Stories and strengths

 

I heard lots of great stories this weekend at my niece’s wedding. Family tales of silliness, sweetness, love, and laughter. Memories were shared and new ones were made, which got me thinking about how stories not only connect us to one another and to our pasts, but how they can connect us to our futures!

Talking about the stuff we love and the times we were at our bests – our Strength Stories – can help us shape the future we desire. I know we’ve been told from the day we could talk, not to talk about ourselves or to brag, but the truth is – talking about what we love and why we love it is a great way to figure out what our strengths are and how we can use them to create the lives we really want.

I’m not saying we should be monopolizing random conversations with just how cool we are, but it really wouldn’t hurt to make sure you have someone in your life, who you could talk to about the best times of your life and what made them special to you.

Our Strength Stories remind us of what makes our hearts sing; our minds tick; and what keeps us going when the going gets tough. If no one is on hand to listen, no problem, simply think and write about the moments in your life when you were at your best, when everything went right or when you were able to save the day when everything seemed to be going wrong. 

Personal success stories can provide insight and direction. Let your mind wander like a old-fashion TV intro to a dream sequence . . . picture the present moment fading as you ask yourself,  “Hmm, when was I at my best?” “When did I feel the most excited and energized, happy and fulfilled?” “What was I doing?” “Who was I with?” “How was I feeling?”

Let yourself slip into a few blissful moments reflecting you at your best. Quickly jot down the words that best describe the memory and the moment, just like you would if you were reliving a favorite family story, “Remember when we _________.” Use the “blank” as the title of your Strength Story: “The Time I_________.”

Then ask yourself the following questions about your Strength Story:

  1. What made this particular situation special to me?
  2. How did it make me feel?
  3. What can I take from this story to help me in the future?

If you haven’t already, this week might be a good time to take the free online survey of your signature strengths. Then complete your “Circle of Strengths” and my new “Tower of Strengths”, which you can use to note six of your favorite Strength Stories. If you combine the results of your strength survey with the results of these two sheets you will have a solid foundation for building the life you really want.

And, before you know it, your life may be just as beautiful, rich and sweet as the icing on a wedding cake.

Have I mentioned that I love life coaching?

 

I do. (A-not-so veiled reference to today’s royal wedding.)

I absolutely love being a life coach, and honestly think everyone can benefit from working with a great life coach. 

That’s a pretty bold statement, and could be seen as exceptionally self-serving because I am a heck of a great coach, but here’s the thing – many years before I became a really great coach, I hired a really great coach, and it changed my life – for the better, in sickness and in health until death do I part! (I didn’t marry my coach, but wanted to work in another royal wedding reference – and my coaching experience really has helped me through thick and thin, in sickness . . . )

I love that I am now able to use my coaching experiences, subsequent life coach training, years of research and review of positive psychology and Appreciative Inquiry studies and techniques, and my educational and professional background to successfully life coach others. 

I also love that Wishful Thinking Works life coaching gets great reviews from coaching clients, but most of all, I love helping clients make a  positive difference in their lives. 

To read more about what Wishful Thinking Works life coaching can do for you, and some Wishful Thinking Works  reviews, click here and here. Or, give me a call at 813-719-0769 or email me at wishfulthinkingworks@gmail.com.

In the meantime, have a perfectly royal day!

WTW Dandelion

Move, quick.

This is my 4th post about Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project.” (Oops, 5th if you count the first one I wrote announcing I was going to  write about her book.) 

I am writing about her book because:  

  1. It is good.   
  2. Whenever I think about it, I feel happier. 
  3. The more we talk, read or write about something the more likely we are to respond to it.  

My happy feelings about the book come not just from what Gretchen wrote, but from what she did: Gretchen created the life she wanted.

She did it by identifying her desire to change; believing she could; coming up with a plan and taking action. 

Sad, but true, change takes all those things: desire, belief, planning and action.  The good news is Gretchen’s book skillfully outlines her approach to all of them.

Desire, belief, planning and action; desire, belief, planning and action (picture yourself skipping down the yellow-brick road sing-saying it); desire, belief, planning and action; desire, belief, planning and action; desire, belief, planning and action . . .

Well, if we say it that way I guess it isn’t so bad. Actually anything we say while walking or skipping sounds less intimidating. Our brains are wired to work especially well when we are moving.  

Gretchen notes in her book that our bodies need a minimum of 10,000 steps a day for good health.  She also notes that this is the number we need to keep from gaining weight, and that science has shown that “exercise-induced brain chemicals help people think clearly.” 

Other studies show that seniors, who walk at least 1.5 miles a week have the least thinking impairment.  And, that walking may reduce dementia. (I know dementia is a long way off for all of us, but good to know.)

My favorite walking and pondering scenes in books and movies always include a proper 1800/early 1900’s gentlemen walking along a wooded path with his hands clasped behind his back.  Very scholarly.  I think Nietzsche might agree; Gretchen notes he wrote “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”  (He probably came up with that idea on a path in the woods.)

I am happiest along a wooded trail myself.  (I never do the hands clasped behind the back thing, I know this is sexist, but I think walking that way looks better on men in tail-like grey suits with little black collars.)  But my morning walks on steamy Florida sidewalks in my plain old black bike shorts have provided me with lots of wonderfully philosophical and insightful moments, such as this one: movement is good for me. 

I have learned that if I want to change my mind or my mood, moving my body helps.

Walking, skipping, running, hopping, dancing, bending, twisting, turning, and stretching make me feel better. 

Just getting out of your chair right now can change your perspective, and maybe your life – go ahead, try it.  I did and it felt great. Change can start that simply: moving increases our thinking-oriented brain chemicals, which changes our brains and perhaps our minds.

And, remember, even something as simple as a smile is movement in the right direction.

A RARE approach: “The Happiness Project”

Good Monday morning!  As promised, here are more things I like about Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project.

1.  It was fun to read, had a nice flow to it, and was a bit like listening to an interesting friend.

2. She had a great way of blending her skills as a researcher with her talents for storytelling.

3. I liked the approach she used to create the life she wanted, which I am describing as RARE:

Gretchen did her Research (R), took Action (A) and time to Review (R) her findings while remaining Enthusiastic (E) throughout the process. I like that, and think it is pretty RARE for someone to do in their personal life.

Research: Gretchen conducted two types of informal research: internal and external.

The internal stuff:

Gretchen took time to figure out what she cared about – living a fuller life – and what she thought was missing – happiness, well, a deeper, richer happiness – then she spent time researching the topic – happiness – to find out if there were already answers to the question she was asking herself: Could I change my life without really changing my life? I am sort-of putting words into Gretchen’s head – but they represent the idea of what she was thinking.  She did not want to reinvent the wheel – her life – she liked her life, but she felt she could improve the way it was rolling along.

The external stuff:

Gretchen read everything she could get her hands on related to happiness from “Aristotle to Martin Seligman [father of the field of positive psychology] to Thoreau to Oprah” (Her words, except for the [ ].)

Action

The research she did was her first action step; her second step was organizing what she read and devising a series of “experiments” for herself – she tried all sorts of methods for increasing her happiness; her third was creating charts to guide and track her progress.

Sounds like a lot of work, and it was, but she made it fun, and as simple as possible.  Gretchen knew if she tried to change her life in a haphazard fashion, she wouldn’t see the results she wanted – so she planned, charted and even started a blog.  Very cool.

Review

I love this part of her approach. Gretchen reviewed what worked and what didn’t work for her, and then made adjustments when needed instead of abandoning her efforts.

No, throwing the baby out with the bath water for her!  No, “Why can’t I ever follow through with anything?”  No, “Why do things never work for me?” Gretchen reduced her self-incriminations and ramped-up the getting-up and dusting-off her pants part.

She never gave-up, she simply gave herself feedback and listened to it!  I like this, but not this.  Hmm, this seems to be working, but I feel it would even better if I . . . I really do not like this aspect, but I still want to keep going, so maybe I will try this instead! Okay, I am once again putting words into Gretchen’s head, but she knows what I am up to – so I am hoping she doesn’t mind.

And, last but certainly not least, Gretchen remained . . .

Enthusiastic

She celebrated her successes – big or small – and rewarded  herself along the way.  The celebrations and rewards kept her enthusiasm high, and allowed more time for positive results to develop, which improved her life and gave her the energy she needed to keep going.

Gretchen’s approach reveals she valued all the plotting and planning she did: she put her time in, paid her dues and committed to the process.  (Please note: doing the plotting and planning almost always makes the process more valuable to us –  if we do the work we tend to want to make it to the finish line. Good strategy for change.)

I am not saying she never felt disillusioned, she did and explains when and why in her book with humor and engaging humility, but she did not let those feelings stop her.

Gretchen used a RARE year-long approach to finding happiness, and it worked.  Join me Mondays in May for the details.

Have a great day, and remember May is a time of new beginnings and the perfect time to begin planning the life you want.

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