Time to begin

Photo by Anita Jankovic on Unsplash

“The ‘pursuit of happiness’ will never guarantee a victorious end.”

Welcome back to the third class on happiness. Last week, the question of how to get out of those moments of unhappiness was posed and the assignment was to explain what actions are implemented to convert them back into pleasant moments. It is a rare human who can display a cheerful countenance all the time, but isn’t that largely what we are attempting to accomplish? Imagine for one moment if your life were a continuous string of positivity, smiling faces, and endless joy; wouldn’t that be an amazing way to live your life?

There is a simple reason for posing that last question. I believe people who seek self-improvement and awareness are doing so because it ultimately will make their lives better – or in essence, bring them more happiness. That is not to say that only those seeking personal growth will ever achieve it. Every human alive wants to be happy; it’s just a matter of how much time and effort a person prioritizes to achieve it.

Which brings to mind the next subject for this class. How early in life does happiness become an objective? Can you recall what age you were when the concept of happiness became important and you began diligently seeking it? We often see children playing and having fun; seemingly without a care in the world. It frequently appears that being happy is mainly all they’re concerned about. If they’re not pursuing or experiencing a happy moment, they’re pouting or trying to find ways to make it so.

I do recall as a young boy, being a fairly happy kid. I earned good grades and was a decent athlete. These, however, were probably good reasons why I was not a frequent target of bullies; a well-documented cause of childhood unhappiness. However, around the age of 12, thoughts of being happy were no longer a goal nor even a desire. I began to experience extreme feelings of unworthiness which made it feel like having fun was wrong or perhaps even selfish. My shame had begun to take it’s toll and all the negative things which people told me I was, drastically influenced me to think that happiness was not important and when there were joyful moments, those were a gift rather than something I earned or deserved.

Truthfully, my young adult years were not torturous and there were definitely lots of cheerful memories but happiness, to a certain extent, seemed wrong to pursue. It felt like I was being selfish for wanting to be happy. This is precisely the power that our own shame has and can influence us to sabotage our own success or happiness.

This week’s homework assignment is to think about your days of pursuing happiness as a child and how that journey changed and/or progressed as you got older. Was there a mentor in your life who helped shape your current aspirations? Was there perhaps an abuser who thwarted or greatly impeded your development? This exercise will help clarify your happiness goals and help motivate you in this pursuit.

My thanks to Anita Jankovic on Unsplash for the beautiful photo and I look forward to your comments.

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If only it were as easy as 2 + 2

“The key to happiness better be able to fit a thousand locks”

Welcome back to Happiness 101. In last’s weeks article, we began a discussion about what would be taught in a class on happiness. The homework assignment was to comment on what happiness means to you. Among the many excellent comments were also questions posed as to what happiness truly is. Some stated it wasn’t a goal in itself but rather an effect created by living congruently. All in all, it brought me lots of happiness each time I read them.

There was never a doubt that one of the biggest challenges I’d face was that happiness is not a subjective answer. It’s not as simple as 2 + 2. Grading homework would have been very difficult and probably based more on grammar and writing styles rather than content. If there were any answers that would have caused me to mark a lower score those would have been: A) if your idea of happiness included damaging or offending others or 2) if you criticized others about their thoughts on or definitions of happiness.

None of the answers ever suggested that happiness was ever at the expense of anyone else. On the contrary, most seemed to imply that happiness was more easily achieved when you made time to help and uplift others. What also was curiously omitted was the accumulation of wealth. While some mentioned having a good job, it was with the understanding of enjoying it – as a part of a life balance – rather than enlarging one’s own bank account.

Potentially, the definitions of happiness are as vast as the population of the globe. Even though I may not have agreed with a particular view, it was illuminating to see them defend their case for why it was so. The last thing I would ever want to do as a teacher would be to dissuade or discourage a student on such a personal and private concept.

Lesson two would begin with an unexpected twist. What about those times when we are not happy but instead upset, sad, or some other feeling more closely associated with unhappiness? Does that have any significance?

It is nearly impossible to live a life where everything is smooth and no problems exist. While I believe there are those who thrive on challenging situations, others, including myself, would rather avoid those circumstances and seek a non-confrontational approach. However, if we are to grow as human beings, facing these challenges and adversities ought to be expected. Understanding this idea and in some ways embracing it, will help remind us that it’s simply normal to have difficult or troubling times.

I use the word “embracing” not as something to look forward to but rather realizing it’s a normal occurrence. There is nothing wrong with your plan because struggles arise. Wanting to “give up” is a typical reaction for many and having that thought won’t stop you from achieving happiness.

This week’s assignment is: what do you do when you are experiencing those challenging moments? How do you get through them and what helps motivate you toward success. This is also a good lesson in helping others, which as we know by now is an indication you’re on the road to happiness.

My thanks to Jonny McLaren on Unsplash for the photo and I look forward to your thoughts.

Happiness 101

Wriky and Bitsy, the picture of happiness

“When beginning a journey, it helps to have an idea where one is headed.”

If there is one subject which can intrigue so many, it would have to be that of happiness. Just this last May, the UAE appointed a Minister of Happiness and simultaneously launching a Guide to Happiness and Well-being at the workplace. There also exists a Happiness Research Institute located in Copenhagen. No doubt the concept of being happy has been part of human conversation since we had the capacity to speak. Although it has been contemplated and written about by some of the greatest minds throughout human history, there still exists no textbook or system guaranteeing a successful outcome.

It’s a bit ironic that while happiness is one of the most desired conditions, very little formal education is available to help us achieve this coveted goal. Even if there were, what would a course on Happiness 101 look like anyway? Over the next few weeks, I will be outlining that course as if I were commissioned to teach one.

The first day of class would begin with 10 quotes from several periods throughout history; beginning with some of the earliest manuscripts and ending with a contemporary observation. Each would cite major religions and cultures covering a wide array of ideas about happiness and how to achieve it. For example, Aristotle wrote more about happiness than any other author prior to the modern era. To him, it was the central purpose and goal of human life. Also included would be quotes from the Beatitudes and what Jesus taught of their promises. After reading each comment, there would be an open discussion and questions asked to elicit thoughts and opinions from the students.

After all 10 quotes were read and deliberated, the focus would next change to a more personal level. Each student would be asked to define what happiness means to them on an individual basis. This is perhaps one of the biggest obstacles in achieving this much-desired theme because although we truly yearn for it, do we genuinely know what its meaning is to us personally?

As a coach and consultant, I often ask clients to define what happiness signifies to them. One thing I’ve discovered is that its definition is different for just about everyone. Nevertheless, it’s vital each person figure out what they initially believe will create fulfillment in their lives. Otherwise, it would be similar to setting out on a journey and having no idea where you’re headed or if you’ve even arrived!

Another example of those searching for happiness are posts which intimate that finding the right partner will provide it. While there is some truth to that, we can’t relegate or expect that our happiness will only be possible through another person. We must first be willing to find our own happiness and then that partner will be there to enhance and multiply it.

The other big one is the accumulation of wealth. We’ve all heard the saying “Money can’t buy happiness” yet so many people advertise, “I’ll help you increase your wealth.” Why don’t they instead brag, “I’ll help you increase your happiness”? The reason is money is measurable; happiness is not quite so easy to ascertain. I, for one, am up to that challenge.

What truly makes me happy is helping others. This, however, is perhaps one of the biggest ironies in life. If I concentrate solely on my efforts and what makes me happy, the best way to achieve this is only possible by including others. Frankly, I am thankful and wouldn’t want it any other way.

What defines happiness for you? This is your homework assignment and you’ll get extra credit by writing it in the comments. I hope you’re looking forward to the next class.

Continued Healing

Photo by Robert J Morales

“Healing often means you are getting to the heart of the matter.”

Although this is the finale on a series of articles about emotional healing, it is most definitely NOT an invitation to stop pursuing one of the most beneficial endeavors a person can do for self-growth. In fact, I would invite any new readers to examine the past articles a little more closely beginning here. Emotional healing can be exhausting because it often involves employing different approaches for the same person. Keep in mind that one of the most effective actions a person can take is utilizing someone to guide and facilitate you throughout this process.

Unfortunately, the human psyche did not evolve to heal itself the way our physical body has. In an article written for the online publication “Nextavenue” it explicitly states, “Your body is a self-healing organism.” Even though many of us make lifestyle choices which hinder this ability, healing is still one of the best functions our body performs.

Mental wounds, on the other hand, are not visible and regrettably are not always addressed with the same urgency as skin abrasions.

Truthfully, what is often a more seemingly-natural approach to dealing with psychological trauma is to do our best not to think about it or try to forget it ever occurred. However, in many cases, it’s crucial to confront what happened and this is never easy for anyone who has suffered through a traumatic experience to want to reexamine and reopen those devastating feelings and memories. Although it’s completely understandable why anyone would feel this way, it can also be a roadblock along our emotional healing journey.

There are many factors to keep in mind that help assess the emotional impact and scars that were left behind. The type of abuse, its duration, and/or how many incidents occurred, all will definitely impact the healing process. For those counseling or guiding others, it’s also vital to keep in mind that person’s personality and boundaries because the last thing anyone trying to help someone should do is make the situation worse.

What has me worried most in writing these articles is that someone might misunderstand or misinterpret what was written. Much of my emphasis for emotional healing is on self-forgiveness. If I were to state uncategorically, that you “must forgive yourself to begin the healing process” could easily anger many. Their first thought might be, “Why should I forgive myself? I wasn’t the one doing those terrible things to me” and they would be absolutely correct. But my question to them would be, “Did you ever once think to yourself, ‘I must have done something to deserve this’ or ask yourself ‘what did I do to deserve it’ “? That thought is precisely what we should forgive ourselves for ever thinking.

Emotional healing has its challenges and is often something we’d rather not face. But when we do confront it and begin the recovery process, there is hardly anything as rewarding. Many have encountered appalling situations yet came through it a better person. Even though they would not wish that incident on anyone, it shows that it’s absolutely possible to thrive after adversity and this is what healing of any sort is about. My healing revealed to me my purpose; and if it were possible, I’d wish the same for everyone else as well.

If you, or someone you know, have struggled with emotional healing, please feel free to contact me directly. We’ll begin immediately to work on a program that will empower you to become Victorious over this Struggle.

My thanks to Robert J. Morales for the beautiful picture. Find out more about him on his website or connect with him on LinkedIn. I look forward to your comments.

Healing on a greater scale

Photo by Robert J. Morales

“For every calamity, there is always a way to heal”

Emotional healing can be filled with challenges requiring a monumental effort to overcome any difficulty and become a more empowered person. But what happens when disaster befalls an entire family, group or community? How does healing occur when so many lives have been altered in such drastic and different ways?

Tragedies often happen unexpectedly. Nature is frequently one of the perpetrators but unfortunately, many catastrophic events are plotted by perverse and malicious people. These events can threaten and terrorize just a few or devastate an entire race of people. My adopted hometown is coming up on its second anniversary of the worst mass shooting in the history of the United States and many, understandably, continue to struggle with its aftermath.

Community healing, needless to say, is more complicated than recovering on an individual basis. Since our journeys are likely different, adding more affected lives only multiplies the number of possibilities for healing to occur. There are definitely steps which can be taken to help yourself as well as the entire group to regain some semblance of overcoming any tragic event.

One of the most helpful steps is discussing it in a group setting. Expressing to others who experienced it and talking about the different mental and physical stresses you faced is very therapeutic. There is good reason for this as well. The horrific shock of the event often causes us to bottle up our thoughts, feelings and emotions; almost as though not talking about it will help us forget. However, this silence more often creates the opposite effect and makes us vulnerable, short-fused, or explosive when we feel confronted. Expressing these thoughts to others not only releases them from within, it allows others to convey their empathy and concern towards us. This confession of sorts, allows us to feel more accepted by others and more importantly, by ourselves. It’s why group therapy helps in ways that individual sessions cannot.

In showing others comfort, it also builds trust leading to a stronger community. After the shooting in Las Vegas, its professional hockey team, the Golden Knights, really stepped up and supported those affected. Admittedly, I am not a fan of professional sports but I am incredibly proud of what this team did. They visited victims in the hospital, donated blood, and so much more to help this community. Their efforts united this town in ways that will positively impact it for decades.

Often survivors go through the “why me” phase and while this is completely understandable and not a wrong thought to have, it also can be a road block to healing. There may never be a reason why any particular person survived but if you could speak to those from beyond the grave, they would no doubt encourage you to heal and live your life to the fullest. This does not mean you can’t or shouldn’t grieve for the others, it only suggests that you do your best to heal and live a full life.

Community healing involves many working together; just as in individual recovery, it takes much effort and understanding. There will be those impacted more adversely than others who need a bit more compassion and care. Working as a team, however, can ultimately heal and strengthen your community to become more victorious than could ever be imagined.

There are countless other stories of community healing. Please feel free to leave your favorite in the comments. Reading them will definitely help inspire action should you ever find yourself in one of these trying situations.

My thanks to Robert J. Morales for the beautiful picture. View more incredible pictures at his website. As always, I look forward to your comments.

Scars are a sign of strength

‚ÄúScars may be seen as signs of incredible beauty.”

Emotional healing can be a difficult and confusing issue for many. In last week’s article, we discussed how sometimes doubting our own progress can be an obstruction to healing. Understanding that your journey is unique and not dictated by any system is a great way to remain confident in your progress. There are times, however, when those wounds are deep and appear to have no remedy or cure.

A great way to understand the complexities of emotional restoration is to observe the similarities of those to physical healing. Many of us have undoubtedly had hundreds of cuts on our skin which through the years have left no sign of their original injury. Other abrasions may have taken years or decades to disappear and unpleasantly, some will always leave their mark. The same is true with emotional damage.

The greater the wound is, the more care is needed in its healing. Extreme physical wounds can leave behind large scars, amputation, or even paralysis. In similar ways, we can sustain significant injury to our emotional wellbeing. A strong possibility exists that we will never return to the person we once were but that doesn’t mean we still can’t thrive and live a victorious, happy life.

Many who bare scars from tragic events have been able to overcome those misfortunes and inspire countless others. Some even declare that if the incident had not occurred, they would never have reached the level of success they did! Even after such drastic changes to their appearances or physical capabilities, they wouldn’t allow those misfortunes to stop them from healing and being able to thrive.

The same is true for our emotional healing. We cannot undo the abuse nor wipe those events from our memories. We can, however, work to overcome them and be the best version of ourselves possible. Although it may take years coupled with a very concerted effort, we do not need to have these past abuses continually handcuff us and stop us from a productive and happy life.

The physical scars we bare can remind us of many things; the first of which is that healing occurred. Although we may not like how they look, that particular area of the skin is stronger and tougher than the other parts. They also are a constant symbol of the painful event which created the scar as well as a symbol of our victory over it. By no means is it a sign of weakness but ultimately can become a badge of honor and our strength.

Physical therapy often requires a trained kinesiologist to guide us in the most effective course of rehabilitation but remember, no matter how good that therapist is, you are the one who must do the work. The same is true with our mental healing. Simply listening to a therapist or hearing a phenomenal TED talk may inspire us, but it will take a lot of insight, introspection, and awareness for the healing to begin, occur and be sustained.

If you have any questions about your healing journey, please do not hesitate to contact me personally. I believe everyone can have the opportunity to heal and I’ll do my best to help. My thanks again to Robert J. Morales for the wonderful and very fitting picture. I look forward to your comments.

The Solitary Journey

“No one else will ever be able to predict the road ahead of you.”

Last week’s article discussed one of the basic ways for many to begin their healing journey. There are, however, multiple ways this road can take us. Addtionally, there may be multiple events which require healing that also involve different processes. Emotional healing is difficult enough without adding complications or burdens. So is there one, rock-solid method everyone can follow to overcome this struggle?

Just as we each are unique, so too are the individual paths to our healing. There is not a single road, but that doesn’t mean we must travel alone. There are those trained, committed, and passionate about helping with what is an often difficult and confusing task to overcome by ourselves. In addition, scientific studies have shown how simple acts as touching, self-expression through art, and meditation or prayer can manifest emotional healing. It is most definitely not something which needs to be fought by ourselves.

The most important aspect to keep in mind is not to allow anyone to make you feel badly about how your journey is progressing; especially yourself.

One of the challenging issues my clients face is worrying that their healing process is happening the way it’s supposed to occur. Sometimes our growth can be hindered due to a wayward thought or feeling which untimely runs through our minds and we get upset at ourselves for thinking or feeling it. This often triggers doubt and fear; potentially undoing any healing up to that point and ultimately stop it in the future as well. Fortunately, there is a remedy.

The first step is to understand that we are all individuals and every path is unique. The steps I took to succeed most likely won’t be the same as yours. How we react in these situations is influenced by many factors and each person responds differently. There is no scientific study or research that dictates every step of your own process and no one should demand otherwise. The only time intervention may be necessary is when people’s actions lead to harming others or themselves.

Random thoughts popping into our minds are precisely that. Random. They are not signals of defeat but simply signs of an active mind and condemning ourselves for having them is worse than the original thought itself. During these moments, instead of beating yourself up, tell yourself to “be okay” that it happened. You did not maliciously invite them nor even want them.

Sometimes trying to figure out “why” those things happen causes us to put too much attention on the dilemma and it entraps us in this never-ending quest to solve an unanswerable question. The antidote is to take away its relevance. In other words, don’t worry or care those thoughts occurred. This nonchalant approach removes the emphasis. You don’t even need to actively try and dismiss them. Just say to yourself, “oh well, it happened and it’s no big deal”. Believe it or not, this indifference to the problem will in turn give you tremendous power over it.

Next week we’ll be discussing more signs of healing as well as techniques to empower yourself along your journey. My thanks to Robert J. Morales for the beautiful picture. Find more of his wonderful work on his website. I look forward to your comments.