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What Makes You Happy? January 8, 2012

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Self-Development, spirituality.
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manoloblahnikswanemblished  Happiness—sometimes an illusive state, sometimes just present. I’ve been doing some thinking about joy and happiness. In fact I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about joy and the lack of it.

What’s the difference between joy and happiness?

Happiness and joy are often synonymous  but there’s a distinction—at least for me. My definition of happiness is a general state of being that has us predisposed to be positive, hopeful and seeing possibilities for ourselves and those we care about. Joy, on the other hand, is that juicy rush we get when we are connected to something bigger than ourselves. Like I am happy that I finally know how to dance the tango (well, sort of) and I feel an amazing joy in connecting with a partner as we do the tango together.

That said, I’m not too het up about figuring out the distinction between the two. I just know that I really want happiness and joy in my life.

What do you do if you can’t find it?

So what are you to do if it just seems to be missing for you? Good question. Wish I had THE ANSWER but alas I’m sometimes awash in the world of blah or worry or teeth-grinding.  But since I don’t like being cranky and unhappy I search for ways to alleviate the condition.

This past week I was having a conversation with some of my wonderful women friends. One of them posed the question: What makes you happy? We all  took turns giving our answers to the question.

My own answers were:

    • getting to spend time with my three grandchildren
    • dancing the tango in impossibly high heels
    • making a new quilt
    • writing in my study (which I am doing right now)
    • having a spa day
    • taking a road trip with my boyfriend 

We spent about half an hour in this conversation and by the end of it we were all mellow and grinning from ear-to-ear. Happy for no reason except that we had just spent time thinking about things that make us happy. And most of those things were not high-ticket items like trips to the Aegean or a new pair of Manolo Blahniks (though I wouldn’t say no to a pair if someone wanted to give them to me).

It is possible to get happy by focusing on that which makes us happy

So what I learned is that it’s possible to get happy by focusing on that which makes us happy and leaving behind (if only for a short time) that which annoys, saddens, angers or weighs us down. Imagine that. One can get happier by thinking about what makes her happy.

Happiness is an inside job

A Course in Miracles makes a point about this. And I am paraphrasing here. It says that if the source of your happiness is dependent on something outside of yourself like a new pair of shoes, whether you get asked out on a date, or if you look good in your new jeans, that happiness is transitory and will leave you. True happiness comes from within yourself, from that which feeds your soul or makes you feel like your best self.

Make a list…

What makes you happy? Why not engage in that conversation with a friend or write it down in a journal or on a chalkboard (started to say blackboard but I don’t think they exist anymore) or on the back of your hand? The point is to think about the good stuff as much or more as you think about the annoying stuff.

I don’t know..what d’ya think?



The Blame Game—Just Say No November 13, 2010

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Self-Development.
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scene of the crime 003 So here I am– good and ready to write the next installment of my musings about blame and how to get over it. Thank you to those of you who have emailed and spoken to me about the issue. It seems that there are very few of us who are immune to this lovely habit. I also learned quite a lot about blame and how others view it in the session that I recently had with a group of managers. I told my story which seemed to ignite their interest and we used it as a jumping off point for talking about blame and how to substitute something different. (Or was it that they just like to see their coach in the hot seat for a change?  Hmmmm)

If you read my last post you know that I was in quite a snit about my next door neighbors cutting down a beautiful old oak tree that was in the front of our houses. If you haven’t read it and you’d like to, here’s the link : Blame,Shame and Other Delights.  I was angry and immediately started blaming them for their actions. However, I am somewhat addicted to being happy—or at the very least feeling peaceful—and this agitated state was very disturbing to me. So I had a strong declaration that I needed to move into a different mood, pronto. Well, at least as pronto as I could. And I am happy to say that I have done that. But it took something to get there.

I did it—sort of

So how did I do it? Through superhuman and amazingly inspired action—well, not really SUPER human. But I dug through my spiritual tool kit and pulled out some super-duper tools to assist me. First I went to my favorite standby, Byron Katie. I have referred to her work in previous posts. Katie says that when you fail to accept what is, you make yourself miserable. Here’s a quote from a small blue book I received at one of her workshops.

I have simply stopped arguing with reality. How do I know the wind should blow? It’s blowing. How do I know this is the highest order? It’s happening. Arguing with WHAT IS is like teaching a cat to bark. Hopeless. I know that reality is good just as it is, because when I argue with it, I experience tension and frustration. It doesn’t feel natural or balanced. When I recognize this fact, action becomes clear, kind, fearless, simple, fluid and effortless.

So in my case, I stopped railing against the lost tree. How do I know the tree should be gone? It’s gone.

Took my own advice

In addition to applying Katie’s work, I also chose to see that for my neighbors the decision to cut down the tree made perfect sense. I found a quote from a letter I wrote about a year ago to one of my fortunate coaching clients.  Here’s the relevant part:

Everyone is reasonable; we just don’t always understand what the reason is. This works for me when I get caught up in my judgments about the seemingly incomprehensible behavior of another person. When you find yourself shaking your head about someone’s (or a group’s) stupidity, just assure yourself that the behavior makes perfect sense to them in their particular world. Having a sense of curiosity about what why it makes sense to them seems more productive to me that getting twisted about the fact that they don’t see the world as you do.

Great advice, if I do say so myself. I just had to start taking it, and I did.

Innocent as a baby

In addition there’s another way of thinking about people you want to blame. And that is to see them as completely innocent. They are doing what they did from a place of taking care of their lives—often a place of fear. To paraphrase A Course in Miracles, there are only two emotions, fear and love. When you are not seeing love, you are seeing fear. I began to see that my neighbors were fearful that the tree would fall on their house or their car, causing damage. When I focused on the fact that they were taking care of their fears, it became easier for me to let it go.

Before you pronounce me Mother Theresa 2, let me tell you that I still have my moments. I’m human. However, I am committed to being a better human each day.

Are you in?


Being Kinder Than Necessary October 24, 2010

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Self-Development.
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ccphoto by glamlife.studentportal A few months ago I came across a wooden plaque in an antique store that said, “Be kinder than necessary.” It came home with me and sits in a place of honor in my living room where I see it daily. I think that’s a good  precept to live by. I’ve been wanting to write about kindness for some time and today seems to be the right day. Kindness is a quality that I treasure and the lack of it (better known as unkindness) dismays me. The evening news—or any news– is a great place to be dismayed. When the debates about the health care plan were going on I was awed (and not in a good way) at the behaviors that were going on in the town meetings. I mean, it seems to me to be the height of unkindness to begrudge people of lesser fortunes the right to receive health care and then to bring a gun into a meeting to make your point. Yikes…

It’s not just in the news

Current events are not the only place I notice a lack of kindness. As an executive coach I get a chance to hear about it quite often. For some reason when people get together in companies the default position seems to be that of negativity rather than giving others a break.

What do you do if it doesn’t come naturally?

So what does it take to be a kind person? Well, I find that when I not meeting my own standards around kindness I am sitting in judgment of the other person. I have a declaration that I will always grant legitimacy, listen carefully to where the other person is coming from and try my hardest to see what might have his view point make sense in his world. And in spite of that, I sometimes find myself smack dab in the middle of negative assessments. So how to get out of that mindset is a constant source of thought and effort for me.

Marianne Williamson, a well-known teacher and lecturer of The Course in Miracles, once told a story that has stuck with me. Marianne’s web site She said that when we are in our judgments about another person, listing all of their faults and hating them for it, if we could check in with God on the subject Her (or His) response would be, “I like her.” So I guess if it’s good enough for God then it’s good enough for me. And if you don’t believe in God, you probably ought to read a different blogger because even though I have room for your belief system, I can’t get close to speaking to it.

Have a standard

I guess most of us can agree that if we were all a little kinder this world would be a better place to live. However, I can’t control what everyone else is doing. What I can do is offer appreciation to those who I see being kind to others in the hope that their example will inspire. And I can can hold myself to a standard about exhibiting kindness even in the face of resistance to it.

Be kinder than necessary… Those around you will love you for it.