Life balance is vitally important to your happiness, success, and health. There is considerable evidence showing that mishandled stress at home interferes with work performance, and mismanaged on-the-job pressures create or magnify problems at home. Other research shows that the quality of personal relationships strongly influences job productivity, disease resistance, and longevity. Evaluating your various roles in areas of your life and attaching a level of priority to each is another important step toward making more intelligent decisions on where to put your time and energy.
Providing time for Leisure Moments in our lives, helps increase our resilience to stress, helps improve self-confidence and self-esteem, our physical fitness, and mental alertness. Often, when we take time out to re-create, refresh, and renew, we feel more in control of our lives which helps lower stress levels. When was the last time you went out and played to recharge your batteries?
Humor and laughter can build a healthy heart. Cardiologists at the University of Maryland studied 300 participants, half with healthy hearts and half with heart disease. Those with heart disease were 40% less likely to see humor in situations based on a survey and were more hostile and angry than those with healthy hearts. You can test your healthy sense of humor with their survey at http://www.umm.edu/news/humor.html . Another study of 240 heart-attach survivors found those who laughed at comedy videos every day were less likely to suffer a second heart attack during the course of a year. Based on an article by Allen Klein, the Jollytologist, in the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor Newsletter.
Many workers believe that the supportiveness of their boss is an important factor in determining their attitude or outlook at work. Nearly 61% rated this factor as extremely important, while 26% rated the supportiveness of their boss as somewhat important. When choosing a workplace, 87% sought out a place that is understanding of their personal and family needs. Only 4% actually sought out employers who are strict about attending to family needs, while 9% found employers who appear to be unaware of family needs as reported to Careerbuilder.com. Being content at work is a big part of having a balanced life. Take stock of where you work and with whom you work and if it’s not working for you, find something that will.
Remember Helen Keller’s statement, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”? Live your life out loud, as if you didn’t have much more to live . . . because you never know what the future holds. It takes concentrated effort to avoid being lulled into our secure patterns. How would you change your behavior if you knew you would live to be 100, or for only a few more years, or months?
Because our life can change dramatically in a matter of moments, live and laugh loudly now. What have you been excited about lately? Make dates with yourself to stretch your comfort zone. By taking calculated and thoughtful risks, we put ourselves out there to trust our intuition and to go with our gut instincts. As we grow older, we tend to risk less and live more quietly. Be daring and buck this trend by learning a new sport, a new language, a new art form, or renting a Porsche 911 and driving the autobahns of Germany.
A trend sweeping the nation lately is the Red Hat Society where women of a certain age (mid-centurions) don purple outfits with red hats and get together to test drive new experiences, kick up their heels, or just have a fun outing. Check out www.redhatsociety.com for more information on these wild and crazy women and their forays into living life as an exclamation. Word has it that if you are under the age requirement, you can join in the festivities, but you must wear lavender apparel with a pink hat until you have earned your stripes and are old enough to be promoted to the proper colors.
Adventure gets your adrenaline pumping and charges you up. There’s nothing like a good adventure to narrowly focus on the task at hand and take your mind off trivialities. Excitement builds commensurate to the physical, emotional, intellectual, or financial risks being addressed. Push yourself to taste adventure more often as it will boost your energy and make you feel alive.
Adventures come in all shapes and sizes from taking a new route to work, to learning a new computer program, taking a cooking class, or walking into a singles bar alone. What constitutes an adventure is really in the eye and the attitude of the beholder. Wearing a bikini might be common practice for some, but for others it might be an adventure, or perhaps a misadventure. It doesn’t have to be exotic or life threatening to be an adventure.
Deciding to have an attitude of an adventurer and being open to what comes your way will help you deflect some of the stress that may come your way when things don’t work out as planned. At least you will have an adventure to tell friends and family about later. What have you done lately that could be considered an adventure? Why not plan for some adventures on your own as well as with friends or family? You never know where your next adventure will take you.
I have a ritual that I need to try at least one new big adventure each year such as hang gliding, sky diving, helicopter skiing, or dog sledding. It keeps my energy up just looking forward to the thrill. What is your next big adventure?
Keeping our sense of adventure and discovery in tact helps keep us on track. Cultivating our sense of delight and honing it by introducing new and enjoyable experiences into our lives helps to keep us feeling vital. Children are naturally adept at these traits since their lives are filled with copious amounts of discovery and delight because they have not yet discovered many life experiences and everything is still new and exciting.
As adults we tend to stay with what we know and our discovery cycle diminishes with age. To keep ourselves young, try doing what the young people do and make new adventures and discoveries a part of your lifestyle. Keep your curiosity up about how things work, why things are the way they are, and what happens if. . . By putting yourself in the position of life-long learner, your energy will be renewed with each aha moment or new discovery.
Risk Taking and stretching out of our comfort zone physically, mentally, or emotionally keeps us on our toes and gets our adrenaline and our energy surging. They key is to move that energy towards the excitement end of the continuum versus the nervous and “scaredy cat” end of the continuum. Whether it’s embarking on a new career, asking for a raise, auditioning for a spot in a theatre production, walking into an adult education class, or a weight room; the act of going beyond our normal limits expands our world and expands our possibilities while it expands our energy level. Without such regular expansions, we cease to be vital in our lives and begin to live the same day over and over again. Open yourself to new discoveries and see what new energy reserves are released.
It is often uncomfortable to try new things and risk feeling foolish or not being good at a new sport or artistic endeavor or even test driving a new recipe. When we put ourselves out there to try new things and take a risk, we increase our energy and our thirst for exploring new things and trying new ways of being or behaving. Try planning for small, medium, and larger risks each year to keep your life more interesting and see where in the world it takes you.
Taking calculated risks and not throwing all caution to the wind and taking stupid risks whether it’s physical, financial, emotional, or intellectual is probably a good idea. Only you know your risk tolerance in each of these areas and only you know how much of a nudge you need to expand your tolerance. So go ahead and take a leap of faith, I dare ya.
It was Einstein who said that negative energy is 11 times more powerful than positive energy, so we must work very hard to overcome the negativity which would naturally take over. The law of entropy states that everything will break down over time without work or force applied to it (i.e. cars, relationships, communication, and mechanical items). Just look at what would happen in your garden if it were left unattended. The weeds just take over, while it takes careful cultivation to grow flowers or fresh produce.
Watch out for those weeds in your head and cultivate the positive forces that it takes to overcome the energy drain of negativity. Worrying and fear exhaust you and take their toll on your physical and emotional well being. Acknowledge that the negativity is alive, but don’t become a slave to its powers. Become aware of those whose outlook is negative and prepare statements to deflect their negative energy such as gossipers, nay-sayers, or worry warts.
Better yet, try to avoid these types of people if at all possible and surround yourself with positive, supportive people with a different perspective and upbeat outlook on life. The synergy is amazing when the positive forces of people collide.
Courage and confidence to deal with negativity get your juices flowing when you take on a risk and successfully navigate a positive outcome. Cultivating confidence to meet your challenges is very powerful and a successful bout brings on even more adrenaline. Start with what you’re good at, then keep expanding, learning, and practicing to increase both courage and confidence.
Positive self-talk instills courage, then take the leap . . .feel the fear and do it anyway. Sometimes others have more confidence in you and can give you courage and support. Enlist their honest assessment for energy interventions. These supporters can keep you going strong. Whether it’s an official mastermind group, a success team, a personal board of directors, or just an informal circle of friends who care about you. Asking for input and inspiration from your support network can help you gain the courage, confidence, and clarity to move you forward past the powerful stressful issues that may be blocking you.
Fill your day with energy inserts, short breaks, breathing room, downtime, toys, and playful items that speak to you and that are appropriate or allowed in your workplace. Studies show that using colored pens, stickers, and getting creative will cause you to look forward to your daily planning sessions. When we plan our time better, we usually have more time to insert some energy into our schedule.
Turn your planner into an adult version of a coloring book and color-code your schedule to quickly see how balanced or unbalanced your life is. With a quick glance at your colorful calendar you can see immediately which color dominates or if they are in balance. Our eyes see color before they see words, so using different colors for personal, professional, meetings, deadlines, or other categories will save you time and eyestrain from reading all your activities. Plotting both personal and professional time slots in your palm pilot or day timer will help you schedule your day and keep you from becoming overscheduled, over-committed, and overwhelmed.
Recognize that you will need some downtime for your brain or your body after a taxing project and schedule the downtime into the project planning time. Insert pleasurable things into your day to help you practice safe stress and mark it on your calendar. Some clients have a family calendar on the refrigerator and use a different color for each family member on the master calendar for easier planning.
Professionalism can be playful – remember fun and effectiveness? Energy inserts could be candles, flowers, juggling, music, people, pets, art, free time, fresh air, or anything else which makes your smile or nourished your soul. Create your Fun Meter list and write down as many things as you can that make you smile and that you enjoy doing in your leisure time to practice safe stress.
Taking several joy breaks daily can liven up your life. Look at photos, stretch, call a friend, turn on music, have fresh flowers, walk outside, or move your body to release the tension and get your left and right brain integrating more effectively. Research shows that those who plan for daily joys can cope with stress much better than those who don’t. Become aware of what brings you joy and create moments in your routine to experience aspects of that positive feeling. Just thinking about joyful things brings positive physiological and psychological changes in your body.
Joy is a step beyond happiness; it is more active and animated than plain happiness. What joyful things are you putting into your life as an energy insert today? See Appendix A for more energy inserts to get you started on your own list. If you have trouble wondering what to do with an extra 15 minutes in your day, keep your list handy and start inserting some energy and joy into your day.
Take control of your immediate circle of influence. You don’t always have control over what comes your way, but you have the power to control your state of mind and reactions to whatever life hands you. When you change your mind, you change your energy, and when you change your energy, you change your life. Our thoughts turn into actions and our actions turn into habits and our habits turn into our character . . . so what are you thinking about?
You can also control your immediate physical environment. Give yourself an energy boost by hanging up cherished photos, or have a nice rug under your feet, play soft instrumental music to soothe your nerves, and have your space make a positive statement about who you are. What image do you want to portray with your space. Is it working for you or against you? Take control of your immediate environment whether it be your space, your thoughts, or your circle of friends. Our clutter is a symptom of our internal chaos – a visual of postponed decisions and procrastination. Is your environment telling others you have control or that you’re out of control? Take control over what you have the power over and let go of things that are out of your control to avoid undue energy drainage.
Adults, in our infinite wisdom, think that children have short attention spans. Children know they are just shifting to a task that brings them more energy when they are getting drained from the task at hand. Shift from left-brain tasks such as budgeting and “administrivia” to right-brain-oriented tasks such as reading your mail, playing with a pet, or talking on the phone. Your productivity will increase and your mind will feel refreshed with this shift in gears. The same shift is needed when working on a right-brained creative project. If the ideas stop flowing, shift gears to something more mundane or something fun to give your brain a break.
Shifting your body also shifts your way of thinking and gives you a new perspective. Get up and move to jostle your body, jog your memory, and get that blood flowing to your brain to carry more vital oxygen to your cells upstairs. If you have been staring at a computer screen for too long, even shifting your gaze and your focus to something else will help with your energy.
Shift your tasks according to your body and brain rhythms to be more productive. If you are brain-dead after lunch, use the morning hours for creative tasks and the afternoon for less taxing projects. If you are not a morning person, then make sure your important meetings and difficult tasks are scheduled after your body wakes up and is alert enough to handle the task. Becoming more child-like, which is not to say childish, will give you more energy by going with the flow of energy and shifting your tasks, your brain, and your body to something that excites you and holds your attention.
Listen to your body and when it is fighting the urge, take a break and come back to your task when you are fresh. It will save you stress, mistakes, and mishaps. Sometimes you have to shift your space and move towards the Escape key to shake things up and shift into high gear. As I wrote this revision for my book Keys to Energize, I was floating aboard ship in the Caribbean harbor of St. Kitts to have the solitude I needed to think and type without interruption. Cruising solo having the world come to your balcony is a fantastic way to write and recharge. Take stock of your needs and figure out if you need to downshift or shift into high gear to charge up your energy.
Sometimes it’s a shift in thinking, a shift in perceptions, a shift in your environment, a shift in attitude, a shift in your belief system, or a shift in movement. It’s up to us to figure out the category, intensity, frequency, or duration of the shift for the most positive results.
The study of the science of happiness has just recently caught up with what generally happy people already intuitively knew. In the past couple decades the science of Positive Psychology has learned:
- Happiness does not come from genetics, luck or chance
- Happiness has a lot less to do with circumstances than we originally thought
- Happiness is not the result of some big, momentous occasion or event or goal attainment – it is realized by all the little small, daily things that add up moment by moment
- Happiness is created by thing simply, daily things we decide to do – how we choose to move through the world
- Unhappiness is created by NOT choosing to do those simple, daily things that we recognize as the things that create our happiness – we must identify the things that we are doing first so we know which things to keep doing and keep putting in our lives so maintain our happiness and be consciously aware of the things we add to our lives that bring us joy and happiness as well as those things that create unhappiness and delete those things.
- Happiness comes from conscious living and living purposefully – being in tune with what you allow in your life and deciding what you do and what you don’t, having the feeling of being in control of how you live your life
Some other rules of the road for creating happiness stemming from the scientific research as part of the Positive Psychology movement:
- Keep a positive mindset and speak in positive vs. negative terms
- Make a regular practice of counting your blessings and focus on gratitude and appreciation
- Do kind things for others and help make the world a better place in the service of others
Keeping a positive mindset and speaking positive words is more powerful than most people realize. There was some amazing evidence of this at the third World Congress on Positive Psychology as reported by the Center for Disease Control. They linked the incidence of atherosclerotic disease county by county of the northeastern United States with the amount of negative words used by those counties as evidenced by the Twitter posts. The study had analyzed 40,000 words in over 80 million tweets and when the results were overlaid with a county-by-county analysis of heart attacks, it was nearly an exact correlation. The words used that were predictive of illness were expressions of anger, hostility, aggression, disengagement and lack of social support.
The study also revealed the correlation of positive attitude and lower risk of heart attacks in a county-by-county study with these maps also being nearly identical – similar to the negative words and more heart attacks. The positive words that correlated with health included fabulous, helpful share, great, interesting, gratitude.
Being in the personal development field for over 30 years; this “new” scientific evidence only certifies what many of the thought leaders, motivational speakers and experts in the field of human performance have been saying for decades. I’m very grateful there is now science behind what we’ve been touting for a long time. It gives more intellectual weigh and credibility to what we’ve been sharing with our audiences on the positive side effects of positive thinking. It has opened doors and opened the minds of many in the corporate world, in government and in the general public about how their mindset and the mindset of an organization has a great deal to do with the morale of the people and their performance.
Combining Fun and Effectiveness is good business. Often, those of us in the personal development field have found roughly 10 % of those in our audience are really attuned to the positive thinking movement; but when you link that movement to the happiness movement, then the percentage of those who are willing to embrace it skyrockets to well over 50%. I haven’t yet met anybody who doesn’t want to be happy, though I’ve met many who want to be happier or even those who are happy, but didn’t know it because of their mindset and their choice of focus. How is your mindset? How are you choosing to be happy? Have you noticed what words you choose on a daily basis? Have you paid any attention to your tweets and Facebook posts and the type of words you are using? Try transforming your words and I bet you will begin to transform your life. I dare you…
Fun and effectiveness combine to increase peak performance. Put the FUN back into functional by using unique, everyday items such as color-coded file folders, bubble pens, calligraphy pens instead of typing labels, photos of loved ones, stress toys, humorous recognition cards/awards/coupons, and cartoon calendars. Learning and productivity are enhanced when fun is mixed with effectiveness to generate a creative and enjoyable environment for children and adults alike. It is a proven fact, work made fun gets done and good times lead to good business. Just like sports figures, we can’t sprint non-stop all day and expect to have any energy left over. We must mix in our fun with our effectiveness for peak performance.
Workers are like cows; we produce more when we are content. Many surveys cite having fun as a top workplace motivator. World-class athletes and entertainers also mention fun as a key factor in the success and enjoyment of their work. Fun is an attitude – seek out the humor in your daily life and cultivate an eye and an ear for humorous alternatives. What are you doing to add more fun into your life? Did you have fun things on your Ideal Day list that was your assignment in the last post? What new, fun things can you add to your life? What have you not yet tried? How can you make your work or your work space more fun? Ruminate on these questions to brainstorm how you can add more fun and effectiveness to your day. To help you keep energized, tune in to more blog posts.