Archive for Self-Development

Increase Your Gratitude for Better Health

I’m teaching Working with Emotional Intelligence again at Southern Oregon University. This term, it’s for the Innovation and Leadership Program, a degree completion program for adults who previously started but did not finish their bachelor’s degree.

Recently, we talked about positive psychology and the role gratitude plays in our emotional and physical health. Research by Robert Emmons reveals that expressing gratitude improves physical, mental and social well-being.

Physical Benefits

  • stronger immune systems
  • less bothered by aches and pains
  • lower blood pressure
  • exercise more and take better care of their health
  • sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking

Mental Benefits

  • higher levels of positive emotions
  • more alert, alive and awake
  • greater joy and pleasure
  • more optimism and happiness

Social Benefits

  • more helpful, generous and compassionate
  • more forgiving
  • more outgoing
  • feel less lonely and isolated

Around Thanksgiving, I always begin to think more about what I am grateful for. I know that sometimes I forget to be grateful when I’m rushing through busy, jam-packed days and nights.

How do we get in touch with gratitude when it seems like there is so much negativity in the world?

We can start with these questions:

  • What am I grateful for today?
  • What good did I do today?
  • How was I helpful today?
  • What went well today?

Asking yourself these questions makes you remember the good. And while at first it may take some thought to come up with the answers, it becomes easier with practice. Because you are focusing on the good, you’ll develop new neural pathways and start noticing the good as it’s happening.

Here’s a little exercise you can incorporate into your life to help you notice the good more readily and increase your feelings of happiness and gratitude. It’s called “What Went Well.” There are many variations, but I especially like Marty Seligman’s version (he’s the founding father of positive psychology). He suggests that at the end of each day you take a few minutes to write down three things that went well. These don’t need to be earth-shattering in importance (e.g., “The hiking boots I ordered online fit perfectly”), or they can be super-important (“My daughter just gave birth to a healthy baby boy.”)

It may seem awkward at first to write about positive events in your life, but stick with it. It will get easier. You’ll begin noticing the positive events as they are happening and have the opportunity to relish them. With daily practice, six months from now, you will be happier, more grateful and maybe even addicted to this exercise!

Are you already doing a variation on “What Went Well?” Please tell us about it in a comment below.

When Disaster Strikes

Look around you. What do you see? Hurricanes, fires, mass shootings, political shenanigans, incivility, disrespect, abuse and fear? The list goes on.

What are you doing about it? There’s so much … where can you start? Some of us are volunteering to help disaster victims. Others are supporting relief efforts financially. Many have posted #metoo on their Twitter or Facebook accounts.

This is a time in which a good dollop of resilience can make a difference in how you are dealing with the melee. A time when grit is good. When optimism can help both you and those around you.

To inspire my own optimism, I pulled out a blog post from last August in which I quoted Christian D. Larson’s “Creed for Optimists,” written in 1912.

Here it is again.

Promise yourself to:

  1. Be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
  2. Talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.
  3. Make all your friends feel there is something special in them.
  4. Think only of the best, work only for the best and expect only the best.
  5. Be as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
  6. Forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
  7. Give everyone a smile.
  8. Spend so much time improving yourself that you have no time left to criticize others.
  9. Be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
  10. Think well of yourself and proclaim this fact to the world—not in loud words—but in great deeds.
  11. Live in the faith that the whole world is on your side, so long as you are true to the best that is in you.

While this may seem frivolous in light of all that is happening, what would be possible if you were to incorporate just one or two of these points into your daily life? Would positivity spread? I’m not suggesting you give up on any other efforts to help with the negatives—just try adding one or two of these positives.

I’ll do the same.

Identify Your Distinctive Strengths for Increased Business and Personal Success

What sets you apart? What is the cream that floats to the top? The icing on the cake? If someone were to ask what your top three strengths are, what would you say?

Whether you are promoting yourself or your business, you’ll excel when you know and understand your strengths—so you can put them front and center.

If you are looking for a job or promotion, you need to know your strengths. If you can’t articulate them, you can’t expect your boss or potential employer to, either.

If you are looking to grow your business, increase your client base or expand your market share, you need to know your business’ strengths. If you’re not sure of them yourself, how can you expect your clients to understand them?

Here’s a four-step process to identifying what sets you and your business apart:

  1. List your strengths. Include skills and knowledge you’ve acquired through experience and education as well as softer intrinsic strengths such as insightfulness, empathy or stellar customer service.
  2. Ask for input. Ask colleagues or clients for honest feedback.
  3. Revisit past feedback. Reread old performance reviews and think back on coaching from previous bosses (businesses can check out YELP or TripAdvisor reviews).
  4. Modify your list. Adjust your original list to reflect what you’ve learned. Make sure the strengths are specific so they are credible and useful.

Now what? Use these distinctive strengths to build your brand—either personal or business. It all follows the same formula in the end: identify and promote your strengths to the people you want to influence. BAM. Done!

A great resource for identifying personal strengths is Strengthsfinder by Gallup. I use this regularly for my coaching clients with great success. Check it out and let me know your thoughts.