’Just like me, this person knows what suffering feels like.’” It doesn’t matter who “this person” is. You could grab any person off the street, walk into any office or any home, and whoever you find, it would be true. Just like me, this person has had difficulties in his or her life. Just like me, this person has known pain. Just like me, this person wants to be of use in the world, but also knows what it is like to fail. You don’t need to ask them if you are right. If they are human, you are right. All we need to do is choose to see it.”
- Kelly McGonigal
There is this woman I know, and I can’t stand her. Well, there was a time that I couldn’t, and I still struggle to be near her sometimes. She’s a professional who works in a field parallel to mine, and often interacts with the same student athletes that I do. Why do I dislike her? Or, why did I (and honestly still sometimes do)? Well,...
“All things were suddenly possible; then what was possible became necessary.”
~ Victor Price
The first time that I noticed the power of true belief was in 1999. I was a working student for Pippa Funnell, a professional equestrian athlete in Great Britain. Up until this point, Pippa had certainly experienced her share of success. Highly competitive at some of the biggest competitions in the world, she was admired and well respected by her peers. Her stable was full of quality horses provided by confident sponsors. She ran a well-oiled and professional organization, and was by all definitions highly accomplished. There was a calm confidence about her stable. I don’t think anyone felt a pressing need for significant improvement or change.
But, change there was. In the fall of 1999, Pippa became the European Champion. This was her first major win on the world stage, and the joy that it brought was palpable. In the weeks to follow the...
Yesterday, I flew from Miami to Portland. As is my habit, I eavesdropped on the people around me. In the seats behind me, a woman regaled her friend for over an hour about the terrible customer service snafu she had endured. The airline, it seemed, had made a mistake with her reservation. I won’t bore you with the details but trust me when I say there was a hero, a villain, and a battle. Indeed, it seems that for middle class people living in the modern world, complaints related to poor customer service are epic stories of tragedy and triumph. Dissatisfaction with credit card companies and online retailers may not have the makings of summer blockbusters, but most folks seem convinced they are narratives worth telling. Me? I think the woman’s complaint is an argument in favor of noise cancelling headphones.
Complaining is a universal phenomenon, and—I would guess—one as long as human history. It is easy to imagine Ugh, our...
Willpower is the energy that people use for self-control and making decisions. When energy is low, self-control doesn't work as well, decisions are avoided or made in a less careful, more error-prone fashion, actions become more impulsive, and emotions are more likely to run out of control. Hence much is to be gained by increasing willpower. But how to do that?
Positive psychologists compiled a list of 24 character strengths that improve life. Self-control was one of them. Surveys of over five million people have concluded that self-control is often a problem area. It is the least likely of the 24 to be named as “one of my five best strengths” and most to be listed among one’s biggest weaknesses. Apparently, plenty of people think they would be better off if they had more willpower.
Fortunately, research has begun to show that people can improve their willpower, even just over a period of weeks. This is welcome news, partly because...
“It is the host’s job to make the guest feel at home. It is the guests job to remember that she is not.”—Common Saying
Part One: Welcome
My earliest experience as a well-being researcher was studying the happiness of people living in slums in Kolkata, India. I can vividly recall my first day visiting one of these settlements. I stepped across an open sewer and into a cramped courtyard. Clotheslines spanned the space like prayer flags and children darted in and out of various doorways. A stray dog tore at a discarded rag and—inexplicably—a broken plastic chair leaned against a crumbling brick wall. The lack of privacy, the non-hygienic conditions, and the lack of material abundance were all expected. What was unexpected was the level of hospitality offered to me.
As I conducted my interviews, I was led to a house—a two room concrete shack, really—and was offered both tea and lunch. This was largesse coming...
“…to give us back to ourselves—there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect.”
~ Joan Didion
Some time ago a romantic relationship that meant a great deal to me came to an end. Yes, this is a perfectly common human scenario. There was no fight. He just did not share my feelings, and our time together had run its course. I open with this story because of its universality. Although I consider unrequited love to be one of the healthiest wounds one can receive, it may also be one of the most painful. I’m guessing that most of you have experienced the recovery process: sadness, loneliness, confusion, doubt, all of these made their way through my days. Any strategy to ease these feelings was greatly appreciated, and I found one by accident: self-respect. This article is the story of how I found my own self-respect, used it to flourish, and how you can too.
Around the same time that my personal life was struggling,...
I want to talk about water – but not the kind you’re thinking – the water of words and the motion of listening and presence. Speech and body language are like water; they flow between us and carve our moments and connections. The practice of deep listening (listening with the primary purpose of understanding another person, as opposed to listening with your primary focus on your response) is possibly the most powerful tool for forging strong relationships. Deep listening cultivates feelings of safety and trust, essential for secure human bonds. Secure bonds are obviously what close intimate relationships are built on, but the same could be said for any situation where people need to interact, communicate, educate, learn, and perform together.
Deep listening is a skill, and takes time and attention to learn. My work as a mental performance consultant has provided me with many opportunities to learn to listen. I’ve found the...
So you have some fears about your life? Great. Welcome to the club.
Seriously, it’s kind of silly (and dare I say borderline narcissistic) to think that you might be the only one who has ever been afraid of __X__. There are over 7 billion people on the planet— how likely is it that no one has ever felt the same way that you do? And yet, most people operate from this exact mindset, getting so isolated in their fears that they wind up completely paralyzed and stuck.
To give you some perspective, I’ve logged nearly 10,000 client coaching hours and I can honestly say that I’ve yet to hear a fear that is truly unique. A fear that is so unusual that there is absolutely no way that someone else has felt the same way, let alone figured out how to forge ahead anyway.
The reality is that we all feel fear, and I’ve noticed some pervasive and consistent themes.
I’m afraid I:
“Our bodies change our minds, and our minds change our behavior, and our behavior changes our outcomes.”
~ Amy Cuddy
I’m curious, how are you positioned right now? Are you leaning forward, hand at your chin, the other arm folded in front of your computer? Are you reclining, with a tablet perhaps? Or, are you scrolling down your phone with part of your attention on a clock, or a closed door, or an approaching bus?
If I were watching any of these scenarios I would make differing judgments as to how interested you are in this article. If you’re leaning forward, I would assume you’re fascinated, and perhaps hoping to learn something useful. If you’re reclining, I’d guess you’re reading for leisure. If you’re scrolling on your phone, I’d presume you’re killing time until something more important to you comes along. I would glean all of this information without you saying a word—by reading...
“The heart has reasons of which reason knows nothing.” ~ Blaise Pascal
I’ve always been guided by my intuition. Every major decision of my life has been directed by a “knowing” that came from a mysterious place within. I used to compete horses professionally. Upon my first glimpse of two of the most important horses of my past, I knew they would be mine one day. I knew this despite the fact that I had no money with which to buy a horse, and was not looking for one at the time.
The same thing happened when I read about the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology program at the University of Pennsylvania (where I attended grad school). I knew instantly that MAPP was the program for me. I knew this despite the fact that I was only one online course into my Bachelors degree, and had no reason to believe I’d ever be accepted into such a competitive program.
When I met a group of Flagstaff runners at a race in Colorado,...
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