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Be Inspired. Be Happy.

February 1, 2010

During this first year of blogging I’ve written about ways that we can improve ourselves and our lives—productivity, personal responsibility, living your vision, living in the moment, shifting out of low and negative energies, accessing your intuition, and more. Yet when I think about the underlying purpose of why and what I write, it always comes down to HAPPINESS…finding it for myself and helping others fill their spirits with it. When I am happy I am a better person. I am energized, helpful, grateful, inspired, ready to take action, ready to be of service. Everything just seems to flow when we are happy. Isn’t genuine happiness what we are really after?

So when I learned of Gretchen Rubin’s new book The Happiness Project I couldn’t resist and pre-ordered it. The book is Rubin’s year-long “project” to learn everything there is to know about the science of happiness as well as her personal journey to achieve greater happiness and fulfillment. It’s an easy and fun read, and very insightful.

So many of her lessons learned rang true for me and she posed questions, I feel, that we should all be asking of ourselves. Then, I remembered how many times friends and colleagues asked me “How do you know what to write about? What inspires you?” And it became crystal clear to me that what I read daily is a huge source of inspiration for me. It could be anything—a book, a magazine article, a prayer, or a quote. My process is always as follows…read…reflect…learn…take action…feel inspired…inspire others.

And then I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to share my process with other ‘students’ (like me), the books I am reading and applying to my life, and create a forum where we can share with each other and continue the process of reflecting, learning, taking action and feeling inspired?” I like it, and I’m taking action!

In launching this new idea (a part of my happiness project!) I’m going to choose an excerpt from The Happiness Project to get started. In fact, I will share quite a bit from Rubin’s book during the month of February—so it may feel like a “blog book club”. If you have ever wanted to take part in a book club, but perhaps a more relaxed version, here’s your chance! I hope you will participate with me.

So, in this first excerpt Rubin shares,

“It was time to expect more of myself. Yet as I thought about happiness, I kept running up against paradoxes. I wanted to change myself but accept myself. I wanted to take myself less seriously—and also more seriously. I wanted to use my time well, but I also wanted to wander, to play, to read at whim. I wanted to think about myself so I could forget myself. I was always on the edge of agitation; I wanted to let go of envy and anxiety about the future, yet keep my energy and ambition…Was I searching for spiritual growth and a life more dedicated to transcendent principles—or was my happiness project just an attempt to extend my driven, perfectionist ways to every aspect of my life?”

Wow! This hit me right in the gut. “This is me,” I told myself.  In fact, the last line really made me question… “When is enough…enough?” Maybe this rings true for you as well. And perhaps even more so if you consider yourself a high achiever or overachiever as I have practically all my life. And in my daily quest to feel fulfilled and “happy” these paradoxes always show up.

So what’s one of my paradox’s you may be asking? I would say that worrying about tomorrow versus living in the moment is one I struggle with, but enjoy working on. It truly is a work in progress, but I can say that the more I am conscious of my tendencies and practice being in the moment, the happier I feel. A second example would be getting the 7 to 8 hours of sleep I need versus being a member of the 5:30 am “productivity club.” These two, believe me, are only a few of the paradoxes I experience daily. Do you have any that you would like to share?

So how do you manage these paradoxes in your quest for productivity, improvement, growth, and happiness? Well, here are four tips which work for me as well as for many of the magnificent high achievers I have the pleasure of coaching.

  1. Understand that many of the things we feel we “must” do are fear based. The majority of our “must do’s” and “should have’s” are a result of learned behavior. Do these sound familiar? — “If you don’t fight for it, you won’t get it”, or “You must work long, hard hours to make it to the top.” Claiming these beliefs as false is difficult, but can be eased greatly when we confront and work with our limiting beliefs and gremlins (those little voices in our head that tell us that we can’t do something or that we are not good enough). When we challenge these, we reduce the paradoxes that may prevent us from pushing forward.
  2. Breathe and give yourself positive self-talk in the moment. For example, when my daughter needs my full attention, while I feel that I must keep working, I literally stop what I am doing, take a deep breath and ask myself, “How true is it that my work will suffer if I don’t finish what I am doing in this very instant?” My answer is always, “not very true!” You also can ask yourself, “What is most important in this moment and why?” You will find your own answers. Your positive self-talk can take the form of an affirmation as well. When I am hit with the paradox of “I want to exercise more and I also want to rest more,” which drives to the heart of my self-esteem if I fail, I use this affirmation, “I love myself exactly as I am,” and I always feel better.
  3. Rely on your Top Ten List. If you have taken the time to create a list of values or ideals that guide your life (as Rubin recommends), it becomes easy to make these decisions while dropping the guilt we may feel. For example, one of my Top Ten Principles is “No more Mommy guilt!” So, when my son or daughter “needs me” during a particular time period that I have claimed for myself (like a well deserved bubble bath!), then I have no problem saying “not right now,” and I can release the guilt associated with saying “no.” You also can view Rubin’s Twelve Commandments (as she calls them) here.
  4. Adopt this simple, yet powerful life principle…
    Each moment describes who you are and gives you the opportunity to decide if that’s who you want to be
    .
    Having a principle like this in our Top Ten or Twelve Commandments gives us permission to take our goals in stride and focus on today and what we need today to make us happy.

The more I read the excerpt the more I giggle, because how else would we feel when we are so close to achieving a breakthrough? If making positive changes that create more happiness in our lives were easy then we wouldn’t be talking about self-improvement so much. In fact, it would be “no sweat” setting and achieving these happiness goals. Paradoxes like these, then, serve to help keep us on track, so that the “aha moments” are in the process itself, not in the achievement.

I can’t wait to share more excerpts of this FAB book and many others. I also look forward to hearing your perspective and celebrating your moments (“aha” and otherwise) with you.

If you would like to join my Relaxed Book Club, make sure to subscribe (right-hand column) to receive my blog entries, and add your comments so we can have a nice discussion! And, as you guessed it, The Happiness Project is off the shelf and in my hands this month!

In the spirit of inspiration and happiness,

Monique

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