SPRING INTO SPRING!! 7 Ways to Be More Optimistic

We set the clocks ahead for daylight savings and many of us woke up to a darker sky feeling sluggish thanks to a one hour loss of sleep. If you hit the snooze, pulled the covers up over your head still feeling bummed out about your waistline, bank account, career or love life, you’re not alone. Despite more daylight our worries will still be there. So how do we spring into spring, a season that’s all about new beginnings and rebirth? For practical ways, to cultivate optimism in our lives we turned to Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a NYC based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services who shares these tips and tools.

1. Focus on the good.

“A daily exercise I often have my patients do is keep an appreciation or gratitude journal. When you focus on all the things to be happy for in your life then more great things come. Think generally and use your senses. What do you appreciate seeing, smelling, touching, tasting, listening to? Write it down. Within a few weeks you’ll train the mind to pivot to an appreciate thought when a negative thought comes,” explains Dr. Hafeez.

2. Make plans.

Making plans to see relatives, to see a new exhibit a movie or to travel gets our mind moving forward towards something positive that we can be hopeful and optimistic about. Dr. Hafeez suggests making plans to do 3 things per month for the next 3 months. “Choose things that you know will bring you joy and then go do them! Feeling excited about what is coming and talking about how fun it will be keeps us optimistic and forward moving,” says Dr. Hafeez.

3. Control what you can, delegate the rest!

We get pessimistic and worry about the worst possible outcomes when we realize that we cannot control every detail. This leads to anxiety and an even stronger feeling of having to control conditions, and even others. According to Dr. Hafeez, this is a trap. “Figure out what needs to get done. What actions you can take. Then let go of anything else that is beyond your control with faith that everything will turn out fine. Envision the desired outcome,” advises Dr. Hafeez.

4. Limit your news watching and avoid it before bed.

“There is a very common pattern I see people falling into,” says Hafeez. “People awaken and immediately reach for their smartphone for news headlines. They then turn on the TV news as background noise. They listen to news in their cars, have news alerts going off on their phones all day, catch the evening news and then the 11pm news before bed. No wonder they’re less optimistic! What you choose to look at will impact your mood. Remember, good news doesn’t get ratings,” she adds.

5. Don’t snooze. Instead just breathe.

When the alarm goes off give yourself a few minutes to just lie there, eyes closed focused on your breathing. Breathe in counting to 4 and then breathe out. Do a mental scan of your entire body from head to toe thanking your cells for restoring you as you slept. “Deep breathing is a form of meditation and in the morning, you have a small window of opportunity to decide what kind of day you want it to be,” says Dr. Hafeez.

6. Distract yourself with something that requires focus.

The key here is to pick something you truly enjoy doing and do it daily. It can be painting, coloring, yoga, a 20-minute walk or jog, listening to music and dancing around your living room. “When you are fully engaged in something, you can’t ruminate which leads to pessimism,” explains Dr. Hafeez.

7. Make feeling good top priority.

When you commit to feeling good you instantly start to think more optimistically. According to Dr. Hafeez, when you’re mindful of your own negativity and shift to a better feeling positive thought you feel powerful. You’ll feel like you can conquer anything when you can master your own mindset.

About the Author

Dr. Sanam Hafeez PsyD is a NYC based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C. a neuropsychological, developmental and educational center in Manhattan and Queens.

Dr. Hafeez masterfully applies her years of experience connecting psychological implications to address some of today’s common issues such as body image, social media addiction, relationships, workplace stress, parenting and psychopathology (bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, etc…). In addition, Dr. Hafeez works with individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), learning disabilities, attention and memory problems, and abuse. Dr. Hafeez often shares her credible expertise to various news outlets in New York City and frequently appears on CNN and Dr.Oz.

Connect with her via twitter @comprehendMind or www.comprehendthemind.com

Creating a Life that Matters

Note: This is a guest post by Pete Bissonette.

Are you doing what matters most to you?

Does your work give your life meaning?

I’m not asking whether you are happy, but whether your life has meaning.

A study in the Journal of Positive Psychology examined attitudes toward happiness and meaning. It showed a meaningful life and a happy life overlap in certain ways, but are ultimately different.

“While happiness is an emotion felt in the here and now, it ultimately fades away, just as all emotions do,” wrote Emily Esfahani Smith about the study in The Atlantic. “The amount of time people report feeling good or bad correlates with happiness but not at all with meaning. Meaning, on the other hand, is enduring. It connects the past to the present to the future.”

Another study confirmed this, she said. “People who have meaning in their lives, in the form of a clearly defined purpose, rate their satisfaction with life higher even when they were feeling bad than those who did not have a clearly defined purpose.”

Giving your work meaning can be a simple shift in perspective, as it was for me.

Back in the 1990s the focus of our company, Learning Strategies, was to sell more audio programs and enrollments. We were sales oriented as were most companies.

Then we switched our mindset from selling to helping more people experience their potential, and two things happened. First, I felt more fulfilled and happier, and second, our business grew significantly. The level of meaning in my life increased considerably as did the success we enjoyed.

My colleague Stewart Emery and his co-authors of the book Success Built to Last interviewed two hundred of the world’s most successful people and uncovered the same experiences.

“Above all else, no matter where they have chosen to excel—in business, the arts, sports, social service, community, or family—each has achieved success by focusing on the things that matter most to them,” he said.

“Enduringly successful people follow their hearts, aligning their thoughts and actions with their passions,” said Stewart. “They become energized by their work and stay on purpose and committed in the face of setbacks and challenges.”

I couldn’t agree with him more. During our company’s long-term success, there have been some extremely difficult times. But as long as we held fast to our vision to serve others, we really never had to worry. It fueled everything we did.

To create a life that matters to you, consider the following:

  • What gives your life meaning? What brings you the greatest joy? Loving what you do and who you are is the greatest motivator for building lasting success. Just shifting our company focus from sales to impacting people, gave me and our staff meaning, and it continues twenty years later. Is there a shift like that you can make?
  • Are your thoughts toxic or supportive? Are negative thoughts and self-doubt or the criticism of others drowning out that voice inside of your head—that whisper or “silent scream” telling you what really matters? Learn to responsibly manage your thoughts in ways that keep you on track to your goals, despite obstacles or burdens you will undoubtedly face.
  • Are you taking action? What are you doing to bring you closer to your goals or attract into your life people and activities that will support you? While meaning drives success, meaning without action will get you nowhere.

When you align your thoughts and actions with what gives your life meaning, you magnify your passion and impart greater clarity to your purpose than ever before.

About the Author

Pete Bissonette is author of the forthcoming novel, Breakfast Tea & Bourbon, where living a meaningful and joyous life weaves through the story. He is the president of Minneapolis-based Learning Strategies, a personal development training and publishing company founded in 1981. For more about his novel, please visit: http://www.breakfastteaandbourbon.com/

The Power Of Getting Outside Your Comfort Zone

Setting goals usually mean being placed outside of your comfort zone. This can scare the you-know-what out of the best of people. The truth is, people don’t like change. But change is the one true thing that people can depend on.

Setting goals are about making changes. It’s often about doing things you have never tried before. This puts people into the neighborhood of the unknown. But that which scares us can also be what gets us to take action. That’s where the power of getting outside of your comfort zone comes into play.

The Power of Getting Outside Your Comfort Zone

It’s important to know your capabilities and be aware of any weaknesses. For instance, if you have never tried competitive diving before, it would not be wise to dive off platforms right off the bat. Start small, and work up as you become more proficient in the smaller diving boards.

But you shouldn’t shy away from diving if it’s something you have always wanted to try. Find a qualified trainer and give it a shot. You won’t know if it’s right for you unless you make the effort.

Another aspect of going outside of your comfort zone is the head rush that many people experience when it happens. For instance, if you have ever tried skydiving, you would know what this is about. The fear is definitely there, but the exhilaration is what brings people to do it over again. Of course, it won’t be right for everyone. But if you do get hooked, think about that the next time you are looking to try something new. If you don’t go for it, you won’t get that extraordinary feeling.

This doesn’t just work for risky sports. It can be for other experiences like taking on a new career or starting a new business. These activities may not give you the instant head rush as those risky sports. But they can give you a feeling of exhilaration that lasts for a longer term basis.

People will never push forward if they don’t try something that they are not comfortable with. This is why it’s called the comfort zone and is why it is used as a reference to breaking through. It may not work as you planned but you will learn something at any point of the journey. They will likely be experiences that you can tell your grandkids about which may leave them awestruck. There is nothing more powerful than that!

Reach Your Goals with a Goal Buddy

There are plenty of people who have similar goals to you. Maybe not exactly as what you are looking to accomplish, but close enough to share. This is why it may be worthwhile to find a goal buddy.

A goal buddy is someone that can help keep you on track while you return the favor. It is someone who can help motivate you when you are not feeling up to taking the required actions towards your goals. It’s also someone who will have a list of actions you need to take to achieve your goals, and you will have the same for him or her.

Agree upfront on the type of relationship you will have with your goal buddy. Are you going to check in with each other daily? Maybe all you need is to check in weekly. Decide the means on how you are going to communicate. Are you going to phone each other or will you do it via email? Doing it via email can leave an audit trail, which can be good if any disputes arise.

You may choose a friend for your goal buddy but if you do, make sure they are trying to accomplish similar goals. Sometimes, though, it may be worth it to find someone you don’t know to act as your goal buddy. Not only will you make a new friend, but the person may be less forgiving than someone you know. It’s easier to tell a family member or good friend that you are not in the mood and to leave you alone, which defeats the purpose of having someone who is supposed to keep you on track.

When you both complete the goals you set up for each other, consider having a celebration. This can help solidify the new friendship, and it lets you reward each other for your accomplishments. If it turns out that one of you didn’t make it to the goal, consider having the party after that person completes it. This way, there are no hard feelings during the celebration.

The greatest part about having someone complete the same goals as you are they will know what you are going through. It’s a comradery that is difficult for outsiders to understand. You can both bounce off ideas and suggestions as well as pick each other up when problems come up.

You can have more than one goal buddy, but it’s probably better to keep the number as small as possible. Communication can be confusing enough between two people, let alone five or six.

Want More Money? Set Some Goals!

Having a clear plan for your business or career will catapult you to much higher levels than those who don’t. In most cases, when you are further along than your peers, you will be making more money, all things being equal.

This is not just business school mantras being bandied about. It’s for real. For instance, if you set a goal, and it doesn’t get you where you want to be, you seek alternatives until it does. Others, who flounder about, and take each day as it comes, have no idea whether what they are doing is working. The result can only be they will be making less than you, should you choose to follow a plan.

Want More Money? Set Some Goals!

This makes sense, too. Most people wouldn’t set out on a long road trip without mapping out where they want to go first. Surprisingly, that is exactly what many do when it comes to their careers. The effort to create goals is not as mysterious as everyone makes it out to be. The benefits are well worth exploring how to do it.

If you have been looking to accomplish some major goals and you are stuck with the implementation, consider the help of a business coach. They have the necessary experience as well as the ability to guide you for the duration.

Still not convinced having goals can boost your income? Read profiles or biographies of people who you admire. You will find the majority of their success will be attributable to having a plan and executing their strategy based on that plan.

Although you may be tempted to use making more money as your goal, you’ll find this is too general. You won’t have any specific way of focusing the steps needed on achieving this goal. Making more money can be the result of having a more concrete goal in place. You could have as your goal to become director of your department. If this is a level high enough, it should naturally follow that you will be earning more money.

Consider creating a plan for your career to bring it to the next level. There’s a rather good chance that if you achieve it, you will get a hike in pay as well. It is certainly worth giving it a shot, and you will be amazed at how much you learn in the process. If you haven’t been happy with what you were doing in the past, this could be the very thing that turns that around.

Using Goals to Help You Start Over

At some point during your life, you may be put in a situation where you need to start over. It could be from a divorce, or your company has decided to move to a new location. This location may even be outside your country. Globalization has made this a more frequent occurrence.

Another possibility is you are part of a downsizing at your company, and you are over a certain age. Even though age discrimination is supposed to be against the law, it’s easy for potential employers to know and to make up reasons why you are not right for the job (the real reason is you make too much money, and they want to hire someone younger).

Using Goals to Help You Start Over

Whatever the reason you find yourself in, setting goals for your new way of life is going to help you tremendously. It could mean the difference between making it work and stagnating. Pursuing the right goals can give you a boost in confidence that change is positive. This is crucial when contemplating starting over.

If you have access to an outplacement service (in the event of downsizing), consider seeking them out to see what they have to offer. Hopefully, they will be on board with helping you set up goals for your new situation. There are also helpful resources from government agencies in the way of grants and loans that you can explore if you are thinking of starting your own business. When starting over, you want to explore as many avenues as possible to see what may work for you. Take advantage of any training that may help you discover what direction you want to take.

Setting up solid goals is going to help reduce your risk of becoming discouraged. This is a common affliction with people who are starting over. Writing down your goals and referring to them will ease your mind by showing you there is something to strive for.

While it is a scary proposition to start over, it can also be a time for encouragement. You can think of it as a fresh new outlook on your life and with that comes exciting new experiences that may have been missing from what you were doing before. Think back to when you first started out in your previous situation. Your memories are probably filled with looking forward to going to work each day as you were learning something new. This can happen again for you.

Setting Goals When Working for Someone Else

It seems almost pointless to set goals when you are employed by someone else or company. They hired you to get a specific job done, and that is what you do. You have a boss who is going to tell you exactly what you need to do on a weekly (for some, daily) basis. You do the job, they pay you, and everyone is happy, right?

Should You Set Goals When Working for Someone Else?

The truth is setting goals at work can go a long way in getting you ahead with your company. Even if you don’t get anywhere with them, i.e., a dead-end job in a bad company, etc., your goal setting skills will reward you in future ventures. In fact, it could be the activity that gets you a new job or even gets you going on starting your own business.

If nothing else, when you set goals at your job, you are showing the management there that you care about what you are doing and that you want to make your situation better. Accomplishing goals indicates that you are a go-getter.

There is no guarantee that setting goals will lead you to advancement in your current situation. But it will get you noticed. Other department heads may see what is going on and reach out to you. Sometimes, the goals you set could be to learn new skills that can be used in those other departments. This could also present a great opportunity to take on people within those departments as mentors. Perhaps you can work with them to help you set goals to get you in the door. In return for their efforts, you could volunteer to help them after hours or during lunch, to learn more about what is entailed in the new job.

If you get nothing else out of setting goals for your current position, you will get better at goal setting and achievement. This is a lifelong skill that can be applied across all vocations as well as your personal achievements. It could set the stage to coach others when you become an expert at goal management. The point is, this is a very valuable skill that you should be working towards no matter what you do.

Get More Out of Life by Setting Goals

It’s possible for someone to achieve several things without setting any goals. However, the likelihood is quite small. To be sure, many people accomplish some things without goals. But imagine what they could accomplish when they have goals. It’s a roadmap that helps guide them to the place they want.

For many, goals are unreachable. However, the key to making them work is to be realistic about what you can accomplish and in the time frame you give yourself. Sometimes, you may be able to get something done; you just need to give yourself more time. Other times, you could be reaching for something that is not within you to accomplish, or you simply find that you are not interested.

Get More Out of Life by Setting Goals

Try to determine what you want to accomplish as the basis for setting your goals. This is important so as not to waste any time. Think about those dreams or wishes you have always thought about. What is that you say to yourself, ‘If only I could…”

When you figure out what you want, you can start brainstorming for the steps to bring you there. Once you have that, and you follow through on it, you will be amazed at how this will transform your life. It’s like reaching a new level in your growth. You will also be several steps ahead of most people, which is a bit sad when you think about it. But that is for them to figure out, or you can set a goal to help others in goal setting! This way, more people will be able to experience this along with you.

Reaching your goals can give you a boost in your self-confidence as you will prove to yourself that you can make them happen. You will see this as a renewed purpose, and it will give you a foundation to continue seeking exciting new ventures in your life. Sometimes, all it takes is getting to that one major goal. This helps you to break through any barriers holding you back. You will realize at that point that anything is possible.

You’ll have some setbacks along the way, but it will be worth it. There will be excitement as well as frustration. But the journey will help you learn, and you truly will be getting more out of your life as you seek the things you have always wanted for yourself and your family.

Goal Setting Series: Get a Sense of Purpose

Goal setting can be such a powerful tool. Earl Nightingale once said, “People with goals succeed because they know where they are going.”

Because goal setting is so important to success, we’re launching this six-part series on goal setting. Enjoy!

Pursuing Goals Can Bring You a Sense of Purpose

It’s very common for people to get to a point in their lives when they ask why they are doing what they are doing. It could be the career choice they made and wanted a change, or it could be something personal that is simply not working out as they had hoped. This is referred to by many as being stuck in a rut. Without any changes, it can be difficult to get out of this rut. One way out of this rut is to set some goals. This may help you find a sense of purpose.

When you lay out a plan, you can take a bird’s eye view of your possible paths. This creates an energy within that helps you carry out your plan. It gives you something to look forward to which can give you a sense of purpose. Having that helps you motivate and keep on track.

During the period of reaching for your goals, you will have good days and bad days. The bad days may even make you feel like throwing in the towel and forgetting the whole thing. This is natural and you need to refer to your goals to help you keep going. Family and friends can help to encourage you as well. Reach out to them when you feel like you want to quit.

The good days will get you pumped and will show that you are getting close to your target. Meeting milestones for your goals will solidify this experience as it gives you something to check off when completing the task. The more you pursue your goals, the more you will have these feelings of accomplishment which help show you a sense of purpose.

The next time you feel like you’re in a rut, try setting and pursuing some goals. They don’t have to be outlandish, and you want them to be obtainable. Keep working on them until you complete them. Create a journal to track your progress and get whatever help you can to motivate you. Once you see what is possible by setting goals, you will find you can accomplish just about anything.

You can’t stop the situation of getting into a rut, but you now have a way of getting out of it. You just have to figure out what you want to pursue and set up a plan to make it happen. Then, it’s simply a matter of following that plan.

5 Steps to Greater Fulfillment in 2017

It’s that time of year again to think about what you want to accomplish in 2017.  But wait! Past research tells us that 92% of New Year’s resolutions fail. So you might say, why bother?  Instead, perhaps you should go about those resolutions in a more effective way.

There are a number of reasons why resolutions fail—overly ambitious targets, peer pressure, no measures and most importantly, no real sustainable changes in behavior.  But there are some secrets to resolutions that actually work. The most important one is whether they lead to you becoming more fulfilled in life. We know from our research that nearly everyone wants their lives to be more fulfilling, but 80% of people are far from it. So if you think about your plans for the New Year in light of becoming more fulfilled, you are far more likely to be successful in achieving them.

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Here are a few tips from those who are most fulfilled:

1. Start with your long-term goals. If you don’t have them, create them. If you have them, it’s time to reassess them. While this may feel scary, it is really the only way to plan your future.  In my recent research at the Metrus Institute looking at those who were most fulfilled, we found that these folks had a vision for their life—where they would like to be later in life—what they would like to have accomplished. For Millennials, that might be a career goal or a family or relationship goal. For Xers, it might be an end of career objective (I want to become a VP in my company) or something more personal, such as taking up a new sport or hobby, or building stronger personal relationships. For recently retired Boomers, it might be bucket list items, such as visiting a country you have always wanted to see. Don’t be afraid to put a stake in the ground—you can always adjust it later!

2. What are your fulfillment drivers? Next, think about the things you do that are helping you achieve your dreams. It might be taking courses in school, dating, practicing a sport, hobby or musical instrument, or digging deeper into your religious or spiritual beliefs.  Or, it might be performing well at work so that you can get that promotion or become skilled for a future job. These are your drivers of success and fulfillment. Unless you think about the connection of these drivers to your long-term vision and goals, they may all feel alike. In reality, some are always more important to your long-term fulfillment.  Gut feel and what feels good at the moment may not be the best for the long haul. I didn’t like some of the courses I had to take to get my degree, but I had a vision of what the degree could provide for me in the future, so I learned to devote enough time to studying instead of playing cards with my friends as my gut would have preferred.

3. Time. Time is one of the biggest challenges to your resolutions. Remember, we all have the same amount of time each day, but some people use it more wisely. Personally, until I mapped my time for a week or so each year, I didn’t realize how much of my time was wasted in tasks that were not really helping me work toward my goals. Map your time—I’ll bet you will be surprised how it is being used. Periodically, I try to rebalance my time because we all get pulled in different directions.

4. Grit. One of the key factors we learned from our interviews on getting to fulfillment is that nearly everyone has key setbacks in their life—health issues, missed promotion, divorce, or loss of a long-term friend. But the most fulfilled people find a way around these setbacks. Building resilience is a key skill, but there are some tricks to making it easier.  The most common one is having a great network and some really close friends. If you don’t nurture your network, it won’t be there when you most need it. Many of our most fulfilled interviewees had developed mentors, and it was those mentors who fueled their fires to get up and overcome the setbacks.

5. Take a Risk. Many of the Baby Boomers and Xers we interviewed who had been around the block a few times, said ‘take some risks, and you will be rewarded later.’ Most felt that the risks they took earlier in their careers or in relationships helped them immensely in life. Even when those risks didn’t work out, they learned a great deal that could be applied in the future. Think about what would stretch you in 2017. Asking your company for a stretch job perhaps, or take a next step in your relationship with someone.  Or, many found that taking a job they weren’t totally qualified for (yet) enabled them to learn quickly and stretch their capabilities.

These five steps should take you a long way to greater fulfillment in 2017 and in your life!

William A. Schiemann, Ph.D. is CEO of Metrus Group. He is a thought leader in human resources, employee engagement, and fulfillment and author of Fulfilled! Critical Choices – Work, Home, Life. For more information visit, www.wschiemann.com, follow Dr. Schiemann on Twitter, @wschiemann and connect with him on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/wmschiemann.