Viewing entries tagged
12 steps to happiness

1 Comment

Step 12 - Behaving Congruently

Picture credit: sheba_also Here we are, at the last of the 12 steps again. Have you been following the whole series, taking notes, thinking about how you would approach each step?

Come to think of it, they remind me a lot of the 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted living! :-)

Congruent living brings together the practice of all other steps, knowing what your values are, who you are, and what you want to stand for in the world.

How do you know when you're living congruently?

You'll know you're in alignment with your values and your passions when you're sleeping well, feeling rested and content, enjoying frequent full-belly laughs, and greet each day like a new friend with a smile on your face. When you have time to play and do meaningful work. We might even throw the word "purpose" around - when you know why it is that you're doing what you're doing.

Is it hard work? Hell yeah.

Is it worth it? I think so.

The hardest part for me is cognitively and emotionally knowing that congruent living isn't a destination, it's a journey. Accepting that I'll have to have the same action items on my to-do list every day.

The good news is, we can start with just one little step right now:

  1. Try to reflect on yourself, a little more every day.
  2. Try to stand in your own power, a little more every day.
  3. Try to make peace with yourself, a little more every day.
  4. Try to make better choices, a little more every day.
  5. Try to see the big picture, a little more every day.
  6. Try to be kind, a little more every day.
  7. Try to be a little more in everyday moments, every day.
  8. Try to nurture your whole self better, a little more every day.
  9. Try to learn something new, a little more every day.
  10. Try to be more aware, a little more every day.
  11. Try to look forward to better things, a little more every day.
  12. Keep trying for just a little more and a little better, every day.

Which one are you going to start with today? Let me know how it goes?

1 Comment


Step 9 - Confronting fear, embracing change

Picture credit: Leonard John Matthews Knowing our personality type helps us understand how we like to approach new situations.

In today's marketplace the change we're most often confronted with is organizational change.

Whether we're hired, fired, merged, or acquired - change is constant.

To make sense of it for ourselves, we need to honor our preferences to help us move through the various stages of the change process. Asking questions and engaging in a dialogue might help:

How do you like to receive and process information? Take time out to review memos and discuss what's happening with your colleagues. Request more detailed or broad strokes as necessary. How do the changes connect to short and long-term goals and visions?

If you're wondering how the decision was reached, ask about which alternatives were being considered that didn't make the cut. It's ok to enquire about the underlying "why" and which values and goals informed the decision. Most companies link their performance reviews to your behaving according to company culture, it's only fair the strategic decisions be measured along the same lines.

How is this change process going to proceed? What are the milestones and how will you know you're on track? Who will be measuring progress and according to which standards? Transparent communication is key, and communication is a two-way street. If you're not hearing any, start the conversation.

We've mentioned Kotter's 8 Steps in relation to personality type and expat assignments before, and I also want to mention Virginia Satir's Change Model. I went through a simulation with Steven M. Smith during an AYE Conference and it really brought home the different stages. You can read an excellent in-depth analysis of it on his blog.

At the end of the day, we fear most that which we don't understand. Try to understand what's going on, and you'll be in a much better position to make sound decisions.



Step 8 - Living healthily

Picture credit: seligr I've equated this step with "lose weight" for the longest time. No matter how many times I'd hear, "it's not the numbers on the scale", I still want to lose 10 lbs. More recently I've mellowed out on that and stay in the 5 lb range. ;-)

Hubby and I have been following the fat-free vegan whole foods plant-based diet for over a year now.

My family thinks we're nuts. Especially my brother thinks that his daily meat is a biological necessity, and there are many proponents of e.g. the Paleo diet who would probably agree.

We don't care. For now, it feels good to eat organic, and lab results don't indicate any malnutrition. On the contrary - our blood sugar and cholesterol levels are in the super healthy range, which has not always been the case for me. Hubby's lost weight, his back and knees don't hurt anymore, and his headaches are virtually gone as well. Same here.

Now if only I could get into a more regular exercise regime...

Mens sana in corpore sanum.

A healthy or sound mind lives in a healthy body.

Some philosophers think our minds are separate from our bodies, but I tend to believe we're all one system. A well-taken care of body makes it easier to think happy thoughts and vice versa. That means everything we consume matters, and not just through food and drink. Think of all the chemicals in your soaps, shampoos, and lotions, as well as TV shows, video games, and graphic novels you consume. What imprints are they leaving on - and under - your skin?

I'm always cautious when writing about health, because obviously I'm not a physician. I encourage you to visit different nutrition and exercise websites to make up your own mind. What fits in your schedule? What's realistically doable? And then please please please consult with a professional before you make any drastic changes to your diet or lifestyle.



Step 7 - Living in the Present

Picture Credit tuppus Time is an individual construct, and our concepts of time differ by personality type as well as by culture.

Numerous research is showing that the ability to practice critical awareness and living in the present without worrying about the past or future is a key ingredient in wholehearted and well-balanced living.

I often wonder if people with a Sensing preference have an easier time of focusing on the present, type theory states Sensing is a more present-oriented function than Intuiting.

People of different Temperaments have a different orientation to time (Berens, L. 2010):

  • Stabilizer (SJ) - Past
  • Improviser (SP) - Present
  • Catalyst (NF) - Future
  • Theorist (NT) - Infinite Time

Thinking about the function attitudes of each Temperament it makes sense: Introverted Sensing for Stabilizers is concerned with remembering, recalling, and reviewing, whereas extraverted Sensing for the Improvisers is more about engaging with the environment at any given moment. For Catalysts, the identity and unique potential of a person is often future-oriented and tied with personal and professional development paths, whereas the Theorist is often more concerned with ultimate truths and lasting logical systems and frameworks.

In different cultures, we also see varying attitudes and approaches to time. If a nation has existed for a long time, especially when it has celebrated successes in the past, it is more likely to draw on those past successes and value tradition. Examples might be India or Greece.

Younger nations are more likely to be more present or future focused: since they don't have much experience to look back on, they model values and behaviors towards certain ideals. Take the United States and its Declaration of Independence, for example. Going by age, as one cultural analyst puts it, the US is in the throws of teenager-hood.

When it comes to my home country Germany, I think the attitudes are mixed. Germany's 18th Century writers, thinkers, and musicians are well-known across the world, and conservative politician Bismarck in the 19th Century laid the foundation of the welfare state we know and love today. Then the second world war changed everything. Mention Germany in any conversation today, and WWII will be one of the first things that come to mind. As a recent conversation with a dog-walker in our elevator reaffirmed:

  • Woman: what a nice accent, where are you from?
  • Me: Germany, originally, but I studied in Scotland.
  • Woman: Oh, yes, I'm German too. Well, not born and raised, but when I visited Russia a woman looked at me and said "German! Bad! Pft! Pft!" (spitting at my feet).

I still don't know what I'm supposed to say to that, except I'm sorry this happened to her.

Being present in the moment and living in a state of mindfulness, then, may come easier to those who grow up in a society where present-focus is being encouraged, and those who have a cognitive predisposition to more easily stay in the present in the first place.

Still, present mindfulness is not unattainable, but a question of practice. Five minutes of daily meditation where you do nothing but focus on your breath, counting your heartbeats in and out, is a good start. Up the time as you get more comfortable, and celebrate every millisecond your monkey-brain is not off somewhere making a groceries list.

Reference: Linda Berens, Understanding Yourself and Others, An Introduction to the 4 Temperaments 4.0, Radiance House, CA, 2010


1 Comment

Step 6 - Forgiving Yourself and Others

Picture Credit Nicola Whitaker We've all heard the advice: "Turn the other cheek."

The more pragmatic may even throw in a "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."

Thanks to Dr. Brown we know shame isn't helping anyone change their behavior; guilt is a much better indicator.

So what if the one you want to forgive keeps messing up?

What if you keep messing up?

Do you even believe in the usefulness of forgiveness?

I'm at the stage right now where I'm trying to take it one day at a time. I'll try and stay away from people who tick me off repeatedly. I'll try and reflect on why things may have gone wrong and how I can change my part in it. I've tried meditating and visualizing my stuff float away on a river, releasing it to the wild. I like talking things over with friends, really letting it out when I'm annoyed.

We're all work in progress. 

What are you doing, and is it working?

1 Comment


Step 5 - Finding your place in the greater scheme of things

Picture Credit: oatsy 40 Do you believe in God?

The Devil?

What do you call him? Or her? Or them?

Do you believe in life after death?



Why are you here?

"Finding Your Passion" is a great trend right now and many coaches build their practice on helping clients with this quest.

It may be hard to entertain this notion, but "the pursuit of happiness" might just be a primarily Western, if not uniquely US approach to life. More than that, it's an expectation here, isn't it? Someone asked me today if Germans always strive to be happy, and I guess we do, in a way, but most of all we get on with the business of living. Sometimes, things don't work out, and that's ok, too.

Have you found your passion, your purpose? The thing you can't not do? And does it always (have to) make you happy?




Step 4 - Recognize and Question Behavioral Patterns (again)

I'm currently finding the most difficult piece of this step is getting the balance between introspection and outside feedback. When I think I'm behaving one way, but it's coming across in another - who's right?

Behavior is driven by emotion, and we're not in complete conscious control of our emotions all the time. Some emotions are unconscious.

There are two "levels" of unconscious: one is pre-conscious, i.e. knowable through introspection and reflection. The other is sub-conscious, i.e. not even pondering about the affect will bring it up to awareness.

Clearly, introspection allows us to understand why and how we behave in certain situations, yet we may not be able to solve all the riddles. To recognize behavioral patterns, we have to first become aware of them. This may need outside stimulus. Like Sherlock's analysis of Watson, for example:

This is from the first episode, but by the second series, Watson isn't even using his cane anymore. In this case, outside stimulus (Sherlock) brought awareness to a behavior (relying on unnecessary cane) and Watson took some time to accept it (2 or 3 episodes) before changing his behavior (walking without a cane).

Philosophers like Descartes believed introspection was the be all and end all of self knowledge.

I think, therefore I am.

300 years later, Ryle posited that introspection is limited and (therefore) overrated; to obtain knowledge of the nature of the self we should take observable behavior into consideration.

When was the last time you acted out a conversation in front of a mirror before doing it in real life? 

Do you know how your face moves when you tell a fib? How you blush when you're self-conscious? How anger rises up through your body through clenched fists and jaws? Whom do you trust enough to ask and do a Sherlock on you, i.e. tell you how they observe your typical behavior?



Step 3 - Stop Judging, Start Loving (again)

Picture Credit Ananth Narayan My favorite Jung quote has to be

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.

I know from my own experience that when you tick me off, it's probably because you're doing something a) I was always told not to do, or b) I want to do, but am too chicken. Either way, my knee-jerk reaction is going to be petty, begrudging, and resentful. I'm going to want to put you down so I don't have to feel so bad about myself. You're triggering something in me that still needs work to be integrated.

Type knowledge is really helping me understand the so-called Shadow functions, those that are unconscious, active below the surface, mostly bubbling up when I'm sick, tired, or stressed. You know those moments, when words are leaving your mouth as soon as you hear them you're aghast and wonder, "did I really just say that?" I've had plenty of those. They are great learning moments. Tough, but easy to remember, thanks to the strong emotions connected with them.

Let's take a moment to clarify that people with a "J" in their type code are not necessarily judgmental. Yes, J is short for Judging, but what that means in MBTI® theory is the function expressed in the extraverted attitude, what you're letting others see, is either Thinking (Te) or Feeling (Fe). When you have a P in your type code, it doesn't mean you're necessarily more perceptive, but that you're showing your perceiving function, Sensing (Se) or Intuiting (Ne), to the outside world.

How prejudiced are you, really?

Our cultural upbringing is going to play a big role in what is important to us; shaping our values. Someone violating those values will also trigger a judgmental response. Since our limbic brains are still conditioned to operate with a "Be Like Me" program, it's much easier to call someone "lazy" or "incompetent" if they do things differently. Believe me, when you're moving to another country or start working with an international team, that's going to happen a lot.

To appreciate the validity of the different approaches, we have to activate our neocortex and start considering the context that the other person is operating in. This is a conscious exercise, and our brains generally don't want to do a lot of work, so the judgmental or stereotypical response is easier to stick with. My opinion is that a stereotype in and of itself isn't bad, only insisting on it without examining the circumstances or accepting evidence of the contrary is.

Project ImplicitHere's a free online quiz you can take to see how much your unconscious is influencing your judgments:

You'll be asked to associate descriptions (good / bad) with e.g. race (black / white), self (you / others), size (big / small), and other items, depending on which assessments you choose to try out. It's truly insightful, so I hope you can take some time and perhaps even share your results with us.