Category Archives: Thriving

I’m familiar with gratitude diaries, giving thanks for my blessings and many other versions of this concept …and … Chade-Meng Tan has just put the icing on the cake, so to speak, in his new book Joy on Demand.

As he describes it: in every day there are tiny moments of joy. Here are just a few of mine: a pinky-orange sunrise, the feel of the sun on my back, the aroma of coffee, the feel of a warm hand in mine, the satisfaction of helping someone, the way my body moves to a well-loved tune, an internet story about people doing good in the world, the athleticism of Roger Federer, Continue reading

Helpful, healthy language

A good reminder from James Clear on a simple shift in language that can help with healthy eating and with moving our ‘locus of control’ from external to more internal.  When we say “I can’t”, we are using externally focused language – something is preventing us.  When we say “I don’t”, we are making a choice – an internally focused choice.

I’ve used this latter language successfully for a number of years.  When I go out during the week, my standard response to being offered a drink is “Thanks, I don’t drink (alcohol) Monday to Thursday”.  It’s both a habit – I don’t even think about it – and it’s a healthy life choice.

Now I could take it even further, from negative to positive.  Instead of saying what I don’t do – drink alcohol – I could say what I do.  I could say “I abstain”, or perhaps “I drink water Monday to Thursday”, to make it easier for my hosts to know what to serve me.

The learning about helpful language is ongoing.

Will you stay or will you leave?

Fascinating article from researcher  Irit Alony, of Wollongong University, published in the Conversation today. She and her colleagues applied the successful divorce-prediction criteria of John Gottman, from the University of Washington, to see if it could predict which employees were more likely to leave their organisations.

If I understand the research study correctly, those who express negativity such as: “disappointment, withdrawal, hostility, or contempt” (Alony, Hasan & Sense, 2015) are more likely to leave both a marriage and a workplace.  In contrast, those of us who learn the following coping mechanisms are more likely to stay (in both a marriage and a workplace):
– Balancing the good with the bad (e.g. with at least a 2:1 ratio of two positive comments for every negative, aiming towards a thriving relationship ratio of 5:1)
– Genuinely accepting that bad things (e.g. annoying people and systems and rules) are just part of work life
– Avoiding lengthy discussions of the negatives (e.g. learning to shift conversations to focus on how they coped or what they learned so that we/they can do better or differently next time)
– Expressing hope (e.g. that you can directly influence and/or you can cope with whatever happens to you).

And the best way to increase the positives, is to thank others for their contribution, rather than just assuming “that’s what they are paid to do”.

So ‘thank you’ to my Thought Ratio colleague, MIchelle Carlyle for this link.

Why you can’t worry your way to success: What to do instead

I love Sonya Lyubomirsky and Chris Tkach’s article on Dysphoric Rumination.  It explains perfectly, in academic speak, why you can’t worry your way to success and what to do instead.  I trust I’ve done them justice in this layperson’s summary.

The worry cycle goes something like this:
You have a Problem – you are not getting a result you want.
You worry that can’t solve it.
You feel bad / stuck / depressed.
You think and worry more, which doesn’t solve the problem.  Instead it sensitises your mind to pay attention to negatives, so you remember negative instances when similar things haven’t gone well and you think negatively about what won’t work if you tried to take action.
You don’t take action, because your energy is low from all the pessimistic thinking and because you assume a low likelihood of success, so it doesn’t seem worth the effort.
The problem remains or escalates.
You feel worse.
You conclude that the problem is overwhelming and unsolvable and that you are not good enough or not skilled enough to solve the problem.
You take no action, so you can’t disprove your assumptions.
You feel helpless and hopeless and give up.

Fortunately, there are ways to intervene:
You have a Problem – you are not getting a result you want.
You worry that can’t solve it.
You feel bad / down / depressed.
You physically distract yourself by doing something enjoyable to shift your mood. When you are in a better mood, you are more likely to think of possible solutions.
You get out of your head and phone (or email) a friend who asks you ‘possibility questions’: “What if there was one small thing that you could do to get things moving in the direction you want? I wonder what that is?
You get out of your head and take a small, safe action – as an experiment – to challenge your negative assumptions and learn what works.
You reward yourself for any action you take and note your learning and insights about what might work, rather than evaluating that “nothing works”.
You break the cycle of worry and depression through action and learning and reflection, rather than reflection, reflection, reflection.  

What you can do – today:
1. If you’ve been worrying, send this blog link to a ‘friend’ as soon as you’ve finished reading. Then reward yourself for taking a positive action.
2. Phone your friend and ask them to help you. You may ask for permission to whinge for 5 minutes before they ask ‘possibility questions’.
3. Take action – ideally do something tiny today.
4. Reward yourself for taking action, no matter what the outcome.

If you haven’t got an accessible friend:
Email me and I will be your question buddy. Send an email to sharon at apassion dot com dot au  – with the phrase “Oh woe is me” in the header and one sentence to summarise your problem. I will exchange emails with you to ask the possibility question and find one tiny action you can take to get moving.

If you have a friend or work colleague who is worrying or stuck with a problem, send this article, then phone them and ask permission to help them, or let them know they can email me.

Let’s create a culture of possibility and action rather than worry and stuckness.

Can personality be changed?

Today, I was asked by a colleague whether I believe that personality can be changed.

The question coincided with my explorations into how neuroscience and the theory of neuoplasticity is changing psychological theories, especially theories of personality.

To find out what the “traditional” view of personality is, I looked to the American Psychological Society.  On its website it states: “Personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. The study of personality focuses on two broad areas: One is understanding individual differences in particular personality characteristics, such as sociability or irritability. The other is understanding how the various parts of a person come together as a whole.”

My view is that personality is a stable pattern of thinking and behaviour (built over many years of thinking and behaving in ways that reinforce the pattern) and there are some things that have a genetic basis. But the research into neuroplasticity and the Rob Kelly Thrive program have shown me that any pattern can be changed with effort, belief, skills and resources.

So yes, I do believe that personality can be changed.

Do you?

How to write a book – A Play

I’m listening to an interview of author Janice Day who wrote about her breast cancer experience. I like her style and her struggle to find a story format to suit her story.  You can listen to the podcast at  Creative Breakthrough Podcast 1 with Jurgen Wolff.

Janice talks about studying screen writing and being interested in Aristotle’s analysis of the three act play into pity, fear and catharsis.

It’s is a great description of this year’s book writing course and explains my different bouts of writer’s block.

How to Write a Book – A Play
Act I: Pity.
Scene: A desk, a computer, an empty chair.
A woman walks into the room, looks at the computer and wails “oh woe is me, I can’t write a book. I’m doomed.”
Act II: Fear.
Scene: The woman sits on the chair and starts typing, then stops and screeches “oh no, I can write a book… oooh, but it won’t be good enough and people will snigger behind my back. I’m doomed if I do and doomed if I dont.”
Act III: Catharsis.
Scene: The woman sits in the chair, typing on the keyboard. The screen comes into focus and we see the words  “the end”. She leans back takes a deep breath, exhales audibly, smiles and says: “wow, so that’s how you write a book.  I’ll be damned.”


Why we must celebrate the small wins

A great way to start the week listening to Tim Ferriss’ podcast with Chase Jarvis.

I especially love his comments about the really important reason for celebrating the small wins.

As Tim explains it: we want to be creative because we want to do great work and we want to do great work to feel good about ourselves and if we give ourselves small doses of feeling successful throughout the creative process, rather than just at the end, we get better at celebrating the big wins too.

So true.

Sending good intentions to the universe doesn’t give us what we want… we achieve what we wish at a speed determined by our cultural beliefs and by the strength of the actions we take that confirm our intrinsic worth.
The MindBody Code, Dr Mario Martinez

Five Questions to help Get Unstuck

I’m participating in an online course with lots of assignments and some of our group have gotten behind and are feeling stuck. It seems overwhelming if not impossible to catch up on the outstanding work and get back on track. So what to do?

I was was feeling like this recently and found that asking the question “what should I to do first?” seemed logical but it was the wrong question.  I couldn’t make a decision because I had no way to decide what were the necessary assignments and what I could skip.

Luckily, one of my colleagues reminded me “you know why you are you doing this – let that  be your decider”, which alerted me to the fact that I had not revisited my “why” in a while.  So here are the five questions that helped me get unstuck and moving again.

1. Why am I doing this? 

I revisited my “why”.  I wanted to do this course because I am keen to learn how to run online communities and to connect with people who work in social & environmental justice. That hasn’t changed but I have lots of choices about what sort of community and I sometimes get lost in the options, so I need a way to remind myself of what I want.  I like the idea of the minimum viable product that I can build – something that will produce value for my community members come launch day on Septemer 10th.

Lesson: We need to make our “Why” memorable, so we can think about it on a daily basis.
Suggestions include: Make a poster to look at, a story to tell, or a dance move to reflect your “why”.  A rough prototype of the website is relevant for my particular project.

2. Who am I doing this for and 3. What is their problem?

In the early days of hte program we spent time talking about and describing our audience, what they say their problems are. I think I need to keep them in mind daily.

Lesson: How can we find someone who represents our potential audience / clients and has the typica problems they have, then make them memorable via a screenshot or image, or a typical phrase for their problem, or a pose that they get into when they’re down.  Google images are great – for serious and cartoon images.

4. How can I help them?

I keep imagining my audience / clients with their problem and then imagine giving them a meaningful message and imagine how I will connect with them.  Is it a product or a service, in my case will it be synchronous or asynchronous contact or a bit of both?  What is the minimum I can create to start to get my message out there and draw potential network members to me?  The answers to these questions helped point me in the direction of where to start. Blogs are easy.  For others, a tangible example of your message / solution might look like a mock up of a workshop marketing page, or a book book cover and outline, or typical answers to frequently asked questions in a podcast, or  a short video demonstrating what we can do.

5. What will my impact be?

Finally, what impact do I intend to have? When I imagine my audience / network with their problem and then they join my community – I create a ‘before and after’ comparison, or a mini movie in my head.  What will they and their life be like after they have joined this community?  I’m still working on this one – trying to create a satisfied network member image, a mock testimonial, or a ‘happy power pose” (see Amy Cuddy for more on powerful poses).

If you haven’t worked out your “Why”, or if you are still stuck after asking these questions, send me an email to sharon (at) and you can join our “proto” community. My motto is a riff on Barbara Sher’s “isolation is the dream killer” … “Connection is the Dream Fulfiller”.

The “cost” of joining the proto community is that you give me full and frank feedback on what does and doesn’t appeal.

Guilt is Good

Have a look at a great video clip from NLP master trainer Steve Andreas about guilt.

He gives us some really good reframing: If I’m feeling  guilty about something rude I said, I can ask myself “in the moment what was more important – speaking up or being nice?  If I acknowledge that I’ve chosen speaking up for myself as more important, then I must be a person who lives my values.”

So I’ve reframed the thought of violating a value in order to satisfy another value to mean I am a person who lives my values.  Nice.   It’s counterintuitive – an interesting benefit of guilt.

If I”m feeling really guilty about not “being nice” then that means that value is also really important to me.  So a values clash can help to clarify what’s important to me. Another benefit of guilt.

Maybe I haven’t learned how to achieve both together yet, but by knowing that both values are important, I can choose to make amends, to show that I’m also ‘nice’.  And using ‘intelligent regret’, I can reflect on my behaviour and choose to do something different in the future that combines both values.  This gives me problem to solve rather than wallowing in embarrassment. That’s a third benefit of guilt.

In conclusion, guilt is good.  Especially if you do something different as a result of it.

Thanks Steve – very helpful.