The field of Positive Psychology has given us plenty of clues about the better path toward happiness and fulfillment.
Whether it's being exposed to experiences of "awe" (yes, it's a thing) so you can live longer, practicing positive thinking so you can reduce anxiety, or releasing more oxytocin in the brain so your teams perform better together, the research is impressive.
Don't Focus on Goals, Enjoy the Journey
One false notion I've learned about is that, in our constant striving toward productivity and results, doing more to achieve success, and trying to ultimately get to our "happy place," positive psychology takes us one another path.
Let me expand on that.
Dee Eastman, Founding Director of The Daniel Plan, writes that "scientists are discovering the pathway to positivity is less dependent on reaching our life goals, and instead focuses more on the journey we take getting there."
Eastman should know. She is a health science expert with an emphasis on long-term lifestyle change and prevention. She was a contributing author to the #1 New York Times Best Seller, The Daniel Plan -- 40 Days to a Healthier Life with megachurch icon Rick Warren, author of the classic, gazillion-best-seller, Purpose Driven Life.
In the Wellness Council of America website, Eastman shares three steps to a well-lived life drawn from Positive Psychology. She writes,
There is an unlimited reservoir of happiness right at our fingertips and all we need to do to tap into it is to cultivate daily habits that add replenishment to our life and expand our joy.
1. Celebrate the Small Wins
Most of us are too busy focusing on the end goal to appreciate or even notice the smaller wins to get to the bigger goals. She says that when we acknowledge small successes along our journey, it sparks the reward circuitry of our brains. "When feel-good chemicals are released we get the feeling of pride, creating the happiness factor that makes us want to go further towards our next achievement," writes Eastman.
2. Develop a Learner's Mindset
This includes getting into the habit of "failing forward." In other words, as you experiment, fail, try again and learn from your mistakes, accept that it's all part of the process. "There's no shame involved," says Eastman. "Failing needs to be redefined as an important part of learning a new way of life. Mistakes are simply learning experiences, they provide vital information we use to grow."
3. Transform Negative Self-talk
This is my favorite -- the ability to train your brain to reframe a false belief or thought that holds you back. Eastman says, "Learning to question our thoughts and not to believe every negative thing we think has been shown to be as effective as taking an antidepressant medication." A simple exercise to challenge negative thinking, suggested by renowned psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen, goes like this: "Whenever you feel sad, mad, nervous or out of control, write down what you're thinking. Then question your thoughts. Is it true? Just those three words can cause a revolution in your life." Getting our thoughts right and short circuiting a negative spiral by questioning our thoughts can have a transformative effect on our outlook, relationships, and work performance, says Eastman.