The Three Laws of Happiness

Are you happy in your career? Are you doing work that matters?

No? Well, I’ve been in your shoes. I used to feel trapped in the daily grind, conforming to what I thought society expected of me.

Perhaps you’re curious why I assert happiness is something you create? We often look for happiness in the wrong places for the wrong reasons. We don’t understand what true happiness is. True happiness is better described as joy.

There are three laws of happiness:

  1. Happiness starts in your mind. We become what we think about, so happiness flows from right thinking. It’s not a goal, but the result of cultivating a proper mindset and attitude. The word of God is for the heart of man and the way to the heart is through the mind. This is true of anything.
  2. Happiness is a choice. If you look for happiness, you’ll never find it. You’re as happy as you choose to be. Happiness is not a function of your circumstances. Happiness based on feelings is fleeting, but happiness built on habits is enduring.
  3. Happiness is created from good habits. You form habits and then your habits shape you. Habits of any kind take time to develop. They don’t happen overnight. They require constant repetition to become a habit. Therefore, your focus must be on forming good habits. They are just as easy to form as bad habits, but they’re more rewarding.

Like a professional athlete training for a sport, you can train for your life’s mission by internalizing these laws and committing to their mastery. You can experience the joy of doing work that really matters. You can work as though you are working for the Lord, not for human masters.

This post was originally published on November 17, 2019, and is republished today with minor enhancements.

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 33 – Andrew DiDonato

Ordinary People. Extraordinary Conversations.

If “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” and “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” collided at an intersection, then the Neighborly Love podcast would be the result. It features casual conversations over coffee in a “virtual coffee shop” that lean into the power of empathy. It’s about feeling heard, valued, and understood. It’s about serving others. It’s about depositing money in our relational banks.

Neighborly Love is an original podcast by MindWolves. Host Marc Casciani, author of Craft Your Calling, interviews ordinary people about their heart for God and serving other people for the greater good.

Andrew DiDonato

Marc interviews Andrew DiDonato, Head Football Coach at Grove City College in Grove City, PA. Andrew answers three thought-provoking questions: (1) Tell me about a time when you did something nice for someone?, (2) What would you do for a living if money weren’t an issue?, and (3) Do you have a dream that involves serving others? Andrew shares his passion for extending “invitations” to others, explains how he is doing exactly what he was born to do “brick-by-brick,” and articulates how he is living his dream by operating in the framework of Vision, Process, and Love.

Neighborly Love, Episode 33 – Andrew DiDonato (5-31-23)

Who’s In Your Boat?

When someone else’s decision turns your life upside down, can you proceed with a calmness about you?

When someone else’s mistake puts you in a difficult situation, do you gracefully handle the situation?

When you feel like you’re losing everything, are you able to optimistically believe that good will result from the bad?

If you’ve answered “no” to these questions, then kindly keep reading.

You are uniquely you, and you are comprised of body and spirit. Your spirit determines what your body does. It’s your navigator.

On their own, our spirits are unreliable. They have a tendency to think of themselves first, others second. They are selfish in nature.

Because of this fact, our Creator gives us access to a Helper, a spirit that can intercede for our spirits to help us make good decisions. The condition is that our spirits must want the help. Have you ever tried to help someone who does not want the help? It’s impossible.

Let’s call this spirit the Holy Spirit. If we allow our spirits to be subordinate to the Holy Spirit, then the answer to those questions will be “yes”.

It’s really that simple.

Our personal lives and professional lives were never meant to be separate. They evolved that way largely because of the Industrial Age. Fortunately, the Information Age is giving us a chance to reclaim the original intent.

Therefore, let’s presume your life is your work, and your craft is the single thread that weaves everything together. It’s the one thing you apply many different ways to many different situations, i.e. your role as father or mother, your job, your role as friend, son or daughter, etc … It’s what you’re good at, what you like doing moment to moment, day after day, year after year. When you do it, you don’t even realize you’re working. Work doesn’t feel like work.

When your spirit is subordinate to the Holy Spirit, and you allow yourself to be under His leadership and accept His help, then you will get to know what your craft is. The process of discovering your craft is quite remarkable and fun. The journey itself is not easy, but the concept is simple.

Please permit me to illustrate the concept with two stories. Let’s say you make your livelihood catching fish. If fact, many stories in the Bible involve fishermen. Their lives and their work were interwoven.

  • Story #1: Jesus and his disciples were on a boat out at sea and a storm hit. The disciples became terrified as Jesus slept like a rock. They woke him up out of fear for their lives and upon waking, Jesus calmly assured them not to be afraid and then proceeded to quiet the wind and the waves.
  • Story #2: After fishing for 11 hours and coming up empty, a few disciples returned to Jesus tired and depressed. He told them to immediately go back out to deep waters and cast down their nets. He also offered to join them. While skeptical, they listened to him and proceeded to catch an abundance of fish. It was the same lake, same boat, same nets, same fishermen, and same fish. The difference was Jesus’ presence in the boat. It was a game-changer.

Now, Jesus modeled the concept of Holy Spirit subordination. He allowed himself to be under His leadership and accepted His help. He showed us how to do it. We only need to study His character, His habits, how He treated people, and how He handled day-to-day situations. He’s the ultimate player-coach. We have the benefit of knowing how He felt about things and can follow His guidance.

By Adityamadhav83 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 (Wikipedia)

In both stories above, the disciples had Jesus in their boat. And because His spirit was in harmony with the Holy Spirit, He too was in their boat. In these stories, the boat is synonymous with our life’s work. When we have the Holy Spirit in our boat, our life and work are blessed with an abundance that otherwise appears out of reach. It’s what guides us to build our craft.

It begs the question, “Who’s in your boat?

This post was originally published on June 9, 2019, and is republished today with minor enhancements.

Envy vs. Gratitude

We’re always comparing. There are daily battles in our minds over stuff we want versus stuff we have. Things that others possess, but we don’t. The greater success someone else has that should be ours.

On one side is envy.  The other gratitude. What wins your battles? You’re in control.

What determines the outcomes is your mind-heart equilibrium. To have the proper balance, you need a clear, calm mind. With it, you have self-control.

If you chose envy, you’ll never be happy. Trust me. I’ve been there. And it’s such an ugly quality that you won’t like yourself much. It’s a turn-off to others too.

If you chose gratitude, being grateful for who and what you have in life, the good and the bad, and make it a daily habit, then you’ll be a more pleasant, likable, caring, and successful person. Don’t believe me?

I’m sure you’re asking, “Why should I be grateful for the bad stuff that happens?” Because it will be used for good if you believe it and let it shape your character for the better.

If you’re up for a challenge, then start every day over the next 40 days with the following question:

What and to whom am I grateful for today?

Write your answers down in a journal. Write down whatever comes up. Every day.

You’ll transform into a happier, more positive, less envious person. You’ll start to see the good in everything. You’ll stop comparing.

Try it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

This post was originally published on July 7, 2017, and is republished today with minor enhancements.

Our Job in Life

One of my favorite quotes from Mister Rogers is:

As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has – or ever will have – something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.

What Mister Rogers described as “our job in life” is very interesting. As I reflect on that statement, it reminds me of my mom, Virginia. Ever since I can remember, she seemed to innately understand that our purpose is to serve others to help them see their value and uniqueness. She raised four children that way. It was her “job in life” and she took it very seriously.

Now to do that requires a choice to either serve herself or her children, as you can’t serve both. No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. As a parent myself now, I can appreciate that more than ever.

Over the past year, my mom has been writing a book. In honor of her on Mother’s Day, I wanted to share this excerpt with her answer to the question, “What is your best advice when it comes to raising children?

David & Virginia Casciani, Married 11-2-1968

My husband and I raised our 4 children by setting examples of how we wanted our children to be as they developed. In raising our children, we felt building their self-esteem depended on how we showed them respect, positive behavior and attitude. Also, we knew how important it was for us to show them understanding towards their feelings and show them love through our actions. We hoped that our habits and behavior would build their character traits as they experienced the stages of growing up. Keeping them safe, healthy and happy was our purpose as parents. Loving them unconditionally and allowing them to test their boundaries and our patience was necessary. After all, we made mistakes growing up and it’s only fitting that our children should make mistakes. It’s a way we learn, whether a child, a teen or an adult.

Virginia Casciani

Well said, Mom. Thank you for setting a good example. Thank you for owning your “job in life.”

I love you and am so grateful you’re my mom.

You Have Kept a Record of My Tears

If you want to be free to live the life you were meant to live, the meaningful life you were created to fulfill, then you have to learn to relinquish the right to get even. It’s natural to want to seek revenge, but unlike animals, humans were given a unique ability, freewill. We can choose to do or not do something. We can master discernment and exercise restraint.

The version of myself that exists today is so much more advanced in this area than the version ten years ago. A few of the foundational blocks that were set to enable this strength are the following:

  • You have kept a record of my tears. (Psalm 56:8)
  • Never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for He has said that He will repay those who deserve it. (Romans 12:19)
  • All things work for the good for those who love the Lord and are called unto His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

One day, God is going to balance the books. One day, he is going to right all the wrongs. One day, he will settle the score for you, and it is his alone to settle. Trust that he will settle up with your offenders and abusers. Don’t let it distract you any further. Get on with your life’s purpose.

I receive great solace in knowing this.  There is something bigger than me that is real. Something that has kept a record of all those who have hurt me, of everything terrible that has happened to me, and will get even for me. I don’t have to be consumed by anger and revenge. I can let it go, learn from it, grow stronger, and move on.

Keeping a record of my tears is one of the most beautiful things anyone has ever done for me. Not only do I feel loved, but it compels me to share that love with others. It also frees me to do my life’s work.

My hope for you is that you can feel and do the same. God is more interested in your character than your comfort. When you’re hurting ask yourself, “What is God trying to develop in me to make me more like the person He created me to be?

He’s growing a good thing in you and through you. No matter how many tears others caused you to shed, don’t let them distract you. God has your back, and He will get even for you so you don’t have to.

This post was originally published on March 25, 2018. It is republished today with enhancements and a new ending.

America the Beautiful

America the Beautiful by Ray Charles

I had the pleasure of taking a road trip across 7 states this weekend: CO, NE, IA, IL, IN, OH, and PA. I had never done anything like that before. It was humbling. It was awe-inspiring. It was beautiful. As I stopped from time to time, and encountered people of all walks of life in the heartland of America, there was a common denominator. Everyone was friendly. Everyone was pleasant. Everyone made eye contact as I passed them by and said “hello” or “thank you” as I held the door open for them. One gentleman at the South Chicago Lincoln Oasis rest stop went out of his way to complement my Captain America hoodie.

My Captain America Hoodie

“I like those colors you’re wearing young man,” he said. “Well, thank you very much, sir,” I replied. It was a genuine complement, and I was proud to be an American.

The entire experience was a refreshing change of pace from my regular routine. It was a reprieve from the onslaught of negativism about what’s wrong with America. It was an oasis of what’s beautiful and great about America. It gives me hope that there can be another Great Awakening in America. The American spirit present at our founding in 1776 is still there. It’s just buried under layers of crust that can be chipped away.

May God continue to bless America. May He give those that love her founding principles the strength to fight the good fight against those that hate them. We’re far from perfect, but the GOAT (greatest of all time) in unlocking individual freedoms and unleashing human potential by instituting a constitutional representative republic with checks and balances. The “fourth branch of government” that has evolved since our founding, i.e. the Administrative State, is a serious treat to our republic, however we’ll fight to dissolve it just as we fought for our independence in 1776.

Here are some pictures from my journey across America. I hope you enjoy them as much I do.

Rest stop in NE
Rest stop in NE
My favorite mini mart in CO
Rest stop in IA
The University of Idaho was hopping.
As gasoline was fuel to my car, Starbucks was fuel to my body.
This is where I received the compliment on my Captain America hoodie.
Nothing like a girls volleyball tournament experience at Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH. What an awesome experience to see girls compete and demonstrate good sportsmanship.

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 32 – Craig Polard

Ordinary People. Extraordinary Conversations.

If “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” and “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” collided at an intersection, then the Neighborly Love podcast would be the result. It features casual conversations over coffee in a “virtual coffee shop” that lean into the power of empathy. It’s about feeling heard, valued, and understood. It’s about serving others. It’s about depositing money in our relational banks.

Neighborly Love is an original podcast by MindWolves. Host Marc Casciani, author of Craft Your Calling, interviews ordinary people about their heart for God and serving other people for the greater good.

Craig Polard

Marc interviews Craig Polard, Principal at Pinpoint Retail. Craig answers three thought-provoking questions: (1) Tell me about a time when you did something nice for someone?, (2) What would you do for a living if money weren’t an issue?, and (3) Do you have a dream that involves serving others? Craig shares his heart to help college students find a career path in commercial real estate, tells how he would selectively choose what projects to invest in and develop if he didn’t have to worry about making a living, and paints a vision of the future where families win because parents stay together and model a biblical marriage because they are yoked to God’s Word every day.

Neighborly Love, Episode 32 – Craig Polard (4-25-23)

The Comparison Weed

The day I stopped caring to compare myself to others is a day I do not distinctly remember. However, I do remember wanting to stop because all comparing did was make me feel unhappy. That unhappiness either triggered depression or workaholism to earn more money to buy more stuff. Neither state was healthy for my family or me.

My loss of appetite for comparison was akin to a gradual disinterest in something. Over many months, it simply went away. As I reflect on it, what’s really interesting is that it was not a goal of mine, i.e. I did not state, “By April 2023, I want to stop comparing myself to others.” Instead, I focused on changing how I think, transforming my mental state. By incorporating daily Morning and Evening Rituals, I experienced a mental shift of beliefs that abated my hunger to compare. Eventually, I stopped craving it altogether.

No single thing has affected my happiness more than this. By eradicating the obsession to compare, I was freed from the mental prison that had my joy behind bars. I was blind, but now I see all the blessings of my life.

Some of these blessings are not necessarily “good” things, but they are constructive corrections rooted in love. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but it produces a harvest of wisdom and peace for those who learn from it. Whether good or corrective in purpose, I am grateful because everything works in harmony for my ultimate benefit.

One of the side benefits of this new mental state is that I am also freed to be happier for other people. I no longer begrudge what they have, but am genuinely happy for them. In fact, I would argue you can not be genuinely happy for anybody else unless you kill the comparison “weed” at the root. It also seems like this is what empowers each of us to love our neighbor as ourselves.

The Ultimate Compliment

My daughter is playing in a volleyball tournament this weekend. A mom of a teammate signaled to me to approach them. It seemed like they wanted to tell me something. When I got within earshot, she said, “You guys (my wife and I) have done a wonderful job with Jarah. The way she speaks to the other girls is amazing. She’s so positive and encouraging. It’s so nice to see.” I replied, “Thank you so much. That’s so kind of you to say.

Wow. Have you ever been blessed by something totally unexpected? That made my day. It was the ultimate compliment. Jarah was voted captain by her teammates, and her team is a 15u team that has a lot of 14-year-olds. They are a young, inexperienced team playing mostly 15-year-old teams that are better than them. It would be very easy for Jarah to react differently to the situation, however, she is grounded in the proper set of values.

It was an affirmation of all the years of hard work to raise her (and her brother) right: to raise her to be kind and compassionate to other people, to be forgiving just as she has been forgiven, and to love others like she is loved. We are so proud of her.

At a time when it seems like there are so many surrogates for parents, it was a good reminder that good parenting matters. Lord knows my wife and I are far from perfect, but we must have done something right.

I think the main thing is that we “owned” our parenting responsibilities. We weren’t going to delegate or abdicate those responsibilities to anyone or anything else. We knew we would make mistakes, but would learn from them to become better parents. We knew there would be many negative influences on our kids that we would need to overcome.

And, there still are. We mustn’t get complacent.

Jarah is already a compassionate servant leader, and it didn’t happen by accident. She’s an imperfect girl with imperfect parents who take very seriously their responsibility to raise her to live a virtuous life and take seriously her civic responsibility. She is also shaped by other people and factors, some good and some bad.

Her story is still being written, however, the seed is planted for her to craft her calling. God willing, her mom and I will be around to witness many more chapters.

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