Tuesday, September 17, 2013

If You're Unhappy and You Know It, Gnash Your Teeth

Yesterday's paper contained a fascinating article (at least, I found it fascinating) about the new "World Happiness Report" that the UN released for the first time last year, and the second time last week. After analyzing data from 150 countries, the researchers discovered that six factors accounted for 75% of the variation in happiness between nations.

Per capita income, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption, having someone to count on in times of trouble, and personal generosity are the six factors that mostly determine whether the residents of one country are happier than their neighbours.

What's interesting is that all six of these factors are in some sense controllable by the individuals in most countries. Sure, we can't necessarily control (at least not directly and immediately) the corruption in our governments, but we can control it in ourselves, and the influence can spread to our nearest and dearest, and then to the wider community. It's all in how we respond. If we refuse to act in a corrupt manner in our own dealings with others, we provide an example of honesty for others to follow. If we name corruption for what it is when confronted by it, others begin to realize that even if they "get away with it" now, honest folks are aware of what's going on, and eventually they'll get caught.

That's where this blog comes in.

Over the years, I've written about everything from cooking to preaching, but what I really wanted to do when I started was help people find resourses within themselves to gain control of their lives and to be happier. I wanted to do this because I was (and still am) myself on the path to building myself an awesome life. Folks have responded positively to this blog. I have three other blogs (two of them still live) and none of them has gotten quite the response that this one has. (And before you point it out, I'll freely admit that I'm not yet in the "big league" as far as blogging is concerned. I'm only saying that this blog appears to be the most relevant to other folks.)

I've learned that there's actually a career path for what I want to do--it's called Life Coaching.

I'd like to use my knowledge, skills and experiences (all of which I have in abundance) to build a business helping people to reach their goals and live happier lives. I know where my strengths lie.

Eventually, I plan to add personal coaching to my repetoire, but I'd like to start with more general media like blog posts, videos, and e-courses because not everyone needs personal coaching, and those who do need or want personal coaching can start with the courses and blog posts, and be more able to get full value out of the personal sessions.

What I don't know is what areas my readers would like me to cover. That's where you come in. If you would be so kind as to respond in the comments below with what you'd like to see me address, I'll start working on blog posts, videos, or even an e-course that will help you.

Monday, September 9, 2013

One Small Step

Our local paper this week published an article about a young University of Waterloo student, Sujay Arora, who has developed an app for women in India who wish to hail a taxi. As recent news stories have disclosed, travel on public transit is not always safe, especially for women in countries where patriarchy and general disorder are more prevelant than rule of law and caring for fellow human beings. The app would allow women to book a cab of their choice--it even has a "W" button for hailing a woman-driven cab--as well as texting the details of the cab ride to a friend or family member, so that someone knows where the traveller is and who she's with in case of trouble.

Arora's dream is to have every cab in Waterloo and New Delhi have his company stickers on them. He knows that his app won't end violence against women. "It is a really small step," he is quoted as saying. But I contend that that small step is really important.

A journey of any kind, whether to the local grocery store or to a world where everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, colour, religion, or socio-economic status can live in peace, is made up not of giant leaps, but of small steps. And the most important step of any journey is the first--the step that commits us to leaving the place where we are and going to a new one.

Arora's app certainly isn't the first step towards ending violence against woman. Although at times it seems like we're going backwards, the freedom women have today, especially in Canada, is huge compared to what we have had in the past. And the rage surrounding the recent rapes in India, as well as the move to make rape committed by soldiers a recognized war crime, indicate that the movement towards freedom for women is much more global than it has been.

Arora's app is important for the safety of women in two cities (as of now), but it's important for another reason. Charitable agencies around the world are spending a tremendous amount of money and effort to educate and empower women and girls, but those efforts will fail if we don't also teach men and boys that being a man does not mean you need to be violent, possesive, or "in charge". Arora's app is important not only becaus of what it does, but because of who developed it.

A young man realized that violence against women is the fault of the perpetrators, and our society, and went beyond vigils and protests to actually do something about it. A small step? Perhaps, but if every man(and woman)who thinks likewise went beyond tears to action, those small steps would add up pretty quickly.

My motto for the past few months has been a quote by tennis great Arthur Ashe: Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. If, like Sujay Arora, we all lived that quote violence against women (not to mention a host of other social and environmental ills) could very well end in our lifetime.