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.
Editor’s Note: For several years, we’ve ended one year or started the next year by inviting our authors to make a suggestion to people looking forward to the year ahead. 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. This year’s suggestions come in two parts. Come back on New Year’s Eve for the second installment.
I learned a lot this fall (the hard way) about slowing down, doing less, and Acting ‘as if.’ When a bizarre fall meant I ended up in the ER with a broken rib, I had to manage that next day with no husband (he was at a family wedding) and no sitter (she cancelled). So I had to move VERY slowly, I couldn’t pick up my kids, and I had to lower my expectations of what I would actually be able to get done that weekend (satisficing, as Barry Schwartz would say). It turned out to be one of the best weekends with my kids because they had to settle their own disputes, and we didn’t try to do too much. I also realized that due to the pain (and the percocet) I had started to act ‘as if’ I was ‘ZenMom’ (something I most certainly am not). It was fascinating. Even after the drugs wore off I had an insight that I could act as if I were ZenMom whenever I wanted to. In my work life, it benefits me to work slower (fewer mistakes), do less (go deeper rather than wide), and act ‘as if’ I am (and become) more present to my clients.
Look for what is inconvenient, and never settle for self-interest.
Make mistakes again and again and again: but do so on the side of kindness and hope.
Fill your heart with gratitude. Make time for awe and joy.
Forgive the most unforgivable. Love those who disgust you and who’ve broken your heart (they are more than their worst deeds).
Lay yourself out open and raw to trust like a sadhu on a riverbank.
These are the hardest things we will ever do in our entire lives. I repeat: These are the hardest things we will ever do in our entire lives. But these are the things that make our lives worth living. Read more about Naked Truths.
The piece of advice I will be listening to for 2016 is “Be kind, and don’t take yourself too seriously.” I’m also enjoying the central question from the book Essentialism, “If you could only do one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?” Getting clear on values/priorities and letting a lot of stuff go feels like a good idea too.
Develop a loving kindness practice. The world needs more of this right now.
Rethink your routines. A well designed routine is a bridge between your life’s priorities and the actions you take each day. Begin with a goal or passion. Identify a block of time such as the first hour in the morning, the first 30 minutes at work, lunch time, or the hour before bedtime. What habits, practices, or rituals could you use to design a new routine around that goal or passion?
Dream and dream big. A useful formula that I recommend is
Dream + Hope + Choice + Action => PERMA (the five elements of flourishing)
No use just hoping and dreaming. Realize that you always have a choice although you may not like the consequences or what’s required of you in that choice. Make a choice, and then take action. If you do nothing, nothing different happens. Give it all you’ve got, and never give up! This way, you have purpose, meaning, engagement, and accomplishment. Positive emotions and relations will follow. Have a purposeful 2016!
Spend 30 minutes three evenings a week on something you want to do, not what others want you to do.
The best advice I could offer is give yourself some time off to be human. Many of the people in positive psychology, including myself, are constantly working toward their strengths, or happiness, or well-being. Every so often we just have to stop all the trying and just be. Maybe I’m just getting older, but sometimes it’s okay to be human.
Embrace stillness. Befriend silence.
My one, best piece of advice to readers is to … ask a more beautiful question.We live in the information age with answers and solutions all around us. What is harder, yet more useful is learning how to develop good questions to make sense of the world around us. There are great resources out there – everything from the Right Question Institute, to books on Question Storming, to workshop blitzes using these approaches.
Since less than 10 percent of people who write New Year resolutions actually achieve them, try writing yourself a Hope Letter instead. Simply fast-forwarded one year into the future. Imagine that everything has gone the way that you hoped in all domains of your life – relationships, health, career, community, finances, and so on. The writing prompt is simply:
What are you doing/being a year from now, and how did you get there?
Then date the letter one year from the date you write it. Tuck it away, and set yourself a reminder to look at it a year from now.
Want to take it a step further? Ask a close friend, spouse, partner, or colleague to write one, too, and then swap letters. Set yourself a reminder to mail or hand deliver the Hope Letter a year later.
Does everything you write about come to fruition? Usually not, but I think you will be surprised by how many do. Why? Because when we set an intention and describe how we will achieve it, our actions follow. I end every coaching engagement with this exercise, and I also write one myself each year. (Note: I adapted this exercise from the work of Jenna Magyar-Moe. It’s based on Snyder’s Hope Theory)
McKeown, G. (2014). Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Crown Business.
Magyar-Moe, J. (2009). Therapist’s Guide to Positive Psychological Interventions (Practical Resources for the Mental Health Professional). Academic Press.
Schwartz, B. (2004). The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less. New York: Ecco.
Snyder, C. R. (2000). Handbook of Hope : Theory, Measures, and Applications. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.