The Happiness Connection  

You fear what you desire

Fighting fear

Fear exists in everybody’s life.

There’s a myriad of places it surfaces—commitment, rejection and failure are but a few possibilities. It often disguises itself as a form of protection. If you don’t love deeply, maybe you can avoid being hurt. If you save as much money as possible, you’ll be safe. If you don’t try anything new, you won’t fail.

Sound familiar?

However, if you avoid challenges and novel experiences, you run the risk of sinking into stagnation. A life ruled by fear often means never reaching your full potential or fulfilling your deepest dreams.

Here are a few ways fear may be showing up in your world.

• Negative self-talk.

This is a form of self-sabotage and is a common way for your mind to stop you from trying new things. It plants seeds of doubt. It tells you; you aren’t smart/creative/coordinated/thin enough to do whatever you’re contemplating.

• Blaming others.

Fear encourages you to blame outside influences rather than taking responsibility for your life.

• Telling yourself stories that support limiting beliefs.

Like blame, excuses can be comforting when fear is ruling your life. The human brain doesn’t like to have inconsistencies between beliefs and actions, so it makes up stories to explain why you don’t push yourself into the unknown.

• Believing “good enough” is good enough.

Are you afraid to reach for the stars in case you fail? Of course, there are occasions when it isn’t worth your time and energy to perfect something or do it to the best possible standard. But if this becomes your typical pattern, it’s time to delve a little deeper to see if fear is holding you back.

Do you live in fear of robbing a bank? Do you lose sleep over the thought of getting caught or shot in the process? Probably not. Why aren’t you afraid? Because it’s unlikely you have any yearning to rob a bank.

Fear is the flip-side of desire. Desire is part of every human’s experience. It lives deep within everyone and can sometimes feel irrational and scary. When wanting something makes you feel uncomfortable, your brain may try to convince yourself to stop wanting it.

As with all personal growth, awareness is your first step to transformation. In order to move forward you need to bring your fears out into the open and own them. Recognize that humans fear losing the things they desire most.

A fear of public speaking may stem from a desire to be heard. A fear of commitment may be rooted in a desire for connection. Wanting to be safe may cause you to hang onto money and possessions rather than enjoying your resources.

How can you lessen your fears and achieve your desires?

• Learn to enjoy the process rather than being attached to the outcome.

Don’t stop trying new things or meeting challenges because you’re afraid they won’t work out. Step into them, do your best, and then observe what happens without being emotionally attached to the outcome. Curiosity is your best friend.

• Believe that life happens for you, not to you.

This attitude encourages empowerment rather than victim energy. The minute you think other people or situations are responsible for what’s going on in your life, you’re giving away your personal power.

• Stop making excuses and blaming external factors.

The more you practice being accountable for your life, the better you’ll become at overcoming your fears. Start telling yourself different stories around your worries.

Start listening for the word ‘should’ in your conversations. If you should be getting more exercise, why aren’t you?

• Banish negative self-talk.

Words are powerful, especially the ones you say or don’t say to yourself. Replace self-sabotaging talk with self-affirmations.

• Adopt a growth mindset.

Rather than seeing setbacks as failures, view them as learning opportunities. Finding ways that don’t work can help you discover the one that does. Understanding the link between fear and desire can help you uncover what you want most. Once you’ve established that, you can set powerful intentions before courageously moving forward into the life of your dreams.

It isn’t always easy, but it’s so very satisfying.

In the words of George Addair, “Everything you’ve ever wanted is sitting on the other side of fear.”

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Don't be afraid of getting older

Embracing aging

Recently, I went to a local charity store to indulge in one of my favourite pastimes, thrifting.

Not only did I find some treasures, but when I was standing in line to pay, I discovered it was Seniors’ Day. Bonus!

I smiled at the lady manning the till, and said I was a senior. I then went on to say I enjoyed getting a discount, but I didn’t like admitting I was old enough to take advantage of it. She responded by asking me why. After a short pause, I realized I didn’t really have an answer. I just knew I didn’t like it.

This uneasy relationship with aging isn’t unique to me. I know I’m in good company.

The apprehension, and oft times dread we feel towards getting older, isn’t helped by the cultural stereotypes and prejudices we’re exposed to through advertising and online messaging. It’s as if losing your independence and experiencing a severe decline in mental and physical abilities is a forgone conclusion. Rather than enjoying the blessings that come with age, we’re offered ways to cling to our youth.

Getting older doesn’t have to be something that fills you with trepidation. Yes, your body may not respond as it once did and you may have to think a little harder to come up with the words you’re searching for, but that doesn’t mean your enjoyment of life is on a downhill slant.

A comprehensive study of more than 1,000 individuals showed that in the midst of physical or cognitive decline, participants reported feeling happier as they aged. Many people find a sense of peace, acceptance, and satisfaction in their senior years that can be hard to capture when they’re younger.

So, what should you do if you have a discomfort, or fear, of growing older?

The first, and probably most important, step is to change your mindset. Studies done by the Yale Center for Research on Aging, show positive messages about getting older improve both self-image and physical functions. Start actively looking for information that disproves those negative stereotypes.

I’m not suggesting that maturing comes without challenges and change, but pain, loss and mental decline aren’t reserved for seniors. Those things can happen at any stage of life.

A wonderful example of living a happy and full life into her senior years was the late Queen Elizabeth II. Only a few days before she passed, she was fulfilling an official duty by meeting the newly elected leader of the Conservative Party in the U.K.

The queen was noticeably more frail, but at 96, she was still talking enthusiastically about her horses and hosting dinners and shooting parties for family and close friends. She was reported to have been in good spirits and even “perky,” right until the very end of her life.

Getting older doesn’t have to be viewed with alarm.

• Keep having new experiences.

• Live each day to its fullest.

• Continue learning and being interested in what’s going on around you.

• Stay connected to your community.

• Notice and show gratitude for the little things.

• Seek out positive examples of aging.

Happiness and age are linked, but not in the way most people expect. With the right mindset not only will you be getting older, you will also be getting happier.

And that’s a pretty amazing thing.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Getting it wrong helps us to get it right

Learning from mistakes

Whenever I teach Microsoft Office classes, I tell my students I love it when they make mistakes.

I thank each person who shares when they’re in a predicament, explaining they’re helping the entire class learn. We work together to figure out what went wrong and how to fix their problem.

If you’re thanking your lucky stars that you’ve never had me as an instructor, you may well have been programmed to believe that getting it right the first time is the definition of success. If this is the case, you aren’t alone.

School-age children are frequently praised for not making mistakes. Although this may seem like a good thing, needing to get it right on your first attempt can encourage people to avoid challenges in case they are successful.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with getting the right answer on your first attempt. Just be aware that you learn more when you get things wrong than when the right solution comes easily the first time.

In the case of a program like Excel or Word, things are bound to go wrong at least occasionally, especially when you’re first getting started. If you make a mistake and then figure out how to fix it, your level of understanding will expand.

When it comes to errors, the key is to avoid repeating the same mistakes, not escape making new ones. When mistake avoidance is your motivation, you aren’t open to the valuable information that comes with those blunders.

Research shows you need to be open to errors in order to appreciate underlying concepts that deepen your understanding.

Evidence based research shows that people learn better if they make mistakes on their way to getting the correct answers. Rather than seeing feedback as negative criticism, view it as an opportunity to improve and learn so you can do better in the future.

In one study, students had to learn pairs of words that were loosely associated, like star and night. The probability of guessing the second word by being told the first one was only about 5%.

One group was given the first word and then asked to guess the second one. They were given eight seconds to do this. They nearly always failed. This was followed by the right word being revealed for five seconds.

The second group was given 13 seconds to study each pair of words.

The researchers found that the students who tried to guess the word before finding out what it was, had about 10% better recall. This was the case both immediately after they’d studied the words, and also after a delay of about 38 hours.

This information is timely as a new academic year is beginning. If you or other members of your family have returned to school, view mistakes as useful, not something to be avoided or ashamed of. After all, the purpose of school is to learn, not to be perfect. Success doesn’t come from being right the first time, it’s about discovering new skills and information. Mistakes aren’t failures. They’re a guide to what still needs to be learned.

As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Accepting mistakes doesn’t mean you have to love them. But you need to know in your soul that it’s okay to make them.

You’re going to stumble and screw up from time to time. That’s just part of being human. Life shouldn’t be about avoiding mistakes or feeling ashamed of the ones you make, but about learning from them so you don’t make the same ones again.

Take responsibility for them, learn from them, if necessary, forgive yourself and others for them, then move on with the knowledge that you’re a little bit wiser as a result.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

All information is useful to us

Importance of information

Have you played Wordle?

The aim of this New York Times word game is to guess a five-letter word in six attempts or less. When you enter your prediction, the program lets you know which letters are in the word for that day and whether they’re in the correct place.

Wordle was introduced to me by my friend Moya and has become part of my regular daily routine. I enjoy it so much that I’ve recommended it to many people. A few days ago, while one of my friends was working towards solving that day’s puzzle, he remarked he wasn’t doing very well. In his first two guesses he hadn’t discovered any of the letters needed.

On the surface that comment may have seemed true. But in reality, getting it completely wrong twice, was providing him with a lot of useful information.

Information is used to explain, inform, verify, and make decisions. It plays a vital role in just about every aspect of modern society, even if the knowledge you uncover wasn’t what you were expecting or hoping to find.

Information is more than just statistics and raw facts. That’s data. Information results when you organize data and interpret it within a context that gives it meaning and relevance.

If we go back to the Wordle example, two completely wrong guesses reveal 10 letters that you can eliminate from your pool of possibilities. That knowledge is valuable.

People are constantly seeking more and better information, although they may not be conscious of doing it. It happens with almost every conversation you have, news broadcast you watch or listen to or website you visit.

For many people, the purpose of information gathering is to support choices they’ve made, or beliefs they hold. They hope by uncovering more facts and opinions that they can reduce their feelings of uncertainty. This helps them believe they’ve made a good decision or that their belief is valid.

Certainty requires a fine balance. Too much causes boredom while not enough can make you feel unsafe and vulnerable. Sometimes seeking more information in an effort to feel more certain can result in the opposite outcome.

People who go online to assure themselves that the health symptoms they’re experiencing are nothing to worry about, may well come away with increased anxiety. They’re likely to discover a myriad of reasons for their headaches or wheezy breathing.

Because data can be interpreted in a number of ways, there’s a level of subjectivity involved. Statistics can be skewed to fit with personal beliefs or specific perspectives. For that reason, it’s important to ensure your sources are trustworthy. Are they interpreting the numbers in an impartial way or trying to support a specific viewpoint? There’s more than one way to interpret any set of data.

Another valuable aspect of information is how you use it. Do you store it away, or do you make changes based on your discoveries? A company who realizes their customers aren’t happy with the service they’re receiving can ignore that knowledge or make changes.

Like so many things in life, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. You get to choose whether you use the information you discover, ignore it, or store it away for another day.

There are as many uses for information as there are individuals, problems, and questions in the world. View whatever you discover with an open mind. It may not have been the evidence you were hoping to find, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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