Back when I was young mom with a toddler at home, Dr. Joyce Brothers was actively writing and appearing on television. One of her books was among the first I read as I began exploring self-development. She asked the question – what would you need to feel happy – and going through the exercise that followed literally changed my life. Dr. Brothers asked:
(1) What 3-5 things would need to happen to find happiness and feel better about your life? She suggested that we eliminate all the little wants on our to-do lists and really focus on the changes that would make a difference – and she wanted us to spend a week thinking about it.
(2) At the end of the week, Brothers asked us to list all the reasons why we don’t have these things. Again, we were instructed to take a week to think about it. It takes a bit of brainstorming to think of all the reasons we find obstacles in our paths and I had quite a list by the time I completed this part.
(3) Returning at the end of the week, she asked us to list all the actions we could take to overcome the reasons we listed and suggested we take another week to brainstorm. By this time, I had several pages of ideas and discovered that some of the same solutions appeared repeatedly.
(4) By the end of this week, Dr. Brothers told us to pick one of the actions on our lists and do it. The way she described it, taking just one action indicates serious intention and sets energy in motion, like a snowball rolling downhill, gathering momentum as it goes. Although I don’t remember exactly which action I chose (it was something very simple, like getting a haircut I think), the reason I chose it was that it had appeared several times as a solution for several problems.
I took that one action and within a year, my entire life had changed…for the better. I’ve used this technique a couple times since when my emotions threatened to overwhelm me and it has always turned things around quickly. As I grew personally, when choosing which step to take, I chose what would lift my spirit as the best reason to choose a particular action.
There are other techniques that help you identify actions you can take to start the shift from negative feelings that may be swamping you. If you are challenged by negative emotions, one of the best techniques is to start asking yourself positive, open questions. Such questions require more than a yes or no answer. You will have to dig a little deeper.
Here are a few ideas:
If you are upset about a particular incident during the day that has tangled your emotions, ask yourself “what would you prefer” and think about what would need to happen for you to get that preference.
There is value in examining contrasts between something you don’t like and something you do. Pause to look at the essence of the difference between them. There is a kernel of desire in the contrast that can point you in a more positive direction.
Brainstorm, using What if… questions. You can get some great solutions by playing with options.
Afformations ® – positive why questions – kick your reticular activation system into high gear. The mind has the ability to become a search engine when it has a specific question to answer. Keep the questions positive and you will receive position solutions to explore.
Change your story. All of us tell ourselves stories continuously. However, what we tell ourselves makes a huge difference. Telling a negative story regularly will interfere with your ability to get to a positive emotional place. Sit down and write a new biography. It doesn’t have to be what you are currently experiencing. You can imagine a better outcome. You can use creative license to add details that make you feel good.
Celebrate when you take an action toward your positive solutions.
If you use techniques like these, you will begin to cultivate gratitude and appreciation which lead to joy and well-being. In fact, using these techniques, I’ve found they have become part of my definition of a successful life.
To me, Success is being able to experience joy and appreciation in daily life, to see past outer circumstances and embrace a vision, to celebrate and savor each accomplishment in turn, enjoying the recognition, and then allowing the next desire to emerge as your next adventure. From that positive state of mind, all the outer trappings of success flow — financial stability, resources and freedom, healthy and happy relationships etc.
If you’d like to learn more, I discuss these techniques in greater depth in my book Rainbows Over Ruins and in my podcasts, Rebuilding Your Life: Moving from Disaster to Prosperity on iTunes and Stitcher.
I hope these ideas help you start to lift your spirits. Let me know which ones you try and the results. Or share other ideas you’d like to share. You are always welcome to join in the conversation.
To Your Success,