1. How to find purpose in your life

    August 30, 2014

    How to find purpose in your life

    We all want to find meaning in our lives and live the life to its fullest. But the question remains: how do you find meaning and purpose in your life in the first place? What happens if you just don’t know or get lost along the way? Finding meaning and purpose in life is not as easy. It takes will power to look inside, face your own demons and faults and accept yourself as you are: a perfect-imperfect human being.

    Finding your own way

    In one of the previous posts we focused on your character strengths and talents. Have you already discovered what they are? What do people compliment you most for? Think about the activities and actions you perform that feel the most satisfying to you. My advice: start making a list and paying attention if nothing comes immediately to mind. You can also complete Dr. Martin Seligman’s online questionnaire (VIA Survey of Character Strengths) about personal strengths and talents and find out a little bit more how that can work in your favor.

    Frankly speaking, I had sort of an identity crisis when the time came to choose a major in college. First I decided to go to environmental engineering just to find out after a semester that despite my great love for nature and conservation, I hated it there. All of a sudden, all my certainties and the path I had outlined for myself made no sense! How could I get out of that crisis? After a few weeks of self-reflection and a little of sulking for quitting college (you probably have heard this a lot but I had never quit anything in my life before), I started remembering what it was I most enjoyed doing in life and what people praised me the most for. I’ve always heard people around me saying “It’s so nice to talk to you. After talking to you I feel so relieved.” Besides, I really liked being a volunteer and to do community intervention and teaching. I love reading, so first I thought about becoming an English teacher to inspire others but finally (and with a little help from close friends and family) I decided on psychology. This is how I became a clinical psychologist. This was 15 years ago. I absolutely love my job and my patients and clearly found meaning in my profession.

    Yet, your job doesn’t define you. The job is just my example. Many people find meaning in other areas of their lives: family life and raising kids, community work, preserving nature, political and social causes, etc.

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  2. Reflections on a Search for Meaning

    April 9, 2014

    Reflections on a Search for Meaning

    by Sue Chehrenegar

     

    If you are searching for the meaning in your life, it can help to study the sunlight reflected in a mirror. Of course, a mirror does not really produce the sun’s rays; it simply reflects them. In the same way, a virtuous and goodly person has the ability to reflect the spiritual qualities that he or she has developed by relating to and sharing with others. In fact, those who strive to achieve that particular goal have managed to discover the meaning in life.

    Obviously, the human body does not possess a reflective surface. Still, that does not mean that those who search for the meaning in life would be foolish to consider the fact that mirrors prove most useful when they have been polished properly. In fact, those who are willing to view the heart as a mirror can best understand how to ensure their ability to create a clear reflection of their spiritual qualities.

    Polishing removes the dust from a mirror’s surface. It allows the reflected light to shine-threw more clearly. Sometimes the spiritual qualities of the human heart remain unrevealed, because those same qualities have been covered-up by the results of an effort that has failed to focus on life’s true meaning.

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  3. How NOT to Fear Death

    April 4, 2014

    How NOT to Fear Death

    by Audrey  Hollingshead

     

    Bought the farm. Kicked the bucket. Pushing up daises. Six feet under. Worm food. Lets face it. Death is a scary thing. We wouldn’t have coined these euphemisms otherwise. They allow us to talk about it without naming death outright. But why IS death so scary? What is it about the BIG sleep that makes us so afraid?

    Our ceasing to exist. We love life so much that we can’t imagine that it will end-even though we have been told it WILL end at some point. So how can we combat this fear and learn to live with the unavoidable? Simple: Just ask the son of Erik or, as we know him, Erik Erikson.

    Erik Erikson was a German-born American developmental psychologist. While he may not have earned a Ph.D. he certainly professed an interesting idea of human development. Unlike Freud who claimed our psyches were formed at the ripe age of five, Erikson believed we spend our whole lives developing. His theory of psychosocial development is made up of eight stages and by digging through them we can find an essential key to accepting death. So what are they?

     

    Stage 1: Hope: Trust vs. Mistrust. (Ages 0-2)

     

    Central Crisis: Can I trust the world?

    In this stage we learn whether or not we can trust the world by how regularly we are cared for. If our parents tend to us habitually and do everything they can to satisfy our basic needs we not only learn to trust our surroundings, but we also to trust the world at large and develop hope.

    On the flip side: If our parents fail to fulfill our basic needs we take that as a sign that the world at large CAN’T be trusted.

     

    Stage 2: Will: Autonomy Vs. Shame and Doubt. (Ages 2-4)

     

    Central Crisis: Is it OK to be me?

    This stage teaches us self-sufficiency. We also start to explore our interests and who we are as a person. If our parents let us complete tasks we can handle (such as using the toilet or pouring our own milk) we learn how to be autonomous and to how to express ourselves.

    On the flip side: If our parents expect too much from us or ridicule every attempt to complete tasks we can do on our own, we feel shame and doubt. Facing our own problems without help also becomes much harder.

     

    Stage 3: Purpose: Initiative Vs. Guilt. (Ages 4-5)

     

    Central Crisis: Is it OK to do, move, and act?

    In this crucial stage we move beyond simply acting to acting with a purpose. We take on leadership roles and prepare to meet goals set by others or ourselves. Guilt is a new emotion and can sometimes be felt when there is no logical reason. We also take risks, develop judgment, and basically try to gain more independence. Parents help us in this stage by showing how to set realistic goals for the things want to do.

    On the flip side: If we don’t complete an action on time OR if what we want to do interferes with other plans we can become frustrated and act out. If parents and teachers fail to encourage us to set goals OR belittle the interests we have we tend to feel guilty about them.

     

    Stage 4: Competence: Industry vs. Inferiority (Ages 5-12)

     

    Central Crisis: Can I make it in the wide world?

    We become more aware of whom we are and how time works. We try to do what is right. But most essentially, we build on the interests we started to develop in the earlier stages. If parents find activities that match our interests we become happy and more independent.

    On the flip side: If parents don’t nurture our interests we lose motivation to complete activities and can become both couch and mouse potatoes.

     

    Stage 5:Fidelity: Identity vs. Role Confusion (Ages, 13-19)

     

    Central Crisis: Who am I? What can I be?

    As with every stage you are forced through a crisis, this crisis being identity. To fully transition from childhood to adulthood you have to find an identity that fits you authentically. You did (or do) this by trying on different roles (such as being a jock, drama geek, or partner) to see which suited you best. Sometimes you may experience “Roles Confusion.” This happens when you don’t know exactly where you fit and will often try on extreme roles to find one that does. You also often ponder how you will act in the real adult world.

    On the flip side: One of the mixed blessings of this stage is that you will finally get in touch with how you feel about your life and possible career choices. But those might not match up with how your parents and society feel and could cause you to stop trying to find “yourself.”

     

    Stage 6: Love: Intimacy vs. Isolation (Ages, 20-24, or 20-39)

    Central Crisis: Can I love someone else?

    As we start to solidify who we are as a person we open ourselves up to long-term relationships. This means we are capable of making the necessary sacrifices to nourish close friendships and marriages.

    On the flip side: We may be so fearful of rejection that we’ll close ourselves off to people and relationships.

     

    Stage 7: Care: Generativity vs. Stagnation (Ages, 25-64, or 40-64)

     

    Central Crisis: Can I make my life count?

     

    Now we get to the T-bone of what holds together this steak called Prime Life.  By now we have learned to trust the world, to trust ourselves, who we are, and how to love. You have no doubt picked a career and have a family to call your own. So how do you make your life count? According to Erikson you must give yourself back to the world that made you to feel successful and happy.

    On the flip side: If you cannot contribute to society you will feel stagnate and unfulfilled. This feeling leads right into the last and final stage.

     

     Stage 8:Wisdom: Ego Integrity vs. Despair (Ages 65-death)

     

    Central Crisis: Was it OK to have been me?

     

    As we grow older we tend to look back on our lives. Did we do all that we wanted? Did we lead a successful life? If you have you’ll feel happy and ready to accept death because you know that you’ve contributed to something that will live longer then yourself.

    On the flip side: If you haven’t live how you wanted, or, if things got in the way of you getting what you wanted out of life you can feel depressed, hopeless, and fearful of death. With your bucket list knocked over and your life left unfinished the thought of not excising can seem scary. So how do you fix this? By doing exactly what Erikson suggests in stage seven. By contributing to something that will live longer then us we lessen our fears of death because we know that a part of us lives almost immortally.

    But what’s even more beautiful about this is that your contribution does not have to be a large one. It could be as small as volunteering at a no-kill animal shelter, getting involved with your kids or grand kids, or sharing your amazing life story. Everyone has the key to quenching the fear of death and we at Dream Positive know that with a little work, you can find yours.

     

    And remember,

    Dream Well! Dream Positive!

     

    Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/29468339@N02/3419565232

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


  4. Psychological footprints: What are you leaving behind?

    March 20, 2014

    Psychological footprints: What are you leaving behind?

    by Daniela Aneis

     

    Dinosaurs have lived millions of years ago often leaving nothing but their fossilized footprints behind. What if you could also leave a psychological footprint behind? The term psychological footprint used by Whitbourne and Whitbourne (2014) refers to the positive or negative influence you have on others and how that affects their lives and the environment around you. We’ve all had the nature vs. nurture discussion in our lives at some point: is it nurture that defines me or is it nature? But what about your influence in nature and nurture? Your influence in what’s around you? How to measure that?

    Leaving something of yourself behind.

    You may not see it or even realize it, but you have an impact on your environment. Just by existing at this time and place, you’re changing what’s around you. Let’s try a difficult exercise. Can you imagine what it would be like for everyone you’ve ever met if you had never existed? What would they be missing out? Though one to think through? Don’t worry, that’s just our egocentrism at work. We just can’t imagine a world where we wouldn’t exist! Let’s try an easier one: have you ever asked a close friend what have they learned from you? What has meeting you made them different? Ask and be surprised with the answers. Usually in life it’s the little things that leave great impressions.

    What psychological footprints do you have on yourself?

    Think about all the people that have inspired and touched your life. Parents, grandparents, your first teacher, your neighbors, your minister, your childhood friends… Ever tried writing them a thank you letter for all the precious moments you’ve had with them? This a powerful exercise that Martin Seligman (the father of Positive Psychology) often does in his classes. At the end of each semester he promotes a little get together between students and the receivers of the letters, where the letters are read out loud and it’s not unusual for tears of joy to run. It’s a very powerful tool in therapy as well specially in grief counselling.

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  5. How Would You Define a Positive Peace?

    February 20, 2014

    How Would You Define a Positive Peace?

    by Sue Chehrenegar

     

    Every year, I try to get to one special breakfast, one that is always held on the morning of April 29th. The group that hosts that special event provides those attending with the chance to enjoy a beautiful spread. That spread is laid-out in the kitchen and dining area of a building that is just blocks from where I live. Therefore, I can simply walk to that building, and I have a great excuse for eating as much as I want.

    Of course, this article is not meant to focus on the food that is served that day. This year, I enjoyed two particular aspects of that annual event. First, for some reason, a bird chose to start singing as we were eating our breakfast. That was a real treat, because the historical occasion that had brought us together was associated with chirping birds. It took place in a garden, a garden outside of Bagdad.

    From now on, I will always link that garden to this phrase: positive peace. That is a term that I heard the morning that I listened to the birds chirping. I heard it from a friend, a woman who had been attending a series of talks, talks that were given in the same building.

    According to her, one of the speakers, a professor at UCLA had spoken about the value in considering the meaning of a positive peace. He indicated that it differed from a peaceful interlude, a time when there was no fighting and no thought of initiating such an action. At such a time, people might enjoy the peaceful nature of the existing situation, but none of them had chosen to follow the path that promises to transform a peaceful interlude into a time when any thought of violence has been wiped from the mind.

    During such a period, the general population would think that any violent act seemed totally meaningless. There would seem to be no reason for acting violently. Such actions would not be viewed as a means for reaching an acceptable goal.

    I see a positive peace as being a time when the world has come to understand the benefits attached to consultation. During a true consultation, no one who sits at the table tries to claim any idea as his or her own. Rather, each person puts-forward an idea and lets the others use it as a foundation, one on which a plan can be built.

    When a plan has been formed following a consultation, no one person can take credit for its success. By the same token, no one person can be blamed, if the plan does not succeed in accomplishing the desired end. A failure should not invite fighting, but instead it should encourage further consultation.

    During a positive peace, people would consult about how to solve problems. As they consulted, there would be no finger-pointing. After the consultation had ended, no one would start back biting. No one would try to gossip about what had been said by someone else, during the consultative process.

    In my mind, political parties would seem out-of-place in a world where peacefulness had taken-on a new meaning, one that meant more than just the absence of violence. After all, loyalty to one party would suggest a dislike for the other party. Obviously, a willingness to show a dislike could be seen as an act that could not be used to ensure maintenance of a peaceful situation.

    I did not hear the talk about a positive peace, but I have no difficulty forming my own ideas about what should be the principle characteristics of a world that has arrived at such a state. It seems to me that anyone who has chosen to work towards achievement of such a state has certainly chosen to have a meaningful life. Those who have chosen a different path may find out too late that their violent actions have managed to rob their life of meaning.

     

    Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/defenceimages/6150625532

     

     

     


  6. Are You Living Your Life on “Autopilot”?

    January 27, 2014

    Are You Living Your Life on Autopilot?

    Have you ever had the feeling you were living your life on automatic pilot? A similar metaphor could be when you get into your car and drive home without being aware of how you got there.  Living on autopilot is about having the same routines and doing the same activities every week or everyday without considering why you’re doing them in the first place.  And did it ever occur to you that not thinking about or even paying attention to what’s around you creates a big void in you? Suddenly days, weeks, years go by without fully being lived or experienced. Does time pass you by?  If you feel this way carry on reading the rest of this article.

    As human beings, we often don’t realize what a wonderful piece of nature’s engineering our brain is and the amount of potential it has. But our brain is also lazy and prone to go on “automatic mode”. Most of the time, this is a quite useful survival mechanism. Can you imagine yourself having to remember to breathe ever few seconds? It would be impossible to get anything done because it wouldn’t allow room for anything else! My point here is: although a very handy mechanism, going on “auto mode” all the time alienates you from your life and empties it of meaning. And isn’t true happiness in leading a life of meaning?

     

    How to return at being the master and commander of your life?

     

    Ever heard of mindfulness? Based on Buddhist thought, it was brought to the West in the 70’s and it has proven to be successful at helping people suffering from anxiety, depression and stress. In essence it helps people re-connect with themselves, others and what’s around you, preventing you from living an automated life.  It’s not a religion, it’s basically a therapeutic tool. Is it hard to be mindful? Read on and let us know what you think.

    5 Ways to become Mindful

     

    1. Stop. Yes, take 20 minutes off your busy life and meditate a while! Are you at the office? Good, sit back, close your eyes, and just listen to what’s around you. Block work from your mind, any worries and stop thinking about what to do next. Just focus on the here-and-now and your breathing. Feeling better? These 20 minutes of meditation will allow you to re-energize and concentrate on the job at hands.
    2. Overflow your senses. Too often we’re dependent on your vision to process and interpret the world. Would you be surprised if we told you our vision is not our most effective sense? So again, close your eyes, listen, smell, taste and touch! How often do you really enjoy a wonderful meal? Savoring each single taste of food and combination of flavors? Next time, take more than 10 minutes to really enjoy one of life’s greatest pleasures.
    3. Tune in your inner feelings. How are you feeling today right now? Did you know that most of psychological illnesses arise from poor processing of emotions? Everything seems piling up inside you unless you let go of some of that baggage. Talk to a friend, go to a therapist (!), but most important of all, listen to what you’re feeling. Those are the important signs that will help you take the right action.
    4. Enjoy.  Yes, feel the joy! What’s life without a little joy and fun? Life isn’t some punishment we’re meant to endure. Life is to be enjoyed and flavored. Go out and do something you really love, spend time with friends and family, re-connect to yourself!
    5. Be thankful.  This is a particular useful exercise. I do it all the time. Before you going to bed, think about all the people, things and experiences in your life you’re grateful for happening to you. Think about at least five. Might be hard at first, but if you do this often, you’ll soon realize your “Thank You” list is huge! Taking the time to think about all the wonderful people and events your life will surely help you re-connect with your life and lead a full on life!

     

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aseraphin/6853190725

     


  7. Set Goals Regularly to Live a More Meaningful Life

    October 9, 2013

    meaningful life

    by Adrienne Erin

     

    The importance of goal setting for a happy, productive life cannot be understated. The pleasure of working towards and attaining a goal brings happiness, satisfaction and pride. Too often, however, people think goal setting only applies to “big ticket” desires such as finishing school, saving for a vacation or finding true love.

    We tend to forget how helpful goal setting is on a daily basis. Plus, the more we use goal setting for small, daily tasks, the more skilled we become at planning, working towards and attaining goals of any size.

    Daily Goal Setting

    Every evening before I go to bed, I write down five small goals for the next day. They could relate to anything: work, volunteering experiences, enriching my relationships with loved ones, what I’ll cook for dinner or anything else. I organize these five goals in order of importance and when I’ll have time to do them.

    When I get up, I glance at the first item of my to-do list, and work towards its completion. I go down the list, completing each item and ticking it off as I go. At the end of the day, I brainstorm five new goals for the next day.

    More Than a To-Do List

    If you think this sounds like a daily to-do list, you’re right – up to a point. More importantly than a daily list of accomplishments, my daily to-do list is also a training tool. I practice the essentials of goal setting every day: brainstorming goals, prioritizing goals and working towards their completion. My daily to-do list is the foundation for attaining larger goals.

    In addition to my daily list, I make a weekly goal list at the start of every week, listing one or two goals I want to attain that week. I do the same for each month, every six months, each year, and five years. My goal schedule may look something like this:

    • Daily goals: Clean the bathroom, drop off son at karate practice, write four blog entries, surprise husband with supper, and weed front flower bed.
    • Week-long Goals: spend a day with parents, collect items for local food drive, clean out garage.
    • Monthly Goals: Paint living room, try five new recipes, use coupons more frequently to save money, find time to help at the local library.
    • Six-Month Goal: Save $150 a month for Christmas and $50 a month to donate to a charity.
    • Year-long Goal: Pay off car loan early by adding $50 a month to payments, spend more time for self-development and inspirational reading
    • Five-year Goal: Plan, save and prepare for Costa Rica hiking vacation with my family, learn Spanish.

    Your goal list will probably look quite different. What are the small tasks that just never seem to get done? It can help to start tackling those. If you’ve been dreaming for months now to repaint the living room, break the goal down into smaller tasks and incorporate them into your to-do list, like so:

    • Today: Stop by hardware store and pick up paint chips, choose a color.
    • This week: Return to store and purchase paint and dropcloths.
    • This month: Set aside several hours to move furniture away from walls, put down dropcloths, tape borders, and paint the walls.

    If you’re raising money for a local charity drive, your to-do list might look more like this:

    • Today: Post on Facebook about the charity, email coworkers about the charity.
    • This week: Raise $100 from friends, family, and other contacts
    • This month: Reach my $400 fundraising goal.

    The task was probably overwhelming until you actually took the time to plan out all of the steps you would need to take and when they need to get done.

    Start Small, Dream Big

    Goal setting can overwhelm people if they start with large, long-term goals. This is especially true if you’re coming out of a significant life change, such as divorce, the death of a loved one, or a long-term hospital stay.

    Start small, with daily goals. As you become more confident in your ability to set and attain goals, move on to weekly goals, then monthly and so on. While at first it may seem intimidating, coming up with six-month, year-long, and five-year goals, over time it will become more freeing. These will probably change little from week to week, but if you get a new idea for a long-term goal, add it to your list! A long-term goal can be almost anything, from “learn Russian” to “quit drinking.”

    Before you know it, you’ll be setting goals for five years down the road. With those in mind, what can you do to prepare for, save for, or start accomplishing those goals today? Mapping out your life with short- and long-term goals is immensely satisfying, and helps you identify how you really want to live.

     

    Author Bio: Adrienne Erin is a writer interested in health, wellness, and general wellbeing. She loves finding ways to help others succeed at their goals, whether they are striving to live a healthier life or completing 12 Palms recovery treatment. Follow her on Twitter at @adrienneerin to see more of her work.

    Image Credit: Mark Sebastian – http://www.flickr.com/photos/markjsebastian/3028568109