Saturday, March 24, 2012

How to Do a "Gut Check" and Learn to Believe in Yourself

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Have you ever done a "gut check"?

You know - that slight pause and reevaluation of some action that you've just done or are about to do? That all-important moment in time where you stop and think, is this really what I should be/want to be doing?  It's that instinctive feeling you get when you know, under ordinary circumstances, your own moral compass would have directed you in the complete opposite direction. 

You may not do these all the time, and you may find that sometimes they "pop up" and take you by surprise. 

But one thing is for sure: when you do a gut check, you do it for a reason.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about a situation that I was involved in that I wasn't particularly keen on. From the outside, it looked great. It was successful. I was even congratulated, by multiple people, for my involvement. Everyone else that was involved was ecstatic. Yet I was torn between sharing in the excitement and being weighed down by an incredible sense of guilt for going against what I personally consider to be the right approach. That's when my friend suggested the gut check. "What's your gut telling you?" she asked. "There's your answer."

And so, there it was. I, in fact, had already (and unknowingly) done a gut check the moment I was asked to stray from my own path. It happened that first time I got that twinge in my stomach - a little internal toss up and signal that something wasn't right. Now came the difficult part of separating myself from the buzz around me and learning to believe in my own true direction.

As it turns out, I learned a lot from this, and so can you.

How to Do a "Gut Check" and Learn to Believe in Yourself

1. The moment you get that first little knot in your stomach, take note. 
Your conscience is telling you something...and you better listen. This is the first warning signal to alert you that you may be headed in the wrong direction. 

2. Do the "gut check" to see if there really is any merit to your second-guessing.
When we step away from a situation for a moment, it gives us incredible clarity. Our view is no longer fogged by the opinions of others or by the excitement that is spreading around us. This is our moment to decide for ourselves whether or not we should follow on this path. 

3. Consult others (that are removed from the particular situation and have no involvement) about your concerns. 
Sometimes our mind plays tricks on us or just works a little bit too hard and presents ideas and concerns that may really not be a big deal. Sometimes that knot in our stomach is there just to keep us in check; other times it's there to ring the alarm on a bad situation. Consulting with someone you trust and that shares your values can help you validate or disqualify your concerns. 

4. Consult your gut again.
It never hurts to double-check. That's why we go for second opinions from physicians, it's why we go back to the parking lot at night to check if we locked our car doors, and it's why we need to do another gut check when things don't line up. If, after thinking things through, you're gut is still telling you something's up, then something is definitely up. 

5. Believe in yourself and follow your true path.
You're not crazy for feeling differently about some things than others -even if you're the only one who is seeing it the way you are (though that does make things a bit more difficult.) However, we've got to believe in ourselves. We've got to have faith in our own internal GPS. Your true path can be easily found if you're willing to have faith in the driver. 

6. Make a mental note.
So now you know. You know that gut feeling, and you know when things are headed in the wrong direction. Make a mental note of this so you know for next will save you valuable time and energy in trying to figure things out.

If all of that didn't convince you about the power of the Gut Check and the value in believing in yourself, perhaps a few words of wisdom from the great G.W. will have some impact:
Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.
-George Washington

After all, that's what we're all looking for, isn't it? Happiness is something that everyone wants and needs in their life. Following your gut (your moral duty alarm clock) and believing in yourself are two sure-fire ways to find it.

Do you have any gut check stories to share? I'd love to hear about them and how you learned to find the answers by believing in yourself. Leave your stories in the comments below. 

Keep Smiling,

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Happiness and Success: Which Comes First?

Earlier in the week I posted a link to an article called, "Happiness Makes Your Brain Work Better" on the OO Facebook page. Seems like something that would be quite obvious to us optimists, but nonethless I'm always interested in reading about things like this and thought you would be too. Anyway, the article included not only great content, but also a great TED talk called, "The Happy Secret to Better Work" by the author of The Happiness Advantage , Shawn Achor.

I wanted to include it in today's post in case you didn't have a chance to check it out yet, or, of course, if you just want to watch it again. ;)

It's 12 minutes that will bring you great information, interesting insights, tips to improve your level of happiness, and a good laugh. I promise!

One of the things that resonated with me was this:

"Success doesn't define happiness. Happiness defines success." 

Interesting. I've written a bunch of times about the link between happiness and success, but for some reason, this time I think it really "stuck" for me. 

I don't think I would be alone in saying that most of us believe that our level of happiness is directly related to our level of "success" in life, whatever that may be. Or perhaps we think that in order to be truly happy, we must be "successful", and until we reach that point, we can't be at our happiest.

I find this so interesting because these two ideas, "success" and "happiness", are some of the most hard-to-define concepts we have in life. Who can really say what "success" is for everyone? And the same goes for happiness. Isn't that the million dollar question: "How do we define happiness?" We must measure these two elements on a strictly individual scale - and no two persons' ideas of these can be the same. 

That being said, I do think that we should all be in the mindset that "happiness defines success" because having a positive outlook and attitude fuels our engagement and relationships, whether they be with friends or family, strangers, or even at work.

For me, the connection is clear:

When we are happy, we are more inclined to do the things that help us continue to feel those great emotions, which leads us to the building upon our strengths, having the courage to go the extra mile, and having pride in the things we invest our time in - all allowing us to become "successful" in every area of life. 

So, you've sold me on the idea, Mr. Achor.  I agree that happiness does, indeed, define success. 

What's your take?

Keep Smiling,