“All of the significant battles are waged within the self,” wrote Sheldon Kopp. Some of our biggest inside battles are changing habits to create a more meaningful, congenial life with others. Instead we instinctively, unhappily focus on:
• Those who seem much happier and more successful
• Our past failures, betrayals and regrets
You know that sharing your goals with others is a reinforcing nudge to stick to them, especially if you buddy up, or create a mutual accountability group. So let’s practice actionable, research-based tips together, to keep us on that longed-for path to living a meaningful life. Even if the research is sometimes faulty the placebo effect of believing in it may boost our performance. For both those reasons here are six tips for turning the page to the next chapter of the adventure story we are truly meant to live.
“Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use,” Charles M. Schulz once wrote. Gretchen Rubin told Anne Kreamer that when clerking for U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, “I realized that I would rather fail as a writer than succeed as a lawyer.” Rubin turned her hobby into her job, and wrote Power, Money, Fame, Sex, then The Happiness Project, which has been on the New York Times best-seller list for years, nudged on by an avid fan base she has thoughtfully and consistently nourished. Like many of us, you may need a nudge towards getting a clear picture of the specific kinds of situations in which you excel and enjoy yourself. To help you, Find Your Strongest Life provides a concrete approach that I believe works for anyone, even though it was written for women. Alternatively, manyare already keenly aware that they have diverse interests and talents yet are stumped when thinking of how create a life where they use them.
See how others have succeeded in Marci Alboher’s affirming and actionable book, One Person/Multiple Careers. On this path of strongest passion you are more likely to see life as an experience rather than a performance for others, as Peter Bregman does.
2. Get Greater Performance with Additive Thinking
Yet performance improvement is also satisfying. To learn from mistakes and increase performance and satisfaction, avoid subtractive thinking. That’s feeling and expressing regret for what didn’t work out, suggests Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman in their new book, Top Dog. For example, “If only I’d made that shot.” Instead immediately de-briefly with yourself and others to focus on others ways you can perform better if it is a task or make improvements if it is a project.
That’s additive thinking: “If only I’d driven to the hoop rather than settle for the jumper,” suggests the co-authors: “Additive thinking helps competitors learn from mistakes and recover after a setback. Beware: Additive Thinking is not to be confused with Positive Thinking; it’s a form of critical analysis.” What defines us is how well we rise after fall.
3. Sidestep the Doubled-Edged Sword of Comparison
As soon as you notice that you are feeling “less than” or “better than” others step back a moment emotionally. Save yourself from the twin pangs of torment. Instead, Tony Schwartz suggests you follow family therapist, Terrence Real’s advice. When feeling envious, ask yourself “How do I hold myself in warm regard, despite my imperfections?” When feeling superior, ask yourself, “How can I hold this person in warm regard, despite his/her imperfections?” or, adds Schwartz, “”What do I truly appreciate in this other person?”
Even and especially when you get intimidated, envious or irritated with someone else, an empowering way to switch moods and perhaps even cultivate a connection rather than evoke enmity, is to offer apt assistance. “It’s actually the difficult situations in your life that make you who you are. NOT the easy ones,” believes Adam Rifkin. He’s an inspiring example, in Give and Take, of attracting opportunities, influence and friendship, through generous, astute giving. This 106 Miles founder and PandaWhale will become even more famous and sought-after, after Adam M. Grant’s book comes out.
Hint: A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. See the rest of the tips at my Forbes column.