1.  Healing & Preventing Burnout

I believe that one small reason we’re at the point of imminent global self-destruction is that changemakers have a hard time sustaining our energy. Too often, we overwork, over-give, overdo, get resentful and curmudgeonly, get mired in interpersonal conflict, burn out, and in the end, drop out altogether. Folks who consider getting involved see how hard it looks and opt out.

It isn’t our fault that so many systems of oppression make it so hard to care for ourselves and our communities.

And, it is our responsibility to choose our norms of engagement. When we enjoy our work and our lives, we’re far more likely to stay engaged for the long haul, and we set a precedent for our comrades to treat themselves well, too. Humanity needs us. In the face of so much pain and work, experiencing joy is a radical act.

2.  Developing New Skills

Like all humans, you grow thousands of new neurons every day—cells within your body-brain that hold and transmit information. You learn new things by forming and strengthening links between your neurons.

We generate new neurons and strengthen connections between them (a process called neuroplasticity) by repeatedly focusing our attention.

For example, if you play lots of video games, the parts of your brain associated with video game playing will strengthen. If you write, the parts of your brain associated with writing grow. If you practice listening attentively to others, the parts of your brain associated with listening grow.

In Hardwiring Happiness, Rick Hanson writes that each time we pay attention to how we feel when we experience a desired feeling, thought, or behavior—and enhance and absorb the sensations, we strengthen the neural synapses associated with that experience. We develop the ability to experience more of that feeling, thought, or behavior.

With enough practice, the new neural patterns become strong enough, and the new feeling, thought, or behavior becomes habitual.

So, if you want to feel more joy, pay careful attention to when you feel joy—talking with an old friend, riding your bike, looking at the leaves on the tree. If you want to feel more energetic, pay attention to when you feel energetic—taking a walk, stretching your body, or reading your kids a story. And enhance and absorb the sensations, imagining the cells of your body are tiny sponges taking in the good. (More about how exactly to do that later in the chapter.)

3.  Detecting Hidden Opportunities

When my client, Matt, first came to me, he felt bored and isolated at work. He wasn’t fully using his skills, and he lacked confidence in his ability to contribute to his organization. In his first coaching session, he realized that he’d been complaining about his colleagues rather than getting curious about what was within his power to change. So, he created the commitment statement: I choose to move forward with positivity, even when it’s hard.

Here’s what happened next in his words:

I started thinking outside of my little, isolated box and opened up an awareness of possibility. I started thinking bigger about what I really wanted to do.

In response to my internal shifts, opportunities started showing up.

The internal shift helped me to shift my role at work. Before, I was caught in the weeds doing mostly technical work. Now, I have a new position as the point person for a strategic program to ensure that our online services are accessible to all users. It’s fascinating work, and I’m loving it.

When you repeatedly focus attention on what works—what nourishes you, brings you delight, and moves you closer to your calling—it becomes easier to enjoy your life, understand what you want and how to make it a reality, and detect opportunities you may have otherwise overlooked.

4.  Making Confirmation Bias Work for You

Confirmation bias is our human tendency to find, interpret, and remember information in a way that confirms our preexisting beliefs. Confirmation bias can work for us or against us.

If you believe you’ll do poorly, you’re more likely to focus on your mistakes, tell yourself that you failed, and take fewer risks. If you believe you’ll do well, you’re more likely to see challenges as learning opportunities and celebrate your successes.

When we take in self-appreciation—paying attention to what we appreciate about ourselves—it becomes easier to believe we’re capable of doing well, persist in the face of setbacks, and live our callings fully.


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