Archive | May 2014

Finding opportunities in challenges

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Difficulties mastered are opportunities won. Winston Churchill

The way we process things all comes down to our perspective on the events that have occurred and the lessons we take with us to grow and help others. The greater the challenge, the more we learn from it and the more opportunities appear right on our doorstep. This week Happiness Weekly looks at how you can find opportunities and lessons in challenging times.

This blog was inspired by a recent trip to the airport. One thing after another kept “going wrong” for me, but instead of getting frustrated by each event, I laughed hysterically at myself. When things like this happen, you have a choice – you can either laugh at it as an outsider would, or get uptight and stressed about it. Life’s short – choose wisely.

After much debate I decided to wear high-heeled boots and look attractive, rather than be practical and wear flats because I hadn’t seen the friend I was visiting for some time. I had a large suitcase, my laptop bag and a large handbag and I struggled with all three as I caught a bus and then a train to the airport – all the while, chatting to a beautiful soul on Facebook, who happens to be a pilot and was keeping me calm about my impending flight.

When I got to the airport I went straight to the automatic check-in point. There were about seven options on how you could check in including scanning a barcode, typing in the reference number, typing in your name etc. Having some time on my hands, I decided to scan the barcode. About ten minutes later (I’m pretty persistent at times!), I stopped attempting to unsuccessfully scan the barcode and typed in my name – which took approximately sixty seconds. The rest of the process took approximately two minutes to complete and I was all checked in.

The lesson I learned in this was that sometimes it really is just easier just to do things the simple way than to attempt to do things because of novelty.

I then start struggling over to the baggage check-in point – on my way stopping to ask an attendant if I would be able to take my fold up umbrella aboard in my carry-on luggage. For those looking to fly domestically in Australia – the answer to this was yes.

I got to the conveyor belt that takes your baggage into the abyss until you hope to see it again at your destination. I placed my bag on the conveyor belt, standing up on its wheels, where it got weighed. What I was convinced weighed a couple of tonne, weighed 15kg. (For a five-night stay interstate, I’ll admit – I probably over-packed a little.) At this point I had my laptop bag on my back, my large handbag over my arm and was clutching onto the boarding pass and receipt for the boarding pass along with the sticker to put on my bag (also known as the luggage sticker). “Goody! I’ve always wanted to do this!” I thought to myself, as I envisaged the lady at the counter doing it for me last time – so seamlessly, so professionally, it probably took about two seconds in total to take the sticker off and wrap it around the handle and off went the bag.

Now it was my turn.

So I removed the sticker. Half of it peeled off seamlessly, just as the checkout lady had done at my previous visit to the airport. It was just as I’d imagined – I could almost have gone for a job at the checkout, I thought to myself. But then: disaster. The other half of the sticker just didn’t go so seamlessly. In fact, it started to tare and as I instinctively tried to use my other hand to separate it – my boarding pass and receipt both got stuck to the sticker. Concentrating, I carefully peeled my boarding pass away – it tore slightly but not too bad … the receipt wasn’t so lucky on the other hand – it tore in half.

So the lesson I learned here was this: when trying to stick the sticker on your bag at the airport, keep your boarding pass and receipt completely clear of the sticker. In fact – put them in your handbag or pocket if you have one. Oh – and just because you visualise something doesn’t mean it’s going to pan out that well for you – make sure you’re adaptable and creative enough to adjust to whatever may happen next!

My next challenge was trying to place the bag down on the conveyor belt. It was a wheelie bag, so I thought if I just tipped it then it would fall flat – but for some reason it didn’t work that way. I ended up rolling my bag up and down the small section of conveyor belt about five times before I physically had to pick the bag up, lie it flat and place it back on the conveyor belt. I watched my bag disappear on the conveyor belt to join other travelling bags. The lesson I learned here was sometimes persistence doesn’t pay!

Next was walking through the scan machines. I carefully placed my handbag, my belt and my backpack into the trays provided and watched them go through the machine. I walked through and all was clear. I then took my bags and started tying my belt back around me. I then received a random request to be scanned for explosives. I agreed. I learned if you wait around for too long, people will take advantage of you – sometimes it’s best not to loiter, take your belt with you and put it on elsewhere!

After that I marched off to the travelator which has been my favourite thing about airports since I was young. I learned that things we enjoyed as children, we may also find enjoyable as adults – even if we’re using it properly (unlike when we were children and would use them as a treadmill). I made sure I walked it on the way home too – just to please my inner child and bring back a few memories to bring a smile to my face.

As you can see, there are lessons in every little thing we do and as long as we learn through our times of despair – as much as we may feel the loser at the time, we come out the winner. It is our perception of the events that happen to us that frames the event. Life events are just events until we frame them – and our perception of these events is based on our beliefs, values and past experiences. For example, laughing at the chaos in my case helped me to view the circumstances in a positive frame of mind.

The ability to learn from things is up to us – for example, if I allowed each of these events to frustrate me perhaps I would have repeated all the same things on the flight home because I wouldn’t have been so receptive to learning from what happened.

When things appear to be mounting against you, have a think about this quote: “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly”. Many people will interpret this in different ways. What does this mean to you? Check out some of these powerful interpretations.

Finding opportunities in challenges is like looking at life like an optical illusion – sometimes they can be two-faced and the opportunity is up to us as to how we interpret it. Have a look at these optical illusions and see what you find – I’ll put answers below. You should be able to see two images in each image below – what do you see?

 

A

old_woman_or_young_miss_best_optical_illusion

 

B

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C

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D

Rose

E

Optical-Illusion

F

duckrabbit

 

Optical Illusion Answers:

A Beautiful woman looking away/Old woman looking to the left

B Old couple looking at each other/Two people in sombreros – one playing a ukulele

C Old man/Person on a white horse

D Rose/Two cherubs kissing

E A man with a moustache looking to the left/A boy with sheep near a village

F Duck/Rabbit

 

Thank you for reading and have a fantastic day!

One step to achieving positive change in your life

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You don’t drown by falling in the water. You drown by staying there. Edwin Louis Cole

Last year my life didn’t move. It was like I was frozen in time. Nothing changed. At all.

I didn’t learn anything (other than what I researched for my blog), I didn’t do anything new or exciting (because I was so busy trying to facilitate that for others) and my life just stayed exactly the same. I couldn’t help but compare it to the year before when everything changed all at once: new job, new home, new relationship.

It was frustrating for me because I am usually good at initiating change in my life, but I couldn’t find what was anchoring me down. I was stuck. My self-esteem was at an all-time low. I couldn’t make anything happen and just as I was on the verge of making something happen, I’d back down.

I stopped believing in myself.

Yet here’s the thing: in this year of nothingness I wanted change and almost expected it to happen without me even trying.

It wasn’t long before I developed something that I call “I’ll believe it when I see it depression” – unless something happened to demonstrate change was imminent, I didn’t believe anything would change, so I wasn’t going to bother trying. I remained completely unmotivated.

Fortunately, once I cut myself from the anchor, and started working on myself, I was able to turn things around. I started by taking a big step and left that relationship I’d gotten into – over time I have found the bigger the step you take, the greater the change. Not surprisingly, this year is completely different. My confidence is restored, I feel as though I’m in control again and I love life!

This week Happiness Weekly looks at how you can overcome this “I’ll believe it when I see it depression” and make positive change happen in just one simple step.

I heard a fantastic quote the other day that I wanted to share with you:

“If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the road to heaven (happiness) is created by good actions. To take action, just do it. Do it now!”

The rule of thumb here is: in order to get out this “I’ll believe it when I see it depression”, we need to take action to encourage positive change and keep taking steps until we reach our goal. In other words, we’re turning things around to enables us to see it before we believe it! How do we do that?

1. Stop what you’re doing

Stop what you’re doing and be mindful of any rituals you’re currently following. Think about where your values are and whether your priorities align with them. What is most important to you – and why? Are you following through with these things or have you forgotten about yourself? How are these rituals you are following serving you?

2. Discover what’s holding you back

Realistically assess what you’re spending your time on – is this holding you back? It didn’t take me long to realise what I was spending my time on was doing nothing for me, and when really honest with myself, I acknowledged it was depleting my self-esteem – and it was my fault! I was spending 95% of my energy on a relationship with a narcissist – my anchor – and I was choosing to remain in it even though friends and family disapproved, it didn’t align with my values (despite his best attempts to cover it up – it was an affair), and it wasn’t doing anything positive for me at all. Once acknowledging this, I could concentrate on the steps I needed to take in order to get out of there.

3. Do what’s in your control

If you can make change happen, within your control, do it! Generally if you have “I’ll believe it when I see it depression” you would have been procrastinating for quite some time… so you know what changes you want to make but you never quite got there. Today is the day you give yourself permission to make change within your control happen. If you’ve been looking at renting a property, if you’ve been thinking about studying, if you’re looking at jobs but not applying… STOP HOLDING YOURSELF BACK! Make it happen!

4. Don’t be scared of eliminating blocks

This is a big one – sometimes taking steps to remove our blocks is exactly what is holding us back from making positive changes to our life. What if it means the difference between being with your partner and being on your own? It sounds scary. OK, go into your imagination for a moment – and fast forward time by 10 years, imagine your life once you have removed the block and the positive change has happened as result. What do you look like? How are you behaving? What’s changed around you? Now weigh up if you want that anchor tying you down, or not.

5. Empower yourself

We all have a lot more control than we think we do in any given situation – don’t wait for someone to save you, save yourself! Empower yourself. Depend on yourself to make the right decision. Trust yourself. Love yourself enough to let go of something that’s hindering your happiness. The key to making positive change happen is setting goals to help you out of your situation. Define a goal as positively as you can and then write down what steps you need to take to get there. Then choose just one of those steps and action is today! Some people take little steps, others – like me – like to start with the toughest step to get the biggest impact and make the most dramatic change. There’s no right or wrong. Once you have actioned that one step, you are one step closer to achieving positive change in your life.

Remember this in trying to move forward, no matter how scary that first step appears to be:

If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place. Nora Roberts.

Why strangers make us happy and how to repay them

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Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change. Bob Kerrey (1943)

The kindness of strangers has the power to improve our wellbeing and increase our feelings of happiness more than our normal friendship circle. How do I figure this? Imagine you have been hurt or let down by someone you trusted and thought you knew. You’re just looking to vent and for someone to listen to your story.

First you talk to a friend, they listen, and offer you their opinion and give advice in an attempt to try to lift you back up. You can sense their empathy and genuine care in their response which makes you feel somewhat better and your day continues as normal.

Now imagine the same scenario, but this time you’re talking to a complete stranger. You tell them your story and they listen. They then respond in a way that shows they identify or can relate to your situation, they offer you their opinion based on what they have heard and understood, and advise you accordingly. All of a sudden you feel less alone and your faith in humanity is restored and it’s like the sun has started shining through a grey sky – your day almost feels better, more fulfilled, than when you spoke to your friend. The happiness you feel as a result of the correspondence with the stranger barely compares to how you felt after communicating with your friend about the same issue.

This week Happinesss Weekly looks at why strangers can have a greater impact on your happiness than your friends.

 

Why strangers do it better

There are several reasons why strangers have the power to make us feel happier than our usual circle of friends – this could be why internet dating is becoming more popular and a more acceptable way of meeting someone and finding love. Here are some of the reasons why strangers can appeal to us more than our friends:

 

– Our expectations

The fact is we expect our friends to care about our wellbeing and therefore subconsciously depend on them to listen to us, side with us and support us unconditionally through all turbulence. It’s a part of friendship that almost all of us take for granted.

In the case of a complete stranger, we have no expectations. When a stranger is entirely removed from a situation and shows us kindness, we appreciate the time they take to actively listen to our story more than when our friends show us the same courtesy. Then if the stranger passes judgement that validates our feelings or actions, we start to feel better understood and less alone.

Although a stranger may have responded the same way as our friends, they exceed our expectations because we didn’t have any to begin with.

 

– The “stranger danger” belief

Strangers may also have an advantage over our friends because as children we were made acutely aware of “stranger danger”. These messages shaped our beliefs that strangers are a threat and potential danger.

Even now, despite statistics showing that someone we know who is a greater threat to us than a stranger, the media often highlight stories that demonstrate the opposite. When a stranger offers us kindness, our receptors instantly flick on warning us to be wary and we begin to question their motives and what could be in it for us.

It is when the kindness of a stranger is proven to be genuine and consequence-free, despite what we were programmed to understand, we often find ourselves pleasantly surprised.

As adults, neglecting or rejecting the kindness of strangers can force us to be confined and limited, so if we challenge this “stranger danger” belief, it enables us to work together to make a positive difference in each other’s lives.

 

– The selfish world we live in

Society often finds people first looking for the “what’s in it for me” before taking action in any situation. We all do it, whether it’s because we’re all time-poor in this fast-paced world or we’re simply becoming more selfish by the generation.

You may even notice that marketing campaigns are starting to lean towards commercial bribery as they become more aware that if they can’t convince the consumers that there’s something in it for them, it’s nearly impossible to motivate anyone to take action, let alone convince people to try a new product.

We are starting to value time more than ever before which is why when a stranger takes a moment to act selflessly towards us it leaves us feeling good because they have given up time to be thoughtful.

 

– About the kindness movement

This theory that strangers can have a greater impact on us than our friends isn’t new. Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel Pay It Forward published in 2000, which was adapted into the film starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment in the same year, may have inspired the movement that encourages random acts of kindness towards strangers.

Whenever it began, adults are now being actively encouraged to be more mindful of each other and to demonstrate random acts of kindness where they can. The stigma associated with strangers being dangerous is deteriorating as more people embrace the “Pay it Forward” movement.

 

How you can make a positive difference to a stranger

The purpose of the following activities is to do something nice for someone without expecting anything in return – It doesn’t have to be expensive and there’s no need to go above and beyond when you choose to demonstrate a random act of kindness for a stranger.

– Buy someone’s coffee in the coffee shop

– Help a student with their tuition

– Teach someone something new

– Volunteer for a charity

– Let someone in front of you in the grocery store line

– Hand-write a letter to someone telling them how important they are to you

– Speak up for someone – sign a petition, write a letter, be a referee for a job

– Work pro bono where your skills are needed

– Compliment a stranger

– Give up your seat when taking crowded public transport

– Listen to someone without interruption

– Greet someone in the elevator

– Hold the door open for someone

– Explain the Pay it Forward concept to someone

– Take part in Pay it Forward Day on 22 April. Find more information here.

 

For more ideas on how you can show kindness to others, follow the free Thrive Happiness Challenge application.

Happiness Weekly is on holidays!

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To my loyal Happiness Weekly supporters,

First, I would like to welcome all my new followers! I am so happy to have you with me.

For those of you who have been following for a bit longer, I want to thank you for your ongoing support and also in continuing your journey with me and for working to proactively improve your life and make a positive difference to the lives surrounding you.

It has been two years and I have released a blog post every week without fail, but now it is time for me to go on holidays which is going to affect this! So this is just a courtesy note to let you know that Happiness Weekly will be offline for a couple of months. During this time no posts will be released and my Facebook account will be deactivated, however, if you’re looking for motivational quotes and some inspiration to keep you going, my Twitter account will remain active and the Happiness Weekly blog will also be active, if you wish to leave comment or see previous articles. If you have any questions or need assistance during this time, I will be contactable via email: info@happinessweekly.org.

Upon my return to the online world in July, I will release my articles on a daily basis until we’re back up-to-date. So don’t worry, you won’t miss a thing!

During this break, I will not only be relaxing on tropical shores, but also be working hard to bring you something that I couldn’t previously offer. I have eluded that there are some very exciting changes ahead for Happiness Weekly. Stay tuned, for the next announcement to find out what this means for you!

In the meantime, keep strong, keep smiling and keep positive under all circumstances.

Catch you in July!

Best wishes,

Sarah.

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