Self Sabotage; A Very Dangerous Activity

May 24, 2010 by  
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heart in hands

heart in hands

Here’s a question, how many of us tell ourselves the following phrase “I’m going to show them” over and over again?  How many of us actually cause things to go wrong and by saying “I’m going to show them” we have a false feeling of vindication?

Let me be specific.  We decide we want something in life: a promotion, a career, a relationship, then we orchestrate things to a point where things go south, we then become the victim but underneath is all is the fact we didn’t live through what we professed we wanted in the first place.    We were scared of either really succeeding or loosing and so we manipulate ourselves, others and situations so we can end up like victims.  And as victims we can obtain a false sense of courage with things like: I’ll show them.  Wouldn’t it be easier to really try for whatever we want?  If we failed or won wouldn’t that be rewarding?

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Thoughts On Self-Confidence

April 28, 2010 by  
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Sometimes we are afraid of taking certain actions.  The reasons can be: 1 – We think we couldn’t possible to X, or  2 – We are afraid if we fail what others will think of us or 3 – What do others think of us in general?  Are we good enough?

Let’s think for a moment about “we think we couldn’t possibly do X”.  The truth is we don’t know. And if we never try we will always be stuck exactly where we are.  Why not shift the focus of our thinking from fear of failure to exhilaration?  Instead of being afraid let’s be curious about what will happen if we do succeed.  By turning a negative into a positive we can overcome our fears and move on. And once we do, let’s make sure not to forget to look back and rejoice in what we have just achieved.

How about fear of what others will think of us if we fail?  That questions points to a different issue.  It points to a fragile ego.  If we realize that life is a journey, full of excitements, wins and losses, we know that the only way to move forward is by having self-confidence and taking risks.  Loss is part of life and so is winning. So let’s not care about what others think of us.

And lastly “are we good enough?”  If we think we are; then we are.  It is truly up to us because 1 – there is no such a thing as good enough  2 – If we are on a journey to live a happy and rich life, we know where we are headed and we don’t need anybody’s approval to keep moving forward.

Being self-confident makes life feel more free and easy.  All the worrying feels like a ton of bricks on our backs, and who needs that?  The time of slavery is over.


Failure, A Path To Success

April 26, 2010 by  
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Failure is an event, never a person.  ~William D. Brown, Welcome Stress!

This is what Wikipedia says about what the criteria for failure is: “The criteria for failure are heavily dependent on context of use, and may be relative to a particular observer or belief system.”

If you spend your life comparing yourself to others and beating yourself down when you failed it is not the world that is against you; it is you who is against yourself.

We so often compare ourselves to others and try to measure up our accomplishments to theirs without any regard for the fact that no two people are alike.  No two people have the same set of upbringing, experiences, or ways to process the world.  So how can we compare our successes and failures to other people?  It would be like comparing an apple to an orange :)

Failure is part of success as much as night is part of day.  Through failure we learn and hone our knowledge and ability so we can eventually succeed at whatever we have set our minds and energy to accomplish.

The difference between people who become successful and the ones that don’t is; the successful people have taken their fall as a way to stand up stronger.   The people that fail take their fall as a way to make sure they will always stay down.

So don’t waste your time chastising yourself.  Learn the lessons as you fail and enjoy the process, which is often more rewarding than the successes themselves.

The only time you don’t fail is the last time you try anything – and it works.  ~William Strong

Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure… it just means you haven’t succeeded yet.  ~Robert Schuller


Yes, I Suck: Self-Help Through Negative Thinking

April 16, 2010 by  
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I was reading the Huffington Post today and following on different links until I came across the piece below from Time Magazine on positive thinking.  Based on many studies the piece concludes that rather than keeping a mantra going of how wonderful we are, if we actually acknowledged our thoughts and feelings, we would have a more fulfilling and lasting experience.

I’ve always been of the mind that if we keep repeating something that we know not to be true like “I’m so happy” when we feel miserable, it will cause even more distress because all we are doing is underscoring the differences between what we are saying and how we are feeling.

Acknowledging how we feel and then moving on is an honest and courageous way to deal with our lives with lasting results.  Please read on.


By John Cloud

running man
running man

In the past 50 years, people with mental problems have spent untold millions of hours in therapists’ offices, and millions more reading self-help books, trying to turn negative thoughts like “I never do anything right” into positive ones like “I can succeed.” For many people — including well-educated, highly trained therapists, for whom “cognitive restructuring” is a central goal — the very definition of psychotherapy is the process of changing self-defeating attitudes into constructive ones.

But was Norman Vincent Peale right? Is there power in positive thinking? A study just published in the journal Psychological Science says trying to get people to think more positively can actually have the opposite effect: it can simply highlight how unhappy they are…Continued


The Paradox Of Success

March 25, 2010 by  
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Good post by Roger Fransecky on the Huffington Post on the push and pull of work or personal happiness.

“We are wired to be goal-striving creatures who quest for the prize: the corner office with a breathtaking view, the new BMW 7 series, the prom queen with a Harvard MBA, the staggering bonus, seat 2A, the hole in one.

But the past few decades have been unkind to our definitions of “winning.” Our politics are arm-wrestled by pragmatists eager to appear on “Meet the Press,” who fear change and would rather tweak policy at the shadowy edges. In management we hunger for new ideas and inspiration from the parallel streams of business authors and wily gurus, and we are, too often, left undernourished…Continue


Be Happy Anyway

December 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured

The economic boom didn’t bring us (or the planet) happiness. So maybe there’s an upside to the downturn.

“The pursuit of happiness.” It’s so American that it’s in our Declaration of Independence, where it’s listed alongside life and liberty as an inalienable right.

But how successful have we been in that pursuit? And now that the global finance system is imploding, how likely is it that we’ll be happy in the coming months and years?

Woman throwing leaves. Photo by Anssi Ruuska, istock
Photo by Anssi Ruuska, istock

Can’t Buy Love
Since roughly the 1970s, Americans have been buying things madly, whether we could afford them or not. We were promised that a bigger car, a more trendy purse, or a flat-screen television would bring us happiness, and we’ve been acting accordingly. We were promised that an ever-growing economy would make us all rich. But while our gross domestic product increased more or less steadily from the 1970s until the onset of the current financial crisis, most of us did not see a rise in our standard of living or our wellbeing. Wages stagnated, while the costs of basic needs—like homes, medical care, food, and energy—climbed rapidly. Those in the top 20 percent increased their net worth by 80 percent over the last 25 years, while the bottom 40 percent actually lost ground.

Few families today can make it on a single wage-earner’s income, and a health problem or a job loss can send a middle-class family into poverty or even homelessness.

Yet we continue to buy the products that are supposed to make us happy, driving many of us deeply into debt. Families are carrying an average credit card debt of $5,100, with interest rates that often make payoff nearly impossible. In recent years, home equity reached record lows as people borrowed against the value of their homes. In 2004, the most recent year for which Federal Reserve figures are available, debt secured by real property exceeded $290,000 per household, almost three times what it was only 15 years before.

All this debt makes life more precarious. It also increases our dependence on long work hours, which—if we can find work at all—combines with long commutes to eat up the time we might otherwise have for things that research shows actually would make us happy.

Who’s Happier

A better economy doesn’t necessarily mean a happier country.

SIDEBAR: Just the Facts

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that having more stuff will lead to happiness, because there’s an element of truth in the advertiser’s promise. We do need a certain amount of food to live, after all. Shelter is good. We need clothes, tools—a bit beyond the bare necessities can be nice. And having stuff has always been a way to show that you are successful and entitled to respect. But after the novelty of a new outfit or laptop wears off, we’re left with a hole in our wallets and an empty feeling, which—advertisers tell us—we should fill by shopping for yet more new and improved stuff.

Following this advice may keep the corporate economy humming, but has it made us happy?

Many figures suggest the answer is: not really. Broad standards of wellbeing like the Genuine Progress Indicators show that our health, quality of life, economic security, and environment, taken together, stayed flat, although we worked harder. A 20-year study by the OECD found the United States has the highest rate of inequality and poverty among the developed countries, and the income gap has grown steadily since 2000. A recent Gallup poll found that just half of Americans live free of worries about money or health, compared to 83 percent of those in Denmark. When the World Health Organization and Harvard Medical School studied rates of depression in 14 countries, the U.S. topped the list.

How Many Planets Does it Take?
It’s not only Americans who are taking a hit from an economic system that puts money and growth ahead of real wellbeing. People around the world are losing access to their own natural resources and economic sovereignty.

Corporations seeking to profit by stimulating and feeding our appetite for stuff have trampled on the livelihood and ways of life of Mexican farmers, indigenous rainforest dwellers, African miners, and Thai factory workers. When land buyouts or subsidized agricultural imports make traditional lifeways impossible, many of these people arrive in crowded cities with no choice but to work for rock-bottom wages or attempt an arduous migration to a higher-wage country.

Champions of globalization like Thomas Friedman tell us that in a few generations these workers will have a standard of living similar to ours in the United States. But ecological footprint analysis shows it would take more than six Earths to give everyone in the world the level of consumption Americans “enjoy.” Of course, we have only one planet, and this one is overheating.


The Pursuit of Happiness is this what Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he substituted “the pursuit of happiness” for the phrase contained in the earlier Continental Congress draft, “life, liberty, and property?”

Jefferson’s ideal was an economy based on small farmers who produced for themselves most of what they needed. Their happiness was not something they trusted corporations to provide for a fee, but rather something they created themselves, through their work and human relationships within a community. The economy of the time was founded, in part, on a slave-owning society built on land often stolen from native peoples, but Jefferson’s ideals had a strong influence on the young country. Freedom, independence, and self-sufficiency were all popular values.

The U.S. has moved a long way from the Jeffersonian ideal. Today, we produce little of what we use. We exchange our work for money, and buy food, clothing, and other necessities from big box stores and purchase child care and elder care from corporate chains.

Since we no longer have the time, skills, extended families, and access to land that were commonplace just decades ago, we have become completely dependent on money. That dependency leaves us at the mercy of those who control the economy and the money supply. And those who accumulate the money have inordinate influence over our government. It is the precise opposite of the Jeffersonian ideal. It’s also a departure from the way humans have lived for most of history.

Life After the Crash
So maybe it’s just as well that the crisis is finally upon us. Maybe this time of creative destruction offers us the chance for a fresh start, a chance to build a society that puts ordinary people first and provides the conditions for their happiness.

After the shock of the crisis wears off, maybe we’ll look around like characters in a Fellini movie who come outside at dawn after a debauched night of excess. We’ll turn off the television, log off the internet, notice the bright colors of sunrise, and speak to the neighbors who we’ve never found time to meet.

We may spend less of our lives working as the cash economy shrinks and companies close their doors.

But maybe we’ll learn to share the work and reclaim time for the aspects of our lives that research tells us contributes to real happiness—time with families and friends, civic involvement, exercise, creativity. It wouldn’t be the first time. During the Great Depression, for instance, the Kellogg Company cut employee shifts from eight hours to six to extend the number who had jobs. Productivity went up so much that the company could afford to pay the same for the shorter shift. Meanwhile, civic organizations, adult education, and family life in Kalamazoo blossomed.

Maybe we’ll find ways to trade among friends and neighbors—some winter squash or homemade pie for some child care or home repair. Maybe we’ll reclaim the skills we used to have, and teach each other how to grow food, fix things ourselves, sew and knit, and pass skills along to our children and grandchildren.

Somehow, in the exuberance of the economic bubbles of the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s, we lost track of something. Money exists to serve us as a tool, not the other way around. Our lives and society do not have to be turned over to the rulers of high finance and their hired representatives in Washington, D.C. We the people can reject the economic orthodoxy that has served us so poorly, and rebuild our economy on a different foundation.

What sort of society do we want to rebuild? What will expand our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness without diminishing the chances for other people, now and in the future, to have the same?

Here are some of the things we’ll need to do:

  • Economic policies for the future must assure that everyone is included, and that we lift up those at the bottom. When we allow inequality to burgeon in our society, we create crime and violence and hate, which damage everyone’s ability to find happiness. We can no longer afford nine-figure paychecks for CEOs and double-digit returns on speculative investments. To paraphrase Gandhi, we have enough for everyone’s needs, but not for everyone’s greed.
  • The environmental overshoot game is up. The next economy must function within the present production of our environment. We can no longer afford to live off the bounty of the past, like the millions of years of fossil deposits that make up today’s diminishing oil reserves. Instead we must turn to solar energy, wind, and other renewables, and grow food and fiber by building the soil, not by dumping petroleum products on it. We can’t continue to use our atmosphere, oceans, aquifers, and soils as dumps. No amount of “Runs for the Cure” will solve the cancer problem if we continue to poison our food, water, and air. And the climate is reaching a dangerous tipping point.
  • We can no longer allow the money economy to grow like a cancer on our society, until it takes over all facets of life. The economy needs to serve people, communities, and the health of natural systems, not the other way around. Instead of relying on footloose unaccountable global corporations, we can turn to local and regional production to serve our needs and provide sustainable employment, including small and medium-sized businesses, co-ops, farmer’s markets, and so on.
  • As we do that, we’ll get much clearer on real sources of happiness. Research tells us that the sources of the good life are in loving relationships, mutual respect, meaningful work, and gratitude, and as we discover the power of these qualities, the lure of advertising and materialism will no longer fool us. Overconsumption will take its place alongside other passing fads.

As we begin to relearn the skills and rebuild the relationships we lost in the pursuit of money and things, we will begin to find a happiness that we are in charge of; one that is not dependent on the fluctuations of the stock market or the amount of stuff we own.

Painful as it may be in the short term, we can emerge from this crisis healthier and wealthier, with the sort of wealth that really matters: strong communities and relationships with loved ones, healthy ecosystems, and the skills to make a living and enjoy life.

Sarah van Gelder & Doug Pibel wrote this article as part of Sustainable Happiness, the Winter 2009 issue of YES! Magazine. Sarah is executive editor and Doug is managing editor of YES! Magazine. Photos of Sarah van Gelder and Doug Pibel

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