February 14th, Valentine’s Day in the USA.
Love looms on the horizon if you are a romantic reveler.
On this day, do you think of you giving extra love to another?
Being more mindful of them? If so, how kind, grateful and generous. All loving strengths. But there are times loving does not come easily.
The other day I was in a rare fat funk. I was, in essence, choosing to muck up my day, by focusing on the negative. OK, I had good reason. A much anticipated business dell crashed and burned. But that paled in comparison to the next jaw-dropping news. My best friends from Delaware, Cheryl and Bob Nash, had to cancel their annual trip here. Stoic Bob has to have unexpected open heart surgery ASAP to fix his widow maker arteries. OMG! We all were in shock. At least they found his problem and hopefully his surgery will be over soon.
First, I felt in shock. Then I crashed with sadness, fear for Bob and frustration. I was aware I needed to get out of the quicksand of my gloom. I needed to be mindful of what I wanted and needed. To pause. To breathe. To get a grip.
I did. Only then did I take an action. I called a dear coach friend and vented. I cleared or at least tried to begin the process of letting go. Next, I accepted my negative emotions. They are normal, I reminded myself. Then I paused again to look to find the good. To be grateful. To make a positivity plan to get my butt slowly out of that quicksand trying to pull me under. I still had some sinking feelings. I knew I was feeling sorry for Cheryl and Bob and for myself, knowing their yearly plans to visit us in Vallarta disappeared like a magic trick I did not want to see.
I decided to take a closer look-see at my Best Possible Future. But that became a process, rather than an immediate occurrence. I couldn’t do it at first. I needed to truly embrace my pity party after my dreams went up in smoke. I was ticked off, angry at myself, and I began to be aware I was digging up past resentments to make matters worst. Oh, I was in a dark cave with bats flying around. And I was inviting myself to go deeper!
More meditation about this and letting go. Yup. I needed that. And a more detailed plan to overcome my obsessive thinking.
To get to my goal of Best Possible Future…
…I decided to use loving-kindness and acceptance and commitment techniques to allow myself to notice myself being so upset. I permitted myself to be upset. I sat that negative part of myself in a different chair. I watched how that too-down, too upset obsessive part of me was playing havoc with my whole life. I labeled every negative emotion I was feeling and wrote them down. I was choosing to wallow in negativity. I let myself vent, then noticed myself venting, then mindfully made the decision to move past it. I released one negative emotion at a time. It took me a day and a half.
Next, I decided to turn the tables and look at my Best Possible Future. Rather than sit in the pile of bull crap I was allowing myself to force-feed myself, I looked at creating a more positive future. I scanned my life for the good now. Nest, the good down the road. I made a plan to get more of it right now as well as in the upcoming months. Then years. Whew! Suddenly I was no longer Atlas folding up the world nor Sisyphus trying to repeatedly roll that rock up the hill. I found a way to get myself up the hill via positive avenues. Yes, it necessitated a choice for me to engineer a major re-haul in my visualizing what I wanted. Yes, I would need to play a new card of hands, but I decided that deck would work. And I smiled.
How about you?
Ever been really bogged down? Or stuck in overwhelm? If you have been indecisive or frozen about life and what you want or how you are going to get what you want, here is an interesting strategy that works.
First, pause to ponder about how you could be kinder to yourself when life force-feeds acid down your throat. Allow your mind to roam to anywhere you feel negativity. Sit your negatives down on the table in front of you. Embrace them. Accept them, but next comes the challenge. Shrink them down to about one inch tall. Know they may always be with you, and that is normal. Next comes your biggest challenge. It’s time to learn a new way to be.
What if you gave yourself a gift of love? A gift of loving-kindness, openness, willingness, and flexibility to be. To use mindfulness and acceptance to love yourself warts and all. To use your Values in Action 24 character strengths to be patient and loving. Remember Barbara Fredrickson’s research that LOVE is the grand-daddy of all the positive emotions? What if you embraced your shortcomings and learned to smile at them. To be curious about your foibles and profit from your screw ups. And who doesn’t have those?
For me, mess-ups are a daily occurrence. Yes, my inner critic pops out. I have named her, “Jinx Judy’!” But after I let off a little steam, sometimes deserved in my book, and sometimes not, I LET GO. Hanging onto negativity only diminishes my own well-being. I ask myself:
~ “How do I want to show up here?”
~ “What do I need to embrace…and/or let go of?”
~ “What is my opportunity to learn?”
Can you choose (powerful word!) to admit to and then even embrace your fallibility?
If not, can you imagine your best future self , for example, if you dropped your perfectionism? Or you accepted your Attention Deficit Disorder? Or owned your being scatter-brained? Or faced your procrastinating self?
You have your inner critic challenges. We all do. Ain’t it great to be part of the human race? Perhaps harnessing your human strengths will help you file down your fingernails before you scratch yourself in frustration! No more beat me, bite me, burn me masochism! Yes this is my perhaps feeble attempt at humor. But humor is a strength. It helps you open your eyes and smile at your humanness. Also, being a tad naughty might help you ventilate and release the energy that holds back your flourishing. Sometimes a minor cuss word or two allows yourself to be real. Let off some steam, yes, but I challenge you not to project your angst onto another. Find a method of release that works for you. Writing, walking, or dancing are activities some of my friends employ.
Look at your Best Possible Future in association with using your Values in Action (VIA) strengths and mindfulness. What is a powerful self-love cocktail of positivity. A well-being booster like two dozen tasty, juicy oysters on the half shell with greater happiness satiating you.
Research reveals writing your specific, most relevant goals and making a doable action plan to achieve them, helps you become more insightfully aware of what really matters to you. It assists you in focusing on and prioritizing your desired emotions, especially your strength of self-regulation and control (another strength). It improves your daily performance and happiness as you keep your eye on your written goals. Yes, crap will get in your way of achieving your stated goals, but you note this is normal and you persevere. And that’s another hot-to-trot strength gift, wisdom awareness.
It’s wonderful to know Imagining your Best Positive Future boosts happiness. It also augments productivity and optimism. What an upbeat way to create your personalized happiness-enhancing vision of your future life. A terrific strength, optimism. It’s a good reason to begin your Best Possible Future journey.
To begin, you might choose any time period you want from six month to five years. Many choose three to five years, but that decision is yours.
To help guide you along, daily employ this paragraph suggested in an article by the Journal of Positive Psychology:
“Imagine yourself in the future, after everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life’s goals. Think of this as the realization of your life’s dreams, and of your own best potentials. You are identifying the best possible way that things might turn out in your life, in order to help guide your decisions now. You may not have thought about yourself in this way before, but research suggests that doing so can have a strong positive effect on your mood and life satisfaction.”
Here’s a handy outline to act as a GPS to your achieving your Best Possible Future:
- Decide you want to create a new science-based visualization habit that will increase your optimism and overall well-being. Align your values with it.
- Reinforce your dedication to remind yourself your goals via writing down your positive goals for the future. Or draw pictures. Or collect photos. Be creative!
- Be very specific and realistic about what you want. Time-line each goal. Be ready for hurdles. Make alternative routes if one plan gets stuck in the muck.
- Add joy to your journey as you gain insight into your emotions and priorities. This enables you to feel happier and more productive along the way.
- Pause. Feel your new-found increase in self-regulation, a major strength for you to stretch as you see your future successes and formulate action plans.
- Commit each day to visualizing your Best Possible Future. Again, consider writing a few sentences to inspire you. They will power-up your positivity.
- Positively reminisce about your journey as you go along the paths you create to achieve your Best Possible Future.
Remember to imagine and label what you want in the richest detail.
Be creative. Play with ideas. Savor what you decide will be pleasing and rewarding for you. Maybe review Barbara Fredrickson’s Love 2.0 book and her 10 Positive Emotions to add spice to your Best Positive Future.
As you imagine your achieving your goals, really appreciate them. Celebrate them yourself and with others who are cheering you along in your journey. Love yourself. You are getting what you want. You feel it deeply. Your head, heart, and gut are in alignment. You have three brains you are employing to guide your journey to happiness, fulfillment and flourishing.
Valentine’s Day 2017. Hope yours is sweet. I wish for you to think of your 24 character strengths as gorgeous red roses. Everyday you mindfully use them as you visualize your Best Possible Future. Also, if you want to dive deeper my friend and strengths guru, Ryan Niemiec, has a terrific book on how to harness strengths and mindfulness, “Mindfulness and Character Strengths ~ A Guide to Flourishing.” Also see many books and articles by Puerto Vallarta resident and famous Harvard psychology professor mindfulness pioneer, Ellen Langer. It was great to see her at lunch recently.
I would love hear about your wins. Please feel free to share them with me. I will be cheering for you! Or contact me if you would like to experience positive psychology coaching to assist you along your way to getting what you want in life.
P.S. The couple photo here is Cheryl and Bob Nash in Vallarta last year. Their Best Possible Future will include our annual visits soon!
The other photo is Dr. Ellen Langer here in Puerto Vallarta a few weeks ago. Also, you can find the Values in Actions free Strengths Survey at viacharacter.org.