everyday success


A Path to Happiness, Health and a Good Night’s Rest

It sounds like one of those ads, improve your health, get better sleep and all you have to do is ….  Well, in this case, all you need to do is be grateful!   It’s as simple as that.  Gratitude can make the difference.

Over the past couple of decades, scientists have discovered that if you are regularly grateful for even a month or so, all these things will improve.

Best of all, the practice of gratitude is very easy.  The challenge, though, is to keep it going.  For some among us, it’s just natural, they are grateful to their core.  For the larger, less naturally grateful population, it takes some work.  But, who wouldn’t want to give it a try, to get to happier, healthier, and better rested?

How to make it work in your life? 

The answer is to tweak your daily gratitude routine in ways that make it work for you.  The easiest gratitude exercise is the daily list of three things for which you are grateful.  That works for some but not for everyone.  We are not all journaling people so daily entries of the three things may never become habit. 

On the other hand, recording it on our phone or even asking Alexa to remember it for us, may make all the difference.  If you like the daily three things for which you are grateful, look at enlisting technology to help you out.  That way, you can even replay and review, to hear how you are changing and growing over time.

If you are a commuter or a runner or have a few minutes of otherwise available mental space each day, open your head and your heart to experience gratitude.  You may choose to appreciate your surroundings or the special people in your life.  Whether it is a tree that is starting to bud, replaying your team’s successes or the joy your children bring to you, experiencing gratitude happens not just in your head but also in your heart.  Here, in fact, you are savoring an experience in a way that you can replay over and over again. 

Rather than savoring or writing, you may be a person of action.  Have you told your wife, your kids, your parents how much you love them – not just the ‘love you’ as you come and go but a fuller expression of your love.  Could be you even give them a token of your love.  Maybe, you’ll visit someone for whom you are grateful.  Or, in place of a visit, maybe send a note or text or photo.  Acting on your heartfelt gratitude is a gift of yourself to another; it changes you and it changes the person whom you’ve thanked.

The key to making gratitude work for your life is to adapt a practice to fit your ways.  When you make gratitude a regular practice in your life, you are taking a step to living your days with zest and happiness. 

Success is Not Final

Success is not final, failure is not final: it is the courage to go on that counts.  Winston Churchill

It sounds so easy, you work hard and build your life, you go to school and establish a career, you meet your partner, buy your home and create a family.  Right?  Easy-peasy.  But then what, if you do all these things, is the rest of life just coasting?  What do you do over all those years?  Yes, you raise your kids, but that’s twenty years and then they’re off. 

It turns out that those early tasks are your training ground.  You are making habits that will serve you for your lifetime, habits of working to goals and making them happen.

It sounds so easy but things happen.  Companies get sold or they change their plans and let people go – not because the people weren’t good but because they were no longer part of the plan.  Sometimes we discover that we don’t even like our chosen career.  Or, marriages can fall apart.  Illness can happen.

Suddenly what seemed like a good life, one easily thought of as a successful life, can turn around. It can feel as if you’re veering of the road but you are not.  The thing that is so interesting about life is that it is not a straight line to nirvana.  There will likely be bumps but never, no never, think of them as failure.  It’s simply a time to reassess, roll up your sleeves and get to it.  It takes courage and it takes willingness to turn it around.

Another favorite quote comes from Amor Towles’ novel A Gentleman in Moscow, “If one does not master one’s circumstances, then she is bound to be mastered by them.”  When things go bump, it’s time to break out the courage and get on with it.

On the other hand, life doesn’t always take off at the beginning.  That’s terrible because it isn’t building your confidence in your success.  Still, it is not a lifelong sentence, frustration is not forever.  Remember to seek out a few people you admire and with them, develop a plan. Check in with them on your progress, make yourself accountable to the plan.  It’s mastering your circumstance and finding your success, your everyday success.

Some Days, Life Feels Too Fast

You are not alone in thinking that the world is moving oh, so quickly.  It is.  But it’s not just the pace of life today, it’s the high drama events that add to the intensity.  

Our phone beeps with incoming texts and tweets, emails and posts.  We waken to an intense schedule of work, to-do lists, ferrying the kids after school, managing the highs and lows of family and friends – all to the tune of incoming beeps and messages.  These are the things of our everyday lives.  Somedays it feels doable but other times it becomes too much.

This month, however, we’ve all sustained high drama moments with hurricanes ripping towns apart and leaving floods behind.  And, now, a mass murderer.  Even when we’re not the immediate victims of these horrific events, we feel them.  We want to act, to help, to smooth the path for those who’ve suffered.  Afterwards, we absorb what has happened.

It can be a high drama, fast-paced world which also means we each need to remember to take a moment for ourselves.  There are ways to calm the pressure that can build up inside us, the anxiety that results from feeling overwhelmed. 

Experience the moment.  To begin, stop the mental dialog that is running through your head.  We all do it, we plan dialogs, make lists, figure out dinner, plan the softball schedule.  Stop the dialog and bring your thoughts to the present moment.  You may choose to keep a favorite photo nearby to slow or settle your thoughts.  You may find taking a walk can bring calm, maybe even noticing the beauty of our world.

Gratitude.  While we hear this over and over, science has proved that a daily gratitude habit, grows one’s sense of well-being.  So, name the things that make your life good.

It’s not big things that return us to calm, a sense of normalcy and well-being; usually, it’s the small things.  Hugging babies.  Calling dear friends.  Working in your garden.  Listening to music or a hilarious podcast.  Moment by moment, we regain our equilibrium.

What have today’s happiness scientists learned?

That’s right, there are actually happiness scientists.  They spend their days and their lives working to find the formula – what do we need to do to be happy.  Are you curious what they’ve learned?

One important happiness scientist is Sonja Lyubomirsky.  This mother of four is a psychology professor and author of the best-seller, The How of Happiness, A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. 

In her decades of research, Dr. Lyubomirsky uncovered the source of happiness.  Her results are so instructive that it’s easy to apply her findings to our own lives.

10% of our happiness comes from circumstance.  This includes all the things that happen in our lives – the good, the bad and the indifferent.  On the upside, it’s meeting the love of our dreams, finding our perfect job, buying a home – all the good things of life.  On the downside, it’s the loss of a job, illness, the death of someone we love and other painful life experience. 

50% of our happiness comes from our genetics.  We’re born to it, our ancestors handed down what amounts to about half of our personal level of happiness.  Yes, if you wish, you can point to your Great Aunt Monica or Grandpa Ben – not just for the color of your eyes but also for a large part of your happiness.

40% of our happiness is our own to decide – it’s our own mind, our own habits and our own actions that determine that much of our happiness.

Are you surprised?  It’s natural to want to poke holes, to say, yeah, but she didn’t know about the car crash that changed my life or that huge amount of money coming my way – those are circumstances that will change everything. 

Well, not so fast.  There will always be circumstances that make us either super happy or super unhappy.  It’s the way the world works.  What we don’t think about when we’re on a high or a low is that, in time, we’ll return to our original happiness point, the point before the happy or sad event.  We go back to our normal.  We adapt to the facts of our lives.  Changes become our new normal.

The forty percent solution

We’re in charge.  It’s what we do with what we’ve got that makes the difference.  If we’re super tall, it’s unlikely we’ll be successful as a jockey but we might consider basketball.  On the other hand, super tallness doesn’t have to dictate what we will or won’t do.  Could be we’re a math whiz who is a great dancer and a fabulous cook. 

How we work with what we’ve got – the circumstances and the genetic disposition – is what will lead us to happiness and well-being.  It’s what we could call the forty percent solution.  Perhaps the most tantalizing outcome of Lyubomirsky’s research is the discovery that we are in charge of forty percent of our happiness. 

It all adds up.  The things we do, the things we say, the things we think along with all the things we don’t do add up – the sum of all these things makes a difference in our happiness, in our feeling of well-being.

Resource:  Lyubomirsky, Sonja.  The How of Happiness, A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want. New York, New York: Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2007.

Failures Can Lead to Wins

One of the winningest basketball players of history, Michael Jordan, said, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.”  Jordan tirelessly practiced his sport; yes, he was talented but he always worked at his talent.

Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, the record player and batteries.  The inventive Mr. Edison described his path to success as loaded with discoveries.  He said, “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” 

For Jordan it was practice.  For Edison it was a learning process.  We don’t see either as a failure; we only remember their wins because their ultimate wins were so big.  Edison also said that, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not know how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Too often, we think we should be able to get whatever it is we want to get immediately.  It’s easy to lose hope as we move along our path to whatever is in our sights, to our immediate goal.  Rather than lose hope, rather than give up, the answer is to narrow your focus and be willing to risk yet another attempt. 

Don’t let a failure foil your plan.  Allow for failure but don’t make it a habit.  Instead, ask yourself what caused the misstep; then, figure out how to improve on your next effort.  Success is often a matter of persistence and courage.


For more on how failure is often found on the path to success, read Megan McArdle’s just published The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success or Innovate Like Edison by Michael Gelb and Sarah Caldicott.


New Year’s 2017 - Day 4

Breaking Deep-Rooted Habits

It wouldn’t be a habit if it weren’t something you’ve done over and over and over again without ever thinking about it.  Habits become ingrained.  We repeat them mindlessly.  Sometimes we call our habits routines – really?  Our routines become habitual.

We get up each day – some of us pop right into the shower, others pull on their sweats and work out, others race to the coffee pot.  It’s rare we vary our routine except for holidays.  Our favorite foods, our beverages, our daily activities – all the ones we repeat each and every day, these are habitual.

Habits and their routine are not bad things – in fact, they’re super helpful in this crazy, busy world we live in.   Otherwise, we’ d spend lots of time planning the same things over and over again.  So, habits are good and helpful.  Except when they’re not.  Here’s where we run ourselves into a challenge – repetitive can sometimes run us into hard to break habits.

If you are thinking about breaking a habit, start by thinking about what you are doing when you put that habit into action.  Is there a particular time of day or a particular social situation that means it’s time for your habit?  Pull the entire experience apart to find what drives you to the habit.  For example, when I wanted to quit smoking, I realized that I identified myself as a smoker and that I didn’t like the idea of saying I could never smoke again.  What did I do?  I decided to put smoking off; twenty years later, I continue to think of myself as a smoker though I haven't had a cigarette for over twenty years.  You can read more about how this worked at 15-minute wins.

Habit guru, Charles Duhigg, tells about his afternoon cookie habit that he wanted to change.  With thought, he figured out that his purpose for going to the cafeteria for a cookie was to chat with others – he needed a break and human contact!  His result, instead of stopping to chat with a friend in the cafeteria, they do it in a meeting room not laden with food.  And, he brings an apple!

This, of course, is just the first step.  And, it isn’t as easy as these two examples might imply.  Still, if you begin to pull apart what reminds you to practice your habit, you’ll likely find some clues that will help you to break that habit.

New Year’s 2017 – Day 3

By now, you’ve likely decided where you’ll focus your energy in this year ahead.  Or, you’ve decided to pursue a resolution or goal.  To make this happen, to keep your promise to yourself, here are a couple of tips to help you on your journey.

  • Take your big goal and divide it into small, manageable chunks.  If you want 2016 to be the year of fitness but haven’t worked out in a while, try three 20-minute sessions a week for the first month and grow from there.  If you want to lose a total of 15-pounds, start with your focus on 5-pounds.  Once you’ve lost those 5, you’ll be proud and energized to take on another 5 whereas if you lost 5 and you still have 10 more to go, it may seem just too hard.
  • Congratulate your successes, encourage yourself if you slip.  That’s why small goals are so much more powerful – you get to congratulate yourself a whole lot and feel proud of what you’ve achieved.  Besides, smaller goals allow you to prove to yourself that you can do it, whatever you’ve decided ‘it’ is.
  • Plan for slippage.  Think about all the things that can get in your way of getting to your goal.  Decide how you will foil the demons that want to stand in the way of your success.  If a battle pursues inside your head with old habits trying to combat your new you, decide what you want to say to those old habits.  Plan for this.  Or, it could be a friend won’t be as encouraging as you’d expected; plan how to handle that.  Also, don’t be surprised when you encounter inertia – you just don’t want a salad tonight . . . or, you can’t face the gym today . . . or, you think, “I’m just too tired to go to that job fair”.  Making a change is a big decision and you will experience internal resistance.  Rather than let your mind and old habits win, decide how you will manage all the affronts to your New Year Goal.
  • Tackle one thing at a time.  Yes, you’ll likely be successful if you combine fitness and nutrition but your success will rest on taking on those small goals, not an earth-shifting massive goal.  On the other hand, if you want to focus on a new job, finding a new partner and making nutritional or fitness changes all at once, your chances of success are diminished.  Aside from the fact that our brain likes to keep things orderly, very few humans are able to make a lot of changes all at once.

Yesterday, on New Year Day 2, we discussed planning and action as the steps to your goal.  Today, on New Year Day 3, we’ve added a few success tips to get you to your goal.  Make 2016 your year of success.

New Year’s 2017 - Day Two

It’s the second day of your new year, have you decided what kind of year it will be for you?  Or, have you named some goals or resolutions?  If you’ve done either of these, then it’s time to make sure your promises to yourself really happen.                                                                                                                                                                                      

This is where it gets hard.  It’s easy to decide on something, it’s a lot harder to make that something happen.  Whether it’s physical fitness or finding a new romance, everything takes a plan.  You have an idea for the year-ahead but without a plan, it won’t happen.  You’ll need a plan and once you have a plan, you’ll need to take action. 

Here’s where lists come in.  What actions of yours will make your year-ahead, your goals or resolutions happen?  Open a memo page on your phone or take out a blank piece of paper.  Write down everything you might do to make your goal happen – what steps do you need to take to make it happen?  Write for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, an hour.  Write til you’ve uncovered all the ways you can bring your goal to life.

If you are thinking fitness, you might list your favorite ways to exercise, the time of day you like to exercise, how much time it takes to do your favorite exercises and how many days a week you want to work -out.  You might even make an exercise calendar for the next two weeks.   Could be you’ll want to add a few nutrition ideas.  Write out every action you can think of that will improve your fitness. 

Don’t forget to plan for your lazy days, the ones where you don’t want to make the effort.  Before you even start, have a plan for inner resistance, the desire to chuck the whole idea.  Figure out what will make you get to work and get you to your goal.

If you’d like to meet a romantic partner in the year ahead, remember that organizations are a great way to meet new people.   Add friends who like to fix people up to your list. 

While making the list, don’t forget to plan your conversations with new people.  That’s right, if you join a sailing club for their great single’s events, will your conversation include sailing stories?  If you ask a film-buff for fix-up suggestions, be prepared for the possibility of meeting others who love the cinema.  Write down all the actions you could take that would lead to meeting a possible romantic partner and include the dialog.  Build your plan for your success.

It takes planning and then action.  Once you’ve made your plan, then you’ll put that plan into action.  Today, on the second day of the year, write your plan describing the actions you will take to make the year-ahead the one you choose it to be.

What Kind of A Person Are You? A Last Look – For Now

For the last time in this brief series, we return to considering what kind of person we are.  While this is the first time Everyday Success blog has addressed the subject, we’ll return to it now and again.  In the meantime, as always, we’ll appreciate your thoughts and ideas.

The idea for these posts came from a recent interview in which we learned that a fashion designer knew early in her life what kind of woman she wanted to be.  That made us wonder, what defines us a person.  

Your purpose in life.  This is a difficult question.  Some of us appear to know exactly what to do with their life while others of us struggle to find our place in the world.  It could be you’ve not even spent time considering your purpose.

If you’ve not yet identified your purpose in life, begin by reviewing the words you’ve gathered in response to all the categories we’ve considered in this series – physical presence, personality, relationships and values.  Then, start picturing your purpose.  Write and rewrite.  Trial balloon ideas to see what feels right for you.

While writing, ask yourself about your passions, the things you love doing.  What is it you are doing when you lose track of time?  Those are the things that bring you deepest satisfaction.  And, those are the things that offer a glimpse into your purpose. 

If, after writing and thought, you still struggle with identifying your purpose in life, start a dialog with a close friend, a partner or perhaps a sibling.  Be sure you choose someone who cares about your well-being.

This is not a test; there is no right or wrong purpose.  Purpose is uniquely you; it’s what you are all about.  Not only that, it may take you some time to decide what your true purpose really is. 

Your hallmarks.  Finally, what are your hallmarks?  Hallmarks are things that make you especially distinctive.  Hallmarks are different from all the other categories.  For example, a hallmark related interests might be your work on behalf of animal rights.  Or, a physical attributes might be your red hair or an artful and ever so visible tattoo. 

Some women have selected a piece of jewelry as a hallmark.  Others, like Carrie Bradshaw, make their love of shoes a hallmark.  Hallmarks are not your purpose.  Rather, they are a demonstration of a particular personal passion. 

Hallmarks speak volumes about who you are.  What would you say are your special hallmarks? 

In Conclusion

Now that you’ve thought more deeply about the kind of person you are, again, what are the three words you used to describe yourself at the start of this series? 

______________,  ______________,  ______________,  ______________

Were three enough?  As you’ve likely concluded after reading these blogs, there’s so much that describes each of us.  That's why we've added a fourth entry line above.  You may want to use ten words, maybe even more.  What kind of a woman are you?  What kind of a man are you?  The answer may not be clear to you today but your life’s journey will be guided by the kind of person you choose to be.

What Kind of A Person Are You? A Second Look

On Friday, we began thinking about what kind of person we are.  Why?  After reading recently that a fashion designer knew early in her life what kind of woman she wanted to be, it made us wonder, what defines us a person.  

There are so many ways to think about the kind of person we are.  Plus, there are so many descriptors within each category.  On Friday, we began by naming the countless ways to describe our physical presence and our personality.  Today, we’re considering our relationships and values – both contribute to how we define ourselves as a person.

Relationships.  It’s easy to name our relationships.  We’re employees, bosses and peers, we’re partners or spouses, we’re parents and we’re children.  Plus, of course, we are friends. 

But that’s not all there is to relationships.  How you participate in a relationship is as important as the fact of the relationship.  As a friend, do you initiate things with others or do you wait for others to make things happen?  How do you handle each of these relationships?  Are you a nurturer in your relationships?  Do you listen to the people in your life?  Do you like lots of relationships or just a few?  

What are the words that describe the essence of you in each of your relationships?   ______________,  _______________, ____________

Your values.  What do you value most?  Your marriage or commitment to your partner will likely top the list.  Your children are likely right at the top as well.  If that’s the case, then family values will make your list. 

Before we go further, though, let’s look at what values are.  They are the guiding principles of your behavior.  Values are the aspects of life where you attach greatest importance.  Usually, we carry some variation of our core values for life.

There are so many kinds of values and you know in your heart, which are most meaningful to you.  To get your thinking going, here are just a few of the values people hold dear.  Integrity.  Faith/religion/spirituality.  Personal vision of success.  Compassion, light-heartedness, balance.  Dedication, loyalty, commitment, allegiance, single-mindedness.  Your work.  Your life’s work.  Your leisure time activities. 

How you personally put your values into action is what makes you most special.  You may be big-hearted, hard-working, light-at-heart, an animal lover, conservative, liberal, libertarian, family-oriented, an artist, athletic, an animal lover, a civil libertarian, political, apolitical, musical, freedom-loving, kind. 

As you name your values, you may think your list is too great.  Not true, highlighting your most meaningful values is important.  These are the values you hold most dear, the values by which you live your life.

Once you identify your values, decide which you hold most dear, which identify you.  Make note of these.  ____________,  ____________,  __________

On Wednesday, we’ll take one last look as we consider the kind of person we are.  Until then, you may choose to add, cross-out or make any other kind of change as you express the kind of person you are.  We are each extraordinary.  Slowly, over time, we polish and perfect ourselves.

What Kind of a Person are You?  A First Look

A fashion designer recently said that she knew what kind of woman she wanted to be before she knew what kind of career she’d have. That made me wonder, what kind of a woman am I?  What kind of woman/man are you?  Interesting to think about but it's a question with a gazillion answers.

We often use monikers about ourselves and others.  I’m musical.  She’s elegant.  He’s all business.  They’re the nerds.   He’s so much fun.  She tells the best stories.  They’re collectors.

Before we go any further, quick, what are the three words you’d use to describe you?   ______________,  ______________,  ______________.

There’s the physical.   Are you agile, quick on your feet?  Do you walk like a dancer, with rhythm or is your walk more athletic?  Do you move with purpose?  Are you energetic or slightly lethargic?  Do you stand tall or is your stance a bit rounded?  Before we even get to size and shape, there are so many physical descriptors.  What are yours?   

There’s personality.   There are as many personality styles as there are humans.  Actions, thoughts, feelings and attitudes – these are the things that make up a personality.

Thoughtful, kind, angry, hard-working, lazy, wise, thoughtless, caring, sweet, mean, bitter, friendly, unfriendly, leader, follower, doer.  We could fill pages with personality characteristics.  What describes your personality? 

Don’t forget that our personality may have different shades or degrees – our public style, our friends and family style, our business style and on.  Still, our basic personality crosses the many parts of our life. 

On Monday, we’ll continue our look at some of things that express the kind of person you choose to be.  In the meantime, you might collect the words that best describe you.

Here’s to A Lucky Friday the 13th

Black cats, broken mirrors and Friday the 13th lead the long list of ominous omens that bring fear to the hearts of the superstitious.  We don’t even have to be very superstitious.  We learned these omens in childhood which means they’ve been with us for our lifetime.  That is likely why each omen seems to take on a life of its own.

We think of Friday the 13th as an inauspicious day, a day fraught with risk, a dangerous kind of day.  In doing a bit of research, I discovered that Friday has long been considered a day of misfortune.  Did you know?  I did not.  The truth is, many of us find Fridays to be happy days as they signal the end of our work week and the start of our playtime.

There are some among us, however, who won’t begin a new project or even embark on travel if it’s a Friday.  In Christianity, Good Friday represents the crucifixion, the lowest point on their religious calendar.  Fridays for some signify misfortune.

Then there is the number.  We do not associate 13 with good fortune.  The number 12 has all sorts of good luck attributes but 13 does not. Some among us even worried about our calendar year – 2013.  Would it bring good fortune or not?  What’s your answer, was it a year of good fortune for you?

Not everyone agrees on the day or the number.  In Spain, it’s Tuesday the 13th that sets off shivers.  The Greeks, too, fear Tuesday the 13th.  In Italy, it’s Friday the 17th that is fraught with anxiety. 

In 2008, a Dutch organization looked at Friday the 13th accident rates and discovered that there are fewer accidents, fewer fires and less theft on that date.  Their conclusion?  That people are generally more cautious on those days and that prevents accidents, fires and robberies.

There’s at least one Friday the 13th each year but never more than three.  Today’s is the second Friday the 13th for 2013.  Next year we’ll only have one – in June.

There’s a long list of superstitions that keep the superstitious busy throughout the year.  Other bad luck signs are walking under a ladder, opening an umbrella indoors and that old bugaboo, breaking a mirror brings on seven years of bad luck.  Oh yes, and the kids will remind us that to step on a crack breaks our Mother’s back.

May your Friday the 13th be a day of good fortune!

To Survive or to Thrive

Surviving is important.  Thriving is elegant.  Maya Angelou

Anyone who has run a marathon, who has survived the grueling 26.2 miles, ends their race with the battle-weary knowledge that they’ve won.  Runners who finish their race thrive on that knowledge; it exhilarates them.  They don’t just survive those 26.2 miles, their life is forever changed with the knowledge of the finish.  A few of those runners even do it on prosthetic legs!  The race, the win – they don’t just survive, they thrive.

In part, it’s pure attitude.  To accept the audacious challenge of running that long a distance seems an impossible feat.  Yet many do it.  To take on such an undertaking results not just in the finish of a race but in the strengthening of inner will.

We are all racers in various forms – some in earning enough income, some in battling a disease, still others in making a good home for their family.  To provide an income, to survive a disease, to see a child awarded a diploma – we can thrive by doing our finest with every challenge placed in our path of life.  We can choose to thrive.

In the Driver’s Seat of Happiness - Gratitude

It’s very natural to think about gratitude at this time of year.  Or is it?  It’s so easy to just give gratitude a nod and move on.

It’s a funny thing, gratitude.  What is it really?  We can take a quick glance at our lives and say, yes, I’m grateful for my family, for my friends, for my home.  Those are the quick and easy things for which we are grateful.

Why not take a different path this year?  Challenge yourself and take it a step further.  Skip the obvious and go a bit deeper.  Consider, for example, those things that make you, you.  Is it your sense of humor?  Your determination?  Your great cooking?  Your thoughtfulness?  Be grateful for all that you are.

What about your family and friends?  What is it about each person you love that makes them so very special for you?  Their smile?  Their spirit?  Their love for football?  Their crazy stories?  Are they great Words with Friends friends?  Remember to appreciate what your loved ones do that brings you joy.  How do they change your life?

Even when we’re confronted with seeming catastrophe, we can be grateful – if we’re willing.

Happiness experts tell that gratitude is one of the most powerful ways to grow happiness.  Over time, gratitude changes people’s happiness – and it doesn’t take all that much time to make that happen.  It’s not the only tool, but it is one that works for many.

In future blogs we’ll look more closely at ways to grow your happiness with gratitude.  For now, appreciate all that you are and be grateful.  Perhaps it’s not the tryptophan in the turkey that is making us feel so contented; perhaps it’s that we’ve taken the time to count blessings.

In the Driver’s Seat of Happiness

Do you ever wonder where your happiness comes from?  Have you wondered if you could be happier?  Many among us wonder whether theirs is the right amount of happiness.  Some see happy-go-lucky others and wonder why they don’t feel the same way.  The question then, how do we know if we are as happy as we should be or could be?

Well, there are now answers to these questions.  As it happens, happiness has become a hot research topic amongst social scientists and their results are surprising.  They’ve found the sources of personal happiness.  In particular, social scientist and Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky, who’s studied happiness for a couple decades, tells us that the basis of our happiness is three-fold.

Genetics.  That’s right, if you want to place the blame on your great-great-grandfather, well, there is some merit to your desire.  50% of our happiness comes from genetics, that stuff that’s passed down in each of our families.  While genetics is fixed and unchanging, awareness can help you with your choices and decisions.  

Circumstance.  I’m betting that many among us will point to circumstance as the main source of our happiness.  Not true.  A mere 10% of our happiness is the result of circumstance.  Yes, you say, but if only you’d win the lottery, your wealth would make you so much happier.  Not true.  Over time, we return to our personal happiness set-point.  Whether it’s circumstantial highs or circumstantial lows, we naturally return to the level of happiness we knew before the circumstantial change.

Okay, so we can point to our ancestors but not to the happenstance of life.  What else is there?  We now know that our everyday happiness is up to us as individuals. 

Intentional Activity.  Our attitude, our activities, everything we choose to include in our lives or leave out of our lives – these are the things that play most heavily on our level of happiness.  All those daily activity choices we make represent 40% of our happiness.  That puts us in charge of our happiness.  

That we are in charge of 40% of our happiness changes everything.  We can make choices that will help to grow our happiness or thwart our happiness.  That’s why we are each in the driver’s seat of our personal happiness


In future driver's seat blogs, we'll look at the things we can do to grow our personal happiness..

We are grateful to Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky for her ground breaking research and her writings: The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirsky.  2008.  Penguin Books.


Sleep on It!

We say it all the time, “I’ll sleep on it and get back to you with an answer.”  Often, it works.  Some of our greatest ideas, our most creative work can happen while we are sleeping.  It's even a time for problem-solving.

Does that happen for you?  Are your inspirations the result of a good night’s rest?  For me, the answer is often a resounding yes.  I ‘m sometimes amazed at the great ideas awaiting me when I waken.   I’ve even “slept” on some of my biggest decisions and the outcome was terrific.

The challenge in a sleep-deprived nation, how do we actually make “sleep on it” work?  If we go to bed worried or anxious, the odds of wakening with a brilliant solution or a terrific idea are reduced.  For the sleep-deprived, “sleeping on it” may even grow their sleeplessness. 

Naturally, good ‘sleep hygiene’ rules apply: no caffeine before bed, only use your bed for sleeping, go to bed at the same time every night and follow bedtime rituals consistently.  

Going to bed rituals are especially important.  If you like to read yourself to sleep, be sure it’s a book that enables sleep.  If it’s a book that energizes your brain, you’re less likely to fall asleep.  Worse, if your brain is “hooked” on your book, it’s not likely you’ll come up with an inventive solution. 

Instead of an exciting book, choose one that is calming.  Or, when you want to waken with a great idea, skip reading altogether.  Instead, as you lay down to bed, begin thinking about the subject you are “sleeping on”.  What ideas do you have so far?  What are your expectations for the solution?  Can you think beyond the expected?  Fall asleep with your mind on your subject.

Or, fall asleep remembering the good things that happened during the day.  That primes your mind, readies for it for good rest which is the ideal time for great ideas.

For your best “sleep on it” results, plan your nighttime rituals and give it some practice.  You may well surprise yourself with your innovative outcomes.

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