“Do you derive happiness from your work life? Do you embrace small successes – or do you find that you push yourself harder and harder to achieve more and more – without ever feeling a sense of accomplishment? A subtle under current of negativity can not only prove destructive to your psyche – it can affect your ability to energize yourself in the quest to reach your full potential. We know that to achieve valued business outcomes we require an engaged and happy workforce – but how do we combat the lurking levels of frustration that can exist there? One theory posed to increase our “happiness quotient”, examines the internal “lens” through which we view our work life experiences and how we build resiliency to deal with negative events.”
–Positive Psychology and Happiness at Work by Dr. Marla Gottschalk
Rarely do I click on the emailed ‘Top News for You’ links from LinkedIn, but the two sentence summary of “Positive Psychology and Happiness at Work” grabbed my attention. I began reading and was by immediately clobbered by the first paragraph, which effectively functioned as a virtual punch in the stomach for me. Dr. Gottshalk could have titled her article: Dear Lauren Nicole.
This exact subject has been the topic of many a discussion in our household. I am often in need of positive reaffirmation about my skills and an encouraging recap of what I have achieved since leaving University. My cyclic melodramatic bouts cause me to feel that what I am doing at current is not enough and that I should be doing something bigger; and I consistently hear in response, “How can anyone achieve bigger things without first doing what you are doing now; taking small steps forward. Quit forgetting or downplaying what you have achieved and look at reality as it is.”
I am living with the perfect devil’s advocate and life coach. It is not my boyfriend’s actual intention to play these roles, rather a positive byproduct of living with such a successful, driven, professional athlete. Despite hearing his words so many times, the moment that I actually realized the stark differences between us, when it comes to recognizing small accomplishments, came just a few days ago and reared its ugly head again as I read the article.
Sunday evening rolled around and he commented how happy he was with his day and proceeded to rattle off everything that he had accomplished: He had cleaned the apartment, finished up his email to do list, did a regenerative 90 minutes of training, and had time to play FIFA ’13 on PlayStation, where he had advanced into a tournament for entry into the Premier League (yes, he still regularly plays PlayStation, often claiming it as necessity for focus training.)
At the time of his monologue, I was thinking in my head, “Really? You feel like that was a successful Sunday?” If I remember correctly, I am pretty sure I even made some sort of snarky retort going in that direction, to which his confused response was a ‘yeah’ laced with an undertone of ‘obviously’.
As I was reading this article, the light bulb went off in my head. My boyfriend’s confusion was a proper response to my unrealistic expectations. He had had a successful Sunday, and was right to feel inner-peace and accomplishment with his day. The things which he had crossed of his ‘to-do’ list were the exact tasks which help him to keep his life in order, enabling him to attack and conquer difficult feats when they arise. This activity of self-recognition for the things crossed off his ‘to-do’ list is a pragmatic, normal, healthy and necessary mental exercise for success.
In stark contrast to him, I never celebrate and feel proud of my daily accomplishments. I even brush off compliments from others in regards to my feats as undeserved, stating that what I had done up ’til now was normal and well below what I should have achieved. In reality, I should have accepted their kind words and felt satisfied with the progress I had made. What I achieved does not happen without concerted effort and should be applauded.
Perhaps my aversion to self-recognition is a built resiliency to dealing with negative events, as the theory in the article states. Or maybe it is just a result of unrealistic expectations resulting from a life surrounded by such successful people. Whatever the reason, it is a habit which needs breaking.
I have heard it said that 21 days makes or breaks a habit. So, for the next 30 days, I will be taking a page from my boyfriend’s playbook and challenging myself to pause at the end of each day to write down all of my accomplishments from that day and then to take a few minutes to revel in their completion and recognize their significance towards bigger feats.
I am looking forward to starting this journey and taking a step towards a better and healthier me, with a life geared towards inner-peace and a readiness to tackle whatever comes at me. I welcome anyone else who struggles with this to join my 30 day challenge towards a more positive psychology.
Follow the challenge on my blog: http://www.becomingaswissmiss.blogspot.ch/p/30-day-challenge.html