Two Contrarian Choices for When You’re Not Feeling Grateful

It’s November. Thanksgiving is around the corner. It even hits “early”—in the third week of the month instead of the last. Are you ready? November. It’s here. The month of gratitude, thanksgiving, abundance.

Gratitude is a great feeling. It’s the gateway drug to all sorts of good stuff—more happiness, less depression, more empathy, less aggression, better health, longer life, and more.

But what happens when gratitude is not there? What happens when you just don’t feel it? Instead, you feel discouraged or tired or just plain blah.

If you can’t muster it, here are 2 contrarian quick tips for jump-starting gratitude.

TIP #1: DON’T BE GRATEFUL (for a bit)!

Compassionately acknowledge where you are. Rather than force yourself into feeling gratitude, try out being self-compassionate about where you are. Have a talk with yourself, or journal a bit. This is step 1. For example, “Okay, I recognize that I’m not feeling grateful right now. I recognize that what I am feeling right now is tired, a bit cranky, and a little scared about where all the money is supposed to come from for the upcoming holiday season.”

Caution: Don’t add on judgments or meaning to your acknowledgement, as this can give more space to the negative (e.g., don’t add, “I’m such a hypocrite—I can’t even walk my talk on this gratitude stuff” or “I should have saved more money for Christmas presents”). I repeat: don’t do this!

Step 2: Next, add gratitude for your self-awareness. For example, “And as I recognize what I’m really feeling, I’m grateful that I have the self-awareness to be able to know where I am. I’m grateful that I can allow myself to feel a full range of emotions without judging myself. I am grateful that I am continually learning.”

Step 3. Linger over the gratitude. Focus on holding it for 10 seconds longer than you thought you could. Picture a loved one as you linger over the gratitude. Or picture a Divine Being or white ball of beautiful energy. Your mind is a powerful tool for creation.

TIP #2: BORROW IT!

If you’re not feeling it, chances are someone else is. Connect with another human being, and you’ll boost your odds for gratitude. Oxytocin will be released, and that always makes us feel better. Consider connecting with:

  • A bone marrow buddy who knows how to listen empathetically, without guilting you into “you should be grateful!”
  • A random stranger in the parking lot or in the aisles of the grocery store—share a warm smile, let your eyes twinkle. Feel it.
  • Send an appreciation text to someone. In two sentences state a trait you admire about them. Press send.

Bottom line: Choose to do something mindful, self-compassionate, novel, or fun. Want more tips? Here’s an earlier blog on “Choose Your Mood”!

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What To Do When Your Toughest Critic Is You

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been my toughest critic.  When things are going well, leave it to the backseat driver in my brain to remind me where I fall short.  And when things are NOT going well…yikes. These are the things you need to remember when your inner critic starts piping up:

  • Your inner critic is probably wrong.  She’s everyone’s least favorite gardener who specializes in seeds of doubt, and someone really needs to keep her away from the vegetables.  Your garden is for growth and nourishment. No weeds allowed.
  • Judgment causes anxiety.  Trust me, no one needs more of that.  There are a lot of things that deserve your attention, but your self-criticism is not one of them.  Sure, sometimes we need to improve, and there are kind, caring ways to tell ourselves how to meet those goals.  Insults have no place in self-improvement.
  • One mistake does not define your character.  Forgetting a small detail one time does not make you incompetent.  Running late because your car broke down does not make you unreliable.  Give yourself room to learn. It takes time to navigate new environments and develop new routines and habits.  Mistakes are just part of the learning process.

In your life, you are behind the wheel, which means YOU are in charge.  It’s time to let your backseat driver out of the car. Drop her off at the next coffee shop, buy her a latte, and let her have some chill time.  You’ll appreciate the break.

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The Evolution of Mindfulness: From Mindful to Meaningful

The human brain loves to make sense of things—to categorize, to judge, to evaluate, and more. With mindfulness becoming a commonplace word in today’s corporate world, we have become much better at simply noticing… noticing what we see, what we think, what we feel, how we act.

More recently, researchers are positing the idea of not just mindfulness, but re-appraising our mindfulness into what is meaningful. For example:

  • Mindfulness: Wow, what a beautiful sunset.
  • Mindfulness + Meaningfulness: Wow, what a beautiful sunset. For me, it represents the faithfulness of Life to provide me with an opportunity to reflect back on the beauty of my day.

Meaningfulness reminds us of both what we want, as well as the values that are important to us.

Here’s another example of taking Mindfulness to Meaningfulness—this time in the midst of uncomfortable circumstances:

  • Mindfulness: “Hmmm… it looks like my coworker is in a really bad mood toady; I’m noticing it’s making me feel bad, too.”
  • Mindfulness + Meaningfulness: “Hmmm…it looks like my coworker is in a really bad mood today; I’m noticing it’s making me feel bad, too. And what I really want is to use this as an opportunity to remind myself that I want to respond rather than react to challenging circumstances. This honors my values of creativity and positivity.”

When we connect what we observe (mindfulness) with what we want and value (meaningfulness), we shift from stagnation or victimhood into movement or creatorhood (that’s probably not a word, but I’ll be creative!). We can then say, “Here are some ways I can… (e.g., be responsive rather than reactive in this circumstance).”

Try it out today. Mindfully notice what you notice—without judging or ruminating. Then move toward Meaning by adding the “what you want” and “value to honor.”

May you have many meaningful moments today!

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Are We Having Fun Yet?

What comes to mind for you when you think of Fun? Off the top of my head, I think of:

A lovely cocktail of neurochemicals is released when we’re having fun—neurochemicals such as dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin.  The flow of these throughout our brain and body make us feel good, think good, and act good. (And yes, I just had fun breaking a few grammatical rules in that last sentence.)

Gamification—the application of game principles in non-game contexts—is a multi-billion-dollar industry. Gamification is growing with good reason:

Fun feels good.

And we like to feel good. The summer season seems to invite us to feel good and have fun. It puts us into planning mode, thinking about vacation destinations and fun activities that will create memories.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to forget about fun when there are pressing deadlines at work, shortages of resources, or squabbles at home. If we were to be intentional about planning some fun for our day-to-day work, we’d likely feel better, think better, and act better.

Here are three ideas for accessing fun:

  • Novelty: Doing things differently gives us a boost of dopamine. What could you do differently today?
  • Laughter: As obvious as it sounds, look for ways to laugh today. One of my favorites is YouTubing Bob Newhart’s “Stop It” routine … it always makes me smile.
  • People: Find someone to share your laughter with. It not only creates happy neurochemicals for you, it does for the other person, too … spread the wealth.

And, when circumstances feel difficult, consider asking yourself these questions:

  • “Where is the irony in this situation, and how can I smile at it?”
  • “If I were a comedy writer, how would I describe the current situation?”
  • “When it is six months down the road, how might I laugh at this circumstance?”

Have fun creating fun today!

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