Senia Maymin and Kathryn Britton are the senior editors of PositivePsychologyNews.com. Together they have edited two books in the Positive Psychology News series: Resilience: How to Navigate Life's Curves and Gratitude: How to Appreciate Life's Gifts. Kathryn co-edited the third book in the series, Character Strengths Matter, with Shannon Polly. Their co-authored articles are here.
Senia Maymin, MAPP '06, is the coauthor of Profit from the Positive. Maymin is an executive coach to entrepreneurs and CEOs. Her PhD is in organizational behavior from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Full Bio. Her solo articles are here and her articles with Margaret Greenberg are here.
Senia Maymin: Pause. We run around too much. Pause to plan. As Margaret and I write in “Profit from the Positive,” plan your activities before you try to do them. If you just start the morning by facing your computer screen without a prioritized plan, you’ll end the day just facing your computer screen. Plan, prioritize. It sounds simple. But I remind myself to do this constantly.
Editor’s Note: For several years, we’ve started the new year by inviting our authors to make a suggestion to people looking forward to the year ahead. Here’s this year’s crop, suggestions from 21 authors. If you like what someone says, we invite you to click the author’s name to find articles he or she has written over the years.
Marta Velázquez Gil: Be yourself in order to connect with others. As Brené Brown says, true belonging only happens when we present our authentic imperfect selves to the world. Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.
Scott Crabtree: Create SMARTEST goals. That is, go beyond SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) to add EST:
- Educational: Write goals using a growth mindset. Because goals that describe how we can learn and grow are more resilient to setbacks.
- Significant: Add some words of meaning to your goal. Why is it a goal for you? What should you care about completing it?
- Toward: Make goals about what you want (not what you want to avoid).
SMARTEST goals will likely be more resilient, meaningful, and desirable, helping you achieve your goals.
Homaira Kabir: Make Graceful Living a goal. It helps cope with the momentary distress and elevates us to something higher. When faced with challenge, adversity, chaos, however mundane, ask yourself “What would a graceful me do right now? How can I react that makes me rise to a better version of myself?”
I’ve been practicing this for the past few months, and it has helped me so much! Fewer regrets, much less guilt!
Elaine O’Brien: Breathing fully and deeply energizes and relaxes us. Here are 5 methods you can try. Start all breaths with a deep exhalation, then breathe in, and out through the mouth. Execute all breaths with excellent posture, form, with your eyes open or closed:
- Complete breath/diaphragmatic breathing: Place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your upper chest. Breathe slowly visualizing your lungs as 3 chambers. As you breathe in, fill your belly, chest cavity, and then the top of your lungs (by your collarbone, expanding the shoulders) with air. Exhale and repeat.
- Rhythmic breathing & sigh of exhalation: Breathe in for a count of 4, hold the breath for a count of 7, and exhale audibly for a count of 8. Relax and repeat.
- 1:2 ratio: Breathe in and out fully. Then breathe in for a count of 4, out for a count of 8. With practice you can change the count to 5:10, or 6:12.
- 5-to-1 count: Say and visualize the number 5 as you take in a full deep breath in and out. Mentally count and visualize the number 4, saying to yourself, “I am more relaxed than I was at 5.” Continue the countdown until you get to 1, and are relaxed.
- Concentration and Breath of Thanks: Breathe in for 7 counts, hold for 7 counts, and exhale out for 7 counts. Relax and Repeat.
Giselle Nicholson Timmerman: Every year I write down a long list of what makes me grateful from the year before. It’s a quick, fun way to capture the year, and I enjoy looking at what I’ve written in the past. I also set goals for the next year.
This year I’m going to do something different. I’m going to write my goals for 2015 as if they are already things for which I am grateful. Expressing gratitude is energizing and motivating for me, and I believe this will be a way to supercharge my goals with deeper commitment and resonance.
Emily Larson: Have low expectations…no seriously! Research shows that the more we plan and try to make something perfect, called maximizing, the lower our well-being is in return. So this year have an open mind, don’t waste hours looking for the perfect plan, take a tip from Barry Schwartz, and satisfice by picking something even if it isn’t perfect. Chances are you will be less stressed out, leaving more time to enjoy what New Years is all about: friends, family, and new beginnings.
Lisa Sansom: Realize that nothing will change unless you change it. If something is important to you, set out a plan, not just a goal. I found a fun scientifically-based app called WOOP which helps users to achieve their goals through mental contrasting. It’s based on Gabrielle Oettingen’s book, Rethinking Positive Thinking, and well worth investigating if you want to make some real meaningful changes in 2015.
Bridget Grenville-Cleave: This comes from Paul Dolan’s book Happiness by Design: Do more of what you know (from experience) makes you happy, not what you think makes you happy. This means that you have to pay more attention to your moment-by-moment experience so that you actually know what makes you happy or not. A great example is using Facebook – many of us spend a lot of time on Facebook, checking out what our friends are doing and posting stuff about our own lives, when it sometimes doesn’t actually make us happier, and often makes us very unhappy!
Angus Skinner: Be you. Could be an exciting journey.
Orin Davis: There’s probably something about which you said, “I don’t have the resources to do it, but I can’t afford not to.” Make sure you do it!
Amanda Horne: What makes a good life? “Goodness is not a grand or mysterious concept. All we require are a few simple disciplines that, like compass settings, steer us in the right direction,” (Hugh Mackay). For questions we can reflect at the start of the year, What is your larger intention? What really matters to you? How can you make a contribution to people and the world? For more reflection questions to help find your compass settings, see my article, The Good Life.
Kathryn Britton: Keep learning. You’re reading about positive psychology. Perhaps you’d be interested in a Coursera course on positive psychology taught by Barbara Fredrickson. It starts February 9 and runs through March 26. Click here to view the introductory video and register for free. I am grateful for Coursera. My husband and I have taken many courses together from the comfort of our living room.
Jan Stanley: Think of ways to live more authentically in 2015. A hospice nurse, Bonnie Ware, found the most cited regret of the dying was a failure to live life on one’s own terms. “”I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me,”” was the number one regret found in Ware’s study.
Perhaps there are small changes to enhance authenticity that you can make right away – things like not agreeing to do something based solely on what others’ will think of you, or building in a 5-10 minute reflection period during the day to assess the day’s events through a lens of authenticity. Maybe there will be larger changes that you decide to explore.Talk to others who have made similar changes. Read biographies of people you admire. Work with a coach to outline possible steps that will take you closer to living an authentic life.
Here is a little more background on avenues to authenticity. May you live well in 2015. The world needs YOU to do what only you do best!
Shannon Polly: We often hear about adding something to induce positive emotion, but for me that clutters my ‘to do’ list and I get more stressed. How about picking the one thing that nags at you most, the one that if you finished it would free up a great deal of mental space. For me that’s getting to a zero inbox. Wish me luck!
Don Collinson: My one piece of advice would be to become aware of your strengths and to apply your strengths in order to achieve your goals for 2015.
Thomas Heffner: Perfection is the enemy of good. Start thinking about the quickest way you can create an experiment to test out an idea, assumption, or anything you want to do. Make it something you can try or do today. Learn from it and iterate on that first idea until you find what works for you.
Merche Ovejero: Find what makes you really happy, feel the power of harmonious passion! Share your experiences with others. And remember, 2015 will be the year of “sisu”!
Sherri Fisher: Recycle your positive emotions with savoring. I have read and reread my article about the strength of beauty and excellence and love taking my “”trip”” all over again.”
Diana Boufford: Let go of expectations you have of others. This will release you from the issues of control and disappointment and give them the gift of freedom to be fully themselves. When loved and accepted as we are, our capacity to fulfill our potential manifests so much more easily and joyfully.
Dolan, P. (2014). Happiness by Design: Change What You Do, Not How You Think/ Finding Pleasure and Purpose in Everyday Life. London. Allen Lane. Also: Happiness by Design: Change What You Do, Not How You Think. Hudson Street Press.
Fisher, S. (2014). Fringe Benefits of Appreciating Beauty and Excellence. Positive Psychology News.
Greenberg, M. & Maymin, S. (2013). Profit from the Positive: Proven Leadership Strategies to Boost Productivity and Transform Your Business. McGraw Hill.
Horne, A. (2014). The good life. Positive Psychology News.
Oettingen, G. (2014). Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation. Current Hardcover.
Schwartz, B. (2004). The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less. New York: Ecco.
Stanley, J. (2014). Comfortable in your own skin (part 2): Three ways to build authenticity. Positive Psychology News.
Photo Credit: via Compfight cc
Fireworks courtesy of smith_cl9