We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves. –Buddha
Today, I’m pleased to bring you an interview with Galen Pearl, a talented writer and blogger, about her lovely new book, “10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There).”
Galen, what is, “10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There)” about?
My book is about developing habits to grow a joyful spirit. However, it is not so much a how-to book as it is a book of reflections. My hope is that by sharing stories of how my own life was transformed from fear to joy, others might discover their own inner happy place.
How did you choose these steps?
An appropriate question for you to ask, since it was definitely an intuitive process! In fact, the title came to me first before I had any idea of what the 10 Steps were. Only then did I sit down and try to discern the specific steps. All the steps are facets of the same concept, that within all our spirits is a core of pure light and love and joy. The specific steps reflect practices that are central to many traditions and that were particularly meaningful for me as I removed the blocks of fear to reveal the joy within.
Which step or steps are the most challenging for you?
Step 3–Give up the delusion of control–is the most challenging one for me. For so much of my life, I handled my anxiety and fear by trying to control my external circumstances, including other people’s behavior. As you can imagine, that never worked out too successfully, and it was exhausting. The urge to control comes from wanting things or people to be something other than what they are, so Step 3 is connected to acceptance. Learning what I can control (my own thoughts, words, and actions) and what I can’t control (everything else) was a relief, although the impulse to control my external environment still pops up now and then.
How can a reader use this book?
The book is structured to be accessible in a number of ways. It is divided into chapters based on the 10 Steps. Each step has its own chapter. Within each chapter, there are a number of short sections of one or two pages. You can read straight through the book if you like. You can pick a step that seems most relevant to your life at any particular time and focus on that chapter. You can read one small section a day as a thought to reflect on, or as some readers have said, a daily devotional. Or you can open the book at random and see what that section says to you. Perhaps the last one is more of an intuitive approach.
You can read the book on your own, and it is also adaptable to a group. For the last two years, I have led a monthly discussion group, taking one step a month. The book can be used by a group to generate discussion and support.
What has been the biggest obstacle to happiness in your own life?
Fear. The same obstacle that blocks happiness for all of us. Fear can manifest in many ways, such as anxiety, depression, anger, criticism, hatred, fanaticism, and so on. In my own life, it manifested as a need to be constantly vigilant, believing that if I relaxed my guard, something terrible would happen. My mind spun out a constant stream of looming “what if” disasters, just waiting for me to turn my back. Through practicing the 10 Steps, my beliefs shifted to reflect a trust in the basic goodness of the universe, and an understanding that bad things were not caused by my being happy.
You mention the importance of habits. How are habits connected to our happiness?
Research has shown that only 10% of our happiness is based on our external circumstances. The rest is based on a combination of our basic temperament and our habitual thoughts. We think 40,000-60,000 thoughts a day and most of those are habitual thoughts, the background chatter in our minds. Of those habitual thoughts, a large percentage tends to be negative. That’s tens of thousands of negative thoughts a day, creating and deepening neural pathways in our brains.
The great news is that we can choose to create new neural pathways by consciously developing new thinking habits that will enhance and reinforce happiness. Once we do, these new habits will become the default background in our minds. Happiness becomes what it was meant to be, our natural state. Without the constant bombardment of negative thoughts, our minds can relax, bringing peace to our spirits.
Does living in our happy place mean feeling happy all the time?
No, it doesn’t. I think of my happy place as a place of calm, abiding joy. My surface feelings continue to come and go. Sometimes I feel happy and elated. Sometimes I feel sad and tender. Sometimes I’m even angry. Our happy place is like our home page on the computer. We might visit other sites, but home is always there and we always return.
People are sometimes surprised to find out that you are a lawyer. Is there a link between your legal career and your focus on happiness?
Ha! That’s so true. As one person observed, what does a lawyer know about being happy?! It’s no accident that my legal career was centered in contract negotiation and drafting. I was paid to do what I did best–anticipate every horrible thing that could happen and take steps to prevent it. Step 3 control issue front and center! And yet, as my inner life shifted, I somehow adapted my legal perspective to match what was happening spiritually. It would take another book to sort that all out, but I found that my career and my focus on happiness blended in very satisfying and rewarding ways.
What changes in your life can you attribute to the 10 Steps?
The most obvious one, of course, is that I am happier. I’m more relaxed and I have more energy. I’m a better parent and a better friend because I’m more present and less controlling. I’m more self aware of those times when I stray away from my happy place, and I can more quickly and gently return. During challenging times, I am less fearful and more resilient. I have practiced the 10 Steps long enough and consistently enough that they permeate my consciousness and form the basis of how I interact with my world and the people in it. All this grounds me in a state of humble gratitude for the countless blessings of each day. (And my daughter says that I don’t yell anymore!)
How does your book help people develop more joy in their lives?
I hope it helps most of all by example. I don’t have “the answer.” Or rather, I do have it, and so do we all. Living in our happy place is a worthwhile and attainable way to live. We don’t need to go spend years with a guru on a mountaintop (although that is a fine thing to do if that is your path). What I have tried to show with my own story is that there are simple techniques for changing our habits, techniques that we can weave into our everyday lives. And if we do, we’ll discover the happiness that has been within us all along.
Where is your happy place? What steps do you take to create happiness in your life?
If you enjoyed this article please do share it with a friend on Twitter, FB or G+. Thank you.
P.S. To learn more about using your intuition to find happiness – click here.
Galen Pearl’s stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul and A Cup of Comfort anthologies, and her popular blog, 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There), attracts thousands of readers every month. Recently retired from teaching law, she regularly leads retreats and workshops on developing habits to grow a joyful spirit. A Southern girl transplanted to the Pacific Northwest, she enjoys her five kids and two grandchildren, martial arts, her cabin in the mountains, and mahjong. Visit Galen’s blog for more of her inspiring stories: http://10stepstofindingyourhappyplace.blogspot.com/
Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared. –Buddha
Today I’m very excited to share an interview with my good friend, Joe Wilner of Shake Off The Grind.
Joe has just released an amazing new program called, “Trigger Positive.” This comprehensive program teaches us the steps to making happiness and positivity a daily choice in our lives.
Not everyone is born seeing the glass as “half full.” For those of you who tend to see the glass as “half empty” there is good news! With a little practice and help from Joe, a therapist and practitioner of positive psychology, you can change your happiness set point and become more positive.
1. Tell us about your background and blog, Shake Off The Grind.
Angela thanks so much for the opportunity to meet your readers and be a part of the community here. I have been involved with coaching, education and counseling for about 7 years now and have also been partaking more in public speaking and writing over the past few years.
I have a Masters degree in Psychology as well as a Masters in Liberal Arts with a Concentration in Management and Leadership. This educational background led me to discover coaching and I have been working with clients on their journey to greater fulfillment, significance, and well-being ever since.
I started Shake off the Grind in 2010 with the goal of collaborating with others on a mission to find their calling and follow their passion. Around this time I became determined to do what I loved for a living and I thought the blog would provide an outlet to begin exploring this opportunity. It has become a wonderful platform to do just that.
Finding a calling is still a topic of the blog but it has transitioned more into a community to help people enhance emotional well-being, live with purpose and meaning, and overcome self-imposed limitations that hold them back from living a full and thriving life.
2. What led you to study psychology?
Psychology was a subject that I always found interesting and I really connected with it from the first class I took in high school. I have always been a naturally introverted person, asking questions about why myself and others do the things they do. I found other people fascinating and wanted to know what made them tick.
On a more personal note I also struggled with insecurities, low self-esteem, and self-doubt when I was a teenager. Psychology was a field I connected with for this reason, but also because it offered me a chance to help others with these same types of issues. I love having the opportunity to help people see their potential, be happier, and have more confidence in pursuing their dreams.
3. What was the inspiration for the Trigger Positive Program?
As I mentioned early, I was insecure when a teenager and this followed into young adulthood. Many of my self-detesting thinking patterns followed me into college and early professional experiences. I struggled with anxiety, discontentment, and meaninglessness.
I wasn’t satisfied with life, held myself down, and tended to view the world as a negative place that wasn’t on my side. I was in a bad place mentally and emotionally.
However, all of sudden I began making a mental shift about 3 or 4 years ago. I simply got sick and tired and my own negative attitude. I stopped making excuses, stopped playing the victim role, and really began exploring how I could become a happier person. I wanted to take control of my attitude and perspective on life.
At this point I started to dream bigger and expand my vision in regards to who I was and how I could live a life of greater significance.
I learned that I wasn’t destined to be a negative person. I just had to learn how to be happy and gain greater awareness of who I was and what was possible. I started Shake off the Grind, became a voracious reader of self-growth material, began engaging in my passions more often, and became fascinated with the field of positive psychology.
Because of this transition I decided to put together content to help others do the same thing, in their own way and at their own pace.
4. Can you tell us about the audio program?
The audio recording provides an accompaniment to the workbook. The workbook includes all of the worksheet and exercises, and the audio program is provided to enliven the guided meditations and offer a more convenient medium to consume the material. It offers a chance for people to listen to the book on the go, while exercising, or cleaning the house. I am an avid listener to audio programs in my car and prefer this method for sake of time. Hopefully it will offer others this convenience as well.
5. What is the best way for readers to put this program into action?
One of the great things about the program is that is covers a wide range of topics and content. A lot of the topics are just an overview, but it’s enough to understand how they function in our life and how to use them to begin intentionally triggering more positivity.
Each of the topics, whether it be forgiveness, courage, mindfulness, or purpose and meaning, can be explored independently and can be cultivated and practiced at any given time when a person would like to bring this attribute into their life.
If someone is in a hurry and doesn’t have time to read through the whole book, I would recommend that people start with five topics as a crash course to increasing well-being. I would start by taking the strengths assessment and putting your strengths into action on a daily basis. Then use the gratitude exercises to begin cultivating more gratitude. Use the optimism exercises to develop a more positive outlook, and finally practice the mindfulness meditation and savoring techniques to train your attention to be open to positive emotions in the present moment.
These areas have been shown to be particularly useful for enhancing well-being. Read through each section and then use the worksheet or exercises as much as you can.
Of course, each of us is in a different place and may be struggling with a different issue. So look through the table of contents and find what will be most helpful to give you a boost of positivity. It may be cultivating forgiveness, showing kindness to others, uncover your vision and mission for life, or learning to be more hopeful. Go to this section and use the exercises.
6. How has your life and relationships changed as a result of the Trigger Positive program?
Using the concepts in this program has offered a much greater dose of natural positive emotion and personal growth than I ever had before. I just had to incorporate them in my life and be open to the positive feelings that followed.
Much of my contentment and life satisfaction has come from realizing that happiness isn’t something that I will all of a sudden obtain, but that happiness is a lifestyle and philosophy.
For me, I have started to use my character strengths in my daily life, engaging in my passions, and seeking out gratifying experiences as much as possible.
More specifically I have done this by writing songs and recording my own album, using of my love for learning by reading and writing as much as I can, and starting to appreciate and be more mindful of the beauty around me at any given time.
I became more serious about meditation, spending time with friends and family, and focusing on savoring and building these relationships.
I got involved with public speaking, which I was previously terrified of! I decided to take control of my life by first and foremost developing myself.
I simply discovered how I could experience more positive emotions, what gave me a sense of meaning, and what I could achieve for a sense of fulfillment. Anyone can figure out how to “trigger positive” in their life and this program can be a great guide.
7. Are there any special features of the program that make it different from other similar programs you’d like to point out to readers?
I tried to combine as many interventions as possible to help people increase positive emotions and live a lifestyle conducive to more happiness. As much as the ideas are based on empirical research from the field of positive psychology it is put together in an easy to read fashion and from the perspective of my personal experience.
The exercises are made so you can immediately start to implement the interventions into your personal life, relationships, and community, so the content is very applicable. Lastly, the book has a bigger message of how someone can take their personal development to help others and make the world a better place. It starts with you triggering positive in your own life, but ultimately is for benefit of everyone.
Joe, having read the companion book and checked out the Trigger Positive audios you recorded I want to say that I completely recommend the program to anyone who’s ready to take control of their life and live the happy and meaningful life they deserve!
Are you a naturally positive person or more the “glass half-empty” personality? Or, are there areas in your life where you are completely positive and other areas where you have difficulties? Do you think you you could benefit from some “positive psychology?
Joe Wilner is a life coach, speaker, and writer who is dedicated to helping people live a full, meaningful, and thriving life. His blog, Shake off the Grind is dedicated to empowering and motivating people to take leaps of faith and develop confidence to reach their potential.The mission of the blog is to help people develop greater well-being, live with purpose and meaning, and overcome self-imposed limitations to begin living the life they truly desire. Do yourself a favor and check out all the benefits and features the “Trigger Positive” program here.
P.S. Want to learn more about using your intuition to create a happy positive life? Click here!