Anger Is the Key to Happiness

I started off 2017 with an education resolution: I wanted more of it. And so, I signed up for a class on Happiness, created by the Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and offered by edX. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

In my first lesson, I had a couple of significant take-aways about happiness: it’s correlated to a longer lifespan, the ability to regain health after disease, greater creativity and problem solving. And if you’re going to live a long life, heck — you might as well be happy.

But the part of the conversation that stuck with me most of all was the value of anger.

Angry BabyOne of the best things I did recently with a large amount of anger I was feeling was to find an immediate physical outlet for it. I don’t remember what caused the anger, but I was fuming. I told my husband I wanted to throw something. He suggested plates, but I didn’t want to be wasteful (I was angry, but not irrational!). However I wanted to see something explode. Eureka. “ICE! GRAB THE ICE!”

We went outside and damned if I didn’t destroy an entire bucket of ice. It exploded all over the ground, and my body released. That tension, that anger, I released it.

And I don’t remember what I was so angry about, but I do remember the cathartic thrill of the release. It was great. My husband was impressed with my vigor, and I enjoyed release. It was almost orgasmic.

And yet, I felt guilty for getting “out of control”. As a person, as a woman, as a mother.

As it turns out, there’s NO NEED to feel guilty!

Here’s something I learned in my very first class from Dachel Keltner, the co-director of the GGSC:

“So Aristotle writes [when articulating his Principle of Moderation], anyone can become angry. That’s easy. But to be angry at the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose and the right way that’s not within everybody’s power and that’s not easy. When our passions are cultivated in the right context, they bring us happiness and the good life.

And even passions like anger when, for example, engaged in societal injustice can bring about a lot of good and happiness. Aristotle is suggesting moderation and acceptance of our passions as a pathway to happiness.”

So. The ice smashing brought me relief and release. Admiration from my husband, and some humor. But I didn’t really take action. I didn’t use the anger; I just got rid of it.

More research, this time from postdoctoral scholar Lahnna Catalino of UCSF, found that

“The negative emotions that arise from negative life events, big or small, are natural and help us better understand ourselves—they provide vital information about what we value and what might need to change in our lives. For instance, feeling a wave of anxiety about your physical health may actually motivate you to improve your dietary habits.”

Aha! So in this case, a little anger is good for you. It’s your brain trying to say, “Wake up, Buddy. We have work to do.” Pay attention to the anger, it’s a message: Time for a change.

Anger is the indicator light in the dashboard that you’ve got to tend to something, something that’s wrong. I want to finish with a quote from Psychology Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky of UC Riverside which closes the loop on what happy people can do with their anger.

“Happier people are more likely to tackle the problems of the world. They have more energy, they are more goal oriented. They are very focused on others. If you’re not happy, you tend to be self-focused, you want to solve whatever problems you have. If you’re happier, you’re more likely to go out and do something about those problems that are going on.Women's March on Washington

Happy people make change happen because they have the energy and the creativity to see the opportunity. Fuel your happiness to fuel change. Visit with your anger, because anger is important, telling you what you value, and what needs your energy (after all, anger can use up a lot of energy). But as Aristotle noted, how you use that anger: in the right way, at the right time, directed to the right person, that is the key.

And the more positive change you create, based on that useful anger, the happier you’ll be.


Your Next Step After the Election

sad-supermanI woke up this morning with my eldest son and the election results. I snuggled my son, sad for him and his future. My instincts to protect him from this sad reality, the votes for hate and cruelty. I planned to wear black and mourn, to protest the hate.

I thought of the Hillary sign in my yard, and I remembered how one day some men stopped to curse at me for supporting Hillary. Even last week, my plumber said “You’re lucky I came in. I almost drove by because of the sign out front”.

Should I take the down? Was I making myself an target? I didn’t want “them” to find my family.

And then I scrolled through Facebook. In the midst of sadness, shock and disbelief, was this, from an old NYU grad school friend:

“No but seriously. I refuse to be cowed. I refuse to be scared. I’m still here and I still matter. And all of my desires and goals and dreams for my life and those of others still hold meaning. And the things that brought me joy yesterday will still bring me joy tomorrow. And I’ll never stop trying. Life’s too, too short.”

Powerful, not sad. The election has been decided. Hillary won the popular vote, which means there is popular support for the social progress we embraced. We still have momentum. For one, we have the delicious surprise of Pantsuit Nation. At 3 MILLION pantsuit-nationstrong, we are a collective of some smart, ferocious, passionate men and women. Delicious.

And from Pantsuit Nation, came this:

There’s a concept in behavioral therapy known as an “extinction burst” — basically, when you’re trying to remove a behavior (let’s say in this case, xenophobia/misogyny/etc.) often you will actually see an increase in that behavior before it dies,

The old world order is SCREAMING right now. What I’m seeing tonight are the death throes of a system that cannot last.

Whatever the outcome, remember that what happens at the federal level is not the end of the story. We can take charge in our communities, and we can continue to move in the right direction.

Let ’em scream. The rest of us have work to do.

My momma bear, my protective intuition is on overdrive right now. I’ll protect my children, because that’s what I’m genetically programmed to do. But I have others in my care — my LGBTQ friends, my black friends, my Hindu neighbors and my women. My Jews. My job is to care for you and stand up for what is right.

Realizing this, I got fired up, a la Obama.

The more I thought about who I could help, the more empowered I felt. Instead of feeling the victim, I empowered myself. I moved my brain toward a place where I could envision myself helping others.

Then, a friend shared this from The Huffington Post: If You’re Overwhelmed By The Election, Here’s What You Can Do Now. And another shared this from JezebelA List of Pro-Woman, Pro-Immigrant, Pro-Earth, Anti-Bigotry Organizations That Need Your Support.

Action. There’s action to take. There’s work to do. And a list of links in the above articles to help you move forward.

flowersThen, Facebook delivered this wisdom: “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.” – Mexican proverb

Exactly. This is the light, this is the possibility. This is the place from which we will grow. This effort isn’t over.

Be sad and mourn. Move through the 5 stages of grief. Take care of yourself; do what you gotta do. Then harness that energy, move through sadness to anger to action and fix the problems at hand.

We have work to do. Let’s get to work.


Get Unstuck (Video)

Want to see some raw honesty from a rough life coach? Here’s me, first thing in the morning (after coffee but before a shower), answering the following question:

Why do you enjoy helping people get unstuck and get more out of life?

My coach asked me this question, and challenged me to speak directly to you, and explain my motivation to coach. After all, if I’m going to help you do what you want to do, what’s the proof that I’ve done it myself? Here you go. Thanks for watching. I look forward to hearing what you think.


A Uterus is a Feature and Not a Bug

Today I was featured as a life coach and mom on Sarah Lacy’s Podcast “A Uterus is a Feature and Not a Bug” which is about “badass women doing badass things and raising badass companies and children.”

We talk step parenting and parenting, why mothers (and single moms) make outstanding employees, and how women can deliberately design a career that enables the life they want to have, and the parent they want to be.

I’ve been a fan of Sarah’s for quite some time, so I was honored to be included among the badass. For more, please listen to our podcast and read her outstanding article.




A Village of Fathers

I have a life coach. As a career & life coach, it behooves me to be coached, to practice what I preach.

My coach was a set up, and as a result, a coach was chosen for me that is probably unlike a coach I would have chosen for myself. He is a Black Christian man living in North Carolina.

And yet, he is a lot like me, a White Jewish woman in New Jersey.

We both have backgrounds in marketing and public speaking. We are both parents and have experience in step-families. He inspires me and digs deep to help me figure out what I’m good at and what I can contribute to my clients’ lives. He loves coaching.

He continues to focus on my work as a mother (even though I tell him it’s not relevant), and as a working mother, and the value of that work. Because he, as a working father of a young black man, the same age as the white men I’m raising, well…he respects mothering. Of all men. And respects the important role of a good mother in a man’s life.

Today, Tru sent me a video (as he likes to do) after our session. I had shared some frustration with him about something that happened recently, how I felt unsupported as a mother.

He shared this video with me, to demonstrates different ways in which communities support parents and children:

Did you cry as much as I did?

Wow. This Black Christian man and White Jewish mother have a lot in common. We want to increase the opportunities for children of all ages to grow strong through their challenges, feel support around them, and help them use their passion and potential to create a purpose.

And to make his point as to how important mothers are, Tru sent me a video on the power of fathers. And fathering. And family and villages. During every session, he tells me that stories from he heart are the most powerful. After watching this, I can only agree.

People Are Like Goldfish

My family and I went to a festival recently, and they had one of those games where participants can win goldfish. Of course this the prize both of my 3-year-olds wanted.

And, after carrying those fish around for 2 hours, carelessly tossed to the side when a kid was eating pizza, swimming away from the claws of a 3-year-old trying to “squish the fish”, they made it home to a place that had no bowl and no food.

These fish were exhausted, traumatized. And no, the pet store was not open after we finally put our children to sleep.

Our two fish were to live in a pitcher and go hungry. After all that. 🙁

At the pet store the next day I was reassured by the pet store staff that there was no point in giving festival fish a nice habitat, as they were bred to live short lives. They were just meant to be prizes, or feed other fish.

life coach

Fish or food?

Slightly more research yielded a different perspective — these festival fish, also called common goldfish or comets could grow up to 18 inches! Instead of keeping them in a pitcher as I had been, these giants-to-be deserved a filtered tank, and due to the intense amount of excrement they produced, no more than 2 fish to a 10 gallon tank at a minimum.

I splurged and went with a long 20 gallon tank for my fish (which cost less than $100), to see if this fish tale could possibly be true.

The fish remind me of my coaching clients. At some point, my clients were put in a tank that was the wrong size. They heard lots of shoulds and cant’s, and stepped away from something they wanted to do.

They come to me to fix a situation, something that is wrong that is nagging at them, whether it’s career, family life, or most frequently a combination of the two.

I believe in people. I believe that everyone has something that they can do to contribute to the world. Their superpower. Maybe it’s revolutionizing school lunches. Maybe it’s helping AIDS orphans in Africa and Thailand. Maybe it’s creating the most beautiful, high end bridal shop in New York City. Maybe it’s publishing a series of cookbooks, and the words and pictures to go with them.goldfish

People have skills and talents. Unique gifts. Last weekend I was at a wedding and met a woman who makes gorgeous jewelry out of flat polished stones that she finds on the beach. Another who makes large installations of wine cork art (some of her pieces have over 4000 corks!). Both are at the beginning of their artistic/entrepreneurial journeys; I can’t wait to see where these passions take them in 3 to 5 years.

These passionate people deserve big tanks so that they can grow to the full extent of their abilities.

I coach because I believe in people. I also believe people have an easier time stepping into their zone when they have an advocate who shares their vision and believes in their ability to accomplish it. The only thing that stands between a constipated superhero and a contribution to the world is partner that believes in them and holds them accountable to their vision

My work as a coach allows me to be the scaffolding as these superheroes are built.

And those goldfish? Well I’m happier to say that the experts were right. Comets grow fast! In just 3 months, my fish are thriving and have doubled in size, from under 1 inch to big, fat two inch goldfish (with incredible appetites).

Don’t be surprised if you come to visit me in my office and find a 50 gallon tank with just a few big fish in the next few years.

I believe in what happens when fish (and people) are put in the right environment.

life coach

Days Between School and Summer

The days between school ending and summer beginning; what are they called again?

It’s not an official holiday…but parents definitely need to find child care. There are wonky half days, field days, fun days, picnics and ceremonies, ah, those early dismissals and auditorium events usually called for some time between 11AM and 2PM.

It’s not working parent friendly, at all.

And we know the majority of parents are working, right? And yet the school systems (private or public) have not acknowledged that reality. Frankly, closing for 3 months every summer is also ignoring reality, but I’ll save that for an author who has already covered this topic.

So here’s a confession. Although you may know me as happy and go with the flow, this mom of three 3-and-under, well, I LOVE ME some structure. School. Camp. Routine. I’m a stressed out little puppy in the face of Memorial Day, god help me on Christmas break, and this time between school and camp, well it just sorta sucks.

I don’t know what to do with my kids, and how to balance work and their needs. I like my systems, I like routine. Boundaries help our family thrive.

This year, I decided to go with it a bit. Take the days off. Be around. Hang out with the kids and do something different. Author and coach Gretchen Rubin had a whole podcast about marking summer as different by behaving differently. Eating differently. Taking note of doing differently and making that it’s own celebration.

Well, weird week, I got you. I got zoo and I got butterflies and I’ve got fishing rods. I’m ready to do things I haven’t done with my kids before, and enjoy this time. I’ve got weird sandy vegetables from my co-op and I’m ready to cook them. After I teach my sous-chefs, I mean kids, how to wash them properly.

Sure, my husband gets to work while I improvise. But if I can’t fight the reality, better to enjoy it and turn it into something fun. As soon as I give up the fight, and frustration with what this week is not (normal), I can yield to what it is and find what works for me. Being present in the break.

What are you doing with the kids in the nether zone this year? Drop me a line or tell me more in the comments below.

Can’ts and Shoulds

I was taking a fast-paced walk the other day, and came to an intersection manned by a crossing guard. The light was red and the crossing guard was across the street. No cars coming in either direction, and so I began to cross.

A sharp whistle came from you know who followed by, “You can’t cross now!”

I looked again. Still no cars. I could cross, of course, there was no danger here. I looked back up at the crossing guard, who shook his head no, as if reading my mind. I returned to the sidewalk and waited the 30 seconds until the light turned.

My not crossing was more important to him than crossing was to me.

Can do coach!

It’s up to you. Really.

Recently, I had my sons in the car with me on a return trip from the grocery store. It was snack time; one wanted pretzels, the other raspberries. I gave them each their snack.

I then asked pretzel boy for a snack, “Nope. You can’t have one.”

I explained why this was not nice. Raspberry boy offered me a snack, “I will give you two raspberries, but only two.”

Okay. I reached my arm back and he put the raspberries in my hand.

I asked his brother if I could have a pretzel. I was told, “No. You can’t have one now. You already ate two raspberries and that’s all you get.”

So I’m raising two dictators. Or, two three-year-olds, who like to play with boundaries.

Young children kids are always hearing boundaries. Not now. One TV show. That’s enough milk. Put on clothes. Don’t pee on your brother.

Their job is to find the boundary, and push until they hit one. That’s what they do. My job as a parent is to establish that boundary without losing my mind.

Contrastingly, my job as a coach is to help break people out of self imposed boundaries, and get rid of the can’ts and should’s they’ve been hearing all their life.

Like the crossing guard. I mean, I knew that I wasn’t supposed to cross the street at a red light, but let’s be real. I could see 4 blocks in every direction; ain’t nothin’ going on in this cross section besides me and your whistle.

There’s no real reason I couldn’t have crossed. But it was his job to tell me I couldn’t; I shouldn’t. And because I’ve developed a sense of maturity, I didn’t question him on this.

And thank god, my job is to help people realize they can. And will. (And they do.)

can do coach

Now that’s more like it!

Doing the Girl Thing

I have two impressive clients, one a lawyer and one a doctor. They are highly accomplished in their fields.

On the same day, each separately asked me the same question at one point during the session:

“Am I doing the girl thing?”

And I knew exactly what they meant. But, being a coach, my job is to ask more than answer and so I asked what they meant. Here’s what they said, more or less:

“You know, that thing where I have an idea, then totally kill it, or think that what I’m offering isn’t good enough, even though it’s more than enough. Or when I have success in something after working hard, then put myself down. You know, the girl thing.”

I do know. The girl thing.

In fact, yesterday I was sharing this very story with a friend. She just received a big promotion at work, and closed a new deal faster than any one ever has in the history of the 30-year company.

Then, she explained away her success as luck, not really a big deal, a long time coming, etc. As soon as she did it she realized, “Oh my god! I just did the girl thing!”

Yup. So I asked her what she could say instead. She came up with:

“Thank you! It’s a great client — I’m excited to start working with them.”


But the unspoken “girl thing” that too many of us understand is no longer working for me. And, as the mother of a daughter, it’s really not working for me. I want the same opportunities and possibilities for all my children, no matter the gender. Not 79 cents on the dollar for my “less valuable” daughter. I don’t want to see the world teach limitations into her core, as it has for me and my clients.

I want my 2-year-old daughter, who is pretty badass already, to not recognize “doing the girl thing” as what my doctor, lawyer, and business friend and I recognize too easily. Putting yourself down. Making excuses for your success. Apologizing for your creative ideas. Hearing yourself “you can’t” before you say “I can”.

Let’s redefine what “doing the girl thing” means. What if doing the girl thing meant that girls:

Celebrate, like Brandi Chastain

Lead, like Golda Meir

Act, like Margaret Thatcher

Help others, like Ina May Gaskin

Are Brave, like Malala

Are Strong, like the Williams Sisters

Create Justice, like Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Do What’s Right, like Eleanor Roosevelt

Blaze A New Path, like Hillary Clinton

Are Entrepreneurial, like Martha Stewart

Guide Others, like Harriet Tubman

Stands up for Your Rights, like Susan B Anthony

Care for Animals, like Jane Goodall

Teach, like Julia Child

Manage Money, like Janet Yellen

Rock, like Joan Jett

While writing this post, I got a call from a client who set a lofty goal for herself 3 months ago. Today, the dream became reality. She called to tell me about the interview that lead to the offer, and started by saying: “I’m not going to lie, and I hope this doesn’t appear arrogant, but I did a GREAT job. I knew I had it and I did. I could tell during our conversation. I just nailed it.”

When I asked her what she did in the interview that was so special, she said, “You know what? I just said what I believed and I acted like myself. I was totally honest. And it worked!”

That’s the 2016 version of doing the girl thing. Just finding that thing you’re great at and doing it. Being honestly and authentically you.

C’mon Get Happy

The old Partridge Family song takes me back. I’m a kid again, dancing around on a shaggy blue carpet. Nursing a serious crush on David Cassidy. No responsibilities. Little to no power either, but it’s the singing and dancing that I remember. And the feeling of being happy.

Segue to today: I’ve been reading a particularly fabulous book, recommended by one of my clients, called The Sweet Spot, by Christine Carter.

It focuses on that whole overwork / work life balance thing. (You know, what I do for a living :-)). Though it may seem like well trodden terrain, she offers solutions for getting your life back, enjoying it, thriving at work and  having a short fitness routine that will get you in solid shape.

One thing I’ve started doing is using this free app called Happier. If you bob and weave through the solicitations (not that hard to do), you’re able to use it to record something every day that makes you happy. It automatically pulls up your pictures and prompts you with your own visual memories — just in case you forgot how fantastic that trip to the garden with your daughter was.

Minimal investment, maximum happy.

Minimal investment, maximal bliss.

I like doing this daily; it’s a quick passage to emotion (like the kind I get when I look at the old David Cassidy pictures), which encourages the building of neural pathways of joy. It reminds me to sit in that moment – an take a deep tub soak of positive emotion. There’s ample research to demonstrate the impact of regular positive thinking, gratitude and connecting with emotions.

Plus, after a few weeks, I have this incredible flip book of happy moments – the moments that seem inconsequential at the time, but are the tapestry of your life. So record your happy once a day, or once in the morning and once at night. However you choose to remember your happy, the benefits are clear.

As a wise man once said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” And when you stop to capture those seemingly insignificant, powerful and joyful moments, you’ll be able to marvel at your own incredible life.