Work Life Balance And The Power of Positive Thinking

Can we learn how to respond optimistically and hopefully to events that challenge work life balance? According to psychologist and researcher Martin Seligman, the answer is YES. While some folks appear to be hardwired to respond optimistically to ups and downs in life and work, others are wired for pessimistic responses. Fortunately, you do not have to settle for the wiring you were born with. Find out how you can improve your resilience and hopefulness by acquiring positive thinking skills.

It’s important to get a handle on mood swings or energy shifts if you want to maintain your work life balance and be successful in business. According to psychologist and researcher Martin Seligman, some folks appear to be hardwired to respond optimistically and hopefully to work life balance upset and life’s ups and downs. Others are wired for opposite responses. Fortunately, you do not have to settle for the wiring you were born with. With practice you can improve your resilience and your hopefulness by acquiring solid positive thinking skills.

I like to think of the process of building hopefulness, resilience and positive thinking skills as an analogue to building physical fitness: it takes attention, concentration, commitment, and repetition. If you approach a workout program with those qualities, you can almost always improve your fitness.

The first hurdle to get over is the belief that you already need to be different in order to succeed. You don’t. You are the way you are and you can start from here, overwhelmed, worried, anxious, whatever. Don’t fall into your story about how you feel, but take a stand for what you intend to accomplish to restore your work life balance and where you plan to go. You do not need to feel better before you try these practices — do them now. Another caveat: Do not interpret your progress in the short term — measuring increase in strength and endurance after a single workout would be silly.

Seligman points out that people with an optimistic approach to life habitually accept positive thoughts and dispute negative thoughts. Those of us who are wired to be more pessimistic tend to dispute the positive and accept the negative. Optimists tend to assume that their life balance will be restored, good events will happen again and that bad events are an exception; pessimists assume the reverse. I am oversimplifying his rigorously considered arguments, and I encourage you to read the book if the science of this is important to you.

Here’s a practice he recommends for shifting from hopelessness to hopefulness. I successfully use it with my clients to help them restore their work life balance. He calls it ABCDE for:

Adversity — Beliefs — Consequences — Disputation — Energization.

A – Adversity
Start by spelling out the nature of the situation. Notice that you can experience hopelessness in response to ostensibly positive situations as well as to negative ones. For example, getting a new client or being accepted into a final round of interviews can upset your balance and send you into a whirlwind of anxiety and fear that produces just as much hopelessness and overwhelm as not getting the job or not making the cut.

B — Beliefs
This is your opportunity to spell out the thoughts and beliefs that are fueling the negative response.

C — Consequences
Look at the consequences of your beliefs — what happened as a result? How do you behave? What happened then?

D — Disputation
Actively dispute the beliefs that break your life balance and send you into the downward spiral. This is where you practice arguing with yourself in a productive way.

E — Energization
When you have been effective in disputing the problem beliefs, you feel an influx of energy, a sense of renewed hope, or at least of peacefulness.

So, here’s an example from my life:

Adversity:
I was excited about moving forward on two projects when I fell on my bike and cracked my ribs. I was okay and working hard with this for almost three days, then depression and anxiety set in and my usual positive thinking ability left me. Instead of feeling like moving forward I felt like bursting into tears.

Beliefs:
How will I ever restore my work life balance and get things done if I can’t stop these mood swings? Maybe I am just not meant to lead these projects. I don’t know enough and I can’t seem to get started — I probably should have said no in the first place. It would be better to bow out now, as embarrassing as that will be, than to keep going and have a bigger train wreck later when I just can’t make the grade.

Consequences:
These beliefs leave me feeling very sad and small, like a six year old, and then I wonder how a six year old can possibly be a leader. I find it hard to concentrate and I just want to hide.

Disputation:
Constant low-grade pain can take it out of anyone. The world is not going to come to an end if you delay things because you’ve been injured. And who says you have to do it alone anyway? Some of the problem is that you don’t have enough information to go forward. That calls for making requests of others, not for blaming yourself. And when you’re not leaning on yourself so hard, your positive thinking ability starts coming back and your mood lightens — so maybe it would be smart to cut yourself some slack this week after letting folks know what is going on. You don’t have to crawl under a rock — you can reach out instead to restore your work life balance. And even if some work projects end up being passed on to others, there will always be other opportunities.

Energization:
I called and emailed colleagues to regroup. Not only did these conversations relieve my anxiety, they made simple next steps quite clear. In one case, my summary of a conversation ended up being exactly what our group needed to move forward. Who knew? I had been worried about making things happen on my own when all along my strength was in articulating and clarifying complex input from many sources.

See how this works? I do strongly recommend the book as there are many more practices in it that address different aspects of overwhelm and ways to restore your work life balance. But if you struggle with hopelessness and challenge yourself to work through this one exercise on a regular basis (and if that means five or ten times a day, so be it), your positive thinking skills will grow and you WILL get relief. Remember — don’t measure change before it can happen — keep doing the practices long enough for significant positive shifts to take root and grow.

Gratitude, thanks, paying forward, positive relationships, happiness

Just as I was leaving my office last night, I discovered THE most beautiful bouquet of flowers sitting beside my door awaiting me.
I was so taken back by the thoughtfulness of whomever had arranged this lovely gift, and when I opened the card and read that it was from my clients who participated in our 13-month Group Therapy for Women, I felt a profound sense of gratitude for them, and for the work that I have the privilege to do as a psychotherapist on a daily basis.

 

Both I, and the members of this group, felt that we’d come to a natural end to the sessions over the previous month, and last Wednesday was our final one. These wonderful women decided that they wanted me to know that they were thinking of me on the first Wednesday that we didn’t meet, and the action they took to show me that also reinforced what had been said the week before: that our work together over those many months had been very meaningful to each of them.

But, as I’ve said to them many times, it’d been equally meaningful to me both as their therapist, and as a human being. We all felt grateful for one another, indeed.

So, what I’m writing about today is gratitude, and its ability to help us maintain a wider perspective of our lives, especially when life is particularly challenging and, even when it feels downright disheartening.

Psychologist Shawn Achor, author of “The Happiness Advantage” and “Before Happiness”, and who is at the forefront of a relatively new movement in the field known as “positive psychology”, presents research data that supports the idea that taking just a few minutes each day to write down 3 things that you’re grateful for that day for a period of 21 days can actually change the way you view the world, and your life, in particular.

In other words, rather than just focusing on the negative aspects of your life, research suggests that over this period of time, you’ll begin to notice more of the positive ones. (The most important part of this exercise is that you need to identify 3 uniquely positive things for each day; they can’t be the same day after day, for example, “grateful for your good health”.

Instead, your list of 3 needs to be different each day, and in this way, the mind is ‘forced’ to seek out the positive aspects of the day that might’ve been casually overlooked due to a narrow, or habitual, focus on what’s wrong with your day.)

He argues that the purpose of this exercise is not to ignore or minimize the hardships one might be experiencing but, rather, it’s to bring a more balanced view of one’s life into perspective.

In doing so, we can avoid ‘Eeyore” syndrome, that is, a feeling that all is bleak (and it’ll likely remain that way), and will be able to see with greater clarity the things that perhaps need to change in our lives but also, and more importantly, as Achor suggests, we can see what exists that we can truly feel grateful for.

In the end, maybe a successful and happy life might be as simple as adopting an attitude of gratitude.

So, take the challenge, and see for yourself if you feel more positive about your life after 21 days of looking on the bright(er) side!

by SUZANNE ST. JOHN SMITH

3 Steps to Daily Success: Using Motivational and Inspirational Quotes to Achieve Your Goals

Changing our day-to-day behaviors may be easier than previously imagined. By meditating on and repeating motivational and inspirational quotes, we are better prepared to change our thought patterns, behaviors and in turn, change our lives.

Here’s how it’s done.

If we believe something to be easy, we find little, if any struggle in accomplishing it. However, if we imagine something to be difficult to accomplish, then our struggle becomes more apparent. In fact, if we imagine that it is difficult to change a specific behavior, then we will always find experiences that will justify that belief.

Take this for example. We wake up one morning and decide that:

“This is the day I start losing weight. When things get difficult, I will not reach for junk food, but instead I will focus on something else to keep my mind occupied. It’ll be tough at first, but I’m going to give it a try.”

If you continue with this thought pattern and belief, don’t be surprised to find yourself struggling more often than not. Why?

If we look at this example closely we find a couple of thought patterns and beliefs already in place. We have determined to do something good for ourselves, but we do ourselves a disservice by choosing certain negative thought patterns, beliefs and words that go along with it.

We have said,

“When things get difficult….”
(This is already assuming that there will be difficult moments! Strike one!)

“It’ll be tough at first…”
(This is already assuming it will be difficult at first! Strike two!)

“…but I’m going to give it a try.”
(Remember the movie “The Karate Kid”…”There is no “try”, there is only “do”. Strike three!)

Now there are hundreds of products out there that will assist people in losing weight. Some, if not all of them, may work for various people at various stages of their goal. But for many people who have convinced themselves that losing weight is difficult, some products may fall short when our thought patterns are stronger than our desire to change.

Here is something that I’ve done to change a behavior I no longer desired.

I recently lost 20lbs in about 12 weeks. I didn’t like the way I looked, felt or even thought for that matter. I needed to change and take some action towards it.

First, I realized that I had to change my way of thinking about losing weight. My old thought patterns were no longer working for me. My thoughts were like little tiny pictures that I projected in my mind of how heavy I was. I no longer wanted these pictures or thought patterns a part of my life. I had to choose a thought pattern and belief that would be easier to think about.

I chose this thought,

“Losing weight is easier than I thought.”

Perhaps not the most ideal for everyone but it worked for me.

Secondly, I chose a word I wanted to focus on for that day, week or month to help me in accomplishing my goal (Start with just a day, or just an hour for that matter. Keep it simple.) The word I chose needed to be in relation to the change I want to make. For example, I chose the word “FOCUS”, as I felt that that’s what I needed to think about most of time; focusing more on losing weight than gaining it. Choose any word as long as it relates to your situation. (Attitude, Energy, Action, Believe…)

Following that, I scoured the Internet for motivational and inspirational quotes that resonated within me that related to that specific word I chose. Quotes that I could remember, especially ones that really spoke to what I wanted to accomplish.

But here’s the most important part.

I needed quotes that were powerful enough to change my thought patterns the moment I read them. Quotes that REALLY spoke to me when I my eyes fell upon them. Quotes that forced me to pause and think for a moment. Quotes that had that extra “edge” where my mind said, “Yes. This is one.”

These are all signs of a quote that held power for me. I “focused” in on the following quotes.

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought.” Buddha

“The only way to discover the limits of the possible, is to go beyond them into them impossible.” Arthur C. Clarke

“It’s not what you achieve in the end that matters, it’s who you become in the process.” Author Unknown

In fact, I found dozens of quotes that I resorted to from time to time, but these three I always came back to. They spoke of who I was, what I wanted to accomplish and who I wanted to become as I worked towards my goal.

I wrote them down. I carried these quotes with me constantly. I read them and meditated on them whenever I had the opportunity to. At work, home or at the gym (yup, I finally got myself to exercise, primarily by focusing on Arthur C. Clarke’s quote!), I focused on these three powerful quotes to help me FOCUS on what I wanted.

Because I changed my thought patterns, over time, I can honestly say I am 20 lbs lighter and a whole lot happier. I can honestly say I am 20 lbs lighter and a whole lot happier. Yes, I’ll be the first to admit that accomplishing the goal involved more than just thinking but it all began with my thoughts. The thoughts then permeated into my actions. (Now I need to FOCUS on maintaining that weight, so for me a whole new thought pattern begins.)

Here are the three steps again:

1. Decided to change your way of thinking about a behavior, making it easier for you to think about it. Phrase it in a simple way.

2. Choose a word to focus on to change that behavior for a period of time.

3. Find a minimum of three motivational or inspirational quotes related to that specific word that are powerful enough to change your current thought patterns the moment you read them. Meditate on them and repeat them, silently or out loud, every chance you get.

Be patient. Stick with it. Give it some time.

Why do you think companies offer a 30-day money back guarantee? They know that if you do something for 30 days it becomes a habit and you no longer need to return it! (Learned something, huh?) Give it time.

The first step to what you want to accomplish is changing your mind and the thought patterns and beliefs associated with your behavior. Thoughts are the precursor to action, meaning that thoughts occur before any action takes place. That’s what needs to be changed first. Your thoughts.

It worked for me and I hope this inspires and motivates you to achieve your goal.

Think positive.

Ray Schiel