Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Archive for January, 2015

An App for Relationships – Really?

I think we have a new entry for ‘Ripley’s Believe It Or Not’ – the launch of a new app called ‘Invisible Boyfriend (or Girlfriend).’ Seriously folks, I’m not making this up! It seems this new app will generate voice mails, texts, and even pictures to give the owners ‘believable social proof’ to their friends that they, in fact, have a ‘real-life’ soul mate. This sounds like a take off from a really bad T.V. reality program but which now with the magic of technology can be conveniently available on our cell phones.

Before any of us consider purchasing this type of pretend reality (not that we would of course) maybe we could simply look at our lives with gratitude for what we have and not what we may be tempted to think is lacking. That’s where the art and science of marketing comes in. If we can be convinced that we need to have ——- (fill in the blank) to be happy it means that obviously our lives must be unhappy without it. The sad part of this type of app is that people may begin to see their lives as lacking and fail to be grateful for the abundance each one of us has in one form or another. Like all things in life negative energy (lack) will generate more of the same back to us like an incredibly powerful magnet.

Let’s turn the end of the magnet around to the positive charge and accept that relationships exist in all colors, shades and hues. There is no such thing as ‘one size fits all’ that can be cleverly package into the perfect anything. That’s why relationships of any type are both challenging and rewarding. It’s up to us to decide what we want and then work to achieve it. Personal growth and maturity are the benefits of the struggle.

The positive energy we generate when we are grateful for what we do have is a sure fire way to attract more lasting friends and deeper relationships that will last a life time.
Think about the last time someone (friend or family) made you laugh, really listened, hugged you, cried with you, or encouraged you as you faced a challenge in your life. They may not be your ‘soul mate’ but the reality is that they made a positive difference in your life. They were there in flesh and blood when you needed them most. They may have helped you hang on when you felt like giving up and helped you experience growth from a difficult experience.

Maybe life is about being grateful for what we have and not to allow ourselves to think we are not whole unless we search to find Utopia in a person, place or thing. I definitely know it is not inventing a pretend relationship. We are better and smarter than that because we know that we are exactly where we are supposed to be in life, surrounded by people who sincerely love and care about us. Now that’s something to be grateful for don’t you think? Too bad there isn’t an app for that!

Have a great few days!

The Importance of Self Love

Charlie Chaplin who was best known as a mime actor wrote a poem on self love. The whole topic of loving ourselves may, at first, be thought of as hedonistic. Yet, how can we ever truly love another if we have not first learned to love ourself? Often we are so busy on our quest to make others happy that we discount our own needs and desires and agree to do things that in our heart we really, really do not want to do. As a result we end up resenting the situation and over time even the person. Self love teaches us to be authentic and recognize our own feelings, needs and desires first. Basically, we allow ourself to say ‘yes’ AND ‘no’ without guilt. As we begin to practice self love we become happier and more self confident, authentic, and mature. We learn to back off and let others experience their own lessons in life. The help we offer is not to do something for them but to let them know that we have faith in their ability to overcome the issues that come up in their lives. After all, the more we rescue the more dependent others can become – and that hurts both parties.

In the poem Chaplin said, “As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at exactly the right moment. So I could be calm… As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people, things, situations and everything that drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today I know it is LOVE OF ONESELF.

Is it time to practice self love? It’s worth considering!

Have a great few days!

Keeping Things in Perspective

How many times have you found yourself going from zero to 180 over a comment, perceived slight or challenging event only to discover later that the situation was not even close to what you had initially perceived? The truth is that most of us have done so. In retrospect our reaction is embarrassing – if only to ourselves. The real question is how often we allow ourselves to go to this no good, very bad place and do we want to do something about it?

In my last blog I talked about the research done by Dr. Martin Seligman regarding learned optimism. His findings are powerful and deserve greater elaboration. When we are faced with a perceived slight at work or home we may jump to the conclusion that the other person doesn’t like us or questions our viewpoint or skill. If we would just take a deep breath and consider the possibility that the other person 1) did not understand 2) is preoccupied with something in their own life 3) is tired or even ill 4) may simply be on a different wave length, it would go a long way in helping us be happier more optimistic people. When we jump to personalizing a perceived slight without giving the other person the benefit of the doubt everyone loses. Actually, when we really get down to it, rarely is it about us. Even if the slight was intended it says much more about the other person’s sense of inadequacy or frustration than about us. Taking the slight on as truth automatically starts a chain reaction of negative thinking and we are better than that!

If a slight actually does occur it’s important to keep it in perspective. Some people automatically go to the next level and begin to generalize the slight as yet another example of others (the world) continuing to dump on them. They crave sympathy and can go through all kinds of gyrations to get it. If this happens it’s important to remember that empathy is a good thing but sympathy is not – in fact it is downright debilitating. If we are the ones to jump to generalizing after a slight we can become so good at it that within seconds we create a signed, sealed and delivered opinion about ourselves that further erodes our own self worth.

How do we know if there really is an issue about our behavior or attitude that would benefit from a change? The answer is quite simple really. Do we experience repeated examples of comments and behaviors from others that appear the same? If so, is it something that is standing in the way of our own well being? If we discern such a pattern we could ask someone we trust for their honest opinion and then truly listen, without interruption or justification, to what they have to say. Self improvement is a wonderful thing. It says to the world that we are still growing and becoming all we can be.

We can choose one of two paths. The pessimist who reacts defensively to an isolated incident, depletes our energy and expects the world to make him happy or the optimistic who is full of energy and ideas, chooses to look for the pony in the pile, and sees any challenge before him as an opportunity for growth. The choice is ours. The good news is that optimism really can be learned.

Have a great few days!

Choose Greater Happiness!

Is happiness a learned behavior? What makes some people more resilient, more energetic and just happier be to around? The good news is that we are all capable of becoming happier individuals by following what Dr. Martin Seligman, a psychologist, educator and author, calls learned optimism. He has found that the talent for joy in our lives can actually be something we can teach and cultivate ourselves. Now that’s something to celebrate!

Although Seligman started out studying learned helplessness he discovered that examining why some people were happier in life would be an even greater contribution to the field. Through rigorous research he came up with a simple yet powerful approach that we can utilize to improve our lives. Seligman instructs us to be brutally honest and examine how we view the events or challenges in our life from the perspective of the 3 P’s (permanent – pervasive – personal).

For example, we have all been cut off while driving in traffic. The optimist views the situation as an isolated event and may even think that the driver of the other car may have had an emergency or simply made a mistake. They view the minor hassle as something that will pass and don’t allow it to ill effect their overall attitude or day. Their attitude could best be summarized by, ‘this too shall pass.’

The pessimist, on the other hand starts a diatribe of self talk and views the traffic incident as yet another example that ALWAYS happens to him (personal). He goes on to further generalize that most other people are just basically bad or inconsiderate drivers (pervasive). Soon, the mere act of driving for the pessimist can become a permanent, negative experience which elicits more aggressive tendencies. The pessimist thinks to himself, ‘this always happens to me’ (permanent).

When you think about viewing events in our lives as temporary, isolated and due to causes frequently beyond our control it becomes easier to view the bumps in the road of life as minor ones which will pass. However, when we look at the same event as permanent, pervasive and personal we can easily fall into the trap of overall pessimist thinking. When this happens our negative energy begins to envelop our entire attitude in life and we begin to actually expect more negative experiences. As we know from the law of attraction what we think about most often comes back to us double fold. We become an energy drain on others and soon become too exhausting to be around.

The good news is that research from the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton and elsewhere is clear – we can become more positive, productive and energetic people by practicing learned optimism. We all have our share of life challenges. We may think others have an easier life but we have never walked a mile in their shoes. When we begin to view our own life challenges as temporary and not a pervasive indicator of life yet to come we gain more confidence and energy to face our tomorrows.

When we practice learned optimism it helps us keep life in perspective as we refuse to allow ourselves to make mountains out of mole hills. The research is clear, we can significantly reduce depression and anxiety by practicing optimism. It staves off feelings of helplessness and actually gives us a reason to look forward to tomorrow.

Once we choose to examine our own thinking patterns and begin over time to practice learned optimism it becomes an ingrained way of thinking. The temporary challenges we all face in life are kept in perspective and we find ourselves more confident in our own ability to weather the storms in life. As a result, other people want to be around us because they feel energized in our presence. That’s a good feeling!

With everything in life we have a choice. Is it time to reevaluate our thinking and decide to become more optimistic individuals? Life really can be greater than the sum of its parts.

Have a great few days!

Have You Seen a Miracle Walking?

Miracles can happen! I have heard of two just during the first 2 weeks of 2015. Have you ever experienced something in your life that just seemed too good to be true? Well, miracles are like that and they happen all the time. The important thing is to recognize them and be grateful.

When something happens to us that brings us greater joy, peace or love and we are grateful for it we are actually sending a message to the Universe that we are open to even more miracles in our life. It’s not magic but the power of positive thought that pulsates out to the Universe guiding more of the same back to us.

Some people seem to be miracles walking. They are the people who choose to see the goodness and possibilities that exists in this world. They are the ones who are busy helping others along the way. Their selfless acts build up just like an invisible bank account of positive energy and consequently they seem to have good things happen to them often. At first they may attribute these things simply to their good luck or hard work. Although both of those things are important the real powerhouse is in their thinking. They truly live a life of positive expectation.

When they experience difficulties they know in their hearts that it is time for a mid course correction and without fanfare or drama go about making the changes necessary. They accept responsibility for what happens – never using excuses or placing blame. They seem to have found their own special niche in life and are quick to recognize both the large and small things that happen to them as opportunities for growth.

These types of folks have the self-confidence to say no when it is necessary and yes when it is possible. They can always be relied upon to deliver what they set out to do. Their word is their bond. We can feel integrity emanating from them miles away – often just their signature alone is enough to help us breathe easier knowing things will get done.

You can recognize these folks because they seem to walk with pride and happiness as their constant companions. They are humble in their achievements and always give more than is expected. They experience genuine happiness as they celebrate the accomplishments of others.

Above all these types of folks are grateful. They have learned the importance of gratitude and know it is the key that opens all of the world’s doors to them. They just seem to be a living miracle in so many ways.

Over the next few weeks look for miracles in your own life. The more you recognize them with gratitude the more often they will happen. Miracles are beautiful messages from the Universe that you are loved.

Have a great few days!

What Truly Causes Happiness?

Over the years as I have volunteered for charity work which often necessitated asking for financial donations from wealthy individuals I have observed certain behaviors among them that have puzzled me. It seemed a predictable pattern emerge in their responses – they seemed primarily focused on their money rather than matters of the heart. Rather than being moved by the plight of others they often responded that ‘everyone has their problems.’ Was I simply being judgmental I wondered? Now the research is verifying my observations. So if you have always dreamed of being rich – thinking you would be happier – you may want to think again as you read this blog.

Many of us yearn for the day when life gets a bit easier financially – that’s understandable. Some, however, dream of being truly rich and think life would be so much easier, more fun and happier if they had all the money they could ever want. Well, the research proves the opposite. In fact, it verifies what many of us have heard or witnessed in the past – being rich is not the be all and end all as some may have thought. In fact, rich people are not happier individuals than those of us whose modest bank accounts require us to budget, plan ahead and save for a needed or special purchase be it a $50 or $500 dollar one.

Having a great deal of money changes people as demonstrated by Dacher Keltner at the University of California at Berkeley. For instance, the drivers of expensive cars were four times more likely to cut in front of others than drivers of cheap cars. These wealthy individuals also ignored pedestrians who had the right of way in a crosswalk 46.2 percent of the time! However, all the drivers of cheaper cars respected the rights of the pedestrians. Well, you might think to yourself, maybe it’s just a driving thing. Not so.

Wealthy people give less of their income – percentage wise – to charities, are more likely to shoplift, and are more inclined to cheat in games involving cash prizes. In another research study they even took candy from a bowl labeled ‘For Children’ more often than others of more modest means. What causes this type of hedonistic behavior?

To understand how money changes an individual a UCLA neuroscientist by the name of Keely Muscatell wrote a research paper that demonstrated how wealth quiets the nerves in the brain associated with empathy. According to the research wealth “triggers a chemical reaction… it tilts the brain… and causes the individuals to be less likely to care about anyone but themselves or to experience the moral sentiments needed to be a decent citizen…or even a happy one.”

Now the latest research findings from many other institutions are all indicating similar findings …money above a certain modest sum does not buy happiness – a fact that rich people are unable to wrap their heads around. When questioned, for example, millionaires felt that they would need 2 to 3 times more money to attain happiness! But all is not lost…rich people who are open to these findings can change regardless of the brain chemicals IF they choose to do so. Ahhh….that’s the question isn’t it.

When we look at the year ahead it would do us good to remember that practicing empathy for others is essential – for our own well being as well as others. That being grateful for whatever we have is vitally important and that ultimately being rich may open more financial doors, but often closes the windows to the soul. Something to think about.

Have a great few days!

The Importance of Gratitude

2015 – The Year of Optimism continues…

I ran across some thoughts about gratitude by Jackie Olson recently and wanted to share them with you.

Gratitude Opens Doors

Always see the goodness in this world,
do your part in helping those less fortunate,
walk hand in hand with those of less talent,
Follow those of more knowledge,
And be equal with those who are different.
Find your special purpose in this world so full of choices,
And help lead those who stray.
Become your own individual-
set yourself apart from those who are the same.
Have the self-confidence to say no when it is necessary
and the strength to stand alone.
Give yourself the approval to love and
respect everything that you are and will become.
Reap the fruits of your talents,
Walk with pride down the road of life,
Be humble in your successes,
And share in the praises and joy of others.
Most of all be grateful.
For when you are grateful,
You have the key that will open all of the world’s doors to you.

Let’s start a new habit that can positively change our perspective by taking the first 1 or 2 minutes when waking each morning to think about three things that happened yesterday for which we are grateful. After a few weeks this habit will become ingrained and we will experience a more positive year and manifest our own Year of Optimism for 2015!

Have a great few days!