The Secret Sauce For Happiness

sunrise

We all want more of it.  It seems to be one of those things you just can’t get enough of.

Happiness.

For some of us, our life soundtrack would be, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2.

As leaders, we tend to always be pursuing the next big thing.  It’s the way we’re wired.

The problem is, we tend to be so focused on the future that we don’t take enough time to enjoy the present.

We often may be preoccupied with what is not going well instead of celebrating what IS going well.

So what’s the answer?

Gratitude.

Be present in the moment without losing your dream for the future.

Gratitude changes perspective.

It’s difficult to be unhappy when you are reflecting on something you are grateful for.

What has God blessed you with?  Sometimes we take for granted the small things that are the most significant.

A blue sky.  Your favorite food.  Time with family.  Another day to be alive.

One practice I’ve started is to begin my day with gratefulness.

As soon as I wake up, I put on a t-shirt, shorts, sneakers and walk out the door.

I typically will go for a brisk, one mile walk around my neighborhood.  This not only gets my body moving for the day, but it also gives me an opportunity to begin my day with prayer.   I call it my “prayer walk”.

I always begin my walk with thanking God for things I’m grateful for.   It’s a wonderful way to start my day off on the right foot.

People that regularly reflect on what they are grateful for are shown to be happier people.

Conduct an experiment.  Try beginning each day by reflecting on three things you are grateful for.  See if you don’t start experiencing more happiness in your life.

Happy leaders create better organizations.  And better organizations can change the world.

So keep going for your dreams of the future.  But don’t forget to take time to be grateful for what you have in front of you.  It not only benefits you, but also those around you.

What is one thing you are grateful for today? 

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3 of the Best and Worst Ways to Spend a Tax Refund

Today’s post is written by a good friend of mine, Nate VandenBerg. Nate is an experienced CPA who helps people make wise decisions with their money. Enjoy this helpful article.


Photo credit: cohdra from morguefile.com

Over 100 million people this year are expected to receive a refund from Uncle Sam when filing their taxes. At $2,800 for the average refund, millions of taxpayers will have to make the decision on what to do with the refund check.

The traditional options of paying off credit card debt, saving for retirement, or saving for college are great options.

Here are 6 “alternative” options for spending your refund check that have the potential to change the trajectory of your finances and relationships.

Best Ways to Spend a Refund

Prepay your mortgage

Save 8 years of mortgage payments by applying your tax refund to your mortgage! This is real, it actually works! Don’t assume the mortgage schedule your bank provides you is the only timeline to pay off your mortgage. You can save $65,000 of interest over the life of a $250,000 30 year mortgage at 4.5% by using your refund every year to pay down the principal of your mortgage. This results in a payoff a 30 year mortgage in 22 years!

Start a Business

Always wanted to start that blog? Launch your dream product? Write that book? Using all or a portion of your refund to fund your start up business could be a life changing event. What if you fail? Then you just paid $2,800 for one of the most valuable learning experiences you will ever have in your life. Apple was started with $1,750. Starbucks with $4,050 split among 3 people. Take the leap.

Take Your Family on Vacation

Probably not the advice you were expecting to see under the Best list. Don’t waste your money and spend frivolously. Plan it out, get the best deal you can and set the money aside to be used for the vacation. If you have children, the only job that you specifically have been assigned to do is to be the mother or father of your children. That’s a special assignment, be wise with the time our God has given us and create memories with your children they will cherish forever.

Worst Ways to Spend a Refund

Put Money Down on an Item you Can’t Afford

“Pay us $2,800 and we’ll let you pay us $300-$400 every month for the next 5 years! In exchange, we’ll provide you with an asset that loses 60% of its value in those 5 years!” Sounds like a fantastic proposition right? Wrong.

I’m sure you’ve heard an advertisement like that, it’s just phrased differently. For some reason it doesn’t have the same ring as “Buy a car from us by April 15 and we’ll double your tax refund!” My point here is, if you can’t afford to purchase a new car without your tax refund, it probably isn’t a great idea to purchase it with your tax refund. Don’t turn a tax refund into a debt payment that you’ll have to pay for the next 5 years.

Nothing

Most likely, human nature will take over if you deposit your refund check into your bank account without a plan of action for the funds. You know that Starbucks habit you have? Love to go out to eat? These are not bad things, but congratulations you just fueled the habit! Without a plan of action for the cash it may slowly erode over time and 3 months down the road you’ll look back and not have anything to show for it.

Buy One of These

You can buy anything off of ebay! In March 2008 somebody purchased a cornflake shaped like the state of Illinois for $1,350! Please, I beg you to not make a purchase like this with your tax refund. But, if you do, at least persuade the seller to throw in the Florida cornflake for another $1,450 to round out your purchase to $2,800!

If you are one of the over 100 million people that will receive a tax refund this year, consider using it to pay down your mortgage, go on vacation, or start a business. Or, if your heart desires, buy that cornflake.

What is the most memorable way you have used your tax refund in the past?

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3 Fun Ideas For the Best Valentine’s Day Ever. #2 Was a Hit!

Romantic Heart from Love Seeds

Does this sound familiar?

“It’s Valentine’s Day and I’m still not sure what we are going to do to celebrate.”

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.  Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to end up with the two of you ordering pizza and watching re-runs on the DVR.

Here are three ideas to make this the best Valentine’s Day ever.

1) Progressive Dinner.

The idea behind this is to “progress” to different restaurants for each course.  For example, you would have an appetizer at one, the main course at another and dessert at a third place.

If you are celebrating on Valentine’s Day, you will want to call ahead to make reservations so you can minimize the wait.  Otherwise, you can choose to celebrate the day before or after to minimize wait time.

This idea can be a lot of fun because it gives you variety and keeps the night interesting.  You can also make it more fun by having a small gift ready for your Valentine at each place with the location of the next restaurant that you will be going to inside.

2) Surprise Gifts.

Recently, I decided I was going to give Jacque, my wife some surprise gifts.  Instead of just handing over the gifts, I decided to have a little fun with it.

I got four pieces of copy paper and wrote, “Door #1, Door #2, Door #3 and Door #4” on them.  I then proceeded to tape one of those pieces of paper to four of our closet doors in our house.

Behind each door I placed one of the gifts.  Some of the gifts were as simple as a coupon for a back rub.  (This idea doesn’t have to cost you a ton of money.)

I had Jacque pick one door each time revealing what was behind the door.  You can do it all in one evening or make a weekend out of it, having your Valentine pick one door per day. It was a lot of fun for her and a lot of fun for me to surprise her.

3) Competition Night.

One of the best date nights we have had is a competition night.  The idea here is to pick three categories (or games) you will compete in. It may be something like:  bowling, skee ball and air hockey.  You can pick any games you find fun as a couple.  We have a place locally that has lots of fun things in one location.

The winner is the person who wins the most out of the three categories. You can have a fun prize, like winner gets to pick the restaurant to eat dinner afterwards.

The good news is these ideas don’t have to be reserved only for Valentine’s Day.  They make for a great date night anytime.

The goal is to leave room for fun.  Your relationship will be better off because of it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

3 Things Olympic Athletes Teach Us About Success

With the Winter Olympics underway in Russia, millions of eyes are watching these elite athletes compete for the gold.

Ripping the Turn
Have you ever wondered what it takes to be an elite Olympic athlete? One thing is for sure.  It’s not easy.  For every athlete that qualifies, there are lots more that don’t.

The question to ask ourselves is, “What can we learn from these winners about success?”

Here are 3 Things Olympic Athletes Teach Us About Success:

1) Talent is not enough.

There are lots of talented athletes.  It’s consistency and hard work that separate the good ones from the great ones.

It’s common for Olympic athletes to train 4-8 years in a sport before appearing on the world stage.  They put in countless hours working on their craft, oftentimes early in the morning when the rest of the world is sleeping.  Some do this on top of a regular job.

They realize it may be 1/10 of a second that keeps them out of the Olympics.  Every moment counts.

To experience the success no one else experiences, you have to be willing to do the things no one else does.

2) Success doesn’t come without sacrifice.

Olympic athletes are focused people.  I’ve heard it said F.O.C.U.S. is:  Following One Course Until Success.

Focus requires saying no to many things so you can say yes to a few things.   Those few things focused on consistently over time help you achieve your goals and dreams.

Olympic athletes maintain strict eating schedules by saying no to foods that hinder their performance and yes to a diet that enhances it.  They say no to things that distract them from their training schedule and yes to things that contribute to their success.

3) Pushing yourself is balanced with pacing yourself.

Olympic athletes know they need to push themselves beyond their comfort zone, but at the same time need to take time to rest and rejuvenate.

It’s not uncommon for these elite athletes to sleep 8-10 hours per night followed by a 30-90 minute siesta during the day.  The rest helps repair the muscles that the strenuous exercise has placed on them.  It helps them refocus their mind and continue to keep their eye on the goal.

Just like a high performance race car needs to stop to re-fuel, we need to take regular breaks and rest at least one day per week.  It’s necessary if we are to operate at full capacity and achieve our goals and dreams.

These aren’t the only things we can learn from Olympic athletes, but if we apply them to our lives we’ll go further faster.  

What’s one goal or dream you have?  Go for the gold.  I believe you can do it.  

One Key to Empowering Your Team

Leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work.” ~ Seth Godin

Let’s face it.  Nobody likes a ball hog.

We’ve all encountered people like this.  Growing up playing sports it was the kid who had to take every shot and get the credit when she/he scored.

Entering the workplace, it’s the leader that feels the need to make every decision and get the glory for the success of the organization.

That may build ego, but it doesn’t build a team.

Here’s a key to leadership success: pass the ball. 

It empowers your team and gets the ball down the court.

Ultimately, it creates a win-win for everybody involved.

After all, nobody likes a ball hog.

How can you empower people in your organization by giving them a platform to spread ideas that work?

One Thing Successful People Do

There’s no such thing as an overnight success. Success in the sense that something great and lasting was built. Maybe it’s a great business or marriage. Chances are it took time. Lots of time.

Group of happy business people clapping their hands

As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

We often times hear about success stories only after all the hard work is put in and view it as an instant success.

The good news is all of us have been gifted with the potential for success.

The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is often one thing.

PERSEVERANCE:  Not giving up when things get tough. 

When I think of perseverance, I think of five famous people that you’ve heard of and maybe didn’t know their story.

They didn’t give up when things got tough.  In fact, if they did give up, we would have never heard about them.  PERSEVERANCE was the difference in them being average and them doing great things.

1) Walt Disney

Did you know that Walt once was fired from a job because they thought he wasn’t creative enough? What if he gave up?  There would be no Mickey Mouse.  There would be no Walt Disney World. He didn’t give up when things got tough.

2) Thomas Edison 

Edison tried 1,000 times to make the light bulb.  What if he gave up on the 999th time?  He didn’t give up!

3) Hellen Keller

Helen Keller was blind and deaf and learned to speak and read.  She went on to graduate college and become a speaker and author.

4) Albert Einstein 

When we think of smart people, everyone thinks of Albert Einstein.  One of the greatest thinkers of all time. He didn’t always remember to comb his hair, but he was really smart in Science.  He didn’t talk until he was 4 and didn’t read until he was 7 and some people called him mentally slow and challenged.  He didn’t let that stop him from going on to make some of the greatest discoveries that science has ever seen.

5) Michael Jordan 

Some would say Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time.  (If you are a Miami Heat fan, you may say that title would go to LeBron James.) Michael Jordan was amazing on the court, many times unstoppable.  But did you know he once got cut from his high school basketball team?  What if he quit?

PERSEVERANCE.  That’s what made the difference in all of these people’s lives between being average and great.  They refused to give up when things got tough.

Here’s the cool thing.  God knew that you and I would have great days and tough days and He made a promise to us that would help us persevere through the tough days.  It was a guy named Paul the Apostle that wrote one of the greatest things in the whole Bible.  He wrote it while he was in prison and it is my favorite scripture, my life verse.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13

I’ve come back to that scripture over and over again in my life, especially when something is hard.  “God, this is tough, but I’m not going to quit because you promised you will give me the strength to succeed.”

What would your life look like if you persevered, followed your dreams and never gave up?

You would become everything God created you to be and you could make a difference in the world!

God has an amazing plan for each and every one of us.  He wants to use your life to make a difference in the world by serving others.

In fact, there is another scripture in the Bible that says, “I know the plans I have for you.  Plans for hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

God has made you to be great.  So go be great.  Persevere when things are tough, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.  Don’t give up.  Go make a difference in the world!

What is one area you need to persevere in to see your goals achieved?

 

Two Things Every Married Couple Needs to Practice

Today’s post is by a good friend of mine, Mike Teston.  Mike is a marriage coach and pastor who has previously spent the last 10 years working with Andy Stanley at North Point Community Church, one of the largest churches in the country. Enjoy the article.

My wife and I are about to reach a huge milestone: 40 years of marriage. They have been 30 of the best years of our lives – and 10 of the worst.

Loving couple lying in bed

These are round numbers, but they accurately represent our relationship, and I suspect your marriage is somewhat like ours – a mixture of both good and bad.  Your ratios may be different (hopefully better), but you know that marriage can bring out the best and the worst in everyone.

So as 40 year seasoned veterans, we want to offer two simple things we believe will help you reach your own 40-year milestone. They aren’t new or revolutionary; they are just two basic things that need to be practiced repeatedly.

We know this for certain: nothing has been as fulfilling as our long-term marriage in spite of the lost years we experienced.

Here are Two Things Every Married Couple Needs to Practice: 

1) When the worst comes out in you:  humble yourself, put on your big boy/girl pants, own it, and  ask for forgiveness.

If you are human, you will do something stupid. So stop excusing, justifying, blame shifting, lying or denying. Your spouse knows, the kids know, even the parakeet and the dog know. Owning your stuff increases your integrity as well as your credibility – it is the right thing to do.

Try something like, “Wait a minute, I shouldn’t have said that. It was unkind and uncalled for. I was wrong and ask you to forgive me. Can I try this again with a little more kindness?”

If you are not accustomed to doing this, I understand. I wasn’t either. But trust me, it will get easier, and your marriage will benefit.

2) When the worst comes out in your spouse:  remember those words, “for better or for worse.”

You meant them, didn’t you? At your wedding, you just didn’t know the extent of your promise.

First a disclaimer: we aren’t suggesting here that you endure physical endangerment or sexual unfaithfulness without protecting yourself. Please get help from your family, church or counselor.

When your spouse is being unreasonable, unkind, or downright childish, what should be your response?   Keep calm, don’t allow yourself to escalate the tension, and be willing to offer forgiveness.

Try something like, “I don’t understand what you just did. It seemed disrespectful and unnecessary, and I am trying not to respond in my usual bad way. I want to forgive you, and hope we can move our conversation to a more productive place.”

As you read these responses, you may be finding them unrealistic or simplistic. We can assure you that it will take courage and willpower to actually practice them. Both of these responses are rooted in the ancient wisdom of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:31-32. While you may not see immediate external results, your choice to follow his counsel over time will make you better on the inside.

When the worst comes out in you, remember v. 31:  “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”

When the worst comes out in your spouse, remember v. 32:  “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Every couple has disagreements, misunderstandings, and fights. It is a matter of when, not if.

Research has shown that fighting, or the frequency of fighting, in marriage is not the issue. It is HOW couples fight and HOW they resolve fights that can make or break a marriage.

In other words, you can have many spirited disagreements and still have a great marriage. But you cannot tear each other apart, leave your fights unresolved, and make it to 40 years with a desirable good/bad ratio.

So the next time “bad” shows up in you or your spouse, remember the wisdom that has stood the test of time. Happy future 40th.