What makes you happy? Simple question, but one that is worth thinking about. What makes you happy in this moment, for as Omar Khayyam declares, this moment is your life. At the moment I am smiling and feeling happy. The sun is shining, the view from my window where I sit writing is beautiful, and I love to write. So it’s easy to be happy in this moment.
What makes me happy in that larger sense, well that’s pretty easy for me too. My sons. I only have to think of my two sons, and a smile spreads across my face. They are on the other side of the Earth from me at the moment, and that tugs at my heart and tempers my happiness a bit. But nothing can take away the joy that those two amazing young men bring. They make my heart sing . . . in loud operatic ways!
Professionally I have a lot to make me happy. Today I saw people who like books by Julia Cameron, Brené Brown and Anne Lamott also like my book, This Way Up. That makes me really happy. What an affirmation!
This gives me a real feeling of accomplishment and achievement, which is one of the places happiness sits.
“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.”
– Franklin D Roosevelt
It was my great pleasure to be interviewed on the topic of happiness recently by Sarah Jordan.
We talked about an array of topics but really focused on happiness..what it is, the benefits, and how we tend to block it.
I’ll close this post with a wonderful Ted Talk that has been around for awhile. Cognitive researcher Nancy Etcoff looks at happiness — the ways we try to achieve and increase it, the way it’s untethered to our real circumstances, and its surprising effect on our bodies. It’s interesting and informative and well worth the watch.
I’d love to hear what makes you happy. What are you happy for in this moment? What brings you happiness in your life?
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.
“We choose our favourite author as we do our friend, from a conformity of humour and disposition. Mirth or passion, sentiment or reflection; whichever of these most predominates in our temper, it gives us a peculiar sympathy with the writer who resembles us.” ― David Hume
The renowned Scottish philosopher, David Hume, tells us that we choose our favourite author as we do our friend, from a conformity of humour and disposition. Well that certainly fits for me. My favourite authors will be of no surprise to anyone who has read my blog posts for awhile. I consider both Anne Lamott and Julia Cameron to be, not only my favourite authors, but also mentors for me, in both writing and in life itself.
So you can imagine my absolute honour and tearful gratitude when I went to my amazon page and found this . . .
Amazon telling me that people who bought Julia Cameron’s and Anne Lamott’s books are also buying This Way Up! This is the highest flattery I could ever receive. I am humbled and grateful beyond measure. It absolutely makes my heart sing!
So for those of you out there looking for the perfect gift this holiday season for a woman in your life that loves Annie Lamott and/or Julia Cameron, look no further!
I’ll close this post with a wonderful TED talk by Annie Lamott, 12 Truths I Learned from Life and Writing.
I’d love to hear about your heroes and mentors.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.
“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.”
– Leo Tolstoy
When I watch the news or read the paper, I think I can be forgiven for becoming somewhat distraught. The world is in such a fragile, sad place at the moment. And after discussing this with my sister Karin, we both agreed that being “sensitive” women, open to the energy of the world around us, can be heart-breaking. What are we doing to this planet? What are we doing to one another? Why is this happening?
And going a step further, what can we do about it? On a large scale, it feels as though one small, insignificant person can do very little. It all feels too big. But that feels ‘wrong’ – I have to do something, even on a small scale. One thing that may not seem significant on the bigger scale, but I feel is very significant, is too keep “cleaning up my side of the street.” To stay clear and communicate through my own trials and tribulations to come out the other side. I had a confrontation with a good friend. It felt awkward and hard and it brought up a lot of old stuff for me, old childhood shame and feelings of being ‘wrong’ and bad. My immediate instinct was to lash out at her, but I knew after years of therapy and my own work, that that was ‘wrong’. So luckily, this friend has also done a lot of her own work, so we talked, we communicated through it. It was not easy or comfortable or fun, but it worked. We worked through it, dug below the incident to what it brought up, in both of us, and got through it. I still have some work to do around my own behaviour, but the communication through the difficulty, shattered the small prison of shame that I was sitting in.
This one small incident may not seem significant, and maybe it’s not, in the big picture. But it was huge for me for a couple of days. And no I’m not saying that if we could all communicate better then everything would be peachy keen, but on a smaller scale, if people communicated better with each other, and were willing to be real with one another, I think the world would be in a lot healthier state. But then again, I always have been accused of being a Pollyanna.
The short clip I want to close with may not seem to fit with this post, but I feel like it does, and I really liked it. A short TED talk about Philosophy in Prison. I enjoyed the construct of ‘wrong’ – and more importantly it reminded me of my son Lukas who is studying PPE (Philosopy, Politics and Economics) and who has been away in Edinburgh studying for the past 10 months, and I miss him terribly. So when I saw this clip, and I thought of Lukas, I smiled. So I wanted to include it here. After all in this very small universe that is my blog, I get to make the rules!
“The great thing about being the only species that makes a distinction between right and wrong is that we can make up the rules for ourselves as we go along.”
― Douglas Adams
I’d love to hear from you about how you handle ‘wrong’ in your life. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.
“The world is full of a lot of fear and a lot of negativity, and a lot of judgment. I just think people need to start shifting their focus onto joy and happiness. As corny as it sounds, we need to make a shift.”
2. Observe what the old habit or pathway is doing in your life.
3. Shift your focus.
Habits are hard to break, we all know that, but one thing that helps immensely is observing, really paying attention to how destructive the habit is. Whether it’s spending more money than I can really afford; biting the cuticles around my nails; or drinking more alcohol than I want to. By observing and really paying attention to the consequences, I can start to realign my focus.
The way I do this is by firstly focusing really hard on the bad habit, I shine a spot light on it, brutally. I know this sounds counter-intuitive but hear me out. By writing down and clearing out all the negative stuff that is part of the bad habit, it helps make room for positive change. Recent research published in the journal Psychology Todayshows that writing down negative thoughts and negative past experiences and then ripping them up and throwing them away actually helps to change those thoughts and habits.
In Figjam WorkshopsCreative Empowerment Workshop, participants consistently say that doing this exercise has a remarkably healing effect. Try it! Take a big sheet of paper and write down all the negative effects associated with the bad habit, everything you can think of. And when you feel like you have gotten everything out, rip it up. Stamp on it! Scream NO at it! Burn it! You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.
Then, Shift the Focus. To create a new neural pathway, you need to focus on what it is you want. Start focusing on all the positives associated with not having that habit. For example, healthy cuticles or healthy nails. When I wanted to stop biting my cuticle, I rubbed lotion into my cuticles several times a day. I kept my nails shaped, and focused on how much better my hands looked. Yes, I know it sounds really simplistic, but in a way it is. This is how neuroplasticity works. It’s just about getting new neural pathways started. Remember what Dr. Rick Hanson says about self-directed neuroplasticity – it is ongoing. Our brains are changing all the time. We can choose what we focus on and what new neural pathways are being created!
I want to close with a fascinating TED talk by neuroscientist and inventor Christopher deCharms. A wonderful look inside the brain.
I’d love to hear about any bad habits you’ve broken, and how you changed the behavior. And if you do use the ‘Write and Rip’ technique – how it worked for you. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.
“There is no place so awake and alive as the edge of becoming. But more than that, birthing the kind of woman who can authentically say, ‘My soul is my own,’ and then embody it in her life, her spirituality, and her community is worth the risk and hardship. And that is what I have come to tell you – I have come over the wise distances to tell you: She is within us.”
The journey toward Sacred Self is a journey of passion and longing. It calls to us. And once we hear the call, it is my experience that we cannot “un-hear” it. That calling and longing is within us forever.
“To discover who she is, a woman must descend into her own depths. She must leave the safe role of remaining a faithful daughter of the collectives around her and descent to her individual feeling values. It will be her task to experience her pain . . . the pain of her own unique feeling values calling to her, pressing to emerge.” Judith Duerk (Circle of Stones)
I believe that accessing that deepest self, that Sacred Self, is where we truly tap into our power. I believe that is where intuition lives and where we can be most powerful. Powerful Beyond Measure!
Sometimes we fear descending into our own depths, into that darkness of the unknown. But that is where our intuition is. But as Caroline Myss points out, we often fear pursuing our intuition at all:
“We often hesitate to follow our intuition out of fear. Most usually, we are afraid of the changes in our own life that our actions will bring. Intuitive guidance, however, is all about change. It is energetic data ripe with the potential to influence the rest of the world.”
That is my search! The search for that energetic data ripe with potential! That search for Sacred Self!
To close, I would like to share a TED Talk by Isabel Allende about passion. In this powerful talk, Allende calls to women to follow their passion: We must begin to make fundamental changes, real change calls for feminine energy. Allende calls for us to roll up our sleevesand get to work, passionately,to create a better world. And I believe the first step in that direction is that search for Sacred Self.
Please let me know what you think of this TED talk. And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.
Look on the bright side.
Savor the moment.
― Sonja Lyubomirsky
Abraham Lincoln said: Most folk are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
Is it really that simple? I’m not sure. I know I feel blessed that my default system, that place I seem to always fall back to is one of optimism. I seem to naturally look on the bright side of things, and for that I am grateful.
Please take the time to read the article, it is uplifting and a wonderful reminder. I especially like the idea of the cloak, an image I have used before in a different context, but lovely to have it in this context as well.
I want to close with a TED talk that I have actually used before, but it is one of my favorites. The Habits of Happiness by Matthieu Ricard. It is one of nine videos in a series on TED entitled What Makes Us Happy?
Please let me know what you think the article and this TED talk. And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.
“Everybody has creative potential and from the moment you can express this creative potential, you can start changing the world.”
― Paulo Coelho
Why are so many people so afraid of the idea of creativity?
In our Creative Empowerment workshops, one of the most common things we hear from people is that they are not creative, not one of “those” creative types. And this is often said with a look of terror in their eyes. What is it about creativity that is so frightening?
Perhaps it’s the idea that to be creative is to relinquish control.
I agree with Matisse – Creativity takes courage.
As Pablo Picasso points out – The chief enemy of creativity is good sense. We are all told consistently to hold on to our good sense. To allow oneself to put aside that part of us that is in control, that is logical and rational is a scary thought. But Einstein explained:
“I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.”
For those of us who have worked so hard to keep everything ordered and in control, the thought of relinquishing this control is scary. But I love the image created by Lady Gaga about letting go to access one’s creative spark.
“When you make music or write or create, it’s really your job to have mind-blowing, irresponsible, condomless sex with whatever idea it is you’re writing about at the time. ”
The reality is that we are ALL born creative! Yes some of us are more artistic than others, or more talented in certain areas. But all of us are creative. The sad truth is that many of us have been shamed out of even trying to access our creative spark. Some of us have even been taught out of our creativity. Sir Ken Robinson explains this beautifully in his numerous TED Talks!
One man has made it his life’s work to help others build their creative confidence. David Kelly, of IDEO, explains how people lose their creative confidence and how he and others are working to help people regain that confidence. Please take ten minutes to watch this inspiring TED Talk. It helps to reminds us that we are all creative, every one of us.
Please let me know what you think David Kelley’s talk. And I’d love to hear how you build your creative confidence.
And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.
“It’s difficult to see the glass ceiling because it’s made of glass. Virtually invisible. What we need is for more birds to fly above it, and shit all over it, so we can see it properly.”
– Caitlin Moran
At the moment, I am reading one of the best books I have ever read. How To Be a Womanby Caitlin Moran is described by The Independent as: ‘Engaging, brave and consistently, cleverly, naughtily funny.’ Some reviewers have said that this is a book that EVERY woman should read; I’ll go one step further, I believe every woman AND man should read this book.
The book isn’t just about Moran’s opinion on what it means to be a woman, it is a searing social commentary. It addresses women’s weight and body image; modern feminism; love, marriage, children and family; abortion; fashion; role models and so much more. Moran’s syle of writing is funny and achingly honest. It’s painful to read, but you can’t help yourself from laughing.
The entire book deserves attention and praise, but for this post, I want to focus on her chapter on Sexism and The Glass Ceiling. Moran describes sexism and The Glass Ceiling in a way that is not very PC; funny but uncomfortable:
Most sexism is down to men being accustomed to us being the losers. That’s what the problem is. We just have bad status. For men born pre-feminism, this is what they were raised on: second-class citizen mothers; sisters who need to be married off; female schoolmates going to secretarial school, then becoming housewives. Women who disengaged. Disappeared.
These men are the CEOs of our big companies, the big guys on the stock markets, the advisors to governments. They dictate working hours and maternity leave, economic priorities and societal mores. And, of course, they don’t feel equality in their bones – sexism runs deep in their generation. Their automatic reaction is to regard women as ‘other.’
Even those men born post-feminism, raised on textbooks and marches and their own mothers leaving each morning for the office, however much they might believe in the theoretical equality of women, and respect those around them . . . have a quiet voice inside them that says ‘If women are the true equals of men, where’s the proof?’ And it is not just a voice inside men. It’s inside women too . . . Creativity, we silently fretted should really have begun the moment legislation changed. All manner of female incredibleness – pent up for centuries – should have been unleashed; flattening trees for thousands of miles around, like a pyroclastic blast. But it wasn’t. Because simply being able to vote isn’t the same as true equality.
Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook gives her opinion of why we have too few women leaders. She explains that as a general rule the data shows that women systematically underestimate their own abilities, while men generally overestimate their own. Men tend to attribute their success to themselves and women attribute it to external factors. Men tend to think they did a good job because they themselves are good at their job, whereas women will often say they had to work extra hard or that someone helped them. Sanderberg stresses that women need to start believing they deserve their own success.
An important factor that Sandberg describes as vitally important is that success and likability are positively correlated for men, but negatively correlated for women. In the following TED Talk, Sandberg talks about a study that strikingly illustrates this.
Both Caitlin Moran’s book and Sheryl Sandberg’s talk caused discomfort in a way, yet were incredibly eye-opening for me. It’s easy to blame men for “keeping us down” – but the reality is that we, as women, have a responsibility to make the changes ourselves. We have to not only believe that we are equal and deserve to be treated as such, but to get out there and do what needs to be done. That doesn’t mean that we have to act like men, and if our brains are wired differently, maybe that’s not even possible. And considering the state of politics and the environment, I for one am not convinced that the present mode of leadership is the best way anyway. But if women want a chance to make a difference and to take the lead, then we have to do it for ourselves. We have to step up. And a good way to start is to read How To Be a Woman and watch Why we have too few women leaders.
Please take the time to comment, I’d love to hear your opinion on this topic. And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.
“It seems that most of us thrive by feeling a sense of purpose. ”
– Dan Ariely
What motivates us at work? What is it that drives us? Many people believe it is how much money you make. But that didn’t make sense to me, there are too many other factors involved. Then I saw this quote by Dan Ariely – It seems that most of us thrive by feeling a sense of purpose. And I thought – yes that’s it.
And an experience last week at my work – Figjam Workshops – illustrated that beautifully. Last week, my business partner Deb and I finished facilitating a 5 week Creative Empowerment Workshop for a group. And during the closing circle, one of the participants said that during the workshop he had an epiphany, and that the workshop had changed his life! Needless to say, Deb and I were in tears, and we looked at each other and both felt it – This is why we do this work!
It’s not for the money! Working for a charitable trust will never make us rich, as a matter of fact, by the end of the year when funding has run out, we usually find ourselves working several weeks for no pay at all. We do the work because we love it. And we love it because we feel an incredible sense of purpose.
Dan Ariely, professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University and a founding member of the Center for Advanced Hindsight, has this to say about motivation at work:
“So when we think about labor, we usually think about motivation and payment as the same thing, but the reality is that we should probably add all kinds of things to it — meaning, creation, challenges, ownership, identity, pride, etc. And the good news is that if we added all of those components and thought about them, how do we create our own meaning, pride, motivation, and how do we do it in our workplace and for the employees, I think we could get people to both be more productive and happier.”
In this stimulating and entertaining talk, Dan Ariely explains What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work?
I’d love to hear about what makes you feel good about your work. And as always, thank you for visiting, I appreciate it.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
your thoughts become your words,
your words become your actions,
your actions become your habits,
your habits become your values,
your values become your destiny”
– Mahatma Gandhi
Are your beliefs limiting or empowering? Does your belief system enhance your life or constrict it? One way or the other, our beliefs drive our life. Because as Gandhi points out, our beliefs become our thoughts, and eventually our destiny. But how do we really know what beliefs are driving us? I was first introduced to the impact of my limiting beliefs when I did the Silva Method Course. We explored this concept by doing a very simple exercise, which I invite you all to do now. Get a pen and paper and write down the very first thing that pops into your head when you read the following phrases – don’t think about it, don’t edit, just write the very first word that comes to your mind:
Life is . . .
Money is . . .
Making money is . . .
Time is . . .
My health is . . .
My body is . . .
My love life is . . .
I deserve . . .
There is always too much . . .
There is never enough . . .
OK, hopefully you have been totally honest and written down the first thing that came into your head. Now look at it – what beliefs are driving your life? Where did you get those beliefs? Louise Thompson talks a lot about beliefs and how they drive your life on her blog, Positive Balance. She puts it simply:
“If at some deep level you believe there will never be enough: you are exactly right, and there never will be. If you believe deep down that life is hard then you will have a hard life. If you believe in miracles you will see miracles everywhere. If you believe life is a struggle then struggle you will.”
Most limiting beliefs come from childhood. Either our parents or our teachers said something about life or about us and we accepted it completely. And very possibly, we had many experiences as we grew up that “proved” that belief to be true. But those beliefs do not have to continue to limit us. We can choose to change limiting beliefs, but the first step is identifying them (thus the simple exercise above.) There are literally thousands of sites that talk about eliminating limiting beliefs, but they all agree that the first step has to be identifying what they are.
On the flip side is embracing empowering beliefs. And to close I want to share a wonderful TED Talk by an amazing woman named Caroline Casey. Visit her blog, Kanchi, it is inspirational! Caroline Casey is a walking example of empowering beliefs.
“It’s extraordinaryhow far belief can take you . . . when you really believe in yourself and everything about you, it’s extraordinary what happens . . . being absolutely true to yourself is freedom.”
Please take the time to explore your own belief systems – and then take the time to watch this woman who can help us all embrace more empowering beliefs about ourselves.
I’d love to hear about your beliefs – are they limiting or empowering? Do they make you happier or bring you down? And as always, thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.