Key to Happiness? Space & Time.

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Photo: Zohar Lazar from NY Mag

I adore my New York Magazine subscription. I know I can almost always read the stories in the print edition on my phone or laptop but there’s something about holding the physical copy in my hand and reading it on the subway that just makes me feel SO good. (It’s also just easier on my aging eyeballs.)

This week they really nailed the cover story… How to be Happy. Which is of course also available online so you can read it too. (But grab it off a newsstand if you can, if only so we don’t all wind up like the humans in WALL-E.)

The story is structured around the most popular course at Yale– Psychology and the Good Life. Why is it so popular? Because college kids are more stressed and depressed than they ever have been before. And arguably, so are the rest of us. The article takes a skim across the course curriculum and its structure. A huge chunk of the course is focused on how our brains trick us into making us unhappy and then moves on to how to rewire our behaviors to be happier. Our brains are basically sabotaging us. Which is depressing to even think about. My favorite takeaway from this portion was that 40 percent of our happiness is entirely within our control. Holy shit.

I will not go on to recap the article here but I strongly suggest you give yourself the time to read it. Which brings me to where I wanted to get to… TIME. The breakdown is this: people are happier when they have more time to just BE than when given some extra money.

Living in a city like New York, it is so hard to see the value in having empty time. It’s a city of hustlers, the city that doesn’t sleep. But filling every waking hour with work, with side hustles, with stuff just to feel “busy” is making us depressed. The misconception is that “busy” means productive and “free time” means lazy.

I have been so guilty of this it’s not even funny at this point. I used fill every wakeful hour with whatever I could. I thought I was being productive. But by the end of the year (for many years) I didn’t move the needle much on any of my goals. I had just kept myself busy and stressed for essentially, the sake of being busy and stressed. I was trying to match the busy and stressed out lives of my peers. Which makes me sad just thinking about it.

This article has come at such a good time for me. I have been exploring self care, meditation, and relaxation techniques for the past year. It’s insane to think that I have to research how to be chilled out, that I actually have to read articles about this to learn that it’s OK to spend an entire weeknight just resting… but I do. And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that almost all of us have work to do in this department.

Happiness and success in America have always been measured by money and by time spent working… things that stress us and depress us. It’s time to flip the switch and change how we talk about ourselves and each other. If a friend likes to spend every Thursday night sitting in a coffee shop alone reading our reaction should be “Wow good for them for carving that time out,” instead of  “Shouldn’t they be working on their small business idea?” And the next time you want to spend an hour reading a book, let yourself. Give yourself the time and space you need to be truly happy. I know I am trying.

 

 

 

 

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How to Be Resilient

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Photo by Hyungyong Kim on Unsplash

2018 at my day job has been wild. We’ve lost a lot of great people to new jobs and it was painful for me to let go of friends and mentors all at the same time. I won’t say that I handled it particularly well because I had to call my mom to keep myself from crying one day. That’s pretty rare for me. I mean, I waited 24 hours to tell her I spent the night in the ER with a broken nose.

What she told me that day stuck with me and since then, each challenge that arises in my life, whether in direct relation to these big changes or not, I think about it to calm down.

She said to me, “All of this proves just how resilient you are.”

Wow, that’s a word. A word I was and am proud to have bestowed on me. Resilient! I sometimes walk around wondering if I am crazy for putting up with certain things or for not jumping from place to place, job to job, like many of my millennial counterparts. I often think of myself as a lame duck, just paddling along with one sad foot. But resilient? I feel flattered, Mom.

She’s right by the way.

I am not sure when change became so trendy– Quit your job! Travel the world with your savings! Keep moving until you’re happy. All of those concepts never resonated with me. Sure, on a surface level I was like “Hell yes let’s do it!” But deep down, I am the type of person that much prefers to work through the complications I have in front of me, to find happiness and joy in the everyday. I mean, duh, this blog is dedicated to that. But I needed her to remind me that this tendency also makes me resilient.

(PS – I mean if you’re unhappy please find your own happiness, I am not telling you to be miserable! That’s different and you know it. Don’t pin that on me. ;))

Resiliency can be a learned trait. I truly believe this and I will preach it to anyone who will listen. Learning how to be resilient comes from learning how to be uncomfortable. Finding comfort in your life is like finding comfort on a crowded subway– you may not have seat, but you can probably work your way into a safe corner. Since everyone responds well to lists, here’s a “How to Be Resilient” list to get you started on your own journey or to continue growing (everyone, no matter how resilient, always has room for improvement!)

HOW TO BE RESILIENT

  1. Learn to Be Uncomfortable – Life is never going to be 100% sunshine. Find joy in rain. If you’re avoiding a work project because it seems complicated, try to find a way to un-complicate it. Create space where you are.
  2. Find Your Edge, And then Push Past It – Like with exercise or eating kale or starting a particularly hard book… If you stick with it, just past your edge (your breaking point, the day you usually give up) you’ll find that it is possible for you to get past whatever is holding you back. And you don’t need to go far past it, just enough so that tomorrow, you’re a little bit stronger.
  3. Support Others – Believe it or not but helping others to get over their own fears and problems will make you stronger. Others give us purpose, which in turn gives us strength to carry on.
  4. Take Breaks – No human being is going to be capable of taking sh*t nonstop. Learning how to be resilient also means learning how to take a big old break from the work of getting stronger. If you’re tired, take a seat, just don’t turnaround, you are so close!

How often do you think about being resilient? Does thinking of this word make you more capable? Is this the first time you’ve applied the word to yourself? Do you feel resilient now? Let me know…

Love, light and red wine,
Amanda

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Guest Post: What If One Question Could Change Your Life?

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Photo by Daryn Stumbaugh on Unsplash


What If One Question Could Change Your Life?

The simplest definition of courage is ‘the ability to do something that frightens one.’ As children, we are naturally fearless. We see the world as it is, we ask for exactly what we want (whether with words or not), and we are unapologetic as we ask questions to learn. Yet as we grow older, society begins to slow down this fearlessness. We worry about what people think, we learn that not all questions have fair or just answers, and we perceive more consequences for failures. All of this leads to making it more and more difficult to be courageous.

As a leadership facilitator and coach, I talk about failure a lot. One of my favorite sessions to lead is on the topic, and requires people to consider and share their failures—without speaking about the solution. It is deeply uncomfortable and requires immense vulnerability, yet it breeds courage in a deeply intense way. Most people are great at dreaming about what their life could look like—we create vision boards, set New Year resolutions, and make three-year goals. Yet, when it comes down to it, we become afraid and frozen. What if I fail? What if my goals are too lofty? What if I’m not good enough? The definition of fear includes an incredibly important—and limiting—word in it: belief. Fear is an “unpleasant emotion caused by the belief” that something is dangerous, a threat, will cause pain, etc. So when you get stuck in fear, or feel like there is no way you can create the life you want, ask yourself one question.

What’s Stopping You?

It is a simple question, right? Yet so often we read self-help books or articles on personal growth, but we never actually do what they say to do. So if there is ONE question that can significantly help you push past your comfort zone and find courage to achieve your goals and dreams, ask yourself this one. What is stopping you? Write down your answer, say it out loud in the mirror, or ask a friend (or better yet—a coach) to ask you. Asking it once will not be enough—you might need to ask it over and over again, at every step of the process. Yet when you do, you will find that what you think is stopping you is most often a belief, perception, or fear. And by calling it out, you just might find that it is much easier to find the courage to push past it.

For me, I had a lot of fear when it came writing. I work in philanthropy, I coach and train great business leaders, and I have a deep desire to support others as they find their purpose and the unique impact they can make—but am I a writer? So a few years ago, I asked myself—what’s stopping me? For me, it was the fear that I wasn’t good enough, that people would criticize what I had to say, and that I wouldn’t have enough good ideas. Those limiting beliefs were stopping me, so I didn’t write. When I finally found the courage to apply to become a Forbes contributor—and got it—I was equal parts thrilled and terrified. And when I wrote my first article, the very first comment on a tweet I got was “crap article”. I actually laughed out loud—someone had criticized my work—and it didn’t feel so bad! I had been so preoccupied with getting negative comments, that I realized that actually getting them was not so bad. I then focused on the thousands of other people who enjoyed what I wrote, and hopefully found it useful. I continue to cultivate the courage by embracing the times that I don’t get an article published, or receive a critique—because at least I’m doing it, and I’ll continue to get better.

Get Started Now

It’s time to get started. Making a change in your life, finding courage, going after that goal—is a choice. Decide what you want, ask what is stopping for you, and consider whether it is a real or perceived barrier. Most likely, you’ll find that it’s a fear—so muster up the courage, because you will truly never know if you don’t try. The worst thing that will happen is you fail, learn, and either pivot or try again. Courage can be cultivated with practice, so the more you do things that frighten you, the more your life will open up and present limitless opportunities.

Kate Hayes
Kate Hayes is the director of Direct Impact at Echoing Green and is an independent leadership coach through Impact & Bliss. At Echoing Green, she oversees programming for business leaders who are dedicated to realizing their full potential as agents of social change. She leads retreats, workshops, and immersive site visits focused on leadership development, purpose, strategic governance, philanthropy, and social entrepreneurship. In her coaching work, she focuses on helping professionals accelerate their career and their life, while understanding how to make a meaningful impact on the world. Kate is a contributor at Forbes, where she writes millennials and their careers. For more, check out www.impactandbliss.com.

Call for Courage – Announcing the Cheap Courage Challenge

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Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

When I talk about Cheap Courage these days, do you even know what I mean? I’ve had this blog for so long I wonder if half of you understand the meaning behind the name or what it is I’m trying to get at. My bio reads, “Cheap Courage is [my] blog dedicated to doing what scares you with confidence.” But that’s not only limited to MAJOR life changes; I want you to live with courage each and every day.

In short, I am totally all about those DAILY WINS! I am not asking you to quit your job and travel the world, or to get married next week. I’m asking all of you (and mostly myself) to have a little courage each and every day of your life.

What could that look like? What would you do without judgement?
-Say something if you see someone getting shoved on the subway
-Tell your roommate you can’t stand it when she leaves dirty spoons in the sink
-Ask for a review from your boss (randomly, midyear, get wild!)
-Try Kombucha
-Try cooking something complicated
-Post a workout selfie

Courage is like a muscle. The less you use it, the harder it will be to flex. But if you start small, over time, you will get stronger and stronger and your Courage muscle will be huge! You’ll be able to make more difficult decisions with care and precision, instead of hyperventilating.

That’s where the Cheap Courage Challenge comes in.

I will be posting small challenges every month this year. They’ll be little things to get you started on a path of challenging and exploring yourself. You’ll also come to find and recognize how often you are courageous, without even knowing it.

So with that, I bring you our JANUARY CHEAP COURAGE CHALLENGE.

This month I want you to reach out to someone you’ve been wanting to/meaning to/had every intention of calling. It can be a family member you haven’t spoken to in awhile, a blogger or Influencer you enjoy, someone from high school who just moved to your city and could use a friend, the coworker you actively ignore. REACH OUT. Say hi! Say whatever it is you’ve been wanting or meaning to say. You never know what could happen.

Check in with my corresponding IG post and let me know how it goes! I’ll be sharing mine there today!

What Life Should Be Like

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I’m back post-holiday to return to my blogging roots–talking about some serious business. *Queue Serious Music* I took a little break to get into the holiday spirit with my gift guide and to support a group of incredible female entrepreneurs. But now… it’s back to business as usual.

Today I’m talking about shoulds, how they haunt me.

Sometimes (seriously, sometimes) I can come off as pretty collected and calm. But that’s after many years of learning to be that way. By nature I am a worrier. When I was 12 I stopped sleeping at night, plagued by insomnia and anxiety by my very *complicated* life. I was sick over old things and worried for new things and was very tightly wound. My memory of that year, and even the next couple after that, is of lying in bed every night, wide awake and troubled.

I’ve come a long way since those days. I am often able to sleep through the night and have been doing that for years. But lately, I find myself falling into old patterns. Waking in the night to start worrying and overthinking. Spiraling knowing very well I shouldn’t be. It’s odd to find myself here 18 years later.

The cause of it all, of course, is the shoulds of my life. I am straight up shoulding myself. Maybe it’s because I turned 30 this month or it’s because my life keeps butting up against serious life moments (for not just me, but my friends and family around me too) and it is causing me to look at my life and start making choices for my future in a new and terrifying way.

When I was younger all I wanted was focus and security, even though my nature is (again) the opposite of this. I crave new things, excitement, and change. To counter that I made highly secure choices and this, unlike my efforts to calm myself, has backfired into making me feel caged in and to put it bluntly, kind of a big fat failure. I keep telling myself that I SHOULD be doing X,Y,Z or that I SHOULD HAVE done X,Y,Z when I had the chance. On the surface I guess this looks a little like a midlife crisis but really it’s the return of the same fears I had at 12 years old:

What is all of this? What should life be like? 

Smaller goals over time (graduate high school, graduate college, do not starve) gave me the ability to stray from the bigger picture, the life picture, that I saw back when I was a little girl who could not turn her brain off no matter how hard she tried. No matter how tired she was at school the next day and the day after. The smaller goals are now accomplishments to be proud of,  but as I stare down the next phase of life, without any small hurdles to cross, the big questions I never answered “What do I want to be when I grow up?” “What do I want to see and do?” “Who do I want to be?” are bubbling up with a ferocity of a caged animal.

The positive in all of this is that with my blinders removed I have the opportunity to start exploring the things I have always been afraid to try. And that is what I need to keep in my mind–that instead of anxiousness for the future, I can instead feel excitement for it. I am standing on a cliff and I can jump or I can worry about would happen if I did. (I hope there’s a net there…)

The answer to what life should be like is this: to not look for shoulds and instead find joy in the past we’ve survived the potential of what can be in the future.

But it’s never so easy. I’ve been here before. You’ve all been there with me and you’re probably rolling your eyes getting ready to push me off any old cliff already. I feel you. I can say it and I can write it but living that truth is so much harder in reality. I’ll keep working to balance out of course… that’s who I am and though I’ve tried not to be, that hasn’t changed. I’ve been here before and I am sure I will keep coming back to it. I can only hope it will one day result in something great.

How do you handle your fear of the future? Do you keep trying obsessively to smooth out your life or am I crazy? Curious to know.