22 Jun Happiness is thriving…
by Angie Le Van (www.inthriving.com)
The second I met Chelsea and Maya George on a train from Salzburg to Prague, I knew there was something special about the mother-and-daughter pair. At 5, Maya had already explored much more of the world than I had in my entire lifetime. It was Chelsea’s zest for travel that led her to endow Maya with such amazing experiences. To this day, I feel blessed to have crossed their paths.
Before parting ways in Prague, Chelsea and I exchanged emails, hoping to keep our new-found friendship budding. Every holiday or end-of-summer season, I would receive beautifully-written emails or cards containing stunning photography, illuminating Chelsea and Maya’s adventures. I”ll never forget the day I received a different kind of email from Chelsea. The one that told me that Maya, then 8, had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Less than 6 months later, she passed away. Though most of us will never know what it’s like to lose a child. Instead of spiraling into a womb of depression, Chelsea was able to thrive through this hardship and celebrate Maya’s life despite the deep loss she experienced. Today, Chelsea still travels the world, and is now married to the love of her life. When Chelsea’s not traveling, she works as a professor at a University in California. Like you and I, she shops for groceries, pays the bills, gets frustrated in traffic jams and even clips coupons. Yet, Chelsea has something that many of us don”t have, something that has compelled her to travel and that enabled her to grow through Maya’s death – a Thriving Mindsetê¢_ã_Ô¢!
ê¢__‘–Thrivers”, like Chelsea, understand that they can control their reactions even if they can’t control their circumstances. Better yet, they know just how to lean into life.
Although many books and articles regale the importance of cultivating a specific type of mindset, imbuing the notion of “thinking positively”, a Thriving Mindsetê¢_ã_Ô¢ is quite unique.
The Thriving Mindsetê¢_ã_Ô¢ is one of growth and greatness. In this world of instant and constant flux, it’s one of the most powerful resources you can have. It is the mindset of mastering change, of thriving through challenge, and of taking your life into the direction you most desire. It’s not about the pursuit of happiness, but rather the happiness of pursuit – of taking action to pursue one’s deepest desires and dreams, and attention is at the heart of it all. Effectively managing one’s attention is the first tenet to cultivating a Thriving Mindsetê¢_ã_Ô¢, and ê¢__‘–thrivers” know just how to do this.
Yet, deep down, we know we”re not much different from Chelsea. ê¢__‘–Thrivers” are not the anomalies written about in Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers. They weren”t born into extraordinary circumstances. They don”t have extra-sensory perception. They”re not super heroes. And yes, they too experience stomach butterflies from a brush with fear and uncertainty. They bleed, hurt, cry and curse. But the one thing that sets them apart from everyone else is that they have a special kind of mindset. Perhaps some people are genetically predisposed to have this mindset, but certainly not all, which means, everyone has the ability to grab life by the horns. Everyone has the ability to thrive!
One of the markers of a Thriving Mindsetê¢_ã_Ô¢ is one’s ability to capitalize on AHA MomentsTM. Traditionally, ê¢__‘–aha moments” refer to wake up calls – the same is true here – waking up to authentic action that will enable you to thrive! AHA MomentsTM – illustrate the connection between Attention, Habit and Action. A lack of attention gives way to habitual thoughts and actions (most likely, unfavorable). Yet, we have the astounding ability to alter these patterns and create new habits that can help us thrive!
Tiger Woods uses AHA MomentsTM to succeed on the golf course. Since the age of 13, Tiger has been using visualization techniques to focus his attention and perfect his peak performance under pressure. He’s now one of the best golfers in the world. Tiger spends hours visualizing (attuning his attention to) his best shots from past victories. In doing so, he builds a mental image of his peak performance that enables him to succeed in future games. He focuses his attention on peak performances of the past, through visualization techniques; he creates a mental habit out of these past performances, and, thus, is able to perform just as well — in the moment – when he’s standing on the green.
While you may not be ready to scale mountains, compete in the Masters, or become an Olympic Gold Medalist, this article offers a real wake up call for you – a more authentic way to living life – and it all begins with being able to focus your attention in the moment. Gandhi said it best – “Whatever we put our attention on will grow strong in our life.”
Our brains are wired to create mental habits – both good and bad. However, by learning how to manage your attention, you”ll be better able to change bad habits and, instead, build ê¢__‘–good” habits – the kind of habits that will propel you closer to your goals! That means, by creating a Thriving MindsetTM, you”ll be better equipped to pursue and achieve your heart’s desires!
Here’s the first step to creating a Thriving MindsetTM:
Practice Mindfulness Meditation (and start out small – just 5-15 minutes a day) – As I mentioned, the first tenet to thriving is in being able to manage your attention. Mindfulness meditation is a great way for training your attention. Mindfulness itself is referred to as “paying attention in a particular way”. The practice of mindfulness meditation helps individuals to stabilize their attention in the present moment. Recent research on mindfulness meditation has revealed significant positive effects in increasing one’s ability to manage attention (Valentine & Sweet, 1999; Lazar, Bush, Gollub, Fricchione, Khalsa & Benson., 2000).
How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation: Please note that the objective of mindfulness meditation is not to clear your mind; it is to aim your attention on your breath. The breath is a steady anchor.
You can practice mindfulness meditation without the use of a recording; however, recordings are widely available online and in bookstores, and they help to facilitate the learning you gain from practicing mindfulness meditation.
1) Find a quiet place to sit (or lie down). If you”re at work, you can lock yourself in a restroom or close your office door. At home, try the bedroom or some other quiet location.
2) Make sure you are comfortable and when you are positioned in a way that is comfortable, close your eyes and begin focusing your attention on your breath. There is no wrong way to do this. If your mind wanders away from your breath, gently place your attention back on the breath. The more you practice, the better you will be at catching yourself when your attention moves away from the breath and the better you will be at refocusing your attention. Through this process, you will gain the ability to effectively manage your attention.
3) Start out by practicing mindfulness meditation just a few minutes a day (5-15) and build your way up slowly. After all, you”re already very busy, and it’s hard to even think about fitting one more thing into your schedule. However, by practicing mindfulness, the rest of your life will run much more smoothly — so the benefits far outweigh the costs. In the absence of a recording, you may want to use a timer to know how long you”ve been meditating for. This will make it easier for you to build your practice.
Stay tuned for the Part II of Cultivating a Thriving Mindset, which talks about the second tenet of thriving – knowing which lens to focus through.
For regular ideas on how to boost your happiness and thrive, sign up for our free weekly eNewsletter at The Happiness Institute’s home page (www.thehappinessinstitute.com).