Positive Psychology in Practice

by Psyguy on January 28, 2011 · 0 comments

in Calgary Psychologists

by: Sean M. Kelly

“I had the blues because I had no shoes until upon a street I came across a man who had no feet!” Unknown

Many people are facing very tough challenges in their lives today. Some are even resorting to end it all as the whole financial foundation on which they based their lives has been shattered. Though it’s not easy when you’re in the thick of it, it can be an opportunity to realign your life with what’s truly important and to realise a lot more fulfillment.

One of the greatest motivators for human behaviour is our identity. If I identify myself with that which is outside myself and not ultimately under my control, then when that changes it can rock or even destroy the very foundation on which I base my life and I can feel completely lost in a very stormy ocean!

There are three common patterns of identity that we all use and are worth reflecting on:

1. I am what I do - if I believe consciously or unconsciously that I am what I do, then the more I do the better I feel. So there is an underlying driving force to keep doing and doing and doing. If I stop doing even for a short while I feel empty and have very low self worth. Doing and taking action is important but if I believe that’s what my self worth is based on, what happens when I can “do” no more?

2. I am what I have – this is where our whole identity revolves around what we possess – the more I own the better I am as a person and the more important I feel. Before the recession hit this was a very common identity – those who owned the most property, had the best cars, had the most successful businesses were put on a pedestal to be admired and even envied. Now this way of thinking has been hit with a tsunami and the foundation of some lives has been destroyed.

3. I am what others think of me - again this is quite a common identity and “keeping up with the jones’s” is based on this one as is the glorification of “being famous” and “being a socialite”. If I believe in this identity I want everyone to think well of me and will do whatever I can to ensure this happens – I tell half truths or even lies so that I will be liked and look good, I will dress as all the “good people” dress.

Leo Tolstoy, the famous Russian author, wrote a very thought provoking story about a man called Ivan Ilych , a self proclaimed “social climber” who lived in Tsarist Russia. Ivan is suddenly struck by a terminal illness, which offers him time to reflect on his life and he asks himself – “what if my whole life has been wrong?”. The only time Ivan could remember being true to himself is when he was a child!

The current challenges we face are an opportunity for us all to reflect on this question and to realign our lives to that which brings the greatest love, joy, passion and peace for ourselves and others. It is an opportunity to ensure we are being true to ourselves for as William Shakespeare’s Hamlet so eloquently reminds us “To Thine Ownself be True. And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou can not then be false to any man”. So lets come back to reflecting on the three patterns of identity mentioned above.

Suppose my identity is based on any or all of the above three patterns – what I’m doing – my job, what I have – property, shares, cars, family or what others think of me – “he’s really achieved so much, he’s great!”.

Now suppose I lose my job or the property and share prices collapse or I become separated? What will people think of me then, especially if I’ve been manipulating the “system” for my own “profit”? On the surface the job is gone, my shares are worthless and people dont think I’m so successful afterall! However even more important to realise is that underneath the surface the very identity which I based my life has been shattered! And it is this collapse in identity which is the greatest challenge for most people. It is this collapse that can cause people to lose heart, to become depressed, to turn to drink or drugs and in the worse cases to give up on life altogether and commit suicide. And the more we try to hold on to this illusionary identity the more suffering we create in our lives. However if you or someone you know find themselves facing such challenges, take heart, there are things we can do to rise above the doom and gloom and learn these life expanding lessons that life is offering us all.

1. Take Responsibility – First and foremost wherever you find yourself take total responsibility for it. The good and the not so good. Realise that ultimately it was us who sowed the seeds and are now reaping the harvest. This is often the most difficult step but the moment we take responsibility, we also reclaim our power to do something about it!

2. Take Control of what you can control - no point trying to control what you can’t control like the state of the property market, share prices and so on but there are many things you can control – your state of mind and what you’re focussing on in your life, make a list of what you can do – start a new business, do what you’ve always wanted to do, save even a small amount of money each week in a secure savings account, go the extra mile for your customers, go out there and get more customers. Do something to help someone else. Create a vision for yourself which excites you and take action today to start realising it.

3. Create a new identity - we are creative beings. Instead of having an identity which is attached to anything outside yourself, which is subject to change and ultimately beyond your control, base it on the infinite wisdom and greatness that is within you. This can never be taken away from you, recession or otherwise. You can begin to affirm to yourself “I am an infinitely creative and resourceful person”, “My greatest hour has yet to come”, “I am so happy doing what I love and loving what I do and getting richly rewarded for it”, “the greatest moment of my life is this one – the more I truly live it, the more fulfilled I am and the more the future blossoms.” Its also a good idea to remind yourself of what you really like/love about yourself – make a list and smile with every wonderful trait you posess. And let those you love know how wonderful it is that they are part of your life.

4. Use your talents/gifts to serve the world - the best way for you to serve the world is in doing what you love and/or loving what you do. You have a core genius. You have within you the most wonderful talents and gifts. How do you know what they are – its simple – you feel BRILLIANT when you’re pursuing them! So pursue them and keep nourishing them. Then start asking questions like – how can I use my talents and gifts to serve my family, my community, my country, the world? How can I begin to earn an income from what I love and how then can I get it to grow? As you take each step on such a path you leave behind a path which is illuminated with love, with kindness, with joy, with happiness, with passion and it acts as a lighthouse for those who find themselves in stormy seas. Does it take courage? Absolutely! And this is one of the traits you have in abundance – simply take the first step and keep going!

5. Stop listening to and reading about doom and gloom - yesterday I was at a talk and even though I pretty much have stopped listening to the media, who are in the main selling misery to the masses, the speaker reminded all the business people present that it wasn’t helping any of us in our business to listen to the merchants of doom and gloom, in fact it’s possibly making it worse! And of course they are getting paid for bombarding us with such soul destroying negativity! They are painting a picture far worse than it really is and even if it’s as bad as they say its still best to focus and celebrate and be grateful for all the great things in our lives and in this world of ours. Make a choice today in your life to stop “buying into” the misery and buy into what makes you feel good!

The most basic principle of positive thinking is – “whatever we think about expands”, so if we’re constantly thinking about “doom and gloom” we will get more of it. Having everyone be aware of “doom and gloom” has not made it go away. What will make it go away is a change in focus and taking positive action accordingly. And that change in focus begins with each of us as individuals. Even if you do have to listen to the merchants of doom and gloom at least keep it to a minimum!

Remember the greatest failures are often steps to the greatest successes. And the fact that you are alive and have a life means you’re already a success. And that’s the place to begin again!

Here’s a wonderful quote on courage by Mary Anne Radmacher, to finish this article (please use it and share with those who simply need some inspiration during the current challenges we face):

“Courage does not always roar, Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow”

If you’d like to learn more positive psychology in practice click here. It can only help improve the quality of your life! Carpe Diem!

Sean M Kelly is an international professional speaker, musician, trainer/coach and author. Living in his native land Ireland he has traveled widely delivering his own unique style of professional and personal development talks and training. His current book “A Pipers Tales – Celtic Wisdom to Nourish the Soul” is already selling well across the globe as is his new ebook “Dare to Dream – 9 Spiritual Lessons for Manifesting Your Dreams” Sean is always interested in sharing stories and music which inspire people to live greater lives. See http://www.seanMkelly.com

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