Single Most Important Factor For Happiness–Unique Connections

Unique Connect—Seek to understand and show interest before telling your story

“When we’re with other people, we feel more positive emotions, which leads to greater happiness. When we’re happier, we have better relationships. This in turn leads to more positive emotions…and being on an “upward spiral” of well-being and happiness. Connecting with others is the single most important thing we can do for happiness”… the cerebral virtues—curiosity, love of learning—are less strongly tied to happiness than interpersonal virtues like kindness, gratitude, and capacity for love.” Martin Seligman  

When you first meet someone, are you attuned and focused on them or are you more interested in telling them your story? Showing interest and learning about the other person 1st is key to establishing a good first impression and establishing a “unique connect” Learning about them and their interests is a powerful connector. This is a secret that too many people have never learned because they like being the center of attention. When done well it builds a strong foundation for building a long-term relationship based on memorable first impression that demonstrates in a concrete way your core values of caring and interest.

If you do the unique connect well the following will occur:

  1. You will enjoy the conversation more because you invested in someone else.
  2. They will like you more and the interaction is more engaging.
  3. You will be perceived as an interesting person.
  4. They will normally begin to ask you questions and thus become interested in you.
  5. They will perceive you as a great resource and worthy person, which will impact you in the future.

The “unique connect” is powerful because the shift that focuses on someone else makes them feel better and accepted. The “unique connect” helps keep your ego in check and good reminder that it is not about us but the people we serve – that we influence people all the time, whether you realize it or not, and that there is always more to learn and new ways to grow. When you are interested in someone and they begin to trust you, then your influence increases and impact occurs. And by the way they may complete the circle by asking about you and your story.

Self-Coaching challenge: Here two ways to increase your connections with others. In the next 24 hours pick one and try it out. Then reflect on how it makes you feel. The Emotional Life Series on happiness recommends these two techniques:

” 1. Connect every day. Find a way to connect with someone else every day. Make it a priority to have a relaxed phone conversation, take a short walk together, share a meal, or exchange letters or emails with someone you enjoy.

2. Fake it to You Make it– Act “as if.” Even if you’re not a very outgoing person, act as if you are when you are around other people. Researchers find that if you push yourself to be more outgoing when you are with other people, you’ll feel more positive emotions from the social interaction”.

Daily Quote and Reflection: Want to Be Happier? Try this one Secret

Quote: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer”. Henry David Thoreau

Reflection: I think one of key secrets to living a happier and more fulfilled life is to not let others decide your future or to give-up challenging yourself to grow and develop.   Take small steps to the music which you hear, however small or difficult the steps may be. Way too many people are living a life that is not theirs to live. They live their lives according to what others think is best for them, they live their lives according to what their parents think is best for them, to what their friends, lovers, soul mates, critics, teachers, their religious leaders and what popular culture  think is cool or best for them. They ignore their inner drummer and voice, that inner calling. They are so busy with pleasing everybody, with living up to other people’s expectations, that they lose control over their lives. They forget what makes them happy, what they want, what they need….and eventually they forget about who they are and stop dreaming. Remember my Poem ” Happiness Happens… Be Ready…Life is Short”.  You have one life – this one right now – you must live it, own it, and especially don’t let other people’s expectations advice distract you from leaving your own footprints in the sand.

Self-Coaching Challenge:

Start today by identifying three things you want to do that will make your  life more meaningful and fulfilling. You must believe that you can have a bigger future, no matter what your circumstances. Take one of these three things you want to do and develop a plan for implementation. Remember this thing doesn’t not have to be a big flashy or difficult goal. Make you activity enjoyable and doable within the next 3 weeks.   Keep us posted. 

Daily Quote and Challenge–STOP Irrational Thoughts that Block Your Personal Happiness.

 Quote : ” You can’t talk yourself out of what you think is right and rational and yet you can challenge irrational thoughts and choose not to operate or behave like they are true”. Changing behavior can change your thinking”. Coach Mark 

Irrational Ideas that Block Your Growth and Development  

  1. Need to be loved or approved by everyone–Give credit away and recognition will come
  2. Differences make people bad, evil or stupid–Not stupid just different. Differences widen your perspective and help update your mental maps.
  3. Life is awful when things are not like we want them to be. Not awful just inconvenient.
  4. It’s easier to avoid difficulties and self-responsibilities. Face difficulties or they get worst
  5. Happiness is caused externally–Happiness is determined internally by living our values
  6. The past is the all important determiner of the present and future. No, it is just on factor.
  7. One can’t admit mistakes or ask for help–Asking shows your strength for growing. Keep your focus on goals and honestly accept responsibility for mistakes and move on.
  8. One needs someone stronger to rely upon–Better to be interdependent. I depend on you and much as you depend on me. We don’t accomplishes anything important by just relying on others.
  9. One needs to control and protect others. Focus on others needs and respect their abilities to accomplish things. Be supportive by listening not controlling.
  10. Need to be competent in all aspects of life —Can’t be perfect. Do the best you can.

Adapted from Albert Ellis—Rational Emotive Therapy

Self-Coaching Exercise: Identify which Irrational Idea is true for you. Keep track daily through this weekend how this irrational belief and thinking affects your life. Develop a plan for changing your approach by identifying what you can do differently. Be more reflective by instituting a feedback loop by enlisting a trusted friend to check your thinking.

Daily Self-Coaching Intervention Activity: Goal Setting, Smart-Steps and Achieving Happiness

Many of you have struggled with setting goals for positive change in your lives. I have written about the process of Smart-Steps for executing personal change goals. Now I would like to step back and write about the benefits of goal setting in general.

Setting Goals

If you want to succeed in making personal changes and take more control of your life, you need to set goals. Without goals you lack focus, direction and commitment. Goal setting not only allows you to take control of your life’s direction; they also provides you with a scorecard and metric for assessing whether you are actually accomplishing and succeeding in what you set out to change. If your goal is to make a difference in the lives of the homeless, then keeping the money for yourself is suddenly contrary to how you would define success.

To accomplish your goals, however, you need to know how to set them. You can’t simply say, “I want” and expect it to happen. Goal setting is a process that starts with careful consideration and clarity of what you want to achieve, and begins with action a lot of small steps and sometimes time consuming and difficult work to actually do it. These action steps I call Smart-Steps  that are critical in reaching the specifics of each goal. Knowing how to use Smart-Steps will allow you to formulate goals that you can accomplish.

Set short- and long-term goals for yourself. The best kind of goals are challenging, specific, measurable, and personally motivating and important to you. Try to set goals that are based on achieving something positive rather than avoiding or trying to eliminate something negative. It will be helpful for you to write about your goal, with lots of detail and specificity: think about what sub-goals you must achieve first, when you are going to devote time to work towards your goal, when you will reach it, what personal strengths you can use, who is going to provide support or help keep you on track and what obstacles need to be overcome.

Many people also find it helpful to share their plans with others, or to have someone working towards the same goal with them (like having a work-out coach or buddy if your plan is to get in shape). It will be easier for you to stay on track with the support of family, friends or a coach. Taking these steps makes it much more likely that you will reach your goal, and once you are successful, you will be more likely to set more challenging goals and achieve even more. 

More Resources checkout: Frisch, Dr. Michael B. and Caroline Adams Miller. Creating Your Best Life: The Ultimate Life List Guide. New York: Sterling Publishing, 2009.

Self- Coaching Challenge:

Goal : On a daily basis over the next seven days express more gratitude to others for being in your life and supporting your efforts to be a happier person. 

Expressing Gratitude: Research on Positive Psychology and Happiness show that when we are grateful for what is positive and provides enjoyment in our lives, we appreciate them more.

Activity: Begin by assessing your overall happiness. On a 1 (feeling bad or miserable)  to 10 (feeling joyful and happy) where are you today. Write your happiness number down and date it.  Next in your Personal Happiness Journal write down 3 things you are thankful for each day over the next week. The key to this exercise is to be focused on remembering in as much detail the situation you were in, who was their, what happened and why you are grateful for the experience. This focus is called re-visualizing or re-experiencing positive experiences.  At the end of each day, reflect (and/or write in your journal) about what is was like to do this activity, how it impacted your happiness and anything other lessons you learned.

Something else to keep in mind: gratitude is more powerful when shared rather than kept to yourself. When appropriate, express your gratitude directly to the people you are grateful to. You might try making a  gratitude phone call or email to someone who has impacted your life in a positive way and whom you haven’t properly thanked. Then, arrange a “face to face gratitude visit” to deliver your thank you message. 

Celebrate the Day for Happiness–22 Principles Happy People do to be Happy

Yesterday, March 20, 2013, marks the first ever International Day of Happiness. This was decreed last year by the United Nations. If you missed it here is a great summary of what HAPPY people do to stay HAPPY. Acceptance is one of the key messages–If you control something and want to change make a plan and move forward. If there is something you can’t control accept that fact and move on. Here is the post quoted below if you want more check the blog Successify at this link–

” There are two types of people in the world: those who choose to be happy, and those who choose to be unhappy. Contrary to popular belief, happiness does not come from fame, fortune, other people, or material possessions. Rather, it comes from within. The richest person in the world could be miserable while a homeless person could be right outside, smiling and content with their life. Happy people are happy because they make themselves happy. They maintain a positive outlook on life and remain at peace with themselves.

The question is: how do they do that?

It’s quite simple. Happy people have good habits that enhance their lives. They do things differently. Ask any happy person, and they will tell you that they …

1. Don’t hold grudges.

Happy people understand that it’s better to forgive and forget than to let their negative feelings crowd out their positive feelings. Holding a grudge has a lot of detrimental effects on your wellbeing, including increased depression, anxiety, and stress. Why let anyone who has wronged you have power over you? If you let go of all your grudges, you’ll gain a clear conscience and enough energy to enjoy the good things in life.

2. Treat everyone with kindness.

Did you know that it has been scientifically proven that being kind makes you happier? Every time you perform a selfless act, your brain produces serotonin, a hormone that eases tension and lifts your spirits. Not only that, but treating people with love, dignity, and respect also allows you to build stronger relationships.

3. See problems as challenges.

The word “problem” is never part of a happy person’s vocabulary. A problem is viewed as a drawback, a struggle, or an unstable situation while a challenge is viewed as something positive like an opportunity, a task, or a dare. Whenever you face an obstacle, try looking at it as a challenge.

4. Express gratitude for what they already have.

There’s a popular saying that goes something like this: “The happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have.” You will have a deeper sense of contentment if you count your blessings instead of yearning for what you don’t have.

5. Dream big.

People who get into the habit of dreaming big are more likely to accomplish their goals than those who don’t. If you dare to dream big, your mind will put itself in a focused and positive state.

6. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Happy people ask themselves, “Will this problem matter a year from now?” They understand that life’s too short to get worked up over trivial situations. Letting things roll off your back will definitely put you at ease to enjoy the more important things in life.

7. Speak well of others.

Being nice feels better than being mean. As fun as gossiping is, it usually leaves you feeling guilty and resentful. Saying nice things about other people encourages you to think positive, non-judgmental thoughts.

8. Never make excuses.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” Happy people don’t make excuses or blame others for their own failures in life. Instead, they own up to their mistakes and, by doing so, they proactively try to change for the better.

9. Get absorbed into the present.

Happy people don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future. They savor the present. They let themselves get immersed in whatever they’re doing at the moment. Stop and smell the roses.

10. Wake up at the same time every morning.

Have you noticed that a lot of successful people tend to be early risers? Waking up at the same time every morning stabilizes your circadian rhythm, increases productivity, and puts you in a calm and centered state.

11. Avoid social comparison.

Everyone works at his own pace, so why compare yourself to others? If you think you’re better than someone else, you gain an unhealthy sense of superiority. If you think someone else is better than you, you end up feeling bad about yourself. You’ll be happier if you focus on your own progress and praise others on theirs.

12. Choose friends wisely.

Misery loves company. That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with optimistic people who will encourage you to achieve your goals. The more positive energy you have around you, the better you will feel about yourself.

13. Never seek approval from others.

Happy people don’t care what others think of them. They follow their own hearts without letting naysayers discourage them. They understand that it’s impossible to please everyone. Listen to what people have to say, but never seek anyone’s approval but your own.

14. Take the time to listen.

Talk less; listen more. Listening keeps your mind open to others’ wisdoms and outlooks on the world. The more intensely you listen, the quieter your mind gets, and the more content you feel.

15. Nurture social relationships.

A lonely person is a miserable person. Happy people understand how important it is to have strong, healthy relationships. Always take the time to see and talk to your family, friends, or significant other.

16. Meditate.

Meditating silences your mind and helps you find inner peace. You don’t have to be a zen master to pull it off. Happy people know how to silence their minds anywhere and anytime they need to calm their nerves.

17. Eat well.

Junk food makes you sluggish, and it’s difficult to be happy when you’re in that kind of state. Everything you eat directly affects your body’s ability to produce hormones, which will dictate your moods, energy, and mental focus. Be sure to eat foods that will keep your mind and body in good shape.

18. Exercise.

Studies have shown that exercise raises happiness levels just as much as Zoloft does. Exercising also boosts your self-esteem and gives you a higher sense of self-accomplishment.

19. Live minimally.

Happy people rarely keep clutter around the house because they know that extra belongings weigh them down and make them feel overwhelmed and stressed out. Some studies have concluded that Europeans are a lot happier than Americans are, which is interesting because they live in smaller homes, drive simpler cars, and own fewer items.

20. Tell the truth.

Lying stresses you out, corrodes your self-esteem, and makes you unlikeable. The truth will set you free. Being honest improves your mental health and builds others’ trust in you. Always be truthful, and never apologize for it.

21. Establish personal control.

Happy people have the ability to choose their own destinies. They don’t let others tell them how they should live their lives. Being in complete control of one’s own life brings positive feelings and a great sense of self-worth.

22. Accept what cannot be changed.

Once you accept the fact that life is not fair, you’ll be more at peace with yourself. Instead of obsessing over how unfair life is, just focus on what you can control and change it for the better.


New Poem: It Is What It Is…

It is What it is…by MWHardwick 

It Is what it is…

But does that mean accept it or

Is IT  something else…

Do I need to read between the lines

Or make Assumptions…like IT means–






No communication.

Or realize these hurt because you are slipping away..

These  ITs don’t make me happy—

Just negative energy.

I need to forgive and forget.

Live in the “here and now”.

Realize choices are for everyone…

Be thankful for what I have.

Care about those who care about me…

Love those who want love

And accept IT unconditionally…….

Maybe IT will never be known…

Never be known…Never be known…Never be known…

Cause life can be unfair…

Feeling “Stuck”? Start Now to Create New Dreams of Happiness

Being “stuck”  is not a fun place to be in life; yet it is a place that many people have chosen because  they see no way out–their dreams have been crushed, boredom sets in and they ignore the pain of living a life of rituals or victim hood. They don’t realize that new dreams can be created and there are places they could “grow into” even if the new dream seems far away and often not yet seen.

Maybe these people need more support, belief in themselves and courage to take the first step for “seeking” and finding a new path. I realize that making changes and developing new directions in life can be scary, painful and confusing.

There are many paths out there to choose from. So I recommend that the first step be one of self-examination including reflection on mistakes made, lessons learned, forgiving yourself for these poor decisions, telling the truth to yourself and then acting on those truths to see the new possibilities in life.

Here is some wisdom from Tennessee Williams on this subject who wrote, “There is a time of departure even when there’s no clear place to go.”

Now your challenge is to decide when it’s time to depart?

How to rediscover your dreams for living a new dream and finding more happiness in life?

So when do you take the first step?

Key to Getting Unstuck in 2012–Understanding”Locus of Control” and Choice Theory.

Trapped or Stuck?? Find your niche in the world by discovering your strengths and making your own choices. Are you an external or an inner directed type? Internals think they have more choices and can control their futures and externals think things are more determined by outside situations , fate and luck.

An acquaintance of mine talks about his first love for music and the Arts and yet continues to work in the automotive industry to support his family.  The more we talk the more I realize that he feels and thinks being “stuck” is just his fate. Suggestions for problem solving and opportunity finding are seen as an opportunity for him to play–” Yes, but… He is unhappy and feels stuck and trapped in a thankless and meaningless job because of his responsibilities as a bread-winner.  He is a super smart and very talented but seems sad and frustrated most of the time. He has always done what is right and mostly listened to others to find direction in his career. The kids are moving on to college and he feels life slipping by. He hasn’t had time to follow his dreams. He keeps asking me –what should I do?

I avoid answering this question because advice is cheap and he needs to make that decision; so as a good coach, I ask questions and listen so he has a sounding board for his frustrations.  The problem seems to be his powerlessness to make his own choices and his perception that external sources and situation control his life. He has been doing the right thing and following everyone’s advice except his own dream. He constantly worries about what others think about him and his religiosity of faith and God’s will be done keeps him stuck in the “status quo”.  So in my quest for answers I ask–What can Social Psychological theory tell us about these kinds of situations? My search leads me to Dr. Rotter, a social psychologist, who developed a framework called the “Locus of Control” and how inner direction for life decisions provides a strong basis for making life decisions. Continue reading “Key to Getting Unstuck in 2012–Understanding”Locus of Control” and Choice Theory.”

New Poem: Happiness Happens…Be Ready…by MW Hardwick


Happiness  happens… Be Ready… by MW Hardwick 

Spend your time when happiness arrives
Be open to what you love
by engaging ideas and people who energize….

Don’t waste your time on past mistakes
learn lessons and get on your path
and leave pain and frustrations behind.

Be aware and attuned to the “here and now”
Let positive energy guide you to unknown opportunities
Offering you a chance for growth and renewal

As the world offers to you …positive energy,
Be there and aware of what to do.. Accept your feelings —enjoy the moment

And you can be truly transformed.

With happiness things still go wrong…
And you have the resilience and belief—-To comeback and step-up …
Life’s journey seems clearer to you.

You are filled with purpose and direction
Happiness comes most often from deep inside… And  seen in outside

Caring and selfless souls
Feel inner peace and act on what is NOW
Happiness flows to those awake and authentic..not to frauds and fakers

Happiness arrives like a cool breeze on a muggy night… Happiness is there for the taking

Happiness  is being proud of who you are and what you do..
Happiness is living spontaneously without monitors or what if’s …

Feeling happy comes from experience and knowing
You are going and doing things aligned with
A purposeful and constructive life…

Feel the joy and  smile…Life is short…

Life is short…Life is being ready…



How can Positive Psychology increase Happiness?

I am exploring the whole question of meaning in life and happiness. I think the following talk by Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology– as a field of study is compelling and very insightful. As it moves beyond a focus on disease, to ask how can modern psychology help us become happier?  What interventions can teach us to build more happiness? “How can happiness be reliably increased?”

According to researchers happy people are healthier, more successful, and more socially engaged. Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky and Ken Sheldon in their recent and exciting  research on cognitive and emotional strategies of happy people shows that happy individuals experience and react to events and circumstances in relatively more positive and more adaptive ways than unhappy people.  The causal efficacy of happiness has focused our research group on one practical matter: interventions that build happiness

Checkout the following at TED to get a feel for this exciting development in personal growth and happiness research.

Apply Constructive Living Principles for a Meaningful Personal Change–Principle 1 and Exercise for Change

“They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” Andy Warhol

By using Constructive Living Principles to face your problems you can identify and develop opportunities to act and create meaning in your life. By putting in place these powerful Constructive Living principles you will put choice at the center of your life. You will become more responsible for creating your attitude  and behavioral response to life’s situations. It will no longer be acceptable to use the excuse that it is the stress around us or the situations we are in at home or work that “force” you to act or not act in certain ways. Each of us chooses our path. We behave in certain ways like ignoring, running away, blaming others, getting angry, if – only thinking , getting stuck, or just plain giving up because we don’t want to take responsibility. We do have the power act in more satisfying and meaningful ways to create a more integrative and balanced life. This Constructive Living Approach can help you feel more in control and better about yourself . In essence you begin to feel more loving and worthwhile which is one of the core ingredients of living a more fulfilling and meaningful life. Continue reading “Apply Constructive Living Principles for a Meaningful Personal Change–Principle 1 and Exercise for Change”

Finding Meaning in Life: A Different Point of View–Victor Frankl’s Self Transcendance

“Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”  Victor Frankl

According to  the American Journal of Psychiatry, Dr. Victor Frankl’s work is “perhaps the most significant thinking since Freud and Adler.” Beyond Freud and Adler, Dr. Frankl spells out a very powerful approach to finding meaning in life where happiness is a by product of living a life that does not focus on yourself, money or materialism. Continue reading “Finding Meaning in Life: A Different Point of View–Victor Frankl’s Self Transcendance”