How to Be Optimistic in a Pessimistic World

With the world as uncertain as it is at times, it’s easy to discover that you’re feeling more and more pessimistic about your life. And even if you’re generally an optimistic person, it’s easy to let your friends who are less hopeful drag you down. By changing your environment, your attitude, and your body, you can stay optimistic in a pessimistic world.

Method 1

Changing Your Attitude Download Article

  1. Image titled Elevate Your Self Esteem Step 13
    1
    See the good. Working to see the good in situations can help you feel more optimistic simply because you aren’t focused on the bad. Studies suggest that looking for the good in situations can decrease rates of cancer and mortality and can contribute to better cardiovascular health. When you find yourself focusing on the negative in a situation, try to think of what the opposite reaction would be and focus on that instead.

    • Say, for example, you get into a car accident that totals your car. Don’t focus on the fact that your car is totaled, focus on the fact that you have insurance and can get a replacement![1]
    • Try to contextualize challenges as a chance to learn, rather than seeing them as a setback. You can always learn something good, even from bad situations.[2]
  2. 2
    Spend less time on social media. Spending less time on social media makes it easier not to compare yourself to other people. Feeling jealous of other people can definitely put a damper on your ability to feel optimistic about your own life. On the other hand, limiting the time that you do feel that way can heIp you feel optimistic about your own situation.[3]

    • Studied have shown that spending too much time on sites like Facebook can actually make you feel depressed because you are comparing your daily life to the filtered, curated posts and images of your friends.[4]
  3. 3
    Be grateful. Write down the things you’re grateful for every day.[5] This forces you to think about the good things in your life. It makes it harder to focus on the bad – even if there’s a lot of it – and makes it easier to feel optimistic about the future.[6]

    • There are a lot of big things that are easy to be grateful for – maybe you got promoted at work, or your boss complimented you on your latest project. Being grateful for the little things is harder, but can help increase your optimism, too. So, for example, you might be grateful that it was a sunny day, or that you drank a great cup of coffee that morning.
    • Try repeating “thank you” silently to yourself in the morning right when you wake up to put you in a grateful mindset for the rest of the day.[7]
  4. 4
    Change the way you respond to negative situations.[8] When something bad happens to you, do you tend to blame yourself for it, or do you see how other factors could have contributed? Optimists tend to see bad things that happen to them as the result of other factors – when they lose a tennis match they think it’s because their opponent is great at tennis, not (as a pessimist would) because they’re a terrible tennis player.

    • Next time you find yourself framing a situation in a negative way, try to rework it in your head. Instead of thinking “No one wants to pair up with me in class because they think I’m stupid,” try thinking, “my classmates must not know how much I have to contribute to this project!”
    • This type of thinking refers to your locus of control. Those who have an internal locus believe that they influence events and their outcomes, while those who have an external locus believe things happen to them due to external forces. Those with an internal locus of control tend to feel more optimistic in their daily life.[9]
  5. 5
    Keep trying. Pessimists tend to give up on something very quickly if they don’t succeed right away. Optimists tend to work harder – and longer – at things, even if it’s not immediately clear that they’ll succeed. Another way to think of this is to “fake it til you make it.” Assuming that you will be successful at something one day – and continuing to work toward it – can make you feel a lot more optimistic about the eventual outcome.[10]
  6. 6
    Don’t catastrophize. Pessimists often catastrophize – in other words, they think of the absolute worst-case scenario for whatever situation they’re in, and they fixate on it like it’s the only resolution. Doing this over and over again can make the worst-case scenario seem like the logical outcome of any situation.[11]

    • Let’s say you get an after-hours email from your boss, saying that she wants to talk to you the following morning. You can catastrophize the situation by imagining the worst reason she might want to talk to you: you’re getting fired. Which will lead to you losing your home, which will lead to you having to live with your parents. You can avoid doing this, though! When you find yourself catastrophizing, take your fantasies of total ruin all the way to their ridiculous conclusion, and then ask yourself if it’s actually likely to happen that way. It’s unlikely they will.
  7. 7
    Stay present. It’s easy to live in the past and the future, particularly if you find it hard to be optimistic at times. If things have gone poorly for us in the past, we think our future will look the same way. By staying present and focusing on the task at hand, you can focus on one particular set of circumstances, feel more in control, and stay optimistic.[12]

    • Try asking yourself, “Is there a problem right now?” Take a look and see if a problem exists at that very moment. If there is no problem impacting you that second, try to focus on that instead of on potential future problems.
  8. 8
    Share your feelings.[13] It’s easy to feel pessimistic if you think you’re the only one who has gone through what you’re going through. Sharing your failures and successes with someone you trust – whether a family member, a friend, or a member of a support group – can make you feel less alone and therefore more hopeful.[14] [15]

    • You can start a conversation like this by saying something like, “I’ve really been feeling down lately because I can’t seem to get caught up on my finances. Every time I think I’ll pull ahead, another bill pops up! Has that ever happened to you? How did you deal with?”
    • Sharing good news can also make you feel more optimistic. You can try saying something like, “I got that promotion I’ve been hoping for! I’d love to celebrate with you!”
    • In both cases, asking for having someone to share either reinforces that you’re not alone or multiplies your happiness.
Method 2

Changing Your Environment Download Article

  1. 1
    Let some light in. If you find you’re feeling particularly pessimistic, check your surroundings. Are you sitting in semi-darkness, staring at your computer? Just turning on a light or opening the curtains can change your mood drastically!
  2. 2
    Go outside. Getting outside and getting some sunlight (even if it is not direct) for even 15 minutes a day can greatly improve our moods. Go for a short walk, sit on the porch, or water your grass. Getting that little bump in your mood can really make it easier to feel optimistic.[16]
  3. 3
    Make new friends. Do the friends you normally hang out with seem to always be complaining? Are they always pointing out the negative in every situation? This can make it hard to feel optimistic about anything! Either make new friends with people who are generally positive and upbeat, or spend more time with your already optimistic friends.
Method 3

Changing Your Body Download Article

  1. 1
    Get a physical. Schedule a physical or a wellness checkup with your doctor. Sometimes internal factors, like not getting enough vitamin D, can impact our moods. This is particularly common with people who don’t see a lot of sunlight. Let your doctor know you’ve been feeling down and you’re not sure why. They will check for common problems that may be keeping you pessimistic.[17]
  2. 2
    Work out. Pessimists tend to overthink things. If you find yourself falling into this behavior, do something that will take all of your attention, like working out, going for a walk, or even playing a game. If you’re fully engaged in what you’re doing, you won’t have time to worry![18]
  3. 3
    Eat balanced meals. Eating a balanced meal is the easiest way to take care of your body, and having a body that feels healthy and strong is an easy way to feel optimistic![19]

    • A balanced diet should include protein, fat, carbs, vitamins, minerals, and lots of water!
    • When considering portions for a healthy diet, focus on having about half of your plate filled with fruits or veggies and the other half split between lean protein and whole grains.
    • Easy substitutions can make it easier to eat a healthy diet. Try nonfat or 1% milk instead of 2%. If you eat a really heavy meal at breakfast or lunch, consider eating lighter fare for the rest of the day.[20]
  4. 4
    Smile more. Studies show that smiling actually releases serotonin, the hormone generally responsible for happiness. Finding little reasons to smile, even in the middle of a bad day, can make you feel happier and therefore more optimistic.[21]

    • Smiling also makes you seem more welcoming to others. Meeting new people who are drawn to that sort of energy can have a good effect on you, since they’re likely to be optimistic people, too.
Method 4

Dealing with a Pessimistic World Download Article

  1. 1
    Volunteer. As scary as the world can seem, it’s easy to feel like things will never change and there’s nothing you can do about it. But you can! Volunteer your time at an organization that supports the things you believe in. Feeling like you’re actually helping make the world a better place is a good way to feel less pessimistic about the world.

    • Websites like VolunteerMatch.org, Idealist.org, and HandsOn Network are all good places to start when you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity.[22]
  2. 2
    Unplug for a day. The 24-hour news cycle can make it seem like bad things are happening all the time, and it can make the world seem like a pretty pessimistic place. If you’re feeling down and overly pessimistic, try unplugging for the day: no internet, no social media, no phone. This can help you recharge and focus on the good things in your life.[23]

    • Going to the park (if it’s nice outside) or a library (if it’s not) and spending some time reading a book is a good way to unplug without getting bored. Getting lost in someone else’s world for a while can help you feel less pessimistic.
    • Playing a game with your friends – football, a board game, cards – is a good way to entertain yourself without relying on electronics.
  3. 3
    Practice self care.[24] Practicing self care basically means making sure you take good care of yourself and plan some “me” time. When the world feels particularly pessimistic, it’s so easy to focus on the bad and forget to take of yourself. Self care is always important, but it’s critical to make some time for it when you’re stressed or feeling burnt out. Schedule some time for yourself on those days, and engage in your favorite self-care activities.

    • A lot of the steps above are examples of self care: working out, eating a balanced diet, going outside.
    • Making a playlist of your favorite upbeat music and listening to it when you’re feeling pessimistic is another great example of practicing self-care.[25]

Expert Q&A

  • Question
    What are ways I can be more optimistic?

    Leah Morris

    Life Coach
    Expert Answer
    Know that it’s okay for bad things to happen and to have some negative feelings from it. It helps to reevaluate these situations to find the positive aspects of them.
Ask a Question
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References

About This Article

Paul Chernyak, LPC
Co-authored by:
Licensed Professional Counselor
This article was co-authored by Paul Chernyak, LPC. Paul Chernyak is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Chicago. He graduated from the American School of Professional Psychology in 2011. This article has been viewed 19,742 times.
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Updated: August 9, 2021
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Time For a New Creative Approach to Career Counselling

https://theconversation.com/its-time-to-take-a-new-more-creative-approach-to-career-counselling-104949

Time For a New Creative Approach to Career Counselling

Choosing a career path is often a complex matter. Shutterstock

The world of work is changing all the time. In the past, people would probably choose one career and stick to it for the rest of their lives, gradually climbing up the ladder with clearly demarcated and structured relationships. They might even remain at one company throughout their working lives.

But today, people move between careers and jobs several times; they have to navigate many work-related transitions.

The problem is that career counselling hasn’t, for the most part, adapted to these new realities. In the developing world, traditional career counselling approaches are still the order of the day. Young people – usually in their second last or last year of secondary schooling, and who are able to afford such a service – consult a professional career counsellor.

They are asked questions about their personal and family history, then complete a few interest and personality inventories. They may also write a set of aptitude tests, answer questions about their study habits and attitudes, and then receive what amounts to career education or career guidance.

For the most part, this approach is no longer working satisfactorily in a rapidly changing world. I am involved in many research projects, task teams, as well as in an advisory capacity, and the situation is by and large the same everywhere: alarmingly high tertiary dropout rates are related in part to undecidedness or career indecision. As my research has shown, students often discover that the degree they’ve chosen doesn’t interest them. They become indecisive and unsure about what they want to do as a career and feel stuck.

Based on my own research, and drawing from different approaches to career counselling that have enjoyed success in the developed world, I believe that it’s time for developing countries to approach career counselling differently; more respectfully. One approach, which we tested, was having conversations with students in which they tell their stories, rather than simply writing down answers to aptitude test.

Research has shown that encouraging people to tell their stories in career counselling settings has direct, positive results. It enhances people’s career adaptability and career resilience. This makes them more employable. When people share their autobiographies, they can be helped to identify their key life themes and find out what really drives or motivates them.

This sort of approach has also been shown to improve people’s chances of finding sustainable, decent work.

Telling stories

Storytelling” is already widely used in career counselling in the US, Western Europe and Australia, among other places. Some of my colleagues and I have begun to introduce it in South Africa. Our research has conclusively confirmed the vast potential of the approach.

This sort of career counselling involves asking people not just to fill in aptitude tests or assessment sheets, but to also explain what drives or motivates them. This would centre on their key life themes – for instance, a candidate who says “I want to help people who are being hurt or bullied or do not have a voice” and who talks about sympathy or compassion or caring a great deal might be well suited to law, nursing, social work, psychology, or theology.

These life themes can be uncovered by, for instance, asking people about their earliest recollections (in the case of individual assessment) or, in group-based contexts, their biggest challenges while growing up. People are, for instance, also asked to tell the career counsellor who their role models were when they grew up; who their current role models are, and what they regard as their greatest strengths and areas for growth.

The ultimate aim is to help people not only choose a career and “find work” but also to make meaning of their career lives, find a sense of purpose and hope, design a successful life, and make meaningful social contributions.

This approach calls for listening and repeated reflection. Counsellors who are trained in the method create a ‘safe’ space for people (help them feel sufficiently contained) to narrate stories about their lives and their work. Ideally, people who undergo this sort of counselling should emerge with a deeper understanding of who they are and how this might play out in their work.

Going forward

Of course, it will take time and training for career counsellors to start embracing this sort of approach. It took me more than a decade and a half of applying the new approach in my private practice (and constantly refining it) before feeling that I have mastered it to a satisfactory degree.

First, relevant stakeholders will have to accept that a different approach is required by career counsellors to respond appropriately to large-scale changes in the world of work.

Second, universities’ psychology (and education) departments will need to adjust their curricula, since it is here that future career counsellors are trained. I am training Master’s students in educational and counselling psychology in this approach, and their feedback about the course is consistently positive and inspiring.

Those who are already working as career counsellors could undergo further training to develop new, different approaches that are more in keeping with the demands posed by the changing world of work.

Career counsellors’ allegiance should be solely to their clients. Given this fact, and the fact that research has shown how valuable this and other different, more modern approaches to career counselling can be, it would be good to see them more widely in action.

5 Things to Know When Getting a Financial Planner

There are as many as 100,000 people across the country who call themselves financial planners, consultants or advisors — but that’s not to say that they’re all doing the same type of work. (iStock)

Most people would never dream of trying to fix a broken arm or smashed-up car themselves, but deciding when to call in professional help and who to turn to isn’t so clear cut when it comes to dealing with a financial plan that has been mangled by the economy.

With things like low-fee online brokeragestax-free savings accounts and exchange-traded funds, do-it-yourselfers have never had more investing choices. But the array of options comes with potential pitfalls and unexpected tax considerations that can undermine financial plans, so it has also never been easier for novices to get themselves into trouble.

“People tend to overestimate their abilities with their finances,” Judith Cane, head of Antara Group, says. The Ottawa financial planner has more than two decades of experience and sits on the board of Advocis, the group that represents the industry in Canada. “Sometimes it’s good to have an outsider come in to see the things you can’t.”

The problem for consumers is that there are many different kinds of financial advisers, and they offer a range of services at a range of prices.

And not all of them act entirely in your best interests.

“Many people who call themselves financial planners don’t provide any advice, they’re really just selling mutual funds to their clients,” says Ermanno Pascutto, the executive director of the watchdog Canadian Foundation for Advancement of Investor Rights (FAIR). “They shouldn’t really be called advisers or planners or anything.”

Know who you’re dealing with

There are as many as 100,000 people across the country who call themselves financial planners, consultants or advisers — but that’s not to say that they’re all doing the same type of work.

With the exception of Quebec, where the industry is much more tightly regulated, for the most part they’re governed by a hodgepodge of regulatory bodies and designations. The result is an alphabet soup of acronyms:

  • CFA – Chartered financial analyst
  • CFP – Certified financial planner
  • CHFC – Chartered financial consultant
  • CIM – Canadian investment manager
  • CLU – Chartered life underwriter
  • CMP – Certified management professional
  • RFP – Registered financial planner
  • TEP – Trust and estate practitioner

On the whole, FAIR says Canadians aren’t well served by the mishmash of designations and the confusion it breeds.

“The real problem is that people aren’t financially literate,” Pascutto adds.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty seems to agree, which is why Ottawa is spearheading a task force trying to improve that. But in the interim, governments need to do more to protect Canadians, FAIR says.

“The regulators really need to up their game and make sure the financial industry has a duty to act in the best interest of their clients,” Pascutto says. “That’s not happening at the moment.”

Where to start

The first step in deciding what sort of financial help you need is to figure out what you actually need help with.

That sounds like a tautology, but many people think there’s a one-size-fits-all solution to finances. There isn’t.

If you’re interested in stock tips, for example, or getting somebody to sell you the right kind of insurance, or to help you consolidate your debt, your best bet is someone exclusively skilled in those areas, like an investment adviser, stock broker, credit counsellor, or insurance agent.

A more generalized financial planner, on the other hand, deals with broader questions like whether you should put money into an RRSP in the first place – as opposed to, say, paying down a mortgage or saving for a child’s education. They will help you figure out overall goals and a basic workable strategy to meet them, but they’re not likely going to be able to execute the entire strategy for you.

As an analogy, Cane says a financial planner is like a family doctor. “They’re great at looking at the whole picture and can refer you to specialists, but you still need to go see an endocrinologist or oncologist for specific ailments.”

Know how your planner earns their living

Whether the person calls themselves a financial planner, or an adviser, or goes by some other helpful-sounding title, the key is to know how they earn their living. More specifically, are they being paid solely for helping you come up with a sound fiscal plan, or are they also responsible for selling you specific investment products?

“A lot of financial planners have grandiose titles on their business card, but many are no better than salesmen,” says FAIR’s Pascutto.

If you find a planner who is right for your specific needs and isn’t promoting specific financial products, “the appeal is that they have no vested interest in any door you choose,” Cane adds.

There’s no magic formula when choosing a financial planner, but two designations that specialize in developing broad financial plans are certified financial planner (CFP) and registered financial planner (RFP). That’s not to say that other designations such as CFA or TEP aren’t as knowledgeable, but their expertise is typically geared towards very specific aspects of one’s financial life.

Fee versus commission

CFPs and RFPs are regulated by the Financial Planning Standards Council and the Institute of Advanced Financial Planners, respectively, and can theoretically lose their licences for unethical behaviour. But at the same time, both are legally allowed to sell products, and as such could be biased towards a product that benefits them more than you in terms of fees.

Figuring out potential conflicts of interest in the sometimes murky financial industry is not always easy. It pays to ask some questions about the person you’re dealing with, not matter what licences they hold.

And above all, get it in writing.

“As part of your financial planning agreement, the financial planner should clearly tell you in writing how she will be paid for the services to be provided,” the group that certifies CFPs says.

Generally, financial planners get paid in one of two ways. Some earn commissions on the products you end up buying. Others work on a fee-based model where the customer pays an hourly rate for unbiased opinions, and the planner has no financial incentive to steer them one way or the other.

Certified financial planners

The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the rights to use the CFP designation in Canada. It offers a helpful checklist on its website that lists some questions to ask before signing up with a planner. It suggests asking about the person’s experience, their qualifications, how they get paid, and whether they’ve ever been disciplined for malfeasance.

Some planners who promote themselves as being fee-based have a partnership, or share office space, with a much larger firm that sells financial products.

“There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but I think if you want real fee-based advice you need to stay away from that sort of arrangement,” Cane says.

“If somebody tells you they’ll waive the fees if you put money in this or that investment, I think you generally get what you pay for,” she adds.

In most cases, Cane says, the fee a financial planner might charge for their services is quickly made up in tax savings or other gains that are found when someone knowledgeable fine-tunes the financial course you’re on.

Ultimately, everyone’s experience with a professional financial advice will be different, but the customer who goes into the process armed with the knowledge of how the expert across the table gets paid is going to get the most out of the relationship.

“Our perspective is that when people pay fees for a service, they are entitled to know what they are paying for, and they’re entitled to get some sort of service for that,” Pascutto says.

“We think we have a long way to go [in Canada] before that’s happening.”

In the meantime, it’s prudent to take a buyer beware approach to financial planning and advice by doing your homework before choosing who to deal with.

Financial planning checklist

Here are five basic things that can help you evaluate a potential financial adviser.

1. Plan ahead: The first step is often to decide what sort of financial strategy you need. Are you a saver? A buy-and-hold investor? Are you willing to roll the dice a little? Picking an adviser who is among the best in long-term thinking might not be ideally suited for your daytrading needs, for example. So figure out what your ultimate goal is, and work with someone who can demonstrate that they’ve got the expertise to help you reach that goal.

2. Ask around: Friends and family can be a great first step to finding a reliable source of financial advice. Ask around and see if anyone in your circle has an adviser they’d recommend, or tips to share. Hearing about a bad experience and what went wrong can hone your decision-making skills and help you figure out what questions to ask a potential adviser when sounding them out.

3. Get personal: Whatever you do, make sure you meet with the person face to face before making any sort of arrangement. Remember, the adviser is going to need to have very intimate knowledge of your finances, personal activities and goals, and you must be comfortable providing them with that information.

4. Follow the money: There are a number of ways that advisers get paid, and it pays (literally) to know which method yours uses. The most common is the commission-based model where the adviser gets paid a fee by the financial companies that make the products he or she sells. That’s great in principle (since the customer never has to pay directly for the service), but critics point out that it poses an inherent conflict of interest. Certain financial products pay higher commissions than others, which gives the adviser a higher incentive to move you in that direction – whether it’s a good idea for your financial plan or not. That’s led a movement toward other types of payment plans, where compensation is more up front.

Higher net worth clients often like the asset-based model, where you pay an adviser a certain percentage of your entire portfolio, so the payment grows as the portfolio grows. That gives both parties an incentive to make the portfolio increase in value.

Smaller investors might like a simple fee-based planner that charges by the hour. The cost shouldn’t be much more than about $100 or so an hour, and less and less time will likely be needed once the financial plan has been worked out and set up — perhaps nothing more than a checkup here and there throughout the year.

5. Beware the alphabet soup: From CIM, to CFA, to TEP and even RHU, there’s a dizzying array of letters signifying credentials for financial professionals. But experts say the two types that most consumers should look for are either CFP or RFP. Those stand for certified financial planner and registered financial planner. The latter is generally for more advanced investors, but they share the common trait of not actually selling any financial products. A good financial planner’s role is to guide your savings and investment strategy, not sell you individual products.

26 Pieces of Advice That Have Actually Helped People With Mental Illness

With that expert’s list of ways to manage anxiety, the latest trendy mental health app and that “magical cure for depression” your aunt heard about on TV, it seems like everyone’s full of mental health advice these days.

Source: 26 Pieces of Advice That Have Actually Helped People With Mental Illness

 With that expert’s list of ways to manage anxiety, the latest trendy mental health app and that “magical cure for depression” your aunt heard about on TV, it seems like everyone’s full of mental health advice these days.

So, we asked our mental health community to share pieces of advice they’ve actually found helpful. These little nuggets of wisdom aren’t FDA-approved, but when used correctly side effects may include: self-care, acceptance and a little more patience with yourself.

Here’s some advice that’s actually helped people with mental illness:

1. “On a particularly difficult day, I was trying to fight through an anxiety attack and finish all the child-related tasks I needed to complete. My husband kept offering help, and I kept refusing. He pulled me aside in the laundry room as I was frantically folding another load and said, “Just let me help you.” It doesn’t immediately make the anxiety go away, but it’s helped me learn to let go.” — Maria Heldreth

2. “Don’t wait. See a doctor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be embarrassed. Chances are, someone knows exactly what you’re going through.” — Kristin Salber

3. “I have depression and anxiety (as well as other chronic medical conditions), and after the worst week I’ve had in a while, my doctor  said,“Find something you enjoy, and if you can’t find that, find the joy in something.” This really had an impact on me and still reminds me to look for a silver lining.” — Faith Merryn

Related: To the Husband With the Wife Who Has Depression

4. “I have generalized anxiety disorder, and I made friends with someone who’s extremely similar to me. She told me to always be myself and the people who truly care will stick around. It truly did help.” — Julia Ann Lange

5. “Words can hurt to say, but they need to come out. Write all those words down on paper.” — Melissa Cote

6. “A friend recently told me that no matter if I get a job one day or not,your life matters as long as you can make people smile. When I think of it that way, it’s easier to see my life as something of worth.” — Emma Wozny

7. “A great therapist I had told me to focus on ‘harm-reduction, not perfection.’ I felt like I was expected to magically ‘get better,’ and she helped me learn that starting with baby steps was totally OK.” — Jen Decker

8. “Someone said, ‘I’ve been here, I know a way out, I’m here to show you too.’ And, ‘It gets better, it may not leave, but it gets better. And it has.” — Tom Everman

9. “I have anxiety and major depressive disorder. This is going to sound ridiculous, but my best friend once told me, “When you’re sad, watch ‘The Simpsons.’” It actually works when I’m panicking, too. It gets my mind off whatever I’m obsessing about, and I usually end up laughing.” — Dawn Czarnecki Seshadri

10. “It wasn’t long after my diagnosis that I was told pretty bluntly: ‘This illness is has no cure. You’re going to carry this illness for the rest of your life. So you can either wallow in the weight of that, or you can fight for your only life and make it a good story.’” — Lyss Trayers

11. “My depression and anxiety stem from a traumatic childhood. Just hearing ‘it wasn’t your fault‘ from my psychologist was incredibly helpful.” — Kathrine Elise

12. “Don’t always believe what your brain is telling you.” — Kerri Lewis Brock

Related: 36 Things People With Anxiety Want Their Friends to Know

13. “It’s OK to feel sad. You don’t need to pretend.” — Allyson White

14. “The best advice: Treat yourself as if you were a good friend.”— Julie Jeatran

15. “Celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how small,instead of dwelling on all the things we perceive as failures.” — Jennifer Northrup

16. “I have post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder. When I was in intensive outpatient therapy, the counselor looked at us and said,‘It’s over. That moment is over. It isn’t going to happen again.’For some reason, that resonated with me.” — Nicole Hanes

17. “They told me this: ‘You are not broken; you are a whole person. You are just human. A human who is living, learning and growing. And learning, living and growing comes with bumps in the road. Remember that this is just a bump.‘” — Kallie Kieffer

18. “Your worst days will only be 24 hours.“ — Arielle Smith

19. “You wouldn’t skip a dialysis or chemotherapy appointment. Your therapy appointments are just as important. No excuses.” — Jennifer Davis

20. “‘I think you need to give therapy a try.‘ Thanks to that, I started therapy and I’m now on the path to recovery.”  — Julianne Leow

21. “Your struggles are your accomplishments in disguise.” — Katherine J Palmer

Related: 14 Things I Didn’t Expect to Learn at a Psychiatric Hospital

22. “Remember: Depression lies. Don’t believe it.” — Beth Brogan

23. “Always ask for help. There is never any shame in asking for help.” — Meghan Shultz

24. “Take life 5 minutes at a time.” — Stephanie Lynn

25. “You can’t give everyone else everything you have. You absolutely have to save a little of yourself for yourself.” — Shawn Henfling

26. I am a human being. Not a human doing. I just have to be.” — Michelle Balck

Answers have been edited and shortened.

By Sarah Schuster

More from The Mighty:

What the Starbucks Barista Didn’t Know When She Wrote ‘Smile’ on My Coffee

31 Secrets of People Who Live With Anxiety

I Have OCD. This Is What It’s Like to Be in My Mind for 3 Minutes.

Informational Interviews

Informational Interviews.

Informational Interviews

What is an Informational Interview and How it Can Help Your Career

By 

 

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Skillfully used, an informational interview is one of the most valuable sources of occupational information. While it may cover some of the same ground as printed material or information on a company website, it presents opportunities for an intimate and flexible inside view of a job field unmatched by other sources. The informational interview communicates the first hand experiences and impressions of someone in the occupation, and is directed by your questions.

Stressless Interviewing

An informational interview is less stressful for both you and the employer than a typical job interview. You are the one in control. Questions can be asked that may not be strategic during a first interview (i.e., questions regarding salary, benefits, vacation). You can discuss what is done on a day-to-day basis and relate it to your own interests and feelings. Beyond the advantages of gaining valuable career information, the informational interview provides the opportunity to build self-confidence and to improve your ability to handle a job interview.

How to Conduct an Informational Interview

You should regard each interview as a business appointment and conduct yourself in a professional manner. If you have made clear, in advance, the explicit purpose of your interview you will, in all probability, find your contact an interested and helpful person. Remember the appointment time and appear promptly for your interview. You should neither be too casually dressed nor overdressed. Regular business attire is appropriate. Be sure you know the name of the person you are meeting, the correct pronunciation of his/her name, and the title of his/her position.

Informational Interview Questions to Ask

Because there are so many questions you can ask in the informational interview, individuals sometimes take notes during the meeting. A limited amount of note-taking is justified provided that your contact is agreeable and that you don’t interrupt communication between the two of you.

Sketch out a brief outline of the topics covered and the information gained as soon as possible after the interview. This will require only a few minutes, and will insure that you remember the important points discussed. Later, working from your outline, you can construct a more detailed report of the interview.

Follow Up With a Thank You Note

Write a thank you note to the people you have interviewed. Report back to them if you have followed up on any suggestions. By building strong rapport with career contacts you enhance the likelihood that they will offer assistance with your job search when you are ready for the next step in the job search process.

15 Things I Learned from My Nervous Breakdown…

very good list of things to meditate on . . .

Rory

 

15 Things I Learned from My Nervous Breakdown… and How They Can Help You Live Your Best Life – Calgary’s Child Magazine.

 

15 Things I Learned from My Nervous Breakdown… and How They Can Help You Live Your Best Life

I suffered a nervous breakdown at age 36 – and it turned out to be a breakthrough. Here are 15 important things about life and happiness that I have learned, and that I hope you will take to heart in the coming year.

I want you to do me a favor. Look to the upcoming year and ask yourself – realistically – what lies in store in 2012? If you’re like most people, a huge portion of your life will be spent anxiously plugging away at a job you may or may not enjoy with coworkers you may or may not like. Okay, yes, you work hard to build a better life for your family. But here’s the question: Will you have time to enjoy them? Will you be too exhausted to throw the ball with your son? And how many nights will you get home too late to tuck him in this year?

This pattern of stress and striving has to stop. We already live in uncertain and depressing times, and our lifestyles are driving us not toward new heights, but over the brink. And if you’re not careful, you may suffer the same fate I did.

When I was 36 years old, I was successfully leading my family’s auto parts business, I was well respected in my community, I had a wonderful wife and son… and I also suffered a nervous breakdown. Yes, at that point in my life, I enjoyed what I did and was truly proud of my successes, but I was also pushing myself too hard and prioritizing the wrong things, and eventually, it all caught up with me.

For months leading up to my breakdown, I suffered from a paralyzing depression and anxiety, and found it difficult to complete tasks as simple as deciding whether to order coleslaw or potato salad with my lunch. But I still consider myself to be very fortunate.

As horrific as it was, my breakdown was actually also my breakthrough. It was an in-your-face wake-up call that forced me to realize that I was driving myself too hard, and for the wrong reasons. I finally had to say, “Enough is enough! I am done destroying myself and ruining my life!” Admitting to myself that my former way of life wasn’t working was the beginning of my road to recovery and true happiness.

For the past decade, I have taken a closer look at what really makes people happy and unhappy, and I have seen most of my goals and priorities shift. In the same way, it’s in your best interests to shift your habits and focus in 2012. Call it a New Year’s resolution to simply be happy.

I have come to realize that how happy and fulfilled you are is largely under your control, and that it has less to do with success and accomplishments than you might think. I believe that most people are experiencing many – if not all – of the stressors that led to my breakdown, so please don’t wait until you, too, reach a breaking point to make changes in your life. I’m totally convinced now that true happiness is a possibility for everyone, so I’m asking you to take the lessons I have learned to heart.

If you’re ready to change the way you approach life before you drive yourself over the edge, read on for 15 life lessons that I have learned:

1. You have to choose and prioritize happiness – it doesn’t just happen. If you subscribe to the belief that your happiness is wholly dependent on what happens to you, you’ll always be dissatisfied. The truth is, your fulfillment largely depends on the choices you make: how you see the world, what you allow to influence you, what you focus on, and how you react to circumstances, regardless of whether they’re good or bad. In other words, it’s not what happens to you; it’s how you look at what happens to you.

If you want to make a dent in your stress levels, you have to make choosing happiness a priority every day. With all of the responsibilities on our plates, nothing is likely to happen unless we specifically focus on it. So make happiness one of the two or three priorities you absolutely must accomplish each day. To remind yourself, put a note where you can see it – maybe on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror. And if that sounds selfish, it’s not. If you’re extremely stressed or become depressed because of the way you’re living your life, you’re hurting many more people than just yourself. And what’s more important than teaching your kids to be happy? Always remember that children learn by example. If they see you living a harried, stressed life, that’s the pattern their lives will follow as well…and their children’s after them, and so on.

2. Striving for work/life balance is worth its weight in gold. Times are tough, and some of us are finding it necessary to work long hours to keep our jobs and livelihoods. Others have fallen into the trap of the work-ego addiction: over time, you become hooked on the “high” you feel when you accomplish something, get a promotion, etc., and you begin to spend more and more time at the office. Whatever the reason, if extremely long hours are becoming a habit for you, break it. No matter how good your intentions are, overloading on work will cause your relationships, mindset, and even health to suffer.

Prior to my breakdown, it was normal for me to work seventy- or eighty-hour weeks. In my personal dictionary, “rest” and “relaxation” were synonymous with “irresponsibility” and “slacking.” Boy, was I wrong. Working as much as I did is more than the human body is designed to take continuously. If you drive yourself that hard, you’ll eventually begin to run on fumes before you shut down entirely. Being firm about creating and maintaining a healthy work/life balance is no more selfish than prioritizing happiness – in this case, it’s about simple self-preservation! And if you’re still skeptical, remember this: no one looks back on their lives at age eighty and says, “Gee, I wish I’d spent less time with my family and friends and more time at the office.”

3. We are our own worst critics. If you’re like most people, you probably tend to focus a lot of your mental energy on the things you mess up rather than on the things you do well—even though most of us do a hundred things right for every one thing we do wrong. And although you may not realize it, focusing on that one wrong thing is very dangerous, because our thoughts are incredibly powerful. Until you give yourself permission to break free of the cycle of self-blame and negativity that causes you to be stuck demanding perfection from yourself in every situation, you’ll never have a chance to be a truly relaxed, content, and happy person.

It’s not easy to rewire your habitual thought processes, but you need to build yourself up more and beat yourself up less. I used to expect nothing less than perfection out of myself, which was delusional! We’re all human, which means that we’re going to make mistakes from time to time. That doesn’t mean that we’re in any way unworthy or undeserving of love. In fact, learning to love myself was at the core of my own happiness journey. If you aren’t satisfied with who you are, you’ll always be looking outside yourself for validation…and you’ll never be truly content. And like me, you might also push yourself beyond healthy limits in order to get accolades from other people.

4. It’s never too late to start living in the present. How often do your thoughts “live” in the present? More to the point, how often are they instead fixated on your “disappointing” or “disturbing” past or spent worrying about your future? If you are like most people, your percentage of time not spent in the present is way, way too high, and thus you’re missing out on life itself. If you’re letting what’s already happened eat away at you or fretting about what might come to pass, you’re not enjoying the blessings all around you. You’re exacerbating your anxiety and unhappiness by choosing to dwell on things you can’t change or control.

I used to spend a majority of my time rehashing my past mistakes and worrying about what might happen in the future, neither of which did anything for my peace of mind or self-esteem. In fact, these unhealthy and self-critical thoughts were a major contributor to my breakdown. Now that I’m making a conscious effort to live in the present, I’m actually enjoying all of the great things in my life instead of letting them pass me by unnoticed. Plus, I’m actually a lot more productive now that all of that mental space that used to be occupied with worries has been freed up!

5. Focusing on what you’re good at is best for everyone.
 If you aren’t good at something – especially if it’s work-related – chances are you’ll feel compelled to spend a lot of time and effort getting your skills up to par. It’s natural to want to shore up your weaknesses, but the fact is, this strategy tends to cause you a lot of stress for (most likely) mediocre results. Instead of trying to be good at everything, stay in your strengths as much as possible. When you’re doing what you’re good at, you’ll be happier and higher performing.

As I’ve said, I used to be a total perfectionist. I felt like I was a failure if I didn’t excel in absolutely everything I tried. It probably won’t be a surprise to hear that all I accomplished was making myself miserable when I failed to live up to my impossibly high standards. If that sounds familiar, I’d suggest focusing more time on a hobby or personal interest to start, even if you do it for only twenty minutes every other day. And if you determine that your career doesn’t utilize your strengths, start looking at online job postings or for local classes in your field of interest. It’s never too early—or too late—to start doing the things that make you happy.

6. Exercise is worth its weight in therapy.
 Yes, you’ve heard it (a million times) before, but exercise is one small change that yields really big, life-changing benefits. For starters, it will begin to make you feel more relaxed, stronger, and more capable of handling life’s challenges—also, it will improve your sleep, and it’s a natural anti-depressant that will help your attitude and outlook. In fact, exercise actually opens you up to future change by invigorating your mind and body.

I’m convinced that exercise is the single most important thing you can do to improve your life right now. Looking back, I believe that my breakdown occurred when it did because I had broken my feet and couldn’t work out. Before that point, exercise was essentially acting as a medication that helped to counteract the effects of the stressful lifestyle I was living, and after I recovered, it has continued to boost my energy and outlook. If working out is already a part of your life, great! If it isn’t, commit to walking just twenty minutes every other day to start out. You don’t have to join a gym, sign up for exhausting classes, and completely reorder your life to reap the benefits of this investment!

7. You need to feed your mind healthy ‘food.’ When was the last time you watched the nightly news and turned off the TV feeling positive and uplifted? If anything, hearing the headlines is more likely to be depressing and discouraging. Although many of us don’t want to admit it, the things we hear, read, and experience influence our own attitudes and outlooks, so it’s important to consciously “feed” your mind positive materials.

It may sound hokey, but over the years I’ve become a big proponent of motivational books, audio recordings, and DVDs. Whether we’re at work, talking with friends, or at home watching TV or surfing the web, most of us encounter a lot more bad news and predictions than we do good. No wonder we become negative and cynical! It’s important to seek out positive things that will counteract these influences and dispel unnecessary stress. Learn new, constructive things and expose yourself to fresh ways of thinking so that you don’t get stuck in a self-destructive rut.

8. Surround yourself with positive people. If you stop for a drink at the water cooler and find your colleagues griping about how much work they have to do and how unreasonable your boss is, you probably don’t think much of it. In fact, depending on how your own day is going, you might even join in. And although you may not realize it, your attitude will start to deteriorate. The fact is, if you spend a significant amount of time around other people who are negative, your own outlook will begin to mirror theirs.

It’s much easier for others to drag you down than it is for you to build them up. In terms of your attitude and happiness levels, you will be the average of the five people you spend the most time with, so you need to be around other people who share your commitment to happiness if you want to avoid unnecessary stress. I’m not suggesting that you completely sever relationships that aren’t entirely uplifting, but gradually, you need to gravitate more toward positive people and distance yourself from those who tend to bring you down. This might mean calling a positive friend and asking to meet up for coffee or a beer, or walking away from the water cooler when your coworkers begin to gripe and complain.

9. Invest in your relationships – especially your marriage.
 When we’re driving ourselves to the brink, personal relationships are usually one of the first things to suffer. After all, the more time you spend at work, the less time and energy you have to invest in friends and family. You don’t consciously realize it at first, but this gradual deterioration can leave you feeling unappreciated, angry, alone, and anxious. Remember, though, that loving, supportive relationships will majorly enhance your happiness levels, and that friends and family care about you and accept you in a way that your employer never will.

It’s never a waste of time to reach out to the people who are meaningful to you and tell them how important they are to you, or to try to address any unresolved grievances and apologize for the things you may regret. And there’s one relationship you need to focus on in particular: the one with your spouse or significant other. Put more work into this relationship than you do into anything else: your house, your car, or your job, etc. Celebrate your spouse every day. Tell her (or him!) all the time how beautiful she is and how lucky you are to have her in your life. Trust me: this can make such a great difference in your emotional health, your stress levels, and your overall happiness! I truly believe that I would not be as happy as I am today without the love of my wife, and I also believe that my breakdown would have been much worse without her support.

10. Take control of what you can. If you’re reading this, chances are your life isn’t exactly stress-free. It’s practically impossible to live in the modern world without a million worries ranging from work deadlines to bills to clogged gutters. While you aren’t omnipotent, you probably can influence at least a few of the things that are causing your anxiety. Try to eliminate or minimize situations that are stressors instead of constantly dealing with their effects. Often, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference when it comes to relieving stress.

Start by identifying the two or three things that cause you the most stress on a consistent basis – maybe having a messy house is one. Often, you’ll find that there are concrete things you can do to lessen or even eliminate the pressure. For example, you might have a frank discussion with your spouse and kids regarding chores. Or, you might finally hire a cleaning person to help you once or twice a month if you can now afford it. Also, if you can’t eliminate or change a stressor, such as a job you hate but can’t afford to quit, challenge yourself to handle it differently. Specifically, decide beforehand how you will react in a more enlightened way when certain stressful situations occur – actually visualize yourself handling them with poise instead of becoming outwardly or inwardly worked up. Having a game plan in place before the “beast” rears its ugly head really can reduce your negative reactions to stressors—big time.

11. Being friendly is a good investment.
 In our culture, it’s become a badge of honor to stride around with an air of importance and a stony face. After all, if you’re too busy to say hello, you must be important. Yes, it’s easy to become absorbed by your responsibilities – but you’re not doing yourself any favors by shutting out the rest of the world. Even if you don’t have time to answer all of your emails, you can still smile at people in the hall and say a friendly hello to the cashier in the grocery store. Making positive connections will bring more happiness to you and to others.

Have you noticed that although our society is more and more “connected” by technology, we interact less and less with other people on a meaningful, face-to-face level than ever before? Our plugged-in lifestyles aren’t doing us as many favors as we thought they would. Even when we’re not at work, we’re likely to be glued to our smartphones or laptops, which amps up our stress. Make a conscious effort to unplug and make a friendly connection with another human – even a simple smile or hello is great. The fact is, everyone on Earth is carrying some sort of burden. You can’t make their pain, stress, or grief just magically disappear…but you can be what I call a “lamp-lighter” – someone who makes others feel just a little bit lighter and happier on their journey, even if only for five seconds. When you make friendliness a habit, you’ll attract kindness and smiles in return…and you’ll feel great about yourself for making a positive difference in the world!

12. Helping others is the soul food of life. One of the (many) negative side effects of our busy lives is that we tend to think mostly about ourselves: how much work we have left on that big presentation, how we’re going to find time to take the kids to sports practice and pick up groceries, and much, much more. No matter how busy you are now, consider helping others to be an integral part of the healthy work/life balance that will help you to avoid unhappiness. This will give you perspective, make you feel good, and will prevent you from staying in the negative me-focused cycle that was making you unhappy in the first place.

Since my breakdown, I’ve become very involved in philanthropy. I’ve found that it really is better to give than to receive, and that reaching out a helping hand to someone who isn’t as fortunate as you tends to quash selfish impulses and highlight your own blessings. Giving of yourself doesn’t have to involve money, either – remember that your time, talents, and compassion are just as valuable as cash, if not more so. Consider visiting a disabled veteran at the VA, or simply rolling your neighbor’s trashcan up the driveway! And if you have kids, you’ll be setting a wonderful example for them. I promise you, whether you’re giving time, energy, money, or encouragement, being generous will build up your self-esteem, broaden your perspective, keep you anchored in reality, and connect you to your blessings – all components of a happy life.

13. It’s important to connect with something bigger than yourself. Yes, spirituality (much like politics) is a touchy subject. But believing in something bigger than yourself is essential to developing the kind of perspective you need to be happy. Whether you consider your Higher Power to be God, Yahweh, Allah, Buddha, Krishna, the Universe, or even just Nature or another entity, being willing and able to see and feel His (or Her, if you prefer!) presence in your life will enable you to move away from self-centeredness and focus your energy and concerns on the greater community. It’ll also provide solace and give meaning to unfortunate events and troubling life circumstances.

Personally, I’ve been connected to the Jewish faith for my entire life. But it was only after my breakdown that I really allowed my faith to grow. My personal belief that God exists and cares about me has changed the way I view the world—but you don’t need to espouse my beliefs, or even join an organized religion and attend services regularly. What I do hope you’ll do is make an effort to clarify your thoughts about faith and also make an effort to connect to your Higher Power, whether it’s through prayer, meditation, writing in a journal, doing random acts of kindness, or just spending time in nature. Eventually, I hope you’ll begin to see your Higher Power as a source of inspiration, renewal, strength, guidance, and aid – as I do.

14. A grateful heart is a happy heart. It’s very easy to take things for granted: the information your coworker emailed you, the fact that your car is running, and even the food you’re eating for dinner. The fact is, most of us have gotten into the habit of ignoring all of the good things in our lives. Instead, we focus our mental energy on being upset about what’s wrong and what we don’t have. Yes, cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” might be a clichéd concept, but the humility that comes from knowing you owe so much to so many others will, in turn, spur you to give back more often to those less fortunate than yourself. Plus, studies have actually shown that thankful individuals are 25 percent healthier than their counterparts, too!

To start tapping into the power of gratitude, just say “thanks” to the people who help you out during your day. And beyond that, try to notice all of the blessings in your life. If you live in America, you have access to great education, healthcare, and the freedom to worship and work as you choose. Those are huge things to be thankful for right out of the gate! We take these “basics” and much more for granted, and we often have others—whether it’s an ancestor of ours, a veteran, or a coworker—to thank for them. It’s extremely important to be aware of all of your blessings, and to honor and thank those whom you owe.

15. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. All of the things I have learned from my breakdown will help you to cut your stress levels, and they’ll also aid you in cultivating a more balanced, happier life. But it’s also important to realize that feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or depressed are all very serious, and you shouldn’t expect yourself to easily “fix” these issues on your own.

If you feel that you’re in over your head, or if your best efforts aren’t working, please reach out and ask for help. I might never have recovered after my breakdown without the help of my friends, family, and medical professionals. This is all big stuff. You shouldn’t—in fact, you can’t—make big changes in your life alone. At the very least, you’ll need the support of those who love you.

Ultimately, I’ve learned that the quality of your life is largely up to you. If you’re anything like me – and if you’re honest with yourself – you’ll have to confess that a striving, stressful lifestyle is not making you happy. I’ll admit that many of the changes I’m asking you to make in order to avoid more unhappiness (and perhaps even a breakdown) go against what society says you should do if you want to be successful. But I have found out the hard way that a “successful” yet stressed out and unhappy life is certainly not, in reality, a truly successful life at all.

Todd Patkin is the Author of Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and – Finally – Let the Sunshine In (StepWise Press, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-9658261-9-8, $19.95). The book is available at bookstores nationwide, from major online booksellers, and at www.findinghappinessthebook.com.

How to Divorce and Not Wreck the Kids – Doc Zone

how to divorce and not wreck the kidsCelia. Photo credit: Roland Rickus

HOW TO DIVORCE & NOT WRECK THE KIDS

Watch the full episode online.

43:47 minutes 

 

How to Divorce & Not Wreck the Kids takes viewers inside one of life’s most devastating transitions as three Canadian couples, determined to keep the needs of their children first, work through their separations on camera.

The “divorce from hell” stories grab headlines: couples who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars destroying each other and, incidentally, their children. But in this country, there is another reality. Grassroots Canadians are at the heart of a quiet revolution – couples working on “good” divorces, which acknowledge that the end of a marriage isn’t the end of a family. Because research says: separating parents who co-operate can raise children who are as emotionally healthy as kids from intact families.

familyLionel and Sally with children Rhys and and Gareth

As filming begins, the split between Sally and Lionel is still fresh and raw. And cooperating will be a challenge for Sally since she didn’t want the marriage to end. Sally and Lionel were married for 17 years and are parents to three boys, from 11 to 4 years old. They agree to a new and controversial process called Collaborative Divorce, because they believe it will help them focus on what’s best for their children. If only anger and bitterness don’t derail the process.

Roland and Carolye were married for 13 years and have two kids. They transitioned out of their marriage into something of a friendship — but that friendship will be tested as Roland seeks 50-50 custody of their children. Carolye and Roland will try to hammer out an agreement without professional help, using a do-it-yourself divorce kit.

mike and melissaMike and Melissa with their twins.

After five years of marriage and three-year-old twins, Mike and Melissa split shortly after Christmas, the busiest time in the divorce world. They’re each passionate about being there for all the important moments in the children’s lives, even though it’s uncomfortable being in the same room together. When they reach an impasse in their separation negotiations, Mike and Melissa turn to a mediator to break the deadlock.

Three courageous Canadian couples invite you to witness the end of their marriages…as they struggle to overcome their anger and fear and stay focused on How to Divorce & Not Wreck the Kids.

How to Divorce & Not Wreck the Kids is produced by Bountiful Films Inc. in association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Doc Zone

Take a journey every Thursday night as DOC ZONE explores the major stories of our time. Around the corner, around the world, our cameras bring viewers a sweeping panoramic view of what matters most to Canadians.

Episode Features

NEW: Information for Kids

Want to help your child understand what’s happening as you separate or divorce? 

Take them on a tour of “Changeville,” a pioneering on-line resource for children 6 to 11 – whose families are breaking up. 
It’s fun and it’s FREE. 
Enter here.

Discussion

Talk about this film online with other viewers. Visit our discussion board.

Listen Online

The Current interview a couple trying colloborative divorce and the director of How To Divorce and Not Wreck The Kids. Listen to the interview online.

Facts about Divorce in Canada

  • According to lawyers in Canada and the U.S., January is the busiest month in the divorce business. And in Britain, January 8th is actually called “D Day” because that’s the day when most divorces are initiated.
  • In Canada, one in two unions fails, most before the 14-year mark.
  • Only 5 percent of couples actually sit down and tell their children they are separating, and what it will mean to them.
  • Women initiate approximately two-thirds of separations and divorces.
  • Joint Custody, when there are two loving and interested parents, works best for children.

Problems Divorced Kids Face

  • More problems with authority figures, their peers and their parents.
  • Two times more likely to develop psychological problems like anxiety, depression and self-esteem issues.
  • More marijuana and alcohol use, compared to married family children.
  • Lack of parental monitoring.
  • Divorced kids drop out of school two to three times the rate of married family children.

For suggestions in avoiding these problems read: Dr. Joan Kelly’s Top Ten Ways To Protect Your Kid’s from the Fallout of a High Conflict Break-up

Divorce Toolkit

Find out what a collaborative divorce participation agreement looks like. This is the document couples and their lawyers sign which sets the tone for collaborating, not litigating.

On the night that Sally and Lionel decided they were going to separate, they sat down together and drafted this statement, which became their guide for their own behavior as they worked through their separation. It’s a very good example for other parents.

Download a copy of Dr. Joan Kelly’s Tipsheet and hersuggestions for talking to kids about divorce.

Shared Parenting Calendar Software

Visit our resource section for more links.

About the Producers

 

HOW TO DIVORCE & NOT WRECK THE KIDS

Watch the full episode online.

43:47 minutes 

 

Maureen Palmer and Helen SlingerProducers, Maureen Palmer and Helen Slinger

Writer/Director/Producer:Maureen Palmer has spent the last eight years in the world of independent documentaries and factual entertainment, after two decades in news and current affairs at CBC Radio and Television. As an independent filmmaker she has produced several documentaries alongside How to Divorce & Not Wreck the Kids producer Helen Slinger for their Vancouver-based company,Bountiful Films including – Leaving BountifulPolygamy’s Lost Boys and the Bully’s Mark. Maureen has worked as a story editor, story producer, and series producer for a wide variety of North American broadcasters, including — Making It Big for the Life Network, Glutton For Punishment for the Food Network and The Week the Women Went for CBC. Her work has won several awards, from Bronze and Silver at the New York Festivals, a Jack Webster Award, the B’nai B’rith League of Human Rights Award for Best Documentary, and the Canadian Association of Journalists Award for Best Documentary.

Maureen Palmer & Divorce: Raised in Sudbury, Maureen has lived in Toronto, Edmonton and now Vancouver. She has been divorced for more than a decade. For most of that decade, Maureen flew every 2nd week or so from Vancouver to Edmonton to spend a long weekend in the basement of her old matrimonial home, where she could do the “mom” thing for her two daughters. Ex-husband, journalist Graham Thomson, made many jokes about having the “ex-wife in the basement,” but the reality was: this unorthodox relationship allowed their children to grow up with both parents in their lives as much as possible. Maureen admits to stumbling, making mistakes and acting like an adolescent at times, but her daughters Erin, 27, and Heather, 22, think mistakes were few and far between. They actually suggested this documentary, when they thanked her and their father for allowing them to grow up in a home free of conflict.

Read an interview with Maureen Palmer.

Writer/Producer: Helen Slinger is a master storyteller whose work spans three decades. Recent documentary writer/director credits include the Bully’s MarkEmbracing Bob’s Killer, and Leaving Bountiful. Helen’s written a legion of documentaries for other directors, and is a highly-respected story editor and script doctor. Various projects have won Gemini nominations, Finalist New York festivals, Platinum Award Worldfest Houston, Jury Award Yorkton Short Film & Video Festival, selection Montreal World Film Festival, selection Vancouver International Film Festival, selection Girlfest Hawaii, a Gracie Allen (Foundation of American Women In Radio & TV), RTNDA (Radio & Television News Directors) awards, and several Columbus International Film & Television Awards including the Edgar Dale Award for excellence in non-fiction screenwriting .

Helen Slinger & Divorce: Raised in Saskatoon, Helen Slinger has lived in Toronto, Victoria BC and now North Vancouver. She’s been happily divorced for more than 20 years and is the mother of one bio-daughter from that marriage. Since the divorce, Helen and her daughter’s dad have celebrated together every Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthday (hers, his, their daughter’s and his son’s from an earlier marriage). Knowing her not to be a saint, Helen’s friends initially thought she was nuts. At the time, this was not a fashionable way to divorce … and, to be clear, the divorce was not all lovey-dovey amicable. So this small c collaborative divorce was an active choice to go against the tide. Today Helen’s daughter and step-son express gratitude for the family that remained after the marriage ended and Helen feels very proud of herself and of her daughter’s dad. Tucked in with the old greetings cards around the house is a Mother’s Day card from her then 14-year-old daughter in which she lists the things she appreciates about Mom. High up on the list: “the way you get along with my dad”.

Producer: Sue Ridout chose the life of an independent producer after twenty award-winning years in network news and current affairs at both CTV and CBC Television. During her tenure as the Executive Producer of News & Current Affairs for CBC Television in Vancouver, her team won more than 100 awards. Now Sue produces and directs documentaries for broadcasters including CBC, CTV, History Channel and Knowledge Network. She has produced two other documentaries for CBC’s Doc Zone series: Embracing Bob’s Killer, about a woman who forgives the man who killed her husband; and Desperately Seeking Doctors, about the lack of family physicians in Canada. Sue uses her considerable management skills to coordinate business affairs on documentaries for other companies, like Bountiful Films.

Spiritual Laws of Money & Abundance

Follow The Spiritual Laws of Money and Abundance.

By S. Roman & D. Packer in Abundance on February 7th, 2008 

Money is neither good nor bad; it is energy. It is the way money is used that determines whether or not it is a positive energy that will benefit you and others. If you come from the highest level of integrity with your money, if you make it in ways that benefit people, through shifting their consciousness, or through serving and making a contribution, by giving your best, honoring others, and putting attention and consciousness into what you do, you are making a contribution to humanity and to yourself. When you use money in ways that serve your higher purpose and bring you and others joy, you are creating money of light. The more money is made and spent with integrity and light, the more it becomes a force of light for everyone.

True abundance is having all you need to do your life’s work – the tools, resources, and living environment – and to live a life filled with joy and aliveness. Abundance is not an extravagant, glamorous style of living maintained purely to impress others or one that does not support your true aliveness and life’s work. Part of the essence of spirituality is the belief in true abundance – of time, love, and energy. You teach others by setting an example. It may be hard, if not impossible, to help others lead abundant lives if you do not have a feeling of abundance about your own life. You do not want living at a survival level and experiencing lack to be the examples you set. When you have the right amount of money and money works in your life, people will learn about abundance from your example.

Most war and strife come from a belief in scarcity. People who believe in scarcity often try to squeeze more and more out of nature, wasting the planet’s resources. If you want to contribute to planetary peace, you can start by believing in abundance for yourself and others. As society begins to believe that there can be abundance for everyone, new discoveries will be made that will provide unlimited energy and resources that do not pollute or deplete the earth, and there will be fewer reasons for war. There truly is the potential for abundance for everyone on the planet. If humanity believed in abundance for all, it could be created. Start by believing that it is possible for everyone to have abundance.

It is all right to have money. Some of you feel guilty about having money, especially when you look around and see others living in lack. Some people learn and grow as much by having a totally materialistic focus as others do by living in poverty. It is not more spiritual to be poor, nor is it better to be rich. If you are worried that it is not spiritual to have money, examine the times in your life when you had money, even if it was just a small amount. Remember how you used your money. You may have been able to help those around you even more. When you felt abundant, you probably felt generous and able to support others in their abundance.

The people who are clearest about money are not usually those who have large sums of money, or those who have none, but those who have just the right amount for them. People who have just the right amount are not burdened by too many possessions; their possessions serve them. They do not spend time and energy that would be best spent creating their life’s work to acquire or take care of material things. Having too much money can take you off your path if you must spend a lot of time taking care of it. Not having enough money can also take you off your path if it requires a lot of your time and energy just to survive. It is important for you to have enough money to live on. If you do not have enough, if you spend most of your time worrying about your rent and food, your time and energy are not available to do the greater work you came here to do.

Think of being rich as having enough wealth to carry out your life’s work. You may not need many material possessions to have enough. For instance, your life purpose may be to work with nature. You may live in a log cabin, spend little money, and still have all the natural resources you need to carry out your purpose. In that case, you would be rich. What is important is having enough money to do the work you came to do, and not having so much that it keeps you from the work you came to do. Having enough money means being able to put your vision into action, to transform the energy around you into a higher order. Some people may need many material things to accomplish their life purpose. They may need to work with a group of people who will only listen to and respect them if they have an appearance of wealth and power.

Material possessions may provide some with a spiritual experience, teaching them what they need to learn in this lifetime, just as not having money may be a great teacher for others. Some people gain great freedom and growth from having money; some people gain freedom and growth from not having money.

How much money people need is an individual matter; do not judge others for what they have or do not have. Some people may be amassing fortunes that will later be used for the good of humanity, even if at present they don’t plan on using their money this way and aren’t on a spiritual path. You cannot know the larger purpose of anyone’s path. It is good to measure people’s success not by how much money they make or have, but by the degree to which they are fulfilling their life purpose, are happy about their lives, have the right amount of money, and believe in themselves.

As you become more prosperous yourself, it is likely that you will be around prosperous people. As you think in terms of prosperity, your vibration begins to change and you attract other people who think in terms of abundance as well. Do not feel jealous or threatened by someone who is successful. Realize that if you are close to a person who is succeeding, you are beginning to have that same vibration of success yourself. Begin now to believe that everyone’s success means even more success for you. If everyone around you begins to succeed, then you are surrounded with the vibration of success, and your success will grow even faster. When you hear of other people’s good fortune, appreciate their success, knowing that it affirms the abundance that is available for you as well.

Many of you think that you have to get your work out to a large number of people or be number one in your field to truly be successful. It is not wrong to feel competitive if that feeling helps you do your best at your job, but don’t feel that others who succeed in what you are doing can take away from your success. There is an unlimited supply of success. Every person in the world can be successful. Realize that you have your special place, and what you are here to do is in some way special and unique, no matter how many people are doing similar things. Are there people or companies you are competing with? Are you worried that their success might mean a loss to you? Take a moment to picture them succeeding beyond your wildest dreams. Then, imagine a reason why their success will be beneficial to you.

Know that there is no one else in the world who is going to do your work exactly as you do it. Even if it appears that others are doing the same work, they are probably reaching a different group of people, or reaching the same group in a different way. It is better to focus on living up to your potential. Are you putting the wants of people you serve first? Are you following your inner messages? As you do, you will shine. You will have all the business and abundance you want. Enjoy the process of getting your work out, not just to strive for recognition and fame. Let it be all right not to be number one, have the most clients, make the most money, or do it all yourself.

Do not worry about someone else taking away your idea, or doing what you are doing better than you are. As long as you do the best you know how and put out the finest quality product or service you can offer, you will be richly rewarded. It doesn’t matter what other people do. Even if someone is claiming the credit right now for your good work, don’t stop putting out quality work. You will be rewarded eventually. As with the tortoise and the hare, the one who works consistently and steadily, doing a good job all the time, will have more abundance and make a greater mark in the world than the person who takes shortcuts to beat everyone else out.

If you are competing with other job applicants for a job, or with other businesses for a client, or are wanting to get a grant or funding, do not view yourself as competing with others. If it is for your highest good to get the money, client, or job, you will. Always do your best in your grant applications, job interviews, and sales presentations; write or go to only those people your inner messages direct you to, and you will find your money or job. If you get it, do not worry that you have taken something away from someone else.

The universe is perfect and abundant, and others will receive exactly what is best for them. You cannot take away from others. Your opportunities are meant for you, and those that aren’t for you will be given to others. If you are competing for anything right now – a job, funding, a loan, a scholarship, or an apartment – see if you can let go of your worry and trust that the best outcome will occur for all of you. Trust that what is meant to be yours will be yours; the universe is always working to bring your higher good to you.

Don’t view your coworkers or those around you as competitors; see them as friends. Cooperation will get you much further than competition. One man who worked for a company wanted to be the vice president in a short period of time. He went around telling everyone of his ambitions, often praising his own work. He undermined the work of other employees so that his own work would appear better, and tried to take the credit himself for work that others had done. Another man in the same company simply wanted to do the best job he could. He was constantly thinking of his fellow employees, took on extra jobs, helped his boss out whenever he could, and performed the job he was hired for with attention and love. The first man was not promoted and quit in anger with many grievances against the company that “just couldn’t appreciate him.” The second man went on to become vice president.

When you think of others and yourself, have thoughts of riches, prosperity, success, and goodness. Having such thoughts helps make them come true. Let your thoughts about everyone be of their increased good. Picture everyone as successful. Sometimes people bring financial hardship to themselves by dwelling on other people’s financial difficulties, for what you focus on is what you draw to yourself. Rather than talking about how hard life is for people, send them compassion and light; see them getting out of their difficult situations and experiencing abundance. The positive pictures and love you send out will come back to you many times over.

One storekeeper increased his business dramatically by sending love and envisioning success for everyone who came into his store. People were magnetically drawn to his shop. If you hear friends complaining of lack, remind them of what they do have. When you are around people who talk of financial problems, see if you can change the subject or help them appreciate the abundance they have already created.

You may be hoping that your wealth will come from winning a lottery. To win, be ready to receive the money. While many of you hope to win, you don’t truly expect to win. People who win are committed to winning, and have dealt with their beliefs that say getting money this way is too easy, or too good to be true. Even more important, if winning the money would stop you from doing your life’s work, your higher self will keep you from winning. Winning a large sum of money can create more challenges than you think. It is important to have the right amount of money, and if a huge windfall would put your life out of balance, your higher self will most probably keep it from you.

Depending on how prepared you are to have a large windfall, many things in your life will change. Getting money gradually, at a pace you can adjust to, is a gift. You can get used to handling a larger energy flow in a balanced, stable way. You have the time to try out various actions before large sums are involved. If you aren’t prepared to handle a larger amount and you do get it, your higher self may find many ways for you to let go of it. Many people who have won or inherited large sums have also lost or spent them in just a few years; their own energy and the larger sum of money weren’t in harmony. Those who do keep their windfalls often keep the same jobs and homes and bank the money, slowly getting used to the increased amount.

Play lotteries if you grow from the process. For many people lotteries provide an opportunity to visualize themselves as abundant, and that picture helps them draw in abundance in other ways. Every time they buy lottery tickets, they feel the possible joy of winning, and bring that feeling into their lives. That may be precisely the feeling their souls want them to develop. You can create the same experience by visualizing your success, imagining having what you want, and making the picture as real and vivid as possible.

When you have money, see your money as a source of good; see it as potential to create higher purpose that has yet to be converted into substance and form. Keep picturing all your money in the bank or in your wallet as money that is awaiting your command to go out and create good for you and others. Appreciate your abundance, and realize that you have learned to tap in to the unlimited abundance of the universe. Your money is awaiting the opportunity to bring you good, and to improve your life and the lives of others.

About the author:
Sanaya Roman has been channeling Orin, a wise and gentle spirit teacher, for more than twenty years. All of Orin’s work assists people in unfolding their potential, finding their inner wisdom, and in growing their spirituality. Duane Packer has been channeling DaBen for many years, teaching people how to sense subtle energy and work with it to transform their reality. Both authors reside in Oregon and their website is www.orindaben.com.

Based on the book Creating Money. Copyright © 1988, 2008 by Sanaya Roman and Duane Packer. Reprinted with permission of H J Kramer / New World Library, Novato, CA. Additional information at www.orindaben.com

 

Money making you crazy? Therapy the answer?

If your relationship with money is making you crazy, therapy might be the answer – Winnipeg Free Press.

 

It’s one of the longest and most important relationships you’ll have in your life — and one where your love and devotion is guaranteed to go unrequited.

But forget about breaking up, because even if you don’t care too much for money, we’re talking about a till-death-do-you-part union. So if you and your bank account aren’t getting along, maybe it’s time for some financial psychotherapy.

You’re obviously the one with all the baggage. But Dr. Moira Somers can help you unpack it and sort through the emotional, motivational and interpersonal reasons you treat money the way you do.

“I help people make friends with their financial lives,” says Somers, a Winnipeg-based psychologist, life coach and “financial recovery expert.”

Financial psychology, like neuroeconomics and behavioural finance, is an emerging field that explores how people make decisions around money. As with food, our relationship with cold, hard cash is complicated and can bring out strong emotions and irrational behaviour. Money is at the core of most of our fears and anxieties. And it can destroy our relationships, our self-esteem and our health.

People repeatedly identify it as the biggest source of stress in their lives, says Somers.

Painful stress around money, she says, tends to show up in a lot of disordered behaviour, such as chronic debt, overspending, under-earning and using money as a means, unconsciously and inadvertently, to exercise power and control.

“It’s a complex topic,” Somers says. “Money is this vital life resource, which is good at doing what it was meant to — provide for our physical comfort and safety — but we embed it with power and emotional security, or we imbue it with evil and sin.

“And we ask money all the time to do things it was never intended to do.”

Things such as affirm our self-worth, comfort us (retail therapy, anyone?), distract us from nagging insecurities or fill an inner void.

In her new book, Geneen Roth, the author of the New York Times bestseller Women, Food and God who lost her life savings in the Bernie Madoff scam, offers insight into how unconscious relationships with money are akin to those with food.

In Lost and Found: Unexpected Revelations about Food and Money, Roth, a self-proclaimed shirker of fiscal responsibility, draws comparisons between what made her a compulsive eater and what put her in a “financial haze.”

“We are one integrated system and we express the things we believe through the various actions we take — like shopping, spending and eating,” the author said in recent interview with Time.com. “If someone feels a lack of self-worth, this will manifest in many different areas of his or her life.”

While there’s no shortage of good financial or dieting advice, Roth said, it’s hard to follow it until you become aware that you’re using money (or food) for emotional reasons.

“When linear objective advice meets emotional needs,” she told Time.com, “the latter always wins.”

We all have a money story that began in childhood, when we developed a belief system around money, Somers says. “Depending on the many scripts that are embedded in childhood experience, or embedded by our culture, we end up making decisions based on those beliefs.”

Under-earners, for example, are self-saboteurs who don’t live up to their earning potential because they may have a hard time asking for what they’re worth, Somers says. They may earn $10 an hour or pull in six figures a year, but they tend to live paycheque to paycheque, are often in debt, and have “a high tolerance for low pay.”

People who believe money is scarce may cling to it and become rigid and unyielding in that part of their life. Somers says she has worked with families of “tremendous wealth” who have this script operating to some extent.

People in helping professions are often conflicted about money, she says, because the desire to help and the need to make a living can feel at odds with each other. To compensate, they’ll sometimes take on too many clients or overload their schedules with pro bono work.

Children who witness their parents fight about money may grow up to be adults who view it as inherently problematic and who make a decision, conscious or otherwise, to kind of tune out financially, Somers says.

Money scripts are often born out of emotional pain, she says, and a desire to protect the self from further pain. Which is why so many people just kind of go unconscious with respect to their finances.

Somers helps people wake up to their financial reality in several ways. In addition to one-on-one or couples psychotherapy, she also offers money coaching — where your psyche and your financial records get probed and you end up with a financial plan to follow — a tele-seminar series on women and money, and workshops on couples and cash and raising financially savvy kids.

Money, she says, is a vital life resource, “but it’s also a bounded resource, like time and energy. It really helps to get conscious about how you want to direct and spend it.”

The Powerful Influence of Parents

by Jerry Lopper, Personal Growth Coach  on June 13, 2011 »

Image By Colin Brough

The influence of our parents is on my mind right now. Even as we become fully functioning adults and parents ourselves, it’s intriguing to consider how much of who we are is directly attributable to beliefs and experiences we encountered as children of our parents.

I’m reminded of this in reading Into My Father’s Wake, by journalist and author Eric Best. Best leaves his job, buys a sailboat, and sails solo from San Francisco to Hawaii and return in an attempt to resolve his relationship with his parents, especially his father.

A respected journalist, Best’s marriage is failing, he feels dead-ended in his job, and he struggles with alcohol and anger. The 50 day, 5,000 mile solo journey is his attempt to find himself and correct the path of his life.

Adult Children of Abusive Parents

Interspersed with fascinating descriptions of his sailing adventures, Best shares pleasant childhood memories of long sailing voyages with his father and disturbing memories of brutal beatings with a rubber hose at his father’s hands. He recalls his mother’s silent support of her husbands discipline, and struggles to come to terms with both parents’ treatments.

Most children are raised without the abusive behaviors demonstrated in Best’s book, yet don’t we all grow up carrying mixed images of our parents’ behaviors?

Psychologists offer an explanation that makes sense. Carl Pickhardt Ph.D. is a psychologist in private counseling practice who has authored several parenting books exploring the various phases of parent/child relationships as a child moves from childhood to adolescence to adulthood.

Pickhardt explains that the child idolizes and worships her parents, the adolescent criticizes and blames her parents as she begins the process of independence, and the adult rationalizes parental behaviors as she begins to understand the complexities of parental behavior.

Parental Behaviors

The children of abusive parents experience conflicting and inconsistent adult behavior, at times nurturing and caring, at other times abusive and hurtful. Given the child’s total dependence and natural tendency to look up to her parents, the abused child is confused, ceases to trust, and may even assume she’s part of the problem. Best demonstrates how these conflicts carry into adulthood.

Children of non-abusive parents also experience conflicts. We see behaviors that are loving and caring as well as darker behaviors such as anger. We see our parents’ faults, tend to focus on those in adolescence, and may even carry their faults into adulthood as the reasons for our own failures.

Life Purpose and Our Parents

Looking at more pThe Celestine Prophecyositive aspects of parental influence, in The Celestine Prophecy, author James Redfield suggests that each person’s life purpose evolves from and extends the life purpose of their parents. Intrigued by this, I followed the suggested process of examining what each of my parents stood for (their strong beliefs and values) and where they fell short (weaknesses and limitations).

Sure enough, I could clearly see how my own life extended what each of my parent’s stood for and how I’ve developed interests and strengths which they lacked.

Since this analysis was valuable and informational to me, I added the process to my Purpose in Life Workshop content, expecting that others would also find valuable insights.

I was surprised by the responses of workshop participants. Though some found the process positive and helpful, a majority reacted strongly against the hypothesis, even resisting my encouragement to keep an open mind and explore the possibilities. It seemed a large number of people attribute their life’s problems directly to their parents.

Coming to Terms with Parents

What does this all mean? To me it simply means that parents are human beings, with the full range of human strengths and weaknesses. Parenting is tough work. Our parents made some mistakes along the way, as we have in our parenting roles.

On the road to adulthood, we’re exposed to many examples of behaviors, including the very influential examples of our parents. Whether they were outstanding parents or lacking in many ways, as adults our behaviors are ours alone. We can chose whether to copy behaviors of our parents or discard them. We can chose whether to cherish their parental talents or denounce them.

Personal growth involves insightful—sometimes painful—self-reflection. Personal growthInto My Father's Wake also involves accepting the accountability and responsibility of personal choice for our behaviors.

Eric Best reaches this conclusion near the end of his solitary 50 day voyage, deciding to cherish the love and care his father displayed in teaching him to sail, while forgiving his brutal discipline as a terrible weakness of his father’s own personal struggles.

Into My Father’s Wake is a good story of a man’s journey of self-discovery. Those without sailing knowledge may struggle a bit with the sailor’s terminology, but all will appreciate the vivid imagery Best conveys as he describes the beauty and danger of solo-oceanic travel. I found that sharing Best’s struggles with the human frailties of his parents stimulated useful self-reflection on the influence of my own parents on my adult life.

Why It’s So Hard to Find Your Life’s Purpose

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/douglas-labier/life-purpose_b_862192.html

Every being is intended to be on earth for a certain purpose.”
— Sa’di, 12th Century Persian poet

I’m often asked, “Why can’t I find the purpose of my life?” Over the decades I’ve heard many men and women — whether they’re psychotherapy patients working to build healthier lives or business executive trying to create healthier leadership — say at some point that they don’t know what they’re really here, for, on this planet. They’re not necessarily religious or spiritually inclined, but they feel a longing for that “certain something” that defines and integrates their lives.

Many turn to the various books and programs purport to identify their life’s purpose, but most come away dissatisfied. No closer than they were before, they identify with Bono’s plaintive cry in the U2’s song, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

And yet, many do find and live in harmony with their life’s purpose. Here are some of my observations about why many don’t, and how they differ from those who do.

First, I think everyone feels a pull towards some defining purpose to his or her life, no matter how much it may have become shrouded over along the way. In fact, you can say that all forms of life, all natural phenomena, have some purpose. There’s always movement or evolution towards some kind of outcome or fulfillment — whether it’s a tree that produces fruit or clouds that form to produce rain. But we humans become so enraptured by our daily activity, engagements, goals and so forth, that our awareness of our own unique life purpose is easily dimmed.

And there are consequences to not knowing or finding your purpose. I often see men
and women who’ve become successful in their work or relationships — their outer lives — and yet they feel hollow, empty, unfulfilled. They describe feeling “off-track” in some way, or incomplete, despite a conventionally successful life. Sometimes they wonder if they’ve been on the “wrong” path all along — chosen the wrong career, or the wrong life partner. Or that perhaps they haven’t realized that their chosen path could be more meaningful or purposeful to them, if they let it. Moreover, they wonder how you can tell the difference?

One thing is clear: The consequences of not finding your purpose include chronic, lingering dissatisfaction; an absence of inner peace and a sense of not being fully in sync with your inner self. That’s because your true inner self knows that your life purpose is out of sync with your outer life. The latter is often a false self, but you’ve identified with it because it’s been so rewarding to your ego.

I think most people retain at least a glimmer of awareness of their life’s purpose within their inner being. It often feels like a leaning, an inclination, that continues to pull at you. Sometimes is right in front of your eyes but you don’t allow yourself to see it, like when you’re hunting for your missing keys and then discover that they’ve been right in front of you the whole time. For example, an investment advisor found himself doing more and more work with charity organizations. He finally realized that what he felt most in sync with was hands-on work helping people. That was the part he enjoyed about his work, not the money managing per se. Helping people was his true calling, and it was staring him in the face the whole time.

Those who experience a clear inclination but don’t pursue or fulfill it remain incomplete and dissatisfied. But it’s important not to confuse seeking happiness with finding your purpose. Happiness is what you experience in the daily flow of life — the highs and lows that are situational. They will fluctuate. But purpose is deeper. It’s more of an underlying sense of peace and fulfillment overall, a sense of integration and continuous unfoldment of your being. It transcends everyday ups and downs, the disappointments or successes, even. When you’re living in accordance with your life’s purpose, you view all of the above as part of what you encounter along the road. They don’t distract you from that larger vision, your ideal, which is like a magnet steadily pulling you towards it.

Themes Of People Who Find Their Purpose

There are commonalities among those who find their true purpose for being. One major theme is that they aren’t very preoccupied with self-interest, in their ego-investments in what they do. That can sound contradictory. How can you find your life purpose if you’re not focused on yourself? The fact is, when you’re highly focused on yourself, with getting your goals or needs met — whether in your work or relationships — your purpose becomes obscured. Your ego covers it, like clouds blocking the sun. Self-interest, or ego in this sense, is part of being human, of course. It’s something that requires effort and consciousness to move through and let go of, so you don’t become transfixed by it, as the Sirens sought to do to Ulysses.

Letting go of self-interest opens the door to recognizing your true self, more clearly, so you can see whether it’s joined with your outer life and creates a sense of purpose — or clashes with it. Knowing who you are inside — your true values, secret desires, imagination; your capacity for love, empathy, generosity — all relate to and inform your life purpose.

A second theme of those who discover their life purpose is that they use their mental and creative energies to serve something larger than themselves. That is, they’re like the lover who simply gives love for its own sake, without regard for getting something in return, without asking to be loved back or viewing his actions as a transaction or investment. That can be hard to imagine in our mercantile society, but giving your mental, emotional and creative energy from the heart comes naturally when you serve something larger than your self-interest. It beckons you; it calls forth your spirit.

This theme of service to something larger than your ego, larger than “winning” the fruits of what you’re aiming for, takes many forms in people. For some, their service and sense of purpose is embodied in the work that they do every day. That is, what they do reflects the paradox of not directly aiming to achieve something, because doing so only fuels the ego. This theme is described by John Kay, former Director of Oxford’s Business School, in “Obliquity.” There, he shows examples of achieving business or career goals by pursuing them indirectly; by deliberately not pursuing them. That is, too much self-interest tends to undermine success. It’s the difference between passion in the service of creating a new product, rather than trying to capture a big market share from the product.

Service towards something beyond ego is always visible in those who’ve found their purpose, whether younger and older. Sometimes it’s by conscious intent. For example, letting go of a previous path when they awaken to it’s not being in sync with their inner self. Sometimes it’s triggered by unanticipated events that answers an inner yearning

One example is a 20-something woman who, disenchanted with college, returned home and happen to join up with some other musician and artist friends. That led, in turn, to creating a nonprofit organization, the GoodMakers Street Team, a group of passionate young adults who are bringing positive change to communities. Older people are also discovering a newly-found life purpose. For example, the rise of “encore careers” and projects or engagements that they discover are more in sync with their inner selves; and perhaps have lingered in the background of their lives for years.

Sometimes one’s purpose is awakened by a tragedy one learns about, such as person who become moved by victims of torture and discovered his life’s purpose in helping them. Or, a tragedy one experiences, like John Walsh, whose nationally-known work in criminal justice was spurred by the murder of his young son.

Some Guidelines

If you work towards weakening the stranglehold of self-interest, you can take an important step towards discovering your life’s purpose: Learning from your choices and way of life. That is, they can give you important feedback about the path you’ve been on, in relation to your deeper life purpose.

    1. Begin by examining what you’re currently doing in your choices, way of life, and commitments, looking from “outside” yourself. Try to discern what the outcomes — whether successes or failures — reveal to you about your inner self. Look for where there seems to be resonance or not. That is, don’t try to “find” your purpose by tweaking or fine-tuning what you’ve been doing in your work, relationships or anything else. Instead, let all of that teach you what it can. That is, look at what it tells you about your longings, your inner vision and predilections that you might be trying to express through your outer life, even if the latter may be an incorrect vehicle.
    1. When you do feel a pull towards some purpose, activity or goal that you feel reflects your inner self, then pursue it fully and vigorously, and with great intent. Keep looking for the feedback your actions give you along the way. It doesn’t matter if your purpose is something more concrete or more spiritual. If you pursue it with minimal self-interest, with “obliquity,” you will learn from what happens if it’s the true path for you or not.
  1. Infuse all of your actions with a spirit of giving, of service; in effect, with love for what you’re engaging with. That includes all the people you interact with, as well. The more you consciously infuse your thoughts, emotions and behavior with positive, life-affirming energy – kindness, compassion, generosity, justice – you’re keeping your ego at bay and you’re able to see your true purpose with greater clarity.

Of course, this is hard, and you might encounter opposition from cultural pressures or others who have their own interests at stake. Keep in mind, here, something Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:

Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.

The Sufi spiritual leader Hazrat Inayat Khan, who brought his teachings to the U.S. and Western Europe in the early 1900s, described the pull of your purpose in an interesting way. He wrote that one

…may suddenly think during the night, “I must go to the north,” and in the morning, he sets out on his journey. He does not know why, he does not know what he is to accomplish there, he only knows that he must go. By going there, he finds something that he has to do and sees that it was the hand of destiny pushing him towards the accomplishment of that purpose which inspired him to go to the north.

I find that men and women who set out to “go north” and awaken to their life purpose radiate a calm inner strength, inspiration, power and success in whatever they do with their lives. It radiates to all around them.

* * * * *Douglas LaBier, Ph.D., a business psychologist and psychotherapist, is Director of the Center for Progressive Development in Washington, D.C. You may email him at dlabier@CenterProgressive.org