Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Don't Be Perfect - Be You

"Don't be perfect
Be you
Don't be what you think they want you to be
Be what you know you are
Don't look outside yourself for anything
It's all within.
~Jackson Kiddard

A great reminder that being perfect won't make us happy, even though we may have been conditioned to believe otherwise. There is no perfect person and there is no perfect life. 

When we try to be perfect, we reject who we are. As a result, we don't feel good about ourselves or maybe even ashamed. When we accept our imperfections, we embrace ourselves as we are. It doesn't mean that we stop growing or changing - we just don't withhold our love for ourselves until we reach some future state that may never arrive.  We can feel good about ourselves right now and as a result, we become happier.  

Manuela loves helping others bring more happiness into their lives!  You can visit Manuela's Website for Personal Success Coaching and check out her upcoming “Secrets to Happiness” Workshop!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Is Trying To Live a Perfect Life Keeping You From Living a Happy Life?

“I am not really trying to live a perfect life,” you might say. “I don’t have to be a multi-millionaire or an award-winning actress or live on my own island.”  So maybe you are not an extreme perfectionist, but you may be surprised to learn that perfectionism comes in many flavors. Check the questions below, inspired by Tal Ben-Shahar's book "The Pursuit of Perfect", to see if you are actually pursuing a “perfect” life, rather than a “happy” life.

1.       Do you believe that your path toward a goal should be direct, smooth and free of obstacles and get frustrated when it isn’t?
2.       Do you believe that a happy life is composed of a stream of positive emotions and don’t want to experience anger, disappointment, sadness or fear?
3.       Do you always strive toward the next goal, but no matter what you have achieved, it doesn’t seem to be enough and you don’t feel successful?
4.       Are you being hard on yourself and others? Have you noticed that you get defensive when others criticize you?

If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you may be pursuing a “perfect” life. Ironically, while we think that a “perfect” life will bring us success and fulfillment, it is actually keeping us from living a happy life.

I have been guilty of all of these beliefs at some point. I used to think that life was a straight line that continues to slope upward and whenever a setback occurred, I would think that this was just one outlier! After this stumbling block, if I tried hard enough and did everything “right”, life would invariably finally begin to move up again in a straight line. Of course, that’s not how life works. Maybe it’s movies and fairy tales that give us the illusion that this is the way things are “supposed to” look, but as many of us have experienced, life is actually a journey with ups and downs and spirals. 

And each of the “detours” is a natural part of life and a necessary experience on the way to success. Without failure and mistakes, we don’t learn and grow. What would shift if we actually saw getting laid off, falling sick or arguing with a friend as part of a full, fulfilling and happy life?

Similarly, happy people are not always full of positive emotions, but they also let themselves experience painful feelings.  When we block painful emotions, we keep ourselves from feeling, and in the process also block pleasurable ones. Furthermore, painful emotions expand and intensify when they don’t get released and when they finally break through, they overwhelm us. In order to be happy, we need to allow ourselves to experience the full range of human emotions.

Not taking pleasure in our accomplishments is another way we keep ourselves unhappy. If we are constantly in a rat race, always pursuing the next goal, we don’t take time to experience gratitude and don't acknowledge ourselves for each accomplishment. Also, as I explained in How To Set Goals To Make You Happy, it is the habit of really enjoying each step of the journey, rather than the achievement of the goal that brings us the happiness we are looking for. 

Finally, being hard on ourselves and others comes from the belief that it is possible and necessary to go through life without any errors. But while nobody likes to make mistakes, it is of course part of life. Trying to lead a life where everything goes smoothly and not accepting failures as healthy and necessary, brings extra stress and unhappiness.  If we are being hard on ourselves, chances are that we are hard on others as well. If we easily find fault with ourselves and others, it’s easy to become defensive when others criticize us. The kinder and more compassionate we become toward ourselves, the more kindness and compassion we can show toward others and the happier we feel.

So, it's your choice: Do you want to live a perfect life or a happy life? It’s ironic: Many of us strive for perfection, because we are under the false belief that reaching the perfect life will actually make us happy. But in reality, trying to be perfect is what keeps us from finding the joy we are looking for! 

Are you willing to live an “imperfect” life, knowing that it would make you happier? 

Manuela loves helping others bring more happiness into their lives!  You can visit Manuela's Website for Personal Success Coaching and check out her upcoming “Secrets to Happiness” Workshop!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Take Nothing For Granted

"Let today be a day where you take nothing for granted. For life is fleeting, fragile and precious
and can change on a whim. Say all the things you really want to say to your loved ones today, say the things you would regret should they pass on and your words remain unspoken."
 ~ Jackson Kiddard

We just finished reading "The Age of Miracles" with my book club, which is an "end of the world" type of story. As we discussed what we would do if we found out that the end of the world was coming, it struck me that we really never know how much time we have left. We usually believe that things will stay the way they are for a while, so we can spend time with loved ones in the future or say things we want to say some other time. 

But really, who knows what will change tomorrow, next week or next month? It goes back to finding happiness in the present, rather than waiting to reach some goal in the future. Why not create some precious and meaningful moments right now?

Manuela loves helping others bring more happiness into their lives!  You can visit Manuela's Website for Personal Success Coaching and check out her upcoming “Secrets to Happiness” Workshop!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I Am a Perfectly Imperfect Human Being

I ran across this quote by Jackson Kiddard today and I loved the message of complete self-acceptance as well as the acceptance of others.  We are all perfectly imperfect. What if we could just embrace our imperfections as well as those of others? Wouldn't we be much happier?

His full quote reads:

"Today I affirm that there is nothing in me but love.
This love comes from total acceptance of myself
and the understanding that I am a perfectly imperfect human being.
I will walk through today and allow myself to fully express my perfection.
I realize that all my "faults" are actually the Universe's unique way of expressing itself through me.
I let go of self judgment and any projected judgments of others that I have chosen to believe
and finally allow myself to just be what I truly am:  infinite.
As this is true for me, so it is true for all other beings on the planet.
I will choose to accept everyone in my life with the same radical acceptance I have for myself
knowing that we are all perfectly imperfect human beings simply doing the best we can.
And so it is."

~Jackson Kiddard 

Manuela loves helping others bring more happiness into their lives!  You can visit Manuela's Website for Personal Success Coaching and check out her upcoming “Secrets to Happiness” Workshop!

Friday, July 12, 2013

One Secret to Finding Happiness: Using Your Strengths

Have you ever received a performance review or prepared an evaluation for others? When I worked in the corporate world, I would not particularly look forward to upcoming performance reviews. It meant spending time writing self-evaluations and as a manager, coming up with various ratings and assessments for people in my group. 

The whole evaluation process seemed to focus a lot on pointing out weaknesses and trying to suggest methods to improve different areas to achieve better performance. But research suggests that it makes more sense to focus on our strengths rather than our weaknesses.  In “Strengths Based Leadership”, Tom Rath and Barry Conchie argue that leaders who strive to be competent in all areas become the least effective leaders overall.

We often think that in order to be successful, we have to be exactly like the leaders we see around us. The truth is that we all work and lead in different ways. In fact, after 3 decades of research, involving more than 20,000 interviews with people in leadership roles across almost all industries and occupations and looking at their actual performance, Donald Clifton found that there is no definitive list of characteristics that describes all leaders. What he found instead was that great leaders truly know their strengths – and can call on the right strength at the right time.

Using our strengths not only makes us better leaders, it also makes us happier! Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychological Association, explains that the key to finding activities that are fulfilling and gratifying is to know our own strengths.

Using our signature strengths every day brings us deep emotional satisfaction. It doesn’t matter what area in life we use our strengths in, it can be in our work, our relationships, when raising children, when pursuing hobbies, etc. 

How do you find your strengths? Martin Seligman provides a free “VIA Strengths Survey” on his Website that focuses on core character strengths. Another option is the Clifton Strengthsfinder that is used in workplace assessments (this test requires a code from the Strengthsfinder 2.0 or Strengths Based Leadership book.)

Once you know your strengths, use them as much as you can! It is empowering to understand what you are really good at and can point you toward living life with more meaning and purpose. Your combination of signature strengths is what makes you unique and will enable you to shine and be happier in your work and your life! 

Manuela loves helping smart and creative women bring more happiness into their lives!  You can visit Manuela's Website for Personal Success Coaching and check out her upcoming “Secrets to Happiness” Workshop!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Happiness is Available in the Present Moment

"We can smile, breathe, walk, and eat our meals in a way that allows us to be in touch with the abundance of happiness that is available. We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive."
~Thich Nhat Hanh

All of our lives we have been trained to work toward our goals and look toward the future to fulfill us. But we have been chasing after an illusion: it is not the reaching of a goal that makes us happy. It is the enjoyment of the present moments on the way toward reaching a meaningful goal that fulfills us.

It sounds so simple, but it takes work and retraining to live life in a way that lets us focus on and savor each present moment. I am still practicing, but I am able to enjoy more and more moments, little by little, every day. I hope you get to take a moment, too, to smile and breathe, on the way towards your goals. You don't have to wait - you can find happiness right here, right now.

Manuela loves helping others bring more happiness into their lives!  You can visit Manuela's Website for Personal Success Coaching and check out her upcoming “Secrets to Happiness” Workshop!