit.

2. You don’t have to be perfect to benefit from these practices. You just have to be better than you were to see obvious improvements in your life. How cool is that?

3. Follow these practices to lead an extraordinary life full of experiences, contributions, creations and, of course, good times.

In the comments section, please share your advice for how to be happier, healthier and more successful . . . at any age.

Morning Laughfest

Morning LaughfestAt 6:30 this morning, I tried something new: I devoted 5 Good Minutes to reading humor. (Afraid that I would look up and find that it was time for lunch, I actually set the timer on my phone.)

My hope was that a morning laughfest would set a positive, even rollicking, tone for the day.

I turned to Winning With One-Liners which was compiled by Pat Williams.

I love one-liners, and I have written about them before, here . . . and here . . . and here . . . and here.

In his book, Williams did what I have done in my articles, he stole material from some very funny people. Here are just two examples from Winning With One-Liners . . .

    “Well, Jerry,” said his father as he glanced at his report card, “one thing that’s in your favor is that with grades like these, you couldn’t possibly be cheating.”

    “Mom, why am I the tallest kid in third grade. Is it because I’m Irish?”
    “No, it’s because you’re eighteen.”

And one more for good measure . . .

    Teacher: “What’s a supervisor?”
    Student: “It’s something that Superman wears to keep the sun out of his eyes.”

Oh, hell, one more, these things are addictive . . .

    He’s so rich that, when he flies, his wallet is considered carry-on luggage.

I’m not sure I actually laughed at any of these, but they certainly made me smile and buoyed my spirits. Mission accomplished.

Did you know that laughter has actual physical benefits? Studies have shown that it boosts your immunity, lowers stress hormones, decreases pain, relaxes muscles and even prevents heart disease. Maybe doctors should have shticks that are not tongue depressors.

There are also mental health benefits. Laughter adds joy and zest to life, eases anxiety and fear, relieves stress, improves mood and enhances resilience. Wow, I’m going to start taking two puns three times a day with meals.

And, to finish the trifecta, laughter also has social benefits. It strengthens relationships, attracts others to us, enhances teamwork, helps defuse conflict and promotes group bonding.

Having mastered the benefits of laughter, I think that tomorrow I will go after the benefits of exercise. But taking up gymnastics may be harder than I thought. I just learned that parallel bars are not two taverns across the street from each other.

I Am Out!

The Out Campaign is a public awareness initiative begun by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

Out CampaignThe campaign encourages atheists to “come out” and be open about their atheism.

The purpose, or at least a benefit of the initiative, is to show that atheists come in all shapes, sizes, colors and personalities. Atheists are laborers and professionals. Atheists are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers and grandparents. They are liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans. Atheists are good friends and good citizens.

I support The Out Campaign. So, I am in. That is, I am out.

The Problem

Currently, the general public view of atheists and atheism is, well, beyond belief (pun intended).

A Gallup poll before the 2012 presidential election asked whether respondents would vote for presidential candidates who belonged to various religious, ethnic or gender groups. This was the result:

Gallup Poll

As you see, there was a near-unanimous willingness to trust black, female, Catholic, Hispanic and Jewish candidates. Mormons and gays were less acceptable, and there was a great deal of distrust of Muslims. But atheists were the least acceptable candidates. (Distrust of atheists was most pronounced among Republicans and the elderly.)

Distrust of atheists is not a new phenomenon. Researchers at the University of Minnesota told us in 2006 that “atheists are less likely to be accepted, publicly and privately, than any others from a long list of ethnic, religious, and other minority groups.”

And a study done by researchers at The University of British Columbia and the University of Oregon, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2011, found that atheists were considered even less trustworthy than rapists!

OMG! (irony intended)

Myths About Atheists

These poll and study results are driven by a long list of common myths about atheists and atheism. Australian writer and philosopher Russell Blackford has written a book titled 50 Great Myths About Atheism.

Let’s shed a little light on a few of the most common myths about atheism.

Myth: Atheists Don’t Have A Moral Code

This myth does the most harm, so let’s get to it first.

Believing that one cannot be good without God, many theists believe that atheists have no morals.

I recall a particular conversation I had with a friend – an otherwise good, smart, thoughtful person that I like and respect – where she reacted to learning that I was an atheist with something like this: “if you are an atheist then you don’t believe in anything. You must think it is all right to murder, rape and steal.”

Actually, atheism correlates to better behavior on average. Atheists are under-represented in prison, for instance, and the more religious nations have higher rates of violent crime and teen pregnancy.

So, yes, atheists have a moral code. Atheists manage to do good without fear of eternal damnation if they don’t.

That leads to an interesting question: is it more moral to help the poor out of concern for their suffering or because you think the creator of the universe wants you to do it, will reward you for doing it or will punish you for not doing it?

There is a moral and ethical code that is programmed into humans which is unrelated to religion. If all religion disappeared tomorrow, would all formerly religious people immediately start murdering, raping and robbing? Of course not.

These are two atheistic expressions of morality from famous people that make a lot of sense to me . . .

”When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.”
Abraham Lincoln

” I’m an atheist, and that’s it. I believe there’s nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for each other.”
Kathryn Hepburn

Myth: Atheists Are Aggressive And Rude

This notion has been around in various forms for a long time, but it really took off after the rise of “New Atheism,” which focuses its energy on disproving religious claims instead of merely pleading for tolerance of atheists.

Is it more rude for an atheist to say, “I don’t believe in God and here’s why” than for a believer to intrude in your personal space with pamphlets, attack people with religious claims when they’re feeling low, knock on your door to proselytize, or force your children to recite religious language in school.

What constitutes aggressiveness and rudeness depends on your point of view.

Myth: Atheism Is Dogmatic

A definition of dogmatic is “expressing personal opinions or beliefs as if they are certainly correct and cannot be doubted.”

That describes theism, not atheism.

The very essence of the scientific method and reason on which most atheists rely is that nothing is immutable. Anything can be changed based on evidence.

Religion, on the other hand, offers answers that may never be questioned.

If it is dogmatic to reject religious beliefs, then we are all dogmatic. As the programmer Stephen F. Roberts once said: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

The Out Campaign Can Be Part Of The Solution

Dispelling myths about atheism is important. Knowledge always defeats ignorance in the long run.

It is also important for atheists to be public about their atheism, and demonstrate their utter normality.

There’s actually some science behind this idea that exposure to atheists will reduce prejudice. In social psychology, the Contact Hypothesis states that, under appropriate conditions, interpersonal contact is one of the most effective ways to reduce prejudice between majority and minority group members.

That is what happened with gays and lesbians. As straight people became more familiar with homosexuals – through personal contact as more homosexuals came out and through favorable portrayals of homosexuals in the popular media, such as the television show Will & Grace – and straights saw that gays were more like them than not, homophobia lessened.

There is reason to hope that bias against atheists can be reduced as more atheists “come out.”

Get To Know An Atheist

I avoided writing this post for a number of reasons. I am not an expert on this subject. I do not speak for anyone but me. And, this blog is not about religion and atheism, and I do not want it to be.

I finally decided to write this post to join the Out Campaign in showing how ridiculously normal atheists are.

Just look around this blog. If you do, you will see that, although I am an atheist who does not believe in gods, I am interested in core values, volunteerism, practicing kindness and living by a set of values-based personal rules. Atheists can even be fun and have a sense of humor!

If this shatters a stereotype of yours, I’m glad to have been of service.

Meet Some More Atheists

You are probably aware of recent polls revealing that about 1 in 5 Americans and 1 in 3 Americans under age 30 do not identify with any religion.

Although not all of these non-religious people are atheists, there is still a very good chance that you know atheists, even if you do not know they are atheists.

You also know of many famous inventors, scientists, statesmen, authors, sportsmen, philosophers, business people and performers who happen to be atheists. Here is a list of a few of them . . .

Thomas Edison
Mark Twain
Edgar Allan Poe
Andrew Carnegie
Marie Curie
Helen Keller
Albert Einstein
Stephen Hawking
Warren Buffett
Bill Gates
Carl Sagan
Pat Tillman
Richard Branson
Kurt Vonnegut
Ernest Hemingway
James Baldwin
Clarence Darrow
John-Paul Sartre
Bertrand Russell
Friedrich Nietschke
John Stuart Mill
Karl Marx
Kevin Bacon
Sigmund Freud
Marlon Brando
Billy Joel
Bruce Lee
John Lennon
Bill Maher
Barry Manilow
Rafael Nadal
Jack Nicholson
George Orwell
Brad Pitt
Daniel Radcliffe
Andy Rooney
Ted Turner
Ted Williams
Mark Zuckerberg
Angelina Jolie
Larry King
Gene Wilder
Keanu Reeves
Ayn Rand
Burt Lancaster
Penn Gillette
Isaac Asimov
Pablo Picasso
Vincent Van Gogh
Frank Lloyd Wright
Mick Jagger
James Cameron
Bertrand Russell
Charlie Chaplin
Walt Disney
Geoge Clooney
Barney Frank
Richard Dawkins
Sam Harris
Christopher Hitchens
Daniel Dennett
George Carlin
Eric Hoffer
Clarence Darrow
James Baldwin
Steven Pinker
Philip Roth
Dave Barry
Albert Camus
George Bernard Shaw
Robert Louis Stevenson
Alfred Nobel
Linus Pauling
Steve Wozniak
Penn Jillette
Larry King
Joaquin Phoenix
Daniel Radcliffe


If you are an atheist, I encourage you to be public about it and to support The Out Campaign.

If you are not an atheist, I invite your comments, pro or con.

Finally, A Decent Knock Knock Joke!

Everyone knows this blog is the “go to” place to find funny jokes in categories. Like these . . .

All Capital-F Funny, top-drawer stuff.

So I have a reputation to protect.

More than once, I have researched knock knock jokes, in the hope of adding an article on the 25 best knock knock jokes of all time.

The reason I have not written such an article before now is that I couldn’t find 25 great knock knock jokes.

Actually, I couldn’t find even 1 knock knock joke that made me laugh.

Until now.

Finally, I have discovered unquestionably the best knock knock joke of all time.

And here it is . . .

“Knock knock.”

“Who’s there?”

“Control freak. NOW YOU SAY, “CONTROL FREAK WHO?!”

The 25 Best Nerd Jokes

25 Best Nerd JokesI was torn. I didn’t know whether to only include jokes about nerds or to also have nerdy jokes that would appeal to nerds.

(I thought I had gotten over this problem. I used to be indecisive . . . now I’m not so sure.)

Anyway, here’s the totally official list of the 25 best nerd/nerdy jokes of all time.

  1. So, this SEO guru walks into a bar, bar & grill, bar and grill, tavern, pub, public house . . .

  2. A historian, an engineer and a statistician are duck hunting. A duck rises from the lake. The historian fires first and shoots 10′ over the duck. The engineer fires second and shoots 10′ under the duck. The statistician jumps up excitedly and exclaims “We got him!”

  3. A gorgeous blond woman sits down at a bar and asks the bartender for a double entendre, so he gave it to her.

  4. A nerd was walking on campus one day when his friend, another nerd, rode up on an incredible shiny new bicycle. The first nerd was stunned and asked, “Where did you get such a nice bike?”

    The second nerd replied, “Well, yesterday I was walking home minding my own business when a beautiful woman rode up to me on this bike. She threw the bike to the ground, took off all her clothes and said, ’Take what you want!’”

    The second nerd nodded approvingly and said, “Good choice. The clothes probably wouldn’t have fit.”

  5. I’ll be honest, particle accelerators totally give me a hadron.

  6. What do you call a group of nerds arguing on the Internet? The Internet.

  7. What do you get when you talk to a nerd? His lunch money.

  8. You know you are a nerd if you start tilting your head to smile : – )

  9. I’d tell you a chemistry joke, but all the good ones Argon.

  10. How do you tell when a mathematician is an extravert? When he talks to your shoes instead of his own.

  11. A physicist, a biologist and a mathematician are standing in front of a house. They see one man enter and two men leave.

    The physicist says, “Well there is obviously an unknown variable.” The biologist says, “The man must have multiplied.”

    The mathematician then looks at them both and says, “I don’t know how it happened but if one more person enters the house it will be empty.”

  12. A man is on his first visit to Boston, and he wants to try some of that delicious New England seafood that he’d long heard about. So he gets into a cab, and asks the driver, “Can you take me to where I can get scrod?” The driver replies, “I’ve heard that question a thousand times, but never in the pluperfect subjunctive.”

  13. I used to be bad at geometry, but I turned that around 360 degrees.

  14. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate.

  15. Sartre walks into a coffee house and the waitress asks if he’d like a cup. Sartre says, “I’ll have a coffee with sugar but no cream.” The waitress comes back minutes later and says, “Sorry sir, we’re all out of cream, how about with no milk?”

  16. A physicist goes to an ice cream parlor every week and orders an ice cream for himself and orders an ice cream for the empty stool sitting next to him. This goes on for a while until the owner asks him what he is doing. The man said “Well, I’m a physicist and Quantum Mechanics teaches us that it is possible for the matter above this stool to spontaneously turn into a beautiful woman who might accept my offer and fall in love with me.” The owner says ”There are a lot of single beautiful woman in here every day, so why don’t you buy an ice cream for one of them and they might fall in love with you. The physicist says “Yeah, but what are the odds of that happening!”

  17. Making math puns is the first sine of insanity.

  18. The past, the present, and the future all walk into a bar at the same time. It was tense.

  19. How many Freudians does it take to change a light bulb? Two, one to screw in the light bulb and the other to hold the peni- the ladder, THE LADDER!

  20. Q: Why do chemists like nitrates so much?
    A: They’re cheaper than day rates.

  21. Fact: 3.14% of sailors are pi rates.

  22. Lotteries are a tax on people who suck at math.

  23. Duct tape is like the Force: it has a light side, a dark side and it holds the universe together.

  24. Blondie calls tech guy and says,”Help! My computer is screwing up.” Tech guy asks, “What seems to be the problem?” Blondie says, “Every time I try to type in my password, all it shows is stars!” Tech guy says “Oh, that is perfectly normal. That is for security purposes.” Blondie says, “But there’s no one else in the room.”

  25. If I were an enzyme, I would be DNA helicase so I could unzip your genes.

    Did you get ’em all?

    If you have anything better, let me hear them in the comments.

Which Comes First, Success Or Happiness?

Does success make you happy, or does happiness lead to success?

Success brings happinessMany believe that once they achieve some particular goal, then they will be happy. If they put their nose to the grindstone and work hard now, they will be successful, and therefore happier, at some distant time.

However, decades of research have shown that when we are happy – that is, our mindset and mood are positive – we are smarter, more motivated and thus more successful.

In other words, happiness brings success, not the other way around.

What Is Happiness, Anyway?

Of course, happiness means different things to different people. And only you can determine what makes you happy and how happy you are.

However, generally, happiness – or “subjective well-being” as scientists often call it – is experiencing positive emotions. It is pleasure combined with deeper feelings of meaning and purpose. Happiness implies a positive mood in the present and a positive outlook for the future.

Aristotle used the term eudaimonia, which translates not directly to “happiness” but to “human flourishing.”

By whatever name, the chief ingredient of happiness is positive emotions since happiness is, above all else, a feeling.

Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of North Carolina, identifies these as the ten most common positive emotions . . .

  1. Joy
  2. Gratitude
  3. Serenity
  4. Interest
  5. Hope
  6. Pride
  7. Amusement
  8. Inspiration
  9. Awe
  10. Love

How Does Happiness Benefit You?

An analysis of over 200 scientific studies on nearly 275,000 people found that happiness leads to success in nearly every domain of our lives, including marriage, health, friendship, community involvement, creativity and work.

Maybe you are still thinking “of course people who are successful in these areas of their lives are happy. Who wouldn’t be.”

However, study after study shows that happiness precedes important outcomes and indicators of thriving. Happiness causes success and achievement, not the opposite.

Recent research shows that the positive effect of happiness is actually biological. Positive emotions flood our brains with dopamine and serotonin, chemicals that not only make us feel good, but also dial up the learning centers of our brains to higher levels.

Research also shows that you don’t have to be stupefyingly happy to get the positive advantages. Even the smallest shots of positivity can give you a competitive edge.

Positive emotions broaden our intellectual and creative capacities and they counteract physical stress and anxiety.

How To Be Happier

Since positivity is such a good thing, you may be wondering if there are things you can do to increase yours.

If you are lucky, happiness comes naturally to you. Your genetically-determined “set point” of happiness may be higher than others.

But, even if you are not genetically predisposed to be happy, you can reap the benefits of positivity if you work hard enough at it.

If the following activities are performed habitually over time, each has been shown by research to help permanently raise our happiness baseline. (Of course, since happiness is subjective and not the same for everyone, we all have our own favorite happiness booster. And “person-activity fit” is often as important as the activity itself, so if some items on this list do not work for you, don’t force it.)

These are some proven ways to lift your spirits . . .

  • Exercise. As you probably know, exercise releases pleasure-inducing chemicals called endorphins. Exercise also improves your motivation and feelings of mastery, reduces stress and anxiety and helps you get into “flow,” that locked in feeling of total engagement that we usually get when we’re at our most productive.

  • Spend money on experiences, not on stuff. Money can buy happiness, but only if used to do things as opposed to simply have things.

    While the positive feelings we get from material objects are frustratingly fleeting, spending money on experiences, especially with other people, produces positive emotions that are both more meaningful and longer lasting.

  • Find something to look forward to. Often the most enjoyable part of an activity is the anticipation. One study showed that people who thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent.

    That’s one reason I maintain my travel bucket list.

  • Commit conscious acts of kindness. A long line of research demonstrates that acts of altruism – giving to friends and strangers alike – decrease stress and strongly contribute to enhanced mental health.

  • Infuse positivity into your surroundings. Our physical environment can have an enormous impact on our mindset and sense of well-being.

    So infuse your surroundings with positivity. Put pictures of loved ones or of treasured experiences in your work area, for example.

  • Meditate. Those who spend years meditating, such as monks, actually grow their left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain most responsible for feeling happy.

    Short of that, daily meditating for as little as 5 minutes can bring feelings of calm and contentment, as well as heightened awareness and empathy.

    Research shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness, lower stress and even improve immune function.

  • Exercise a signature strength . Do things you are good at. Studies have shown that the more you use your signature strengths in daily life, the happier you become.

As you integrate these happiness practices into your daily life, you will start to feel better. But you’ll also start to notice how your enhanced positivity makes you more efficient, motivated and productive and how it opens up opportunities for greater achievement.

** This information is drawn from The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work which I highly recommend.

Not Perfect, Just Better

Do you have goals you would like to pursue, but you don’t because they just seem too difficult? Say, learn another language? Learn money-making skillz? Lose those extra LBs?

When you try to achieve goals but aren’t successful as quickly as you would like, do you get frustrated and give up?

I know I have.

Not Perfect Just BetterLet me tell you about one of my failures.

I had thought for years that I should learn to use Photoshop so I could give my photos a little extra punch.

I even purchased Photoshop. Actually, not full Photoshop, but Photoshop Elements, a powerful but simpler (and less expensive) photo editing program.

But when I opened the program, it looked dauntingly complicated. There were lots of strange terms such as “layers” and the screen had so many icons, menus and selections that it looked like the cockpit of a jet fighter.

I froze. Because I didn’t think I could master Elements, I didn’t try. The program sat on my computer, unused.

Recently, I decided to try again to learn Elements. This time, thought, I tried a different approach. I changed my way of thinking.

And it worked!

This time, instead of focusing on my ultimate goal of mastering Elements, I decided to just learn one skill. I just concentrated on getting better than I was (which wasn’t difficult).

Guided by a YouTube video, I learned how to remove an object from a photo. Using something called the Clone Stamp Tool, I removed a distracting telephone pole from a picture. These are the before and after photos.

Old car and pole

Old car without pole

Even though it was a pretty clumsy job, when I learned that skill, I was jazzed. At that point, I knew about 1% of what there was to know about Elements, but I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment. I was inspired to learn another skill. So I did.

And then another.

Persistently getting better, skill by skill, was empowering.

Instead of being frustrated because I was miles from “perfecting” my use of Elements, I was energized by my progress.

I kept thinking: “You don’t have to be perfect, just better. Just keep at it. Make persistent, incremental improvements.”

Using this approach, I have now learned quite a few Photoshop Elements skillz and I’m still inspired to learn more.

In addition to learning Elements, I stumbled onto a strategy that I can use to achieve other goals.

Whether we think we can or we think we can’t, we are probably right. That is, our expectations are powerful predictors of whether we will succeed.

When we focus on gigantic goals that we don’t really believe we can achieve, we probably won’t.

Instead, we have to focus on goals we think are achievable. Making some progress, getting a little better, is achievable. So that is what I focused on.

It’s really this simple: To achieve your goals, forget about being perfect. Just be better today than you were yesterday. Then, do the same thing tomorrow. And don’t give up.