Being Happy Is Your Choice

We hear it over and over – life is hard. Life has some hard spots. True. But most days, there is more right than wrong, good than bad, amazing than average, building than diminishing, possible than impossible, wonder than sameness. But in a world where the bad is seemingly magnified, it requires a mindset shift to see the positive more than the negative.

Here’s the truth: life is about perspective. We have been trained to focus on the challenges and dangers in our world. We are trained to tune in to things that can harm us, hurt us and create problems. There’s little wonder that, with this perspective, most everything we notice is a problem we are just finishing, just starting or one that is on our future. Most people live life like they’re moving from problem to problem to problem. Who wouldn’t get worn out, angry and bitter with that view?

The consequence of this negative perspective is self-perpetuating. The more you notice problems and get yourself down because of them, the more problems you notice – and on it goes. You spin faster and faster making it more difficult to notice any of the amazing, wonderful, awesome and spectacular things that go on every day, right in front of you, able to make you see that you have a great life.

So how do you learn to see the bright side and not always focus on the dark side? Tune out, tune in and readjust your view.

Tune Out
With the magnitude of negative news and fear-based reporting in our world, it is important to disconnect from this input to allow yourself to consider the positive, not just the negative. If you receive a constant feed of negative, it will become the lead influence in your thinking. You will spend your time being pessimistic, and here is what is alarming: you will justify that you are right to be so negative.

You need to disconnect from the continual negativity to be able to see and develop the positive.

Tune In
Tune in means pay attention to what is good, right and working well about you and your world. What are your greatest abilities that help you excel? What are you passionate about and interested in that helps you feel engaged, activated and happy in your day? What in your world or workplace is working well?

If you don’t look for it, you will not find it. But as soon as you learn to tune in to what is great in you and in your world and workplace, you will see that there is always more right than wrong, more beauty, greatness and goodness than the other side. It takes new eyes to see it.

Readjust Your View
FUD – fear, uncertainty, death. Drama and difficulties. This is the stuff that seemingly sells best. But when you shift from fear to love, and from worry to happiness, you take control as the owner of your life. Making an intentional mindset shift to adjust your view, combined with tuning out the noise and tuning in to yourself, lessens the impact on you. You are a victim to this until you choose not to be.

Consider all of the metaphors here – you drive, you paint your canvas, you run your race, you build your dream. From a more positive, energized and engaged perspective, the results in each of these situations will be remarkably better. Seeing it is the first step.

Take Action
Develop a practice to tune out with regularity to be able to tune in to see things clearly, to then readjust your view. Start each day with a focus on gratitude in the silence of the moment. Allow that silence to create a clearer view of you and your world, and how you want to see yourself doing work and life. Happy is a choice. It can be yours, but you have to want it and be willing to work to achieve it.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading To Change a Habit, Try Something Different

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Get Clear: When you were young, what did you love to do?

Our goal over the next eight weeks is to help people learn how to get clear about what they want in 2020. After all, 20/20 vision is considered perfect vision.

To kick-off our weekly Get Clear efforts, we asked: when you were young, what did you love to do?

Some of the answers we heard, at face value, talked about hobbies people enjoyed or spending time with family or friends. At face value, those are great answers that tell you a bit about what someone’s childhood was like. But the answers to this question actually have a lot more meaning.

The reason for this question is that when we were younger, we were more connected to our true selves, something we lose touch with over time because we aim to please. Whether done intentionally or subconsciously, we modify who we are to please and accommodate the people and world around us, and the unintended consequence is that we can lose our true selves.

To help get clear about yourself – so you can make wise and meaningful decisions about your life and your work – you need to connect to your true self to have accurate and complete information to work with.

So, when you were younger, what did you love to do? I bet some of this is still there for you.

When Jay was younger, he was always writing. He had three brothers who were always outside and active, but he was always inside dreaming, inventing and writing stories. As time went on, he was guided to pursue a career that seemed more achievable than writing. He never really thought about being a writer until someone suggested he write a book about the ideas he had to create a remarkable workplace. That rekindled the flame for writing and reminded him how much he loved it. A year later, he wrote his first book and a second book the following year.

Writing, dreaming, storytelling, writing poetry, thinking about big ideas has always been a passion for him. He explained, “When I step back into it, life is better, fuller and more connected to who I really am. I now write everyday – blogs, articles, programs to teach others and anything that helps me get my ideas out to share them with my world.  And it was only in reconnecting to what I was truly passionate about as a kid that I realized that the something I loved to do as a kid holds the same weight today. This passion helped me define and develop my career, a career that uses what I am passionate about every day. Sometimes by allowing yourself to think back to when you were younger, you see things that you gave up on – for whatever reason – that belong back in your days.

Take Action
Ask yourself your Get Clear question of the week again: when you were young, what did you love to do? How is this still important to you? Does it (or can it) fit into your life? How does this help you get clear about what belongs in your work and life that fits the real you?

Now take a moment to reflect on that answer. Get clear. Be the real you. This is the key to a great life.

Are you part of our 2020 Vision Facebook Group? Sign up now to have your chance to connect with our team of coaches and engage with other community members to help you gain even greater clarity about yourself and your goals for 2020.

By The Forte Factor Team

Consider reading Pay Attention

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Current Strengths and Future Potential

When you really stop and notice, you can discover things about yourself that you would have otherwise missed. Consider the strengths you become aware of and tune in to. These are the key to activating your potential.

But what, exactly, is potential?

I believe your potential is what you are capable of doing, being or contributing. Perhaps ironically, most of us have never been introduced to our potential for a number of reasons. It could be because of overly supportive parents who created an easy road and life for us. It could be a micromanaging boss who told you what to do and how to do it. It could be a school system that moved you only as far as the middle of the pack because it is easier to provide the same education to everyone delivered in the same way.

In each of these situations, we were not introduced to or able to develop our strengths, to see what we came equipped with and are made of. We can’t see this until we have a chance to use it.

This is your wake-up call, to seek and act on your true potential. After all, we can’t change and improve things if we first can’t see what is happening. So many of us don’t know how capable we are because we haven’t developed our self-awareness and self-belief. The result is that we have learned we can just get by instead of making a profound difference.

Though it is certainly easier to blame our environments, the process of developing into our greatest selves is our personal work to do. It’s not the responsibility of your parents, boss or the school system. It is up to each of us to spend time knowing ourselves so we can discover what unique abilities we were born with, then constantly work to discover how to bring those abilities to our lives and our world. This is the process of potential.

No one was born with an owner’s manual that summarizes our abilities. We learn them as we live and as we make time to discover them. Once discovered, it’s up to you to develop your abilities to create your strengths. Then, with this knowledge, you have the ability to bring these strengths into your day in a managed and intentional way. This is how you achieve your potential.

Take Action
Information is key to understanding yourself. If you are not aware of your strengths, consider taking an online assessment, work with a coach or carve out some quiet time to reflect on these questions:

  • What am I really good at?
  • What do I love to do?
  • How can I use this to reach my potential?

Use your strengths – they are your key to being remarkable.   

Know your best, bring your best, do great things. This is how to build a great life and a great world.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Don’t Do Average, Make it an Experience

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Being Thankful

I can vividly remember one Thanksgiving when my rather large extended family went around the table before dinner was served and each person was asked to share one thing they were thankful for. Some were thoughtful and touching, others were practical. I remember this particular year because I was caught off guard. I listened to my family members all share touching and thoughtful expressions of thankfulness and I nervously waited for my turn. Despite the vivid memory, I truly can’t remember what I shared that I was thankful for, but being about 8 years old at the time, I’m pretty sure I said some standard response of “my family” or “soccer,” or I repeated what a previous family member shared.

Regardless of my 8-year-old memory, the point is that we took a moment to stop and notice what was working in our lives instead of what wasn’t working. This is the formula for gratitude. Or is it?

The tradition of taking a moment to share a reason to be grateful has been evolving into month-long events for families to recognize and celebrate. Some families have adopted an at-the-dinner-table nightly routine. Others have created Thankful Pumpkins, where they write down something they’re thankful for on a pumpkin every day through the month of November, then prominently feature the pumpkin as the centerpiece on Thanksgiving Day. And others have used Thankful Jars or Gratitude Jars, where every family member writes down one thing they are thankful for each day and puts it in a jar to be read aloud – as a family – on New Year’s Day.

What I’m seeing is that today’s world, which is so seemingly self- and world-unaware, has moments of great awareness. Moments of enlightenment. Moments when they are so truly tuned in that they can see and appreciate the up and the downs (because the downs help us appreciate the ups) in each of life’s little moments.

And I’m increasingly seeing this in younger kids. In fact, my 3-year-old’s preschool class created “Thanksgiving trees” this year. Each student was encouraged to draw something they were thankful for, thus introducing the awareness and understanding of being thankful (granted, one student featured spiders on his Thanksgiving tree, but the conversations are being had…).

So this Thanksgiving, don’t just take a moment to reflect on what you’re thankful for today. Challenge yourself to adopt this attitude of gratitude every day throughout every year. Just think of how you would change – how you think, feel and act – when you focus more on what is good and right in life instead of what isn’t. And should that be something you do every day?

Take Action
Make some time to truly tune in to your surroundings on Thanksgiving. Where are you? Who are you with? Is someone missing that you wish could be there? How did the food taste? What extra effort went into bringing you all together? What emotions and feelings does this view of the day help you experience?

Now take a deep breath. It’s easier to acknowledge what you’re thankful for than it is to say “thank you,” so close your eyes and say “thank you.” Say it out aloud or in your head. But say it to the universe. To your family and friends. To yourself.

Then ask how you will bring that attitude of gratitude to everything you do, to learn to see and appreciate the good in every moment. You and those in your life will be changed by it.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Life’s Little Gifts

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Parents: Are You Helping or Hurting?

I love to laugh, so much so that I find I’m regularly sharing memes and funny articles through just about every channel with friends and family. One such recent find was a brief article in The Onion (for those of you who aren’t familiar, The Onion is an online-only satire publication).

The article, titled “Study Finds Every Style Of Parenting Produces Disturbed, Miserable Adults,” actually made me laugh out loud. It calls attention to the fact that regardless of your upbringing, people are generally just miserable. They find the bad, they ruminate, and then move on to find something else that’s not great. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll ask someone how they’re doing and the answer is a sarcastic, “Living the dream!”

But the article? Yup, it’s funny. I shared it with a few friends and my husband. It seemed even funnier to me now that we have three little boys to “raise right” (did I mention we welcomed our third son earlier this month?).

But then I started thinking: this is exactly what I coach.

We all hear about the overbearing parents that never let their kids make mistakes to learn on their own. We hear about the parents who are seemingly MIA in correcting or guiding behaviors, resulting in children who are undisciplined and, quite frankly, hard to be around. And we have special names for those parents, too (check out our full list of parenting styles we’ve identified through our years of coaching).

And the extreme parenting styles are easy to make fun of because they are the extremes.

But what about the parenting styles in the middle? How do you figure out what’s the right one for you and your family?

My guidance as a coach is to think of your parenting style as either productive or unproductive. There’s no good or bad, right or wrong. It’s about what works for you in this moment to raise happy, healthy and responsible humans.

Take Action
What parenting style(s) do you exhibit most? Do you think it’s productive or unproductive?

If you feel like you’re struggling to find the right mix of parenting styles to help raise your children in a productive way, consider exploring our Get Your Kids Ready for Life program. With our unique coaching approach, you’ll develop a greater awareness of what works and doesn’t work in your parenting, and work toward creating confident, productive and happy child(ren) in today’s world.

Contact us to get started.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Hiring a Parenting Coach Doesn’t Mean You’re Failing

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Believe in Heroes

One of the self-discovery activities I use to help people develop their self-awareness includes this question: “When you were younger, who was your hero?”

When I’ve asked this question over the years, I have heard that certain teachers were heroes for their ability to help someone who never felt heard or valuable feel both heard and valuable.

I have heard that a parent can be a hero because of the way they live their life – always responding to and caring for others; being creative and authentic no matter what; believing deeply in the greatness in their kids; having a unrelenting faith or actually allowing others to determine their own beliefs.

I have heard that a boss or a colleague can be a hero for the way they create or support a workplace that is fair, focused on achievement and inclusive, and never gossips, demeans or belittles anyone.

I have heard that a friend can be a hero because of the way they stay with you through your ups and downs, without any judgment.

The purpose of this question is to help you identify the attributes you see in others that are important to you. We need heroes in our lives because they give us three important things:

  1. Heroes teach us. They do what they do so well that we take note. Maybe we see who we want to be, or how we want to connect with others, or how we want to live, or how to develop and live deep beliefs. Their commitment to who they are expands what we think about, see and consider. Heroes help us learn.
  2. Heroes help us define our values. As we watch and are impressed by others, we start to identify why we are impressed; we start to identify the things that are important to us. It may be that they treat people kindly and fairly; we see these are our values. It may be that they are resilient and tenacious; we see this and we want to be this. It may be that they are excellent negotiators and always seem to find a way to achieve their goals; it identifies that achievement is important to us. By watching others, we frequently get clear of our own values.
  3. Heroes encourage us to be our best selves. Heroes bring their A-game. The show up. They step up. They stand out. The don’t play small. They sit on the sidelines. We see their effort and focus and are encouraged and inspired to tap into ours. We see the impact they have and connect it to the effort they bring.

The thing I have found most amazing about heroes is that they never intend to be heroes. They are humble. They are authentic. They just do what they do because they believe it to be true for them.

My dad was one of my heroes. He defined his values in life and lived them boldly, openly and lovingly. He brought his best to others. He did it not to impress, but to make the world a better place. This was particularly difficult to do raising six kids.

Take Action
Watch for heroes. Believe in heroes. Believe that we can each live consciously, intentionally and boldly what really matters to us, to make things better for all of us.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading The Imagine Game

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Expect the Unexpected to Make Life Better

Change. Most people hate it. We get comfortable in our habits, even if they are unproductive. We like the predictable, the regular, the safe. Change represents the unknown, the unsafe, things that make us worry.

Yet regardless of how we feel about change, one thing is constant: we should always expect the unexpected. I remember hearing this from a pastor years ago. Life is unexpected. We want it to be stable and predictable, but it is rarely that. You plan for a great outdoor event and it rains. You plan to be married for life and you divorce after seven years. You plan to go to your favorite college and you don’t accepted. You plan to live well and you get sick. Life is as it is. Things happen and much of it we don’t control.

I recently read something that helped me to put this into perspective. In the book, The Path, What Chinese Philosophers can Teach Us about the Good Life, authors Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh share that the Chinese philosopher, Mencius, wrote that the world is capricious, unstable and constantly changing.

We want good things to happen to good people and to have things work according to our plans, but to expect this just leads to disappointment. However, consider this: the value in having a capricious and unstable world is that by its very nature, we have the constant ability to making things better.

Though the world may be disappointing at times, these disappointing moments create the opportunity to learn, grow and make an improvement – something to address the disappointment. Imagine if everything always worked out; we would never need to find within ourselves the courage, strength and ability to make the world better. It is in these moments that we see we always have both the ability and expectation to make things better. This even applies to things that do go our way. We can – and should – still ask, what could make this better?

With this new perspective, revisit the situations from above that didn’t go as planned.

  • The party that got rained out – By being in the house, your neighbor helped you solve a home repair issue you were struggling with that you would otherwise have never thought to ask about.
  • Your unexpected divorce – You meet a most remarkable person who is so much more aligned to your values and life approach.
  • Not getting into your first choice college – You build lifetime friends from the second-choice college that was so much better aligned to your personality than the first-choice college you did not get into.
  • You get sick – You learned how to meditate, value the moments and care deeply as you healed from your illness.

Life is as it is. Sometimes you like what it sends; sometimes you don’t. Either way, it is life. And the reality is that there is always something that can make it better.

Take Action
Stop and notice a disappointing event or situation you recently experienced. What did you learn from it? What is something good that did or could come from the disappointment? What change do you need and want to make in your attitude and the way you review and assess things to be more focused on greatness, improvement and success?

Some days are great, others are not. Each of these creates the canvas for you to design how to make things better. You not only benefit from making things better, but you are happier in all circumstances because you focus on the positive instead of the negative.

So, how are you going to make it better for you and those around you?

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Experiencing Emotions

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When the Glass is Half Empty

Sometimes, it’s human nature to feel down. To feel off. To feel like things just aren’t right. And that’s ok! I actually have this great book I read to my boys called My Many Colored Days and it explains how there are some days you just feel different. And it’s not good or bad, right or wrong; it just happens.

(For the parents out there, I highly recommend this read for your kids. Not only does it help kids understand that it’s ok to feel something other than happy all the time, it also helps to put their mood swings into perspective for you, as well.)

But sometimes, those moods linger and can turn someone into a cynic – a Debbie Downer. It may drive some people away, or it can encourage some of the well-intentioned people in our lives to say things like, “be positive!” or “it’s time to see the glass half full.”

Yet, despite efforts to share positive or inspirational sayings, these Debbie Downers still exist. They always seem to always operate under the assumption that life is, at best, a glass-half-full situation.

It got me thinking recently about the idea of self-fulfilling behaviors, the idea that because you ruminate on a thought or issue, you seemingly will it to be true. I know a few people who are always trying to find the positive in what life presents, eager to push forward. I also know more than a few Debbie Downers who believe that life is never going to be any better than it is right now, that they’ve been dealt a bad hand, that life is out to get them.  

For the former, they tend to find a way to make things work, to make things better, to make life what they want it to be. They don’t let the trials of life get them down. They don’t let themselves needlessly worry about things they can’t control.

For the latter, it becomes a game of “I told you. The bad luck finds me. This is what my life is like.” They are always worried, always critical, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. They feel they regularly earn their martyr status – constantly suffering or feeling that they are at the effect of things in work and life.

Consider this: life just happens – sometimes the events are great and sometimes they aren’t. That is just life doing what life does. Our false belief that life should always be happy comes from us thinking that life should always work out and make us happy.

But here’s the truth: the key to happiness is learning to make great things happen from what you get.

Life is what you make it. So is your glass half full or half empty? It is always your choice.

Take Action
When my Mom was a little girl, my grandfather used to tell her to “put your worries on the nightstand and go to sleep. They’ll be there in the morning; no use losing sleep over them.”

Imagine what life would be like if we put our worries on the nightstand at night, allowed ourselves to get some sleep, and woke up refreshed and renewed in the morning, ready to take on whatever life could bring. Imagine how changed you could be and how your changed behavior and attitude could impact those around you.

What if, just for a moment, you see the glass as half full?

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading To Change a Habit, Try Something Different

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Perception is Powerful

I was in the car zoning out as I drove early one morning when I heard something that brought my attention back to the present moment: a short news story on the “Remarkable Rarities & Gangsters” auction held in Boston on September 21. Unless you’re a real history buff or a fan of a particular historical figure or event, I don’t think most people follow auctions. But there was something about the way this particular auction was being discussed. It was less about the history and more about the perception of each artifact, specifically as it related to Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.

During the short news segment, one of the curators explained that this auction appealed to the general public not only because of the romanticized gangster era, but because of the tangible items you can hold on to from historical people of the past.

Consider this: one of the items auctioned was an 85-year old letter written by Bonnie Parker and signed by Clyde Barrow. The curator explained, “in 100 years, will people try to auction off someone’s Instagram account? Probably not, and if so, it certainly won’t hold the same value or appeal as a tangible letter written and signed by historical figures.”

I agree, to a point. Life is really all about perception and not just how we perceive things, but how we want others to perceive us, as well. Think about how you get yourself ready to leave the house. Does your routine change when you’re getting dressed for work vs. getting ready to go out with friends? Most likely, the answer is yes. Your wardrobe is likely different, as is your attitude, which is strongly reflected in your appearance (whether intentional or not).

Consider how you perceive not only yourself, but your world, and how others perceive you based on your actions. Is their perception accurate? Moreover, is this who you really are? Is it one they’ve invented based on other factors, similar to how we’ve romanticized various times in our history?

If you haven’t heard of it, consider looking up the powerful essay by MacArthur Genius award winner George Saunders, The Braindead Megaphone. Here’s the gist: just because someone has a megaphone doesn’t mean they have anything accurate or important to say. It is the same with perception. It may be loud, but it may not be important, true or worth our attention. Know what is true and what is perceived.

Take Action
We talk a lot about paying attention on purpose to you and to your world. They have information for you to use to determine how to connect the two. Make a point of tuning in for facts and meaningful information so you can make an intentional decision about how you perceive your world.

Consider asking yourself these questions:

  1. Where do you get your news from?
  2. Who has an impact on forming your thoughts and beliefs (family, friends, colleagues, boss, celebrity, etc.)?
  3. Who could you be impacting with your own thoughts and beliefs?
  4. Is your impact on others and your world the one you want to be making? It is affected by others’ perception of you?

Remember the power of perception and remember when it is just loud yack. Distinguish between meaningful and meaningless information. The quality of your decisions depends on it.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Pay Attention

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Your Badge of Honor

“Wear it like a badge of honor.”

I think we’ve all heard that phrase before, and though it has a well-intentioned purpose, I recently realized that in my experience, it’s most frequently used as a back-handed compliment. This phrase is almost always used in context with something bad or frowned upon in reference to something that has happened to you or about something that someone doesn’t like about you.

For me, it was my Resting Bitch Face (RBF).

I was told a variety of things about my RBF over the years. For some, it was too intense, not welcoming, not professional. I needed to make an effort to change it. It was prohibiting me from doing and being part of something bigger and better. “I guess you could wear it as a badge of honor since you seem to embrace it.”

For others, I was told to wear it like a badge of honor because no one would approach me unless I wanted them to. No one would dare cross me, especially my children. No one would know I was a nice person unless I wanted them to. “Wear it like a badge of honor! You’re certainly not going to be able to change it.”

So, I took all of these comments to heart and wore that RBF as my badge of honor. I allowed it to essentially define me in many situations. I actually developed pride in my RBF. After all, it is a badge I wear.

However, more recently, I realized that my RBF is more than just a catch phrase that I proudly carried. There is actually value in knowing when and how to use this resource. It becomes something I can turn up or turn down, like a dimmer switch, just like the strengths and liabilities we coach our clients on.

Sometimes, you need to turn down a strength that might be too much for a specific situation to get to the desired outcome. Sometimes, you need to turn up one of your liabilities to leverage an attribute that might be best used in a specific situation, even if it pushes you out of your comfort zone to do it. As my colleague Jay Forte says, our strengths and liabilities should not be on an on-off switch – they should be on a dimmer. And knowing when to dial it up or dial it back is about self-awareness and self-management.

Yes, a RBF may be a bit much when you’re meeting a new client or having a conversation with your child’s teacher. But, RBF may be just right when you’re walking alone, in the midst of reprimanding your child(ren) or getting into an Uber ride. Being aware of the right time and place for the RBF to be turned up or turned down is what allows me to wear it as a badge of honor.

One question we encourage our clients to think about when they’re learning how to be self-managed is to ask, “Who do I need to be in this moment to get to the desired outcome?” It shines some light on their strengths and liabilities to determine what needs to be turned up and what needs to be turned down.

So, are you using your unmanaged strengths or liabilities as a badge of honor, saying this is just who you are (direct, goal-oriented, competitive, nurturing) or who you are not (direct, goal-oriented, competitive or friendly)? The words don’t matter as much as how tightly you hold on to them and use them or ignore them without management.

Remember: you can’t manage what you don’t know exists. Take the time to get to know your strengths and liabilities and learn how to turn them up or down depending on what the situation calls for. It will make a big difference in how you approach your life both at work and at home, and the relationships around you.

Take Action
Reflect on a situation when you may have allowed your strengths to overpower a situation – or a liability to under deliver in a situation. How could the outcome have been different? How do you let your badge of honor go in favor of a wise and intentional decision?

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading I Don’t Believe in an Identity Crisis

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