Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘optimism’

Determining Your Authentic Self

Have you ever felt that you are not being appreciated or that you are doing all the giving or supporting in a work or personal relationship? If you answered yes to this question let’s look a bit deeper into it. Could it be that you are so interested in getting others to accept or appreciate you that you have not allowed your authentic self to show? Is the fear of people really knowing you blocking you from showing the world what you truly stand for? If so, let me assure you that being authentic draws people to you – not ever away. People can feel truth.

Being authentic starts by first determining what is most important to you in life. As unique individuals we each have specific values that we hold most dear – those things that are truly nonnegotiable to us. Think about them as your personal mission statement. Values such as love, accomplishment, fairness, compassion, confidence, courage, health, freedom, family, harmony, integrity, kindness, optimism, patience, service, trust, orderliness, peace, spirituality, and gratitude are just a few from a long list of values to consider. Each one speaks volumes. Once you determine your own priority of values navigating through life becomes so much easier. In essence, you become more confident and decision making becomes easier because you are more at peace in your own skin.

A helpful way to determine your authentic self is to choose five values that you find most important. You know, the ones that seem to radiate energy back to you as you consider them. The list of words above can be a starting point to consider. The list is long for a purpose. The process is important. Evaluating each word forces you to take the time to consider what it truly means to you. Determining your top five forces you to prioritize as you remind yourself of who you are in your heart. Once you have taken the time to determine your own nonnegotiable values life becomes easier. When you encounter decisions, challenges or obstacles (the should I or shouldn’t I) in life you have a measuring stick to help steer you on a course of action reflects the real you.

Growing more confident as an individual means that you allow your unique identity to be known by others. But…’what if they won’t like me or accept me for who I am’ you may wonder. It’s true not everyone may like you. Just as you do not necessarily like everyone you encounter. It’s simply a cold, hard immutable fact of life. There are bits and pieces in everyone’s personality that leaves something to be desired. It’s called being human. These little quirks in others can be overlook but the values behind them cannot. A person’s values determine not only who they are but what they will do in a pinch. That’s important to know. Likewise, if we try to morph ourselves into something we do not truly value in order to fit in or be accepted it just doesn’t work. We project insincerity or insecurity that is easily felt by others.

Determining the values you hold dear helps you project with confidence who you really are at your core. Just as truth has no versions – your authentic self has no versions either. Any future role in life will never define you because deep down you know what you stand for – no pretenses necessary. Taking the time to determine your authentic self is critical to self esteem. The process alone will help you begin to truly love yourself for all the strengths you possess and there are many! Give it a try and take the time to decide on your top five values … you’ll be glad you did!

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!

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!

The Magic of Hope

Continuing on the theme of how small changes can positively affect our lives the topic today is hope, that invisible feeling that results in happier tomorrows. Hope can keep the human spirit alive and is one of the most powerful forces we can create in our lives. It gives us a reason to go on when we meet what seems to be insurmountable challenges or disappointments.

Let’s think about the dynamics of our family and friends. We all have certain people that we relate to more easily. Sometimes we can even finish their sentences because we just seem to be on the same wave length. These relationships are easy for us to maintain. Not a lot of emotional or personal growth needed for us with these kindred spirits. Relating to them is like hitting the Easy Button on our desks.

There are other relationships that can be a bit more challenging. At times it can even be down right uncomfortable being together. We may anticipate seeing them and feel ourselves getting uptight about the encounter. We may have played the record over and over in our heads about what upsets us about them. Maybe they are poor listeners, interrupting constantly or frequently telling us what we should or shouldn’t do rather than seeking our thoughts and perspectives on a situation. Or maybe they are emotionally distant and only interested in their own world. The list of possibilities can be endless if we allow ourselves to stay stuck in a mindset that it is hopeless to expect them to act differently. Since we all have a range of personalities within our family and friends it can make life more interesting and rewarding if we start to look at them with hope and a belief that our relationships can improve over time.

When we accept the fact that everyone has a right to their own perspectives and that we do not have the right to judge others simply because they think differently than we do we begin to embrace life. Differences in age, life experiences, family dynamics and a host of other variables results in a unique set of lenses for each individual. Honoring these differences takes the tension out of our encounters. It becomes less about the right or wrong of a viewpoint and more about looking for the positives and uniqueness in another. Regrettably, it is too easy to dismiss or discount someone because they don’t think as we do. However, that behavior says more about us rather than them. The strong, confident person chooses hope for a better tomorrow and believes in the rights of others to be their unique selves without judgment. They are the ones who take home the prize at the end of the day.

Archbishop Tutu said: “There is no situation that is not transformable. There is no person who is hopeless. There is no set of circumstances that cannot be turned about by ordinary human beings and their natural capacity for love of the deepest sort.”

Hope is totally within our own minds and hearts to choose to manifest. It can give us a reason to try harder and become inspired and optimistic against all odds. It gives us a reason to give those challenging people in our lives another chance, and us another opportunity to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of them. We can develop a reservoir of hope so deep that no person or experience can take our hope and joy away. We live it, breathe it and believe in it with our entire being.

In fact, hope can cause us to change our view and begin to expect things to go better the next time we see that challenging individual. The magic thing about hope is that it creates and attracts more positive energy to us. Before you know it what or who you once thought challenging is not acting quite as difficult as you expected. You realize that you don’t need them to change because you hold both love and hope in your heart and are fully equipped to handle any situation. Those positive feelings become contagious even to the most recalcitrant
of people.

Have a great few days!

Achieve Greater Happiness in Your Life!

Dr. Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychology Association and professor at the University of Pennsylvania authored over 20 books on the topic of positive psychology. His research on how to increase our happiness in life is well worth considering. Over the next few blogs I will get into the topic of happiness in greater depth but for now let’s start with a summation of his research to spark your interest.

Basically, he tells us that unhappy people look at problems as PERMANENT, PERVASIVE and PERSONAL – the 3 P’s – which result in feelings of learned helplessness. We know from other authors that when people feel hopeless and helpless they simply stop trying in life. Their fear takes over and causes them to accept ‘what is’ in life rather than looking at ‘what could be.’ Their lives are on permanent pause which draws more negative energy to them with each new day. Their feelings and belief that tomorrow will merely be a repeat of today overrides any thought about positive change.

Let’s apply what Seligman teaches us to change this scenario. Assume a negative experience is happening in your life. It is important to recognize that it is ONE experience and keep it in perspective. You just have to keep your head down and continue to push forward to get through it. We can’t allow our thinking to go from zero to 180 and believe that our entire life is now headed in a downward spiral because we are facing adversity at the moment. Unhappy people, do just that however. Their thinking on a negative experience is that it is PERMANENT. “My life will never change,” they think to themselves, and The Universe, ever ready to deliver what is foremost in their thoughts, presents even more challenges to them because they are in a perpetual state of negative thinking and simply waiting for the next shoe to drop. Their lives seem to be one crisis after another.

Dr. Seligman’s second point is again meant to help us keep perspective by realizing that the present challenge is ONE issue and not PERVASIVE throughout our entire life. The concern is real but it is the type of thought that we attach to it that sometimes gets us out of balance. The present challenge doesn’t mean that everything in our life is hopeless. Keep the issue in a mental compartment in your mind and deal with it accordingly. Don’t let in seep into and negatively affect everything else in your life. Unhappy people, on the other hand, look at the issue and think to themselves, “I can’t do anything right.” They believe that they are helpless, a constant victim of circumstance, and that there will be more to follow tomorrow.

Seligman’s third point is that unhappy people feel that the challenge at the moment is PERSONAL (it’s my fault) which may or may not be true on this particular issue. But unhappy people do not stop with the issue at hand and make a plan to do things differently in the future. They over generalize and think there is really something wrong with them. They then become immobilized by thinking that they are weak and unsuccessful in dealing with problems in life which deepens their feelings of insecurity and lack of self confidence.

To recap, to attain greater happiness in life we need to practice viewing the challenges that surface in our lives as temporary – you will get through them. Not personal – there is nothing inherently wrong with you and you do have the strength to overcome any issue. You will determine how this problem developed and IF it was your issue you will determine what you will do the next time to prevent the same kind of issue from happening. Finally,we need to remember that challenges are meant to teach us something. They are not meant to be viewed as pervasive throughout our entire life time. We are too smart to accept that type of thinking. Remember the Universal Energy first whispers, then speaks and ultimately shouts to get our attention. The next time a challenge surfaces in your life keep it in perspective and know you can get through it and learn from it. Greater happiness results by learning to avoid the 3 P’s in our thinking.

Have a great few days!

Seeing is Believing?

The idiom, ‘Seeing is believing,’ was first recorded in 1639 and interpreted to mean that concrete or physical evidence is convincing. Although we have heard this phrase hundreds of times it actually assumes that the new evidence presented will be accepted in our minds as truth and will broaden our understanding. Seeing and believing requires us to demonstrate an openness- a willingness – to set aside our previous assumptions- and let go of our need to control long enough to take in the new ‘evidence.’

That is a tall order for many – especially those ‘special’ people who just seem to feel that they have all the answers. When new information comes along if it doesn’t match their world view or their plan, oftentimes, they simply dismiss it regardless of any evidence to the contrary. They may continue to replay their old truths in their minds digging a deeper rut in their behavior and attitude. Problem is, the only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth of the hole!

When we are in the rut, dismissing new evidence and demanding control, the Universe just seems to step in and throw us a curve ball from time to time. We are left thinking to ourselves, but…. that’s not the way I planned, expected or wanted it to be. We have all been there and it isn’t easy, in fact, it’s down right hard work to adjust our attitude, eat a bit of humble pie, and move forward.

For those who, given new evidence, choose to accept and internalize it, they discover that flexibility, change and letting go of their stranglehold of control was an essential part of the process. They have chosen to deepen their understanding about themselves and life in general. The good news is these folks regroup, reboot and move forward in their journey. They are the learners, the positive beings that refuse to be daunted by the curve balls. They are the type of people to which we are naturally drawn. We feel energized, enthusiastic and hopeful about the future when we are with them.

A line in the Serenity Prayer is especially meaningful in this context, “…. grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Think about how you react to new information that just doesn’t fit into your existing comfort zone. Do you push it away with disbelief or draw the new information in and sift through the evidence searching for the golden nugget – the lesson – that has been presented.

Have a great few days!

Views from your Windshield

Size really does matter! Did you ever think about the comparative size of a car windshield to the rearview mirror? One is much larger, more expansive than the other. A windshield shows things in true size while a rearview mirror causes objects to appear larger than their actual size. As we drive we look out through the wide span of glass in front of us with optimism and clear thinking in anticipation of a safe trip. We have something to do, someone to see, someplace to go and we look forward to the journey. When we look in the rear view mirror it is only for an instant to check our path as we confidently move forward or check for other vehicles. We are smart enough to know that prolonged staring at the rearview mirror can cause major problems for us in the future. Strange as it may seem, the windshield/rearview mirror is an interesting way to think about other people and our own lives.

When we meet warm, optimistic people they seem to spend a great deal of time enjoying the moment and eagerly looking forward to their tomorrows. We can almost visualizing them looking out of their windshield expecting something interesting and good to pop up on the horizon. Just being around them seems to give us energy. Regardless of the challenges they face they remain committed to making the future even better than today.

Conversely, we may meet others who seem unmotivated or unsuccessful in their lives. They seem to be constantly viewing life through their rearview mirror which causes difficult events of the past to become larger in size and significance than they were at the time of the actual event. Time spent with folks like this seems to drain our energy and we subconsciously count the minutes before we can make a graceful exit. They seem to feel that life has been unfair and they are stuck in the ‘if only’ mentality and their life, at best, is stuck in neutral. They have forgotten that life is simply a reflection of what they have been willing to put into it – nothing more and nothing less. The longer any of us spend looking back, the slower our progress in the future.

Teaching ourselves to view life consistently through our own windshield with just a quick, occasionally glance in our rearview mirror allows us to move almost imperceptibly from a view of ‘what might have been’ into a ‘could still be’ type of thinking. Optimism is the greatest elixir we can take. It results in a much more energizing and satisfying thought process for our tomorrows.

Have a great few days!

Live, Laugh and Love Life

Don’t you just love to be around people that make you laugh? It seems to lighten our load and gives us a break from the constant mind chatter going on in our monkey brains. Realizing this, how many times in the past week have you had a good laugh over something? For those of us who have intense personalities and over scheduled lives we may be unaware of the importance humor plays in our own personal sense of well being. I read a quote recently from Gina Barreca, Ph.D. who said, “Humor is the one thing that fear cannot abide. Laughter banishes anxiety and can help replace fear.”

We know that laughter, even the simple act of smiling, can change the neurochemistry in our brains and cause us to feel better. Positive thought builds new neuron connections in our brains and we begin to feel more confident and hopeful about tomorrow. We can do this for ourselves by laughing often even about the smallest things in our lives. Sounds like a simple solution to me. Yet, sometimes we overlook the most simplistic of solutions thinking that there must be more to the story.

There is, in fact, a lot more to the story of achieving happiness. For many it takes a lifetime to realize that happiness is in, around and through us at all times just waiting to be encouraged to full bloom. It is not something external to buy or achieve but rather internal that you nurture to a radiant bloom in your personal garden of life.

All of us experience fears and anxieties. It just seems part of the human condition. Sometimes these feelings can rise to a fever pitch and we wonder if life will ever get any easier. One sure way to take a break from this tension and stress is to take a “laughter break” for a minute and remember that an ability to laugh at yourself or a circumstance along the way can help put things in perspective. Take a moment and think about the last time you truly laughed about something. How did it make you feel?

A regular dose of humor is important for all of us. It can be the salve that stops the itch of uncertainty or fear brooding below the surface. Movies, books, even an email forwarded to us of some outrageous circumstance are opportunities for laughter which increases our feelings of happiness. The human connection, engaging in a conversation with another person, is a great way to appreciate all that life has to offer as we smile, laugh and fully enjoy the moment together. Choose to give and receive the gift of laughter with others and everyone wins.. It doesn’t cost anything, is easily attainable and can be used repeatedly without worrying about the side effects. How much better can it get?

I believe in the quote, ‘laughter is the best medicine.’ Well, even if it’s not THE best it’s surely up there in the top 10! For a few days check your face in the mirror occasionally. Does your image look happy, hopeful and appreciative of the life you have created? As you check out your own level of happiness you may decide that you want more of it. Start by forcing, if necessary, a smile on your face from time to time, and give in to the urge to laugh at life. Not only will it increase your face value but you will begin to feel better overall. Sometimes we need to ‘fake it ’till we make it,’ that’s okay. Changing behavior starts with an intentional act that you choose to make in order to improve your life. It’s worth the effort.

Have a great few days!