Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘Optimistic thinking’

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!

2015 The Year of Optimism!

Let’s make 2015 the ‘Year of Optimism.’ Visualize a place mat similar to one in a Chinese restaurant but on our mat written in big capital letters is simply the word Optimism. The word itself engenders a sense of hope, energy, excitement. Can you just imagine what would happen if we simply decided to live the rest of the remaining 358 days from a perspective of positive, optimistic thoughts? Our world would be changed forever. Montage Edwards has said that ‘Positive thinking is not the destination; it is the journey. An optimistic person will be constantly challenged by external circumstances as well as inner fears and doubts.’ He goes on to challenge us to think of these tests or lessons simply as a ladder and as we climb each rung our optimism strengthens our own self confidence and we develop a deeper sense of inner peace about our ability to handle whatever comes along.

Optimistic, positive thinking is not something we are born with but an habitual approach we choose to develop in life. It takes practice for any habit to become ingrained. Yet this particular habit reaps mountains of benefits that include our physical, mental and emotional well-being.

I have come to regard those people who choose to call themselves ‘resident critics’ as simply people who cannot muster the strength to practice positive thinking. That must be a sad state to live in. But they can choose to do something about it. All of us have challenges and disappointments. We live our life between two end points on a continuum. One end is aspirations and the other is limitations. Our challenge is to determine what point on the continuum we want to be at and simply do it! Events happen, challenges can temporarily seem to engulf us yet we all know successful, happy people who do not count the number of times they are knocked down because they are too busy getting back up to face another day. We can become just like them when we decide to live a life of optimism.

Optimistic people view the world as an opportunity to make a difference in both large and small ways. They accept responsibility when things go wrong and choose to seek the lesson in the experience. Each day they seem to become more rather than less. Life is no brief candle to them but a brilliant torch that they choose to burn brightly. You can easily identify these folks because they seem to gather people around them like a magnet. Somehow people can feel the energy they generate and want to be a part of it.

When we open our eyes tomorrow morning let’s think about the fact that it is a brand new day with both challenges and opportunities. Drinking our first cup of coffee or tea visualize the magnificence that we are privilege to be a part of as a smile slowly spreads across our face. The day will be exactly as we choose it to be – no more no less. What power we have in our own little corner of the world and just think … it all starts with our mindset.

Optimism is a habit – a very important one to nurture and develop as we live our life to the fullest before handing it on to future generations! Let’s commit to making 2015 the best year yet!

Have a great few days!

Choose Happiness!

Do you really want to be happy? This is not a trick question but one that calls for a serious, thought provoking reflection of your life. I believe the majority of people might respond to this question with qualifiers. “I will be happy when …” They consciously or subconsciously place conditions on their own happiness. They might think that they will be happy when the get a new home, job, a true friend or enough money to pay the bills at the end of the month. The problem with this type of thinking is that as one qualifier is attained another one simply surfaces in their mind to take its place. For instance, once they get the new house they may begin thinking about the furniture they ‘need’ to make it better. It becomes a never ending cycle. Any condition you put on happiness automatically limits your ability to attain it.

People who think of qualifiers before believe they will be happy live in the past or future not in the present. They continually see their cup as half empty and often have a deep seated preference to view life as a burden not a gift. It may be a result of early conditioning. Yet all of us have had challenges growing up – some greater than others – but some have manage to pull up their bootstraps and move past them. How is it that some people see a pile of yuk but are insistent in their minds that there is a pony in there somewhere? True, they are the perpetual optimists and also true, they are a joy to be around. They are living a life of happiness.

If we believe our lack of happiness in life is because of what we don’t have we are sure to get more of the same. The Universe just works that way. We get more of what is foremost in our thinking. Thinking of the ‘lack’ in our life produces more ‘lack’. With this mindset, life becomes heavier each day until we feel we will break from carrying the weight. Then one day we may wake up and say, ‘Enough!’ There is always, always something to be grateful for if we choose to see life through a different lense. Change your lense and let in more light!
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When we begin digging into the spiritual side of life it becomes apparent that each of us has unique lessons to learn and challenges to overcome. As different as each script is we all have one big thing in common – learning to find happiness along the way. It’s as if the life script each of us has written has HAPPINESS as the key word. How each of us goes about learning it remains our life challenge.

Being happy and living in the present doesn’t mean not having goals to work toward and ultimately achieve. What it does mean, however, is that we recognize that each moment of each day offers a reason to be grateful and happy that you are alive and making a contribution on planet earth. It is not necessarily the type of the contribution but the fact you are choosing to do it that is important. Even offering a smile to someone to brighten their day is a contribution. We are learning lessons – some more difficult than others, granted, but we have been given the gift of time to learn them.

If you keep it simple and truly ask yourself, ‘Do I want to be happy?’ you will realize it is fully under your control. But you must decide to be happy without conditions. Choosing unconditional happiness means that whatever happens whatever challenges occur in your life you will decide to see them in the context of the bigger picture of life – your end goal – and refuse to let them wear you down.

George Bernard Shaw’s quote is worth remembering in this context:
“Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

He was talking about learning and accomplishing things in life and a big part of accomplishing things is the attitude that we bring to the task regardless of the difficulty. Deciding to be happy allows each of us to be more, achieve more and celebrate more before passing our torch on to future generations.

Over the next few days you might want to really think about making a conscious decision, sort of a vow to yourself, to choose happiness – because you can – it is within your power regardless of the path you have chosen. It makes the bumps in the road much easier to maneuver around and helps to make life fuller, richer and more meaningful. Happiness is yours simply by choosing it!

Have a great few days!

It’s All About Perspective

Today before you say an unkind word to someone – do you know what they are dealing with – have you walked in their shoes?

Before you complain about the taste of your food – think of the 1 out of 7 people worldwide (1 million children in the U.S. alone) who go to bed hungry every night.

Before you complain about your partner, best friend or family member – think of having no one in your life to even get under your skin.

Today before you complain about life – think of someone who left this earth too soon.

Before you complain about your children – think of someone who desires children but has none.

Before whining about the distance you drive to work or traffic problems you encounter – think about the people who can’t even afford a vehicle to drive.

When you are tired and complain about your job – think of the unemployed who are struggling day to day just to exist (6% in the U.S., 27% in Greece, 44% in Bosnia/Herzegovina).

Before you make a negative comment consider if it will make a difference 5 years from now in the big scheme of things.

When you go to bed complaining that you are totally exhausted – be thankful that you had the opportunity to live another day.

When you have a brief illness that disrupts your life – think of those who will never get over their illness and would trade places with you in a minute.

When you complain about an achy joint – think of those who are paralyzed.

When you think about the foolishness of someone – remember a time when you were also foolish.

If you think you are all powerful to gain a better perspective – look around at nature and be prepared to be humbled.

When life seems overwhelming and you just want it to stop – think about what that really means.

When you complain that life is not making you happy – look at what you are thinking, saying and doing to make it better.

We all have moments when life seems difficult even overwhelming yet somehow, some way the sun comes up tomorrow and gradually we feel a little better, more able to cope with our latest trials and tribulations. If we didn’t have the challenges would we truly appreciate the majority of times when life is good? Maybe our job on this earth is to face our issues without losing hope for tomorrow and search for the lesson in every situation. Ask yourself…what is life trying to tell me?

Have a great few days!

The Art of Resiliency

Resiliency is created when we think past the primary thing we want to have, do or be and add possible options to our thinking. It is all about having a strategy – liken to playing chess – thinking ahead for possible moves in case the most obvious or desired one simply doesn’t work out. Simply put, the more options we create as possibilities in our life (plans A, B, or C) the more confident we become because we are prepared for the never ending list of changes that are inevitably thrown at us.

The author, Bill Bryson, has written many books about travel. His writing is engaging and his trips exciting – even hair raising at times. Recently, I have read two of his books, ‘Sunburned Country’ which is about the amazing continent of Australia and the other entitled, ‘A Walk in the Woods’ a story about the 2100 mile hiking trail from Georgia to Maine – the Appalachian Trail. Resiliency seems to be his first and foremost trait. Reading Bryson’s work we can live vicariously through the mental, emotional and physical challenges that continually confront him on his journey. We realize that what we know on an intuitive basis – that gut feeling of ‘this is the way to go for now’ gives us a flexibility when viewing life’s hurdles and offers us a greater sense of peace. If we are forced to take the longer road to accomplish something, we may not, at first, be happy but we know we can survive – maybe even thrive in the process. It is true, life is about the journey along the way.

I have never met anyone who hasn’t had curve balls thrown at them in their lives. In fact, some of these balls may cause serious injuries to our minds, bodies and hearts. Yet some people just seem more adept as the lyric in the song says of ‘ picking themselves up, dusting themselves off and starting over again.’ What makes these individuals different? Are they bigger, stronger or smarter than others? Probably not. But they do have a secret ingredient involved in their thinking – a survival mentality – that is the crucial difference. They have learned simply through living that rarely do things work out exactly as planned. From their life experiences they have learned the art of resiliency. They do not demand that things be different or fall apart when the ball goes far afield. They run, jump and reach higher to attain their goal. They may slip and fall along the way but they continue on – for the love of the game and themselves. They remind me of the famous saying by Winston Churchill. ‘Never, Never, Never, Never give up!’

Developing the art of resiliency is something worth considering.

Have a great few days!

Optimism Takes Practice

Just like an athlete or musician or any talent, we get really good at what we practice everyday. What are you practicing? Is it happiness, love and understanding or something else?

Positive, caring behavior delivers more of the same. Likewise, if we allow ourselves to be weighed down by anger, fear or sadness we will simply get more of the same tomorrow. The Universe just has a way of delivering to us what is foremost in our thoughts.

Think of the process like a magnet with a negative and positive end. Our thinking is energy. We attract more of the type of energy (positive or negative) that we surround ourselves with. Personally, I feel life is tough enough so I choose to do everything possible to lighten my load by seeing the positives in a situation. Some may see this as Pollyanna thinking. So be it. I have found huge benefits to an optimistic attitude or as Eleanor Porter said in her original Pollyanna books, applying ‘The Glad Game’ to life. There really is a silver lining behind every cloud that crosses our path. Sometimes it takes a little while to realize the purpose, or the lesson, to the difficult event we are experiencing. Eventually, the ‘Aha’ happens and we relax in knowing that everything will work out just as it is supposed to. We simply need to control our thinking and not let perseverating on fear and the ‘if only’ ‘ or ‘poor me’ highjack our ability to handle the issue at hand.

Practicing optimistic thinking takes effort. It does not take work to be a ‘resident critic’ or to find the fault in a situation. That kind of thing is easy to do. Since optimism does not come naturally we need to redirect our thinking each time we realize the ‘negatives’ have taken over our thought process and look for a positive in the situation.

Look at your own life at this moment. You may have difficult challenges to over come, that is part of the human condition. We all experience moments of worry or momentary despair? But it is the length of time we allow ourselves to be concerned or worried about the issue that is the critical difference. A little time to be concerned about a situation is natural – a long time is unhealthy and unproductive. As we worry the issue becomes larger in our thinking and what may have been a mole hole can quickly become a mountain to overcome.

When we force ourselves to find something good or positive in every situation a strange phenomena happens. We feel more empowered, more energetic to face our life challenges and keep things in perspective. Life just seems a little easier. Trust me, it is worth practicing. Next time you have a life challenge try looking for something good in the situation. Will overcoming the challenge cause you to feel stronger, more confident the next time an unexpected event happens? Remember, the more you practice something the better you get at it!

Make it a great few days!