The things we say, whether out loud or to ourselves, have a profound effect not only on how we feel, but also on what we do.
When we tell ourselves “I can’t do it” or “They’ll never allow it,” we undermine our own power and motivation to make change in our lives. When we tell ourselves “I’ll find a way” or ask “What haven’t I tried yet?” we give ourselves a feeling of hope that can help us to sustain the persistent effort we need to make things happen.
So it’s important that we pay attention to what we say.
Ask yourself this: How often are my comments positive and empowering, and how often are they negative and self-defeating? If you can shift that balance, even a little, you can have a real impact on how you feel and what you do.
Here’s one way to start the shift. If you find yourself saying things that suggest that the quality of your life is out of your hands, see if you can find a way to turn them around. One simple way is to use one of my favorite words: “Yet.”
Harnessing the Power of “Yet”
Adding “yet” to the end of a sentence can turn it from an old complaint into a new challenge. It can remind us how much power we do have, help us set goals for the future, and open us up to finding new ways to achieve them. It’s one of the surest and simplest ways to strengthen our hope and persistence – two essential elements of a happy and successful life.
Here are some examples of the power of “yet.”
Continue reading “The Power of “Yet”” »
I was recently interviewed by a few journalists writing articles about either my book or my career change from corporate executive to positive psychology coach. They asked some great questions that encouraged me to distill the lessons of the research into the briefest, clearest responses I could come up with.
Here are a few of their best questions, along with my responses.
Q: What is happiness?
My favorite definition comes from Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar, who describes happiness as the overall experience of pleasure and meaning. I like this definition because it makes clear the “both/and” nature of happiness. It’s about the overall experience (both in the moment and over the course of a life) of pleasure and meaning (that is, a life that is both enjoyable and purposeful).
Q: What makes us happy?
One of the best ways to answer this question is to study what very happy people have in common. It turns out that there are four things that very happy people do that make the difference, and we can all benefit by finding ways to do them in our own lives.
Continue reading ““What is Happiness?” and Other Questions of the Week” »
Getting over a painful experience is a lot like crossing monkey bars.
You have to let go at some point in order to move forward. — C.S. Lewis
In my work as a life coach and career coach, I work with people who feel stuck in a lot of different ways — stuck in their careers or relationships; stuck in limiting ways of perceiving themselves, their circumstances, or their resources. And often we discover together that one of the things holding them back is a reluctance to let go of old grudges and hurts.
Forgiveness — finding a way to let go of those old grudges — gives us the freedom to move forward in our lives rather than being stuck in the grievances of the past. Taking steps to forgive has also been shown to enhance our happiness, improve our relationships, and to have immediate and lasting effects on our physical health and well-being.
Some Reasonable Objections
Of course, as healthy as practicing forgiveness may be, it can run counter to some entirely reasonable objections. Let’s take a look at a few.
I can’t excuse it.
Okay. Forgiving doesn’t mean that you need to minimize or excuse what’s been done or how it’s made you feel. Forgiveness is simply a choice to move beyond hoping that the person who hurt you gets the suffering he or she “deserves.” That choice can allow you to focus on healing the harm done to you without being distracted by a desire for revenge or a persistent feeling of ill-will toward the other person.
Continue reading “Four Steps to Forgiveness” »
We naturally pay more attention to the lion than the sunrise. But what if the lion isn’t really there?
I usually write about things we can start doing to make our lives better, but it’s just as important that we stop doing the things that are getting in our way. So here are three things worth doing a lot less of, and some practical ideas about what to try instead.
1. Seeing Lions on the Savannah
The human species evolved in a situation of scarcity and danger where survival demanded that our ancestors react more strongly to threats than to pleasures. Reacting to a lion on the savannah was a lot more important than enjoying the sunrise.
We still have essentially the same brains as early humans, but most of us live in vastly different circumstances than they did. As a result, our automatic responses are often out of synch with our circumstances.
Try This Instead
If you find yourself reacting to an unexpected meeting with your boss as if you’ve just caught a glimpse of a hungry lion running in your direction, take a minute to try to get your emotions in synch with twenty first century reality. Here’s how.
Continue reading “Want to Be Happier? Three Things to Stop Doing” »
Even the best life has its share of things we don’t want to do, or at least things we don’t want to do when we think we ought to be doing them. So we all procrastinate sometimes.
We know when we’re doing it because we start telling ourselves our best “It Will Be Better If I Put This Off For Now” stories — stories we’ve probably heard many times before.
Do any of these sound at all familiar?
Tomorrow I’ll be able to really concentrate on this report without being interrupted.
It will be kinder not to bring up this issue with my spouse just yet.
I’ll be more creative if I do this project when I really feel like doing it.
I work best under pressure.
As handy as these stories can be, they don’t usually turn out to be true.
Continue reading “Now or Later? Strategies to Overcome Procrastination” »
Anxiety feeds on itself.
Anxious feelings can lead to anxious thoughts, which then reinforce the anxious feelings and can fuel a downward spiral of anxiety. (Wow, talk about an anxiety-producing sentence!)
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Researchers have developed an effective way for us to disrupt that spiral by challenging the thoughts that are feeding our anxiety.
Anxiety-driven thoughts are very often irrational. The good news is that they’re irrational in some pretty predictable ways, so we can learn to recognize and refute them.
Cognitive psychologists have found that the process of identifying and disputing irrational thoughts is a very effective way to short-circuit the anxiety cycle so we can regain our equilibrium, think more clearly, and feel a lot better.
So next time you’re feeling anxious, walk yourself through these three steps.
Continue reading “A Proven Way to Challenge Your Anxiety — And Win” »