…For auld lang syne.
The song’s been sung, the celebration is over, and the New Year is now in full swing. The buzz of fresh start is predictable, as resolutions kick off in full force. For many, a new year means fresh optimism and greater motivation. But what if you’re stepping over the threshold of 2018 with a heavy load?
We have an astounding amount of control over how happy we feel, though it often does not seem like it. In fact, according to positive psychologist and author of ‘The Happiness Advantage,’ Shawn Achor, only 10% of our overall long term happiness is based on our circumstances. The other 90% is a result of how we think about our circumstances. Things like stress, over-commitment, negative thoughts, and toxic people drain us of our ability to perceive the world in a positive way.
So while you do have a hand in your own success and happiness, you are also at risk of letting your mind get the best of you if you aren’t paying attention.
It’s inevitable that life throws at us what we can not control. And sometimes, we get curve-balls. Making just a few small efforts daily can have a large payoff when it comes to happiness. Here are some ways you can make this your best year yet, no matter what you may be dealing with:
1. Understand that your thoughts and behavior matter. A lot.
Every thought you have impacts your perspective. Every behavior or action really does matter. You can’t actually take your brain out to look at it, so it’s hard to conceive of the impact that harboring resentment for a few days (or years!) actually makes. It really matters.
Find small ways to tap into this power and use it for good. Find time each day to be kind, even if it’s just saying hello as you walk down the street or holding the door for someone. In the house or office all day? Write about a positive experience for five minutes or identify one new thing each day you’re grateful for. Your brain has a hard time differentiating between experiencing and simply considering when it comes to reaping the positive benefits. Research has shown that incorporating daily strategies like these significantly elevate levels of optimism in individuals.
2. Understand that pleasure and happiness are not one and the same.
Avoiding pain and seeking pleasure are often mistaken for happiness, and the positive feelings that result are typically only temporary. The key to understanding how to tap into our potential is to view it as a journey. Learn to view stress and pain as challenges to overcome instead of obstacles to be eliminated. Accepting the hard things gives you power over them.
3. Lastly, stop looking at the glass.
If you’re focused on the glass and how to measure what’s in it, you won’t notice the pitcher next to the glass, and certainly not the faucet next to the pitcher. The water is actually endless.
The point is this: Spending too much time taking inventory of weakness, loss, injustice, insecurity and uncertainty can sometimes limit your capacity to experience gratitude, kindness, progress, and the gratification that comes with overcoming challenge. Make sure you’re remembering to spend time on things like relationships, volunteering, exploring, creating and reflecting.
Decide this year will be your best yet, and that happiness is not contingent on success or achievement. All it takes is a small shift in perspective and a few new habits to feel more powerful, more optimistic and happier. Success will naturally follow.
Interested in learning more simple brain hacks to increase productivity, and create more happiness and success this year? Enrollment is still open for the Winter Session of our Executive Function Skill Building Groups, which includes a group for adults!