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

stay-in-lane

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.

Standing at the Edge of The World Happiness Summit Peering into See What Will be Learned

world-happiness-summit

Did you know there is such a thing as the World Happiness Summit? I didn’t until recently. Intrigued by the title and concept, I looked it up to find out more. Here’s what they say about themselves:

The World Happiness Summit (WOHASU) is the first global forum created to expose individuals to the practical implementations of the science of happiness.

The Summit unites leading experts with the general public to discuss, engage and explore happiness within a holistic format to enhance the well-being of individuals, communities, corporations and society at large.’

Wowaz!! That is a big BHAG.

This aligns completely with what I hope to help my clients achieve; happiness that contributes to well-being, is sustainable and is grounded in research. I will be attending the Summit and am be excited to bring back new ideas and tools to support you.

In the meantime…..what exactly is Happiness? There are many definitions:

Mo Gawdat, Solve for Happy – “Happiness happens when life seems to be going your way. You feel happy when life behaves the way you want it to.”

Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage – “Happiness is the experience of positive emotions – pleasure combined with deeper feelings of meaning and purpose. Happiness implies a positive mood in the present and a positive outlook for the future.”

Martin Seligman, The Pursuit of Happiness – ‘We find a deep sense of fulfillment by employing our unique strengths for a purpose greater than ourselves.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary – “a state of well-being and contentment”

Fundamentally, there are about as many definitions of Happiness as there are people to ask.

With that said, could you be happier? Most people say yes when asked this question. So HOW do you become happier? What can you DO to be happier? What needs to change to be happier? Those are great questions.

At The World Happiness Summit, I will be learning about the keys that have been identified to date that impact our happiness.

Self Knowledge
Begin to ‘wake up’ in life. Come off autopilot and start to pay attention to what is going on around you and in you. Become aware of what you do and begin to understand why you do it.

And with this awareness, accept what you find. Face the reality of what ‘is’, not what you hope, believe, expect or wish it to be. This applies to the world and to yourself.

Be Kind
When you offer kindness, the recipient feels good and you feel good. Being kind takes little effort and has a multiplier effect.

It applies not only to others, but to you as well. When is the last time you paid yourself a compliment?

Be of Service
As part of a community it benefits all when you give and contribute. It circles back to being kind.

Studies have also shown that focusing on others has a significant impact on our happiness.

Choose Your Attitude
Man’s ultimate freedom is to choose his attitude in any given circumstance. It is not the event or circumstances that impacts happiness, but how you choose to react to it.

Gratitude
This is the single most talked about, written about and studied aspect of happiness. By simply writing down three things you are grateful for each day, it rewires your brain for positivity and happiness.

To quote Nike…Just Do It!. You only get better at something with practice. Happiness and positivity can be learned. It just takes practice.

I’ll be back after the Summit with more depth and tools to help you practice and increase your happiness. Stay tuned!

How Expectations Suck the Life Out of You & What to do about it

danger-expectations

Have you noticed how our society has come to be misery driven? We lament how much we have to do with so little time and resources. We engage is ‘one upmanship’ to see who is busier, more hectic, more harried. Life is hard and we want everyone to know it.

How have we gotten to this place? Why do we do this to ourselves and to each other?

Much has to do with the collective, societal belief that busy is good… that you are engaged, responsible and taking charge if you are busy. You must be important if you are busy. We expect ourselves and everyone else to be busy.

Why do we buy into this belief and associated expectation to be busy? Why do we let it run out lives?

Many beliefs are simply handed to us by family, friends, society, our workplace, our social groups and we don’t question them. They become automatic, unconscious and we are not really aware of them. But they do guide our day-to-day actions, what we say, how we say it and how we present ourselves to the world.

And based on these unconscious beliefs, we have expectations; of ourselves and the world around us. We aren’t aware of these expectations either. They are just buried in our heads and only make their presence known when they aren’t being met.

So why do we let these unconscious beliefs and expectations wreak havoc in our lives?

Because it is easier to simply accept them than to spend the time and energy questioning them. And we are biologically programmed to do this.

But what if they are driving you crazy? Making you miserable and unhappy? Running your life on empty trying to meet them all? What do you do then?

The first step is to notice when you are annoyed or upset. Not flat out angry, but that lower intensity agitation. This is a good sign that an expectation isn’t being met.

Then tune in to it and really start paying attention, actually name the belief or expectation, call it out. Once you have it identified, examine it fully.

Is it serving you? Does it help you and make life easier or not? Where did it come from? Do you even believe it? Does it even matter? How really important in life is this expectation? Once you have some insight into how the expectation is helping or not, then you are armed to make a CONSCIOUS decision to keep it and the associated expectation or not, or to change it to something that serves you better.

How many of these examples are really important? Which expectation is actually serving in a constructive way? Which should stay and which should go?

  • The microwave is dirty. I should clean it. Every time I look at it I’m annoyed that I have to clean it AGAIN. Why can’t anyone else do it?

  • The guest bedroom bed is unmade. I should make it. Sheets are clean but I just haven’t made it. It bugs me every time I look in the door.

  • If I want to grow my business I should do more outreach. I am the only one that can do this. It is my business. I am lazy and mad at myself for not being more proactive.

  • It is hard to find empty hangers in my closet. It takes too much time to find an empty one. I should clean out my closet.

  • My car is due for an oil change. That little red light keeps annoying me. I should schedule a time to take it in.

The reality is we drive ourselves crazy with expectations that don’t really matter, hello dirty microwave. So what if the microwave is dirty? Will the earth stop rotating? Will hell freeze over? Will the house be repossessed? Likely not. So let go of that expectation.

Ditto for the guest bed, and closet. You will not be hauled off to jail or looked down upon by your neighbors if they don’t get done. Rid yourself of those expectations.

Does building your business matter? Heck yeah, it does. With space freed up from cleaning the microwave, you can set goals for yourself for weekly outreach. That is a constructive expectation and use of your time.

Is maintaining your car a good thing to do? Yes, this one matters; but in a realistic timeframe. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get it in to the shop the day after the light comes on. Be realistic. Your car will not blow up if it takes 30 days to get the oil changed.

So you see, begin to examine why you are annoyed, agitated or upset. You’ll uncover a host of beliefs and expectations that are sucking the life out of you. With some concentration and thought, you can rid yourself of frivolous expectations and put others into proper perspective so that you can be in charge of your life and be happier in the process.

How Your Brain is Keeping You Miserable and What to Do About it

lying-brain

I was recently asked how I made the shift from being an unhappy, complaining, tired, running from one thing to another, burned out executive to one that was more positive, focused on solutions, engaged in self care and committed to helping others, while still working.

I have to admit I didn’t have a ready response. I had to think about it.

So home I went to think. Those that know me know that I think on a whiteboard or on paper (old school, I know!). I took my sticky note pad and started writing one thing on each that I did to make changes in my life. Those stickies adorned my office wall for some time. Taking up space and reminding me that had I started something, but didn’t finish it. So I decided to take them down today.

postit-notes

As I did so, two of them jumped out at me and practically screamed ‘Here I am. Look at me, I am important! Remember this!’

Those two stickies read:

  • “Pain vs Suffering Concept”
  • “Accepted that I was doing it to myself….Suffering”

It was the second one that really stopped me in my tracks remembering the grand ‘a-ha’ moment I had when I fully, truly acknowledge and ACCEPTED that I was making myself miserable.

It wasn’t being done TO me; I was doing it to myself.

It was a super deflating; heavy feeling…like there was an elephant on my back and a 50-pound bag of peanuts in my arms. It was not a feel good moment, but it was a life shifting one.

Let me back up a bit though and explain the ‘Pain vs Suffering’ concept.

We all experience pain. Physical pain like a stubbed toe, a pulled back, a broken bone. And emotional pain like the loss of a loved one, a break up or lay off. These are real events and cause real pain.

Suffering, however, is the story we layer on top of the pain. Most of the time the story goes on and on and on and on…. We keep ourselves mired in the story long after the pain of the event has gone away. We keep our drama going. The ego likes this.

We are in control of the story, not the pain.

I knew this and thought I believed it. But I didn’t ACT on it. I was keeping myself mired in all my stories, keeping my suffering going. I wasn’t taking the actionable steps to make change and stop suffering.

I was just hoping that it would somehow just ‘go away’ because I understood, intellectually, the difference between pain and suffering. Doesn’t work that way.

When I really accepted this, embraced it, I vowed to do things differently. The remainder of the stickies are filled with those other things. I won’t bore you with all of them, but I will call out two:

Find Gratitude/Joy Every Day I made it a point, a goal, to find something to be grateful for or that brought me joy every day. It could be anything…the beauty of the sunrise or sunset; the chirping of the birds in my yard; the scent of the jasmine outside my window; the crispness of the air as I drove to work.

At first it was an effort. To not forget to do it, to put everything else out of my busy brain so that I could notice something to be grateful for or find joy in. The more I did it, the easier it became. Also, I noticed that I became calmer, more relaxed. Things didn’t bother me so much.

This practice began to put things into perspective and helped the second thing be more effective.

What’s the Worst that can Happen? When I started to worry, or things weren’t going my way, I asked myself this question “What’s the worst that can happen?”

This forced me to recognize when I was catastrophizing, making things seem worse than they were. It forced me to see that my story was out of control. It forced me to see things based on reality and not fantasy.

And if the worst that could happen wasn’t so far fetched, it forced me to really look at how I would manage it. How would I get through it? What would I need to do? Was I prepared to do that? I started to see that even if something bad happened, I could handle it. I could make a plan, be in control (at least of myself) and get through the bad thing.

The big, bad thing didn’t seem so insurmountable, or scary or so big or bad.

So what is my point? What do I hope you take away from this ramble?

I hope that you see that small steps can make a huge difference in your life and that YOU are in control of the stories in your head.

If you take the time to be grateful everyday and stop making sh*t up in your head, you will be happier, more peaceful and at ease in life.