It’s a topic I always address when I’m speaking. Keeping yourself happy is a critical success tool.
People mistakenly think happiness is a result of their circumstances. Happiness is purely a result of your response to your circumstances.
Case in point…recently I attended the National Speakers Association’s annual convention. One of the keynote speakers captivated the audience of over 1700 people.
Her name was Immaculee Illibagiza. Immaculee lost her entire family to genocide in Rwanda while ‘living’ for 91 days holed up in a tiny (3ft by 4ft) bathroom with seven other women. Hard to even imagine.
During her entire speech, she fondled the rosary over which she prayed during those horrific days as she spoke about how God answered her prayers, saving her life, those with whom she hid and those who hid her and why she now travels the world speaking of love and forgiveness. Let me repeat that…love and forgiveness.
I was transfixed. Her talk was transformative.
Listening to her made me experience grace, immense gratitude and humility.
Recalling her talk now as I write this article, seems to almost trivialize the necessity of even talking about the absence of happiness for the rest of us who’ve probably never experienced anything even close to what Immaculee went through.
Yet, we all face challenges in life that seem to eat away at, even destroy, our joy.
So, what to do when you’re faced with something that’s bringing you down?
Here are some simple ideas. I’d love to hear yours too. So after reading this article, scroll back up to the top and leave a comment about practices, rituals, actions, beliefs you have that help you maintain your emotional state at optimal levels .
It may be the touch of an infant, the cold nose of your favorite pet, the love (emotional/physical) of your partner, the sound and sights of nature.Identify that item your you and turn your attention away from the thing that’s distressing you.Consciously direct your thoughts toward the more pleasing topic instead.
Find something to be happy about and think about that. Ignore the stressor. Use the relief you feel to help you ‘problem solve’ if necessary.There is a phrase from my corporate life that says “What gets measured, gets managed. What gets managed, improves”. It’s a business process/improvement tactic.
When you take the time to track something you want to improve, you observe it, you learn about it, you catch and correct issues before they go too far astray.It’s similar concept for improving your happiness. Keep track of the things that make you happy.
At the end of the day, think about (or better yet) write down all of the good things that happened to you that day. Some people keep a Gratitude Journal. Noticing good events, makes other good events in your life more visible to you. (It’s like what happens when you buy a new blue car and start seeing that same model and color everywhere.)
2. Take one small action that moves you closer to happiness.
This might be picking up the phone and calling someone you’ve been hesitant about reaching out to for some reason. Play your favorite tune on your favorite device. (Mine is “Happy” by Pharrel Williams,
As I was packing for the conference referenced earlier, a new pair of brown sandals were on the short list of what might get packed. I was looking at them on the floor in my bedroom, when a quiet thought
went through my head “Do you really need to take them?”
I learned this listening to/reading Law of Attraction material from Abraham-Hicks. It sounded selfish at first, but intuitively correct.
masks appear when you’re traveling with small children: “Put your mask on first”.When you’re alive and safe (or sufficiently happy), you can help other people. If you’re unconscious or sad, you can’t.
When I was younger, it was sometimes difficult to ask for what I wanted. I was afraid of what people thought and afraid of how they might react.In order for me to figure out what really might make me happy, I had to pretend no one would know what I had decided.
1. A sense of control
2. A sense of progress
3. A sense of connectedness
4. A sense of vision and meaning
Even in the short time I presented, I found myself talking more than usual about our comfort zones.
It didn’t occur to me how important a topic it was until several people came up afterward to thank me and when asked “what touched you the most?”, they replied quietly and thoughtfully, “the comfort zone part”.
I looked up the definition of a ‘kill zone’ and found it to mean “the area of a military engagement with a high concentration of fatalities”.
So, based on this premise, your comfort zone has created, swept under the rug and buried “a high concentration of fatalities”.
Think about it. Your comfort zone is a vast wasteland of…opportunities you let slip by, dreams you didn’t pursue, relationships you were afraid to develop, jobs you didn’t take, dead-end jobs you didn’t leave, calls you didn’t make, gigs you let someone else win, important conversations you stuffed, trips you didn’t go on, stands you should have taken but didn’t, differences you could have made but ignored, fears you let dominate and prevail, personal growth you didn’t experience.
Have I said enough? Are you squirming yet? I am.
And at some level, it is. But at what cost?
If you could trade that safety for deeper relationships, being fully expressed, earning more money, being seen and making a bigger difference in the world, living a thrilling, fulfilling life experiencing what might seem like magical serendipitous moments, creating the life you dream of, would it be worth stepping out of that comfortable, dream-killing zone?
Here are 7 ideas to break you out of your kill zone comfort rut.
1. Find something on your bucket list and do it this week.
2. Call the person you’ve been avoiding, have the conversation you’ve been afraid to have and do it in a way that honors both of you.
3. Commit to a goal so big and public it scares you.
4. Be more controversial on important issues that matter to you.
5. End any relationship that is no longer serving your greater good.
6. Stop waiting for permission.
7. Stop waiting to feel ready or confident. Take the action you’re dreading; confidence and readiness will appear as a result.
Do any of these and feel your power. Do all of them and expect a miracle (or two or seven or more)!
Most humans resist the idea of stepping directly into the things that frighten them. Of course, there are some things that warrant fear and deserve avoidance action (crime, fire, hurricanes, etc). But those are things we don’t tend to encounter regularly in our daily lives (hopefully).
Fear, none-the-less, is often present and yet not always warranted. If you are reaching beyond your comfort zone, you’ll likely feel afraid. That does NOT mean, you shouldn’t reach. You should always reach.
Here are some specific strategies you can use to take that fear and turn it into freedom, financial freedom or personal freedom.
1. Do the scariest thing on your to-do list the first thing in the morning
This will free you up immediately. Even if you don’t get the result you wanted, just the fact that you confronted your fear and took action will build your confidence and allow you to tackle other things on your list that will now feel easy and breezy.
2. Ask your inner guidance what the fear is trying to protect you from.
Then figure out a different way to salve yourself that allows you to take the action you need to take. For example, if you’re planning a conversation with someone that you’re a bit nervous about, sit quietly with yourself and determine what action or reaction you’re anticipating with worry. If it’s a reaction from the other party, start your conversation with “I need to share something important with you but I’m afraid that (insert the thing you’re afraid they’ll feel or do) “your feelings will be hurt” or “you’ll get angry”. This will do two things 1) empower you to speak your truth and 2) disempower the likelihood of reaction you were afraid of.
3. Know that when you’re about to step off a ‘virtual’ cliff that you’ll either land on solid ground or you’ll learn to fly.
This action just takes faith. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” If the idea weren’t possible for you, the idea wouldn’t have come to you. The Universe is now just waiting for you to take action on it.
Goethe said “What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it; Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
There is some controversy that Goethe actually said this (www.goethesociety.org/pages/quotescom.html) but whoever said it, let it set you free.
4. Design strategies or tactics that will minimize the potential for the thing you’re scared of to manifest.
In the corporate world, this is called Anticipatory Planning, Scenario Planning. Attempt to foresee potential problems and develop solutions to them before they become real, current problems. Once you work your way through what might happen and what you’ll do next or what you might do to reduce the likelihood that the thing will happen (as in point 2), your confidence will improve and you’ll handle the situation with more grace, ease and confidence.
5. Ask for help.
You are not alone in this world and you don’t need to face every fear by yourself. As your friends, colleagues, boss, family, spirit guides, God etc. for assistance, support, courage…whatever you need.
Be specific. Ask for what you want.
These tips will work asking for a raise, having a difficult conversation with a friend, stepping onto a larger ‘platform’ in life, confronting a vendor or client, going after a promotion or big prospect. They just require that you take some forward-moving action rather than retreating into your fear or comfort zone and letting your freedom, financial or otherwise, slip between your fingers.
Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear. ~George Addair
Be aware of your fears, but not beholden to them. Use them as stepping stones to your future and a brave new world. Loretta Love Huff
There was a purported study inaccurately attributed to Harvard or Yale about about the impact of setting goals. The ‘study’ concluded that 83% of the population didn’t have identified goals. It further showed that 14% had goals but only a mere 3% of the population had written theirs down. It went on to say that years later, the 3% with written goals had earned 10 times more than everyone else. (The statistics vary based on whose interpretation of the ‘study’ you read.) As it turns out, that study never happened.
‘Facts’ aside, it reinforces the concept of writing your goals down.
An actual study conducted later by Gail Matthews, PhD at Dominican University revealed 3 important conclusions:
1. Be clear on your goals and write them down.
2. Develop a plan on how you are going to achieve them.
3. Develop an accountability mechanism.
I haven’t conducted a study. However, I have been active in the performance improvement and performance enhancement field for a surprisingly long time (read, “decades”).
Here’s my take on the 5 critical components of what it takes to make magic happen.
1. Have a clear goal
OK, this is a pretty consistent first step across all platforms so I won’t spend a lot of time on it. Yet it is still one many people skip. Don’t be one of them. ‘Nuf said?
Know where your end destination is, whether its later today or later in life. Pick a specific, measurable ‘what’ you will accomplish and a ‘by when’ it will be done.
2. Know your “Why”
Knowing why you want to achieve the goal is at least as important a motivating factor as knowing what it is you want. Accomplishing goals, especially big, hairy ones, will likely take an inordinate amount of effort. You’ll probably NOT have smooth sailing along the way, so having a deep urge, a deep longing, an important reason to continue in the face of all of the crap on the road is critical.
3. Feel your success
Imagine how you’ll feel once your end goal is reached. Will you feel fulfilled, safe, secure, happy, proud, satisfied, excited, peaceful, powerful, confident? What ever the emotion, start ‘practicing’ feeling it NOW, even before you have the ‘thing’. Don’t wait until you get there, feeling that ‘future’ emotion now will make life more enjoyable, help support your motivation factor and actually help draw in the resources, ideas and connections to help you get there.
Time will pass more easily if you’re not waiting for the future to feel good. Be that feeling now.
4. Think about how you’ll make it happen
I was listening to Brian Tracy speak at the Arizona Chapter of the National Speakers Association earlier this month. He had conducted a study of high achievers. He said there were two factors that distinguished top performers from everyone else. First, they had big, clear goals. And, secondly, they thought constantly about how they could achieve them.
I would veer away from the idea of constantly thinking about ‘how’. I would say, constantly focus on the ‘what’ and the ‘feeling’, but allow for the creative process, for divine intervention, coincidence, providence, unexpected inspirations to light the path forward for you.
5. Be happy now
This is related, but slightly different that point 3. The tip here is to focus on things that RIGHT NOW are going well: things your grateful for, things you’re happy about TODAY.
I was listening to Marshall Sylver, host of the Million Dollar Television Network. He was also talking about focus and achieving goals. He said “You get what you focus on.” So instead of focusing on all of your problems, focus on what you want more of in your life.
Pharrel Williams also was definitely on to something with his inspired song, Happy. The words, energy and message resonated with people around the world. The song extols the virtues of being happy.
In one verse, he describes the feeling of letting things roll off his back. “…Here come bad news, talkin’ this and that. Give me all you got, don’t hold it back. I should probably warn you, I’ll be just fine. No offense to you, don’t waste your time. Because I’m happy!”
So, to quote another song from way back, “Don’t worry. Be happy.” Focus on what matters. Your goals, your dreams, your happy, grateful, positive feelings and what you want are what really matters.
If you’ve been with me for a while, you’ve probably heard me talk about the BAR Theory where your beliefs shape your actions and your actions highly influence the results you attain in life.
This ‘new’ model reflects more recent things I’ve been studying about how life works: how to accomplish what you want without having to ‘force’ it or ‘make it happen’ through direct activity and hard work.
It all starts with your desire which is fueled by your emotion. But not the emotion you experience today about not yet having your heart’s desire (like frustration, disappointment, worry, etc.). But rather bringing into your experience TODAY, the emotion EXPECT to feel once you HAVE your heart’s desire. The key is feeling that joy NOW even without the presence of the thing you’re longing for. It’s a far more graceful (literally, full of grace) process that still gets the job done.
Here are 5 keys to living the life of your dreams:
1. Allow yourself to dream
It’s easy to get caught up in the fast-paced world in which we live, rushing from meeting to meeting, from job to family, from cooking, cleaning, and producing to bill paying, from driving to more driving and sometimes, from emergency to emergency. It feels like power and energy arise from some outside phenomena.
It’s critical though to carve out time to just be and be present: to relax, reflect, day dream, meditate, pray, journal. Just feel yourself and the power within you. When we lead dramatically busy lives, it’s hard to find that quiet, knowing yourself sometimes.
Schedule it. Do it daily.
2. Listen to your heart (or your intuition or your inner voice or the VOG)
As soon as I heard the words, “feel the earth under my feet” this morning, I was ‘rewarded’ with a cash prize. OK, it was a small prize (a quarter), but how often to you find quarters on the ground, far away from any retail establishment where they may have been in motion?
You may have heard me share about another time I heard the VOG (voice of God) several years ago when I was sitting in a confernce room participating in a guided meditation, when the VOG told me, “You should make jewelry.” It was such a clear message, I immediately went out and started telling people I was starting a jewelry design business even though I had only ever made one pair of earrings in high school art class.
That turned out to be my first entrepreneurial venture and was so successful, it funded nearly a month in Africa (Tanzania and Zanzibar), exploring, safari-ing and living in “the bush” with the Maasai.
3. Be grateful for ‘what is’
When you feel frustrated because things aren’t going as planned, and you linger in that frustration, it just keeps the object of your desire at bay. The key is to appreciate the things that are already working in your life (even if you have to really hunt for them) and focus on them. You’ve probably heard, ‘What gets measured, gets managed”.
Here is an interesting quote, “Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.” Jose Ortega y Gasset
Read more quotes on attention here. www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/pay_attention.html#6SWlWXb1hgGyKGRQ.99
4. Do good in the world.
Make it a practice to do everything you can to make the world a better place. Be kind. Recycle. Do no harm. Pay it forward. Help someone else. Live purposefully and conscientiously. Recognize you’re in a community and collaborate with those around you for the good of the community and its individual members. Stive to help people get their authentic needs met. Be a positive energy and voice in the the world. Be a part of the solution rather than harping on all the problems.
5. Expect things to turn out well.
Just last week, a dear friend shared this thought: “God responds to expectations, not prayers”. Not to knock prayers. I do pray, often. But there’s something about the certainty and knowingness of expectations that energizes you from the inside that warrants consideration. It’s the BAR Theory. If you expect things to turn out poorly, they likely will.
On a related note, Art Linkletter (am I dating myself here?) said, “Things turn out best for people who make the best out of the way things turn out.”
And I’ve always said, “We have more options than we generally see, and more control than we tend to take.”