Extreme Joy! Or How I Know I’m Back!

“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.” –Marianne Williamson

Since I started writing regularly, most of my blog posts have skewed toward a pensive, reflective, often sad bent. The posts have been cathartic to write and have typically received great feedback from you. Like I wrote two weeks ago in Pivotal Moments, I’ve been undergoing many changes since moving. If you recall, I mentioned that people often don’t know they’re undergoing a pivotal moment until getting some distance and taking a little bit of time away to marinate. In the last three+ weeks, I’ve said yes more frequently and have made the decision to make more magic in my daily experiences.

A couple of months ago, I participated in an online project to recognize all of the gifts that come my way. This program, “The Receiving Project”, reminded me of so many blessings I experience on a daily basis, from working with amazing clients to being offered special opportunities. It is fitting to attribute some of my recent positivity to this project and also remind myself that I used to wake up happy 9 out of 10 days. In the last year, I did not wake up happy most days, and instead, I woke up with anxiety, sadness, or anger.  I missed my old self.

  I feel a physiological, mental, emotional, and even a spiritual shift knocking on my door. I’m welcoming her with a gracious hug and a big smile. Recently, I’ve had so much fun: I’ve gone to a Dodgers game, spent time in Laguna Beach, watched Independence Day fireworks from an amazing, secret beach, cooked and baked new dishes, gardened with my favorite chef, laughed with my nearest and dearest, exercised, and most excitingly, I took a wonderful adventure to San Diego for a burlesque show and met some amazing new friends.

  My life used to be joyous and nearly care-free, and then I took a nosedive to hell. I’ve treaded water and felt stuck for a very long period of time because of energy vampires and very difficult situations. I felt small, voiceless, concerned, and generally, untrusting. Something shifted and now I feel like I’m back! I see my eyes brighter in the mirror, I’m also able to reflect your joy. I feel myself smiling and laughing many times throughout the day and feel like I’m returning to the strong, capable, independent woman I always used to be. Sometimes I even want to shout and squeal that my life is back!

It would be false to advertise that in my brief encounter with my old (happier) self, I’ve only felt joy. No, I’ve felt a wide spectrum of emotions. Somehow, I know better how to handle the challenges quickly and more efficiently. This has helped me immensely, along with the insight of one of my teachers I met about a decade ago.  His name is Michael and he lives in Israel. He discusses feelings of personal slavery and new-found freedom, as if trudging through a desert after being imprisoned for many years. “We began to form our communal consciousness in that physical and existential ‘lack’. We learned to appreciate the ability to trust the unknown and unpredictable, to love the temporary, to experience the ‘here and now.’ All of this experience had one main purpose – to teach us to let go of the illusion of control.” He suggests that the times we are walking consistently through the smoldering desert with seemingly no end in sight, questioning and banging our heads for the best answers, represent the self-searching that people are encouraged to experience. This is crucial so we can “learn to listen to the soft and powerful tune of our souls. Yes, it does help to put all those daily distractions aside. It may involve a certain level of detachment from the physical and the convenient.”

So how does this relate to my extreme joy? Michael, like the Tom Petty song at the top of the blog called “Something Good Coming” suggests that in order to feel the delight and joy, we have to experience the pain and suffering. This extreme yin-yang of life is natural, though extremely frustrating when not going the “right” way.

And I’m in for the long run,
Wherever it goes.
Ridin’ the river,
Wherever it goes.

And I know that look that’s on your face,
There’s something lucky about this place.
There’s something good coming,
For you and me.
Something good coming,
There has to be.

–Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “Something Good Coming”

I feel a sense of peace and faith that things are coming down the pike favorably, in the way that I’ve set myself up for success with seeds having been planted a very long time ago. I think joy and laughter stem from feeling relaxed and relinquishing a false sense of control. Instead, joy is felt momentarily by truly recognizing “how good things really are” like Marianne Williams says.  joy pink

I’d like to add one more thought before finishing, which I’ll likely write more about in future blogs: For me, the joy I’ve been experiencing is a result of deciding to make it so. Before doing some of the marvelous adventures recently, I’ve told myself a little mantra. I’ve set the intention to make the experience magical and fun and to allow myself to really feel the happiness that’s happening. To end on a short, sweet, high note, I want to acknowledge that I’m back! Not only is something good coming, it’s here! I’m experiencing extreme joy and I feel great! What a lovely feeling this is, and I’m delighted to share it with you!

To work with me, please visit Coaching By Nina Rubin.

Attitude of gratitude 

“To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kindness that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.” — Albert Schweitzer

I’ve recently become hyper awareScreen Shot 2015-04-27 at 1.45.51 PMof the word ‘thank you’ and how infrequently it’s said. It seems to me that we have so much to be thankful for, from receiving compliments and gifts to having someone go above and beyond with favors and thoughtful gestures.

I think gratitude is as much an action and verbal acknowledgment as it is an attitude, or aura of being. I was raised to say thank you and to write thank you notes for everything. My family didn’t take for granted generous and small gestures, and my brother and I were reminded to thank everyone for everything. Back then, it felt somewhat annoying, but now I so appreciate that my parents and grandparents celebrated gratitude.

For me, when I say thank you, I automatically feel closer to the kindness of the giver. And I want the giver to know how appreciative I am.

Saying thank you is an excellent reminder of sincerity. I recently did a favor for a friend and drove her to a doctor’s appointment. She generously gave me a book to thank me for my offer. It meant so much that she considered my efforts. For me, the best thank you is one that comes from the heart and is said with full eye contact. When I receive a thank you that feels forced or even obligatory, it leaves me feeling empty.

Big surprise, kindness and gratitude go hand in hand. UMass Dartmouth reports that

  • People who keep gratitude journals on a weekly basis have been found to exercise more regularly, have fewer physical symptoms, feel better about their lives as a whole, and feel more optimistic about their upcoming week as compared to those who keep journals recording the stressors or neutral events of their lives. 
  • Daily discussion of gratitude results in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, energy, and sleep duration and quality. Grateful people also report lower levels of depression and stress, although they do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life. 
  • People who think about, talk about, or write about gratitude daily are more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or offered emotional support to another person. 
  • Those with a disposition towards gratitude are found to place less importance on material goods, are less likely to judge their own or others success in terms of possessions accumulated, are less envious of wealthy people, and are more likely to share their possessions with others.

These are some very simple ways to increase your experience and expression of gratitude. As Albert Schweitzer notes in his above quotation about gratitude, increasing our conscious awareness of gratitude may require that we train ourselves to think differently. This can be done by incorporating some simple exercises into our lives.

Graciousness is such an attractive quality in people. I’m always drawn to people who are humble and appreciative, rather than those who have a sense of entitlement or an attitude of expectation. Gratitude and thankfulness go so far in my book.

Yesterday a client and I took a walk during our session. He was amazed to notice how his sadness and overall blue attitude changed by expressing gratitude for the natural beauty of the neighborhood. He wrote an email to me after session commenting that simply walking with his eyes looking at the horizon made him see the world differently than when he walks with his eyes cast down.  He expressed thanks to me for reminding him that this small shift could change his day.  I felt touched to receive this message, and even happier that this suggestion had such an impact on his day.  

To you, I offer my thanks and a sincere appreciation for reading this today.

Please visit my website at www.afterdefeat.com/coaching.

Practice makes fun

    I got a lot of feedback that last week’s post (Missing you) was very sad. You’re right. It was, and I was sad, thoughtful and real. Well my week got more fun and I decided to lighten it up with a lighter topic.  My wonderful friend, Naz, just got home from a tango trip in Argentina. […]

Noticing My Growth

I sat with a client this week and had a thoughtful discussion on noticing our own growth. This particular client is a man in his early twenties who graduated from college almost two years ago.  He works in a corporate job and spends about 80-90 hours a week in the office due to his industry’s busy season.  Today we reflected on his growth over the past two years, and he could not recall much advancement. I reminded him of his success in graduating, turning an internship into a paid job, interviewing for and getting promoted at a different company, moving to various apartments (each one better than the previous), and making more friends. He was stunned to realize all of this had happened! He could not see these milestones through the tedium of daily life. 

This got me thinking, too. How do I recognize if I’ve grown?  I read my old emails, journals, and letters and occasionally think I’m in the same spot I was in right after college.  What a disconcerting, depressing thought. Have I really stayed in the same place, or worse, backtracked more than a decade later?  Can it possibly be that I’m thinking the same thoughts?  As I’m in my own tunnel, I see very minimal development.  I experience the daily grind and often can’t perceive growth because it’s so minute.  Yet, when I lean in and examine my life from a bigger point of view, I see improved relationships, clarity for the choices I’ve made, longer durations of happiness.

When I confront myself now in relation to ten years ago, I see a woman who knows who she is.  A decade ago, I was in a friendship that kept me stifled and I compared myself to this “superior” friend thinking I was less attractive, less funny, less likable. My physical strength was not nearly what it is today — and I am much more confident with the way I look and feel. I was considering so many careers, dating someone who rarely opened up, listening to any “guru” who had a magic wand to help me know myself. Forget trusting myself, I hardly listened to myself!  I felt the daily grind of a corporate life with little joy.  There were happy times, for sure, but my general life felt flat. 

So a decade later, how do I know I’ve grown?  I’m reminded each time I look in the mirror and see a gray hair! I can’t believe these strange rascals have started to sprout from my scalp. On the other hand, I run faster, lift heavier weights, write more, cook better, think more clearly, love deeper, am a thousand times less judgmental, am more compassionate to other people’s situations and feeling, and have come to realize that we’re all doing the best we can. Where I haven’t grown is that I can still be punitive, I still have set views on how certain things in my life “should” be, and am still overly sensitive.

I notice my growth with the way I think and feel.  I trust my heart now as much as my head.  Oh, back then, I hardly used my heart.  I considered it a vessel of anatomy and physiology.  Now, I think of my heart as a life-force and connector to people, ideas, and feelings.  There are still too many days when I under-value myself and settle for Plan B, or let things slide.  I’m still remarkably hard on myself, and get feedback that I’m being way too self-critical.     

However I’ve just realized that growth also comes from taking risks and stretching myself. My decision to move from my home base is a huge marker of growth. I see that I now speak up for myself and value myself more prominently than I did a decade ago. It even happened today! My therapist suggested something to me and I revealed that I’ll have to consider it first, before making a final decision. In the past I would have agreed to please him because he’s “wiser” than me. What BS! Of course he’s wise and so am I! I’m wise and curious and know myself much better than anyone else knows me. I see so many of my unique and special qualities — and this in and of itself is growth. I can finally recognize myself. Small victories like this show me growth. 

Readers, how do you notice your own growth? 

To learn more about working with me, please visit Coaching by Nina Rubin.

Photo credit: vectorstock

There or Here

I just learned that today is International Day of Happiness. A few blog posts ago, I talked about living a life of meaning rather than simply a life of happiness. To follow up on that, I don’t think I specifically mentioned that having a purposeful, meaningful life is often one with great joy and happiness. 

This brings me to a conversation I recently had with my dear friend and old roommate, Josh. Josh posits that we basically know in our hearts who we are and what we want but we often take the winding, twisted path to get there. So where is there? Josh worked as a TV writer for many years. He learned how to craft an excellent script in perfect formatting, but always found himself lacking interest and concentration in the final product. He found great affinity for stocks, business, baseball stats, music, and numbers. He moved slowly. At times, he would argue that his research kept him inert. I saw it: when we were roommates, he would kick and scream at the thought of writing something with his partner. Then, he’d eventually stay up all night and do it, produce something great, and feel unfulfilled. One day, something clicked for him. He had hoarded files of articles about films and TV shows, people, media companies, and saw that there wasn’t much synchronicity among all of these entities. He realized that there was a need in the marketplace for a new kind of product and it hit him! He would fulfill this lack!

So it’s now been a couple of years and Josh’s company is gaining momentum. Josh has taken hundreds of meetings, become a virtual statistician, and seems more satisfied than ever. Is he happy? I’d say that he seems fulfilled. He has frustrations and bad days, but on the whole, he seems to really care about what he’s doing. I love hearing the enthusiasm in his voice when he reflects about the entertainment industry from a business perspective! He’s much more animated now when talking about scripts from the business point of view rather than the entertainment side.

How did Josh get HERE? While hearing his story for the last 8 or so years, I wonder if he would have found true delight if he had not started his own company. He thinks he’d be continually searching for how to get THERE when the answer was to really be here. He slowed down to speed up. He took stock of what his true passions are, was sharp to current trends in the marketplace, and gave careful consideration to starting a business. Each day, he is HERE with a good eye on what’s THERE. 

His daily focus, attention, and intention is to make decisions that serve him and his company. He’s become excellent at taking stock at what actually is rather than how it “should” be or worse, how it “could” be. Josh is a true intellect, someone who reminds me to stay HERE rather than waiting until I’m THERE. F. Scott Fitzgerald says it best and describes Josh and his philosophy to a tee. 

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

So happy International Day of Happiness, Josh and my other readers. May today feel fulfilling as much as happy. 

To learn more about working with me, please visit Coaching by Nina Rubin

The Short and Long Game of Happiness and Meaning

I recently heard one of my favorite authors speak:  Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis is a modern miracle, a gem, a woman who is wise and sensitive, offers timeless wisdom, shows respect and compassion to people, and offers just the right amount of comfort to grieving people and those suffering.  Among the topics in her wonderful talk in San Diego, one of the most important features I took away was that all people are looking for happiness.  But happiness, plain, simple happiness, is not enough.  It’s crucial to live a meaningful life.  Viktor Frankl wrote about this in Man’s Search For Meaning and Rebbetzin Jungreis sees meaning (or goodness) as a major factor to a healthy, purposeful life.

Just leading a happy life is associated with being a ‘taker’ while leading a meaningful life corresponds with being a ‘giver’. “Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desire are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided,” according to authors in The Journal of Positive Psychology. Researchers say that happiness is about drive reduction. If you have a need or a desire — like hunger — you satisfy it, and that makes you happy. People become happy, in other words, when they get what they want. To me, this is also known as instant gratification. What sets human beings apart from animals is not the pursuit of happiness, which occurs all across the natural world, but the pursuit of meaning, which is unique to humans, according to Roy Baumeister. Martin Seligman, the Positive Psychology guru, says “you use your highest strengths and talents to belong to and serve something you believe is larger than the self.”

I’ve encountered the question of happiness and meaning time and again.  Recently, I’ve been faced with the issue of personal suffering and sadness, and how that relates to both meaning and happiness.  Do I have to go through deep pain and sadness in order to appreciate happier times?  Can meaning and happiness coexist, or are they mutually exclusive?  Is there a shortcut or work-around? So far, this is what I know:

I know that I love laughing, joking, and being playful! These are fleeting moments that make me feel happy.  I love feeling deeply connected in a respectful and considerate way.  I love sharing my life with my best friends and falling in love. This is ultimate happiness!  These experiences give my life deeper meaning.  But, they’re not enough.  These are the short game.  To me, the short game is seeing only the immediate, small picture.  It does not account for the betterment of myself or my loved ones.

My long game is having these experiences in tandem with working for the greater good of my clients, my family, my friends, and my partner.  In my long game, I can see the forest through the trees.  The meaning of my life stems from reflective experiences when I think and feel, when I have choices, when I make decisions that are carefully considered. Conversely, when I make rash choices and don’t think about my actions because I’m caught up in temptation or my short game, I’m not living my most meaningful life.  It can be tough for me to navigate. Lately the short game has felt awful for me.  It hasn’t been fun or happy.  Yuck.  The short game has made me feel defeated.

Purpose/meaning is such an anvil. It can be unwieldy and heavy, and sometimes casts a dark shadow on the immediate relief/happiness I want for myself. For a short spell, I made long lists of my life’s purpose and what makes me happy.  These lists got me nowhere fast.  I was ruminating in my head and trying to get “there.”  Then, I realized that there is no “there.”  As I constantly relearn, there’s only here.  These lists take me out of the present and put me in my head (a place that already gets enough visitors).  When I remember to actually breathe and live, I experience joy, anger, sadness, confusion, loneliness, boredom — these are fleeting emotions that come in, I talk through them with my trusted circle, and then they leave.  I’m much more present this way, and this feels meaningful. When I avoid and deny my truth, it brings me neither happiness nor meaning. I live with the consequences of lost love and missed opportunities as much as I live with the excitement of learning strategy for a new board game and cooking BBQ.  My life is one of meaning as much as it is generally happy.  I have some serious (fun!?) goals ahead that are the long game.  In the short game, I’m trying to smile and laugh while accepting what really is, and that mine is a is a meaningful life with an eye on the long game.

*Special thanks to EB for talking this out with me.  Would love your comments.
Read more: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/01/theres-more-to-life-than-being-happy/266805/?single_page=true#ixzz3TYYLraS2

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/a-lesson-about-happiness-from-a-holocaust-survivor-2014-10

To learn more about working with me, please visit Coaching by Nina Rubin