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Leaving 'Normal'... in Pursuit of Happiness!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

You are a car.

(Just humour me for a bit...)

YOU are a CAR! :)
(...or a truck, or a semi-trailer, or a hummer, fire truck, ambulance... you get the idea.)

CHOOSE what kind of 'car' you are - make, model, colour, size - be as specific as you can. If you have some in the house, go root through the toy box and find a matchbox car that suits your mood at the moment... I'll wait (this is the activity portion of this segment). While you're at it, get yourself a blank piece of paper, and a pen or pencil.... maybe a glass of water.... Okay. Settled in?

I'm a 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner Retractable Hardtop Convertible... that's the car in the picture above... rare, classic, vintage, irreplaceable, adaptable, powerful, beautiful, and it has MOXIE (energy, courage, daring), in green - the colour of perpetual growth and newness!

(Can you tell I've thought about this a bit?)

Take your piece of paper and draw a road lengthwise (if you like, use crayons, and add whatever embellishments please your own sense of aesthetics), and place your car on the road in the direction you want to go (if you haven't got an actual car, just draw it on).

Now look at your car. Notice it has four wheels. For simplicity's sake, we are all driving front-wheel-drive vehicles... the power that moves your car, and the energy which keeps it on the road, is in the combined action of the front wheels. On the paper, beside the front left tire, write the word 'THOUGHTS'. Beside the front right tire, write the word 'ACTIONS'. Beside the back right tire, write PHYSIOLOGY' or 'BODY' and beside the back left tire, write 'FEELINGS'. In the direction you are going, write the word 'HAPPINESS'.

Now you are ready to learn to drive!

The most memorable statement my father has ever made to me (besides, "Do as I say, not as I do!" ... a whole other blog), was made as he was teaching me to drive. I don't think he even remotely realizes how profound it was, or how deeply it affected me, even then. I was having a horrible time keeping the car on the road at all, let alone on my own side of the road. My dad summed up the problem nicely... "Don't look at the front of the car! Look to where you are going!" My steering problems ceased right then and there!

The same applies here. Before you can drive your car effectively, you have to look to where you are going... what are your goals? If you know the answer to this for yourself, write a few key words down beside 'HAPPINESS'.

'HAPPINESS' is a by-product of leading a balanced, varied and satisfying life which meets your needs (the road upon which you are driving your car).

Your happiness depends upon knowing what you want, and in distinguishing between what you WANT and what you honestly NEED for a balanced, varied and satisfying life. Any 'Rolling Stones' fans here? Mick was right, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need."

Whether, or not, you are happy depends upon what you are 'THINKING' and 'DOING' (front-wheel-drive).

You have four basic needs which must be satisfied if you are going to be happy. The degree to which you meet these needs (stay on the road) will dictate the degree to which you are happy and achieve your goals. If you meet these needs (keep your car on the road), you are happy. If you don't meet these needs (find yourself in the ditch, rolled over, crashed in an accident, possibly fixing flat tire after flat tire, or your car is stuck in the shop... possibly up on blocks... not even on the road), you are unhappy.

Your basic needs are:
LOVE (a sense of belonging in your life, friendship, caring - people, relationships)
POWER (a sense of your own importance in the world, recognition, skill, competence)
FUN (that which makes your life brighter... pleasure, playfulness, laughter, learning)
FREEDOM (independence, autonomy, a fundamental sense of choice - and EVERYTHING is a choice - 'not to choose is to choose')

Meeting your needs EVERY DAY in a BALANCED way is something to aim for if you want to be more satisfied with your life. In order to feel good about yourself you have to have a minimum of LOVE, POWER, FUN, and FREEDOM built into every day. You meet your needs through activities you do with yourself and other people... it's ALL about your relationships - first with yourself, and then with others.

ALL behaviour is purposeful (not good, or bad). In EVERYTHING you do, you are attempting to meet one of these four needs. However, not all behaviour is effective or constructive. Learning to make CHOICES that will EFFECTIVELY and CONSTRUCTIVELY meet your needs is key to keeping your car on the road.

So how do you know if you are effectively meeting your needs (driving, or keeping your car on the road)?

Your CAR is your own personal survival/feedback system... whether, or not, your car is on the road will tell you how well you are driving (meeting your needs). Your THOUGHTS and ACTIONS are informed and guided by your FEELINGS and your PHYSIOLOGY (body). Your feelings and your body are closely connected with your basic needs, and to the pictures in your head of how you ideally want your needs to be met (the scenery along your road to happiness).

Your feelings and your body provide SIGNALS - internal sensations - which tell you whether, or not, your car is on the road. If you are meeting your needs in a balanced and effective way, your feelings and your physiology will give you positive feedback (a sense of satisfaction, joy, peace, happiness, wellness, strength, vitality)... A MATCH. If you are not meeting your needs in a balanced and effective way, you will experience an ERROR - some sort of discomfort, or painful negative signal (pain, anger, resentment, hurt, fear, anxiety, depression, illness), which tells you that your needs are not being met, and that your car is no longer on your road to happiness... how strong the signal is will tell you just how far off course you are in effectively and constructively meeting your needs.

Your signals (positive and negative) are relentless in trying to tell you whether, or not, you are meeting your needs. Your 'FEELINGS' and the condition of 'YOUR BODY' are not a means, or an end, in and of themselves. They give you clues which inform and guide your 'THOUGHTS' and your 'ACTIONS'. Until you change what you are 'THINKING' and 'DOING' (remember... the power that moves your car, and the energy which keeps it on the road, is in the combined action of the front wheels), your feelings and your body will produce ERRORS to tell you that you are not getting what you need to be happy.

Once you acknowledge the signal (feeling and body), you have to take 'RESPONSIBILITY' (responsibility is my 'ability to respond') for 'DOING' something about getting what you need. Some people would rather believe that they have no control over their feelings, that they could choose to correct the thinking and behaviours which are creating the feeling error they are experiencing. Most of you have been conditioned to believe that your feelings are sacred, and definitely something over which you have no control. This is only partially true. Your feelings are worthy of acknowledgement, but rarely are they worthy of the degree of power you choose to give them. While you don't have control over your signals (what you may feel/experience in your body in any given moment), you DO have CONTROL over the feelings you experience as part of what you are 'THINKING' and 'DOING'.

ALL behaviour is TOTAL. ALL four parts of your car (your thoughts, actions, feelings, and physiology) are involved every time you behave (drive off down the road). You have complete control over what you choose to 'THINK' in response to what you feel. This then gives you 'CHOICE' about how you 'ACT' in response to a feeling which, in turn, can often change how you ultimately feel, and what you experience in your body. THIS is how you keep your 'FEELINGS' from running your life and, most often, running your car off into the ditch. Your CAR is your own personal survival/feedback system... and your feelings or your body should not be where you put control of your car. Your car is front-wheel-drive, and is powered and steered by what you CHOOSE to 'THINK' and 'DO' in response to your feelings and your body.

Are you still with me?

Let me give you an example... why are you here? You are here because for one reason or another, your 'BODY/PHYSIOLOGY' has given you an ERROR signal... you are overweight, you are physically unfit, and you don't feel truly well - physically, or emotionally... your 'FEELINGS' are also off the road... to a degree you feel unhappy about your weight. Effectively, your back wheels are pumped up like tractor tires. How easy is it to steer your car with those tires overwhelming your front-wheel-drive car? Ever been to a 'Monster Truck' show? It's more likely you are in danger of flipping right over due to the imbalance. How are you getting control over the situation? Hopefully you are learning to 'THINK' and 'ACT' a little more in line with your goals of losing weight, and of becoming healthy and fit. You are starting to look to where you are going, and you are likely feeling a sense of accomplishment... and even though you may have a ways to go, you are feeling happier. If you aren't feeling happier... if you aren't losing weight and getting healthier... if you are still struggling to get control of your car because the back tires have too much air, and the front tires don't have enough, then you need to look at how you can achieve better balance if you want to start driving down that road with any degree of consistency. My friend CJROMB says it very succinctly, "The MORE tracking and measurement things I put in place (THINKING & DOING behaviours), the less mysterious and EMOTIONAL losing weight becomes."

The biggest error in judgement that I see here at Spark people is reflected in statements like:

"I can't help how I feel."
(Perhaps not, but you can certainly CHOOSE how you RESPOND to your feeling signals.)

"I can't do anything about my feelings."
(Sure you can... you can THINK and ACT differently to produce the feelings you want to feel.)

"I don't feel motivated."
(Unless you are THINKING or DOING something to foster a feeling of motivation, you can't expect to feel motivated.)

"I am an emotional eater... when I feel (insert feeling) I can't help myself."
(This is only true if you THINK that eating is the only ACTION you can take in response to whatever you are feeling. If you CHOOSE to THINK a new thought... a thought which empowers rather than victimizes you, and then instead CHOOSE an ACTION which supports your goals, you certainly CAN help yourself.)

"My (husband, mother, boyfriend, boss, sister, etc. etc. etc.) makes me feel (insert feeling)."
(Nobody can make you feel anything. What you CHOOSE to THINK and believe about your situation is what creates the feeling you are carrying. CHOOSE to THINK and believe something else... something which reinforces how you WANT to feel, and you will feel differently. And if you then take ACTION based on your new thought patterns... well watch your car straighten out, and head for happiness!)

It saddens me beyond words (and THAT'S saying something) to witness people victimizing themselves with their own feelings and thoughts. If you have a huge, pumped up 'feeling' tire, and you allow yourself to simply sit around and THINK thoughts that stroke and encourage those feelings (thus inappropriately pumping up that tire, too), while your other tires are under inflated, your car is just going to go around in circles... it has no other choice, and you are feeling exactly how you should feel under the circumstances (note exactly where your thinking and feeling tires are... they're on the same side of the car... an alcoholic has the same problem on the opposite side of the car... they allow their actions and body to control the situation).

You are a victim of your feelings ONLY if you CHOOSE to be. Your feelings are simply information for you to use in evaluating your CHOICES with respect to how you will THINK and ACT in the world. Your feelings DO NOT define you. You are defined by your THOUGHTS and your ACTIONS. It is your THOUGHTS and your ACTIONS which get you down whatever road you CHOOSE to travel.

YOU are a CAR.
Is your car driving you, or are you driving your car?

'Thelma and Louise' is a movie about two women who, for a variety of very valid reasons, choose to run out on their lives hoping to find themselves somewhere better... possibly even happy. They arbitrarily hit the open road, with a true sense of freedom, for perhaps the first time in their lives... yet they take along their old ways of thinking about themselves and the world. Unfortunately, and because they are simply running away, with no thought toward where they are going, and certainly with no plan which considers a balanced and effective way to meet their sincere needs, they lose their way rather quickly. They allow their feelings to drive all of their actions and choices to the point where they can't even see they have choices anymore. At this point they are offered an opportunity to choose based on new thinking and unfamiliar action... they are asked to step out of their comfort zone, and to trust that they can baby step their way onto a road that would eventually lead them to happiness. They refuse the invitation to think differently about themselves or their circumstances and, instead, choose to drive their car off a cliff to certain death. (REALLY.)

Are you choosing to be 'Thelma'? Perhaps 'Louise'?

I much prefer a less acclaimed movie... 'Leaving Normal' (quirky, funny and heart-wrenching all at once... lower budget... Christine Lahty and Jennifer Tilly... filmed in Canada). Again, a movie about two women who, for a variety of very valid reasons, choose to run out on their lives, hoping to find themselves somewhere better... possibly even happy. They arbitrarily hit the open road and encounter similar setbacks on their road to happiness. The difference comes in that one of these women begins to question everything she believes to be true... she senses that the dysfunctional patterns in her life that keep repeating themselves, and which cause her such unhappiness, just might have something to do with what she, herself, chooses to think and do in repsonse to her feelings and circumstances. She stops allowing her feelings about anything to become the basis upon which she plans her life. Against all resistance from her friend, and her own considerable discomfort, she starts 'being the change she wants to see in her world', and begins thinking the thoughts that support how she wants to feel. She starts to see her own limitless choices, and she starts making choices that support what she wants. Though not without it's difficulties, she baby steps her way into a very satisfying and happy life filled with love, productive work she enjoys, her dream home, and with enough to share with her friend who slowly starts to come around. She leaves what she thought to be 'normal' behind and finds happiness.

Are you willing to leave 'normal' and drive your car down the road to happiness?

"The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself." BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

"Indeed, man wishes to be happy even when he so lives as to make happiness impossible."

"Often people attempt to live their lives backwards; they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want, so they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want."

"This is my "depressed stance." When you're depressed, it makes a lot of difference how you stand. *The worst thing you can do is straighten up and hold your head high because then you'll start to feel better.* If you're going to get any joy out of being depressed, you've got to stand like this." CHARLIE BROWN

"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." ABRAHAM LINCOLN

"Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product." ELEANOR ROOSEVELT

"Happiness is a direction, not a place." SYDNEY J. HARRIS

"A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery while on a detour." UNKOWN

"The happiness of most people is not ruined by great catastrophes or fatal errors, but by the repetition of slowly destructive little things." ERNEST DIMNET

"There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do."
FREYA STARK, The Journey's Echo

"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." MAHATMA GANDI

"Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy."

"Happiness is a conscious choice, not an automatic response." MILDRED BARTHEL

"Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling." MARGARET LEE RUNBECK

... Could all of these people really be wrong?

And if you don't believe me and the 14 people just above, how about Spark Coach Dean? Check out:
'Stop Dieting and Start Living!'

"It’s about lining up your eating and physical activity (what you're DOING with your body) with your real goals and desires (keeping your car on the road by effectively meeting your needs in a balanced way)."

"Being overweight is usually the result of other problems, not the cause. (Your body is telling you your needs are not being met in an effective and constructive manner. Your body is the SIGNAL, not the issue... your needs are being met in an unbalanced and ineffective way, and the ways you are choosing are also making you fat.)"

"You recognize that the primary problem isn’t what you eat, or even how much you eat, but how (what you are DOING that is ineffective) and why (STINKIN' THINKIN') you eat."

"The key to both permanent weight loss and feeling satisfied and happy with yourself and your life is to take personal responsibility (actively CHOOSE your THOUGHTS and ACTIONS) for what you can control, and let go of everything else. (Drive your car, rather than let it careen out of control into the ditch, or worse.)"

"One of the best ways you can start the transition from a diet to a lifestyle is by taking on the responsibility to identify the problems you need to work on (Which of your needs are you meeting in an ineffective and counter-productive manner, or not at all?) and gather the info you need. (What are more effective ways of meeting your needs, that also reflect the way you want your life to be?)"

If you want to further explore the concepts I've used in the above piece in MUCH greater detail, as well as better understand how to use your 'signals' effectively, and learn how to identify your 'needs' reflected in your 'wants' please read:

'In Pursuit of Happiness:
Knowing What You Want, Getting What You Need'
by E. Perry Good
New View Publications ISBN: 9780944337004

"If you want more out of life, this is a great place to start! How many of us truly find happiness or even know what it means? In this book, E. Perry Good explains what you can do if you want to have a happier life. Discover how basic psychological needs motivate all our actions and explore the four parts of your behavioral system. Once you learn to read your own internal signals, you can act responsibly to support these basic needs."

The 'Basic Needs Circle' works like this:

The centre represents the baseline of your life where your survival needs are all that are being met (food, water, shelter, etc.). Your world is small, and largely devoid of emotional satisfaction. You don't even know you have emotional needs that, should you meet them, would improve the quality of your life. It's the beginning, and acknowledges that basic survival needs must be met before an individual will have the where-with-all to look for more. If people aren't fed, or are under physical threat of any kind, they don't have time to worry about whether or not they are happy.

Conversely, if you find yourself aggitating about your emotional needs, and whether or not they are being met, you may not be as unhappy as you think! :)

As you move outward from that place - as you recognise that there is more to life than simply surviving - you learn, you grow, you connect with others, you impact on the world. As you become more and more effective and constructive about both identifying and meeting your emotional needs, your world expands to encompass richness, joy, success, and an ever-increasing sense of freedom. It is at the outer reaches of this ever-expanding world that you are THRIVING!

May you and your world never stop growing!


RONTFL!!!! You just have to love it when the universe conspires with frustration and inspiration! I subscribe to a weight loss newsletter which employs the principles I talk about above.

This JUST popped into my inbox:

'Are We There Yet? On the Road to Less Weight'
"Each minute passes like the minute before, each hour, each day, each week. Time passes, whether you make a change or not. Why not work at making a small change, and making that change become a permanent part of your routine, until you end up losing the weight in the process?

...And a few nuggets to balance your stinkin' thinkin':
"Even though I'm sick of this stupid weight, I deeply and completely accept myself."
"Even though I want this done and over with, I deeply and completely accept myself."
"Even though I can't wait any longer, I deeply and completely accept myself."

Still think I'm crazy?

If you have an over-inflated 'feeling' tire, I dare you to subscribe for your SELF! I double dog dare you! :)

'The Daily Bite'... "Your daily tip, inspiration, words of wisdom, what you need, just when you need it. Chew slowly and enjoy it ;-)"

Look out, those of you who are insisting on victimizing yourself with your own feelings, or thoughts (essentially those of you who are self-described emotional eaters, or those of you overwhelmed by stinkin' thinkin')... the universe is comin' to get YOU!

...And check out this blog by QUEENOTHEFOREST, in fact, read her page and the rest of her blog... this lady has a lot of insight going on:

If you have any questions about details in this blog, I'd be happy to answer them... sparkmail me!

Before 'Progress' Pictures - February/June, 2012

(I'm now keeping these right under my nose... in addition to being part of every blog I post, they are printed off and taped to my bedroom mirror.)

I've Reached My Goal Weight!!!!!!!

NOTE: My weight tracker is NOT a truthful representation of my weight. Instead, I am using it as a tool to help me visualize my goal as though it's already been achieved!
(Tom Venuto)

UNTIL. (My 'Just Do It' blog)

Why I'm STILL here... my SparkJourney Saga

I need smaller 'big girl' panties!!!

A Different Sort of Strength Training

Is it ever 'okay'?

I have a confession...

Honesty can erase shame.


"DONE! ...And BEYOND!"

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Member Comments About This Blog Post

    Going with the car thing; yesterday I 'felt' like a flat tire. Today I'm feeling more like a tricycle.

    Gotta work on getting my car and my feelings! emoticon

    Sharing your blog w/ DH.
    2087 days ago
  • IAM_HIS2
    My car needs to be balanced. Got side track because I felt out-of-balance and ran away. Well, the car is being checked over and darn it, I am going to get my spark back. I can do it and will do it. emoticon It the Perfect Time For Me To Just Do It!!!
    2610 days ago

    Comment edited on: 11/16/2012 8:44:52 PM
    Wow! What a great blog and so much wisdom packed into it! Thank you so much for referring me to it today on my blog! emoticon emoticon
    2865 days ago
    Talk about support and encouragement. Timing too. Thank You!

    Right after I posted today the vet called with more bad news. Ya know...some times the road just gets all torn up or disappears or the bridge collapses. Through no fault of the driver. It just does. Life. Times like these I guess I can step back and survey the damage and find a good footpath. I guess the point is to keep on moving. Keep on being open to loving and getting my heart broken. And to breaking a few hearts along the way myself. Not on purpose. Just a part of life. I think my favorite quote in your collection is Eleanor's.

    I think now several hours after a powerful crying jag that good effort and authenticity help happiness to recover.
    3774 days ago
    I*think* I'm a VW Beetle Convertible...I'll get back to you on the year...in a truly jazzy color...maybe orange. With a stick shift. and turbo. (can you have both of those in a car?)

    Loved this so much, wish I could link to it. No matter what, I'm going to do the activity!

    3776 days ago
    I am a Ford F150 and handle well off road.
    3776 days ago
    Great blog!

    I wanna be a red sporty something...I think I am more like a blue Honda Civic...which is what I drive.
    3776 days ago
    Absolutely brilliant. I rally enjoyed reading this blog. I wish I had read the bookl when I was working in the mental health field.
    3776 days ago
    Wow! Your right Steph! Goes right with my blog today!

    I am sooo going in circles and 100% happy to admit this is so for me, it is smacking me in the head! I need to reread and really think ................ I am so stuck on figureing out the HOW of this..........i already know I NEED to turn my car around and head in the Happiness direction.....i just feel like i need a map/GPS/Compass or something! ..... you gotta spare???
    3777 days ago
    *sigh* Ok fine... I'll give that one back to you, with the outer ring being the all encompassing hug of thriving. :)
    3777 days ago
    Sorry, Steph... can't give you that one! :)

    The 'Basic Needs Circle' is exactly as it should be.

    Please, see the expanded explanation I've added below the picture.

    And to everyone else... I LOVE hearing about all of your cars and why you CHOSE them! THANK YOU!

    {{{{{{{{{ HUGS }}}}}}}}}}
    3777 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/16/2009 7:52:28 PM
    ::Climbs on the desk to shout "AMEN!!!"::

    "All behavior is TOTAL"


    I have to say the phrase "Even though ___, I deeply and completely accept myself" saved my life and sanity mid-way through this journey. The first time I read one of her emails I about cried - it hit me so deeply and left me awash in total love and acceptance. Of. My. Self.

    And not like you couldn't guess: I'm a cherry red '69 'stang, baby... all understated, classic, saxay, and muscle.

    PS... I find only one flaw with this blog: The basic needs circle. The center is wrong. It should say "Thriving"
    3777 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/16/2009 12:41:26 PM
    I can't read this whole thing right now, but I'm marking it to read it later tonight.

    In the meantime, are we related or something? I tell my clients who are struggling to figure out what their budget is, to imagine their website is a car. What kind of car is it, what features does it have, etc., etc. That helps them and me figure out where they need to be budget-wise to have a successful project.

    Absolutely insane, what IS all this stuff we have in common???

    Can't wait to read this. Looks like it's going to be brilliant. I expect nothing less. :)
    3777 days ago
    WOW! What an amazing and thoughtful post. I'm a yellow convertible. I don't know what kind, but I remember loving that one of my brother's matchbox cars when we were kids. Thank you so much for posting this!!
    3777 days ago
    Great blog, I should read the book.

    1957 Chevrolet BelAir Fuel Injected Convertible (tropical turquoise and ivory) with plenty of trunk space.
    3777 days ago
    Ramona...thanks for sharing this. I love the book.

    Have a fabulous day,
    3777 days ago
  • _VALEO_
    I think I'd be a SMART: "A car that offers maximum comfort, agility, safety, ecology and driving fun" as they said on their website.
    3777 days ago
    You're pretty awesome, Ramona!
    I'm glad to be on the road with you! emoticon emoticon
    And I'm a classic Beetle Convertible - bright red and cheerful.
    3777 days ago
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