This post could have also been called:
Are you happy?
But that title is boring. Instead, let’s go with a famous parable:
One evening, an elderly Cherokee brave told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.
One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other wolf is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.’
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked, ‘Grandpa, which wolf wins?’
The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one that you feed.’
I’ll have more to say about this in a moment, but first, let’s get to last week’s comments where I stated that I was delaying my retirement because of the demise of the ACA:
First, some folks sent me nasty messages claiming that I was bashing Trump. A couple of you vowed never to read this blog again. I strongly disagree with your assessment of my writing. I passed no opinions; only writing that Trump is going to dismantle the ACA. This isn’t passing judgement or bashing, it’s just stating what he vowed to do.
But there was some political back and forth in the comments about the ACA.
Done By Forty pointed to FactCheck article that showed the ACA isn’t as dreadful as some media outlets make it out to be:
Just like markets, early retirees hate uncertainty. The ACA has, without a doubt, slowed the rate of increasing insurance costs.
Most of you echoed Mrs. Picky Pincher, stating that your plans would not change:
,,,our early retirement plans haven’t changed. We’ll still have insurance, since it’s currently the law, but we’ll mostly rely on ourselves for coverage in case we have a catastrophic medical issue (which would still be covered by insurance in that case anyway).
Reader Darcy gave me a little reality check:
…That post is full of hope and optimism! Where is that optimism today? I understand that Trump brings a level of uncertainty to the table, but it’s likely that any Republican president would have made changes to or dismantled the ACA, and it’s very unlikely that we would have a solid run of Democratic presidents during your retirement.
To me, this is just another uncertainty of retiring early. Health care is likely to remain a challenge no matter who our president is – but since you can’t predict what’s going to happen, you’ve just gotta roll with it! I think you’ll do just fine.
Reader SpacemanFry echoed Darcy’s comments:
…You’ve always said that you’re confident in your plans and if things change you can reassess and change your plans accordingly. Well, nothing has changed. Trump is not even president yet and you’re already changing your plans?! Stay the course, trust your plans, your skills and your flexibility.
And for crying out loud man, go have a good beer, enjoy the beautiful scenery in your area, play with your kids and stop freaking out ?
Perhaps I overreacted. After further consideration, I don’t think our president elect is going to yank the cord on the 20,000,000 Americans signed up for the ACA. And if he does, life will go on. For now, it’s wait and see.
As for Trump, I like what Tom Hanks (who didn’t support Trump) had to say:
Do you feed Good Wolf or Bad Wolf?
I’ve never been a happy person. I worry too much and focus on the negative. I feed Bad Wolf steak dinners regularly while Good Wolf goes hungry. And I hate it. The stuff I worry about never happens, so it’s a pointless exercise. It isn’t a fun way to live either. I’m prone to severe bouts of introspection which has led me to some ideas:
1) I have a shitty attitude
The Happy Fientist: I noticed a couple things when hanging around with happier friends. In Ecuador, I was relaxing on a porch with my friend Brandon and a couple other folks. We were drinking beer on a patio overlooking beautiful gardens. The drinks were cold, the temperature was perfect and the conversation was good. Brandon had a big smile on his face and uttered “soooo good” more than once.
I was like meh, completely not appreciating the moment. Good Wolf was howling for my attention and I ignored him.
Happy Pete: Another day, I was walking with Pete (Mr. Money Mustache) and complaining about some random stuff. He shot down every whiney statement with positivity. I was feeding my Bad Wolf while Pete was countering with his Good Wolf.
It took a couple days, but looking back, I realize that Pete was right. I had overreacted to a situation and was far more negative that I needed to be. Furthermore, the thing that I was worrying about was out of my circle of control, so the exercise was a waste of my time.
Brandon and Pete are wired differently than me (50% of happiness is from genetics). I can’t change the way my brain is wired, but I still have the other 50% that I can control. I’ll have to work harder than them to get to a good place, but that doesn’t mean I have to feed Bad Wolf.
Putting it into practice
I had an opportunity to feed Good Wolf last week when my accountant let me know that I owed $15,000 in taxes for 2016:
$15,000? Arrrrrrrgh! Bad Wolf immediately reared his angry head and begged for attention. I almost fed him, but thought better of it. I consulted Good Wolf who reminded me how wonderful my life is. This is the email I sent back to my accountant:
2) I have no time for the things I love
I love to play guitar, but my instruments haven’t seen the light of day in over a year. On Friday night, I broke them out and started wailing away. Why haven’t I been doing this for the past 3 years? The answer is easy; an incredible lack of time:
job + kids + home remodel + blog = severe time deficit
The good news is that the remodel is done and I just went to a 3 day/week work schedule, so this problem is solved. Hello Cleveland!
3) I’m not following my passions
This was another lesson I learned in Ecuador. This one deserves its own post, so you’ll have to wait.
4) I’m not exercising or sleeping well
l feel silly that it took until I was 42 to get into tune with my body. Lack of sleep turns me in to a different person. I can’t focus and my mood is well, subpar (cranky as hell). I’m also a much better person when I can exercise for at least 45 minutes a day. I eat better and my well being is elevated. With my new time, I can work on this as well.
5) I’m not real
Too often, I haven’t been true to myself. I say what I think others want to hear or do what I think others want me to do. This behavior is fueled by lack of confidence and seeking acceptance. I apologize too much and don’t speak up enough. Pathetic, I know. But no more.
I am who I am. The end. If others don’t like that, too bad for them. No more fake me.
I am not afraid to keep on living,
I am not afraid to walk this world alone,
Honey, if you stay,
I’ll be forgiven,
Nothing you can say can stop me going home.
– Famous Last Words, My Chemical Romance
Oh crap, this is supposed to be Ask the Readers and I’ve carried on for too long. This is supposed to be about you, but what you may not realize is that sometimes this blog is my therapy session. I’m still working through who I am and who I need to be. I feel better after writing posts like this and it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than psychotherapy.
OK, now back to you, this time for real:
- How do you find your happiness?
- Do you feed Good Wold or Bad Wolf?
- Have you changed your state of happiness for the better? If so, how?
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