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.

 

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.

 

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

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.

Client Q&A: Space Saver Sarah Roussos-Karakaian

Sarah Roussos-Karakaian and her husband Nick are Nestrs, the husband and wife organizing, design and construction team. This month, they’re offering 8 hours of free design work for clients in the tri-state area. WHAAAAT? Read on for more details…

These two roll up their sleeves and refresh your space.

Sarah and Nick Will Refresh Your Space.

Sarah and Nick have a passion for space planning, interior design, and home renovations. You may have seen them on HGTV’s summer series Beach Flip, in which they demonstrated their classic revival design approach to flipping a beach house in Gulf Shores, AL.

Sarah is a Professional Organizer and Interior Decorator and began her journey after ten years traveling the world performing in hit Broadway musicals where the only constant thing was her two thoughtfully compartmentalized suitcases. Her husband Nick Karakaian is a general contractor with a masters degree in architecture.

You’re giving away 8 hours of free home design/organizing to select clients in the Tri-state area over the next 3 months. Why?

Our homes are our safe havens. We’re seeking potential clients who aren’t afraid to shout, “Help! I can’t get organized on my own.” or “Help! My space is boring and I just can’t figure out how to make it beautiful.” or “I don’t have time!” I’m giving away design work to build my portfolio and showcase the kind of work I want to do more of – I want to refresh your living or bedroom, help you with your nursery or playroom, or even update your patio – gauzy curtains, rugs and a full outdoor living space. I’d like to take ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures — these will help my business grow.

I’m looking for spaces that need saving for clients who don’t mind sharing their experience with me in exchange for 8 hours of complimentary work. Everybody wins!

How did you and your husband Nick create Nestrs?

I was sitting in a coffee shop one day waiting for a friend. I was on HGTV.com, looking for inspiration for clients and came across a casting call for an upcoming reality show to air on HGTV. My friend was running late so I decided to fill out the questionnaire. The next day I got a call from a casting director – and the rest is history. HGTV auditioned both Nick and me several times over the course of 4 months and loved our complimentary talents of organizing, construction, and design. We beat out over 1,000 applicants to be on Beach Flip. We flipped a 3 bedroom condo on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. It was a grueling and exciting 2 months of filming. When we got back to NYC – we took a week to sleep off the exhaustion – we had this excitement inside of us. We couldn’t share where we had been or what we were up to with our friends and family until the show aired three months later – but the chemistry between Nick and myself fixing up this home was electric. We hoped this show would draw attention to Nick’s general contracting work and my talents for organizing, space planning, and decorating. So, we started a company together and called it Nestrs, highlighting our organizing, design and construction work.

coaching client

Who loves the smell of drywall?

You just redid your house in Astoria. What are you most proud of?

We just finished our kitchen and it. is. everything! The house is super tiny, technically 650 sq ft – but we count the basement since it is finished now – so that makes it a sprawling 1300 sq ft. The kitchen is in the basement and could be considered weird – until you see it now! We’re lucky enough to have a backyard, as small as it is, and it’s right off the kitchen, so it’s a great entertaining space in the warm months. We knew we had to make the kitchen the show piece of the home it is now so no one will ever think to ask why it’s located in the basement. It used to be two small rooms – one laundry room and then the kitchen space. We decided to unify everything to make it feel more open. It’s gorgeous and we’re so proud of it! That being said, we’ve learned a lot on this house.

Who is your ideal client?

I love helping busy people who have an appreciation for gorgeous, but sensible, design – they just don’t have the time or know-how to make it beautiful. I really jam with people transitioning in their lives; it could be moving into a new home, having a baby, getting ready for a significant party, or starting over in some capacity and needing a change – I excel at working with deadlines and making positive change happen as quickly as possible. I work well with clients who are looking for a no-nonsense professional who prides herself in complete client satisfaction.

coaching client

Clean Kitchen Design

How much of finding the right client is a personality / aesthetic fit? Do you bring your aesthetic or help the client find theirs?

It’s important that our personalities jive, but our design style definitely doesn’t have to. A lot of clients aren’t sure what their style is so we must be able to communicate comfortably in order to figure it out! The way we organize your linen closet or work flow of your kitchen has to work for you – not me – I just ask the right questions to help you figure out what makes sense to you. Same goes with design: I have the eye to make what you’re attracted to in the magazines work for your space, lifestyle, and budget.

How can potential clients be sure you’re the right team for them?

To start, Nick and I will walk you through all aspects of our proposal. Furthermore, we believe in our chemistry and craftsmanship so much that when its appropriate we often have potential clients come over to our home and see our work first hand for themselves. Ever wonder what a professional organizer’s closet looks like? I’ll show you! We sell 100% maple cabinets that are affordable and beautiful. Don’t believe us? Come over and open and close our drawers! We’ll even provide snacks and wine for making the trip. Our home is almost like a showroom – we know how personal it can be having us in your home that we want potential clients to know how much we appreciate them considering us for their big project by welcoming them into our space in an effort to put their mind at ease moving forward with us as a team. We think that’s pretty special and can’t be said of all home improvement businesses.

Where do you shop? Do you have a design philosophy?

There are so many styles out there and each one ends up getting tweaked or mashed up with another style to make it perfect for an individual or family. In the end, I’ll see to it that we nail the look you’re after. I love sourcing materials and decor items from places like Target, IKEA, Wayfair, and Etsy. We go through so many phases in our life, I’d hate to design a space that you’d need to completely renovate to change it up! These resources offer most of the products you need to transform your space, but with the flexibility to mix it up a bit down the road. I’m so on board with splurging on the perfect couch or super comfy mattress – I just don’t think vases need to cost thousands of dollars in order to achieve beautiful design.

Do you have any tips for us regarding spring cleaning?

Why yes! Yes I do! It just so happens that I have 14 Tips for Spring Cleaning and Organizing. Find them here on my blog.

Why did you reach out to a coach? 

I want to go from great to superstar status! I’m proud of the journey I’ve taken so far. And yet, I feel like I’m just getting started. I’m a big believer that life is meant to be enjoyed – it’s part of the reason why I love organizing and designing so much: we should surround ourselves with peace and harmony and eliminate stuff that takes up too much of our space and time. That said, there is always room for improvement and growth and that’s where I am in my career. I want to work smarter, not harder. Having a skilled coach who can look from the outside in is just the thing I need to advance as a business owner. I love helping others and admire when they finally get the courage to pick up the phone and call for help. I wanted to take my own advice and do the same. It’s been the best decision I’ve made thus far.

Get social with Sarah, Nick and Nestrs.com:

Instagram: @Nestrs
Facebook: www.facebook.com/thenestrs
Twitter: @thenestrs

 

How To Stand Up for Yourself (Video)

This week, one of my personal coaching clients had a fantastic realization, one of those moments that will stay with her for a good long time, and change the way she interacts with the world. In the coaching biz, we call this an A-HA moment.

She found herself in a situation where it seemed like all of her advisors were taking advantage of her kind, goodhearted ways. Simply put: she felt like a doormat.

During our coaching session, we came up with a simple activity that helped her map her values to the way she wanted to be — exactly how she wanted to stand up for herself — and avoid being too aggressive or being walked on.

Here’s how we did it:

 

The A-HA Minutes is a YouTube video series created by Allison Task, personal coach, highlighting moments of client insight in Allison’s coaching practice.

5 Coaching Questions To Celebrate Closure

One of my favorite aspects of coaching is that closure is built into the relationship from the start. As adults, closure isn’t build into our lives as frequently as was when we were children.

Think of activities or projects you’ve experienced with premeditated closure: there’s college, summer camp or high school. But as adults, closure is elusive. You rarely start a job or a relationship with the end in mind. We acquire, achieve, and gain…but reducing, rewarding and appreciating, the yins to our accomplishment yangs, are given less attention.

You Never Start a Relationship or Job Planning the Dissolution

Imagine, on the first date, summing up your dinner partner and issuing the following proposal: “I think this will last about 6 months, so let’s figure out how to have a GREAT time during our brief affair. I’m thinking Vieques, Rio, and some outdoor sex? I need a date for this benefit in April…and let’s avoid meeting parents, because…well, with closure just 6 months away, why add the stress.”

relationship coach

Finite and Fun

In some ways, that could be great.

It’s refreshing to keep the end game in mind, and the things you need to do to get there. A short term bucket list if you will. My clients decide what they we going to do in the next 3 months, and then go for it. Some of my recent clients have had the following goals: Address my financial challenges. Find more time in my schedule. Clean out the house chaos so I can move forward in comfort.

These goals were set in December, and here we are in March, with goals accomplished. And, as inevitably happens with coaching, in order to get to the big goals, first we dig underneath and clear out the bigger stuff that’s been blocking us in the first place.

My clients get it done. Week by week, item by item, with great enthusiasm, vigor, passion for achieving the goal, and ultimately, closure.

There’s something particularly wonderful about the last sessions, when clients get to review what they’ve accomplished in the last few months, and how, those goals that felt big and unattainable have come to pass.

Care to try it? You can always give me a call and work together on something big and hairy (we’ll break down that big monster into little fur balls).

Or, you can get the closure celebration you need right now. Here are some coaching questions that will take you there. Give yourself the space to answer — find a quiet room with a laptop or paper and pen. Take 20 minutes, minimum. The more you write, the deeper your satisfaction will be.

5 Coaching Questions To Celebrate Closure

– Remember March, 2015? What were you doing?  What are you doing now that would surprise you? Have you handled illness, moved, changed jobs or achieved a promotion? Managed children / parents? Taken on a new sport, instrument, built a garden?

– Looking back on last summer, what are you proud of? Vacations? Health goals? Making new friends or spending time with old friends?

– Is there a positive habit that you’ve developed since January? Eating less sugar, drinking less, going to bed earlier? Spending more time with family?

– Is there something that you’d like to do this spring / summer? Visit a local farm?  Join a co-op? Pickle vegetables? Host an Easter or Passover get together?

– Is there someone near you that you’re jealous of? What is it, specifically that makes you jealous? Is there anyway that you could add some of those qualities / situations to your own life?

The first three questions are helpful for looking backwards, taking stock, and giving yourself the opportunity to acknowledge an accomplishment. The last two questions will help you set goals for the future so that you can move toward a goal purposefully.

Set goals, and most importantly, celebrate your accomplishments. Not just turning 40, but what you did in the prior years leading to this point. What are you proud of that you — badass you — accomplished?

Reflecting and acknowledging your accomplishments reinforced them in your brain, and leads to more of the same.

Please let me know how this works for you!

What’s A Life Coach? (Video)

Part of the fun of working with a life coach is picking a partner who you connect with. After all, we’ll be working together closely on something that’s of absolute importance to you.

You may be wondering:

  • How is a life coach different from a therapist?
  • Are my questions that insightful?
  • What is it like to work together — am I upbeat? Is this fun?
  • Do I have an annoying Jersey accent?
  • What’s the point of a coach, really?

Here’s a little sample of me in my office answering the question “What is a Life Coach”. We’ll meet here in my office, or virtually via Skype or phone.My role is to be your advocate as you go for this big goal — something you’ve been working on and wanting to achieve.

We’re about to get to know each other really well.

So here’s what I’m like. As you can see, I’m pretty fired up about what I do.

Need More Time? Fire Your Staff

There’s a trend I’m noticing with some of my clients right now: They’re putting more hours in their day by getting rid of the weak links on their teams.

time management coaching

Don’t postpone the inevitable.

Don’t get me wrong, my clients are not “You’re fired!” type, who enjoy terminating their staff. They’ve given their staff every opportunity to succeed, and still….

Sometimes you just need to fire someone. 

I have been guilty of this on more than one occasion. Keeping an employee around, making lots of excuses, having talks, providing learning opportunities and otherwise shoring up someone who isn’t acting like they want the gig.

When you, as an employer, finally get to the point of letting that person go, it’s often been long in coming and it feels fantastic to have that release.

We dread the conversation — everyone dreads a break-up, but after the fact, most clients feel as relaxed and happy as Kermit in a field of daisies.

time management coach

When’s the last time you’ve felt this good at work?

And when you look at it through the lens of time management, the time you spend working to inspire someone who isn’t acting like they want to be there, well that’s rarely time well spent.

Plus, through the lens of team building, when you keep someone on who isn’t doing her job, they’re not only taking hours out of your day, they begin to sour the team. And the team may begin to question you’re judgment as a leader.

Top corporations have institutionalized firing, forcing reviews onto a bell curve so that the weaker players are continually culled. For some this feels Darwinian (and Microsoft has allegedly dropped the practice), while at other times it feels refreshing, keeping standards high.

Have you ever been fired? In retrospect, was this a good thing?

Or, are you in a situation where you need to let someone go? I’d love to hear about it.

Ever Throw the Game?

Have you ever decided that you couldn’t do something?

Maybe it was run a marathon, bake, or do calculus. Maybe you decided that you couldn’t play the piano, guitar, or figure out texting.

For me, it was coffee. When I graduated from Cornell with few job prospects, I went for entry level jobs. I ended up as an assistant to a CEO of a CD-ROM company, with an understanding that in 6 months he’d give me an opportunity to work in marketing.

I was a great assistant. I knew how to deliver service — I had bartended and waitressed for years. However. I didn’t want to be too good at assisting, if you catch my drift. I didn’t want to be irreplaceable.

And so, I made a terrible cup of coffee. Just terrible.

career coachingWe had a coffee pot and grounds, and I was supposed to clean it and prep.I was responsible for coffee, and coffee service to clients. How is it that an Ivy League-educated girl, with bartending and waitressing experiencing could NOT make a decent cup of coffee?

She didn’t want to.

I know I’m not the only one who does things like this. Last weekend, I was visiting my parents in Florida, and had to do some laundry. Laundry is a pretty straightforward activity. I walked toward the machine, arms full of clothes, and asked a couple questions over my shoulder. My mother said, “Don’t ask your father, he doesn’t understand laundry.”

My father is a smart man. He graduated from an engineering college and made a long career for himself in business. He knows stuff, especially about geography and history. He’s a fantastic card player.

I looked at my father and said, “That’s quite a racket you’ve got going on. You’ve got mom convinced you can’t do laundry?” He smiled without making eye contact. “I do other things.”

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

This choice, what you can or cannot do, comes up all the time for me with coaching clients. I have clients who have decided that they have no financial skills, or no cooking skills, or no time. Now financial and cooking skills are not talents you are born with — they are things you learn, either by exposure through your family routine as a child, or active study as an adult.

Not having enough time? Everyone has the same 24 hours. It’s how you use them. Is your commute too long? Are you watching too much TV? Vegging out with Facebook? Are you not getting enough sleep which renders you less effective all day long? There are always reasons.career coaching

Personal choices are active. If I don’t want to make good coffee, I’ll never make good coffee. If you don’t want to cook, you’ll never pick up the skill. And if you decide to be excellent managing your finances, find a career where you’ll make a lot of money, or climb that fence, you’ll do whatever you believe you can do.