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Is Thanksgiving a Joke in American Culture?

On December 3, 2013, in Everyday Life, by Blake Alexander Hammerton

Black Friday Death Counter

The column I wrote for the December issue of the Garland Rowlett Messenger caused quite a stir. But it’s not wrong. In fact, it’s so right it hurts. What do you think? Leave a comment!


Every year we, as Americans, gather around our dinner tables with our family, friends, or both, and we break bread in a tradition of being grateful for the people, opportunities, and possessions we have in our lives. Some families do not begin eating until each person has spoken briefly about what he or she is thankful for that year.

We consume an average of 4500 calories each, and watch football on the TV between rounds of green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie. With stuffed bellies and family gathered together, life is pretty good, right? That’s what Thanksgiving is all about – being grateful for what you have. This couldn’t be further from the truth in American culture.

Thanksgiving is a joke, and millions of people are in on it.

Thanksgiving is about the latest and greatest Black Friday sale. It’s about carbing up the day before the big shopping marathon. We eat big meals to fuel our bodies so we can then trample over the weaker of our species when those glass doors at Wal-Mart slide open at 5am.

We spend one day together feeling thankful for what we have, and the next day clamoring for materials we simply cannot live another second without – and we’ll hurt each other to get them.

The image at the top of this column is a screenshot of the current deaths and injuries related to Black Friday shopping excursions. It began in 2008 as a way to record the needless violence that occurs due to our need to have more stuff in our lives.

This is shameful.

This is the opposite of nourishing what matters.

This, of course, doesn’t reflect the actions of everyone, but it does reflect a cultural pattern in this country, and it’s not a good one, no matter how you look at it.

I challenge you to step back from all the commercialism of the holiday season, and genuinely reflect on your life for a moment. What are you grateful for this year? Who are you grateful for this year?

My invitation to you is to make this season about the gifts of gratitude, appreciation, and love – not making sure your loved ones have the latest electronics come Christmas morning. Spend a little more time showing them you care and less time making sure you have enough space on the credit card to get them a PS4.

It’s time to treat the holidays like more than just a gift exchange party. It’s time we Nourish What Matters.

What do you think? Leave a comment so we can connect.

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Join The Fight Against Breast Cancer

On October 16, 2012, in Events, News, by Blake Alexander Hammerton

Click and like the page to be counted toward the donation goal!

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, I have combined my efforts to rebrand and give back to the community. I have had to create a new Facebook page for myself, and am slowly growing the likes and subscribers. To help keep that movement going, and help in the fight against breast cancer, I am donating $.50 for each new like on the page this week.

This could get huge.

Right now it’s a very small donation because there’s a very small amount of likes. You have the power to help change that. The money is coming out of my pocket, and a part of me is worried that should this go viral, I’ll have to write a very, very large check. The truth is, I would love to write that check. Help me do that. Click the image above and like the page.

Please share this post, comment, tweet it – spread the love and help spread the wealth.

Let’s do this!

Peace, Love, and a million successes to you,

Blake

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What to Do When Plans Don’t Go as Planned

On September 15, 2011, in Coaching, Everyday Life, by Blake Alexander Hammerton
Beautiful Mark Twain Quote

AppliedHappiness.Tumblr.com

 

There has been a lot of negative discourse in the world these days – in case you missed it: “the economy is terrible, everything is getting too expensive, you’re not getting any younger, there’s nothing you can do, terrorism is taking over” – it’s all thrown at us every day in the media and sometimes in relationships with those closest to us.

I know, like every last one of you, I’ve found myself in situations that were not the way I’d planned them to be.  Whether it’s the unexpected end of a relationship, a surprise visit (from anyone good or not-so-good), failure or falling-short of goals, or financial burdens, when things don’t go as planned it can turn us all upside-down (even if only for a few moments).

So what’s the answer to all of it? What’s the other side of this cursed coin?

There are a lot of little things you can do to shift your game, and level the playing field. They may never prevent the unexpected (it’s called unexpected for a reason), but they’ll definitely help to change the way you influence the world around you, and how it impacts you. Here are some keys for helping you through “what to do when my plans don’t go as planned.”

Tune out the “it’s never gonna get better” voice

The moment things do not go our way, we instinctively begin rattling off all the far-fetched and overly melodramatic details of how “this is just one more terrible thing” in our lives – exaggerating how the situation truly affects us.  A previous post of mine [Bad Publicity] talked about this voice a lot. The messages we tell ourselves have a very serious impact on how we view the world.

Ready for a little nostalgia? Remember when you were little and upset about something and your mom told you it would be okay? You believed her! Coincidentally, she was right, wasn’t she?  When did you stop believing it would be alright?

When things don’t go as planned, take a moment and listen to that voice in your head. Notice how it makes you feel to believe all the negative and depressing ideas that voice is pushing on you. If you don’t want to feel that way, choose not to believe it.  90% of the time, we blow things out of proportion. The big question is this:

Did my plan get derailed or just delayed?

Take the hint – something is trying to emerge

When what you want seems to elude you, pause for a moment and look around.  What appears instead? There’s something trying to emerge in all conflict – which is exactly what happens when plans go awry! I remember working in sales a few years ago, and I found that toward the end of that job it was getting increasingly difficult to smile and stay motivated. The job wasn’t terrible on the surface, but beneath the visible, my heart was crying out for escape. I was not supposed to be there any more.

I know you’ve had moments where you suddenly saw/felt a sign that changed your perspective or brought you clarity. In fact, you may have even asked the sky/God/Universe for a sign. Well, they’re all over the place and it’s high time you gave yourself permission to slow down and see them.

As an example, let’s imagine you’re unemployed and feeling pretty down about it.  Maybe you even feel like the victim of the economy. The media is posting record unemployment numbers and it’s all doom-n-gloom well into the future.

Pause. Let’s look around for a moment.

Let’s imagine that other people around you have modified their searches and have found work.  Let’s even go as far to say they took risks to get the jobs they now have. What’s this sensation? Maybe the sign here is that changing your plan or taking a risk will deliver the reward you’re looking for. Are you too focused on something that’s not coming? Are you so focused on the tree in front of you that you miss the engulfing wildfire around it?

What’s trying to emerge in your struggle?

Play the Bigger Game & return to the basics

This is probably the most important piece in the equation. When plans fall apart or don’t go as expected, and you feel the weight of it all pushing you off track – discouraging and demotivating you – get back to basics. The Bigger Game is all about knowing who you are and why you do what you do. If you don’t know what it is that makes you come alive, then everything can almost taste the same. If, however, you’ve discovered what you want – what fulfills, thrills, motivates, calms, and creates you – then all you need to do is return to the why behind it.

A perfect example of this is my friend Joe. He works in his garage building custom motorcycles on weekends and most weekday nights (often well into the early morning hours). He also works 40 hours a week in a corporate job pounding phones in a cubicle in the suburbs. When things don’t go as planned, he knows it’s just a delay in his real place in life – building custom bikes.

Joe is so infinitely clear about what makes him feel most alive that he simply doesn’t let anything get in his way. His why is pumping through his veins. Motorcycle building and customizing is Joe’s “Adrenaline of Purpose.” What’s yours?

When it’s as crystal clear what you want as it is with Joe, a calmness comes over you when the unexpected happens. Instead of reacting to the stress, you get curious about it. It no longer threatens your future or happiness. You know what you want and why. That’s the first brick to lay in your foundation.

If you want help discovering what your Adrenaline of Purpose is, contact me. Let’s discover what pumps through your veins.

The Mark Twain quote above is so perfect because we need to stay present to opportunity. Even completely changed or ruined plans can unfold into the most beautiful day in your life. Give it that chance.

What do you find yourself doing/thinking/feeling/behaving when plans don’t go as planned?

Leave your comments below!

 

 

P.S. It’s all going to be okay.

Action for Happiness – Now in America

On July 6, 2011, in Coaching, Events, Everyday Life, by Blake Alexander Hammerton

Action for Happiness

 

Today I came across Action for Happiness, a UK based non-profit organization that works to create change for the better in the world. They do this by educating and empowering people to discover and harness the power of what makes them happy. Moved by how much this spoke to me and my personal coaching mission, I created the first US based Meetup group. Action for Happiness – Chicagoland is the new home for stateside AFH help.

I have just started my journey with this, but I have BIG, BIG plans to bring this into the spotlight, both in my work, and in the global connections I have. Now I have another reason to get a flight to the UK. I encourage everyone to head to the Action for Happiness UK site, and pledge to be happy. It’s free, and the site is filled with resources and motivations to help you get started.

If you also happen to live in the Chicagoland area, I definitely recommend joining our meetup group HERE. Read more about the project, and get a taste for the incredible things to come!

I hope to see you all at our next meetup!

Peace, Love, and a million successes to you all!

Blake

Yes, There is such a thing as Bad Publicity.

On June 10, 2011, in Coaching, Everyday Life, by Blake Alexander Hammerton

Angry Woman via Jason Ippolito (flickr)

“If you want to end your suffering, stop being the publicist for your problems.
If you treat it like front page news, it will behave like it.”

Contrary to popular belief, there really is something called bad publicity. Moreover, it’s affecting you more than you’re even aware. We spend more time communicating our opinions, beliefs, issues, passions, and shortcomings to other people than we realize. Every day we are our own publicists. Consider how connected we all are nowadays – social media has us plugged in at every moment. When was your last status update on Facebook? How about your last tweet? When was the last time you read through feeds on either site?  It wasn’t more than an hour, was it?

That’s exactly my point. We’re sharing our lives – the good and the bad – with the world all the time, and sometimes it gets the best of us. Have you ever told a story enough times that it makes you feel worse, not better?

I remember working in sales a few years ago, and after busting my ass and working all my tricks, the promotion train came around. I was absolutely sure the new position was mine. I was so sure that I didn’t even entertain the notion that it might not be my turn. When the announcement was made that another representative had been promoted instead of me, I lost my mind. I couldn’t believe that all my hard work was not enough for them. I posted that “I’m the victim of this stupid company and their stupid people and their stupid policies” story on my front page.

This was a poor move.  I vented to friends and family, coworkers in other departments – even people at the grocery store. I felt like absolute crap. As the publicist for my life, I was running page after page of bad news, and it was doing me no good.  My articles were all about how difficult and unfair my life was. And as a direct result, I was treated that way… and my life became difficult and unfair.

Fast forward to 2008.  I had just started my life anew. I was opening my first company, embarking on new relationships with friends and new loves. Life was exciting. My front page read, “AWESOME” across the top. The stories I told reflected the great experiences I had, and those I wished for more of. When unfortunate setbacks came (as the always do), I didn’t put out a personal press release to the world.  Instead, I vented to a select few in my circle, and moved forward.

Why is this important?

I consciously chose what I publicized about myself and my life, and it allowed me to keep my energy on the up-and-up. When energy and confidence are up, life is easy, fruitful, and exciting.  Much better than difficult and unfair, no?

Another example is the “water-cooler-complaint break.”  If you’re always complaining about something to your friends or co-workers, you are publicizing negativity.  We all know someone like that, right? Case in point: Debbie Downer – she’s always negative and finds a way to turn a parade into a prison exercise. She’s got problems, right?

So what’s the lesson here, Blake?

 

If you want to change the world according to you, change the world you put in your news.
How do you like that – it even rhymes!

 

I know this can feel harder than it sounds. It’s easier to follow the media and crowds, and just complain like everyone else. I know that. But this isn’t about easy. It’s about better. We all believe life would be better if we didn’t have all these (insert your problems here), right?  Now it’s about declaring that we’re no longer going to give those problems strength. We’re taking the wind from their sales, and we’re going to stop promoting them. Let’s see how influential they are when they’ve got no more publicity!

I know this is a big step, but I know you can do it. For good measure, though, I invite you to vent it one last time here in the comments below, and let it go.

What are you willing to let go – to no longer publicize?

The Power of Words

On April 14, 2011, in Coaching, Everyday Life, by Blake Alexander Hammerton

 


This video is a brilliant example of the power of words and communication.  We are only human, creatures of habit, and products of our environment – often our affinity for believing we know best or we know the truth about something prevents us from taking action. When you want something, do you simply ask curiously, or are you asking with a judgement that you won’t receive it?  When something is confusing, do you ask for clarification, or do you seek validation that your opinion is correct?

Here’s an example:

Pete: “I think I’m ready to quit my job and run off to be a rodeo clown.”
Kelly: “Don’t you think that’s a stupid idea? Aren’t you worried about your bills? What will people think?”

vs.

Pete: “I think I’m ready to quit my job and run off to be a rodeo clown.”
Marie: “Wow! Pete, that’s quite an idea! How did you come to this decision? Do you have a plan already?”

Clearly, Marie feels a little friendlier than Kelly, right? Kelly believes that Pete is making a stupid decision, and because she knows best, her questions will feel like statements, i.e. “that’s a stupid idea, you need to worry about your bills, and what people think.” Can you notice the difference in responses between Marie and Kelly.  Which do you find your responses resemble most often?

I know we’ve all been in a situation where someone may say something and we immediately react with judgmental questions. Instead of asking why to that person, we ask why on Earth would you want to do something like that?. The tone and judgment are much louder than the words.

So Blake, what’s the moral of the story here?

There are stories all around you. Which stories are you actually hearing?  How are you responding? The words you use can make a big difference in how you’re received. I invite you to find examples in the world around you, and change the words. Notice any difference in emotion. Did you feel any different when the words in the video above changed? Would you have given your change?

This is a beautiful life, my friends. Sometimes it just takes the right words to express it.

What words do you use to describe your beautiful life?

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15 Habits for Your Best Year Ever

On January 9, 2011, in Coaching, Everyday Life, by Blake Alexander Hammerton

We’re a week into 2011, and I wanted to hit you all with a great list of habits to sink your teeth into. Happy people are passionate, grateful, fulfilled, and true to themselves – among other things.  They have habits and ways of going about things that help them experience what they love in their lives more often than anything else.  These are highly effective, life-changing habits, and they’re coming to you at the perfect time. Start developing these in your life, and I promise you this will be your best year ever.

Honest Appreciation – The “attitude of gratitude” is more than a clever new-age catch phrase. When you genuinely appreciate the experiences, people, opportunities, and challenges in your life, you set your world in motion.  You reap what you sow, right?  Well start sowing the seeds of gratitude.  Soon you’ll be reaping a harvest of your design – love, passion, purpose, achievement – a life fulfilled.

Humor – Use it. Recognize it. Champion it.  Look, life can be unparalleled in its awesomeness, and it can also be incredibly hard.  This greatly depends on your perspective of the world around you.  Have you ever heard the expression, “If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry?”  When life gives you two rusty nails, a rubber band, and a stick of Dentyne when all you wanted was a few lemons, it would probably feel better to laugh, rather than cry.  There are some hilarious moments, events, and people in the world. Join them! Laughter truly is the best medicine.

Take Responsibility – Your next best step to greatness is to take the wheel and steer.  You have to accept 100% responsibility for the course your ship takes because nobody else is going to.  In interviews with highly successful and happy people, one key lesson they always seem to share is that they took responsibility for their actions and outcomes in life… and that’s when it all changed for them.

Know Your Choice – Even when you don’t think you have a choice, you do.  Even when you don’t think you made a choice, you did. In this new year, make it a habit of choosing what you truly want in your life. Remember, when you say yes to something you don’t really want, you say no to something you do want.  The same works in reverse. When you say yes to things you want, you say no to things you don’t.  Pretty simple, right? It takes practice, but you’ll get there.  It takes 21 days to make a habit. Start today.

The Company You Keep – Your friends and colleagues play a big part in your actions.  Surround yourself with people that support your values and ethics.  If they share the passion you share, they’ll help you achieve your goals.  People have a way of building each other up when they’re in a like-minded group.  Give yourself permission to get a new group of friends and be received as the new guy again.

Give Yourself Permission – This is so huge.  Give yourself permission to fail.  Give yourself permission to succeed. There are a lot of people that don’t give themselves permission to do enough of either.  “I don’t want to fail, but I don’t want to draw too much attention by being too good.”  Define what success and failure looks like to you, and give yourself permission to experience both.  When you do, take lessons from it and move forward to you next great adventure!

Do What You Love – Another characteristic of happy and successful people is they do what they love. Life is short. Too short to hate what you do, or do something that doesn’t make you feel alive. Chase your passions, my friends.  Make time to enjoy yourself and your hobbies.

Never Stop Learning – Your brain is a muscle – a mental muscle.  It gets stronger and more “fit” as you learn and expand your mind.  Open your mind up and keep learning.  There are 356 days left this year – read something challenging and new.  When your mind is sharp and engaged, your well-being improves and you feel more equipped to handle more in your life.

Get Active – Get off the couch and get moving! I’m not suggesting everyone go out and train to be a marathon runner – even a 20 minute walk around the neighborhood makes a difference.  Exercise releases endorphins which helps to ease tension and stress.  When you’re less stressed, you feel better, more focused, and you’re confident.  Try it!

Keep Your Word – There’s something so powerful about a person that is true to his or her word. When you’re honest, you have nothing to risk.  Be honest with the people in your life, and keep the promises you make.  Nobody loses when words are kept.

Go Boldly Everywhere – Venture into new experiences with confidence and an open mind.  Start new projects and adventures with people.  Take a vacation to an unusual place.  In everything you do, make it a habit to give it your all – boldly going everywhere.

Forgive – Practice forgiveness in your day-to-day activities.  There’s no reason to rage against the person in the Toyota that was driving too slow in the fast lane.  If you pass that car, the moment is passed. Forgive the driver, and forgive yourself for getting heated about it.  We’re all humans, and we’re all trying to do what we can to live.  Sometimes one way will interfere with another. It happens.  Forgive it, and let the weight go.

Practice Compassion – This goes right along with forgiveness above.  Rather than hold a judgment against someone based on your perspective, show a little compassion.  Here’s an example: When you’re on the train and you pass judgment against a passenger you don’t know, based on something they’re doing or saying, recite the following phrase to yourself – “just like me, this person is struggling to make sense of it all, and is learning about life.”  People are different than you are.  They’ll see things, hear things, want things differently than you will. Accept and practice compassion.

Mind Your Business – Focus on your life only.  Take care of yourself and your family. Work on how you are received in the world.  When you focus on what others should or should not be doing, thinking, or saying, you’re in their business – and you don’t belong there.  Everyone is entitled to live a life they love, and one all their own… including you.

Take Care of Yourself – In the world today, there are a lot of pressures that wreak havoc on the mind, body, and spirit.  Take time to get away from all of it and restore.  Spend an entire weekend napping and relaxing when you feel stressed.  Get a massage! Turn your phone off for a day or two! When your mind and body are nurtured and well cared for, your ability to thrive is top-notch.  You’re the most important person in your life.  Treat your spirit that way.

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Everyday Lessons

On December 7, 2010, in News, by Blake Alexander Hammerton

Holy Cow, it’s been a crazy week, and it’s only Tuesday! I’m going to try and post more updates and articles this week, but if I fall a little short, please forgive me. I’ve had conference calls with clients, managers for upcoming speaking engagements, and fellow coaches. I love connecting with everyone. Please check out the post below. It’s a great list of 10 hard truths in life. I also posted it to my blog at Applied Happiness . Leave comments and share as much as you like. More to come!

Have a brilliant night,

Blake

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