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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.

The Key to Change? Turn Off to Turn On

A nutritionist, a lactation consultant and a life coach were chatting at a holiday party. They were lamenting their clients’ biggest challenge: the ability to focus.

The nutritionist said that she was going to stop offering home visits for her clients, because the clients couldn’t focus when she was with them in their homes. “I just see them looking past me, nodding, and I know they aren’t hearing a word I say. They just can’t focus.”

The lactation consultant shared how bad she felt that she had to ask her clients to come into her office with babies just one or two months old. “But if I go to their house, a 90-minute consultation becomes a 3-hour endeavor! They just can’t focus.”

The life coach (me) shared that although she coaches clients via Skype and on the phone, it’s becoming harder to do so. “Ten years ago, I’d ask them to sit in a quiet room, with paper and a pad, away from media. And they would do it. Now, they tell me they’re doing it, but I can hear them checking email, going online, and answering the door while they’re in the middle of a session. I can just feel it when they check out. Which is wild to me — because after all, this is their time for themselves.”

We three agreed that although we are in a culture of time poverty, much of it seems to be self-inflicted. Can you step away from media for an hour? Of course you can. Focus is the key to change. And we agreed that when their clients get a chance to step away, take a quiet moment from themselves and be present, the health effects are tangible.

Marina Abramovic, Performance Artist

Marina Abramovic, Performance Artist

We sighed and walked over to the bar to get a glass of wine, where we met a yoga instructor. We explained our frustration, and she told us about a NPR story she was listening to recently about an artist (Marina Abramovic) who was asking all patrons to “check in” for half an hour before they could engage in her latest performance. She requires the audience to remove all devices (including watches), and wear noise canceling headsets for half an hour before a pianist performs the Goldberg Variations (by memory). This brings the audience and the artists into a collective present, from which they are better prepared to engage with the music.

(If you’re interested in attending, the performance is continuing through tomorrow, December 19, at The Armory in NYC.)

Turning off to turn in, and ultimately on is the very baseline of coaching. In fact, I had one client who preferred to work on the phone (versus in person) because she found that while speaking to me in person, she would say certain things to elicit a response from me — a positive look or a smile. She was less true to herself and her own thoughts in the social setting of my office.

When coaching clients, I am not imparting wisdom, or sharing information they need to retain. I am asking you to clear your space, and clear your head to allow yourself to think.

It is amazing how difficult that can be to just clear the space (and trust me, I get it — there’s a lot of comfort in “doing” — just ask anyone trying to meditate for the first time).

Life coach

Be present.

But clearing the space, or turning off to turn on is a most important thing. Without it, you’ll be stuck in the rut of your current thoughts, unable to move up, out, and ultimately on.

One of the best part of being a coach is giving someone else your complete and total focus — meditating on another, if you will. It’s why my husband likes to watch sports; he can get completely engrossed in something inconsequential (my words), and relax.

And yes, cell phones and ubiquitous availability are at the heart of this problem. But there’s another way; and this article offers 9 good reasons to turn off your smart phone.

Just a couple helpful reminders from me, Marina, and Inc. magazine in this togetherness time of year.