We may think that our experience of happiness is objective, but it’s not. We all carry an unconscious frame of reference in our heads that filters how we feel about our lives. Everything – our relationships, our beliefs about our own success, our friends, family, and wealth, are perceived through this filter. Since we’re always comparing ourselves to the people around us, we need to discover … Continue reading Am I Happy, Compared to You?
I adored my mother’s father. Grandpa was poor, money-wise, but rich with his gifts. They weren’t board games, dolls, or pretty dresses, which I had plenty of. His gifts cost almost nothing. A walnut in a shell became a ball to toss across a room and a missile to knock down a pyramid of playing cards. Grandpa taught me to play cat’s cradle with the string … Continue reading Gifts from Grandpa
I’ve tried all different types of time management systems. I’ve typed my goals on a spread sheet with small actions divided into columns with headings like this: Today, This week, This month, This year. I’ve tried a handwritten system with 3 notebook pages. One titled: Inside (tasks I do at home or indoors), Outside (errands in the outside world) and Work (specific to my full-time job.) … Continue reading Who Has Time for Passion Pursuit?
Sometimes, after working at something diligently, you may begin to wonder if you’ll ever get to where you want to go. When I began working in a clinic, counseling cocaine addicts, I started out being totally ignorant about the substance abuse world. The supervisor who hired me said, “I’m looking for someone with good, general counseling skills. Don’t worry about your lack of knowledge. The clients will teach you everything you need … Continue reading How do you Know You’ve Succeeded at Passion Pursuit?
The most popular theme of commencement speeches in high schools and colleges is Follow Your Passion. But how do you figure out what that is? And what if everyone wanted to follow their passion? Are the sanitation workers on the garbage trucks following their passion? What about school custodians, lunch ladies, and school crossing guards? I’ve had the opportunity to counsel more than a few school crossing … Continue reading Can Everyone Follow their Passion?
Around the time one of my sons was 5 years old, I remember driving home from work feeling stressed. When I pulled into my driveway, I’d sit in the car for a full minute and breathe deeply to compose myself before entering the house. I didn’t do this to relieve the stress from my job but to prepare myself for the daily minor catastrophe that awaited me at … Continue reading Contagious Moods
Many years ago, I navigated through a particularly rough time as a divorced mother of 2 young children. I juggled time for my kids, a full-time job, a social life, and a tough money situation. At some point, I felt so overwhelmed and miserable I decided to talk to a psychotherapist about my unbearable unhappiness. “Of course you feel terribly unhappy,” she said. “You’re going through bad times. But it’s not unbearable. You’re bearing it.” At first, I … Continue reading It’s Okay to Feel Unhappy
Now that I’ve trashed positive thinking in The Dark Side of Positive Thinking, it’s time to set the record straight. Our beliefs and thoughts have a real, physical effect on our bodies, our brains, and our world. Take the placebo effect. When I was in college, there was a time I had a headache every evening at 9 pm. My routine was to walk into the bathroom and take … Continue reading The Sunny Side of Positive Thinking
Recently, an old friend told me, “I’m not usually a fan of the self-help, positive stuff.” I laughed, but I knew exactly what he meant. Positive thinking self-help gurus are everywhere, like cockroaches. Sometimes they’re uplifting. Other times they do real harm. How is that possible? Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of learned optimism, which helps you cultivate an openness to life. While it’s important to be … Continue reading The Dark Side of Positive Thinking
Every kid eventually discovers this trick. We used to call it “reverse psychology.” Psychotherapists call it a “paradoxical intervention.” Mark Twain says it best in the story of Tom Sawyer and the fence that Aunt Polly made him whitewash on a beautiful summer day. We’re all familiar with how the clever Tom lit upon the idea of bamboozling his friends to not only paint the fence for him, but to pay for … Continue reading Whitewashing Tom Sawyer’s Fence