Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What makes your heart sing?

We often go through life focusing so much on tasks we have to get done, things we “should” do, and actions we need to take by a certain deadline. We set goals, try to prove ourselves or aspire to make others happy, and in the process it sometimes seems like we just can’t catch up - our to-do-lists grow ever longer. I often hear people say that their biggest want in life is to just be happy. Is this constant striving and trying to “keep up” making us happier?

 When was a time when you felt completely happy, joyful, at peace, excited, fulfilled, content, and full of love? The last time I did was this past weekend at our dance show put on by Ariel Dance Productions.

While there is a lot of preparation that goes into the show (we spend months practicing in class, getting costumes ready, and going to extra rehearsals), the experience is very fulfilling and brings us so much joy. 

I have been thinking about what makes the experience such a happy one, and it’s a combination of participating in activities that we enjoy (dancing, acting, singing) and that let us feel “flow”, giving us a chance to express ourselves, entertaining the audience and sharing our joy with them, feeling connected with the other dancers and everyone involved in the show, being part of something bigger that is meaningful to us and all pulling together to make it happen, feeding off of everyone’s energy, and feeling the satisfaction of a “job well done” in the end.

I realize that having this in my life is meaningful and helps me feel fulfilled and happy. And that is my wish for all of you. It may not be dancing and performing, but I know there is something that makes you feel joy, peace, excitement, and happiness. What makes your heart sing?

Is it skiing, making crafts, martial arts, cooking, fishing, team sports, photography, traveling, painting, decorating, swimming, discussing, driving, biking, volunteering, rock climbing, tennis, playing an instrument or something else? Sometimes we don’t know until we try it.

How can you bring more of that into your life to inspire you and feel more joyful, so you can share more of your happiness with others? 

Manuela is practicing happiness every day and loves helping others bring more happiness into their lives!  You can visit Manuela's Website for Professional Life Coaching and Personal Growth Workshops.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Joy is a Flower that Blooms When You Do

"Joy is a flower that blooms when you do."

We sometimes think that once we feel joy, then we can bloom. But often it is the other way around. We need to seek out situations that allow us to bloom, so we can feel joy.

When we are engaging in activities that make us feel like we are in "flow" or "in the zone", we feel more enjoyment and happiness. So let yourself bloom - immerse yourself in something that is challenging, yet plays to your strengths. Whether it's through skiing, driving, dancing, singing, painting, photographing, discussing, writing, or something else, let your light shine brightly, so your joy can burst through.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Secrets to Happiness: The Happiness Trap

Who doesn’t want to be happy? For many of us, it seems like the ultimate goal in life: We just want to be happy. I hear it from my clients and in my workshops all the time. But if we want it so much, why does it seem so elusive? 

There are a number of things we can do in order to increase our happiness, such as finding meaningful work that uses our signature strengths, participating in activities that allow us to be “in the zone” and feel flow, having strong social relationships, practicing optimism, etc.  However, many of us actually live our life strongly pursuing goals that work against our own happiness. How can this be?

We often work harder to move up in our careers and make more money, rather than taking more time off and spending it with our family and friends. We are looking to move into a bigger place, even if it means increasing our commute times and spending more time in traffic. We try to get by on the short vacation times provided by our employers, rather than taking longer vacations. We are tempted to buy newer and more luxurious appliances, clothes, cars, watches, etc. forcing us to work even harder to afford them. 

I felt trapped in the corporate world for a long time, because I just couldn’t see a way out of this cycle. I thought I really needed the bigger salary in order to afford my living expenses and to be able to save for the future. Somewhere in my mind I seemed to think that living in a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood and having more money to spend would make me happier. But the truth was, I wasn’t feeling happy. So I began to question what I really needed to be happy.  

Why do we get caught up pursuing goals that essentially work against our own happiness? Economist Robert Frank has a simple explanation. This type of “conspicuous consumption” is about acquiring things that are visible to others and are seen as a sign of a person’s relative success. So we strive, work hard, and buy things in order to be seen as successful.  And psychologist Jonathan Haidt explains that we have been shaped by evolution to win at the game of life by impressing others, gaining their admiration, and rising in relative rank. So we are actually conditioned to care about prestige, not happiness. As a result, we end up automatically pursuing goals that do not make us happy.

Once we are aware that some of our natural instincts may not be guiding us toward happiness, we can stop and look at some of the decisions we are making in our life. What are the things that are truly meaningful in your life and actually make you happy? Are you spending your time pursuing them or are you caught up in doing things because you feel like you “should” or “have to”, to feed your ego or to “look” better?

It took me a while to get out of “feeling trapped” in my corporate career. What really helped me was looking at my brother, who was living a much simpler life than I was. So I began to question what I thought I needed to be happy. 

It took going against what society, the media and advertisers were telling me. But I knew that there was another way. It's not that corporate careers are necessarily bad, it's just that I was working against my own happiness without knowing it.

Be aware of the happiness traps and don't get in the way of your own happiness! =)

Manuela is practicing happiness every day and loves helping others bring more happiness into their lives! You can visit Manuela's Website for Professional Life Coaching and Personal Growth Workshops.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Is The Life You Are Building Big Enough To Engage And Express Who You Are?

Alright, it's review time for me! I am taking part in Steve Mitten's Mentorship program for coaches and on our last call we were asked to review how far we have come up until now. I feel like I have made some good progress, but one of the questions he asked made me stop and think for a bit. The question was: “Is the business you are building big enough to engage and express who you are?”

And I thought that was a really excellent question we can all apply not just to work, but to our life: "Is the life you are building big enough to engage and express who you are?"

Yes, I have been building my life over the last few years to include many things I love: Dancing jazz, tap, and hip hop to express who I am, performing on stage to take on different characters and share my joy, traveling to discover new areas, having a puppy to share my love with, taking pictures to capture and share the beauty all around us, leading workshops and coaching people who are committed to personal growth, and being able to share all of this with my wonderful boyfriend.

However, as I think about the question, there are more parts of me that want expression.  I want to sing more and act more to express myself in different ways. I want to have more humor in my life and laugh more. I want to create more customized personal growth experiences for people, like retreats and year-long programs to impact their lives more. I want to work with like-minded people more (one thing I miss about working in a corporation is being on the same team with others and working toward a common goal).
The great thing is that once we know what we really want more of, we can go out and create it for ourselves!
Is the life you are building big enough to engage and express who you are?

What is your heart telling you? What part of you wants more expression? What ideas hold the most excitement for you?

Pick an area and do something that brings you more joy, excitement or fulfillment. You really deserve it! And by doing so, you can share your happy energy with others!

It can be just a small step: For example, I just joined Instagram and am finding new joy in sharing more pictures with others.

Or a bigger one: I really do want to organize a retreat for women to take care of themselves and rejuvenate.

What's your next step? =)

Manuela helps professional women reduce their stress and regain balance, so they can lead more enjoyable lives. You can visit Manuela's Website for Professional Life Coaching and Personal Growth Workshops.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Deeper You Love Yourself, The More The Universe Will Affirm Your Worth

"Wouldn't it be powerful if you fell in love with yourself so deeply that you would do just about anything if you knew it would make you happy? This is precisely how much life loves you and wants you to nurture yourself. The deeper you love yourself, the more the universe will affirm your worth. Then you can enjoy a lifelong love affair that brings you the richest fulfillment from inside out."
~Alan Cohen

It's really strange. Why do we spend so much time making somebody else happy - sometimes even people who don't really care about us or don't treat us well in return? Or we wait and wait, and wish and hope for somebody who will love us the way we want to and make us happy?

What if we spent that energy on loving and nurturing ourselves, so we become happier and have more love and joy to share with those who truly love and care about us?