Why Are Your Friends Judging You?

Monday, April 7th, 2014

No One Likes to Feel Judged

That’s why one of the two rules of helping I share in An Amateur’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness is don’t help unless asked. Unsolicited help – or advice – usually feels like judgment.

Judgment – or even the perception of judgment – is bad for our relationships.

I felt judged by a friend recently.

She jumped in with unsolicited advice when I was talking about how I was feeling, and I immediately felt defensive. I wanted to push back and tell her I was just fine, thank you very much (even though I’d just been explaining that I was not exactly fine.)

I thought she was smug and self righteous and a know it all.

And this is my friend!

But then I remembered why I was feeling so judged:

Unsolicited help feels like judgment.

Her methods were misguided, but her intent was rooted in wanting to help. She was trying to love me.

This revelation made me slightly less annoyed and gave me the perspective I needed to step back and let go.

Are you being judged – or loved?

Is it possible that the people in your life who tend to hit your “stop trying to fix me!” button are acting out of love?

Would remembering that make it easier for you to pause and act intentionally rather than react?

You could respond with patience, compassion, and confidence instead of reacting with defensiveness, anger, or resentment.

An intent to help doesn’t make unsolicited advice any less intrusive. It doesn’t make them any less wrong or you any less entitled to feeling hurt.

But relationships aren’t about who is right, wrong, or entitled. They are about connection vs. disconnection.

Unsolicited help hurts because it creates disconnection. Empathizing with the intent, recognizing when a desire to help is rooted in love, can reconnect – if you let it.

What Happiness Looks Like: Alli Worthington

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Alli Worthington and I have a complicated history.

We used to work together, and then we didn’t, and then we didn’t get along, and then I apologized for being an ass (because I had been). We’re not super tight, but I admire the crap out of her – and that’s why I asked her to do a happiness interview.

Alli has taught me not to sit around hoping for an invitation to the big event. Throw your own party.

Alli didn’t wait for people who organize conferences to notice and elevate her. She started her own.

In fact, I’ve never seen Alli beg for scraps of recognition from others or work to be included in some very important group of influencers. She has carved her own path in business and in life, and that requires a ton of confidence and faith in one’s own intuition.

That confidence and self trust is evident in her happiness interview.

Alli Worthington

Photo by Malie Wilson

What makes you happy?

1. Perspective. Sometime after I turned 35, I realized that I finally felt comfortable in my skin and I managed to quit taking everything so seriously all the time. I started saying yes to more adventures even if I risked looking silly in the process. I also began saying no to things that drained my energy even if I let some people down. Perspective is my key to happiness.

2. Purpose. It means so much to me that what I do everyday helps make life better for others. Lately that means helping business owners grow their businesses and enjoy life more. When I was hosting BlissDom, I waited all year to peek out at the crowds of attendees and see everyone so happy. It sounds so cheesy to say, but it’s an honor to get to do something that makes people happy, that helps them and has a positive impact. Whether it is events, or business coaching or what ever else in the future- having a clear purpose of helping others is really awesome.

3. People. Relationships with family and friends are key for me. My husband has a way of looking at me across the room, and in the middle of whatever chaos is going on in the house, I feel loved. When I see one of my sons share some nugget of wisdom with his brother instead of harassing him. When I talk to a girlfriend for the first time in months and we pick up where we left off. I keep a small circle of close friends and have a zero tolerance policy for drama/passive aggressiveness/hurtful behavior, so my close friends are a source of real joy.

What steps have you taken to incorporate what makes you happy into your day-to-day life?

I’ve developed a best practices framework for things that help me feel my best:

1. Protect the Morning. Before I begin my work day I make time for music, prayer and reading. It all depends on how much time I have. Sometimes it is only 15 minutes and sometimes I spend over an hour with a great book.

Happiness isn't based on living a life that is easy.2. Stay off Social Media. I limit my time on social networks during the week. It was too easy for me to waste my time or to fall into a comparison trap with other people and lose focus on my goals. Unless I have a very good reason, I limit social media activity to under 30 minutes a day. This is especially important if I’m feeling down and am tempted to go online to say something just to get positive feedback. I used to catch myself going on Facebook and Twitter as a distraction and a way to get ‘likes’ or ‘retweets’ to try to put me in a better mood. It wasn’t healthy. Likes will never replace a call with a friend or a prayer or a walk when I’m in a funk.

3. Appreciate the Small Things. I love photography and use pictures as a way to celebrate little moments every day. The habit of capturing the little moments helps me to slow down and appreciate life. Sometimes the picture is of my husband and our boys, or of a sleeping dog in a messy quiet house or the moment the sun first escapes from behind the clouds in the morning, the act of capturing moments helped me learn to slow down and enjoy life.

Are there any “shoulds” you’ve had to let go of in order to pursue your happiness?

The biggest stumbling block for me was the idea that things shouldn’t be so hard. Whether it is learning a new skill with my work, being a parent or any number of things that pop up in life. Happiness isn’t based on living a life that is easy or stress free but about living a life that is lived purposefully. The idea that life shouldn’t be hard when we are doing things that do make us happy long-term just works to keep us from ever enjoying life.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about happiness?

For me, really accepting that the world won’t end if I fail at something and that no one is really paying attention to me if I look foolish was life changing. Happiness comes from a million little moments: the warm coffee mug, the happy sigh you let out at the end of the day, the feeling that your work makes the world a little better. That, to me, is real happiness.

Read the rest of the happiness interview series.

5 Ways to Reconnect with Your Intuition

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

My relationship with my intuition – or my gut, as I’m more likely to call it – is similar to my relationship with anyone else: it ebbs and flows. We wind closer together and further apart in a predictable rhythm, like figure eights or strands of DNA.

When I’ve reached the outer limits I know I have to turn back to center or risk losing the status of relationship completely. I have to make the effort to reconnect.

When this happens in my relationship with my husband, I reach out using his love language. I guess that’s pretty much what I do with my gut.

5 ways to reconnect with your intuition

1. Do a gratitude practice.

A gratitude practice is just making a list of what makes you happy. And typically you do this alone, away from the chorus of what “should” matter to you.

Your gut doesn’t use the word should, and neither does gratitude.

Spending a few minutes every day recording what you’re grateful for is a practical, hands-on way to spend time with your intuition. No chanting needed.

2. Meditate.

I mean, there’s nothing wrong with chanting. Or sitting quietly. Or lighting incense and putting a few “ohms” out into the world.

Not that meditation requires any of those things.

When the noise and pace of out there gets too loud and hurried, meditation gives my inner voice a chance to be heard. It also just gives me a break from the myth that I must be constantly doing.

3. Do yoga.

Yoga is my favorite form of exercise. It doesn’t scare me, because I always know there’s a variation that even my body can handle.

When I do yoga, I get more connected to my body. I pay attention to parts of me that are important and yet usually ignored. And all of this happens in a quiet, non-threatening way that makes me want to keep going.

Hands… arms… shoulders… collar bones… sit bones… spine… belly button… gut.

The mindfulness chain always makes its way to the gut – the inside one that guides me – eventually.

4. Walk outside.

This is a tool I discovered when we were on our Great American Road Trip. I love being outside in the fresh air and sunshine. I love walking around on city sidewalks and seeing a mix of people and flowers in planters.

Something about being more connected to what’s out there helps me reconnect with what’s in here.

make something

5. Make something.

My gut speaks in the language of creativity. Making something from nothing always strengthens the bond between me and my creative source.

This could be writing, knitting, cooking, painting, building. The final result doesn’t even have to be good; the process is the most important part.

How does your gut speak to you?

I suspect that intuition is as universal as happiness – which is to say, there are broad strokes in common but the details come in many shades.

A member of the Happiness Tribe said that she reconnects with her intuition through alone time. That didn’t even occur to me, because I spend a ton of time alone and I’m just as likely to take that opportunity to reconnect with escapism.

I suppose it’s possible that someone could reach their intuition through cleaning. I cannot even pretend to wrap my head around that, but I acknowledge that the possibility exists.

I feel exactly the same way about running.

What brings you back to center? When does the world fall away, even if it’s only for a few minutes? How do you turn down the outside noise and turn up the sound of your inner voice?

And when was the last time you did it?

7 Ways to Start a Gratitude Practice

Friday, March 28th, 2014

gratitude practice

I’m a big believer in practicing gratitude. I think doing is more powerful than feeling, and I know that my own gratitude practice has helped me identify my personal values.

Right now, my gratitude practice involves me spending a few minutes before bed each night making a short list in a journal. But that’s not the only way.

There’s never only one way.

You could…

1. Use a pen and notebook.

2. Download the Happier app.

3. Take the #100happydays challenge.

4. Say bedtime prayers with your kids.

5. Start a Grace in Small Things blog.

6. Make a happiness jar.

7. Send a daily email to the Universe at a free email account you make up.

Don’t let the how hold you back.

How do you keep track of the good in your life?

The Horrible, Awful, No-Good Dark Side of Chasing a Dream

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

the dark side of dreams

If you’ve watched my TEDx announcement video or read this post, you’ve heard my story of the dog who escapes the invisible fence. This one:

Invisible dog fences keep animals in place with fear. As dogs get close, they are given a little bit of hurt, just enough to believe that surely all that lies outside the yard is hurt.

In reality, all that stands between a dog and complete freedom is about 30 seconds of pain.

I had a dog once that figured that out. He would yelp for 30 seconds while he ran through the barrier, and it was a horrible sound.

But then it was over, and he was free.

I know that most of our fears are just 30-second fences standing between us and freedom.

I’ve been told that analogy is inspiring, and I mean it to be.

But there’s a horrible part of that story that is not inspiring. It’s terrifying. It’s painful. It’s the very opposite of inspiring.

For 30 seconds, the dog is experiencing non-stop electric shock.

A split second of that sensation is enough to keep most animals in line. It’s enough to make grown men jump and shove their fingers in their mouths like babies.

Thirty seconds of that kind of pain must be excruciating.

But we skip over that part of the story.

Just like we read about people who have succeeded and we skim over the part where they say they went bankrupt twice. Or lost everything. Or thought about quitting a million times.

Or sobbed on the bathroom floor while someone tried to send comfort through the locked door.

I mean, sure, we read the words – but the words don’t do it justice. Because what the story has that real life doesn’t is perspective.

When you’re in the middle of the 30 seconds, you don’t know that a happy ending is just a few paragraphs away.

It feels more like imminent death than a plot point.

And in real life, it usually lasts a hell of a lot longer than 30 seconds.

A friend of mine is crossing the invisible fence right now, and watching her reminds me of just how bad it is in there.

I want to tell her that she is close, that the pain itself is proof that she is going in the right direction.

I want to promise her that this, like everything, is temporary.

This will be worth it, I want to tell her. But more than that, I want her to know:

This part is awful.

This moment deserves to be seen. This pain needs to be acknowledged and not glossed over with platitudes about growth and progress.

People who push through that invisible fence are changed forever not because they discovered a magical pasture on the other side, but because they have had their shells burned away and their insides charred.

It makes perfect sense that this hurts so fucking bad.

You are not weak for doubting your ability to endure this pain. Doubt and despair are as inevitable as they are awful when you’re halfway between what you know and what you’ve dreamed about.

The courage that brought you to this hell will bring you out, but first it will desert you.

And that does not make you a failure or a coward. It makes you human.

It makes you one of us.

I see your pain, my warrior friend.

I see it, I recognize it, and I honor it.

And I promise it will not last forever.