Dr. Happiness Is In

Ed Diener, Ph.D., a psychology professor emeritus at the University of Illinois, is an award-winning author dubbed “Dr. Happiness” by admirers all over the world. Diener has spent a lifetime researching ways to measure and understand personal happiness, and was one of the first academics to seriously embrace a field that, in the early ’80s, was considered far too wishy-washy and touchy-feely for any man of science.

During the past 30 years, Diener has studied how our emotions and experiences—over the course of a day and a lifetime—contribute to our overall “subjective well-being,” or SWB. While happiness can be defined temporarily (sex, chocolate, runner’s high, etc.), it can also connote long-term satisfaction (raising kids, achieving goals, living life according to one’s core values). SWB encompasses both types of fulfillment. And while his research has shown that being positive and grateful can enhance your SWB, it has also shown that for people everywhere, loneliness, misery and suffering can actually be part of overall life satisfaction. (In fact, someone who is never sad, Diener told us, is likely to be “a sociopath.”) Even people living in extremely poor circumstances (Diener surveyed people living in the slums of Calcutta, for example) or going through tough events such as losing a job or getting divorced can remain happy over their lifetimes and be quite content on the whole.

Diener describes the concept of SWB in celluloid terms: “A film that is rated highly from moment to moment might consist of frequent action, sex and narrative tension. A movie that is rated as great cinema, however, is one in which the individual elements are patterned and juxtaposed in interesting and meaningful ways, and in which the overall narrative and character development are compelling. Great movies also have their sad and slow moments, with the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. The best films contain both ongoing momentary interest and a long-term sense of meaning.”

So how can the movie of your life be great cinema? Diener’s work offers many science-based strategies. A few of his greatest hits:

Bad day? Take it in stride. Is the “good life” one filled with purpose and meaning or one filled with pleasure? It’s an age-old philosophical question tackled by the likes of Aristotle, Socrates and Aquinas. Diener was the first to pose the question scientifically. In one study, he and his colleagues asked 222 college students to complete end-of-day assessments for 52 days. The participants reported the frequency of specific emotions (ranging from joy to jealousy), physical pleasures (eating, sex, beauty, etc.), discomforts (illness, fatigue, hunger, etc.) and their overall enjoyment of the day. Finally, they were evaluated on their self-esteem, sense of purpose in life and general life satisfaction. Diener found that the participants’ life- and self-satisfaction were determined more by their sense of purpose than by their day-to-day highs and lows. Satisfying days do not automatically lead to a satisfying life. Having purpose in life—meaningful work, volunteerism, art, goals and family—trumped sunny, relaxing days when it came to assessing SWB.

Keep setting new goals. Diener often asked his students if they would accept a wish granted by a genie. Almost all of them immediately said yes. But upon discussion, the students began to doubt the benefits of such immediate gratification. Getting everything you want without working for any of it might become boring and unsatisfying. Reaching a mountain peak is exhilarating in large part because of the climb to get there. If you were airlifted to the summit, Diener asks, would the moment feel as rewarding? “If we enjoy the activities needed in working for our goals, many hours and years of pleasure are provided, whereas reaching summits provides only the occasional short-term high.” Happiness is a process, not a place, he explains. So continue to set goals that you enjoy working toward.

Yes, stay positive. While Diener acknowledges that sadness and hardship are part of a rich and happy life, his research has shown that how you view these sad, hard aspects of life can increase your SWB even more. Of course, it’s simple enough to say, “Stay positive,” but if you’re a glass-half-empty type of person, how do you actually do that? It isn’t just about plastering a fake smile on your face and acting jolly. You can actually train your brain to think more positively. How? Diener uses an acronym as a guide: AIM—attention, interpretation, memory.

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Take AIM on happiness. “Positive thinking is a mindset in which you recognize your blessings more than you pay attention to daily hassles,” Diener writes. The attention aspect is simply that: Look for the flowers and that’s what you’ll find; look for the weeds and your garden will be overrun with them.

Interpretation is about viewing things in a different light. You might see friends’ vacation photos or news about career highs on Facebook, for example, and feel bad that you aren’t accomplishing as much or having as much fun. But a positive person will see the success of her peers as inspiration. Being positive doesn’t mean that you’re never down or frustrated; it means recognizing tough experiences and feelings as opportunities for growth.

And being positive also means using the human idiosyncrasy of “rosy retrospection”—remembering past events more favorably than you viewed them at the time—to your advantage. The story about your disastrous first date with your spouse, when you spilled spaghetti on your lap and lost your wallet, for example, might become a charming and romantic anecdote later on when you share it with your children. Allow yourself to selectively remember certain events; people who do so are happier overall. Sure, your family vacation may have had its share of tantrums, feuds and rainy days. But when you choose to recall the shared jokes, fun times and sunny afternoons, everyone wins. You might even train yourself to put less emphasis on those not-so-great moments during your next vacation.

Don’t smile all the time. Well, you can if you want to, but Diener says being happy doesn’t mean being maniacally cheerful. Being too exuberant—without a dose of sarcasm, self-deprecation or even disgust—can be unhealthy. Sometimes, complaining/commiserating helps us bond with others, and making fun of ourselves can prevent us from taking life too seriously. Someone who never worries likely won’t take appropriate measures to protect himself from harm. Everyone has his or her own “set point” of happiness (50 percent of which is determined by genetics), Diener says. Some people are naturally more optimistic and merry than others. The goal isn’t to be happy all the time, but to raise your set point a bit to maximize your SWB. Diener advises, “Decide for yourself what your optimum level of happiness is, keeping in mind that being in a frequent mild good mood is functional, and negative emotions, so long as they are felt only occasionally, can be helpful, too. Then enjoy pursuing the goals and values that are important to you.”

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Author Patty Onderko

Why Your Attitude is Everything And How to Turn it Into Action

One of the most important steps you can take toward achieving your greatest potential in life is to learn to monitor your attitude and its impact on your work performance, relationships and everyone around you.

I generally start my workshops and seminars by asking a fundamental question: What attitude did you bring into this meeting? Often, this brings puzzled looks. In truth, people generally don’t have a high level of attitude awareness. They’ll know if they are hungry or if their feet hurt, but they usually don’t have a good handle on their attitude. That is a mistake because attitude is everything. It governs the way you perceive the world and the way the world perceives you.

We all have a choice. We can choose an inner dialogue of self-encouragement and self-motivation, or we can choose one of self-defeat and self-pity. It’s a power we all have. Each of us encounters hard times, hurt feelings, heartache, and physical and emotional pain. The key is to realize it’s not what happens to you that matters; it’s how you choose to respond.

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Your mind is a computer that can be programmed. You can choose whether the software installed is productive or unproductive. Your inner dialogue is the software that programs your attitude, which determines how you present yourself to the world around you. You have control over the programming. Whatever you put into it is reflected in what comes out.

Many of us have behavior patterns today that were programmed into our brains at a very tender age. The information that was recorded by our brains could have been completely inaccurate or cruel. The sad reality of life is that we will continue to hear negative information, but we don’t have to program it into our brains.

The loudest and most influential voice you hear is your own inner voice, your selfcritic. It can work for or against you, depending on the messages you allow. It can be optimistic or pessimistic. It can wear you down or cheer you on. You control the sender and the receiver, but only if you consciously take responsibility for and control over your inner conversation.

Habitual bad attitudes are often the product of past experiences and events. Common causes include low self-esteem, stress, fear, resentment, anger and an inability to handle change. It takes serious work to examine the roots of a harmful attitude, but the rewards of ridding ourselves of this heavy baggage can last a lifetime.

Here are 10 strategies from my attitude tool kit to improve your attitude:

Self-Coaching Through Affirmations Affirmations repeated several times each day, every day, serve to reprogram your subconscious with positive thinking. An affirmation is made up of words charged with power, conviction and faith. You send a positive response to your subconscious, which accepts whatever you tell it. When done properly, this triggers positive feelings that, in turn, drive action.

Self-Motivation Through Discovering Your Motives Discover what motivates you—what incites you to take action to change your life. Basic motives include love, self-preservation, anger, financial gain and fear. Self-motivation requires enthusiasm, a positive outlook, a positive physiology (walk faster, smile, sit up), and a belief in yourself and your God-given potential.

The Power of Visualization Studies of the psychology of peak performance have found that most great athletes, surgeons, engineers and artists use affirmations and visualizations either consciously or subconsciously to enhance and focus their skills. Nelson Mandela has written extensively on how visualization helped him maintain a positive attitude while being imprisoned for 27 years. “I thought continually of the day when I would walk free. I fantasized about what I would like to do,” he wrote in his autobiography. Visualization works well to improve attitude.

Attitude Talk for Positive Internal Dialogue Attitude talk is a way to override your past negative programming by erasing or replacing it with a conscious, positive internal voice that helps you face new directions. Your internal conversation—that little voice you listen to all day long—acts like a seed in that it programs your brain and affects your behavior. Take a closer look at what you are saying to yourself.

The Power of Words—WOW Once released to the universe, our words cannot be taken back. Learn the concept of WOW—watch our words. What we speak reflects what is already in our hearts based upon all the things we have come to believe about ourselves. If we find ourselves speaking judgmental and disparaging things about our circumstances or those around us, we know the condition of our hearts needs to change. You can create a direct path to success by what you say.

The Power in a Positive Greeting When people ask me how I am doing, I say, “Super-fantastic.” Most people enjoy working and living with others who try to live life for what it is—a beautiful gift.

Enthusiasm: Vital Tool for Staying Motivated Enthusiasm is to attitude what breathing is to life. Enthusiasm enables you to apply your gifts more effectively. It’s the burning desire that communicates commitment, determination and spirit. Enthusiasm means putting yourself in motion. It’s an internal spirit that speaks through your actions from your commitment and your belief in what you are doing. It is one of the most empowering and attractive characteristics you can have.

Connecting to Your Spiritual Empowerment The ultimate level of human need extends into the spiritual realm. Just as we feed our bodies in response to our primary need to survive physically, we need to feed our spirit because we are spiritual beings. Many people find powerful and positive motivation in their faith. I happen to be one of them.

Lighten Up Your Life with Humor Humor is a powerful motivator. The more humor and laughter in your life, the less stress you’ll have, which means more positive energy to help you put your attitude into action. There are also health benefi ts to lightening up.

Exercising Will Help Keep You Motivated One of the best ways to move to a more positive and motivated frame of mind is to exercise. A regular exercise routine can provide relatively quick positive feedback in the form of weight loss, muscle development and a sense of doing something positive for yourself.

Seek your personal and professional success by using the tools in this attitude tool kit. It is no secret that life seems to reward us most when we approach the world with a positive attitude.

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Author : Keith Harrell

Boost Your Self-Motivation Today

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Where does self-motivation come from? Love, passion, hate? How about self-discipline, honour, deadlines? Actually here’s a thing.

You are able to be incredibly self-motivated! It’s true. We all are, given the right context. If I park my car on your toe, your true motivation for action would manifest immediately – motivation for me to get my darn car off your foot! If you develop a terrible itch, the really intense kind on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the itchiest), how compelled are you to scratch it? Motivation in these contexts is easy to produce.

But of course when people say they want more self-motivation, what they really mean is that they want to purposefully direct their motivational force toward something positive, constructive, and valuable to them. I’ve worked with people who wanted help ramping up their motivation to get fitter, finish novels, study more, start businesses, and even get out of bed in the mornings.

But how do you ramp up your self-motivation? Let’s get going!

1) Be fuel-efficient

First off, it’s a mistake to assume that motivation must always be linked to feeling motivated. We assume self-motivation is fuelled by emotion and, at least initially, it often is. Inspirational speakers with strong jaw lines, tailored suits, and overpoweringly white smiles whip up your emotions and what happens? You leave the seminar feeling motivated – ready to take on the world. And this is great – in the short-term. But like getting a sugar hit when running a marathon, pretty soon the effect fades. You can’t be forever whipped up, just as you can’t always be maxing out on a sugar high.

Prolific writer H. Bedford-Jones wrote as many as 25,000 (but averaged between 5,000 and 10,000) words a day and produced over 1,400 magazine stories and 80 books. Now, had he been emotionally fired up in the writing of every word, he would have exhausted himself to the point of incapacity. So…

Self-motivation needs to be sustainable.

Always having to feel excited so as to make sustained efforts is a dead end. If we see emotion as a type of fuel, then we need to be able to save it and not waste it. We need to be able to ‘run the machine’ using up very little emotion sometimes.

Learning to act when not feeling like acting so you don’t have to constantly wait for ‘when the mood takes you’ will give you a self-motivation edge; a massive advantage over 99% of people who have been trained by society to ‘only do stuff they feel motivated to do’. And a strange thing happens.

The feeling of motivation gradually develops after you’ve started and made sustained efforts.

Get used to just doing without always feeling like it and you’ll develop willpower as surely as repeated lifting of a weight will build muscle.

2) Get going now, no matter what the weather

Don’t wait until everything is ‘just right’ before you make a start. There is never a ‘right time’ to do a difficult thing. Make enough preparation, but be man or woman enough to know when you’re just hiding behind excuses. Sometimes the more we put off doing something, the more ‘reasons’ we find for putting it off.

Talking, dreaming, and describing to loved ones your dreams and aspirations may come to replace action or even bury it completely, just as earth enshrines a grave.

3) Shoot for the moon (and you’ll land amongst the stars)

It’s worth being ambitious because even if you fall short of your ultimate goal, you’ll still achieve an awful lot ‘by default’. Or you may achieve more by default. The stars are, after all, further than the moon.

You might think to yourself: “Who am I to be successful/talented/fulfilled/useful in the world?” I want you to think: “Who am I not to be!”

4) Catch successful attitudes – it’s infectious

Hang out with motivated people, because attitudes rub off – really motivated people are motivating. If you hang with apathetic, nay-saying, or (dare I say) downright lazy types, it’s much harder to ramp up your own mojo. Find people (even if it’s online) who are positive, industrious, talented, and goal-focussed.

We become like those with whom we associate. People ‘catch success’.

5) Don’t leap the staircase

I recently heard a highly successful entrepreneur (and therefore seriously self-motivated individual) give her one piece of advice for budding business builders: “Start small and think big.”

A step in and of itself is not much of a thing, but enough steps together can take you far indeed. Wanting success instantly is for children. Wanting something immediately without bothering to plan and develop your strategy is like feeling that great musicians who have practiced for thousands of hours are just ‘lucky’.

I sometimes find that so-called under-motivated people often just lack a realistic appreciation of what it takes to become successful. I worked helping a man who’d become depressed because all kinds of plans hadn’t come to fruition. But I noticed he’d never looked at what was behind apparent successes: the work, planning, and commitment. No wonder he now felt completely de-motivated.

We devised a plan; then I pointed to some steps. “How would you climb those stairs?” I asked.

“One at a time!” he replied.

Ah, now he finally had a map to achievement. Self-motivation is the fuel, but strategic planning is how the route needs to be negotiated.

6) Come on, baby, light my fire

Horror writer Stephen King feels that unless he writes every day when working on a new novel, “the characters begin to stale off in my mind – they begin to seem like characters instead of real people. The tale’s narrative edge starts to rust and I begin to lose my hold on the story’s plot and pace. Worst of all, the excitement of spinning something new begins to fade.”

You don’t need to be a slave to having to feel constantly pumped up before you can take action, but you do sometimes need to re-evoke some fire in your belly.

Take time to sit down and relax. Close your eyes and consciously remind yourself of all the reasons to be motivated; re-capture and amplify your original feelings and passion around your goal.

7) We’re a long time dead

If you ever find your self-motivation slipping (and haven’t yet developed the capacity to get going without ‘feel good’ emotion flooding your brain), consider how you’d feel if you didn’t really go for your dreams. The greatest failure is failure to try.

Because the facts are that people do achieve amazing things. The couch potato does change her ways, the college dropout does on occasion go on to create a global empire. And if you ever doubt what people who set their minds toward something are capable of, take a look at the Guinness Book of World Records.

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Article written by Mark Tyrrell.

How to be More Punctual

Thanks for finally showing up! I’ve been here since…well, whatever date it says this article was published.

Punctuality isn’t just about being on time – strange as that sounds.

There are many little ways to disrespect others, from continually talking across them when they’re trying to speak to forgetting about something they’d told you is important to them. Lots of ways that relay that special little signal: “You don’t really matter!”

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Of course, everyone is late sometimes due to unavoidable circumstances – bloody traffic! – and being obsessive about punctuality can bring its own problems. But punctuality becomes a problem when being late is habitual. Lack of punctuality forms an image in the minds of those exposed to it – and if people see you as unpunctual, that’ll seriously disadvantage you. Here’s how:

Be more punctual to enhance productivity

Constant unpunctuality isn’t just rude or inconsiderate; it is also a communication, just as your body language transmits messages about what you are like. Tardiness says:

  • I am sloppy, unorganized, and undisciplined.
  • I am unable to think ahead.
  • I am unrealistic in that I underestimate how long things will take.
  • I am selfish.
  • I am not committed to this relationship/friendship/project.

I’m not saying you are these things; I’m saying that these are the signals sent by bad timekeeping. Unpunctuality is also an ineffective way of going about things and can block your success. Meetings may have to be rushed, important relationships damaged, and work schedules messed up.

What can you do to be more punctual?

Better punctuality for better living

Well, obviously better planning is vital. If you need to meet someone at 3.00, don’t aim for 3.00 – aim for 2.45. Think about what might prevent you from getting to your appointment on time and allow for these possible hurdles (sometimes thinking negatively is positive).

Another way to ramp up motivation for better punctuality is to strongly put yourself in the shoes of the person(s) having to wait around for you. Empathy is the capacity to see through other people’s eyes in such a way that you can better understand their point of view and needs.

Sit down and strongly imagine being the other person who has to wait around for you. Notice the irritation, the boredom, the frustration, and not getting on with other stuff.

Always On Time Punctual Reliability Clock

Ultimately, being more punctual is going to make you more respected and more productive. Everybody wins.

Article written by Mark Tyrrell.

How to Stop Shy Bladder Syndrome

Okay, we’ve all been there (help me out here, fellas): you’re standing at the urinal; you want to go, but…you just can’t. Anxiety, embarrassment, self-consciousness, feeling pressured around others; whatever the cause, most of us have sometimes experienced shy or ‘bashful bladder’.

But for some men and women, shy bladder syndrome becomes chronic. It starts to dictate their lives. Take Nick for example: He was a successful man in his thirties when he came for help. He recounted how, when he was seventeen, he had been under pressure to perform well in exams. One day he had been standing next to his father at a urinal when he found he “just couldn’t pee.” But it got far worse than that.

Now married with children, he had reached the point where restroom privacy had become an obsession for him. He would even insist that his family leave the house for ten minutes every time he needed to visit the toilet.

“I know everything there is to know about shy bladder syndrome,” he explained. “My doctor calls it paruresis, I know it’s pretty common but people don’t like to talk about it. I’ve had months of cognitive therapy and analyzed my thoughts around it ’til I’m blue in the face. I could write a textbook on the subject; but I’ve still got the blessed thing!”

Nick did get over his shy bladder experiences and as a result he suddenly found he could embrace freedoms that hadn’t been available for years. He could meet up with friends for drinks without concern, go on holiday again, and make long journeys.

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If you suffer shy bladder syndrome, here are some tips to help you get back in flow.

1) Trust in your unconscious mind

Sure, this one is easier said than done, but stick with me.

Anxiety and conscious focus interrupt and prevent natural physical processes. When people become anxious about going to sleep, consciously trying to sleep can totally prevent the onset of sleep. Similarly, when a natural function like urinating becomes a conscious effort, then the whole process gets disrupted.

The unconscious mind takes care of so much. Blinking, digestion, erections, breathing, menstrual cycles, salivation, and many other processes are best left to the part of you that knows how to operate them: your unconscious mind.

Close your eyes before going out and tell your unconscious mind: “Today/tonight I (the conscious mind) am going to let you oversee what you do so well.” This may sound crazy, but this self-suggestion has worked for many shy bladder sufferers.

2) Overcome shy bladder by rehearsing success

Your imagination is a powerful tool. Use it.

When you are actually using the toilet at home, imagine you are in a public restroom, feeling relaxed. This will help prepare you for using one for real.

You may have noticed that some restrooms feel ‘easier’ than others; perhaps they are less busy. Make a list of easy restrooms, averagely difficult ones, and harder ones.

Take a week to use just the easier ones. Whilst using those, imagine you are using the next harder one. Imagine what it looks like. When you are in the intermediate restroom and using it, imagine using the hardest one of all.

Like any rehearsal, this constructive rehearsal can ‘train the brain’ for the real thing.

3) Vividly recall times before bashful bladder

When we recall times gone by, we don’t just remember with the mind; the body remembers too. So if I recall a time when I laughed with a friend, I may feel like laughing again. If I recall a time I was very fit, I may feel stronger now.

With your eyes closed, recall times when you were relaxed in a public restroom. Imagine seeing yourself from the outside looking calm and letting your body do what comes naturally. This will help realign your mind and body to the way things were and should be. Do this exercise regularly and it will start to feel more normal again to just use public restrooms.

Alternatively, click on the free audio session below and let me guide you though this exercise.

4) Get someone close to you to be close to you

Tell a trusted friend or family member and get them to be near you when you ‘practice’ going to the bathroom when out and about.

Yes, really. This will take the pressure off. Why? Because they’ll know about it. Blushing is only a problem when we are trying to hide it. If your best friend knows you blush, then you’ll care much less about it in his/her presence.

If you’re a guy, practice standing at a urinal with your pal close by. If this proves funny, all the better – because laughter drives out anxiety. Women can practice urinating or just sitting in a cubicle near a trusted female friend.

5) Don’t give up; you will overcome it

As I said before, trying too hard to overcome an unconscious process can get in the way. But nature intends for you to urinate regularly when you have opportunities to do so. Use hypnosis, speak to former sufferers, but keep going to start going again. It took a few weeks of work, but I’ll never forget the look on Nick’s face when he came to tell me he’d done it: “I had such a great time last night. We were at this dance party, and I drank a few beers and, you know what? I went to the bathroom three, maybe four times, and it just felt so natural again.”

Shy bladder is a temporary condition. Use these five proven tips to remind your brain just how to relax and let you go as you used to.

Article written by Mark Tyrrell.

Stop Blaming Other People

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”
~ George Bernard Shaw

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How could he have been so stupid! It’s his hotel and he’s messed up again. Basil Fawlty (of the classic BBC sitcom Fawlty Towers) decides to apologize to a long-suffering guest about some stupid misunderstanding. He bounds up the hotel stairs, frantically repeating over and over to himself by way of contrite rehearsal, “I’m so sorry, I made a mistake! I’m so sorry, I made a mistake!”

Almost breathless, he knocks on the bewildered guest’s door, and it opens gingerly. “I’m so sorry,” booms Fawlty, “…err, my…wife has made a mistake!”

Basil just couldn’t bring himself to admit liability (although I don’t think he’d have dared blame his wife had she actually been present).

We’ve all known people like this. It’s never their fault, is it? It’s their parents’ or children’s or bunny rabbit’s fault. It’s their star sign or the cat next door or you! “You made me do that!” (Because all I am is a passive keyboard waiting to have my buttons pressed?)

But can we blame society?

Let’s blame the blame culture

People growl intermittently about the current ‘blame culture’. And it’s true the word ‘accident’ is sometimes mistakenly used in place of ‘potential payout’. Don’t blame me! I’m just saying, is all.

It used to be the case that plain bad luck or an ‘act of God’ was something you just had to live with. We rarely hear: “It was nobody’s fault…just bad luck.”

“Well, Bad Luck better get himself a fine lawyer, because I’m suing!!”

Of course, sometimes an organization or individual really was woefully, even fatally, negligent; in which case, just blame and compensation are right and proper. Terrible life-threatening mistakes are made sometimes. But on a more day-to-day level, I think it’s true that passing the buck is now a cultural pastime.

This is a big problem if finding blame becomes more important than finding ways to put things right.

But what’s so attractive about the international pastime of blaming others?

We like to find a cause (and let ourselves off the hook)

We all like simple causes; they neaten life’s uncertainties. The ancient Egyptians saw the sun disappear every night and wondered, quite naturally, where it was off to. Until they ‘solved’ the problem. Our great fiery ball was swallowed up by the sky goddess Nut (or Nuit) each evening, who then gave birth to it each morning in the east. Okay, that’s explained; now we can all relax. You see, any explanation is better than no explanation.

Finding someone to blame (and then blaming them) may give us a substitute sensation for having solved a problem when we haven’t really understood cause and effect at all. Sure, anger and self-righteousness are exciting feelings, but we mustn’t become so hooked on excitement that we stop being able to see more subtle shades of cause and effect.

And let’s not forget (as Basil Fawlty didn’t) that blaming others is a neat little way of letting ourselves off the hook. We might say we want truth, but can we handle it?

Take control of your life by blaming others less

Some people get emotional satisfaction from talking about how awful other people are. But research has found that when you talk negatively to, say, a friend about how awful a colleague is, the listening friend is more likely to associate the negativity to you rather than to the person you’re describing (1). Researchers call this ‘spontaneous trait transference’. So it’s best to go easy on bad-mouthing others because it may backfire anyway.

It takes a big person to accept outwardly and inwardly that they screwed up. I’m not saying we should never blame other people. Sometimes others are at fault and they need to know it and take responsibility. But being able to accept responsibility when that’s right means we actually become less helpless and passive.

If everything is someone else’s fault, then what part do I play in my own life? Are my actions entirely without consequence? Am I that powerless? Or do all my actions only lead to good outcomes? Am I an entirely new type of human being?

Knowing we can accept responsibility when things go wrong means we can also accept credit when things go well. We do, as individuals, have an effect on life; and that’s a good thing.

But we need to develop the capacity to be objective enough about ourselves to avoid assuming we could never possibly have created problems ourselves. We also need to distinguish between accepting responsibility and punishing ourselves unduly.

The all important middle way

It seems we need to tread a path between overly internalizing (“Everything is always my fault!”) and overly externalizing (“Why do other people always screw up!”) when bad things happen. Doing too much of either make us off-balance and unhappy.

Having the ‘everything and anything I do is self-justifiably wonderful and right!’ type of attitude is okay if you’re two, but I’m guessing you’re not.

And the fact is, we all need feedback about ourselves. Otherwise, we don’t move forward. The pill can be bitter to swallow sometimes, but it can do us an awful lot of good.

Why you need a jester

Jesters or ‘jokers’ were the only ones in medieval courts who were allowed to point out to the King or Queen when they made mistakes. The pill was coated with sugar, but at least the monarch had a chance to maintain humility and perspective to govern and live more effectively.

We can be our own ‘jesters’. Blaming doesn’t have to mean ‘punishing’. If you are big enough to realize when you have made a mistake, you can admit it and then find ways, if possible, to make things better. That’s all it takes and all you can do. If other people use it as an excuse to turn on you, then that’s their issue.

If you feel you have a tendency to blame others unfairly, then I salute you because you’ve already become your own Jester and everyone needs one. Most people will refuse to even countenance the idea that they may be prone to unfairly blaming others. So you’ve already taken a massive step.

Here are some more steps you might take:

1) Look for the cause, not just any cause

If something doesn’t work out, it’s easy to get creative and find some reason why it’s someone else’s fault. Learn to relax with not actually knowing for a while why something worked out the way it did. Tolerate the temporary uncertainty of just not knowing until you get a wider perspective on things.

Jumping to blame the first person isn’t an effective way of going about things. Wait for a bit by telling yourself: “Okay, this is the situation at the moment. Now, what’s the very best thing I can now do in these circumstances…?”

2) Remember you can only grow by perceiving true feedback about yourself

Seeing objectively where you went wrong is how you improve and develop. We don’t progress as human beings just by ‘learning to love ourselves’ unconditionally. We need to develop the capacity to respond to the feedback life gives us about ourselves free of either the distorting effects of low self-esteem or conceit and arrogance.

There is absolutely no shame in being able to admit to yourself or others that you made mistakes. Quite the opposite; it shows real strength of character. Very clever people make ‘stupid mistakes’ – it is part of being human. The only genuine way not to make mistakes is not to be in the world.

3) Get into the habit of admitting your mistakes sometimes

How do you react when things go wrong? Do you feel a sense of shock, a sense of “how can this happen to me?” Do you find yourself getting angry and worked up? Do you immediately start casting about in your mind to identify someone to blame for the problem? And working out a string of epithets to fling at them before you’ve even clearly established what exactly has happened?

If you are used to just dishing out the blame and not accepting your part, remember the research that shows being able to apologize in relationships makes them much more likely to last and thrive (2). Don’t always be too quick to blame yourself, but just now and then admit to co-workers or your partner or friend that, yes, you too are human and you made a mistake. People will respect you for it.

4) Forget blame and focus on where to go from here

Ever noticed how some people get more hung up on assigning blame than actually fixing a problem? If people feel you blame them unfairly, they will resent you. They may even come to hate you. People instinctively hate injustice. Get used to saying out loud: “Okay, it happened! For the time being, we need to focus on making things better!” You can give people feedback later, once you’ve calmed down and if it’s necessary.

5) Remember how to motivate people

People can be shouted at, cursed at, and blamed, but still not know what it is they did wrong. If other people have made mistakes, they need to know:

  • What may have led to those mistakes.
  • How to do things better in future.

Calling someone an idiot or telling them they “always do everything wrong!” is not feedback; it’s just abuse, no matter why you think you’re doing it. This kind of emotional incontinence may make people anxious, but they’ll never respect you because it displays your weaknesses so clearly.

As the wise Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius said, “How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”

Life is full of people who take emotional shortcuts and blame other people unfairly or aggressively; for the sake of the human race, don’t be one of them. But I wouldn’t blame you if you were.

Article written by Mark Tyrrell.

How to Stop Self-Sabotage Behaviour

“Self-sabotage is when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen.” ~ Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby

A talkative mouse, a rat, and a small shrew were trapped in a flood, desperately clinging to the side of a lily pad – and sinking fast! A helpful owl came to their rescue, first telling the rat to clamp its teeth onto its talons as the owl flew to safety and then returning for the shrew, who received similar instructions. Finally, as the tides rose ever higher, the owl came back for our talkative mouse.stop-self-sabotage-behaviour

“You are rescued and will live!” said the owl. “But I’ve noticed you talk a lot. Promise me you’ll keep your mouth closed around my legs and on no account open it, or you’ll fall to your fate!”

“Of course!” said the mouse, who proceeded to clamp his mouth onto his feathered rescuer’s landing gear.

They took off and flew across the floods. The owl was about to land on some high ground, but the mouse decided he wanted to alight some other place to get dry.

“Not there…” shouted the mouse, but those were the last words he ever spoke as he fell into the swirling waters below.

We can all laugh at such a silly tale because we never behave in such self-destructive ways, do we? Of course we do – although perhaps not as obviously – but why?

The main reasons for self-sabotaging behaviour

Okay, the mouse’s behaviour came from ignorance and heedlessness; he just didn’t think. But we mess things up for ourselves in other ways, too – and for other reasons, which include:

  • The familiarity of ‘failure’. Maybe we’re so used to situations not working out or to being around ‘dysfunctional people’ that it feels easier to ‘put a spanner in the works’ by behaving in some way that either worsens or destroys something promising – a kind of ‘better the devil you know’.
  • An unconscious need to be in control. If we feel something is bound to fail because it’s ‘too good to last’, we might engineer its failure somehow so as to maintain a sense that we are still in control (because we caused it to fail).
  • Feeling unworthy. Low self-esteem may drive people to feel they ‘don’t deserve’ success or happiness.
  • Bad habits such as excessive drinking, smoking, or uncontrolled anger.
  • Need for excitement. It might be an otherwise perfect sunny afternoon and seemingly out of the blue, Joe picks a fight, goes into a silent mood, or drags up some unrelated contentious issue from the past. Suddenly, the afternoon turns into a battleground. The desire for ‘excitement’ can take different forms, not all of them constructive.

But surely if people know they are doing this, they wouldn’t do it!

So is sabotaging ourselves an unconscious affliction?

People seldom mean to sabotage themselves. It’s not generally a conscious decision to spoil things – and that’s a problem. We can be left with the feeling: “Why did I do that?!” Many of our emotional drivers remain unconscious, which is why chronic self-saboteurs will often use conscious justification (or what seem like excuses) to explain why they had to:

  • Yell at their professor and get kicked off the course.
  • Break off contact with a friend who was about to offer them a great job.
  • End a promising relationship.

Early learning – or should I say mis-learning – can create the habit of self-sabotage and ‘things going right’ may seem like a scary and foreign country. If you feel you are prone to this sort of behaviour, then these tips may well help you (as long as you let them).

1) Observe yourself

Forget justifying why you did (or didn’t do) this or that; just watch yourself. The adage “don’t listen to what people say, but watch what they do” to see what they’re really like can be applied to yourself equally well. Imagine you’re someone else whose behaviour you’re watching. Ask yourself: “What did I do there?” and “What was driving it?” Was it fear, spite, the need to be in control (even if that control is related to making things fail), the need for excitement through conflict, or the desire for attention through sympathy?

One client who did this realized that he had been unconsciously reluctant to earn more than his (bullying) father had done when he was alive: “As if I couldn’t betray him by being better off than he had been.” This realization helped him overcome this limiting belief once he had observed it operating within himself. He decided to actually ignore it until the old compulsion not to succeed became a faint whisper, then died away all together.

What do you sabotage and how? Get to ‘know the machine’. Seeing your own behaviour more clearly has nothing to do with over-applied self-blame, but rather being more objective.

2) Remember that success isn’t black or white

Strongly imagine (and get into the habit of strongly imagining) what true success will be like, because it may be different from what you’d been unconsciously assuming. Successful relationships, for example, don’t work well all of the time; earning good money doesn’t solve all problems. Success isn’t black or white; it’s all relative. So remember that becoming successful (in whatever way) won’t feel so strange when it happens, because it is a natural part of being human – but the idea of success may feel strange.

3) Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater

People often self-sabotage because of perfectionism – if it isn’t perfect, then what’s the point? You may have heard about recent research (1) which showed that people on strict diets, trying to lose weight, will more likely overeat if they feel they have veered off their diet even slightly: “What the hell, I’ve blown it now. I might as well completely binge!” People not on diets don’t do this so much. So if you have a little setback or mini-failure, consciously stop yourself from throwing it all away and seeing the ‘whole thing as just ruined’ and then really ruining it.

4) Think beyond yourself

Most of us don’t like to consider ourselves as selfish, but it is also true to say (not from a judgemental perspective; more of an observational one) that self-sabotage ruins stuff for others and is therefore a selfish behaviour. People so often deny they are behaving selfishly because they don’t intend to be selfish. But behaviour is behaviour.

So the lover who feels compelled to end a great relationship hurts another, the co-worker who sabotages a project scuppers it for everyone else, the father who sabotages financial opportunities spoils the chance of a better standard of living for his family, and so on. Once we get into the habit of seeing the needs of the wider group rather than just our own emotional impulses, it actually becomes harder to sabotage situations.

5) Explore life

All of life is an exploration. Imagine if Cinderella had decided she really couldn’t go to the ball, even when she had the opportunity; or if the ugly duckling had concluded it wasn’t ‘good enough’ to fly high with the swans. Being open to life means seeing where certain experiences will take you and accepting openly the good as well as the bad. Of course, if something really isn’t working or it genuinely isn’t for you, that’s fine; but if it’s really a reluctance to explore life and to experience the good and healthy, then it is an area that needs some self-work.

The mouse in our story failed to observe the bigger picture when he felt compelled to talk, but you’re not a mouse (I’m presuming) – so you shouldn’t live like one.

Article written by Mark Tyrrell.