Category Archives: Positive Psychology

What happens if you ask for happiness?

“If you ask the grail for happiness, that demand precludes happiness. But if you serve the grail properly, you will find that what happens and happiness are the same thing.” – Robert Johnson The grail mythology says we are on a life quest for something precious, something unique, something just out of sight…yet in plain sight. We just don’t have the eyes for it yet. Many of us choose pleasure, some form of happiness as an unspoken grail.  If you demand happiness? That’s a sure way of being unhappy. As William Blake wrote, “it is right it should be so, man was made for joy and woe.” What if you don’t struggle against what happens in life, that mixture of joy and woe? Johnson says we will find happiness in what happens. The war is over. Blake agreed, “joy and woe are woven fine, a clothing for the soul divine.”

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Spring purpose is travelling to you

Spring moves north with each moment.  Spring is there, even though the calendar says it’s here. We’re here – or at least I’m here in New England. Spring is coming. It’s always helpful to remember where we are within a larger context. I was lucky enough to spend some time in spring already by being in a lower latitude earlier last month. That helps immensely with living in the long ‘mud season’ up north poised between snow and flowers.  Placing our daily challenges into part of something larger relieves tension. Where just a moment ago we were face up against a wall of frustration, purpose provides a more spacious open area to play in. It may be helpful for you to notice what kind of spring you’re experiencing today – in the natural world around you, internally, at work, with your loved ones. What new growth is growing and what feels like it’s stuck in permanent winter. And place that in a larger context of a season of great change, one with an inevitable happy ending.

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Oh, that’s bad, no that’s good! (What I learned watching Hee Haw)

There is a classic skit on Hee Haw where Roy Clark tells a story and Charlie replies with either “oh, that’s good” or “oh, that’s bad”. The joke builds as every time the “that’s good” reply is corrected with Roy Clark saying “no, that’s bad.” What we thought was good news turns out to be bad in the story. And what someone would normally label as “that’s bad” gets corrected by Roy (“no, that’s good”) as we realize that the ‘bad news’ turns out to be good news as the story unfolds. What’s in your circle of control? Larger forces work their dark magic on us and we find ourselves in situations that might be called ‘less than wonderful’. Things happen, bad things happen, beyond our control. Wonderful things happen too. We can focus on what a shame it is we didn’t win the lottery, had that car accident, got that illness, didn’t get that raise, on and on.  And we can also focus on what is in our control – how we perceive and react to what we see. We can consciously choose what our perception is instead of how our unconscious bias labels. If you’re unsure of how to do shake things up in this way, try a simple trick. Whatever you’d normally judge as bad, label it the opposite. What if it’s great? The Buddhists are wonderful at this, welcoming discomfort in the service of learning. And Carl Jung took this contrarian view with this patients – good news was met with dismay because they’d be less likely to do the hard work of individuation, and bad news was met with celebration. So, is what is happening right now good or bad? Are you in heaven or hell right now? Are you sure? “Everybody has that opportunity. It’s our choice of perception. How do we perceive the world around us? We can perceive it negatively and go to hell or we can perceive it positively and make it work well and go to heaven, you know, play with the angels.” – 99-year-old Klaus Obermeyer

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“I’d Like To Dedicate This To…” (Quix Tip)

Imagine how different your work day would be if at the beginning you dedicated your day to someone, in their honor, or for their benefit. How would that change how you move through your day? How would that change your tasks, your interactions? This spirit of giving is a link, a connection to get us out of our own shoes. Perhaps you’d like to imagine the customer that will enjoy the final product that you have a hand in creating, even if what you do seems removed from that final user experience.

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Quix Tip: Free Your Stuff

“A man there was, though some did count him mad, The more he cast away, the more he had.” – John Bunyan If you or someone you know is having a hard time getting rid of things, here are three steps to take: Fill just one box with things you haven’t used in a year. Imagine someone out there in the world happily putting to good use the objects that are dust collectors in your closet. Drop them off at Goodwill or Salvation Army (during business hours!) The next step is to keep at it, simplifying and organizing. As Katharine Fullerton Gerould said, “Simplicity is an acquired taste. Mankind, left free, instinctively complicates life.” So it’s a dance you dance throughout your life. For example, think of the paperwork out there – remember when computers arrived and we thought we were in the dawn of a paperless society? Paper consumption has gone up – it’s perhaps a little too easy to hit the ‘Print’ button. Statistics have shown that 80% of all papers filed are never looked at again and 50% of all filed material going to storage has no retention value.

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Quix Tip: 5 Excellent Reasons to Walk

 “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir 1 – Your inner health Wallace Stevens said, “Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.” We all experience moments in the day that are extremely challenging. Taking a break from them and re-gathering your energy can really help to change your perspective and regain your sense of humor when faced with the foibles of the human comedy. 2 – Your Physical health Walking at a moderate pace for 30-60 minutes burns stored fat and can build muscle to speed up your metabolism. Walking an hour a day is also associated with reducing your risk of heart disease, breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes and stroke. Studies have shown that people using a pedometer walk an additional mile each day. That adds up! 3 – Your wallet If you walk more on small errands or even walk to work, you’re saving gas money, along with making a health investment for your future. As you build up your walking practice, remember what Steven Wright said, “Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” 4 – Your powers of observation John Burroughs said, “To find new things, take the path you took yesterday.” If you have a daily practice of walking you’ll be amazed at the small changes you can daily and weekly see in the nature that you walk through. 5 – Your innovation Friedrich Nietzsche said, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” When you pull your nose back from the glass, you get a fresh perspective. Fresh air and sunlight are both food for the brain. Remember, Velcro was invented because someone went for a walk.

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Quix Tip: Give Gratitude

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”  – Thornton Wilder 1. Tell someone five things you’re grateful for that happened this day/week/month/year. 2. Ask them to tell you five things they’re grateful for. 3. Tell someone (in person if possible) why you’re grateful for them specifically – tell them the positive effect they’ve had in your life. 4. Notice how you feel after giving your gratitude.

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Quix Tip: Soundtrack

Think of a project that you’re going to work on today or this week that you’d like to energize. Picture yourself in action, completing the hard work as if you were in a movie. What kind of music would you like to hear playing if you were the director? What songs best fit this dramatic, exciting scene? Play that song list, album or radio station that will help you perform at your best.

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Quix Tip: At Your Best – Back to the Future

Think about your life in the future.  Imagine that everything has gone as well as it possibly could.  You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life goals.  Think of this as the realization of all your life dreams.  Now, write about what you imagined.” (From the work of psychologist Laura King, this positive view of your goals has been shown to improve goal clarification, give a sense of control and boost psychological well-being.) Set aside 20 minutes for this.  If you’d like, repeat the following day.

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Quix Tip: Connect With Another Generation

1. Pick someone you know that’s from a different generation. 2. Have a conversation with them about their generation and find out what’s important for them and their peers. What are their passions, cares, fears and dreams? You may find the Generations Guide helpful as a conversation starter. 3. Tell them about your generation and where you uniquely live within that generational ‘neighborhood’. The sincere attempt to connect and better understand another person trumps the actual knowledge gained. Devote most of your energy to strengthening the connection you have with the other person. Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s team building and team development activities: Generations Give – Teams adopt elders in need and create customized care packages for them.

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