Is Your 'How' Getting in the Way of Your Goals?

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We all have our way of doing things. We have a comfortable and consistent way we think. We have a set of beliefs that we live by, some well known to us, others hidden in our subconscious. For the sake of simplicity I’ll refer to these collectively as our ‘How.’

We develop these habits, our ‘how’ out of necessity. It makes life easier. We don’t have to think about every little thing we need or want to do. We just do it without thinking. This results in an attachment to our ‘how.’

We become attached to our ‘how’ without even realizing it or that this attachment begins to dictate our responses to life’s situations. When our ‘how’ becomes challenged, say how the garage is organized, we will defend, argue and fight that our way is the right way. That is attachment. Blind, subconscious attachment unleashing an automatic response in defense of our ‘how.’

Our ‘how’ also comes with a set of expectations built in, they are a package deal. What does this mean?

Well, think of the dishwasher as a simple example. Do you have an expectation on ‘how’ the dishwasher is loaded? You probably do. But you don’t realize it until the dishwasher isn’t loaded right, e.g. your ‘how’ was not achieved.

How many ‘how’s’ do you have in your life? Most likely a BUNCH…because we all do. Things as simple as the dishwasher, the laundry or yard work come with a built in expectation on ‘how’ they should get done. This applies to our work life as well.

Expectations on how a meeting is scheduled and run, how to behave in a meeting, how, where and when to give feedback, the formatting of a report or the right way to initiate cross departmental integration live mostly in our sub-conscious, but dictate how we react in these situations.

We have ‘how’s’ associated with almost every facet of life including:

-Defining financial success.

-The type of car we should drive or the size of our TV.

-Defining our religion, our politics or nationality.

-Our looks, our intelligence or personality.

-Raising children and taking care of aging parents.

-Being a good neighbor or engaged community member.

You name it, we likely have a ‘how’ linked to it. All of these aspects of life shape who we are, how we behave and how we expect others to behave.

They also hold us back from achieving our goals. And waste time and energy.

How do they do this you ask?

Before we get there, let’s return to the concept above that these ‘how’s’ live in our subconscious.

You’ve heard that children are like a sponge and that we learn almost everything we know before the age of six?

This is largely true. Humans are built to absorb information, beliefs, language and experiences directly into the sub conscious mind. This facilitates the vast amount of information that a child needs to take in to survive. It also produces subconscious expectations and associated ‘how’s.’

If a child actually had to learn a language the way we do as an adult (actually think about it) while at the same time learning how to walk, eat and dress by himself, the likelihood of that child actually learning all of those things before the age of 10 is slim!

This automatic programming becomes our autopilot mode, our cruise control, our routine way of being. It does not involve thinking.

This is ok most of the time, except when your ‘how’ gets in the way of something you want to achieve.

For example, let’s say your normal way of processing data/information is to talk out loud, judging the data/information with a lot what if’s, maybe’s or should’s. It is just something you do to help process what you are taking in, not what you actually think or believe about the information.

What if you do this in meetings with your superiors? Or the manager of a department you want to move into? How might they perceive your autopilot information processing?

You might be seen as a naysayer, or indecisive, or too chatty or unable to make a decision or clueless or trying to hog the spotlight, or any host of other potentially career limiting labels.

But you aren’t any of those things, you are just on autopilot, processing information in the way that you do. In this case, it may sabotage your career.

How do you begin to recognize when you are on autopilot?

Start paying attention to your ‘should’s.’ Most of the time your autopilot expectations will result in you saying or thinking “I should…” or ‘They should…” or “He shouldn’t…” or some other variation.

This is your trigger to stop and ask yourself ‘Does it really matter?’ If it doesn’t matter how the dishwasher is loaded, let it go and accept how it is loaded. If it does matter how a report is drafted, then clarify what you do expect and communicate it to those that need to know.

Try following this model every time you Should:

should-cascade

Doing this exercise on a consistent basis will change your day to day life. Benefits of expanding your ‘how’ include:

Feeling lighter. You will no longer carry the burden that to have it done right you have to do it yourself.

Less frustration. If your ‘how’ becomes expansive you have many options that don’t cause angst.

Easy going. You’ll be seen as easy to get along with and someone others want to work with.

Clearer communications. When the ‘how’ does matter you’ll be able to articulate why and what specifically is expected.

Focus on the big picture. You’ll stop wasting time and energy on things that don’t really matter, freeing your energy and focus to look at the big picture.

Expanding your ‘how’ makes it easier to achieve your goals simply by getting out of your own way. Give it a try.

Hate Mondays? Here's a Simple Way to Change That

monday on couch

Aargh, it’s Monday! I HAVE to go to work.

Is this something you say or at least think to yourself every week? Do you hear it from your spouse, significant other or working kids? I used to say this and still do sometimes and I work for myself!

Why is it that we are all so unhappy about going to work? Or at best not looking forward to it?

My opinion is that in our country we are taught, programed and/or expected to think work is, well, WORK.

We also have a bias toward separating work and life, keeping them far apart. They are in different buckets and thus require trade-offs to be made to satisfy one or the other.

This is the root cause of poor work-life balance, in my humble opinion. And it is based on an inherited belief that is outdated and past its expiration date!

Work is WORK.

You see the majority of our beliefs are quite literally installed in our heads as children. We didn’t get the chance to think about them, evaluate them for the benefits they may bring, debate between alternatives, we simply didn’t get a choice; these beliefs were programmed into our brains without our knowledge.

They set the stage for our current mindset about everything in life, including how we approach and think about work.

Here’s a great quote from Tony Robbins on this topic:

“Our beliefs are like unquestioned commands, telling us how things are, what’s possible and impossible and what we can and cannot do. They shape every action, every thought and every feeling that we experience. As a result, changing our belief systems is central to making any real and lasting change in our lives.”

The good news is, you DO have a choice now. You are no longer a child and have a fully functioning pre-frontal cortex, hopefully!

You can choose to change your mindset about your work, which will impact your experience on a daily basis.

There is a theory in neuroscience called the ‘Expectancy Theory.’ It posits that just by thinking about something, say the drudgery of going to work, you cause your brain and body to react as if that something is actually happening.

So just thinking that work is a grind makes you feel, both emotionally and physically, as if it is a grind. As Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage states:

‘The mental construction of our daily activities, more than the activity itself, defines our reality.’

The mind is a powerful thing to waste on making yourself miserable.

You have the power, now take the time to do something about it. Stop wasting valuable energy on being miserable.

Here are four steps to take to begin to change your mindset about your work.

A) Identify what your mindset actually is.

What do you think or say to yourself on Sunday night about getting up for work in the morning? What are the words? What are the feelings that go along with those words?

Encapsulate those words and feelings into a statement, take liberty to summarize or make assumptions that aren’t implicit in the words and feelings. Maybe it looks something like this: ‘Work is hard but something I have to do otherwise I will be a failure.’

B) Figure out what you do like about your job or that you are grateful for.

This doesn’t have to be rocket science or overly complex. Perhaps you like the mental challenge or the people or just the coffee in the break room. Maybe the commute is reasonable or the benefits are great or there is room for advancement. It doesn’t matter what it is, just that you identify it.

Make a list of at least 5 things that you do like or appreciate about your job.

C) Create a new belief and mindset.

Based on what you uncover, shape a new way of thinking about work that actually brings you fulfillment. Maybe it sounds something like: ‘My work offers me intellectual challenge, in a safe environment and I work with good people that want to make a difference.’

Write it down. The simple act of writing it and seeing the words will help your brain adopt it as a new belief.

Read it to yourself every Sunday night. It will set you up for a better nights sleep and a better Monday!

Be sure that the words you chose set up a positive expectation, remember the ‘Expectancy Theory!’

D) Take your vacation days!

According to a recent study by Gfk, a global market research company, 24% of Americans did NOT take a vacation in 2017.

Another whooping 52% of Americans left vacation days unused last year.

No matter how much you love your job, you still need a break.

Do yourself a favor; schedule your time off now!

So You're Pretty Happy...Now What?

take-charge-sunrise

A friend recently told me that she looks at the stuff I write, but because she is generally happy, she doesn’t really need what I write about. She is already happy so being happier isn’t anything she thinks about.

This got me thinking that maybe there are others out there that think the same thing. Others that I have unintendedly left out of my circle due to how I am using the word Happiness.

Let me provide some context on what I do and don’t mean when I am talking about happiness.

First, happiness as we generally define it includes feeling good, feeling joy, being amused or in awe of something. It encompasses experiencing things that are pleasant, from a beautiful sunset to getting a promotion to enjoying a really, really good Bundt cake. It includes just having fun.

Second, happiness is a part of life but doesn’t define a full, meaningful and purposeful life. I don’t use the word ‘happiness’ to imply that that is all there is in life. It is a part of what a good life includes, but is not the entirety of a good life.

Third, happiness is a fleeting state of being. It is not a state that can be sustained all the time nor should you try to sustain all the time. Happy feelings take energy and shift the body out of its preferred state of balance, homeostasis. Therefore, happiness by definition is not sustainable.

Many studies have shown that experiencing positive emotions, or happiness, is a good thing and necessary to live a good life. However, it is only one component of an optimal and meaningful life.

In fact, one study tracked a cohort of people over 15 years measuring income and happiness. The results showed that happiness did increase to a certain income level, about $75,000/year, after that happiness stayed the same as income increased. This shows that happiness is more complex than just money and the good feelings that come with it.

Positive Psychology has shown that having and leading an optimal and meaningful life brings more satisfaction and positive emotions. They have gone farther and identified the 5 key elements to an optimal and meaningful life:

Spiritual Connection – Having a sense of a bigger purpose and connection to something larger than the self.

Physical Wellbeing – Taking care of one’s self as it relates to exercise, nutrition and sleep among other things.

Intellectual Connection – Being curious, interested and engaged with something on a cerebral level.

Relational Connection – Having positive relationships with yourself and others. A sense of connection to others.

Emotional Connection – Being able to experience ALL emotions, not just the positive ones.

You’ll notice that these form an acronym, S.P.I.R.E, an easy way to remember the elements and a great visual to aspire to. Think about creating your life so that it is the pinnacle, the highest point of a good life.

You’ll also notice that ‘happiness’ in the context of positive emotions and feeling good is contained in the Emotional element. However, happiness is not the only emotion captured here. Emotional Connection is the ability to recognize and experience ALL emotions, the good, the not so good and the really, really not so good. It is not limited to just feeling ‘happy.’

So when I use the term ‘happiness’ in my writings, I am implying the positive emotions that we generally associate with happiness AND the broader context of leading an optimal and meaningful life.

For all of you out there that are ‘happy,’ awesome! Good for you! Now ask yourself if you could be living a deeper more optimal and meaningful life. If the answer to that is ‘yes’ then my writings are for you.

Here is one simple way to think about each day that will help achieve more balance in your S.P.I.R.E. Ask yourself this question each morning and think about the response in the S.P.I.R.E. elements:

‘If everything goes as well as it possibly can today, what will that look like?’

As you begin to think about Happiness in this broader context, I am confident that you will find other areas of your life that could use some love and attention.

Want More Choices in Life? Here's How to Figure it OUt

choice compass

#Want more choices in life? Here’s how to figure it out.

Why do you believe what you believe? Do you know where those beliefs came from? Did you actually choose to hold that belief?

Interestingly, the answers to these questions for most of us are:

• I don’t know. • Not really. • No.

The reality is most of our beliefs are handed to us and ingrained through life experiences, teaching, training, religion and a host of other avenues. Generally, we simply adopt beliefs without thinking about how they may or may not actually serve us as an individual.

Our inherited and adopted beliefs take control of our thoughts, emotions, actions and reactions. Simply put, not being aware of our beliefs robs us of the option to CHOOSE.

In the forward of their new book, The Pragmatist’s Guide to Life, Simone and Malcolm Collins describe this dilemma perfectly:

“We live life as a sticky ball rolling down a sidewalk, picking up a hodgepodge of stuff that just happens to be in our path. It is natural to try to convince ourselves that this hodgepodge is ‘who we really are.’ We tell ourselves this lie because thinking is hard, and society doesn’t give us a good framework for structuring our beliefs about ourselves and the world.”

It’s not often that we question our beliefs, and yet to do so is critical—or else you may actually get what you believe! Why might that be bad?

Here’s another way to look at that:

What you think, you believe.

What you believe is how you behave.

How you behave gets you what you believe.

It is kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you think your boss doesn’t like you, you believe it. Then you behave as if he doesn’t like you. And he senses this, and treats you like he doesn’t like you. Voila! It came true.

This works in the positive sense too.

If you think your boss DOES like you, you believe it. You behave as if your boss likes you. He senses this and treats you like he likes you. Voila! It came true.

Which scenario do you want to come true? This is not a trick question.

You actually have power and choice in what does come true for you.

The difficulty lies in actually becoming aware of our beliefs. Most of them are sub-conscious, driving our behavior, our reactions, without our really noticing.

In order to become aware of our beliefs, we need to start paying attention to one simple thing: Shoulding.

Here’s how.

Notice Shoulding - Begin to notice how many times you say something like “I should…” or “S/He should…” or “They shouldn’t…” Just notice for now.

Ask Why - Once you begin to see how many times you Should, pick one or two situations to dive into further. Ask yourself Why? Why should you do this? Why should you behave in this way? Or whatever other Why is appropriate to the situation.

Find the Belief - What is the Belief behind the Should? For example:

I should help clean the kitchen after dinner at a friend’s house.

Why?

I believe that a guest should always pitch in and help to show appreciation.

Make a Choice – Does this belief serve you? Help you live the life you want? If so, keep it. If not, choose to replace it with something that does serve you and help you live the life you want.

By noticing your shoulding and becoming aware of your beliefs, you are on the path to consciously and deliberately choosing who you want to be, how you want to show up and what you choose to believe.

Put yourself in the driver’s seat instead of being a passenger just along for the ride. Put your subconscious beliefs in the backseat where they belong.

Your Negative Nellie is Acting Up. Now What?

negative nellie

Your Negative Nellie is Acting Up. Now What?

I hate that nagging critical voice in my head that tells me I suck, or I didn’t do it right, or I was wrong to do/say that, or that I just don’t deserve what I want.

Yes, I have that voice too. We all do. There are biological and physiological reasons we have this voice that I won’t go into here. Although, it is a bit of fascinating information!

What I do want to focus on is that we don’t have to BELIEVE the voice.

The voice exists to keep us safe, to keep us alive and out of trouble. It exists to create habits that can be anticipated and therefore there are no surprises.

Whenever we are starting something new, undertake something we aren’t familiar with or have the skills to do or are just doing something a different way, the voice sits up, pays attention and starts in on us. Hey, What do you think you are doing?!

What is one to do? Just ignore it!

I am in the process of building and beta testing an online course. Something I have never done before. It entails creating content, social media outreach, learning Mail Chimp (NOT intuitive BTW), figuring out Zoom and the hardware needed, what type of emails to send, when and with what content. The list of things I know NOTHING about feels like it goes on, and on, and on.

My voice is screaming….“You have no idea what you are doing. You should just pay someone else to do this. This isn’t going to work. People are going to think you are incompetent. This is going to look like such an amateur effort.”

And a whole bunch of other unhelpful comments from the Negative Nellie peanut gallery.

Some of it is true. I don’t know how to use Mail Chimp. I am barely a rudimentary user of Social Media, let alone an expert. I have attended, but never hosted a meeting on Zoom. I have never run an email campaign.

But you know what, I CAN LEARN!

That is exactly what I am doing. I am ignoring the voice in my head, reminding myself that I am learning and I will make mistakes and that is OK. I am not perfect, no one is. I am focusing on what I am accomplishing, not on what I don’t know and still have to learn. (Even though it is a lot. I am, after all, still a realist. :-)

I am moving forward anyway, in spite of the fact that I don’t know what I am doing and that the voice does has some valid points. I am not allowing myself to get stuck.

Why? Because I want to grow. I want to learn new things. I want to be challenged. I want to use my creativity in new ways. I want to be open to new experiences and to be curious.

Because I don’t want to stagnate. I don’t want to be my own worst enemy.

And most of all because I believe in what I am doing and I believe that what I have to offer will help people…Help them to let go of mental and emotional baggage that is keeping them weighed down and stuck.

Because I want to help them to be Happier, feel lighter and not beat themselves up so much.

So, here are a few simple steps to take when your Negative Nellie is acting up:

  1. Remind yourself the voice is there to keep you safe, not to help you grow. It is NOT aligned with YOUR goals.
  2. Acknowledge and accept that you will make mistakes. Use those mistakes as learning opportunities, not fuel for your Negative Nellie.
  3. Focus on what you ARE learning and accomplishing. The glass is half full.
  4. Celebrate your small wins.
  5. Keep moving forward. One step at a time.

Nike had it right….Just Do It!!

The Good Life

good life

>Ahh, the Good Life. The Secret, It’s Not Just One Thing.

What constitutes ‘a good life?’ The field of Positive Psychology defines it as ‘living an optimal and meaningful life.’

To push this brief description a bit further, positive psychology is…

a scientific approach to studying human thoughts, feelings, and behavior with a focus on strengths instead of weakness,

building the good in life instead of repairing the bad,

and taking the lives of average people up to “great” instead of focusing solely on moving those who are struggling up to “normal.”

Think about this for a minute. A scientific community focused on what’s right with people and how to make life better? Who doesn’t want that?

But it isn’t all about putting on your rose colored glasses and ignoring the bad stuff in life.

If it were only that easy, we would all be doing it.

Building and experiencing a ‘good life’ does entail some amount of work. Our brains can be re-wired through the process of neuroplasticity, but we have to take steps to initiate and continue that re-wiring process.

In other words, we have to DO something, it doesn’t just magically happen. It takes practice and a change in thoughts, behaviors and habits.

If you keep the PERMA model of well being in mind, you will find ways to practice new ways of thinking and behaving that will increase elements of a ‘good life’ for you:

“PERMA” is an acronym for the five facets of well-being:

• P – Positive Emotions: do more of the things that make you happy, and bring enjoyment into your daily routine.

• E – Engagement: pursue hobbies that interest you, develop your skills, and look for a job more suited to your passions, if necessary.

• R – (Positive) Relationships: improve the quality (and/or quantity) of your relationships with others; work on building more positive and supportive relationships with your friends, family, and significant other(s).

• M – Meaning: seek out meaning; if you don’t find it through your work, look for it in volunteering opportunities, personal hobbies or leisure activities, or acting as a mentor for others.

• A – Accomplishment / Achievement: keep your focus on achieving your goals—but don’t focus too hard; try to keep your ambition in balance with all of the other important things in life.

Happiness alone, meaning positive emotions, will likely not propel you towards a ‘good life’, but well-being will.

Learn How to Stay in Your Own Lane to Happiness

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Learn How to Stay in Your Own Lane to Happiness

What is Happiness? What does it mean to you? How do you sabotage your Happiness? Do you know that you do? Let’s dive into these and other questions about Happiness.

Ask 100 people what Happiness means to them and you’ll get 100 different answers. And many of those answers will be little things in life: A beautiful sunrise; the smell of great coffee; the sound of children playing; the smile on a child’s face after learning something new….

The little things in life tend to make us happy when we pay attention to them.

Science tells us that Happiness is the combination of how satisfied you are with your life plus how good you feel each day. This seems a bit simplistic. But science went further.

Studies show that only 10% of our happiness is based on circumstances in life. These are the things we THINK will make us happy…winning the lottery; buying a new car; getting a promotion. This has been dubbed ‘mis-wanting,’ the act of over estimating how happy something will make you in the future.

So if circumstances or what is happening to us in the moment, don’t make us happy what does?

The data tell us that biology impacts ~half of our happiness. This is how we are wired. Where our brains and minds place attention. The remainder, ~40% of our happiness is dictated by our thoughts, actions and behaviors.

AND through a cool process known as neuroplasticity, our thoughts, actions and behaviors can actually impact our biology by re-wiring our brains. Yes, you read that right. How you THINK can change how your brain works. Therefore, Happiness is a skill and can be learned with practice.

So if we can impact our happiness through practice, and we know being happy is good for us, why don’t we do it?

As Shawn Achor says in ‘The Happiness Advantage’

“Common Sense is not common action.”

We know what we SHOULD do, but we just don’t do it. It’s the same with healthy lifestyles, saving for the future or just getting the laundry done sometimes.

It is not hard to make these shifts, but you do have to pay attention and actually DO the work. So, I’d like to offer ONE simple thing you can start doing today that will directly impact your Happiness:

STOP COMPARING YOURSELF

Comparing yourself to external social norms, other people’s expectations or some ideal you have of yourself is the SINGLE most EFFICIENT and EFFECTIVE way to create unhappiness.

Sounds simple. HOW do you actually stop comparing yourself? With all things of the mind, it starts with awareness. Become aware of when you are comparing yourself.

Here are 2 simple ways to stop self comparison and get started on the path to Happiness:

First: Monitor your negative self-talk.

Catch yourself for phrases that are comparative. Things like:

“I’m not as…” or “I Don’t have…” or “I can’t…” or “I’m too….”.

Become aware of your thoughts and when they are telling you something negative about yourself. This is comparing yourself in some way.

Then ask yourself, “How true is that?”

This will begin to re-wire your brain to catch the negative self-talk and begin to replace it with something closer to the truth.

Second: Limit your time on Social Media.

Studies have shown that as Facebook use goes up, self esteem goes down. And this effect is pretty strongly correlated. For you statistic geeks out there, the correlation is r= -.20.

Set two short periods a day to be on social media. Say 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening. Stay off of it during the day.

And while you are on it, keep in mind that you don’t know what’s really going on for and with other people. They can put anything they want out there. Don’t let yourself get wrapped into the ‘story’ someone else wants you to believe.

The moral of this story is to STAY IN YOUR OWN LANE.

Are Vampire Expectations Ruining Your Day?

energy-vampire

There is a simple equation that predicts happiness:

Contentment = Achievement/Expectations

In other words, how happy or content we are with a situation is directly related to our expectations of that situation.

Just let that sink in for a minute.

How happy you are is dependent on what you expect vis-à-vis what actually happens or occurs. Pretty simple concept. Simply have expectations that are aligned with reality or what is likely to occur. Easy…Peasy.

If it’s so simple, why is it so hard to be happy?

Broadly speaking it is hard to match achievement and expectations largely because we are either:

  1. Unaware of the expectation in the situation or
  2. So tied to expectations (or beliefs) we can’t see any other way.

I am going to focus on #1, those expectations we are unaware of. I call these Vampire expectations for the obvious reason; they suck the life and happiness, out of us.

Seriously, just like there are human vampires; you know those people that suck the energy out of a room, there are expectations that keep us running in circles, constantly annoyed, irritated and agitated with life; never getting what we want or expect.

This cycle keeps happiness, contentment and the ability to simply appreciate the small things in life at bay.

Vampire expectations lurk below our subconscious, driving actions, reactions, thoughts, behaviors and emotions. They were planted in our mind at a very early age, so early, we don’t remember ever really thinking about them. That’s why they have so much power. They’re hidden.

We’re just used to them and don’t think about them. It’s kind of like walking. Do you have to think about how to walk? Nope. Vampire expectations are like that. Whatever the object of their attention is, we don’t have to think about it. We just REACT.

What to do about these nasty Vampire expectations? That’s easy peasy too, just bring them into the light. Just like a real life vampire (meaning movie vampires) shining bright daylight on the evil one makes it go POOF and disappear.

The problem with any Vampire is actually finding it. Our movie vampire is a bit easier to locate as it needs to sleep somewhere during the day. Your Vampire expectations however live in your subconscious. How do you find them in all that dark murky stuff in your mind?

Here’s how….Vampire expectations show up in every day life as agitation, annoyance or irritability. You’re just annoyed and not exactly sure why, sometimes not even aware that you are annoyed. There was no major crisis or problem recently that you can put your finger on. You just feel ‘off’ and annoyed.

You may be ‘shoulding’ all over yourself and others…’I should have…’ or ‘He shouldn’t have…’ or ‘They should…’ This is another way Vampire expectations show up. They tell you something should be different than what it is or how it happened.

In other words, the ‘achievement’ part of the equation did not meet your expectation. And hence you are unhappy.

These are your queues to stop and pay attention. Examine your annoyance and irritation. Trace it back to an event or situation. It may be such a small event that it is hard to put your finger on. Think about similar times when you had this annoyance. What are the commonalities?

Once you pinpoint the event or situation, ask yourself some questions:

  • What was the expectation associated with the ‘should’? Name it. Try to be as specific as possible.
  • What is the source of the expectation? How has it served you or helped you in the past?
  • Does it really matter? What if you decided to get rid of that expectation? Will the earth stop rotating?

Here’s a simple example to help put this into practice.

Your arms are full with bags as you approach the door to a building along with another person, a gentleman. It has been a good day and you are in fairly good mood. You slow your approach to allow the gentleman to open the door for you. You do this automatically. Its not a conscious thought.

The gentleman opens the door and walks through. You juggle your bags to hold the door open with your foot and go on through. You are annoyed but don’t dwell on it but have a fleeting thought that he should have held the door for you.

When you get upstairs you yell at the dog and snap at the kids for not putting the dishes in the dishwasher. You slam the groceries into the fridge and wonder why life is so hard. Good mood gone.

What happened here? There was a Vampire expectation that was not met.

“A gentleman always opens the door for a lady” is buried somewhere in your subconscious. It has served you well allowing gentlemen to be gentlemen and showing respect for common courtesy. You are a lady.

Does it really matter? In the scheme of life, your life, no it doesn’t. Allowing that Vampire expectation to be in control has now taken the happiness out of the day and made you into a cranky person to be around. Is this what you want?

No. Simply identifying and examining the expectation will most likely make it go POOF. You have brought it out into the light where it can’t survive. Next time you approach a door with full arms, you will simply open the door yourself or ask for help. No annoyance. No irritation. No snapping at the kids.

Achievement = Expectations.

Life is good. Life is happy.

Why Being Patient Doesn't Make You Happy

expectations-reality

I am impatient. I, like most people, want what I want, when I want it. Right now.

I don’t stamp my feet or throw tantrums, although I would like to some days. Or yell at some poor sales clerk or make snarky remarks, even though that would probably feel good sometimes.

But I do feel annoyed, agitated, irritable and antsy when I don’t get what I want, RIGHT NOW!

And what I want right now is for my coaching practice to take off! To take flight and take me with it. To be the best darn coaching practice out there, anywhere.

But, as anyone will tell you, it takes time to build any business. Be patient.

BE PATIENT!!! I don’t want to be patient. I am TIRED of being patient….I am not HAPPY being patient.

Okay, rant over.

As with most uncomfortable feelings, there is a lesson to be learned. So, rant aside, what am I learning about being patient? And how does this relate to my happiness?

For one, the definition of patience has the resounding call of ‘suck it up’, ‘deal with it’, and ‘get over it.’

See for yourself. Here’s Webster’s version:

pa·tience noun

  1. the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.
  2. an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay: to have patience with a slow learner.
  3. quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence: to work with patience.

So inherently being patient means putting up with sh*t. It is just painful. It makes one UNHAPPY.

Hhmmmm…..

Given my recent learnings at the World Happiness Summit, I am motivated to think about this in another way. Perhaps, maybe there is some other, more positive way to look at this? One based in happiness research?

The common thread in the definition of patience is dealing with something that you didn’t expect. If you are provoked, or annoyed, suffer a misfortune or pain, it is likely that you did not think or expect that situation to arise.

Hhmmmm….

Dealing with the unexpected…what do happiness studies offer to help deal with the unexpected?

Judging….

We judge ourselves, each other and situations against myriad conscious and unconscious beliefs. These beliefs are formed early in life and shaped by all of our life’s experiences and learnings. These beliefs form a role model or benchmark in our minds to measure life against.

If life measures up, we get what we expected and don’t have to be patient. And we are happy.

If life doesn’t measure up, we don’t get what we expected and now we have to be patient. And likely be unhappy.

Fundamentally, how we JUDGE an event, person, thing or situation will dictate if our expectation is met or not… and whether we have to be patient or not….and if we are HAPPY or not.

Think of it like this, we cause our own unhappiness by:

UNHAPPY =

[ Wanting | Believing | Wishing | Hoping | Expecting ]

[ Someone | Something | Ourselves | A Situation ]

TO BE SOMETHING IT ISN’T

And in this wanting it to be different than it is, our expectations aren’t met and so now we also have to be patient! I am exhausted just thinking about it all.

This is what we do to ourselves. We make ourselves unhappy by not accepting what ‘is’ in the moment.

So what is the point of all of this?

Impatience is a trigger to notice. It is telling you that you expected something to be different than what it is. Take a moment to pause and reflect:

  • What is it that you expected?
  • Why is this important to you?
  • What can you do to accept whatever ‘is’ right now?

Tune into your impatience rather than just deal with it and you might just learn to be happier.

Happy or Unhappy…Are Those Our Only Choices?

not-unhappy

What does being happy mean to you? What does being un-happy mean to you? I think most of us walk around thinking that we are either happy or we are not, a bi-modal either/or, black or white, on or off way of thinking.

This offers us limited choices on defining our mood. We only have one good choice and one bad choice. Compound this with the constant barrage of news, headlines and advertisements that tell us we SHOULD be HAPPY. We SHOULD feel good and be positive all of the time. Be UP. Be JOYOUS. Just be HAPPY. The pressure we all experience to be happy is tremendous.

But what if you don’t feel up, happy, joyous, thankful or grateful all of the time? Does that mean you are chronically unhappy? That you are depressed and miserable? That your life is hopeless and you make everyone around you feel down and depressed too? That you need to see a therapist and start an anti depressant?

Don’t go there yet. Hear me out. I am here to provide an alternative to this limited way of thinking about our state of being. I think there is another option besides Happy or Unhappy.

But first, let me give you a quick biology lesson on the body’s response to emotions of any kind.

Emotions are stressful on the body, and this means all emotions; happy, sad, depressed, anxious, nervous, joy, excitement, you name it, they all produce stress in the body. The way they produce stress may differ, meaning the specific chemicals and hormones that are released, but the impact on the body, physiologically speaking, is the generally the same.

Homeostasis is the body’s natural state of being in balance and is what the body seeks to attain on a regular basis. Emotions, happy or unhappy, take the body out of homeostasis and increase the amount of work it has to do to get back to a balanced state.

Let me introduce the concept of NOT un-happy.

This is a state of neither overly happy nor unhappy. It is a neutral state of just being, and feeling generally pretty good. This is homeostasis, a resting state.

I’d like to propose that most of the time we are actually in this not un-happy state, just cruising along with our day-to-day lives. But our socially and self-imposed expectation to be happy all of the time derails us from seeing this neutral place.

Running our errands, attending meetings or going to the gym, we are in a state of neither happy nor unhappy. We are NOT unhappy. Unless we consciously bring our minds to evaluating and labeling our mood as either happy or unhappy, we are in this resting of state of NOT un-happy.

I think it is an OK place to be. Actually, I think it is a good place to be. It gives our bodies a physical break from the stress reaction of any emotion and it gives our minds a break from the constant pressure to be happy. We can simply BE.

Think about it, do you need to be happy, up and positive to clean the house? Or can you just simply be? Neither happy nor unhappy?

Or, do you need to be miserable, anxious and uptight in a meeting? Or can you just be? Observing, listening and contributing in a balanced NOT un-happy way?

Society has laid this expectation on us that we have to be happy all of the time; otherwise we are unhappy and miserable. Reject this expectation.

We don’t have to buy into this lame, and frankly unachievable expectation. We can adopt NOT un-happy as an option and realize that we are actually doing our bodies and our minds a favor by allowing our emotions to be in a resting state.

Choose to recognize NOT un-happy as an option for your well-being and you will reap the benefits of balance in your life.