I’ve received some emails from you all expressing your gratitude for some of the good content, positive mojo, and inspiration on this site.
Thanks for making my head the size of the good year blimp 🙂
The other day I received an email from a reader that asked how I stay so positive all the time. They wanted to know how I am able to let all the bad stuff go and keep all the good juices close.
The truth is, I don’t.
I feel like you and I do a good job of keeping it real with each other on this site, discussing topics that we’re hoping to get better at related to health, wealth, and personal relationships. But essentially what you guys get here is a highlight real.
As a writer I read other blogs and only see how successful they are, seemingly stress free, doing what they love, and without a care in the world.
As a nutrition coach I follow others in the field and see how successful they are, how they’re making a difference in people’s lives every day, and living a care-free life.
I bet you do the same. Maybe as a father you take a look at others who seem to have it all. The ability to balance a career, family life, and fun and leisure.
Or if you’re a student you may look at other students and wonder how the hell are they able to not pull their hair out preparing for exams, working, staying involved in personal relationships.
Social media doesn’t help much either. Nobody posts pictures of themselves stressing out about finances, spending time alone after a break-up, or taking selfless that show the ten pounds they just gained.
I once posted a photo on Instagram of me having the best breakfast ever celebrating how delicious it was and how happy I was about my morning. All the while sitting there with a book called A General Theory of Love trying to figure out why the heck I struggle so much in my personal life.
BOOM! My behind the scenes.
All we get is puppy dogs (guilty), adventures with friends, inspiring quotes, engagements, and funny anecdotes. You know, all that good stuff… the highlight reel.
WTF gives right? Why does it seem like I’m the only one freaking out here?
One reason we struggle with insecurity: We’re comparing our behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel. -Steven Furtick
So when those behind the scenes turtle heads show themselves how can you and I step up our game in order to get past them?
MY BEHIND THE SCENES
Personally, I don’t struggle much with health related stuff. I’ve got a system that works for me, I’ve been able to build healthy habits, and I never stray too far from them.
Some of you might think that I actually have it all together but I don’t. I have my own personal struggles that I deal with but I believe I’ve come up with a strategy for punching them in the jaw so to speak and getting past them when I do freak out.
The first step in dealing with your behind the scenes is acknowledging them. The worst thing you and I can do is to ignore them, pretend that they don’t exist, or just figure we’ll wake up tomorrow and they’ll just magically be gone.
Unfortunately that’s just not how it works. You may get up tomorrow and not feel the stress from those worries as much but that doesn’t mean they just up and disappeared.
Here you’ll see some of my behind the scenes. I invite you to post yours to the comment section below or to write them down in a journal.
- Personal finances: I freak out about my income, bills, savings, the future. As most of you already know I quit a job a little over a year ago in order to pursue what I love. No more steady income and stability for me… it’s scary sometimes.
- I don’t own a car: It’s embarrassing sometimes having to ask my buddies if I can use their car to pick up a girl on a date and then trying to explain why I don’t own one (sold it to start this site and bought a motorcycle instead).
- I never see my family: They all live in Virginia and I haven’t been back to visit them in over 4 years (I know, I suck as a son and brother). I missed the birth of a couple of nephews, my grandmother passing away, friends getting married, amongst some other important events.
- Writing good stuff for you: A couple of times I’ve pulled all-nighters editing content, working on articles, and researching so that I can put out something I think you all will find informative, inspiring, and entertaining. It’s exhausting and frustrating sometimes.
- Interesting and Intellectual: For some reason I have this deep-rooted insecurity about appearing intelligent and interesting to others. In order to combat this I spend most of my time reading, researching, and trying new things so that I (seem) am more interesting and intelligent. It keeps me learning and experiencing new things (which is good) but it also stresses me out. I feel like I’m boring and simple no matter what I do.
- I’m not where most of my buddies are: Most of them are married, have a kid or two, own a home, and make about double what I make. Oh crap, did I just compare myself to others? That’s the quickest way to anxiety. But every once in a while this stresses me out.
So there you have it. A few of my behind the scenes but once you’ve got that out then what?
The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true. -James Branch Cabell
So what is optimism?
1. Optimism is a learnable skill you can train for. Just like playing an instrument, learning another language, or practicing athletics you can become more optimistic through practice.
Research has suggested that meditation (1), journaling (2), and leisure or play are all ways you can buff up those optimism muscles.
Recommended readings: Meditation, the wonder drug – Limitless experiment, how to build the meditation habit – The power of doing stuff.
Create an optimism journal by writing down all of the things that went right over the course of your day in the evening before bed. You’re not turning a blind eye to things you need to work on your simply focusing more on what is going right in order to build the optimism habit.
The small act of simply listing three things you are grateful for each evening may just do the trick as well.
Eric Barker over at barking up the wrong tree agrees by referring to The Happiness Advantage:
In The Happiness Advantage, Sean Achor challenges readers to do one brief positive exercise every day for 21 days. Only through behavioral change can information become transformation.
- Write down three new things you are grateful for each day
- Write for two minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours
- Exercise for 10 minutes a day
- Meditate for two minutes, focusing on your breath going in and out
- Write one quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising someone in your social support network (family member, friend, old teacher).
2. Optimism is a choice that you make. Nothing outside of you has an impact on your response. You have thousands of ways in which you can respond to an event. It’s entirely up to you how you want to respond. You can decide to see things in an optimistic light or you can consistently view things wearing pessimistic goggles.
“Pessimism is, in brief, playing the sure game. You cannot lose at it; you may gain. It is the only view of life in which you can never be disappointed. Having reckoned what to do in the worst possible circumstances, when better arise, as they may, life becomes child’s play.” -Tom Hardy
A pessimistic attitude is one that promotes the idea that good is temporary, you simply got lucky, this is not something that translates to other areas of your life, and it has nothing to do with you.
What is something you can do everyday that makes it nearly impossible for you to have a bad day?
- Kiss your kids
- Eat real food
- Tell someone you love them
- Buy someone else their cup of joe
3. Make you optimism practice more personal.
- Things are going right because I work hard
- Things are going well because I deserve these things
- If things go wrong I am a capable of dealing with them
THE BENEFITS OF BEING OPTIMISTIC FAR OUTWEIGH THE BAD
In a June issue of Time Magazine an article was written about the science of optimism.
The benefits of being optimistic are as follows:
- Optimists are motivated to pursue goals because they can imagine alternative, better realities and believe these realities can be achieved.
- Optimists earn more money (probably because they work longer hours) — and they also save more money too.
- Optimists are not less likely to divorce, but they are more likely to remarry (which is, as the article says, “the triumph of hope over experience”).
- Optimists are more likely to have less stress and better physical health. They are more likely to take vitamins, eat low-fat diets, and exercise and, as a result, typically live longer.
- Optimists have a chance to live longer. In a study of cancer patients, pessimists were more likely to die within 8 months than their more optimistic counterparts.
- Optimists expect positive things to happen — and, even when positive things don’t happen, optimists tend interpret misfortunes in a positive way.
- Optimists value and affirm their decisions so their lives are not filled with second-guessing and constantly wondering, “What if….?”
As with developing most skills optimism takes practice. You’ll have to consistently build rituals around the practice. Set aside time every morning to meditate and exercise, use the evening before bed to journal, take optimism breaks during work to reset your jets.
KNOW YOU STRENGTHS AND MANIFEST THEM IN 6 CORE VIRTUES
I’ve mentioned it on this site before and even over at Lifehack but one of the most beneficial things I have ever done for myself was understanding what my strengths are. I discovered them through the authentic happiness site developed by Martin Seligman and other researchers in the field of positive psychology.
I took the test here at this updated site
Many experts agree that daily practice of the 6 core virtues using your own strengths can promote a sense of meaning in your every life.
- Wisdom: Good decision-making, clarity, understanding of the self and of others through experiences.
- Courage: Not the absence of fear but instead recognizing it and doing that which scares you anyway. The ability to occasionally ignore your personal “wants” to protect and contribute to others.
- Love: The sharing of joy and suffering with others. Displaying kindness, empathy, and caring and not anticipating it back in return.
- Justice: Treating yourself and others fairly physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
- Temperance: The practice of self-discipline and restraint. Eliminating the need for more, more, more or better, better, and better and simply accumulating stuff. Avoiding over-indulgence and the need for instant gratification.
- Transcendence: The belief that there is something bigger than ourselves, that what you do matters, and that life serves a grand purpose.
One way to meet the needs of the 6 core virtues is through using your unique talents as a way to serve humanity.
I know what you might be thinking. But I’m not really that good at anything, I don’t have any real talents, I’m not an expert. There’s no way I can contribute.
I use to think the same things but all of us have unique gifts that need to be presented to this world and it would be a damn shame if we didn’t share them with others.
- Imagine if Walt Disney decided not to unleash his dream on us
- What if Shakespeare or F. Scott Fitzgerald just said “Oh forget it, this writing thing is not for me.”
- What if Salvador Dali decided he didn’t want to paint the Persistence of Memory.
- What if John Lennon didn’t write Imagine
Trying to figure out your purpose in the world can be overwhelming so how about we just practice getting better little by little, one attempt at a time, one experience at a time, share it with the world, check off a little box that says we did it and move on to the next.
Before you know it you’ll begin to evolve and be the person you are destined to be. The worst thing you can do is nothing, so lets commit to just getting started with something.
WHERE TO GO FROM HERE
Take a few moments and describe yourself as you stand right now in one single sentence…
I know, harder than it sounds right?
Now use those 6 core virtues, where do you want to be with regards to each one?
How can you apply some of your own strengths to help you carry them out?