Are You Putting on a Smiling Face?

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”  -Proverbs 17:22

Dear Friend,

Women tend to show their emotions on their faces more than men, and research shows we are also more adept at reading emotional expressions than men. It is possible then that as a woman, you are more impacted by a smiling face than your male counterparts.

An article in Scientific American pointed to research at the University of Cardiff in Wales studied women who were injected with Botox that inhibited their ability to frown. The results showed that those unable to frown reported feeling happier and less anxious. Interestingly, they did not report feeling any more attractive than the women who did not receive Botox injections, so researchers concluded that the happy feelings could not be attributed to giddiness about having fewer wrinkles. “It would appear that the way we feel emotions isn’t just restricted to our brain – there are parts of our bodies that help and reinforce the feelings we’re having,” noted the study’s co-author Michael Lewis, in the article. “It’s like a feedback loop.”

Negative feelings don’t just bring a frown, but the frown brings additional negative feelings. Without the ability to frown, the negative feelings are less intense. Another study, published in theJournal of Pain, showed that those who make unhappy faces while experiencing pain report feeling higher levels of pain than those who relax their faces while experiencing pain. Again, the facial expression intensifies the feeling. These findings mirror the physiological response of a smile. Happy feelings don’t just bring a smile to your face. A smile on your face brings happy feelings. There is a feedback loop between your face and your feelings.

To be clear, you should not avoid frowning when you are sad in order to thwart negative feelings on a regular basis. Research shows that if you suppress your negative emotions altogether, they will eventually emerge in other ways.

Even though science proves that smiling – whether genuine or not – can bring happy feelings, it is much better when you can actually have a real reason to smile. Sometimes, this means taking yourself less seriously. Finding a way to laugh at yourself – or just laugh period is a sure way to a genuine smile. How many times do you smile a day? When encountered with negative feelings, in what ways can you find a reason to smile? Leave your comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time…

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Cherish It. Feel It. Savor It.

Dear Friend,

Anticipation is savoring the future, but there are two other ways to savor that will make creating something to look forward to all the more worthwhile: Savoring the moment and then reminiscing about it. Once you’ve spent time anticipating the experience, make sure you actually enjoy the experience. In our text-happy, social-media saturated culture, there is a temptation that didn’t exist before: The temptation to tell everybody what you’re up to while you’re up to it! Resist the urge. Fully engage in your moment once it arrives. Cherish it. Feel it. Taste it. Savor it. This very moment will never come again.

When I was a little girl in Panama City, Florida, I looked forward with great anticipation to getting to play in the backyard. It wasn’t just any backyard. Somehow, we lucked out. We lived on an Air Force base and our house just happened to be on the side of the street that backed up to the Gulf of Mexico. The view was spectacular. So at 5 or 6 years old, one of my favorite pastimes was sitting on my swing set in the middle of the backyard and watching the dolphins jump and play around three large poles about 100 yards from the water’s edge. I’d count the number of dolphins and number of jumps. I’d get excited when they jumped completely over a poll rather than just bobbing out of the water. It was a real treat for me when the dolphins decided to play.

Just a few months before I turned seven years old, my parents brought me into the kitchen to explain that we were moving. I didn’t really comprehend the concept at first – it had never occurred to me that we’d live anywhere other than where we were. And we weren’t just moving down the street or even to another city. We were moving to another country: West Germany.

As the time neared for us to move, my six-year old mind decidedly wanted to forever remember what it felt like to sit in the blissfulness of that backyard ritual. Somehow, even at that young age, I knew how special it was. I recall sitting on my swing, telling myself the year and the place and taking a mental snapshot of the beautiful view in front of me. Even now – decades later – I can close my eyes and feel transported to that joyful moment in time.

Savoring is a powerful to induce positive emotion. There are three ways we savor – the past, present and future. Although anticipation is about savoring the future, it is worthy to note that you can also generate positive emotion by savoring the moments you once anticipated. Whether it is a mental snapshot, a photographic snapshot or a conversation reminiscing about a special moment, savoring the past is one way to extend the joy beyond the moment. Think back to a vivid, specific moment in your life when you were filled with joy. What happened? How did you feel? Who were you with? Leave your comments below, I want to hear from you!

How Fear is Fueling Your Spending Habit

In my twenties, I hate to admit I spent way too much time and money buying stuff that, at the time made me feel successful.  With credit card debt, student and car loans, and a very average income, many of the things I bought should never have been up for consideration. I wouldn’t buy it now so I know I had no business buying it then. It was emotional spending, meant to make me feel better.  In reality, I felt worse, digging myself into a deeper hole to keep up with the Joneses.

Of the four core fears I talk about in Get Unstuck, Be Unstoppable, my core fear – disapproval – drove my spending choices. I spent money to gain approval and acceptance. Perhaps you can relate, or perhaps it is another emotion that drives you. You might spend on your kids to overcompensate for a parent who isn’t there or guilt for the long hours you work. Your super-competitive attitude might tempt you to constant “one-up” on others and keep up appearances. Or spending might just be a way to temporarily ease your loneliness or sadness.

When I decided to stop working so hard to look successful and started working hard to actually be successful, my priorities shifted. Although it didn’t happen overnight, I stopped worrying about impressing others and started being true to myself.  What is God impressed by? Good stewardship. Humility. Generosity. Love. What does it mean to be true to myself? To honor my future self by taking care of myself through investments, climbing out of debt and valuing experiences and people over things.  As I answered these powerful questions, I began to realize that moving from emotional spending to healthy spending would mean shifting what I liked to shop for. Rather than chasing empty symbols of success and believing they would somehow make me happier, I began to “shop” for things that would actually enhance my life.  Whether you find yourself where I used to be or you just need a reminder to stay on track towards your financial goals, this week, I challenge you to make wise choices (not emotional ones) when it comes to your money:

  1. Shop for assets, not possessions.

Get excited about your financial future by researching and shopping for things you can invest in – stocks in profitable, responsible companies, real estate that will increase in value, business opportunities that will pay off.  Look for assets – meaning they can become more valuable over time rather than losing value the moment you purchase them.

  1. Invest in experiences over things.

Research shows we gain far more happiness when we spend on experiences – classes, dinner with friends, a vacation – rather than things.  We can savor experiences, grow from them and even strengthen the bonds of our relationships.  Years later, we can savor the memory of an experience or leverage it for an opportunity while that thing we purchased is long since forgotten.

  1. Buy time when you can afford it.

Is there something you procrastinate about because it just takes too much time and energy? Could you budget enough to get someone to help? Whether it is housekeeping or taxes or errands or something else, some services are worth the money if you have it. Ask yourself, “How much time would I actually save? What would I do with that time that is a wiser use of my time?”

  1. Spend on others, not just yourself.

When you get that unexpected windfall, research shows you gain more happiness when you don’t spend every last dime on yourself. Carve out a bit to bless somebody, and it’ll bless you, too.

 

My challenge to you:

Do not spend out of insecurity, guilt, trying to impress someone, or self-soothing.

 

Journaling assignment:
In what way(s) have you spent money emotionally in the last month? What was the emotion you felt and what triggered that emotion? If you could do it over, what would you do differently? What will you do next time you feel the temptation?

Actually You Don’t “Have To” Do That

“What do you have to do today?” It’s a typical question and most of us answer it by rattling off the list of things we “have to” do, as though life is just one long list of forced chores and assignments.

 

I have to go to work.

I have to pick up my kids from school.

I have to cook dinner.

I have to pay the bills.

 

But what if you changed that phrase just slightly and start talking about what you “get to” do?  I mean, there are millions of people in this world who would feel quite blessed to get to do the things you “have to” do. In each thing you claim you “have to” do, there is a blessing:

“I get to go to work,” means you have a job you get paid to do.

 

“I get to pick my kids up from school,” means you have children healthy enough to go to school and getting the opportunity every day to learn and grow.

“I have to cook dinner,” means you have food in your kitchen to feed yourself and your family.

“I have to pay the bills,” means you have the resources to pay for things like heat, a place to live, that loan that allowed you to pursue your education.

 

This week, I invite you to watch how you talk about your “to-do” list. Rather than talking about what you have to do, change that one word from “have” to “get” and you’ll notice a shift in how you feel. That shift is a step towards gratitude. And gratitude is step towards abundance, the realization that your life is rich beyond measure. Experiencing just how rich you are takes only shifting your attitude.

 

My challenge to you this week:

Every time you feel tempted to say you “have to,” change the statement to, “I get to.”


Journaling assignment:

What are the three things you often say you “have to” do? When you change the statement to, “I get to,” what do you notice that you have to be grateful for? Leave your comments below,  I’d love to hear from you!

You Can Find the Answer

Back in the summer of 1999 when I had an epiphany about my life purpose – using writing and speaking to inspire women to live more fulfilling lives – I didn’t have a clue about how to get a book published. But having grown up enamored with books, I figured, “Surely, someone has written a book about how to publish a book!” I headed to the book store, and lo and behold, there was a whole section about writing and publishing. There were books about how to write a novel, how to get an agent, how to overcome writer’s block, how to write for magazines. I needed an A-Z manual on how to publish a book, so when I saw the title “The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing” staring back at me from the bookshelf, I figured that was the one.

I bought the book, followed it step by step, and over the next four months, at night and on the weekends, I wrote and published my first book. I didn’t have anyone to call and tell me how to make my vision a reality. I was simply determined to find the answer. If not for that self-published book, I wouldn’t have been invited to a Book Expo in 2000 where I met an editor from the largest trade publisher in the world. The editor liked the book and a few days later offered me my first book deal. Since then, I’ve written ten books translated into seven languages, and it all started with an audacious and hopeful trip to the bookstore sixteen years ago.

It isn’t something I think of often, but this week, I share this piece of my story because the principle could apply to the dream that is in your heart right now, especially if you feel discouraged that you don’t have the connections or information you need to get there.

I don’t know what your goal is – whether it is a career you want to launch or the financial freedom you dream of or the relationship you hope for or the fact that you want to enhance your sense of style. Whatever it is, there is an answer for how to bring it to fruition. Just because you don’t have the connections now doesn’t mean that you can’t build a road that leads you to the right connections. Refuse to let your lack of connections become an excuse for why you can’t have the desire God has placed in your heart. Do your research, find a book, ask someone who knows and then ask someone else who knows. Boost your “literacy” (financial, relational or otherwise) in the area where you are lacking the information you need to move forward. Be tenacious about finding the answer. Don’t worry if your path seems unconventional (you can’t write a book just by reading a book about how to write a book, can you??). Successful women think differently. Unconventional may just be the path that leads you directly to your dream.

My challenge to you:
Search for the “how to” of your dream. Don’t stop until you find your answer.

Journaling assignment: What answer or information do you need, but feel discouraged by a lack of connections with people who can give you the answer? Where might you search for a book, class, or educational resource you could use to fill in the answers? When will you start your search? Leave your comments below; I’d love to hear from you!

How to Deal with Narcissists, Guilt-Trippers and Manipulators

Have you ever had someone say something so upsetting to you that you found yourself quickly ticking off a list of counterarguments to dispute their assertions? You fuss aloud as though they are there, practicing what you are going to say – or what you should have said. You get sucked into rehashing the conversation, ruminating about similar, past incidents, and chatting up a storm about it with your BFF. The person pushed your buttons and you must figure out just the right thing to say or do to deal with them. Problem is, when dealing with narcissists, bullies, guilt-trippers, and manipulators, your “counterarguments” and explanations do nothing but feed their thirst for strife and turmoil. What they really want is control. And you give them control when you react heatedly when they push your buttons.

I have a simple message for you: Deactivate the buttons they like to push.

Stop letting that difficult person get a rise out of you whenever they want simply by spewing negativity and nonsense your way. Take a breath. Walk away. Don’t engage them in more conversation. They’ve lost the privilege. Set boundaries. Focus on what you need to do to move forward and do it. Actions speak louder than words. Emotionally unhealthy people will attempt to pull you into arguments by saying things they know will make you want to defend yourself. Don’t bother. Some criticisms don’t deserve a response. Save your energy, keep your peace and let them argue by themselves.

 

My challenge to you: Deactivate the buttons others like to push.

 

Journal about it: Who pushes your buttons? Next time they attempt to do so, what would it look like to simply react in a way opposite to the way you normally react? What boundary could you set that would give you peace of mind?

Jumpstart Your Coaching!

Group Photo Happy 2                                                                                      June 2015 CaPP Graduates

 

I am so excited about The CaPP Institute celebrating 5 years of hosting the Coach Training Intensive (CTI)! This intensive is an accelerated personal and executive coaching course that also features our popular bonus Business Development Day for those who want to grow a highly profitable coaching business. It is designed to focus on the needs of professional coaches, business owners, psychologists/counselors, corporate managers and other leaders. The Coach Training Intensive will equip you with the skills to effectively coach clients, team members, staff, and others as they navigate through challenges and opportunities. See an exclusive peek inside our weekend intensive and see what YOU can experience at our Fall CTI!

Join me, my team of instructors and aspiring coaches just like you from all over the country October 31 – November 2, 2015 in Atlanta, GA at the InterContinental Hotel.

 

Don’t miss out on this wonderful experience! Save 15% and receive a FREE Coaching on Demand download when you register by midnight August 17th.

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For questions, contact Erika Davis at 800.980.8208 ext.88/ edavis@cappinstittue.com

  

 

The One Time When “Settling” Will Make You Happier

“Don’t settle.” It is advice I’ve shared often. I believe that when it comes to your biggest dreams, when you stop hoping, you start settling.  But that standard doesn’t apply to every area of your life.  It may sound counterintuitive, but sometimes, you need to settle. In fact, global research on happiness shows that the very happiest people have lower expectations about what they believe their lives should look like.  It isn’t that they have low expectations. It isn’t that they are unambitious.  It is that their expectations do not constantly outpace their reality, whether they are trying to get the housework done or land the big client.  When continuing to strive for something more or better steals energy that would be better used for a higher priority, it’s time to settle. It’s strategic. You only have so many personal resources and energy.

When it comes to what you want and need for the most meaningful parts of your life – a career, a spouse, what part of the country (or world!) you want to live in – set high standards and go for it.  But perfectionism and endless ambition come at a price, and the reward is rarely as sweet as you had imagined.  The ideal approach is called “satisficing” – set a minimum standard for accomplishing the task at hand and when you reach it, move on. Don’t worry about whether it could be better/cheaper/faster.  Consider it “good enough.”

Be willing to relax a little when it comes to your expectations about things that don’t impact your main priorities. Will you have to turn over your “good housekeeping card” if everything doesn’t get straightened up before bedtime? Will the project come to a halt if you don’t revise that report for the fifteenth time before sending it off?  Probably not. You’ve only got so much energy. Conserve it for the goals that matter most. Choose happiness over perfection.

My challenge to you this week:
Identify one area where you may be spending energy that could be better conserved for higher priorities.

Journaling assignment:
In what way(s) is perfection or endless ambition stealing your joy?  Did you grow up learning that you should “never settle”? In what area(s) of your life is important to never settle? In what area(s) of your life will settling give you more time and energy for what matters most?

Relax Your Self-Imposed Deadlines

As our family has recently expanded, so have our to-do lists.  And with the added activities with the baby, there’s less time available to do the to-do’s on our list.  One day this week, while hashing out the to-do’s for the next day, we started to feel overwhelmed at the sheer length of the list.  But as I looked a little closer at the list, I realized half of it was stuff we want to do, but it really wasn’t all that urgent.  Our “deadlines” for getting it done were self-imposed, which means we could either get it done or choose to simply move it to another date.  It wasn’t the tasks that caused us stress, but the self-imposed deadlines that gave us the feeling that we should be stressed.  I don’t think we are alone in this.  Stress is real even when the threat isn’t. The consequences of stress – illness, poor communication, irritability – are real, even when the source of the stress can be eliminated by putting it into perspective.

This week, I want to challenge you to ease up on your self-imposed deadlines.  You may argue that you must complete a project by a set date or time, but to know whether you have a real deadline or self-imposed one, answer these three questions. It may just take the pressure off and allow you to put your to-do list into perspective:

  1. What’s the consequence of missing the deadline?
  2. “I may lose my job.” “It’ll cost me $ X.” “My integrity will come into question.” “Someone could get hurt.” “It’ll require more time later if I don’t take care of this now.” These are real deadlines. But often, giving yourself some leeway will create no real consequence at all. When that is the case, and meeting your self-imposed deadline will leave you drained or stressed, ease your expectations.
  3. Does missing the deadline negatively impact others?
  4. It isn’t always about us and our needs. There are many times when our commitments impact someone else’s ability to get what they need. Keep your promises. But when circumstances are extraordinary, reach out, explain the circumstances and find out if there is any flexibility.
  5. Does meeting the deadline mean neglecting a higher priority?
  6. The danger of having too much on your to-do list is that you can begin to lose sight of what actually matters most. With everything lumped into one list, it is tempting to make all things equal. They are not. If you spend too much time on low priorities, there will be little left for the people and things that matter most.

My challenge to you:
Look at your to-do list and make sure your self-imposed deadlines give you the time and space to be peacefully productive. If the stress is overwhelming, be flexible and make adjustments.

Journal about it:
Ask these questions of the stress-inducing items on your to-do list:  What is the consequence of missing the deadline? Does the deadline impact others? Does meeting the deadline mean neglecting higher priorities? Leave your comments below; I’d love to hear from you!

My Lifelong Dream Has Come True

My lifelong dream has come true. Our lives have changed dramatically and beautifully in the last month. Since marrying my husband in 2013, I’ve been a “bonus” mom to two sweet, energetic, loving little girls. And now, God has seen fit to expand our family with a beautiful baby boy we’ve been privileged to adopt! That’s right. I’ve become a mommy.

If you’ve read my books or followed me for a while, you know this has been a dream deferred, but I have never given up on the vision I’ve sensed deep in my spirit for marriage and family. At times, I have felt frustrated, helpless, and discouraged, but I refused to give up hope. I could not. To give up hope would be to give up on God. As I stand in the midst of this vision of love that has unfolded, I feel led to share my lessons learned so I can encourage you to persevere towards your own vision – whatever that vision might be:

1. Keep hoping.
Without hope, there is no vision. When you stop hoping, you start settling. Be relentless and focused. At times, it may even appear you are delusional to keep hoping. So what! Keep believing in your vision and make decisions, whether about relationships, finances, career, that honor your ultimate goal.

2. Don’t let disappointments become your destination.
Separation and divorce. Navigating the tumultuous dating landscape of Atlanta. Trying to conceive over 40. Miscarrying twins. All have been my reality in the last seven years. Each could have become a bitter destination, except for this: I refused to see my disappointments as a permanent destination. Some were devastating detours. I had to stop journeying for a while and recover. But I made a decision to be better and not bitter after each one. I made a decision not to get stuck staring at the obstacles before me, but to look up and remember the vision in my heart. That vision compelled me to keep hoping and keep moving forward.

3. Be open to a path that looks different than you expected.
It is easy to be rigid about how your dream must come together. Don’t. Be open to divine orchestration. Let go of your need to control the “how” of your vision so you can stay focused on the “why” – which leads me to this last point …

4. Stay focused on the PURPOSE of your vision more than the excitement of it.
At points, I began to doubt whether I would ever become a mother, and before that, whether I would ever find the kind of love I believe in. A transformational message emerged from my doubt, though. I asked myself, “What if you never marry?” “What if you never have a child?” And I answered my “What if” questions. Here’s what I realized: The world would not come to an end, so I better learn to be happy regardless of the outcome! If I didn’t get married or have children, I would live my life single without children and I would choose to have an incredible life. There are many women I greatly admire who are single without children – and happy, purposeful, loved and loving. So then, what would be the purpose of marriage and family in my life? That is the question I needed to answer for myself. I don’t believe that having a child is about me becoming a mom. I believe it is about having the blessed opportunity to nurture and grow a child I have been entrusted to raise. What an honor. It is about him, not me. And perhaps that is the shift in thinking that shifted my life and brought us this amazing, perfect little boy for us.

My challenge to you this week:
Persevere! Stay focused on your vision. Don’t give up.

 

Journaling questions:
What is the vision that you’ve yet to realize, but still hope to see unfold? What is the PURPOSE behind your vision? In what way(s) do you need to open yourself to a path that looks different than you expected? Leave your comments below; I’d love to hear from you!