Archive for June 2013

I Choose To Be Happy! Do You?   Leave a comment

Choose Happiness – Then Act To Make It Real!    

Choose Happiness

“I have decided to be happy,” wrote the French writer Voltaire,”because it is good for my health.”
Is this true? Can choosing to be happy make you healthier?
Apparently so. Especially if you back up that choice with action such as paying attention to what you’re grateful for.
Gratitude Makes You Healthier

In his book “59 Seconds,” psychologist Richard Wiesman describes an experiment in which some people wrote for 15 minutes a week about things they were grateful for, while others wrote about what annoyed them and still others wrote about neutral topics. 

The results of the study showed that the gratitude group was much happier than the other groups. They were very optimistic about the future. And they were physically healthier!
Other studies of people who keep “gratitude journals” show the same kinds of results. And writing seems to increase the effect over simply thinking grateful thoughts. 
I do both. I keep a daily gratitude notebook and, at the end of each day, write down a half-dozen things for which I’m grateful that day. They’re not often big things. More often they’re small things that have a big effect such as “sunshine,” “birdsong,” “a delicious meal,” “a letter from a friend,” “a good book.”
I also go for “like walks” during the day. Going for a 10 minute walk about every 90 minutes can prevent stress hormones from accumulating. It can energize you. And, if you focus on things you like as you walk, it can tilt your positivity ratio in toward the healthy range where you feel happy, confident and optimistic.

Healthy Self-Talk Makes You Happier

“The happiness of your life,” said the Roman philosopher Marcus Aurelius, depends on the quality of your thoughts.”
 We’re always chattering away to ourselves in our minds, but are often unaware what we’re saying to ourselves.  Another way to choose happiness is to pay attention to your own self-talk — to the thoughts, beliefs and stories you tell yourself.
If your self-talk includes many negative thoughts such as “this will never work,” “I always screw up,” “nothing will come of this effort” you will feel negative, pessimistic. 
But, if you catch those negative “trigger words” and soften them and make them more realistic — “this might not work first time,” “I succeed as much as I fail and learn from my mistakes,” or “there’s a chance that nothing will come from this, but at least I’ll know and can try something else — you’ll feel much better.
As well, much unhappiness stems from “shoulding” on yourself, others or the world. Shoulding turns normal desires into hard-to-live-up-to demands. Instead of “I’d like to do well,” we say “I should do well.” If we don’t do well, we judge ourself negatively. And feel down. 
But, if you can catch your “shoulds” and turn them into desires — preferences — it makes a huge difference. 
If you prefer to do well and don’t do so, you can say, “okay, that didn’t go the way I wanted it to go. So how can I fix it? What can I do next?” 
Again, you’ll feel better, more energized to act, and happier with yourself.


We Are Happier Creating Desired Results Than When Solving Problems

Many of the “problems” we focus on and take action to “solve” are not really problems and are not solvable by conventional problem-solving strategies. 
They are, rather, challenges to rise to and opportunities to create what matters. They are life’s normal limits and inevitabilities. They’re not problems to overcome but rather realities to accept and work with.
“By accepting life’s limits and inevitabilities,” said Greek philosopher and teacher Epictetus, “and working with them rather than fighting them, we become free.”
Problem solving focuses primarily on what we don’t like and don’t want and on action to get rid of it or get relief from it. 
Creating, on the other hand, focuses on what we like or love and action to bring it into being. 
Whereas most problem-solving at best promises only relief, creating promises real and lasting results — and the good feelings that accompany the creation of such results.

Choose To Be Happy

So, yes, you can choose to be happy and it’ll work — if you take the right kind of action to back up your choice on a daily basis.
Expressing gratitude, monitoring and changing negative self-talk to more positive self-talk and shifting from a problem focused life stance to the stance of the creator will all help you become energized, feel freer and happier.
There are many other ways to make choosing happiness work for you, but these three are a good place to start.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, Nothing can bring you happiness but yourself.”

The Importance Of Making Mistakes –   Leave a comment

The Importance Of Making Mistakes — And Learning From Them!    

If you are like me, you were brought up and schooled to get things right — and not to make mistakes.
Whenever, for example, I’d try to build something out of wood, and wasn’t getting it right, my father would grab his tools away from me and do it himself.
Then he’d give me a lecture on, “If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all!”
Gradually, in spite of what were no doubt good intentions, he taught me not to do things I couldn’t do — at least in the area of working with tools and materials.
For years, I was afraid to even touch tools. I was afraid to even try to fix things — unless I could do it with duct tape.
In the words of positive psychologists, my father was instilling in me a sense of “learned helplessness.”
One Right Answer? Or Many Perspectives? When I grew up and became a teacher, I found “the system” of schooling to be as stifling to me as it had been as a student. I was taught to teach “the discovery method” in which students were provided with a question, a wide range of resources and expected to come up with their own answers.
Although it was a fun, exciting and effective way to teach, and although I learned a great deal practicing the discovery method in my own life, it was hard to practice in the public high schools in which I tried it.
Other teachers didn’t like it. They found it threatening to their right-answer-driven, notes-on-the-blackboard, memorize and regurgitate, exam-focused teaching styles.
Administrators didn’t like it because instead straight rows of quiet students, my classroom was an organic mess of small groups talking, arguing and raising their voices about topics they felt passionate about.
Even parents didn’t like it. I got called into the office once because a bright student of mine had written three essays instead of one on the topic of “economic systems” – one on a capitalist system, one on a communist system and one on a social-democratic system. The parents were horrified and I was accused of trying to convert their son to “Communism.”
Actually, I was trying to teach the kids to see things from different perspectives. That there was more than one right answer to most questions. Ironically, the student went on to become Minister of Finance in a conservative government. So much for converting kids.

If You Can’t Do It Right, Do It Again — Until You Get It Right
I quit teaching high school and immersed myself in experiential education. I found my niche in hands-on education in which mistakes were a critical part of learning, and failure was merely feedback. 
I taught skiing at night during my last year teaching. I developed wilderness-based environmental education programs for teens. I helped develop a climbing and mountain leadership school, and taught basic rock and ice climbing. I developed and ran experiential team-building retreats for organizational executives. 
Later, I focused on teaching and coaching people from all walks of life how to create what they truly want in their lives, work and relationship. 
The process I use has clients learn to create small, concrete results, learn the generic process of creating, and then scale up by applying that process to larger, more complex and more meaningful results.
A key to this creating approach is the process we call “create and adjust, create and adjust…”. Try something, note the result (get feedback), make adjustment to your action and try again. Repeat until your creation is completed.
Mastery: Channeling A Torrent 
Along the way, I learned about mastery. 
“Mastery,” wrote George Leonard, “is the mysterious process during which what is at first difficult becomes progressively easier and more pleasurable through practice.”
Practice, I learned, involved the opposite process to that which my father had taught me with his, “If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all,” lectures. It was the opposite of the “regurgitate the right answer on the test, then forget it” approach that remains the mainstay of much public schooling.
But don’t blame teachers for not changing. It’s a tough job.  “It takes a lot of energy,” Leonard, who became a fifth-degree, black belt Akido master in his fifties, wrote in Education and Ecstasy,” to turn a torrent into a trickle.” 
As I took on new challenges and learned new skills, I learned that I could channel that torrent of interest and passion — in learners and in myself. I also learned about the importance of making mistakes.
I learned that mistakes were a natural part of learning. I learned that mistakes and failure were opportunities to learn, change and grow. Create and adjust…!
I learned that practice, especially deliberate practice, is more an “If you can’t do it right, keep doing it until you do get it right.” 
Indeed, research in positive psychology shows that practice multiplies natural talent and skill. 
Generic Competence and Confidence
Mastery in anything increases confidence; authentic, capacity-based confidence. Not only in the things you master, but in your ability to master things. It increases your generic competence—your “can-do” capacity—which makes it easier to create new things.
Together, practice and mastery equip you to handle life’s challenges and adversity. They empower  you to create what truly matters to you. To envision desired results and bring them into being.
And when your skills and your challenge are almost in balance, you often enter that focused state of optimal experience and effectiveness that psychologists call “flow.”
“Ah, mastery,” wrote Gail Sheey, “what a profoundly satisfying feeling when one finally gets on top of a new set of skills… and then sees the light under the new door those skills can open, even as another door is closing.”