No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress,
you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.
If you start implementing these seven habits today, you will see a positive change in your life within a week’s time, guaranteed.
1. Choose happiness with words.
Happiness is simply a state of mind. No, I’m not implying that we can instantly heal the pain of a severe or unexpected personal tragedy just by thinking about being happy. Rather, I am referring to our levels of happiness on routine days when things in our lives are close to normal. In these neutral times, when we are neither ecstatic nor extremely sad, the slightest change in attitude can swing our happiness balance drastically in either a positive or negative direction. One of the primary factors that affect our attitude is our choice of words.
Words have a lot of power and influence on both the speaker and the listener. When we speak we sometimes unintentionally choose words that have a negative undertone. This can make us seem unhappy (and negative) in the eyes of others. Even worse, after we have spoken these words our unconscious mind starts believing in them. “If this is what came out of my mouth, it must be the way I truly feel.”
However, this is not always true. The first fleeting words that come to mind are not necessarily the most accurate representation of our feelings and intentions. We must realize that we have the power to choose the words we use, and if we pick them carefully, they can change the way we feel. Here’s one example:
Typically, when I ask someone “How are you?” they reply, “I’m fine” or “I’m okay.” But one lazy Monday afternoon last month a new colleague of mine replied, “Oh, I am fabulous!” It made me smile, so I asked him what was making him feel so fabulous and he said, “I’m healthy, my family is healthy, and we live in a free country. So I don’t have any reason not to be happy.” The difference was simply his attitude and his choice of words. He wasn’t necessarily any better off than anyone else, but he seemed twenty times happier.
It really struck a chord with me. Suddenly I realized that I have a choice. I can either say “the glass is half empty” or “the glass is half full.” Why not rejoice in the fact that, thankfully, I don’t have anything to be terribly upset about.
So now when someone asks me how I am doing, I say “I’m doing wonderful!” or “Everything is awesome!” or something similar that reflects a positive, happy mood. Since I’ve made a regular habit of doing this, multiple friends and acquaintances have noticed a positive change in my attitude. And I do genuinely feel happier. Also, it seems like the people around me are smiling more now too. So I guess it’s contagious.
2. Get uncomfortable and try new things.
Brian Tracy once said, “Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” One of the biggest reasons people get stuck in an idle state, instead of taking action to change their lives for the better, is simply that the process is uncomfortable. But to create positive changes in your life you have to step outside your comfort zone, at least for a little while.
Rather than dismissing yourself as unchangeable creature of habit, you can instead direct your own change by consciously developing new habits. In fact, the more new things you try – the more you step outside your comfort zone – the more inherently creative you will become, both in the workplace and in your personal life.
Routines stagnate us. New experiences help us grow and they make life interesting. Make an effort to try something new every day this week. It can be a whole new activity or just a small experience, such as talking to a stranger. And once you get the ball rolling, many of these new experiences will open doors to life changing opportunities.
With a strategy of continuous small steps into new experiences, we are able to sidestep the biggest barrier to positive change: Fear. Read The Success Principles.
3. Help someone in a way only you can.
We all have natural strengths and talents that can dramatically help those around us. What comes easy for you is no doubt challenging for others. We tend to take these gifts for granted, often hardly noticing what we have to offer, and thus we rarely share them with others. Inner happiness and zeal come from using these inherent gifts on a routine basis.
Ask yourself, “What do people thank me for?” What do people routinely ask for your help with? Most people’s passions and talents help others in one way or another. Perhaps for you it’s painting, teaching math, cooking a good meal or leading an exercise class. Devote time each day to sharing your talents.
4. Dedicate time to activities you’re passionate about.
Take part in something you passionately believe in. This could be anything. Some people take an active role in their city council, some find refuge in religious faith, some join social clubs supporting causes they believe in and others find passion in their hobbies. In each case the psychological outcome is the same. They engage themselves in something they strongly believe in. This engagement brings happiness and meaning into their lives.
The same principals hold true for your job and career. Why should you be passionate about what you do for a living? Because diligent focus alone is not enough to make you successful and happy. Focus is important, but what happens when the path you’ve taken is more difficult or longer than you anticipated? That’s where passion comes in.
Not only can working on things you’re passionate about be immediately gratifying, but passion can keep you from quitting when you feel like there’s no end in sight. Passion can help you enjoy the road to your destination enough that you don’t have to only rely on your focus to drive you. Passion will change your life by pushing you forward through even the toughest of times. Read The How of Happiness.
5. Make small, positive changes every day.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. The same philosophy holds true for making changes in your life. Making small, positive changes – eating a little healthier, exercising a little, creating some small productive habits, for example – is an amazing way to get excited about life.
And if you start small, you don’t need a lot of motivation to get started either. Just get going! The simple act of getting started and doing something will give you the momentum you need, and soon you’ll find yourself in a positive spiral of changes – one building on the other. When I started doing this in my life, I was so excited I had to start this blog to share it with the world.
6. Acknowledge the lesson, smile, and try again.
The real winners in life cultivate optimism. They have the ability to manufacture their own happiness and drive. No matter what the situation, the successful diva is the chick who will always find a way to put an optimistic spin on it. She knows failure only as an opportunity to grow and learn a new lesson from life. People who think optimistically see the world as a place packed with endless opportunities, especially in trying times.
It’s important to remember that everything is a life lesson. Everyone you meet, everything you encounter, etc. They’re all part of the learning experience we call ‘life.’ Never forget to acknowledge the lesson, especially when things don’t go your way. If you don’t get a job you wanted or a relationship doesn’t work, it only means something better is out there waiting. And the lesson you just learned is the first step towards it.
You must think positively. Positive thinking is at the forefront of every great success story. The mind must believe it can do something before it is capable of actually doing it.
When wild animals are first captured and put into zoo cages, they try everything to get out of that cage. They bite it, run into it with their full weight, and claw at the cage. They persist for weeks and months and they take any chance they can to free themselves.
But after a few years of captivity these wild animals lose their fierce desire to be free. You could leave the cage door unlocked so the animals could escape if they wanted to, but they won’t. They won’t even try, because they’ve become comfortable and given up the instinct that they could ever be free again.
Are you like these wild animals in a cage? Have you lost your initiative to succeed and make good things happen in your life? Is your mind stuck in the gutter?
You may think your past is indicative of your future, and that you’ve been cast in an imprisoning mold. You may believe that just because you haven’t yet been successful in X, Y or Z that you will never be successful in that venture and you may as well accept your fate.
The mindset of your past being indicative of your future is a trap – an extremely easy and unnecessary trap. But the truth is, your reality can be whatever you want it to be. The limits to what you can achieve are an illusion. These achievement limits are all in your head. You’ve got to keep a positive outlook and continue to press forward through the tough times in order to enjoy the greatest moments of your life. Read The Magic of Thinking Big.
7. Pay attention and enjoy your life as it happens.
There is nothing wrong with looking forward to things. I’m sure we all agree that it’s nice to know enjoyable events are coming up in our schedules. The problem is, once an event we’ve been looking forward to is upon us, we’re often already on the lookout for the next one – the next high.
I don’t think anybody could say this better than Zen Buddhist, Thich Nhat Hanh:
In the United States, I have a close friend named Jim Forest. When I first met him eight years ago, he was working with a Peace Fellowship. Last winter, Jim came to visit. I usually wash the dishes after we’ve finished the evening meal, before sitting down and drinking tea with everyone else. One night, Jim asked if he might do the dishes. I said, “Go ahead, but if you wash the dishes you must know the way to wash them.” Jim replied, “Come on, you think I don’t know how to wash the dishes?” I answered, “There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes to wash the dishes.” Jim was delighted and said, “I choose the second way – to wash the dishes to wash the dishes.” From then on, Jim knew how to wash the dishes. I transferred the “responsibility” to him for an entire week.
If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact, we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.
When I watched the Academy Awards a few months ago, I realized that most of the speeches actors and actresses make when they accept an award go something like this: “This means so much so me. My whole life has been leading up to this moment.” But the truth is, our whole lives have been leading up to every moment. Think about that for a second. Every single thing you’ve gone through in life, every high, every low and everything in between, it has led you to this moment right now.
Ask yourself this: How much of life are you actually living? If you’re like most people, the answer is likely: “Not enough.” The key is to concentrate on a little less on doing and a little more on being.
Remember, right now is the only moment guaranteed to you. Right now is life. Don’t miss it.
Photo by: Tim Donnelly