Listen with Appreciation

Have you been in a conversation where the other person (people) don’t seem to be listening?  Do they interrupt to make their point?  Are they simply missing the message you are trying to convey?  Of course, you have.  If we are honest, we have been on both sides of this scenario. However, if we begin to listen to understand and not to respond, our conversations will be a lot more enjoyable and effective.  Whether in your personal or professional life, establishing a level of appreciative listening will allow you to build stronger relationships and have more relevant conversations.

Appreciative listening starts with a basic understanding that we should want to listen to understand the other person’s perspective.  You are open to their thoughts and ideas.  You aren’t positioning your next statement in your mind, as doing this will cause you to miss a large piece of the other’s point and message.  If you truly listen to gain their perspective, your responses will be more thought out and effective.  You will be able to compare with your perspectives, have a more conscious thought process and maybe change your narrative.  However, appreciative listening doesn’t mean that you must change your view to be aligned, it simply means being open-minded and authentic.

While not the direct subject of this article, appreciative listening is also tightly aligned to Emotional Intelligence – the ability to recognize, understand and manage our own emotions while also recognizing, understanding and influencing the emotions of others.

Since appreciative listening happens so rarely in our fast-paced world of always being connected where we communicate in short bursts of information (texts, tweets, etc.) needing to share thoughts, ideas and even pictures of our dinner, if you effectively listen with appreciation, you may surprise yourself and the other person.

While this seems like common sense and sounds easy, the actual execution is more difficult and takes time to build into your persona, but you can take minor steps each day and in every conversation.  Eventually, you will become a more appreciative listener.  Here are a few thoughts:

  • It should go without saying but disconnect from technology. You obviously won’t be able to truly listen with appreciation if you are checking text messages or emails during the conversation.
    • On a personal level, leave your phone in the car while out to dinner.
    • At a professional level, close your laptop and leave your phone in your pocket.
  • Assess how you participate in your next conversation right after it is over. Did you listen with an appreciation or still compile your response before the other person was done?  Write your thoughts down and reread later.  How could you have done better?
  • During the next conversation, be mindful of how you are listening. Quiet your thoughts.  If you feel yourself stepping away from being an appreciative listener, catch it and bring yourself back.  It’s kind of like meditation when you let go of thoughts coming into your mind.  Don’t punish yourself, just recognize it and let it go.
  • Ask for feedback from the other person. Ask them if they felt like you were attentive in the conversation and if they felt like your responses considered their perspectives.

Listen with appreciation and see how it makes you feel and improves your overall communications.



Happiness Hack #39 – Prepare for a Quick Start

Minimize Activation Energy


It takes more energy to get started then it does to keep moving. If you are going to work out, it takes extra energy to wake up early; put on your workout clothes, socks, and shoes; grab any other accessories or equipment you might need; and then get to the gym or workout location. Once you have started your workout, much less effort is needed to keep it moving.

So they key is to make preparations that reduce the amount of Activation Energy required. Have your gym bag ready to go. Schedule the exact time you will leave for the gym. If you are changing your eating habits, plan your meals at the beginning of the day or week. If you consistently plan ahead, in about 30 days it will become a habit and you won’t have to think about it. You will naturally be able to overcome the Activation Energy required to start that activity.

Prepare for a quick start and you will be more likely to succeed and happier about the results.




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MyHappiness App

Believe Lighthouse

Believe to Achieve

(photo courtesy of Colleen Kilpatrick)

It has been proven that if you don’t believe you will not succeed.  How can you achieve something if you don’t believe you can?

Our beliefs are what we decide we want to think is true – based on our own personal experiences and information we have learned through our lives.  It is the only common factor in determining your ability to achieve something.  If you don’t believe you are capable of achieving, then, you will not achieve.  However, if you believe in yourself, you will likely endure in finding a way to succeed.  “Unbelief” manifests itself in the same way – if you have a thought, but believe it will not occur, then forces will drive your thoughts and emotions to be true – it will not occur.

Your power is very forceful and real.

“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” –  Henry Ford

While Shawn Achor was specifically talking about happiness in his book, The Happiness Advantage, he explains that the brain scans for positive or negative meanings from the input it receives.  Problems arise when you program your brain to scan for the negative (disbelief) before positive (belief).  By scanning for the negative first, we ultimately shut down opportunities to succeed because we are masking our ability to see positively.  We need to program our brains to look for the positives first and believe.

While there is relevance in the “law of attraction” (think about something and you will attract like things), I am not saying that by simply thinking of things, they will automatically appear.  That is more “wishing” than believing.  Believing is having the confidence that you will be able to do what’s necessary to achieve your goal.  You will put the steps in place to be successful.  Begin believing in yourself and see the power it unleashes.  Doors will open because you are “looking” for them to open.  If you are negative with a closed mind, you may not recognize the opportunities in front of you.

Here are a few examples of what you can do to see things more positively:

  • Positive is a choice – being positive is a choice and you can control how you approach your thoughts.  You know when you are thinking negatively.  If you recognize your thoughts as negative, simply shift them to being more positive.
  • Positive Affirmations – repeat positive statements of your desired outcomes.  This repetition will build positive momentum in your subconscious thinking and open your mind up to success and positive thinking.
  • Visualization – like affirmations, visualizing yourself being successful will cause you to be more positive.  Visualize yourself succeeding – experience every moment and all of the senses.  The more realistic your visualization, the more powerful it will be.
  • Eliminate negative influences.  External factors have a significant impact on our thoughts.  You need to recognize the negative influences in your life and replace them with positive.  Generally these negative influences are people at work, friends and even family.  While not always easy, you need to minimize interaction with these toxic influences and replace them with supportive and positive influences.
  • Share Positivity – the true impact of becoming positive is your ability to share being positive with others.  Like many things in life, being positive is contagious – make an effort to smile at someone else, share a compliment, reinforce that someone has done a great job.  Bottom line, Be Good to People.

The outcomes of our activities will greatly depend on how we look them.  Take time to understand your thoughts and guide them toward the positive.


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Success: How to Stop Speeding and Get There Faster

Have you ever been driving to some important event, running a little late, and then you get lost?  You think you know where to go, but you are not quite sure, so you go faster and faster, trying to get there on time, but still getting more lost?   You think you are heading in the right direction, but not quite sure, so you go even faster.  You could stop to check the map on your phone, but you are so close, you know your destination is probably just around the corner.  So you speed up a little more.

This is what we do in our lives.  We think we are on the right course, but something doesn’t feel right so we just keep speeding up.  We keep getting busier and taking on more commitments because success and happiness are just around the next turn.  One more big project, one more raise, one more promotion, and we will arrive at happiness and success.  We think we are on the right path, but partially formed thoughts in the back of our heads keep nagging at us.  Unfortunately, we are too close to stop and re-evaluate.  We are too busy to take a few minutes and examine what we are doing or to admit we might have taken a wrong turn somewhere.  We might have something in our plans that is moving us farther from happiness and success rather than closer, but we are going too fast to stop and find out.

Is it time to stop and check the map?

  1. Stop and take 15 minutes to write down your definition of success.  What is success for you?  How will you know when get there?  What are the markers in your life that tell you when you have arrived?  Do they include your family, your health, and your relationships? Does your definition of success include being happier? Is there more in your definition of success than just your career or the amount of money you will accumulate?
  2. Now write the top 3 milestones you have to work toward each day to reach that definition of success.  What are the 3 things in your life, that when reached, you will be confident in saying that you have met your definition of success?
  3. Check your to-do list for today. Is working on each of your 3 milestones a top priority, or are other less important but more urgent matters pushing them down or even off the list?  Slow down and focus on your definition of success and your top 3 milestones.  Get those done first and you will know you are on the right path.


Write your definition of success and identify the 3 milestones you need to work towards each day, and you won’t have to keep speeding up.  But you will get there faster!



My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Get into the Flow

Flow is a state where you lose track of time and your surroundings. You are so caught up in what you are doing, your brain doesn’t process unrelated outside information.


“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times…the best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi


Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the leading expert on flow, found that people who became really absorbed in what they were doing had higher levels of happiness. The more they got into flow, the happier they were.

Athletes call it being in “the zone”. That place where time stands still and you understand exactly what you need to do and how you need to do it. In your work, there are probably several tasks you seem uniquely suited to. Activities where you have been doing them long enough that you can focus and knock them out, but that always require you be at your top performance. You set aside time and start working. At some point, you are interrupted by a colleague about going to lunch. You look up and realize you have been focused for more than an hour and it seems like only minutes. You don’t remember anything else being in your life in the past hour but you and the task. You feel energized and happy at getting so much done. That is when you have achieved flow.

Flow is something we can control. We can work to find ways to achieve flow and as a result, we can find ways to be happier.

To find flow find adapt your tasks to include the following characteristics:

  1. Potential for Completion – you have a realistic chance of completing the task or that phase of the task.
  2. Concentration – you have or can create the silence or isolation in your environment so you can fully concentrate.
  3. Clear goals – you know exactly what you are going to accomplish and can clearly measure or see that accomplishment.
  4. Immediate Feedback – you know in the moment how you are doing and that you are accomplishing your task.
  5. Control – you feel you have a sense of control over your actions.


Finding Flow will help you be happier while the results of your work while you are in a state of Flow will help you be successful.


My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Happiness is a Choice

Guest Blog from Wayne Irwin


There have been a lot of studies and focus on happiness lately.  While there are a number of factors that impact happiness, the one thing that all of the studies point to is the fact that happiness is within your control – it’s your choice.  That’s right, it is a choice and something that you can take control of immediately.


Many believe that happiness is governed by others and continues to elude them because something “negative” continues to get in their way.  Happiness is really a state of mind and largely about “learned optimism” – the ability to look at the bright side. Take control of your thoughts and make it happen.


There are literally hundreds of things that you can do on a daily basis that will help your happiness.  Here are 3 that you can start with immediately –


Choose your Attitude – Be Positive – choose to look at things from a positive perspective.  There are 2 sides to every issue and your perspective will color your happiness.  By looking at the positive or what good can come from the event, you will begin an upward spiral to being more & more happy more & more of the time.  The same is true on the opposite side.  If you look through a negative lens or worry about everything, then your focus will become jaded and it will be very difficult for you to see the positives.


Have you ever heard the saying – “it’s all in your head”?  There is truth in that saying – if what’s in your head is positive, it is more likely that positive things will happen and take you further down a path of happiness.


Choose your Friends – Happiness is truly contagious.  By spending time around happy people, you will see that they are generally optimistic, grateful for what life has provided, and look for ways to help others.  This in turn will help you visualize yourself with the same perspective.  Your thoughts and attitudes will veer towards being optimistic in different situations – looking curiously at the opportunities, and taking positive actions.


We all know people who live their lives “being” unhappy – maybe you are one of them.  Many times they create the unhappiness by complaining about everything, focusing on negative versus positive, and are generally comforted by being a victim.  You want to avoid these types of people.


Create a circle of friends that are positive and creating positive energy.  If you do this, negativity won’t be an option.


Choose Gratefulness – Being grateful truly allows you to enjoy life.  Gratitude plays such a large role in happiness because it eliminates so many things that can cause unhappiness.  Focus on the good things in your life – don’t compare your life to others – but truly focus on all of the things you can appreciate.  If you simply think of 3 things on a daily basis, you will feel your outlook on life becoming more positive and you will seek out positive things.  I have a “gratefulness jar” in my house.  Every night, we write down something we were grateful for that day and put it in the jar – it sounds simple, but it works.


Practicing gratitude on a daily basis will allow us to appreciate the things in our life – our happiness and our success – more.


Yes, that’s right, HAPPINESS is a choice.  Something we can work on nearly every minute of the day.  Take the three steps listed above and see what a great choice you have made.

How to get Happy – 4 Concepts connected to Leadership and Success

Over the years I have had the opportunity to study leadership and success.   I am struck by the connections between each area and how those connections are similar for happiness as well.


Your first test on happiness:

  1. Do you want to:
    1. Receive happiness like winning the lottery or receiving a gift?
    2. Experience happiness as a state of mind?

If you choose A, then you may be waiting for a while, possibly forever.  However, if you choose B, then we, the team at, have a lot to share that may be helpful.


Sonja Lyubomirsky, in her book The How of Happiness, explained that happiness is created through our daily intentional activities.  This is consistent with Leadership and Success as well.   Happiness is within our ability to control with what we do in our daily lives and how we think.


Here are 4 concepts that will provide a framework for exploring happiness.

The first concept is understanding the difference between Pleasure and Happiness.   Are you chasing immediate pleasures like sex, decadent foods, couch time, and video time, or are you nurturing relationships, maintaining your health through diet and exercise,  finding ways to improve yourself, and being thankful for what is working in your life.  The pursuit of pleasure involves feeling good in the short-term at the possible risk of negative long-term outcomes; the pursuit of happiness consists of intentional activities and habits that promote long term health and well-being.



The second concept is taking control of your life.   George Bernard Shaw although a little gruff, was headed in the right direction when he explained pursuing happiness as, “…being a force of Nature instead of a feverish little selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. “  Do you own your decisions and the consequences of those decisions?  Are you deciding every day to invest in the habits and activities that will lead to happiness or are you waiting and hoping that happiness will find you?


The third concept is cultivating close positive relationships.  Do you have a few close friends you can talk to and share tell about your failures and successes? People who know and appreciate the real you, the good and the bad?  Are you caring and sharing in the community? Is there a person, group, or cause that you care for and give to?  The acts of sharing our true selves with others and caring for others are the most important things we can do to generate happiness and contentment in our lives.


The fourth concept is finding and expressing purpose and meaning.  The full George Bernard Shaw quote is:

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish little selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.


Do you have something bigger than yourself to focus on?  Is there something bigger that you believe in or something that you know you were meant to do?  For many people this can be expressed in their religion or other spiritual pursuits.  Others may focus on their children or their meaningful contributions.


In summary, if you are choosing to pursue happiness:

  1. Understand the difference between Pleasure and Happiness
  2. Take control of your life and your happiness.
  3. Develop close positive relationships and care for others.
  4. Find and express purpose and meaning in your life.


As described above for happiness, leadership and success require a long term perspective, action and ownership, strong relationships, and a sense of purpose.


Also like Leadership and Success, happiness is not a possession that can be acquired.   It is a state of mind resulting from the cultivation of intentional daily habits.    It has to be pursued, explored, and experienced on an on-going basis.   Find out more about how to cultivate Happiness Habits at

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