If Wishes Were Horses: How to Make Real Change Happen in Your Life

If the New Year brought to mind some changes that would move you nearer to living your ideals, good for you! To see the arenas of our lives that we can enhance is a beautiful thing. Now take the time to think them through.

Two horses running through snowy landscape

“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” ~ English nursery rhyme

“Make any New Year’s resolutions?” Darlene asks me as we get into the elevator after the holiday.

“Yup,” I say, grinning, “sure did.  You?”

“Nah,” she says.  “They never work for me.  What’s yours?”

“Well! Since you ask,” I say with great drama, “I resolve to turn up the heat on my happiness.  To suck all the marrow I can from life.  To ride that positivity spiral right up to the sky and keep soaring.  That’s what I’m gonna do!”

She laughs, shakes her head and rolls her eyes as the door opens to her floor.

She’s right you know.  Resolutions don’t work.  At least not the kind that we make on New Year’s Eve.  You know, the standard  “quit my bad habits,” “get fit,” “start my own business,” “live within my budget” ones we make.  They’re really more wishes than they are resolutions.  And even if we squeeze our eyes shut really tight, cross our fingers and click our heels as we make them, chances are pretty slim that a pony will materialize.

The Stages of Change

Change doesn’t happen that way.  It doesn’t come through wishing.  It comes through choices and commitment that develop through stages.  The stage you need to step into when you first recognize that you want to make a change is not commitment and action.  Not if you want to succeed.

The step that follows your recognition that you want to do something different in your life is a stage the behavioral scientists have labeled “contemplation.”  You need to take some time to think things through, to try your idea on for size and get accustomed to thinking of yourself in a new way.

Even then, after you have thought things through, you’re not ready to make the leap.  You need to go through a phase of preparation, of putting things in place to allow the change to occur.

Changes are like falling dominoes; no major life change happens in isolation.  It impacts a whole series of related behaviors and patterns; it affects those around us.   The preparation stage allows you to anticipate the way your change will ripple through your life and environment so you can make its impact is as positive as possible.

Where to Start

If the New Year brought to mind some changes that would move you nearer to living your ideals, good for you!   To see the arenas of our lives that we can enhance is a beautiful thing.  Now take the time to think them through. Choose the one that’s most important and appealing to you and get ready to make it happen, for real, in your life.

To get started, spend some time thinking about, and writing down, the answers to these questions:

  • Why do I want to make this change?  What will it do for me?  Spend some quality time on these questions.  Paint as clear a picture as you can for yourself of the benefits the change will bring you.  How will it feel?  How will you feel and act once the change is a real part of your life?  What doors will it open for you?  What new opportunities will it bring your way?
  • What will I need to release and let go of in order to make this change?  Your current behavior pattern provides you with some rewards.  What are they?  What’s in it for you if you don’t make the change?  Are you willing to let go of those rewards in place of the new ones the change will bring you?
  • If the change will require an investment of your time, what are buy crestor online australia you willing to give up to make room for it?  Will you get up an hour earlier?  Work on it during your lunch hour? Give up some TV or Twitter time?
  • Will the change require a financial investment?  If so, from where will you pull the necessary funds?
  • Will it require that you create a physical space in order to do it?  If so, where will you set it up?  What materials will you need?  Where will you get them?  When will you need them?
  • Do you know how to do what you want to do?  Do you need information?  Training?  A mentor or coach?  A support group?  If so, where can you find what you’ll need and how will you go about accessing it?
  • How will your significant others and close associates react to the change?  How will it impact their lives?  How can you enlist their support?

Asking yourself questions like these will not only help you prepare for change, it will add depth to the power of your intention and will signal your subconscious that you’re serious.

You’ll find yourself noticing reinforcing ideas, drawing unexpected support and getting more and more confident that you truly are going to see your vision become your new reality.

Finally, set a date and begin—boldly, and with enthusiasm, commitment and faith.

Do you have a New Year’s wish that you plan to make real in your life?  Are you making some plans?  Share them so we can wish you well!

Then, come the end of March, I expect to see you riding in on a brand new pony.

Share

Authenticity, the Hero's Journey

At its heart, positivity is living in alignment with your unique set of personal values. It’s about telling yourself the truth, about recognizing where you’re pretending and then making different choices in those areas of your life.

Disappointed WomanMy friend was telling me about her failed marriage.  “I knew from the beginning that I was making a mistake,” she said.  “I remember standing at the altar in my wedding dress thinking I really shouldn’t be doing this.  But it just seemed too late to change my mind.”

All of us have made painful mistakes somewhere along the line, knowing at the time that they were wrong for us, and yet feeling too pressured, confused or weak to say no. We get so busy tap dancing to the expectations of others that our own music gets drowned out, so wrapped up in the roles we’re playing that we forget who we really are.

The mistakes we make because we have lost sight of our own authenticity bring pain.  But like all mistakes, they bring opportunities for self-discovery, too.

As my friend Cristina Diaz recently said on her Face Book page, “Pain is a great mechanism to help us pay attention, to say ‘I don’t want anymore of darkness, what I want is light.’  The hero’s journey would be no journey if there were no problems.”

Striving for the Light

Authenticity is what the hero’s journey is all about.  The light that you, as the hero of your own story, are looking for is the light of your own truth.  It’s the truth that’s uniquely yours, made from your particular buy ventolin over counter uk set of genes and experiences, your values, tastes and preferences, your dislikes and judgments, your longings and desires.   Your truth is what is real for you.

The hero’s quest is the quest for positive living – for committing to being the best you can be and to accepting total responsibility for your choices.  It’s about being honest with yourself about what truly brings you satisfaction, meaning and joy and then choosing the things that move you in that direction.

It takes courage to live authentically, to pursue your own truth and to live it even when it’s contrary to the way everyone else around you is living.  Committing to positivity, deciding that genuine happiness is your number one priority, helps you generate that courage.  Not only does the practice of positive living lead you to a more sensitive recognition of which choices are right for you and which are wrong, it also rewards you with genuine joy as you move in increasing harmony with your own genuine nature.

Spotting the Not-Me

At its heart, positivity is living in alignment with your unique set of personal values.    It’s about telling yourself the truth, about recognizing where you’re pretending and then making different choices in those areas of your life.  The more you practice living in accord with your values, the more natural living authentically becomes.  That’s why values expressed through action are called personal strengths.

Monopoly MoneySomebody once told me that when you work in a bank, they never let you handle counterfeit money, only the real stuff.  The paper the real stuff is printed on has a certain quality to it, a certain feel.  It’s made of different materials than counterfeit bills.  So when you run across the fake money, your fingertips can tell that it’s not the real thing.

That’s what living authentically is like.  If you’re immersed in the high-value stuff, you sense the counterfeit right away.  Some part of you that’s as sensitive as your fingertips says, “Hey! Something’s not right here.”  And you start looking for what’s amiss.

We all have areas of our lives where we’re pretending to be something that we’re not.  We pretend we’re on a diet, but the truth is we’re sneaking Twinkies when nobody’s watching.  We pretend we’re hard workers when we’re mainly goofing off.  We pretend we’re being faithful.  We’re pretending to be happy.  We’re pretending we’re in favor of an idea that we don’t find appealing at all.

These are the places of darkness.  These are the sources of pain that gnaw away at our vitality, that dull our lives and steal our joy.  They sap our energy and confuse us and keep us from being all that we can, and long to, be.

The Choice for Happiness

Positivity helps you build the kind of strong, joy-based character that can turn away from those kinds of situations before you’re in so deeply that you’re overwhelmed.  When you’re grounded in the values you most deeply cherish, good boundaries naturally develop between the things that are right for you and the things that aren’t.

As you move toward living more and more in harmony with your values, your senses of purpose and of direction grow keener.  You develop the sensitivity to spot the “not-me” feelings inside yourself almost instantly, so you can say no to choices that aren’t in harmony with your true self.  You grow more honest with yourself, and your commitment to self-honesty produces such a sense of wholeness that to breach it becomes unbearably painful.

The best part is that the “work” involved in building more positivity into your life doesn’t feel like work at all.  Oh sure, you have to exert yourself to build some new habits and to let go of some old ones.  But the rewards are so delicious and satisfying that the effort is easy to make.

It all starts with deciding to be kind enough to yourself to make happiness your number one priority, your central intention and goal.  That’s the first step in your hero’s journey: commit to the light, to the truth of your own being and to living in harmony with it. Decide to master it.  It will grow you, and free you, and ultimately, lead you home—to the true self that you were meant to be.

Share

The Doorway to Ultimate Bliss

Sadly, in our busy, hurried, demanding world, too many of us set aside religious or spiritual practices as unimportant, even irrelevant to our lives. We’re searching for the Holy Grail in all but the places where it can be found. And we suffer for it, not only individually, but collectively as well.

golden pathBeneath all that is positive runs a single stream, generating it, empowering it, sustaining it.

Because it’s universal and eternal, it’s known by many names: Source, the Universe, Spirit, the Unified Field, the Tao, and all the names by which we know our God–even when we have no concept of, or belief in, a God at all.

It doesn’t matter what we call it; our words can’t contain it anyway.  We know it with our hearts, not with our minds.

It does matter, though, whether we know it.  At least if we’re going to live truly rich, satisfying, meaningful lives.  That’s what the science shows, and what the wisdom of the ages declares as well.

The Value of Seeking the Sacred

On the science side, the results of the studies are clear.  People who seek the sacred, whether through participation and practice of an organized religion, or through a privately cultivated relationship with the Divine, are healthier, happier, more resilient human beings.

They live longer, have happier marriages, cope better with stressors, and use less alcohol and drugs.

They have a source of comfort in hard times; a source of self-esteem and self-worth, a sense of knowing they are unconditionally loved.  They tap into a deeper sense of meaning, a broader picture of life, a sense of purposefulness.  They’re more accepting of life’s vicissitudes and tragedies and quicker to adjust.  They’re quicker to forgive.

We gravitate to it, this universal stream, because its essence infuses us.  We were created from it.  The more we immerse ourselves in it, the more we experience and express all that gives life zest—joy, serenity, engagement, delight, hope, compassion, gratitude and love in all its myriad forms.

Practicing Religion and Spirituality

In her book highly acclaimed book, The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, Sonja Lyubomisrksy offers several practices you may enjoy using if the idea of participation in a religious community attracts you, or if you want to explore how various religions approach the search for the sacred.   She suggests that you pick only one to try:

Religious Participation and Study

  • Join or recommit to a temple, church, mosque, spiritual program or religious study group.  Set a goal to attend once a week, or even daily;
  • Spend 15 minutes a day reading a spiritually themed or religious book, or listening to or watching a religious or spiritual program;
  • Volunteering for a faith-based charity;
  • Researching various religions at the library or on the web.

Prayer

Man PrayingShe also suggests that you develop a practice of prayer, using whatever form of communion with the divine is most comfortable or attractive for you.  Then dedicate a specific period of each day to prayer—petitioning the Divine for the meeting of your own needs or those of others, giving thanks, simply “being in the presence,” reading a book of prayers or meditations—whatever feels good and right for you.

Alternately, she suggests, you may want to practice praying spontaneously throughout the day, whenever you are inspired to do so, feel a need for guidance or relief, or a desire to express gratitude and praise.

Meditation

Regular meditation is another way to find contact with the Divine, by learning to quiet your mind sufficiently to perceive its presence within you.  Having sampled a wide range of techniques—and finding value in them all—I personally am now enjoying LifeFlow Meditation 2.0, a cutting edge brain entrainment offered by Project Meditation. I’ve been using it for a year with very satisfying results. Click this link to get their Free Meditation Course

Finding the Sacred in the Ordinary

You can see beauty and holiness in everything around you if you look for it, if you open your mind to perceiving it.  The most ordinary object or familiar scene is part of the vast stream of creative beauty and joy.  “Sanctifying day-to-day objects, experiences, and struggles” says Sonja, “takes a great deal of practice, but it’s at the heart of spirituality and its rewards.”

You can get a little hint of how this practice unfolds in my own life by reading through a few of my little posts at High on Happiness.

The Doorway to Ultimate Bliss

Regardless of the path you choose, making spirituality a central part of your life is the key to finding life’s ultimate bliss and blessing.  Sadly, in our busy, hurried, demanding world, too many of us set aside religious or spiritual practices as unimportant, even irrelevant to our lives.  We’re searching for the Holy Grail in all but the places where it can be found.  And we suffer buy avodart canada for it, not only individually, but collectively as well.

If you truly want to find the very best in you, to explore the best that life has to offer, decide now to make spirituality a priority part of your life.  It will enrich, empower and free you as nothing else can.  And that’s a promise.

Share

Happiness and the Dream Machine

Out of all the possibilities before you, chose the one that tastes like fun, that jolts your heart with a little more fierce.

The Dream MachineFollow your purpose.  Follow your bliss.  Follow your dream, they say.  But here you sit, up to your elbows in ordinary, with no ideas at all.

“My dream?” you say.  “My dream? What is my dream?”  If you don’t know it, let me whisper:  It is to be happy.  Choose that.    Make it the focus of your life.  Put it center stage and let it steal the show.

“But how?” you ask.  “How?”  That’s for you to say.  Make your space more beautiful: Pick up your socks; clean something; make a repair.  Make yourself the unofficial world greeter:  Go be kind to someone; engage someone in conversation; walk down the street whistling; pass out smiles.  Take fifteen or an hour with a good book or a hobby.  Visit a gallery or museum.  Get out your crayons.  Go for a run.  Put on some music and dance.  It’s up to you.

The thing is to listen for that little buzz, that little ding, the thing that makes you go “Hmmmm” or “Oh! Yeah!” and then do it.  Every minute.  All the time.  Sink into the present.  See what’s there.

Out of all the possibilities before you, all the turns you could make right now, chose the one that tastes like fun, that gets your molecules dancing, that makes your blood race a tad warmer through your veins and jolts your heart with a little more fierce.

Keep doing that and the dream machine will learn it can trust you. Before you know it, it pops a big one your way.

The Freedom Skater

Take Austin Szelkowski, for instance.  He’s just out of college in a state with no jobs, working as a waiter, up to his ears in student loans.  But he keeps doing what he loves, encouraging people to follow their dreams and live bold and free.

Then one day the dream machine lands this one on him:  Austin, it says, what if you roller bladed across America, carrying a big flag, and stopped all along the way to speak your message?

Right now, Austin’s buy celebrex usa 233 miles into his dream.  Go check out his website.  See what he says about choices, and daring, and living free.  This guy’s got positivity locked, I tell you.

Juice Right Now

Man Atop MountainNow maybe you don’t have a big dream.  Maybe yours are quieter, cozier dreams.  Maybe just finding the courage to get out of bed is all that you can handle.  That’s cool.  Pat yourself on the back for getting out of bed then.  See if it doesn’t give you the strength to take a step or two.  And when you make it all the way to a mirror, smile at you.  Give order tramadol with cod yourself a wink.  Say to yourself, “I’m going to have a beautiful day.”

That’s the point, see?  Let today be beautiful for you.  Find the juice right now holds.  Every day, you make happiness your focus, you put it center stage and let it dance.  You listen for the hum.  You listen for the buzz and follow it.  Do that, and before long you’ll find yourself humming, too.

“Life is good,” you’ll say.  “Life is good.”  And the dream machine will mark that down and keep feeding you bigger dreams.  Just watch.  You’ll see.

Share

Why Happiness is Job #1

Regardless of its unique expression in our individual lives, our central purpose is to make of our lives a celebration of being.

Face of ContentmentIf you haven’t yet found your life’s passion, let me suggest to you that it is to be happy, to know joy.  That is what you are here to do; that’s the bottom line for us all.

Regardless of its unique expression in our individual lives,  our central purpose is to make of our lives a celebration of being.

Sometimes our paths are bathed in mirth and sometimes shadowed by pain.  But always, the driving force that pulls us forward is our desire to live in happiness, to be mindful of our aliveness, and to lift up the gift of our being in thanksgiving and joy.

Happiness for Its Own Sake

When you grasp that the desire to live in happiness is what motivates all our seeking, what shapes all our choices, you hold the magic compass that will unerringly guide your way.

And here’s a seldom-voiced secret:  When you understand that happiness is our essential desire, you’re free to seek it directly, for its own sake.  Get to the heart of your happiness and happiness itself will lead you to everything else that you need.  It will reveal your best strengths—because exercising them brings you the greatest pleasure, meaning and satisfaction.  It will tease out your true talents by filling your expression of them with delight.  It will whisper to you which relationships enrich you by painting them with laughter, openness, honesty, intimacy, caring, appreciation and joy.

The more you live in happiness, the more real you are, the more authentic and alive.

Scouting Out Your Happiness

So how do you go about discovering your happiness?  Try this:

Take five minutes and begin writing down the things that please and satisfy you. What most delights your senses?  What sights?  What sounds? What fragrances? What textures?  What movements?  What tastes?  Write these down on your happiness list.

Relaxing in a Field of FlowersWhat moves your heart?  When do you feel most alive?  Most satisfied?  Strongest?  Purest?  When are you the most playful?  What excites you?  When are ativan to buy you the most relaxed and serene?  Write your answers down.

Think back to your childhood.  What delighted you then?  Scan your whole life.  What kinds of work brings you the most satisfaction?  What kinds of environments have pleased you the most?  Where have you most enjoyed spending leisure time?  What kinds of people turn you on?  Are you most alive in nature?  At a party?  Working at a hobby?  Participating in a sport?  Engaging in one of the arts?

Do It Now

Man Happily Writing

Don’t just read these instructions.  There’s no magic in simply passing these words through your brain.  The magic lies in following them, because they will lead you to the unique, personalized wealth of happiness within you.

Either open a page right now and begin making your happiness list or commit yourself right now to a time in which you will do it.  Tonight, before bed?  Tomorrow morning, first thing, even if it means getting up five minutes earlier?  On your lunch hour?  C’mon.  Now or when.  Commit to it.  Your happiness depends on it.

Do you need convincing?  A sales pitch for positivity?  Okay then, what’s in it for you, besides the phenomenal way it feels, are some life-altering side effects:

Happy people—people who engage in positive living now—

  • Are healthier,
  • Live longer,
  • Heal faster;
  • Enjoy more success in everything they do;
  • Have more and better friendships;
  • Are more attractive;
  • Are more creative;
  • See more possibilities;
  • Recognize more opportunities;
  • Are better risk-takers;
  • Are more at peace;
  • Appreciate life more;
  • See more beauty;
  • Enrich the lives of others;
  • Contribute more to their communities;
  • Are more self-directing;
  • Feel more competent;
  • Are more content;
  • Take greater control of their lives.

Happiness is a Survivor Skill

These are real capabilities, the kind that come through for you not only in your everyday life, but when you’re thrown against the wall.  Happiness is a survival skill.  It’s where grit and resilience come from when the tough times roll.

When you’re rooted in positivity, you have the tools you need to deal with life’s tragedies, setbacks and pain.  You meet life face-on, free from self-imposed victimhood, because you can see the broader picture.  Your focus isn’t narrowed to seeing only what’s wrong, but sweeps across the entire landscape in search of what can be made right.  Your realism extends to seeing possibilities as well as roadblocks, and being rooted in positivity, you have the daring to try new paths, to forge ahead, to see and utilize your assets.

And it all begins by deciding to commit yourself to being happy, and then identifying what activities, relationships, and pursuits bring you the most joy.

So take five, and start your list.  Make happiness job one and get to work on it.

Share