Posts Tagged ‘rational’

Brain Coach: Does Optimism Mean You Have to Be Happy All the Time?

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

Does optimism mean you have to be happy all the time? As humans we experience a wide range of emotions. On the negative (“minus”) end of the spectrum, those emotions can include worry, fear, anxiety, hate, worry, frustration, bitterness, jealousy. On the positive (“plus”) end of the spectrum, we have love, joy, peace, gratitude, hope, and happiness.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s say that Optimism is the umbrella for emotions that put us into the “plus” category. Can we be in the “plus” category all of the time?

I had a conversation with a fellow coach the other day, and we talked about what it feels like to have that “mountaintop” experience—the feeling you get when you’ve been at, say, a retreat or an amazing conference where you’ve connected with like-minded people who have inspired you. You come away believing that things are possible. That you can do it. That there is hope.

Then I posed the question:

How much of the time do you think we can live in that “mountaintop” space?

What is your answer to that question? 10%? 20%? 30%? 40%? 50%? 60%? 70%? 80%? 90%? 100%?

Our brains look for evidence of our beliefs. If we think the answer is 10%, we will prove ourselves right. If we think the answer is 90%, we again will prove ourselves right.

So back to the question of the day—does optimism mean you have to be happy all the time? What if we can train ourselves to live in the 90th percentile! I am heading there, and live is wonderful from this perspective!

And yes, we will have moments when unwelcome circumstances happen—goals don’t get achieved on schedule, sickness comes, people we love die. (Grief should never be ignored, but it can be wrapped in gratitude and peace.)

Or, on a smaller scale—an email comes that contains words that hurt your feelings, a jealous feeling flashes for a moment when you see someone experiencing the success that you want for yourself, a loved one says something unkind to you.

These circumstances can be wonderful and welcome reminders of where you want your focus to be. When you put your hand atop a hot stove burner, you don’t leave it there. You remove it immediately. Likewise, when you experience the flash of frustration/fear/worry, notice that the “stove is hot” and pull yourself away from it.

Click HERE to access Brain-Based Coaching Tips on Mountain-Top Optimism.

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Brain Coach: Optimism Squared–Span & Subtleties

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

For many years, I wasn’t aware of how “routinized” my ability to worry, catastrophize, and feel guilty had become! It was a habit that I hadn’t realized was part of my daily life. And with every worrisome thought, I caused a chemical release in my system that took me even further into a subtle but impactful state of unsettledness, second-guessing, and insecurity.

I wasn’t a basket case by any means, but I certainly didn’t live with the confidence, freedom, and fun that I live with today. And I can assure you, I am sooooo much happier with my increasing Optimism. It has greatly increased my ability to see options and take action.

And I know the same is true for my colleagues who are on a similar journey. @JamesBeeman @KarolTaylor @BeverlyHarvey @SusanChritton and other fellow Master Brain-Based Success Coaches!

Optimism—Span & Subtleties

I’ve talked about the Speed and Sustainability of Optimism. Here are two more dimensions:

Span: Are there some areas of your life where you’re naturally an Optimist while other areas (a challenging relationship, career success, finances) aren’t as strong?

Subtleties: Or, are there subtle areas of your life that you may not even realize you’re approaching from more of a Pessimistic perspective? Places where you’re 1) resigned, 2) restless, or 3) in a bit of a rut? For instance,

  • The ebbs and flows of business (do you assume “there are just busy times and down times in my business—it’s just part of the cycle, not something I can control”) or
  • Relationships (do you assume “there’s no way I could get business from that person—I’m too small potatoes to work with them”), or
  • Diet/weight loss (if weight loss has been a struggle in the past, do you assume “this is just the way it’s going to be”), or
  • Other everyday circumstances (do you assume, “there’s no way I’ll ever get my email under control”), etc.

Click here for a Coaching Tip to Increase Span & Subtleties of Optimism:

Insights? Actions?

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Brain Coach: Optimism Squared–Speed & Sustainability

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

I’ve been on a journey of becoming more Optimistic over the past few years. I’ll admit that, for many years, I lived with a tendency toward feeling “guilty” and even a bit “fearful” about getting everything done or having the business I needed to make ends meet—I was often the first to:

  • Wonder: “Whew, we made it through last month but I wonder if there will be enough to pay the bills once again next month,”
  • Think: “I must have done something wrong,”
  • Worry: “What will she think of me if I speak my true feelings or don’t agree with her way of thinking?”
  • Question: “Why is that other person having so much success—I’m just as talented! What’s wrong with me?!”

Anybody relating?! As a coach, I KNEW these thoughts were hobbling and not helping.

Neuroscience researcher Shawn Achor notes that when our brains are happy (positive, optimistic), they are 31% more productive than when negative, neutral, or stressed.

 

Optimism Squared

Optimism comes with varying levels and dimensions. Here are two worth considering:

Speed: How quickly can you get to Optimism when you encounter an unpleasant surprise or “bad” news? 5 minutes? 5 hours? 5 days? 5 weeks?

Sustainability: How long can you sustain your Optimism? Does it come in a 90-second wave and then die down, or is it something that is sustained hour in and hour out, day in and day out, regardless of the external circumstances in your life?

 

Coaching Tip for Speed and Sustainability:

1. To increase the Speed of Optimism: Link your optimism to an already-anchored habit in your life—a tip recommended by Stanford psychologist BJ Fogg, creator of www.tinyhabits.com. This anchored habit might be something like drinking coffee or brushing your teeth or using the restroom.

Train yourself to access optimism when you do your anchored habit. For example, “when I drink my morning cup of coffee, I will access my Emotive Optimism for 68 seconds.” (See Rational Optimism and Emotive Optimism tips).

Just as a pianist practices scales and arpeggios in private before performing cadenzas in concert, when we’ve practiced speeding to optimism during non-stressful circumstances, it will be easier to speed to optimism during stressful circumstances.

2. To increase the Sustainability of Optimism: Once you’ve increased your speed to optimism, turn your focus to sustainability. Because the brain loves specificity, give it a goal of being optimistic around an isolated situation for an extended period of time.

For example, “For the next 5 minutes, I’m going to expand my focus around the good things associated with this project (such as, the blog post I’m writing, the phone call I’m having, the bills I’m paying, the dinner I’m cooking).”

If you’ve found this information intriguing, you’ll love the Certified Brain-Based Success Coach Program. Through learning and growing with like-minds, the brain-based techniques are more easily routinized! We have a few spots left in the July 7th cohort!
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Relegated to 2nd Class Success when You’re Carrying a 1st Class Ticket?

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

plane-and-ticket2I’m writing this from 30,000 feet, aboard an American Airlines flight as I head to Dallas to see my daughter. I fly First Class whenever I can (the benefits outweigh the cost) but when I went to book the ticket a few months ago, I saw a $169 deal on a seat in the main cabin that was just too good to pass up.

Come travel day, I checked in at the baggage ticket counter and asked the agent what my chances were of getting the sky-miles upgrade I had requested when I originally booked. He said, “You’re second on the list.” I was in an extroverted mood, so I smiled and chatted away with him. He was going to charge me for my two bags until I pleasantly asked him if my Gold or Ruby status didn’t allow me free baggage. He looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “You’re Premier as far as I’m concerned.”

I didn’t think much of it as I made my way to security, simply happy to be heading off to see my girl. I figured the odds of getting into First Class weren’t necessarily great, given the small business-class cabin on the old McDonald-Douglas S80 I’d be on.

I made my perfunctory stop at Starbucks for my quad decaf latte (extra foam). I visited the ladies room. I checked the boarding group on my ticket. And finally, I queued up to board the plane. As I handed the gate agent my ticket and inquired, “If I’m waiting to see about an upgrade, should I stay out here in the boarding area?” He looked at my ticket, looked back at me puzzled, and said, “You’re already in First Class. See right here—your ticket says 5B.”

I had been carrying around a
First Class ticket and didn’t even realize it.

Tickled that Life and Love (God, in my book) had allowed me this delightful little surprise, there was a lilt in my step as I walked down the jet way.

Brain Coach Application

Our cerebral cortex, the thinking part of our brain, processes at 2,000 bits of information per second. The unconscious processes an astounding 40 billion bits per second. As Pam Grote writes in her book E-Squared:

“Needless to say, that’s a heck of a lot of reality [to process]. So what do we do? We start screening. We start narrowing down. I’ll take that bit of information over there, and let’s see—this one fits nicely with my ongoing soap opera about the opposite sex. When all is said and down, we’re down to 2,000 measly bits of information. … What we choose to take in is only one-half of one-millionth of a percent of what’s out there.”

At the airport, my brain was busy filtering data, taking in what I was expecting. My brain told me, “You’re in the main cabin.” I fixated on what the first agent said early in our conversation, “you’re second on the list.” And so I didn’t even look at my ticket when he handed it to me.

shutterstock_184497443Unbeknownst to me, the agent had upgraded me after our pleasant exchange about baggage charges. That was the reason for the twinkle in his eye when he handed me the ticket. I just assumed he was turning on his customer service charm.

As I settled into my comfy leather seat, the “surprise ticket” sunk in further, and I quickly saw the analogy to life. How often are we meant to experience delights, ease, and successes, but we don’t even see what is in front of us because we’ve primed our brains to only look for second-class results!

Your turn!

  • What if you’ve (metaphorically) got a first-class ticket but are expecting second-class success?
  • Are you expecting less?
  • Are you assuming, “it won’t work out?”
  • Do you think, “Things like that don’t happen for me?”
  • What would it take to shift your focus and widen your aperture?
  • How would life be different if you primed your brain for a First Class life?
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Brain Coach: Rational vs. Emotive Optimism

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

Earlier, you heard about “Rational Optimism”—how we can lean toward thinking about positive outcomes for the situations in our lives. This is the cognitive (thinking) side of Optimism.

But Optimism isn’t just a cognitive process, as in telling yourself, “this will all work out.” It’s also an emotional process. Unless we truly FEEL the peace, the love, the abundance—deep in our soul—with a sense that “this will all work out,” we won’t have the fullest benefit of Optimism.

The counterbalance to Cognitive Optimism is Emotive Optimism. When we have Emotive Optimism, we’ll have “happy” neurochemicals  (serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin) floating through the brain and body. These neurochemicals support our ability to think more clearly, creatively, and strategically. And, that sets us up to act more confidently, with greater certainty, and with more constancy.

One of my mentors, Dr. Donald Johnson at the Applied Neuroscience Institute, notes that using positive thinking to navigate a challenging situation is a diluted process. Without positive emotions, we handicap ourselves. I liken it to swinging a baseball bat with just one hand—you’re out of balance and lose a great deal of power.

With both Rational AND Emotive Optimism, we eliminate cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the feeling that things don’t quite add up. . . that you are trying to convince yourself of something while another part of your brain (or heart, or gut) just isn’t buying it. Cognitive dissonance leads to hesitation, procrastination, and pessimism.

Coaching Tips for Emotive Optimism:

1. Evaluate your optimism – if it is limping along, chances are it’s only Rational optimism and not both Rational and Emotive-based.

2. Explain to your brain that you are giving it permission to have an easier time, and that you will do this by inviting it to be washed and refreshed with “happy” neurochemicals, such as dopamine and oxytocin. (Our brains like to know what we’re up to!)

3. Be compassionate with your brain—it’s not used to being happy when it’s accustomed to be restless or upset about unwelcome circumstances. Tell your brain, “We’re just going to experiment for a bit with some new ways of handling this.”

4. Access Emotive Optimism with feelings that are proven to elevate mood. The core positive emotions are gratitude, peace, hope, love, and joy.

5. Identify a workable formula for accessing your gratitude (or peace, hope, etc.). This might be pausing to take 3 deep breaths and then visualizing the most beloved person in your life. Or it might be putting on a favorite, upbeat song. You decide. Be specific.

6. Revel in it. Two seconds of feeling a positive emotion isn’t nearly as effective as a full 68 seconds. Neuroscientist Dr. Jeffrey Fannin notes that, at 68 seconds, you actually create momentum and experience wavelength changes in the brain.

7. Spend (much) more time accessing and reveling in positive feelings than negative feelings. As human beings, we can be masterful at sustaining negative emotions (frustration, disappointment, fear). Set a goal of being just as masterful at making positive emotions the default for your mood.

Enjoy! And if you’re interested in learning more, check out the Certified Brain-Based Success Coach Program. The next cohort begins July 7th!

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Recent Posts

Does optimism mean you have to be happy all the time? As humans we experience a wide range of emotions. On the negative (“minus”) end of the spectrum, those emotions can include worry, fear, anxiety, hate, worry, frustration, bitterness, jealousy. On the positive (“plus”) end of the spectrum, we have love, joy, peace, gratitude, hope, […]

Share
READ MORE...

For many years, I wasn’t aware of how “routinized” my ability to worry, catastrophize, and feel guilty had become! It was a habit that I hadn’t realized was part of my daily life. And with every worrisome thought, I caused a chemical release in my system that took me even further into a subtle but […]

Share
READ MORE...

I’ve been on a journey of becoming more Optimistic over the past few years. I’ll admit that, for many years, I lived with a tendency toward feeling “guilty” and even a bit “fearful” about getting everything done or having the business I needed to make ends meet—I was often the first to: Wonder: “Whew, we […]

Share
READ MORE...

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