Report from IPPA Conference, Day 2

Day two of the 2nd Congress of the International Positive Psychology Association was simply amazing.  I learned SO much!  At one point I laughed to my friend “Teacher!  My brain is full!”  Here’s a report of the day’s events:

It began with Ed Deci speaking about self-determination and its relationship to positive psychology – in other words: the self-fulfilling prophecy.  He showed scientific proof that believing that you are doomed and things will never get better can actually bring that about.  Using a simple analogy (of my own), if one is drowning and they really don’t think anyone will come to rescue them, they can behave based on this belief by not paddling and dying before help could arrive.  But Deci really wowed the crowd when he reported that studies repeatedly proved that external rewards kill off intrinsic motivation.  For instance, when we try to control our children either by giving them a reward for doing well (the carrot) or punishing them when they do not do well (the stick), we inadvertently are hindering our child’s innate love of learning!  You can bet I will be blogging more about this. Continue reading Report from IPPA Conference, Day 2

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I recently spent several days with someone (who shall remain nameless). I noticed that many times when something did not go her way, she said “Of course”. She only uttered these two words but her tone and inflection implied “Of course it didn’t go my way. That’s just my luck!” If one has a belief that they are jinxed or unlucky, then it is easy to see proof of this belief where ever one goes. We usually magnify incidents that support our belief and minimize events that run contrary to that belief. In this example, any thing big or small that supported her belief that she was born beneath an unlucky star, she notices quickly and even reinforces her negative belief with her words: “Of course”. However, if something good were to happen, she would might say something like “I don’t believe it!”, “That never happens to me” or “Even a broken clock is write twice a day.” I am sure she is not aware that she is minimizing and maximizing to validate her belief system. I am equally sure that she has not consciously taken out her belief system, held up to the light of scrutiny and asked, “Is this REALLY true?”, “Is this what I really believe?” or “Is this belief serving me?” And that’s how people usually operate. Though our belief is a choice, it is often one we overlook. We make decisions (big and small) based on the belief assumptions without question – until something comes along that is big enough to jar us loose from autopilot to question that unchecked belief. That “something” might be as subtle as an article. Maybe even THIS article.
So, what unchecked beliefs are YOU operating on?
Do you think you’re unlucky? Do you think God is against you? Do you think that deep down you’re no good or unlovable? Do you think most people will take advantage of you if they can?
I invite you to think about it. Scrutinize it. If it’s not working for you, you might consider changing it. After all, you are the architect of your life.

Frank Clayton, LPC

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A must for harnessing your Happiness is taking responsibility for it.

In Happiness 101, we have four rules: no blame, no shame, no guilt and no complaining. These were dubbed the Happiness Robbers but Marci Shimoff in her book Happy For No Reason. The earmark of a Happiness Robber is avoidance of full responsibility, opting instead to be mired down in victim hood. It is important to clarify that there IS a time and place for blame, shame, guilt and complaining. But when they are used as excuses to avoid taking responsibility for your life and your Happiness. This can be easier said than done. On the one hand, taking full responsibility means that you have the power to make changes and that can feel VERY empowering. However, this also means that IT’S ALL ON YOU to make choices that will make you happy. Let’s face it: it is easier and more convenient to blame our spouse, our boss or our friends for our predicament. The price we pay, however, is remaining stuck and feeling helpless – a victim.

You might say “Oh, but I REALLY do not have control over this situation. I am stuck and there is nothing I can do.” The answer is the serenity prayer. If you have never heard it, I offer it to you now:
“Grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” So, if I am blaming my unhappiness on the recession, then I am powerless to be happy because the economic state of the nation is beyond my control. However, I AM in control of my personal finances and I am in control of my attitude. Sometimes what we have control over may be in question. Do you have control over your spouse, your boss or your friends? No. Our sphere of direct control is really quite limited. Of course we can help or hinder various processes through our behavior, but do we honestly have control? For instance, I can work hard, always show up for work and laugh at all of the bosses jokes, but does that mean I will get the promotion? Maybe but maybe not. We can do things in hopes of achieving a certain result, but many times that hoped-for result is out of our control.
I know. This can be very challenging to think about how limited your control really is. However, in my practice as a therapist, I see people frustrated and feeling depressed because they are attempting to control something that is not within their control while ignoring the things that truly ARE within their control (Disclaimer: I am not thinking of anyone specific as I write this – promise!). If we take control of our thoughts, beliefs and behaviors, WE control our happiness.
A wonderful example of this is Nelson Mandela (see recent movie review of Invictus). Here was a man wrongly imprisoned for 27 years. I don’t think anyone would have blamed him for being bitter and/or hateful. But Nelson Mandela refused to be a victim of his oppressors. He recognized that though he was imprisoned that he was the master of his fate, the captain of his soul.
Now that you have this knowledge, I challenge you to take full responsibility for your life -AND your Happiness.
~Frank Clayton, Licensed Professional Counselor

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