A summer of once upon a time . . .

Patrice Koerper  Life Coach Wishful Thinking Starfish June 2013

For the next five Fridays, I will be sharing stories with a philosophical twist. I think of them as mini-beach reads with meaning. Some of the stories you may have heard, others may be new, or a new version.

Each story I share, made me stop and think, and left me feeling renewed, like a relaxing day at the beach or the scent of fresh-cut grass.

Hope you enjoy them, too.

Once upon a time, there was a man who loved walking on the beach in the morning. 

One day, as he was walking, he looked down the shoreline and saw a figure moving like a dancer.  He walked faster to catch a better glimpse of the person.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young woman and she was not dancing after all. She was reaching down to the sand, picking up small objects and throwing them into the ocean.

As he approached, he called out “Good morning. What are you doing?”

The young woman paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“Why? ” the man asked.

The young woman replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the man commented, “But, don’t you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young woman bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it into the ocean. As it sank into the ocean, she said: “It made a difference for that one.”

The man, stood for a moment, then bent down, picked up a starfish, and helped make a difference, too.

Small gestures can lead to life altering changes.

Try one soon.

Happy Friday!

Photo courtesy of Josie Horn.

Photo courtesy of Josie Horn.

“There are two ways to live your life:

One is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though every thing is a miracle.”  

Albert Einstein

Let the miracle that is you shine through!

Gain “The Happiness Advantage” in just 21 days!

Positive Psychology studies show happy, positive people are healthier and enjoy more creativity, success and have better relationships. Are you interested in adding more happiness to your life? Would you like to gain a “Happiness Advantage”? If so, keep reading to learn about Shawn Achor’s 5 Steps for creating your Happiness Advantage and to get a free copy of my Wishful Thinking Works tracking sheet to make the process just that much easier!

Shawn Achor

Shawn Achor

Shawn Achor “graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and earned a Masters degree from Harvard Divinity School in Christian and Buddhist ethics. For seven years, Shawn also served as an Officer of Harvard, living in Harvard Yard and counseling students through the stresses of their first year. Though he now travels extensively for his work, Shawn continues to conduct original psychology research on happiness and organizational achievement in collaboration with Yale University and the Institute for Applied Positive Research. . . . By researching top performers at Harvard, the world’s largest banks, and Fortune 500 companies, Shawn discovered patterns, which create a happiness advantage for positive outliers—the highest performers at the company. Based on his book, The Happiness Advantage (2010 Random House), Shawn explains what positive psychology is, how much we can change, and practical applications for reaping the Happiness Advantage in the midst of change and challenge.”

Shawn understands “The Happiness Advantage” and has created “The 21 Day Challenge” to help each of us get started on a positive future. The 5 steps of the Challenge are free and easy to do. (Please note: Shawn’s notes are in bold and are from a Huffington Post article he wrote in 2011. My notes are in italics.)

1)    Bring gratitude to mind

Write down three new things you are grateful for each day . . . Research shows this will significantly improve your optimism even six months later, and raises your success rates significantly.

You’ve probably heard it from Oprah and by now from dozens of other sources, but do you do it? If not don’t worry, you can start today. For more info on gratitudes and savoring them, click here, here, and here.

Here is a bit more from a Shawn Achor interview about why it works . . . “What they’re training their brain to do is to scan the world, not for the stresses, hassles, and complaints first, but actually training their brain, like an athlete, to look for the things that they are grateful for.  Now, you might assume that that advantage might only help them for about 45 seconds after writing down these three things that they are grateful for, or saying them out loud.  But what we found that after a period of 21 days, the pattern gets retained in the brain, it’s what I call the Tetris Effect where if an individual plays Tetris for five hours in a row, their brain retains this pattern where even when they’re not playing Tetris, it’s still parsing the world into how do I make straight lines, which is exactly what you do in that video game.”  

2)    Focus on the Positive

Write for two minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours.  This is a untitledstrategy to help transform you from a task-based thinker, to a meaning based thinker who scans the world for meaning instead of endless to-dos.  This dramatically increases work happiness.
This step really helps you key in on why something matters to you and can help you truly understand what makes you happy. Take time throughout the 21 days to review what you wrote about and see if there are any patterns emerging. 

3)   Exercise

Exercise for 15 minutes a day. This trains your brain to believe your behavior matters, which causes a cascade of success throughout the rest of the day.

In a TED Talk Achor mentioned 15 minutes of cardio a day, which is I shoot for since it gives the most bang for its buck – BUT getting into the habit is the most important part, so if you need to start with 10 minutes, do it! Walking, stretching, working with weights, go for it!  No matter what you start with, get started and keep at it until the 15 minutes of cardio is a regular habit.  Exercise increases your mood by increasing the amount of endorphins and decreases cortisol levels – the stress hormone. So any exercise is a good thing, but remember 15 minutes a day, of cardio will have multiple pay-offs.

4)  Meditate

Meditate for two minutes, focusing on your breath going in and out.  This will help you undo the negative effects of multitasking. Research shows you get multiple tasks done faster if you do them one at a time.  It also decreases stress and raises happiness.

Two minutes makes a difference! If you are meditating longer, keep it up. If you aren’t meditating at all or never have, get started by thinking about one of your positives/gratitudes and why it mattered to you and then simply close your eyes, breathe in through your nose, out through your nose, in long, slow, deep, belly filling breathes . . . and release . . . and inhale . . . and exhale . . .

I call this Step “Take 2”; it’s amazing how refreshed you will feel, and it can quickly become a healthy habit. Use it as many times as you like throughout the day. I love to “Take 2” before I start a new task, and find it particularly refreshing before meetings, presentations, and working with clients. It helps me focus and really enjoy the moment and to redirect my energy exactly where I need it!

5)  Send A Positive Email

Write one, quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising a member on your team.  This significantly increases your feeling of social support, which in my study at Harvard was the largest predictor of happiness for the students.

If you aren’t working, or run out of folks to email, no problem, share the love by including friends, family members or people from your past you think of, but have fallen out of touch with. The key is to reach out to those you care about in a detailed, positive way. And, if you are working, remember your “team” can include colleagues in your department or beyond, vendors, customers, etc.

Here’s the really great news about Achor’s 21 Day Challenge you can add all 5 Steps to your life for 21 days, or you can start by simply adding 1 Step to your life for 21 days, and then try another each new 21 day period! The choice is yours. And remember, any step in the direction of happiness will give you an advantage!

To make the process even easier I’ve created “Your 21 Day Happiness Advantage” tracking sheet. To receive your free copy, simply fill out the form below and I’ll email a copy to you. (Don’t forget to share this post with your family and friends so they can gain the Advantage, too.)

For Wishful Thinking Works services that can change your life, click here.

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Happy Belated Birthday, Anne!

In honor of an amazing girl, and the fact that her words have brought insight and understanding to millions of people worldwide, I post about Anne Frank on or near her birthday each year. Anne’s words provided companionship and comfort for her and awareness and compassion to others. I truly believe journaling and reading change lives, and will be sharing more about them in the weeks ahead, but for now, here is my annual post in honor of Anne Frank. (Please check out the new video links I’ve added of Anne’s father and the woman who helped hide the family.)

Anne Frank’s birthday was June 12. Like many teenage girls, Anne was wonderfully caring and compassionate, and was trying to deal with the confusing and conflicting feelings of youth. The setting in which she recorded her thoughts makes them all the more poignant and profound.

Anne was born in 1929 in Frankfort, Germany. Her family emigrated to the Amsterdam in 1933, where they later became an important part of world history. On her 13th birthday, Anne received a diary from her father, and what she choose to write changed the world.

Had she lived, Anne would be 84 this year. If circumstances had been dramatically different, Anne might still be with us, enjoying life, visiting family and friends, traveling, and maybe writing and lecturing. In today’s world, she would not seem that old. Her very short life – she died at 15 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp as the result of simply being Jewish – was not lived that long ago. The style of her red and white plaid diary is not really out-of-date, and thankfully, because of the words she placed on the pages of that journal, Anne and her story are still with us.

Anne’s youthful, simple, heartfelt thoughts have touched millions of people. Words can do that – the spoken ones, for better or for worst, the written ones for generations to see. They help the writers and the readers understand their lives, explore their thoughts, the situations surrounding them, and the world.

I think the value of words, including those of children, can never be underestimated.

Perhaps this year, you can buy a journal for your daughter, son, niece, nephew, granddaughter, grandson, or the kid next door. Let them know you value who they are and what they have to say. And, maybe you can tell them about Anne, and the gift her father gave her. The process of writing may change their lives and the generations that follow them.

If you would like to learn more about Anne, I’ve listed some interesting links you might enjoy:

The only film of Anne.

Miep Gies, Mr. Frank’s office assistant and one of the brave people, who helped hide Anne’s family, died in January 2010. She was 100. I really did not know much about Ms. Gies, this article and these videos, share more about her. (For an English translation of the videos: hit the “CC” button at the bottom of the video screen, and select the captions in English.)

Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl was first published in Amsterdam in 1947, and in America in 1952. By the early 1960’s the book was part of school curriculums throughout the U.S. There’s much more about Anne at the Anne Frank Foundation.

Happy Belated Birthday, Anne, and thank you. Because of your words our world is richer, and I hope wiser.

And, Happy Father’s Day to your father Otto Frank, who transcribed and shared your dairy, and then spent the rest of his life working for human rights, unity, and peace and answering the letters of people, who read your diary. Anne’s father, was the only member of his family, who survived the concentration camps. Otto Frank passed away on August 19, 1980. This video gives great insight into his life, and in this 1967 television interview Mr. Frank shares how he felt reading Anne’s diary and an important message for all parents. 

“Deep thoughts . . seriousness, especially her self-criticisms . . . It was quite a different Anna, than I had known as my daughter.  . . and, my conclusion is, as I had been in very, very good terms with Anne, most parents don’t know really their children . . .” Otto Frank

If you would like to make lasting changes in your life, check out Wishful Thinking Works Life Coaching.

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Don’t let the start, stop you.

Patrice Koerper Life Coach Wishful Thinking Works Starting Line

“The start is what stops most people.” 

Don Shula, Former NFL



Starting can be the toughest part of change, but don’t let that stop you!

Use the Wishful Thinking Works “4 Steps to Success” start-up plan to outsmart yourself!

1. Keep the things you need to succeed on hand. Make change as easy as possible!

  • Prime your success pump by writing down other positive changes you have made in your life. Then commit your goals for this change to paper.
  • Figure out what you will need to make the change a reality and get those resources ready. If you want to walk or exercise every morning, keep your shoes and walking or workout clothes next to your bed. If you are trying to lose weight, keep an abundance of healthy foods in the refrigerator and cupboards – stack the odds in your favor.
  • Build a support system, it may be your best resource! Let someone who cares about you know what your plan is and or buddy-up with a success partner – your goals don’t have to be similar just make sure your commitment level to them is.
  • Create a “success reminder” and repeat it to yourself when you feel the need for motivation or to reward yourself: “I feel so great when I walk for 30 minutes each day, I love knowing I’m taking care of myself and I love the time I spend outdoors.”

2. Practice makes perfect: Have a rehearsed, positive argument in your head for every excuse you will come up with.

  • You know yourself better than anyone; use that to your advantage.
  • Let your weaknesses become your guides, address them and think about or write what you will tell yourself when they are trying to talk you out of success.
  • Draw a picture of yourself or create a mental picture of what your success will look and feel like. Make your future come alive for you in the present. If you are going back to school, picture yourself at graduation with your degree in hand. If you are trying to lose weight, picture yourself in your skinny jeans. Work on the vision until it really makes you feel great about your success.

3. Track your success – daily.

  • Create a simple way to record your accomplishments as you go. Seeing your success in black and white will work in your favor. Accountability will build your confidence and create a sense of pride, which will move you forward faster.
  • Use a journal, an online calendar, a chart, notches on a belt – get creative and make sure your tracking method is fun and easy – find the format that works best for you.

4. Build in “just right” rewards along the way.

  • Create heartfelt rewards for each step you take in the right direction. (A week of sticking to your plan deserves a special reward. Doing anything that is monumental for you during the week also deserves a reward.)
  • The key is to think like “Goldilocks”! Don’t make the rewards so little they don’t matter, or so big that they stop you by making you feel you have accomplished all you need to. Make them feel just right, so they motivate you to keep going.
  • Have fun with the rewards, and make sure they really make you feel great!

And, last but not least, remember that failure is a part of moving forward. Don’t let setbacks or roadblocks turn into u-turns. Pause, regroup, repeat your success reminder, steer past recriminations, and keep moving forward.  The finish line is waiting for you; I know you can do it!

Other Wishful Thinking Works posts and pages you might enjoy . . .

My Courage Diet

Wishful Thinking Works “Paths” Worksheet

For Wishful Thinking Works services that can change your life, click here.


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