Every day, people buy too much stuff, eat too much food, and waste away their hours chasing after happiness…to no avail. They may find excitement or satiation, but TRUE HAPPINESS still eludes them.
Fortunately, happiness is really inexpensive and pretty simple to find, but that doesn’t mean that it comes easily. However, if you’re bold, and truly willing to commit to a few simple steps, happiness will be yours. Try this:
Becoming happy may mean “looking silly” sometimes or changing A LOT of your current habits, but I promise you…it sure beats the alternative.
What can YOU do to create more happiness in your life TODAY?
No matter what happens in your life, where you go, or whom you encounter, the common denominator is always YOU.
It may seem that the outside world has a big influence on your happiness, but the fact is that there are blissful people living in abject poverty, and miserable wrecks living in penthouse apartments with all the material comforts the world can offer.
This goes to show that happiness is truly an inside job.
If you are struggling to find happiness in your life, here are three simple tips to help you shift your perspective and move toward happiness at a moment’s notice.
There’s enough misery in the world. Do your part to tip the scales toward love, acceptance and true contentment, and you’ll be happy no matter where you are.
What will YOU do to generate happiness for yourself today?
Emotional Intelligence is one of the most fruitful traits you can cultivate in today’s world. Thanks to the internet and the resulting global market, we have more connections than ever before, most of them digital. However, one thing we still can’t get from our all-powerful devices is human connection.
And in a world dominated by technology, a never-ending to-do list, and the convenient separation that results from abundant individual wealth, it seems that human connection is the very thing we long for and seek out above all else.
We all want to see and be seen, to be heard and understood. We long to feel our feelings and know that someone gets us. And to connect with others on a more meaningful level. This is the essence of Emotional Intelligence (EQ).
While some people certainly seem to be gifted in empathy and connection, EQ is absolutely a learnable skill. You don’t have to be born into a family of therapists to know how to read someone’s emotions and respond appropriately.
But ‘family’ does help. The number one best thing you can do to start cultivating your own ‘family’ of support is to surround yourself with emotionally intelligent people. As the old saying goes, if you’re hanging out with 4 awesome people, you’re likely to be the 5th.
Look around your communities, pick out the good listeners, and start developing relationships with them. Find the people who don’t redirect conversations when they get uncomfortable, but rather lean in and ask questions. Pursue those who are on their own quest toward personal excellence. Engage with those who are attuned to their bodies…dancers, yogis, massage therapists. And while you’re at it, you might even want to hire a good coach or therapist – emotional intelligence is their job, after all!
As you build your emotional dream team, remember to cultivate your own listening/feeling abilities so that you can more easily connect with them. Practice active listening…it’s a defining trait of people with high EQ’s. Strive towards becoming your best you. And above all, be easy with yourself in the process. You’re learning something new, and that takes patience and compassion.
Who Comes to Mind When You Think about Building
Your Emotional Dream Team?
Mary thinks she’d be happy if she could just change her weight, her looks and her job. Sean believes that he’s an okay person except for certain personality traits, such as anxiety, impatience and his quick temper. Yolanda’s shelves are bulging with self-improvement books; she’s read them all, and she still hates herself.
Who among us doesn’t believe that with a little tweaking, we could be just right—self-realized, self-actualized and self-helped to “just” short of perfection? But, the problem for many is that all the books, self-improvement tips and positive affirmations don’t seem to make us any happier. Worst of all, the minute we “fix” one ugly piece of ourselves, another nasty monster rears its head and starts screaming for attention.
When does self-help become self-hell? What would happen if we started realizing how wonderful we are already?
As the pioneering psychologist Carl Rogers once wrote, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
“Believing that something is wrong with us is a deep and tenacious suffering,” writes Tara Brach, in her book, Radical Acceptance. “The more we anxiously tell ourselves stories about how we might fail or what is wrong with us or with others, the more we deepen the grooves—the neural pathways—that generate feelings of deficiency.” She lists common ways people try to manage this pain of inadequacy:
Accepting yourself does not mean self-indulgence or being passive. Rather it means turning off the shameful, negative, self-loathing tapes within you and just relax.
The blaring voices of our culture certainly don’t help, with promises that buying something, owning something, achieving something will make us better people, that success is measured by looks, wealth or possessions. A healthier life finds deeper meaning and greater satisfaction in self-love, compassion, intuition, taking responsibility and forgiveness (particularly of oneself).
Sometimes it is our so-called faults that can actually lead us to a healthier life. Pioneering psychologist Carl Jung called it our “shadow side,” that part in all of us we are ashamed of and that we often reject. Understanding and accepting that shadow side can lead to enormous freedom and self-acceptance.
Science and research has revealed much about what we can and cannot change about ourselves, according to Martin Seligman, Ph.D., author and Director of Clinical Training in Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. “Some of what does change is under your control, and some is not,” he writes in his book, What You Can Change and What You Can’t: The Complete Guide to Self-Improvement.
Seligman lists some characteristics that are easier to change, such as everyday anxiety, specific phobias, panic, anger and certain beliefs about life. He advises people to discard the notion of changing that which hurts the most (for example, your extra weight) and instead concentrating on those parts of yourself that will respond most successfully to your efforts to change them (for example, your shyness or impatience with your spouse).
In the end, all the energy we put out to change ourselves may just take us back to where we started—to ourselves. And if we can truly accept ourselves as we are, that’s the best place to be.
Five Ways to Love Yourself
1. Stop criticizing yourself. When you criticize yourself, your changes are negative. When you approve of yourself, your changes are positive.
2. Be gentle with yourself. Praise yourself and support yourself. Have compassion for yourself.
3. Love your negatives. Acknowledge that they fulfilled a need and now you don’t need them anymore.
4. Take care of yourself. Take care of your body in ways that please you.
5. Do it now. Don’t wait until you get well, or get sick, or lose the weight or get the new job or the new relationship. Begin now. And do the best you can.
—from Heal Your Life by Louise Hay
Yellow Brick Road Coaching, LLC used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications
What could be riskier than diving out of an airplane or climbing a glacier-covered peak or accelerating a race car into a curve at the Indy 500?
For one person it might be quitting a secure, well-paying job to go back to school. For another, it could be deciding to leave a marriage after 20 years or reporting that the company they work for is endangering the environment or people’s lives.
Though it may not appear so at first glance, psychological risks that summon us to put our personal values and beliefs on the line may ultimately feel more dangerous than those of physical derring-do. Yet, these are the challenges we are asked to face time and again if we are to continue to grow as individuals. Each time we take a risk that contributes to our personal growth or enhances our self-esteem or enriches our lives, we make the choice to stretch ourselves, knowing there are no guarantees and chancing possible failure.
Growth-producing risks generally fall into three categories.
These are the risks you take when you want to get ahead, learn something new or make a distant dream a reality. You take on the venture with hopes of enriching your life. Maybe you want to change careers, or take singing lessons, or learn to speak French. On one side of the risk is the person you are and, on the other, the person you want to become.
All commitment risks have emotional stakes whether you pledge yourself to a person or a relationship or to a cause, a career, or a value. According to Joseph Ilardo, author of Risk-Taking for Personal Growth, if you avoid making emotional commitments, you all but guarantee that your emotional growth will be stunted.
Communication risks fall into the category of self-disclosure. Anytime you tell someone how you really feel you’re taking the chance of self-disclosure. When you open up to others and reveal who you really are, how you feel and what you want and need, you make yourself vulnerable. It is impossible to be assertive without doing so.
All risks carry with them the possibility of failure. Often significant sacrifices must be made before any real benefits are realized. Routines may have to change; the familiar may have to be released. You may be rejected or humiliated. In the case of commitment to a value, personal safety may be in danger. Consider those who stand up for what they believe in or put their own health and well-being on the line in the name of a cause. Challenging yourself is often the key to personal growth and development.
Are you a risk-taker? Ask yourself the following questions:
Consider this: to fulfill your potential, to discover your real self and live an authentic life, you must take risks. And while security may appear to be the absence of change, the only genuine security lies in taking risks.
Authentic. It’s a word we hear a lot – yet, it’s a concept that many of us struggle to exemplify.
To state it plainly: authenticity means being true to yourself. And, sometimes that’s easier said than done.
We’ve all had moments of inauthenticity. Maybe you had to compromise a personal belief in order to keep your job because it’s easier to nod our heads in agreement, so we feel as though we fit in.
Being authentic means being vulnerable. It means loving yourself, regardless of whether someone likes what you’re wearing or what you have to say…or you. Being authentic means believing you are worthy of love, kindness, and acceptance, just as you are.
Like a magnet, authenticity attracts. Authentic people have a way of making others feel relaxed, happy and safe. Here are five tools to help you be your most authentic self, even under the most stressful circumstances:
Remember, at the heart of authenticity, is the courage to be you.
How are you being authentic with yourself?
When faced with difficult situations do you rise to the challenge or raise the white flag of surrender? Are you more like the famed engine from the classic children’s story, The Little Engine That Could, telling yourself, “I think I can, I think I can! I think I can!!”? Or do you find yourself stuck at the station, doubting your abilities to face life’s challenges?
According to the American Psychological Association, self-efficacy is “the confidence in the ability to exert control over one’s own motivation, behavior, and social environment.” Self-efficacy plays a big role in our self-image and belief that we can accomplish our life’s goals. It’s the fuel in our engine to make us believe that we can do it, and take the steps to get there.
People with high self-efficacy tend to be highly motivated because they’re focused on positive outcomes, are passionate about their activities, and easily rebound from setbacks. It’s a necessary characteristic for success.
How do you build self-efficacy within? Psychologist Albert Bandura identified 4 key sources of self-efficacy to help you keep your momentum going when facing life’s challenges.
The next time you find yourself doubting your abilities remember the Little Engine That Could, add some high-octane fuel to your tank, and tell yourself, “I KNOW I can, I KNOW I can!”
Habitual lateness. Extreme disorganization. Not following up sales leads. Self-sabotage takes on a variety of guises and affects people of all ages, professions and economic levels. But it always leads to our not living the life we want for ourselves.
Take this Self-Quiz to see whether you might be working against yourself in some areas.
1. It takes me at least a half hour to locate a document I need to send to someone.
2. I can be indecisive and fearful; as a result, chances often pass me by.
3. I tend to start projects with great gusto, but have great difficulty finishing them.
4. My financial situation is chronically chaotic.
5. My actions often jeopardize my relationships, my job and/or my financial stability.
6. I worry a lot about what others think of me.
7. I tend to give in to compulsive behaviors to overeat or partake excessively in unhealthy substances or activities.
8. I seem to be always struggling.
9. I’ve been told I have a problem expressing anger appropriately.
10. I often put off the things I need and want to do. Procrastination and reliability are problems for me.
11. I’m still not living the life I truly want, and I’m starting to lose hope that I ever will.
12. When I really want to do something, I frequently have the thought that I can’t or shouldn’t do it.
13. My relationships tend to eventually fall apart, or I stay in unhealthy relationships.
14. When I think about working out, I immediately start thinking about all the other things I “should” be doing instead. Exercise rarely wins.
15. I’m often late to work and late with assignments; this has hurt my career.
16. I avoid confrontation and/or fawn over others in order to be liked and win their favor.
17. I repeatedly make self-deprecating, belittling comments about myself.
18. I know I have the potential to do more with my life, if I could just get out of my own way.
Self-defeating behaviors often mask a fear of change and growing; when we deliberately hamper our own efforts, we get to avoid the knowledge that our life is up to us, and that we do, indeed, get to choose. Just imagine the life we could be having if we put as much energy and creativity into manifesting our goals as we do avoiding them. It’s not easy to change self-sabotaging patterns, but with time and practice—and a good dose of self-love—it is possible to end a self-defeating cycle and live the life we truly want for ourselves.
Yellow Brick Road Coaching, LLC used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications
Imagine the space this article fills as blank.
Imagine the time and energy it might have taken someone who procrastinates to:
1) think about doing the article,
2) put it on a list of “to dos,”
3) talk about doing it,
4) promise to start it tomorrow,
5) promise to definitely start it tomorrow,
6) promise…well, you get the point.
As the deadline for the article draws near (it’s midnight the night before the article is due), imagine the stress the writer must feel as he or she brews a pot of coffee and sets up for a couple of hours to research the topic, organize the information, create an outline, come up with a dynamite opening line, write the article, rewrite the article, rewrite it again, print it out and rewrite it one more time. And, of course, the whole time he or she is beating their self-up for waiting so long to start and telling their self they’re not good at this job anyway and the article will be a bust.
This is procrastination in full, weedy flower. Delay. Broken promises and unfulfilled expectations. Feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Worry. Fear. Stress. Overwork and probably not as good an end product as the writer would have produced if they’d tackled the job in a timely, reasonable, professional manner.
Procrastination isn’t good for anyone, anytime. So why do so many do it? Not just around such matters as filing income tax and completing holiday shopping, but with everyday tasks such as cleaning off the desk or straightening up the garage or starting a project at work.
The more difficult, inconvenient or scary the task is perceived to be, the more procrastinators procrastinate. They come up with semi-convincing self-talk that makes the delay appear reasonable, but in the end it’s a self-defeating behavior that causes all sorts of problems, not the least of which is stress.
Following are a few remedies to overcome procrastination:
1. Set goals. Decide what you want and what needs to happen to get it. Be specific. Create a realistic timetable.
2. Commit. Make a contract with yourself. Tell a friend or co-worker or family member your plan. Ask for help when you need it.
3. Set priorities. Make a list of things that need to be done in order of their importance.
4. Get organized. Have the right tools and equipment to do the job. Make lists. Keep a schedule.
5. Think small. Don’t let the whole of the project overwhelm you. Stay in the present and do what you are doing.
6. Break tasks into parts. The “Swiss cheese” approach to getting any major project completed is to break it apart and work on one piece at a time. Reward yourself when you complete one step.
7. Use positive self-talk.
8. Replace excuses with rational, realistic thinking.
9. Realize there is no such thing as perfection. Begin the thing knowing it can never be done perfectly. You’ll do your best. You always do.
10. Reward yourself. Often and generously for accomplishing the smallest of tasks. Celebrate. Pat yourself on the back. Enjoy your accomplishment.
Like many other self-defeating behaviors, procrastination can be overcome. The place to begin is where you are.
The time to start is now.
Jill was running late. She only had a little time on her lunch break to run an errand for her significant other before returning to work to finish a big project she’d delayed until the last-minute.
She parked outside the post office. When she returned, her car was pinned in by another vehicle and she couldn’t get out. She sat on the curb and waited. Twenty minutes later an elderly man returned to the car blocking Jill’s. Jill shouted “Hello!” but the man got in his car and pulled away without saying a word.
Jill returned late to the office. She knew she’d have to work overtime to finish her work. She stared out the window cursing herself for procrastinating on this project. She looked at the files on her desk, feeling overwhelmed by all the work ahead of her. Still, she couldn’t manage to get started. She felt angry.
Then the phone rang. It was Jill’s significant other asking if she’d run the errands she’d asked. She shared what had happened that day. Her significant other empathized then made her promise to do one thing, no matter how small, for herself: order a healthy meal, take a walk in the park, or listen to some music before she started working. Jill agreed. She thanked her for understanding, for her kind advice, and hung up. She looked at the files and thought, “I can handle this, but first…” She smiled, grabbed her coat and headed out for a walk. Her significant other was right, she deserved to take better care of herself, and she resolved to do just that.
We all do it – We say ‘yes’ to others and ‘no’ to ourselves, add too many things to our calendar, neglect our mind, body and spirit, and beat ourselves up over our own limitations and mistakes.
How about you? Are you taking better care of others than yourself? Do you put others’ needs ahead of your own and push your desires off to ‘another day’? Do you burn the candle at both ends to the point where you feel you have nothing left to give?
This is a common problem we all face. But the fact is that when we take care of ourselves, our work becomes easier and less stressful, we are more content, and we feel happier, healthier, and are more engaged in life. And here’s the kicker – it doesn’t take much to achieve this feeling. It simply requires a small amount of consistent ‘me time’ each day. It could be as simple as a 20-minute meditation, a 30-minute workout, or some quiet time to read your favorite book. Out of 24 hours in a day – 1,440 minutes – can you commit to sometime just for yourself?
You deserve as much care and compassion for yourself that you show to the people in your life. What one action of self-care will you take for yourself today?
Learn more about my upcoming workshop on January 30th: Lighting Your Fire: Sparking Your Inner Motivation to Achieve Your Goals!
Terri O'Donnell is a certified Life Coach. She is an honest, straight shooter who is dedicated to using her training and experience to help people live the life they desire.