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The 3 Happiness Assassins and What You Can Do to Control Them

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We all have those nights when we are suddenly wide awake and thinking about a problem or something we fear may happen. Fear is the ringleader of the gang of three known as the Happiness Assassins: Doubt. Worry. Circumstantial evidence. It is not just in our sleep we must watch out for this group of hoodlums. They lurk around corners waiting to pounce at all hours of the day.

The “assassins” are simply a part of our thought process. It takes some self-awareness to realize that our thoughts are not necessarily the truth, but we go through life mostly presuming what we think is true. Beliefs are nothing more than firmly held opinions born out of a thought – yours or someone else’s.

Unsupervised, our mind is like a big foster home taking in anyone who knocks on the door. I’d like you to consider that not all thoughts deserve our full attention. We have every right to pass on the ones that don’t serve us. Too often, we invite them in way past their usefulness. My rule of thumb is if you don’t play nice, go away.

We are rarely without thought. People who claim to have trouble meditating often refer to the issue as having a “monkey mind.” Meditation is not being without thought. Thoughts are as automatic as breathing or digestion. The idea is to control them when they come knocking.

Before we take those assassins out, one by one, know that there is nothing that is not subject to individual interpretation. A tree doesn’t occur to a painter as it does to an expert on rainforests, or even a firefighter. A squirrel has an entirely different take on the subject. Nevermind art, music, politics, and law. Interpretation is rampant. To recognize it as such is to relax the need to be right on most subjects.

Below are the three happiness assassins:

1. Worry

Worry is a future based version of interpretation. It takes us out of the present moment and is powerful enough to change our moods, cause us to miss out on the present moment, react defensively, and make us sick. It is hope turned inside out. It dresses itself in gloom. Our antidote to worry is to use your imagination. Imagine the best outcome. Or if you can’t let it go, put your mind somewhere else entirely.

“Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment.” – Dale Carnegie

2. Doubt

A common question many of us have asked ourselves at one time or another is “Am I good enough?” That is a question filled with doubt and so unspecific as to be unanswerable. We inherit not trusting ourselves based on other people’s opinions or a past experience. But at some point, we must take control of our lives, our self-talk.

Confidence isn’t a real thing. It’s a stand we take. It’s as easy to take a leap of faith as it is a leap of doubt. Doubt makes us curl inward, not trusting our path or ourselves. Kill off doubt with action. If you doubt something you want to happen will come to pass, do something to make it happen. If I think my boss is going to berate me because of this month’s metrics, I could proactively come up with a plan on how we will excel in the future.

Confidence and proactivity are what moves the needle. How do you become confident?  Act thusly. Ask any actor who is freaking out before walking on stage.

3. Circumstantial Evidence

Also known as acting “out of context,” we jump to conclusions based on partial information.  Some of it is silly and some is very harmful. Silly: I thought the man in the mirror was flirting with me in an exercise class. It turns out his weights were too heavy. He was grimacing.  Harmful: A police officer shoots someone in a red jacket moving quickly away from the scene of a crime because the officer was told the suspect was in a bright color coat.

“As you think, so you become…..Our busy minds are forever jumping to conclusions, manufacturing and interpreting signs that aren’t there.” – Epictetus

If You Are Going to Lie Awake

I hope what keeps you up at night is joyful anticipation. I hope what keeps you up at night is crafting solutions and knowing that you can be freer than you have ever known by being in positive action and showing the assassins the way out before they get in.

How do you overcome constant worry, doubt, and jumping to conclusions? Share your tips with us below!

Known throughout her career as the happiness expert, Nanci Sherman was raised in New York City and earned a B.S in Journalism and Communications at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Nanci revolutionized the industry and consulted on leadership and motivation on three continents. Nanci raises the bar on happiness. Her personal quest has been "How do I live an extraordinary life?" Nanci studied with some of the greatest experts in the field of self-development and personal growth. She synthesized their teachings, expanded upon them, and translated this into her work success and life. You could say she is “terminally” happy and wants to pass that recipe for joy onto you. You will find her enthusiasm to be infectious, and her insights to be profound. She is a Happiness and Leadership Coach, Hotel Revolutionary and an established Author.

Life

Meditation for Beginners: How It Works and Where to Start

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Meditation was first developed in India many years ago (around 5000-3500 BCE). It took quite some time to become popular in the western world, but today, it is celebrated as a therapeutic tool to ease stress, anxiety, depression, and addictions. In the past years, it has also become recognized as helping to improve mental performance, and consequently became a multi-billion dollar business. If you’ve never tried it, you may be wondering how something so simple as sitting with your eyes closed could deliver such incredible benefits.

How meditation works

Meditation is about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective over one’s thoughts. Many think that meditating is about trying to achieve a zen state of mind, but that’s not the point. Observing one’s thoughts, and then letting go of them so that eventually you may start to better understand them, is the real goal of each meditation practice.

There are different techniques to go through this mental process. Some focus on the breath and bodily sensation, others make you visualize an object, and others help you to channel your thoughts towards acts of love and kindness.

A typical meditation session involves you sitting on a chair or cross-legged on the floor with your eyes closed. Once you assume a comfortable position and focus on your breath, you should start noticing your thoughts. At this point, according to what type of technique you’re using, you will try to let those thoughts go away by focusing on something else (this could be your breath or a mental image you created).

With time and practice, you may be able to reach a state of mind where very few thoughts (or none) are present. Despite the simplicity of this process, meditating for more than ten minutes is extremely tough for most. Many people that try meditation get discouraged by the fact that “they can’t stop thinking.” In fact, it has been proven that people spend most of their days being anything but mindful and peaceful.

In a 2010 study, Harvard researchers asked more than 2000 adults about their thoughts and actions at random moments throughout their day via an iPhone app. People’s minds wandered 47% of the time, and mind wandering often triggered unhappiness, the scientists reported.

They also observed that spending time observing our thoughts without getting stuck on them, may help to better understand oneself, and possibly being able to reduce the number of negative thoughts one experiences.

“The mind is definitely something that can be transformed, and meditation is a means to transform it.” – Dalai Lama

What science says about meditation

People have practiced meditation for thousands of years, but scientists have studied its effects for only a dozen. In the past few years, many studies have been published about the neurological benefits of meditation, proving it to improve brain function in many different ways.

Meditation’s benefits range from preserving the aging brain, to improving happiness by reducing the activity of the brain’s “me center” (monkey mind). A more recent study has even proven that meditation is as powerful as antidepressants in treating depression, anxiety, and pain. Many more studies are being conducted every day on meditation, and we can expect to gain a lot more insight in the near future.

Can anyone meditate?

Millions of people are practicing mindfulness meditation every day with great results, but there are also as many people that have tried meditating and didn’t like it or didn’t manage to be consistent with their practice. The most important part of developing a meditation practice is consistency. You don’t have to meditate every single day, but the benefits are tied to regular, consistent practice.

Some studies claim that some benefits of meditation such as improved mood, decreased stress and decreased blood pressure, can be felt after a single session. Some other benefits like increased focus and decreased anxiety may be experienced after a few weeks and others take longer to develop.

Some people claim that as little as five minutes of meditation per day can make miracles, but research shows that a regular practice associated with benefits involves 10-20 minutes of meditation at least three times per week.

“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.” – Mother Teresa

What’s the best way to begin a meditation practice?

A good place to start for aspiring mediators is Headspace. Andy Puddicombe, a former English student in sport science, dropped his studies to travel to Asia and trained as a Buddhist monk. He created Headspace with the goal of helping millions of people to live a more mindful life. Over 30 million people have downloaded and use headspace. This is due to his simplicity and its beautiful design and animations.

Do you meditate? If so, what’s your favorite aspect of it? Share your thoughts below!

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Life

What The Lion King Can Teach You About Self-Esteem

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Image Credit: Disney

Did you know that having high self-esteem can make the difference between being truly successful or a total loser? If you’re suffering from low self-esteem, your success probabilities are highly impaired because your confidence level will be reflected in all the areas of your life without discrimination.

You’re Not Alone

Maybe you think that you’re born insecure and that there’s no cure for that. Perhaps you believe you can change, but you don’t know how to make that transformation happen. The good news is you can change. Your self-esteem level is something that can be hacked, just like any other psychological factor.

However, what if your disbelief in improving your self-esteem is the real cause to why you’re still stuck? Keep reading because in this article I’ll give you 3 simple tips with which you can raise your self-esteem today.

What’s Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem, as the American psychologist Nathaniel Branden said, is the psychological condition when we feel effective in front life’s challenges and when we feel worthy of success and happiness. As I said before, everybody can increase their self-esteem levels naturally. The bad news is that authentic self-esteem never comes for free, and we need to work hard to grow our self-esteem through our thoughts and actions.

“A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.” – Mark Twain

What ‘The Lion King’ Can Teach You About Self-Esteem

To help you better grasp this concept, I will refer to my favorite Disney classic, the Lion King. When Simba’s father (Mufasa) died after having been hit by the herd of wildebeests, he was advised by Scar (his uncle) to leave his father’s kingdom and never to come back since Scar made Simba believe that Mufasa’s death was his fault.

Simba left the kingdom with a heavy feeling of guilt, consequently losing his own identity and self-confidence. He had also lost his primary reference point in life, his father, who taught him everything about life on the savannah, and the natural order of the “Circle of Life” that had to be respected to make everything function harmoniously.

Simba was supposed to be the next king of the savannah, but he didn’t feel confident to come back and reign over the animal kingdom. He also didn’t feel worthy of the king role he was destined to have because his true identity had been taken away.

Only when he meets Rafiki (that holds the position of wise mentor), he goes through a forest (his subconscious mind) and arrives at a small pool (his subconscious self-image) where Mufasa appears again in the form of a reflection. Then, Simba gets into a trance-like state where he has the vision of his father taking the nebulous form of a cloud that tells him, “remember who you are.”

The trance state is so deep that Simba is shocked by his vision and realizes who he really is along with his role in the circle of life. He thus gets back his self-worth and self-confidence, along with the drive to come back to the animal kingdom to bring the order back again.

As you can see, this cartoon that is destined to children, holds so many truths that we adults can benefit from as well.

My Struggle With Low Self-Esteem

In my personal experience, I also had periods of time where I lost my identity and struggled with my own self-worth. An example was after I had been bullied during my teenage years,

I didn’t feel worthy anymore to succeed, and I sabotaged myself many times on various occasions, especially with women as I didn’t feel enough for their attention and love. Then, I realized that I had let those bullies take control of my self-worth that was indeed intact before being insulted. 

I had allowed the bullies to transfer their problems onto me, just like Scar influenced Simba because of how much he hated himself and his life. As soon as I got this awareness, I started to gain my power back because I knew that deep within me, I had so much potential to express. That was my story, but this post is for you, so it’s time to talk about how you can raise your self-esteem.

Here are the 3 steps you can apply from today to build your self esteem:

1. Remember Who You Are

Remember who you are. Remember your true identity that might have been stolen from you from somebody else as it happened to Simba in The Lion King or to me after having been bullied. 

To understand this, you can ask yourself the following questions: Who are you at your best moments? Who are you when nobody’s watching? Which kind of person are you deep within?

2. Acknowledge Your Strengths

Only by knowing what your strengths are, you can leverage them to reach the goals you really care about faster and more effectively. Everybody has some strengths; we just need to have enough self-awareness to understand what those strengths are and use them to our advantage.

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

3. Acknowledge Your Weaknesses

You also need to know what your weaknesses are because we all have vulnerabilities and unless we spot, acknowledge, and accept them, we can’t really unleash our full self-acceptance. 

That’s true because our weaknesses are what make us imperfect and thus humans. Moreover, the acceptance of your weaknesses is another way to raise your self-esteem and to get help from other people that can complement your shortcomings with their strengths.

To conclude, your self-esteem levels will highly determine how successful you’ll become in any area of your life. Everybody has to find his or her worth and confidence within, and unless you see it for yourself, nobody will ever be able to give it to you as that’s something that even the richest man in the world can’t buy with his billions.

Self-esteem must be cultivated consistently and, if you do this, then a tremendous amount of self-confidence and self-respect will be naturally brought to you.

How do you cultivate your own self-esteem so you remain strong and level-headed? Share your thoughts with us below!

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How to Harness the Power of Your Personal Narrative

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Are you “living up” or “living down” to your personal narrative? When you set out to achieve an important goal, you’ll come face-to-face with many obstacles, such as starting a new business and not having your prospects reply to your prospecting emails. Perhaps you’ve had an interview for a new job and learned you didn’t make the final round of applicants. 

In those difficult moments, you have to have an internal conversation with yourself, known as self-talk. What do you say? How do you feel? You may find yourself succumbing to negativity or failing to believe in your own self-worth. If so, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. We’re all easily overwhelmed by our doubts and fears, because it’s what makes us human.

However, these feelings can not only shape a sense of identity, but also allow our doubt and fear to determine the outcome. When this happens, it’s vital to understand how to have the courage and conviction to move forward despite the obstacles. This includes moving forward in the midst of struggling, even when success seems lightyears away. This may seem daunting, but the answer is right in front of us. It lies in our personal narrative.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

What is a personal narrative?

A personal narrative is a life-script that is often followed without question or protest. The conversations you have internally, known as self-talk, make up the core component to our personal narrative. Your self talk represents a powerful belief system that’s baked into our day-to-day existence.

Each of us possess a personal narrative that encompasses a belief system that shapes us and what we see as possible in our lives. As a result, we either ​live up or ​live down to that personal narrative.

While a personal narrative is the starting place, it’s a powerful one. On one hand, when a negative narrative becomes suffocating, it can be hard to escape. This will lead you to foster the belief that you’re incapable of accomplishing something, ensuring that you’ll be less likely to continue to take the necessary steps in the direction of a dream

Your narrative may be so powerful that you may just assume the worst, ending any possibility for you to put in the necessary time, effort and perseverance required to achieve a different outcome.

“The inner speech, your thoughts, can cause you to be rich or poor, loved or unloved, happy or unhappy, attractive or unattractive, powerful or weak.” – Ralph Charell

Cultivating positive narratives

On the other hand, what if we possessed personal narratives that were more positive? This  is not just positive thinking, because it is the practice of consciously cultivating a narrative that you could live up to instead​. Imagine how a more positive narrative could support more preferable outcomes.

In life, this may sound like, “I plan to do well in this interview, so I am going to take every action to support that expectation – like working with a career coach.” Or it may sound like, “Because I am someone who tries hard even when I am overwhelmed or uncomfortable, I am going to ask for help if I feel stuck.” That way, when a challenge arises – as they always do, you will grow to trust in your ability to navigate it.

The more you practice this, the more you will come to realize that your personal narrative really represents the essence of who you are. Your self-talk will evolve into someone who plans to do well during an interview, a business meeting, or a workout class because you become someone who invests in their personal well-being as an extension of your self-concept.

Cultivating positive narratives is not a what-if situation. It is an intentional practice that everyone can benefit from. It provides the framework for who you can become. Most importantly, it’s the key to help us transform into the best version of ourselves, while defending our dreams against a spiral of fear or self-doubt.

So, what does your personal narrative sound like? And how can you live up to it? Share with us below!

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5 Reasons It’s Important to Understand What You Want to Do With Your Life

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No matter your age or your place in life, it is perfectly normal to not know exactly what your next steps should be. There are many factors that can contribute to this situation but it is always important to remember that everything happens for a reason and that this will help you build a much happier you.

There are many ways for you to understand what you should be doing with your life and there are just as many reasons why you should work towards getting a better understanding of those reasons.

If you wish to turn any situation around and start working towards finding your purpose, here are some of the most important reasons why:

1. You will be able to set long term goals for the future

Setting long term goals is one of the things that will help you feel more secure and certain about your future. Instead of relying on living day by day and trying to figure out what your next steps will be without having a future ultimate goal, you will now be able to plan accordingly so that your every step will bring you a step closer to making that dream come true.

One of the things many people forget though is that every plan, no matter how well-organized and planned out it is, will need to be adapted to every situation the person is experiencing. Knowing what your ultimate goal is will help you handle every change of plans with more confidence and will allow you to manoeuvre every situation and turn your problems into positive outcomes.

2. You will get rid of a lot of anxiety

One of the best things about finally getting a better understanding of what you wish to do with your life is that you will finally start feeling less anxious and unsure about the future. Having a certain plan you can follow and looking forward to making a big goal come true will help rid yourself of negative thoughts and allow you to be able to focus on achieving your dreams.

Anxiety is a very common problem in the time we live in and it can make a lot of people feel less productive and scared to take risks, especially in a professional manner. As a result, they tend to hold themselves back and do fewer things than they are capable of, simply because they are too scared to dare.

Realizing what you wish to do in your life and working towards achieving your goals will help you feel less stressed and even if you do, this type of anxiety could actually help you be much more productive and eager to do your best in order to make your dreams manifest into reality.

3. You will be much happier

Understanding what you wish to do in your life will truly help you finally figure out what you are meant to do in your life. For some people, it can help them find their purpose and give them a new perspective on everything they do in their everyday life.

This will help you feel a lot happier and will put your mind at ease, as you won’t have to continue wondering if the path you have chosen to follow is the right one for you or not. Feeling more certain of your decisions will help you feel a lot more confident and happier since you will feel strong enough to overcome anything that might come your way from now and on.

4. You won’t lose time or energy on smaller goals

Setting shorter goals without knowing what you are meant to do in the long run will cost you a lot of energy and time. This will happen as you will spend a lot of time planning out your every move and it will cause you to feel stressed and worried about every little thing going wrong.

Smaller goals will still be important but you won’t spend much time planning them as you would if you didn’t know what your end goal would be. Saving energy and preparing both mentally and physically for reaching your goal will help you achieve a much healthier outlook on dealing with everyday situations and it will make you more excited to complete your ambitions.

5. You will become an expert in one field

Last but not least, another important reason why you should try and understand exactly what you are meant to do in your life is that you will be able to focus all of your time and energy on learning as much as possible and growing only in one certain field.

The uncertainty of having a set goal for your future can make you feel like you need to know many different things in different fields in order to be able to succeed in life and make a living. While having knowledge in various fields is something that will prove to be useful, you will never fully be able to become an expert in one field and make a name for yourself in that sector.

A long term goal will allow you to either study or work full time on one subject you truly enjoy and are good at. This will help you build your reputation, make connections and allow yourself to enjoy and love the path you have chosen even more. As a result, you will be much happier and content with the end goal you have chosen and you will be able to work even harder to achieve all of your dreams.

Working towards a happier you

You might be at a point in your life where you feel like not a lot of things are truly worth your time but the truth is that every little thing you do will help you find what you are meant to do. This will help you feel happy and content and allow you to tackle every issue you come across with much less anxiety and fear.

You will find a lot of stability and comfort in setting a big and important goal for your future and this will allow you to start being more productive and happy to tackle every problem that might come your way. Your life will always be full of surprises and unplanned events but hard work and dedication on your goals will allow you to become the best version of you and enjoy every step of the way.

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