Social Connection: The Key to Well-Being – Why You Need It and How You Can Get It

“We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.”

Brené Brown

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The age old question – What is the Key to Well-Being? What is the Secret to Happiness?

Is it to be rich and famous? To have a successful career? To be admired and respected?

Why are some people happier than others? How can people learn to be happier? Is there a secret to happiness?

Prof. Sonja Lyubomirsky has spent her career exploring these concepts.

1) What makes people happy?

2) Is happiness a good thing?

3) How and why can people learn to lead happier and more flourishing lives?

Professor Lyubomirsky runs a Positive Psychology Lab at University of California, Riverside, and studies people who are happy. After hundreds of hours studying what makes people happy, she has compiled a list of the 6 major components leading to happiness:

  1. Be grateful – Gratitude evokes positive feelings
  2. Look on the bright side – optimism maintains a sunnier disposition. Lyubomirsky explains:

“My students and I have found that truly happy individuals construe life events and daily situations in ways that seem to maintain their happiness, while unhappy individuals construe experiences in ways that seem to reinforce unhappiness.”

  1. Savor the moment – Savoring positive moments offsets our negativity bias
  2. Exercise – Exercise releases chemicals that lead to positive feelings
  3. Meditate – Less stress, more happiness
  4. Cultivate Relationships – Positive Social Connections are considered by many as the most important factor in well-being.

First of all, what is positive social connection?

Brené Brown does it beautifully:

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

Recent research shows that people with good social connections are not only happier overall, but live longer than those with poor social connections.

The probability of dying early is 20% higher for obese people, 30% higher for excessive drinkers, 50% higher for smokers… but an incredible 70% higher for people with poor social relationships.

The need to connect socially with others is as basic as our need for food, water, and shelter.

So if positive social connection is so important, why is it that so many of us struggle with this?

Sharon Salzberg describes this struggle well:

Throughout our lives we long to love ourselves more deeply and to feel connected with others. Instead, we often contract, fear intimacy, and suffer a bewildering sense of separation. We crave love, and yet we are lonely. Our delusion of being separate from one another, of being apart from all that is around us, gives rise to all of this pain.

This contraction and fear that Salzberg describes can often be linked back to infancy, and even pre-natal trauma. In a wonderful interview, Diane Poole Heller explains how we are designed for connection but how experiences in infancy and childhood can cause disconnection. Heller describes the impact of Attachment Trauma and Developmental Trauma:

In terms of the original blueprint that we’ve received, attachment patterns can be described as an unconscious blueprint that is in our body memory.

The ideal patterning is Secure Attachment:

Secure Attachment would be a positive holding environment. That means that people around you are attuned to you. They get a sense of what your needs are. Really attuned parents can eventually understand a baby’s needs, but it’s hanging in there long enough with somebody to get to the real need. And often, good mothers just naturally do that. They just have a sense about it, or they learn it as they’re having an on-going relationship with their children. And most important, of course, in all of our life and all of our situations, it’s to show up and be present. For a Secure Attachment, there is this consistent responsiveness.

According to Heller, only 40% – 50% of us have Secure Attachment patterning. The rest of us however, must learn to overcome Insecure Attachment patterns: Ambivalent, Avoidant and Disorganized.

Very briefly –

  • Avoidant patterning occurs in an environment that is highly neglectful – this Avoidant patterning can lead to a person disconnecting, dissociating and isolating.
  • Ambivalent patterning occurs in an environment that is characterized by inconsistency – parents who are full-on at times and not available at all other times. It creates a lot of anxiety because there is no predictability. Ambivalent patterning can lead to a person becoming clingy and fearful.
  • Disorganized patterning occurs when a child feels threatened, when a child feels a lot of fear and/or anger in response to the way a parent treats them. This often occurs when there is addiction, violence and chaos in a family. Disorganized patterning can lead to hyper-vigilance and/or immobilization and isolation.

(For a full description of these disorders, check out Diane Poole Heller’s website or read more about them in this article on Daily Good.)

Our lack of positive social connection can quite often be traced back to one of these patterning disorders. But there is hope. Heller describes models of trauma resolution and integrative healing techniques. She has even developed her own training series on adult attachment that she calls DARe, Dynamic Attachment Re-patterning experience which she describes in her new book called The Power of Attachment: How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate Relationships.

Heller describes a simple exercise that can help with re-patterning. This practice originated with Patti Elledge’s Beam Gleam, Heller calls it her “Kind Eyes Exercise.”

Imagine that you’re looking out into the world, and there are kind, loving eyes looking back at you. This can be completely imaginary, or maybe you’ve seen a picture of the Dalai Lama looking beautifully compassionate, or even a picture from your history, one of your family members or your dog or a friend or even a stranger, but that has that “beam gleam” in their eyes that says, “I accept you. I care about you.” It’s kind of like in the olden days, when you used to surprise people at their homes, and drop something off, like a… I don’t know… banana nut bread or something. The person would open the door and go, “Oh my gosh! It’s you. Wow, I’m so glad you’re here,” and you just see them light up when they unexpectedly see you at their door. That would be a ‘beam gleam.’ That would be, you’re totally welcome. You feel completely loved by that person. You feel like they’re happy to see you, and that’s what we’re hoping to stimulate, just in eye contact.

That description is an example of a simple exercise to work on excavating old patterning and re-patterning Secure Attachment. Of course re-patterning takes time, commitment, energy, and usually a good therapist.  But if this will lead to positive social connections, and if these connections are one of the main keys to well-being and possibly a longer life, isn’t it worth it?

 

I’ll Close with a wonderful TED Talk entitled the Power and Science of Social Connection.  It’s an informative and interesting talk.

I’d love to hear about how you stay connected to others.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

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The Path to Well-Being . . . Yes you can get there from here!

“The ultimate end of all revolutionary social change is to establish the sanctity of human life, the dignity of man, the right of every human being to liberty and well-being.”
– Emma Goldman
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What do you want? No honestly, what do you really truly want in your one wild and precious life? to mis-quote Mary Oliver. Most studies show that happiness and well-being are at the top of this list. But that is often immediately followed by but I don’t know what to do to get there. The good news is that there is a path to well-being, and you can start travelling this path today.

 

Well-being is actually a skill that can be learned and practiced and improved. Well-being can be achieved by focusing on four main keys. One of my heroes that I’ve written about is Dr. Richard Davidson. Dr. Davidson is the founder of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and he has studied and discovered the four science-based keys to well-being.

Davidson explains that well-being is a skill and it boils down to four main attributes:

Resilience, Outlook, Attention and Generosity.

From his research, he and his colleagues have learned that:

Each of these four is rooted in neural circuits, and each of these neural circuits exhibits plasticity—so we know that if we exercise these circuits, they will strengthen. Practicing these four skills can provide the substrate for enduring change, which can help to promote higher levels of well-being in our lives.

1. Resilience

Yes it’s true ‘Shit Happens.’ It happens to all of us and we can’t always stop it or avoid it, but we can change the way we react to it. Davidson explains that:

Resilience is the rapidity with which we recover from adversity; some people recover slowly and other people recover more quickly. We know that individuals who show a more rapid recovery in certain key neural circuits have higher levels of well-being. They are protected in many ways from the adverse consequences of life’s slings and arrows.

Recent research that Davidson conducted at UW Madison asked whether resilience could be improved and if so, how. The good news is that answer is yes; resilience can be improved by regular practice of mindfulness meditation. … The bad news is that it takes thousands of hours of practice before you see real change. But hey, it can be done.

2. Outlook

The second key to well-being is one’s outlook on life. Davidson explains:

Outlook refers to the ability to see the positive in others, the ability to savor positive experiences, the ability to see another human being as a human being who has innate basic goodness.

The good news regarding outlook is that unlike resilience, research indicates that simple practices of lovingkindness and / or compassion meditation may alter this circuitry quite quickly.
There was a study done in 2013 where individuals who had never meditated before were randomly assigned to one of two groups.

One group received a secular form of compassion training and the other received cognitive reappraisal training, an emotion-regulation strategy that comes from cognitive therapy. We scanned people’s brains before and after two weeks of training, and we found that in the compassion group, brain circuits that are important for this positive outlook were strengthened. After just seven hours—30 minutes of practice a day for two weeks—we not only saw changes in the brain, but these changes also predicted kind and helpful behavior.

3. Attention

The third key to well-being is paying attention. Research has shown that most people do not pay close attention to what they’re doing about forty-seven percent of the time. The quality of attention that you pay to what you are doing is vital.

William James in The Principals of Psychology explains that:

The ability to voluntarily bring back a wandering attention over and over again is the very root of judgment, character, and will. An education that sharpens attention would be education par excellence.

Davidson explains that educating attention can be done through a contemplative practice.

4. Generosity

It is well known now that when individuals engage in generous and altruistic behavior, they actually activate circuits in the brain that are key to fostering well-being. Davidson believes that:

Human beings come into the world with innate, basic goodness. When we engage in practices that are designed to cultivate kindness and compassion, we’re not actually creating something de novo—we’re not actually creating something that didn’t already exist. What we’re doing is recognizing, strengthening, and nurturing a quality that was there from the outset.

In addition to the four keys that Davidson outlines, science has also shown that gratitude hugely increases our feelings of well-being. Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present. It magnifies positive emotions. With gratitude, we become greater participants in our lives as opposed to spectators. You can become more responsible for creating more well-being in your life by the simple act of being grateful for what you are experiencing in this present moment.

By practicing gratitude and focusing on these four keys, Davidson assures us that:

Our brains are constantly being shaped wittingly or unwittingly—most of the time unwittingly. Through the intentional shaping of our minds, we can shape our brains in ways that would enable these four fundamental constituents of well-being to be strengthened. In that way, we can take responsibility for our own minds.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, no one explains it better than Dr. Richie Davidson himself!

I’d love to know if you have found that a meditation practice impacts your well-being.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.

This Way Up Six Week Online Live Interactive Workshop!

““Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
— George Bernard Shaw
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There are still a few spaces left for the This Way Up Six Week Online Live Interactive Workshop.
The six-week series begins on Tuesday 23 October at 5pm PDT and runs for six weeks:
Tuesday 23 October – Tuesday 27 November.

Here is some info about the workshop:

The workshop is completely free. There is no set fee at all. At the end of the six weeks, if you decide you want to donate something, you are welcome, but there is no expectation.
Each workshop is live, and videoed. If you miss a day in the series, you can go to our private You Tube page and watch what you’ve missed and do the day’s visualization. There is time for questions and discussions during each workshop. The shared community of women from around the world is wonderful!

This video will answer some questions for you, and if you have any other question, you can contact me at
patti@thiswayupbook.com

I hope to see you there!

April News

“Joy is prayer; joy is strength: joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”
– Mother Teresa 

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In case you missed our April Newsletter . . .

Let’s be like Velcro for joyful experiences …
View this email in your browser

Welcome to This Way Up!

Thank you for being part of this community! Keep reading for more on making joy stickier, news about upcoming summits, and updates about the This Way Up Audio Book! You can always find me at ThisWayUpBook.com.

If Joy Is a Choice … How Can We Make It Stick?

“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” 
~ Joseph Campbell

Joy is always a subject I like to write about. Recently I’ve found joy in listening to anything by Tara Brach, so it’s fitting that I should start this newsletter about joy with Tara Brach’s description. She describes joy as the aliveness and openness that occurs when we let ourselves be available to the whole play of existence. It’s a natural capacity, it’s in our wiring, and it can be cultivated.

Joy comes from a habit of thinking and interacts closely with our biochemistry. I explored this in a recent article on Thrive Global.

We sustain a joy “set point” based on what we think about and focus on. Deepak Chopra explains that when you activate a positive belief, your cells get the message.

One way to cultivate joy is through gratitude. Studies have shown that gratitude changes the body-mind chemistry. So when you have an experience and you feel good because of that experience, take time and allow yourself to feel good; pause and let it sink in. To use the language of technology: install it.

Rick Hanson suggests that we try to take in the good and make it stick. He explains that in order to create the trait , we must make it “stickier.” Taking that time to pause gives joy (or any experience) this stickiness. He explains:

“Scientists believe that your brain has a built-in negativity bias. In other words, as we evolved over millions of years, dodging sticks and chasing carrots, it was a lot more important to notice, react to, and remember sticks than it was for carrots. That’s because, in the tough environments in which our ancestors lived, if they missed out on a carrot, they usually had a shot at another one later on. But if they failed to avoid a stick, a predator, a natural hazard, or aggression from others of their species—Wham, no more chances to pass on their genes.

“The negativity bias shows up in lots of ways. For example, studies have found that:

  1. In a relationship, it typically takes five good interactions to make up for a single bad one.
  2. People will work much harder to avoid losing $100 than they will work to gain the same amount of money.
  3. Painful experiences are much more memorable than pleasurable ones.”

In effect, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones. That shades implicit memory—your underlying expectations, beliefs, action strategies, and mood—in an increasingly negative direction.”

You can read more about this and watch Tara Brach’s wonderful meditation about Joy on my latest blog post.

PS: Speaking of joy, it was with extreme joy that I discovered that people who bought books by Julia Cameron, Brené Brown and Anne Lamott also bought my book, This Way Up. What an affirmation!

Recent Podcast: Homework to Happiness

I had the pleasure recently to be featured on a wonderful podcast: Homework to Happiness with Sarah Jordan. We talked about an array of topics but of course really focused on happiness: what it is, its benefits, and how we tend to block it. You can listen to the podcast here:

You can find that podcast and other past podcasts and interviews on my website, on the media tab, under interviews.

Upcoming Summits: You’re Invited!

I am really excited to be participating in two upcoming summits:

Live Your Layered Life Summit

Live online now. Discover the secrets to self-care in your mind, body, and home! This summit is hosted by my friend Suzanne Choplin. It’s packed with great information and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Learn more and join the event.

Reinventing You Summit

This summit will be live from May 21-31. Watch this space for more information. The second summit is with my friend Naomi Sodomin. Naomi is the international best-selling author of Embrace the Mirror: Vision of Abundance and a Stronger You. And an incredibly all-around inspirational woman.

The summit will include information like:

  • Illuminating your greatest fears (aka blocks) – so you can finally move past them.
  • Identifying and overcoming challenges that are keeping you from taking action on the things that are important to you.
  • Getting clear on what it is you want to create, so that you can take those first steps, now!
  • And much more.

Learn more and join the event.

This Way Up Will Soon Be an Audio Book!

This Way Up is being made into an audio book! (Yes, the process is taking longer than I thought it would.) When it is ready, it will be available on my Amazon pageand I will send a special link for the book in my newsletter. I can’t wait to share this new version of the book with you!

Buy the Book!

“Author Patti Clark is a cross between Elizabeth Gilbert and Julia Cameron.”

This Way Up is a story of healing for women who yearn to lead a fuller life, accompanied by a workbook to help readers work through personal challenges, discover new inspiration, and harness their creative power. . .

Women spend so much of life nurturing and giving to others that when they find themselves alone—because of an empty nest, the end of a marriage, or the death of a partner—they often struggle with feeling purposeless. This Way Up provides a step-by-step way out of this sense of loss and into a life filled with enthusiasm, creativity, and joy.

Buy Online

Pause . . . to Help Joy Stick

Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”
– Joseph Campbell 

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Following on from my last post – What Makes You Happy?  – I decided to explore the concept of Joy.  Many people, including myself, tend to use the terms happiness and joy interchangeably, but one psychology website describes the difference as:
Joy and happiness are wonderful feelings to experience, but are very different. Joy is more consistent and is cultivated internally. It comes when you make peace with who you are, why you are and how you are, whereas happiness tends to be externally triggered and is often based on other people, things, places, thoughts and events.

 

Tara Brach describes joy as the aliveness and openness that occurs when we let ourselves be available to the whole play of existence. It’s a natural capacity, in our wiring, and it can be cultivated.

Joy comes from a habit of thinking and can be a contributor to our bio chemistry. We sustain a joy set point, as it were, based on what we think about and focus on.

Deepak Chopra explains that when you activate a positive belief, your cells get the message.

 

One way to cultivate joy, is through gratitude. Studies have shown that gratitude changes the body/mind chemistry. So when you have an experience and you feel good because of that experience, take time and allow yourself to feel good; PAUSE and let it sink in — ‘install it.’

Rick Hanson suggests that we try to take in the good and make it stick. He explains that in order to create the trait — make it ‘stickier.’ Taking that time to pause gives it this stickiness.
“Scientists believe that your brain has a built-in “negativity bias.” In other words, as we evolved over millions of years, dodging sticks and chasing carrots, it was a lot more important to notice, react to, and remember sticks than it was for carrots.

That’s because — in the tough environments in which our ancestors lived — if they missed out on a carrot, they usually had a shot at another one later on. But if they failed to avoid a stick — a predator, a natural hazard, or aggression from others of their species — WHAM, no more chances to pass on their genes.

The negativity bias shows up in lots of ways. For example, studies have found that:

1. In a relationship, it typically takes five good interactions to make up for a single bad one.

2. People will work much harder to avoid losing $100 than they will work to gain the same amount of money.

3. Painful experiences are much more memorable than pleasurable ones.

In effect, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones. That shades “implicit memory” — your underlying expectations, beliefs, action strategies, and mood — in an increasingly negative direction.”

So with that negative bias in mind, we have to work a bit harder to push positivity into our implicit memory. But it is absolutely possible.

Some people quote Buddha as saying: “I wouldn’t be teaching this if genuine joy and happiness were not possible” I’m not sure if Buddha actually said that, but in the Karaniya Metta Sutta, Buddha did say

“Whatever living beings there may be — feeble or strong, long, stout, or of medium size, short, small, large —

may all beings have happy minds.”

So today, let’s work toward that happy mind, let’s choose joy and make it stickier.

I’ll close this post with a wonderful talk and meditation about Joy by Tara Brach. It’s a longer video, almost an hour, but well worth the time.  If you don’t have time to listen now, at least listen to her opening joke in the first couple of minutes.  It made me laugh.

 

I’d love to hear what brings you joy, and how you differentiate between happiness and joy.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

What Makes You Happy?

“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”
– Omar Khayyam 

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What makes you happy?  Simple question, but one that is worth thinking about.  What makes you happy in this moment, for as Omar Khayyam declares, this moment is your life.  At the moment I am smiling and feeling happy.  The sun is shining, the view from my window where I sit writing is beautiful, and I love to write. So it’s easy to be happy in this moment.
What makes me happy in that larger sense, well that’s pretty easy for me too.  My sons.  I only have to think of my two sons, and a smile spreads across my face.  They are on the other side of the Earth from me at the moment, and that tugs at my heart and tempers my happiness a bit.  But nothing can take away the joy that those two amazing young men bring.  They make my heart sing . . .  in loud operatic ways!
Professionally I have a lot to make me happy.  Today I saw people who like books by Julia Cameron, Brené Brown and Anne Lamott also like my book, This Way Up.  That makes me really happy. What an affirmation!
This gives me a real feeling of accomplishment and achievement, which is one of the places happiness sits.
“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.”
– Franklin D Roosevelt
It was my great pleasure to be interviewed on the topic of happiness recently by Sarah Jordan.

We talked about an array of topics but really focused on happiness..what it is, the benefits, and how we tend to block it.
I’ll close this post with a wonderful Ted Talk that has been around for awhile. Cognitive researcher Nancy Etcoff looks at happiness — the ways we try to achieve and increase it, the way it’s untethered to our real circumstances, and its surprising effect on our bodies. It’s interesting and informative and well worth the watch.

I’d love to hear what makes you happy.  What are you happy for in this moment? What brings you happiness in your life?
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

This Way UP for Moms – Practicing Self-Care as a Mother

“Self care is any action you purposefully take to improve your physical, emotional or spiritual well being. Too often, we do not make time for sufficient self care because we’re too busy taking care of others.

― Eleanor Brownn

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Too often, way too often, we do not make time to take care of ourselves, because we are busy taking care of others. This is especially true for mothers.  Brenda Ueland expresses this beautifully:

“In fact that is why the lives of most women are so vaguely unsatisfactory. They are always doing secondary and menial things (that do not require all their gifts and ability) for others and never anything for themselves. Society and husbands praise them for it (when they get too miserable or have nervous breakdowns) though always a little perplexedly and half-heartedly and just to be consoling. The poor wives are reminded that that is just why wives are so splendid — because they are so unselfish and self-sacrificing and that is the wonderful thing about them! But inwardly women know that something is wrong. They sense that if you are always doing something for others, like a servant or nurse, and never anything for yourself, you cannot do others any good. You make them physically more comfortable. But you cannot affect them spiritually in any way at all. For to teach, encourage, cheer up, console, amuse, stimulate or advise a husband or children or friends, you have to be something yourself. […]”If you would shut your door against the children for an hour a day and say; ‘Mother is working on her five-act tragedy in blank verse!’ you would be surprised how they would respect you. They would probably all become playwrights.”

It’s true, we as mothers tend to put our own needs last, well behind our children’s and our family’s. We are so busy taking care of others, that we tend to lose ourself, our deepest sense of self.

I’m honored to be a part of an exciting new venture – How To Learn Academy Courses. These courses have been put together by the incredibly talented Pat Wyman. Pat Wyman is the best-selling author of over 30 books, a reading specialist, university instructor of education for teachers, internationally acclaimed speaker, legislative expert on vision and reading, and the founder and CEO of How to Learn.

The course I am presenting is aimed specifically at mothers, because as I said, as mothers, we tend to put our own needs last, well behind our children’s and our family’s.  This course offers seven simple exercises to connect with your true, best self.

Special for those of you who follow my blog posts! For the next 3 days, from 13 October through 15 October, use coupon code THISWAYUPFORMOMS for $10 off this course. And this will include an e-copy of my book This Way Up!

For more information or to sign up, CLICK HERE

I’ll close with a short video of Jada Pinkett-Smith,  as she advises:

“You always have to remember to take care of YOU, first and foremost. When you stop taking care of yourself you get out of balance and you really forget how to take care of others.”

 

 

I’d love to hear you take care of yourself, especially as a mother.  I love learning from all of you.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

The Highest Praise

“Each of us has an inner dream that we can unfold if we will just have the courage to admit what it is. And the faith to trust our own admission. The admitting is often very difficult. “

―Julia Cameron

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The highest praise I can imagine is being compared to one of my heroes and mentors, Julia Cameron.

After I had an interview with James Taylor, he said:

​”If you enjoy the work of Julia Cameron or use Daily Pages as part of your creative morning rituals, then you will love Patti Clark​’s book, This Way Up​​​.​”

I cannot imagine higher praise!  I am incredibly grateful!  For those of you not familiar with Julia Cameron, she wrote the transformational book, The Artist’s Way.

Someday I hope to be able to tell her what an amazingly positive influence she has been on my life.  One day …

I’ll close with a brilliant vid with Cameron titled: It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again.  Wise words!

 

 I’d love to hear what you thought of the video and if you’ve read The Artist’s Way, how it impacted you.  I love learning from all of you.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Finding Purpose

“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.”

― Albert Schweitzer

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Almost 60 years old, and most of my friends and I still talk about finding our calling, finding life’s purpose. What are we truly meant to do?

Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps explains:

“Finding your calling — it’s not passive. When people have found their calling, they’ve made tough decisions and sacrifices in order to do the work they were meant to do.  In other words, you don’t just “find” your calling — you have to fight for it. And it’s worth the fight. People who’ve found their calling have a fire about them,”

Isay has listened to thousands of people tell their story and describe fighting to find their purpose.  He describes his amazing work with StoryCorps in this great TED Talk – Everyone Around You Has a Story the World Needs to Hear:

 

A wonderful article in Daily Good elaborates on Isay’s findings by outlining the 7 lessons Isay describes in his new book:  “Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work.”

I love this first Lesson:

1. Your calling is at the intersection of a Venn diagram of three things: doing something you’re good at, feeling appreciated, and believing your work is making people’s lives better.

 

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That diagram shows the ‘sweet spot’ – intersecting three things: Doing something you are good at; intersecting with the knowledge that you are making people’s lives better – service; and feeling appreciated for this work.  This idea mirrors Albert Schweitzer’s quote:

“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.”

Your calling takes courage and doesn’t always pay well. But we know it when we are doing it.  We get in the flow; we feel good about ourselves and our work; time flies; and although the pay check may not be great, we keep doing it because we know it is right for us.

So I think it’s quite fitting to close with this video entitled: How to Know Your Life’s Purpose in 5 Minutes!  After all, at almost 60 many of us are running out of time!

I’d love to hear if you’ve found your life’s purpose and how you found it.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Happy 2017 – A Year for Cultivating Gratitude

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
― Thornton Wilder

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Happy New Year! I think the general consensus is that 2016 was a rough year for most people, on so many levels.  But in this post I don’t want to focus on politics or difficulties, but instead on cultivating gratitude. A new year is the perfect time to be cultivating gratitude and a renewed focus on what you appreciate. And 2017 is in particular a great place to start because from a numerological perspective, 2017 is a “one” year. (In short: 2+0+1+7 = 10 = 1+0 = 1.) Numerology looks at time in nine-year cycles, in which a “one” year begins a new nine-year cycle of creativity, learning and growth. It is a time of intentions and planning for the next phase. The intentions and foundations you build in 2017 can help shape the upcoming years. A “one” year is the perfect time to set intentions and goals for yourself.  It’s an important year to take time for yourself and clarify the direction you want to travel. And a perfect time to focus on gratitude for what you have.  My new years message talks about this and about the importance of silence in your routine. You can read more about that here in my newsletter.  And if you want to read more about the science of silence, you can read about that in my article in Thrive.

Cultivating gratitude is so important as we enter 2017.  Psychology Today defines the benefits of gratitude as:

Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has—as opposed to, for example, a consumer-driven emphasis on what one wants. Gratitude is getting a great deal of attention as a facet of positive psychology: Studies show that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude, and can increase our well-being and happiness by doing so. In addition, gratefulness—and especially expression of it to others—is associated with increased energy, optimism, and empathy.

Another good reason to cultivate gratitude is:

“Your experience of life is not based on your life, but what you pay attention to.”

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And when you pay attention to what you are grateful for, that becomes your experience. It becomes your experience that life is good and full and wonderful.

I have often quoted Melody Beattie here but it is so appropriate, I have to do it again.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

 

In Japanese Psychology, on a wonderful site, The ToDo Institute,  seven principals for cultivating gratitude are given:

  1. Gratitude is independent of our objective life circumstances
  2. Gratitude is a function of attention
  3. Entitlement precludes gratitude
  4. We often take for granted that which we receive on a regular basis
  5. Gratitude can be cultivated through sincere self-reflection
  6. Expressing gratitude, through words and deeds, enhances our experience of gratitude
  7. Our deepest sense of gratitude comes through grace, with the awareness that we have not earned, nor do we deserve all that we’ve been given.

If you are looking for a way to focus on gratitude as 2017 unfolds, I suggest getting a ‘Gratitude Journal’ – and start by just writing down 3 things you are grateful for every morning before you even get out of bed. And if that feels too hard, then just think of 3 things you are grateful for before you get up. That’s a great start!

If you are feeling more ambitious, I can suggest a wonderful course on Daily Om! It’s a new course I have authored and it’s available here.  The course is offered with the option of selecting how much you want to pay. No matter how much you pay, you’ll be getting the same course as everybody else. Daily Om believes that people are honest and will support the course with whatever they can afford. And if you are not 100% satisfied, they will refund your money.  So what have you got to lose? It’s a great way to start the year.

I’ll close with a YouTube clip describing the course so you can get a better idea of what it is about.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about how you cultivate gratitude and it’s impact on you.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.