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
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.
According to Merriam-Webster, “mastery” is defined as: 1) knowledge and skill that allows you to do, use, or understand something very well, 2) complete control of something, 3) possession or display of great skill or technique.
Here a 7 key steps to achieving mastery…
I’m becoming more and more aware of the power of the decisions we make in our lives. Without a decision to do something, life moves on somewhat aimlessly, resigned to dealing with the outside incidents and internal states through at us.
Decisions however, alter the course of your future. Once you make a decision to do something, to master something, the path to achieving it becomes more clear. You may not know all of the steps, but deciding is the first one.
You have to concentrate your energy in the direction of the area you want to master. This might start with taking a class or practicing, but the key component is the focus. You may need to re-prioritize your activities and how you spend your time. Mastery, unless you’re already, naturally, extremely gifted in that area, doesn’t happen overnight.
Get rid of the other things that steal your time, drain your energy and suck your soul right out of you. Life must continue, but for you to focus, you’ll likely need other people taking care of some of the tasks that don’t require your talents or that have slipped to a lower priority status now that you’ve decide to master something.
4. Take risks.
Mastery won’t happen inside your comfort zone. You’ll need to press the edges of what you know and step outside of them frequently. You won’t discover new horizons if you stay in territory you’re already familiar with.
As you progress, regularly take time to step back and ask questions like
“What can I do better?”
“Is there a more efficient way to get this done?”
“If I weren’t attached to doing it the way I currently am, what else might I try?”
“If I were a master at this already, what would I do?”
Incorporate the insights gained from your consistent questioning of your process, progress, skill level, mindset shifts about what’s possible. Do it one more time. Do it a different way. Do it more quickly. Reach for your goal.
7. “Rinse and repeat”.
Mastery is a continuous process. Even once you think you’ve achieved mastery, you’ll see there is farther to go. I’m reminded of the process of cleaning or weeding. You get started and work to remove what shouldn’t be there. You think you’re almost done, but now that the area is more ‘clean’ you notice dirt and weeds that had previously been obscured by the massive about of dirt and weeks that were there when you first started.
Mastery is like that. The better you get, the more you’ll see how you can improve. Rejoice in that process.
I attended a webinar hosted by the World Business & Executive Coach Summit today that was aimed at coaches but provided some useful tips for anyone rushing from project to project.
The question under discussion was something like ‘how do you manage energy when you’re dealing with back-to-back meetings?
I remember those days in Corporate America when that’s how I (and most of my colleagues) spent most of my/our days. We often lamented ‘How are we to get our work done?’
The suggestions from today’s session were very helpful but still might pose a problem in implementation in that back-to-back meeting scenario.
Here are 3 ideas shared by Pam McLean and my assessments about how to implement them in a fast-paced world.
1. Preserve time before your meeting
Gather your thoughts. Invest time at least the day prior to your meeting to consider how you want to present yourself and the important points you want to make. Think about the other attendees, their concerns, aspirations and likely mindset. Notice any anxiety you might be feeling and acknowledge it . Recognize it’s there to help you prepare and be your best.
2. Remain present throughout the session
If the content of the meeting is contentious, it’s likely that emotions will get stirred. Do you best to keep breathing slowly and consiously. Draw your breathe in all the way down to your belly-button. Exhale slowly to relieve your own tension. Keep aware of any sensations you’re experiencing in your body. As you focus your attention on them and breathe, they will mellow out.
3. Create reflective space after the meeting
If you can do this immediately after the meeting, that’s ideal, but sometimes not so realistic when faced with back-to-back sessions. Even when you have breathing room, there will be the temptation to put off the reflection to later when you’re less ‘busy’. Don’t do it. Take a afew minutes and ask yourself, what did I observe about myself? What did I learn? What could I do differently? Of what am I proud?
Taking a few minutes before, during and after important interactions will help you become more aware of yourself, your interactions with others and the ways you can be more effective in presenting your ideas and influencing those around you.
My last article on being extraordinary received such rave reviews, I thought I would continue with a few more simple ideas.
1. Bring people together. Don’t separate them.
The world is filled with real and potential conflict. Conflict is a way of life. It won’t be avoided so long as people have different values, motivations, wants, goals, thought patterns and desires (the list goes on).
Conflict is inevitable. However, an extraordinary person seeks not just to fan the flames but to bring resolution to the issue. (As the ‘revolutionaries’ of the 70s used to say, ‘If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.’)
Complaining and protesting have their place but true progress is made with people collaborate and create solutions that meet the needs of the parties in conflict. Positions are hard to meld. Interests, on the other hand, once thoroughly uncovered can be addressed. When groups or individuals are at odds over something, strive to discover their underlying interests and needs. Focus on them, not the ‘solution’ each of them is arguing for.
2. Respect people’s partners.
The last article spoke about the importance of respecting people’s property and not taking what isn’t yours. This idea builds on that one. While people aren’t property, respecting existing relationships will deter a whole lot of ‘mess’ and drama.
A colleague of mine found herself on the verge of a triangle – 2 triangles really. She and her attraction were both married, neither happily. But before they ‘jumped in’, they both ended their relationships so they could start with a clean slate. It was still hard, but at least they didn’t muddy their existing relationships with an extra person. Realizing how unhappy they individually were, they courageous decisions, untangled their commitments and then moved forward together.
3. Don’t waste other people’s time.
One of the bullets in the last article had to do with making the world a better place. It seems that the way some people feel empowered is by usurping the energy and time of those around them. If you ask people for things you don’t need or create processes that are unnecessary, just because you can, you’re doing damage. You’re wasting valuable resources, time and energy just to build yourself up. Don’t do that.
4. Avoid fascination with other people’s problems.
Unfortunately, an entire genre of ‘reality’ shows are dedicated to telecasting people’s troubled lives. People who watch have said that seeing the issues others face make them feel better about their own lives. I know that’s possible, but here’s another alternative.
Do proactive, positive things in your own life and feel good about that rather than measuring yourself as ‘superior’ to people who can’t get it together. Shape your life the way you want. Set the bar high and get to work. Living vicariously while judging others poorly isn’t a good way to move forward.
5. When someone else is happy or successful, celebrate and enjoy it.
The ‘cheap’ approach is to be envious and diminish their success. It’s the counterpoint to the bullet above. If they’re ‘all that’, they must have cheated or they must be bad humans.
When people accomplish great things, especially things you’d like to have, you must appreciate it, even if you don’t like the person. Doing otherwise tells the Universe you don’t like success, you don’t value having a lot of money, you don’t want to get promoted. Don’t be a hater! Celebrate the success of others and keep doing what it takes to create that success for yourself.
I heard this great line at my conference last week, “If you’re not getting recognized as fast as you believe you should, make sure you’re doing everything you can to be WORTHY of recognition.”