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The photo on the left below shows Griffin with his cousins 4 years ago (!) at Thanksgiving. It’s one of my all-time favorites.

Stacey and Paula

We traveled to Ohio to celebrate Thanksgiving with them again this year and the boys generously indulged me when I asked if they would be willing to recreate it.

Griffin adores his older cousins and whether it was battling with Nerf “guns,” or playing soccer (or soccer video games!), or basketball, there was no end to the merriment!

Last week I offered a FREE copy of The (Truly!) Happy Holidays Planner. I know it was a busy week, so you may have missed it and since Hanukkah and Christmas are right around the corner, I want to give you another chance. Just click here and you’ll receive it as an immediate download.

I also offered readers a practice that has been shown to help people feel happy even when bad things happen, and since a hallmark of my coaching is to respond powerfully no matter what the circumstances, I thought I’d continue with that theme again this week.

The 12th-century poet Rumi said each of us is trying to hide the same secret from each other. It isn’t anything malicious – we’re just hiding the mere fact of our flawed humanness. Rumi called it the “Open Secret.”

I know that I expend too much energy feeling less-than-adequate and I expend even more of it trying to remind myself that I am just fine exactly the way I am. For me – and probably for you, as well – a lot of my feelings of inadequacy stem from a sense that other folks have it more together than I do.

accept your negative thoughts and feelings without judgmentBut comparing my success to others’ isn’t the only way I do this to myself. I recently shared with a friend all the ways I  contribute to my feeling inadequate. In addition to comparing myself to others (and always coming up short), I struggle to celebrate others’ successes (they’ve got friends and family who will do that, right?), and I daydream about being “saved” (my book on personal development will be wildly successfully – with no marketing effort on my part, or I’ll receive a large inheritance from a long-lost relative – even though I have none, or I’ll win the Powerball – which I don’t play).

Yet I suspect that even the people who seem to be living out what I would call the “perfect” life probably have an Open Secret, too. And while the friend who let me catalogue my self-sabotage strategies didn’t say that she has the same weaknesses, she accepted them without judgment. And it felt good to share them.

But within a short time I found myself once more comparing myself to the more-together-than-thou in my life. And once more having trouble accepting my own foibles as right and necessary. Why is that?

This difficulty is especially mysterious to me because I’m not all that interested in sugar-sweet, sun-filled stories anyway.

In fact, all of my favorite stories are pretty bleak and don’t end particularly well. (I loved Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel The Road, for example.) And yet in every one of the stories I get the most out of, love for others – and true connection with them – bring meaning and solace. My favorite tales are about hope and hopelessness; home and exile; joy and sorrow.

Great writers are supremely gifted at creating characters who wrestle with great challenges and experience a more profound sense of meaning and joy because of them.

If you are feeling alienated, or anxious, or full of grief – or if the despair of the world is weighing heavy on your heart – look no further than any number of classic stories to help you find light in the darkness.

Think of The Lord of the Rings. It’s the ultimate story of strangers creating community, sharing a difficult journey, helping each other to achieve success against all odds – and ultimately learning though adversity to savor the passing moments of their ordinary lives.

Getting to the space where you can do that, of course, may mean making peace with the darkness first. To do this, I take a page from another of my favorite novels: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.

In this book the protagonist, faced with a rough patch in his life, is told by a wise man that he must “sit at the bottom of the well” for a while – he must face his difficulties and, for a while at least, not strive against them, but seek to understand the lessons they offer.

I have taken this so much to heart that most of my friends know that “sitting at the bottom of the well” is my way of saying that after a tough day, or week, or month I am going to my quiet place in order to discover what I am supposed to learn.

So, first you accept that “there are feelings of depression in you” (I learned from Eckhart Tolle in A Whole New Earth that you never want to identify so strongly with negative feelings that you say things like, “I am depressed.”). Accept the feelings without judgment. Just let them be. Then, start asking powerful questions.

Here are the questions that I try to ask: What is the situation that’s stressing you out most right now? Why is it stressing you out? What are you doing or believing to create or maintain or worsen this situation? What is the benefit or payoff for maintaining this situation? What is the cost or downside of taking action to change this situation?

The responses to those questions form the basis for powerful responses that can give you enormous insight into your situation.

They also form the basis of my 30 Days to Inner Peace. If you’d like a proven program to help you out of even the deepest well, register for the program here.

If you liked this post, I think you’ll enjoy the free weekly Special Delivery eZine. Just sign up here and it will be delivered to your inbox every Tuesday!

The proven way to feel happy when things are bad

Stacey and PaulaThe photo to the right shows me with one of my Visionary clients, Paula. She came all the way from Albuquerque, NM, to have her VIP Day with me in Asheville!

By the end of the day, we had gotten MAJOR traction on the things that were most important to her—a crystal clear vision of her TWO different ideal client profiles PLUS TWO different Signature Systems, Programs and Pricing—all in ONE DAY!

It was the perfect culmination of a few very FULL weeks before I take almost a week off from my business to unplug and connect with family, eat some of my favorite food, and recharge for the weeks ahead.

Yes, in the United States, we’re in the thick of the BIG holidays—the ones that we look forward to all year and have us alternating between feeling exhilarated and exhausted.

I would love for YOU to have truly happy and peaceful holidays this year and to that end I have two things in mind.

The first is a FREE copy of The (Truly!) Happy Holidays Planner, my special planner that I want to offer as a token of my appreciation for YOU. Just click here and you’ll receive it as an immediate download.

The second is my life-changing (wait till you read the testimonials!) program 30 Days to Inner Peace. Starting now and going through November 30th, I’ll be offering it with a fantastic “Positive Focus” bonus.

I know both will help you have a stress-free holiday season filled with meaning, connection, fun … and appreciation. Did you know appreciation is MATHEMATICALLY PROVEN to help you be happy in any circumstance—especially during the holidays?

Barbara Fredrickson is a psychologist who works at UNC-Chapel Hill and studies my favorite field of academic research, positive psychology.

Her book Positivity lays out the research she’s conducted that shows that there is a mathematical formula by which success (in terms of production in a business sense, or feeling happy in a more personal sense) can be predicted by the ratio of positive events to negative ones.

She has discovered that the “tipping point” where good things start to happen occurs at a ratio of three to one. That is, three positive events for every single negative event.

I think this finding can tell us a lot about life—how to perceive it and how to live it with great satisfaction. As Frederickson puts it, “If we’re aware of the tipping point ratio, (that) could make a big difference in how we choose to live our lives.”

As I would put it, making a conscious choice to appreciate three things every time you’re aware of a bad thing happening is the way to feel happy even when bad things are happening.

There are always going to be negative events in our lives, and we may not be able to do anything about them. But we always have the ability to increase the power of the positive events in our lives—and even multiply them—by focusing our attention on what makes us feel good.

Pema Chodron, in When Things Fall Apart, describes how our daily lives can feel like a confused, busy street; the traffic is going fast in all directions and we can’t find a way to cross. It’s overwhelming and frightening.

We’re so busy jumping out of the way of the speeding cars that we can’t understand what’s going on, or how we contributed to the confusion.

plenty of timeBut if we watch the activity for a while, we begin to see that there are openings in the traffic. We can step up on the sidewalk and take a more objective look. And no matter how busy the traffic, we can understand that there’s a flow.

If we could look at it from the top of a building, we’d see that it really doesn’t have anything to do with us; it’s just a flow of energy. We begin to see the challenges as part of the deal, not necessarily good or bad, just part of life.

Now the circumstances in our lives can seem like that traffic. And we often believe that our love relationships should be a refuge from that traffic—the one place that should give us peace. But our relationships with those closest to us are really the most traffic-filled and the best place to practice looking for flow.

Aside from meditation, being in relationships is the best practice to help us see where we’re stuck and what isn’t working in our lives. As Joko Beck, an American Buddhist nun, writes in Everyday Zen:

So a relationship is a great gift, not because it makes us happy—it often doesn’t—but because any intimate relationship, if we view it as practice, is the clearest mirror we can find.

So what then? Should we simply look at our relationships as a practice—something that helps us grow stronger when we’re out in public (provided it doesn’t kill us first)? Not at all. Because the practice I’m suggesting that you introduce into your relationships is the practice of looking for the positive things that will put you into that 3-to-1 ratio.

Today, practice accentuating the positive by noticing your surroundings and asking, “What feels good about my current situation? What makes me feel lucky to be here?” Mentally registering the benefits of any given circumstance will remind you that you have the power to influence your reaction when things become challenging.

Find something to appreciate in three people today and share your appreciation with them. Bonus points if you can manage to direct a sincere compliment to someone who has really pushed your buttons quite recently. (You should be provided with at least one opportunity to do this during the holidays, don’t you think?)

Then, once you’ve got a handle on it, use this practice on your intimate relationships. Your spouse, your parents, your siblings—and work to beef up the ratio of good things and good events versus the negative things that you notice about them.

It’s not going to be as hard as you might think. After all, these are people who have stuck with you, maintained relationships with you, for years. It’s going to take an extraordinary person to have never exhibited any positive characteristics, or done any good deeds, over all that time.

And the thing is, once you’ve put yourself into the proper balance in your private life, you will find the strength to look for the positive—to find the flow—in other aspects of your life. So start at home, and start during the holidays. If you do, I think you’ll find the new year full of a promise you never expected.

If you’d like even more practices to help you feel peaceful and grounded this holiday season, click here: 30 Days to Inner Peace Program.

If you liked this post, I think you’ll enjoy the free weekly Special Delivery eZine. Just sign up here and it will be delivered to your inbox every Tuesday!

How to Stop Being So Busy

November 17, 2015

The photo to the right is me with my dear friends Katie and Dawn and I was SO thrilled to spend some time with them last weekend. We had our family’s 12th Annual "Friendsgiving”—it's a way we choose to celebrate the holidays with our "non-belly-button family” and it was delightful as always. As we head

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Discover what’s holding you back from your greatest success

November 10, 2015

That’s a photo with me and one of my beautiful Visionary friends, Lisa Marie Rosati. I wrote last week about how I spent the previous week at my business training, and she was one of the people with whom I masterminded (and enjoyed cocktails!). Last week, too, I shared one of the biggest gifts I

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Stuck in a Soul-Sucking Job? (+ my video love letter)

November 3, 2015

That’s a photo of me with my dear friend and publisher, Linda Joy. She surprised me last week when she drove over 2 hours to see me while I was at my business training in Connecticut. Connecting with her was one of many VERY special experiences I had at the training. Going forward, the thing

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How to Stop Beating Yourself Up and Make Yourself Ripe for Miracles (+ new short video on my fave power tool!)

October 27, 2015

That’s a photo of me with my Visionary client, Felicia Baucom, after her full VIP Day with me here in Asheville. Before her VIP Day, Felicia told me that she wanted help to see the difference between signs that something is not right for her and signs that something is, even when there are setbacks.

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How to Get Your Positive Focus Back (new video!)

October 20, 2015

That’s a photo of me with my mom and dad last week. We went to see the film The Martian. I was excited to see it because I loved reading the book, but I loved the story behind the book even more: The author, Andy Weir, was a computer programmer who loved science fiction and

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How to Work with Your Natural Wiring to Get What You Want

October 13, 2015

That’s a photo of me with the new book I co-authored that released today, Inspiration for a Woman’s Soul: Cultivating Joy!! You can order it by clicking here – I truly hope it will help you develop a “no-excuses” approach to cultivating joy and creating a life you absolutely love. Two weeks ago I shared

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What to do with an overflow of sorrow (+ my birthday gift to you!)

October 6, 2015

The photo to the right is me with my dear friend Mary Cade and her beautiful daughter, Eliza. You'll find out more about them below, but first a little background for readers that are new to the Midwife for Your Life community. For many years I've asked family, friends, and dear readers to give to

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How to Literally Take Your Happiness into Your Own Hands (+ MY NEW BOOK!)

September 29, 2015

These are two of my favorite photos from Doug’s Big Book Launch Event at Malaprop’s Bookstore on Saturday. (We offered a drawing for Tales of a Fifth Grade Knight “Swag” and these two girls were among the prize recipients.) I’m so happy to share that Tales of a Fifth Grade Knight is bringing joy to

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