How to be a little happier. Three things you can do today.

There are many ways to define happiness. And you are free to choose your own definition.

Emotions such as anger, hurt and sadness are temporary. Happiness is bigger and happy3deeper. It doesn’t come from the outside. Happiness is an inside job.

Perspective certainly plays a role, but we can also take action to move us toward more happiness. Below are three steps to get you started. But first, a story.

A story that began 40 years ago

If you know anything about me at all, you know that I am a fanatic about the power of storytelling. So I’m going to tell you a story that started about 40 years ago, and still isn’t finished.

Once upon a time I was a college student and I had a boyfriend. He was older and wiser (at least in my eyes) and I admired him a great deal. One day the boyfriend asked me a seemingly simple question: what did I want out of life. I thought for a while, and then I answered, “I want to be happy.”

He scoffed and told me that was a pretty shallow answer. I tried to protest, explaining that he didn’t know what being happy meant to me. He wasn’t interested. I guess he’d already decided I was “shallow”.

I remember thinking that the concept of happiness seemed vast to me, not shallow: mysterious, certainly intangible, and I wasn’t at all sure how to go about getting it.

I don’t remember what came next. Maybe we went out for pizza. Continue reading “How to be a little happier. Three things you can do today.”

A Fawn In The Yard. The Power of Perspective.

 Do you live in a friendly universe or a hostile universe? – Albert Einstein

For the past month we have been bombarded with natural disasters. Hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes leaving many of us feeling vulnerable and helpless.

When the 7.1 magnitude earthquake rocked Mexico City this past week, 32 years to the day after the devastating quake of 1985, my anxiety peaked. I felt raw.

I don’t live in Mexico City now, but I did in 1985. Back then we felt isolated. Sirens blared night and day. Without electricity, getting information even about our own circumstances was difficult. News came slowly passed from person to person as new horrors were discovered.

There was no Internet in 1985; no cell phones with video capability. I notified my family in the U.S. that we were safe via telegram. Yes, telegram!

This week (from Iowa) I sent messages to my friends and family in Mexico on social media, asking them to check in. I waited. It seemed like forever.

A Fawn In My Yard

The next afternoon, sitting in my office trying to focus and get some work done, I perceived movement out the window to my left. Even before I turned my head to see what it was, my peripheral vision and my mind were working together imagining what it could be.

Thanks to brain research we now understand that our unconscious brain interprets situations nanoseconds prior to our conscious brain. This is the primitive self-preservation mechanism that resides within the amygdala, always alert to potential danger.

With peripheral vision we have awareness but not clarity. Clarity requires sharper focus and analysis. Continue reading “A Fawn In The Yard. The Power of Perspective.”

Making Friends With Fear

Do you consider yourself to be fearless? If so, you’re not alone. Not so long ago I was there myself. This is what I learned when I took an unexpected journey into fear.

Fear

  • Fear is real. Everyone experiences it. Yes, everyone!
  • Despite what you’ve been told, you cannot eradicate fear.
  • Even if you could eliminate fear, it’s not in your best interest.
  • Awareness is the first step in leveraging fear to your advantage.

If you’re not afraid, you’re not paying attention.

A few years ago, a co-worker invited me to enroll in a yearlong program focused on social-emotional intelligence. As part of the program, we took a deep dive into emotions: joy, sadness, anger, contentment, hurt, disgust, and – you guessed it – FEAR.

When it came to fear, most of my classmates could identify at least a few things they were afraid of. I was at a loss. I couldn’t relate!

Sure there are negative things that happen in everyone’s life. But spending time fearing what might happen seemed like a waste of energy. After all most of what we imagine might go wrong never does.

And when something bad does occur, we fix it. Right? I’m a fixer. Perhaps you’re a fixer, too. When a challenging situation arises, we analyze the options and take action.

Maybe as a child I’d internalized what my favorite aunt used to say; “We fix the difficult things right away. The impossible ones take us a little longer.” (I always loved her attitude!)

Oh! And the messages we get in childhood? – to be brave, to not be a “fraidy cat”, to “suck it up”. Though perhaps well intended, such messages don’t eliminate fear. Instead they teach us to hide it, to push it down, to be ashamed of it.

What’s more, we grow up thinking of fear as a “bad” emotion. People in leadership positions are especially susceptible to blocking feelings of fear. Though they use fear to anticipate and mitigate issues, their denial of fear can be quite strong. They may actually convince themselves that they never experience it.

Yikes! Was that me?

Anxiety. Worry. Stress. Dread. Angst. Excitement. These are common labels we put on emotions that all have their origin in fear. These labels may sound prettier, more socially acceptable, more grown up. But, let’s just call it what it is. Fear. Continue reading “Making Friends With Fear”

Can storytelling change your life?

Storyteller2I am a storyteller. As a coach and a writer, I believe very strongly in the power of stories. When we take the time to examine our stories we begin to see the amazing evolution of our individual lives.

I believe in evolution. In fact, I see it every day! No, I don’t see fish growing legs, walking onto land, and becoming human beings. I don’t even engage in that discussion much. (I’m not a scientist.) Nor do I have a strong inclination to talk about the other side of the argument – the religious side. But I do see human evolution all the time! And you can too, if you’re willing to take a closer look.

Think about it. Are you the same person you were 20 years ago? 5 years ago? Last week? Do you want the same things you wanted then? If you answered “no” you’re in the right place. You’ll like this blog and I hope you participate in the conversation. Continue reading “Can storytelling change your life?”