How to Gain More Resilience and Why it’s Important

It has been a tough year. For many who already suffer from depression and/or anxiety, it has been even tougher.

Many of the people I see in therapy report feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Some say that they tend to dwell in the negative, even feeling hopeless at times, while others report choosing unhealthy behaviors such as drinking one too many glasses of wine to soothe themselves. In fact, 60% of participants in a recent study reported increased drinking compared to pre Covid times.

If this sounds familiar, there is good news. We humans are resilient!

George Bonanno, professor of Clinical Psychology from Columbus University says that when we are hit with loss or trauma, it is resilience that gets us back on track.

  • Resilience is the capacity to manage stress and cope with crisis and adversity.
  • Resilience is rebounding more quickly after a blow.
  • Resilience is a healthy adjustment to a setback.
  • Resilience is harnessing one’s own inner strength.
  • Resilience is personal growth, and it is powerful stuff!

It seems that the ever-popular idiom, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” is not so far from the truth.

If you feel that resilience is not your strong suit, no worries, you are not doomed. Bouncing back is a process, not a character trait. In other words, resilience is learned.

Here are five ways you can gain more resilience in your life:

Be more flexible –Our minds work like a muscle. The more we stretch them, the more flexible and open we become. And people who are more flexible and open are more curious, pay more attention to their feelings, and are more comfortable with the unfamiliar. These are important traits to have right now as we face the unfamiliar aspects of Covid and our changing times.

View set-backs as temporary – Set backs are a normal part of life. When we understand that “this too shall pass,” we are more able to accept our current circumstances as a moment in time and push through. Pushing through is proactive. It not only helps decrease feelings of depression, but it also helps you find solutions to your problems and move forward in your life.

Practice being grateful – Studies show that when you write down three good things that happened in your life (such as something that made you smile, or strengthened a connection), your brain scans the last 24 hours looking for positive moments. This scanning activity, in turn, trains your brain to look for these positive moments. And when you notice these moments, you feel happier, more thankful, and more appreciative of your life.

Seek support from others –When we feel connected to others, we are better able to weather difficult times. Connection to others not only lowers our levels of anxiety and depression but feeling connected increases our self-esteem and immune system. In addition, researchers have found that people who feel connected are more empathetic, trusting, and cooperative. Consequently, when we trust others, they trust us. This leads to what psychologists call a positive feedback loop which enhances the social, emotional and physical well-being of both parties.

Take care of yourself – Self-care is especially important during difficult times. Getting enough sleep, eating well, and going outside for some sunshine and exercise not only make you feel better, but these activities are in your scope of control. And feeling as if we have some control in our lives when there are things happening in the world that we cannot control offers us some comfort.

We hope you found this helpful. Please let us know what you do to help build resilience in the comments below.

Deanne Brown is an Associate Professional Clinical Counselor. She is also a parenting expert. She has a passion for helping parents and their children achieve Better Lives and Better Relationships. 

How to Help Your Child Go the Extra Mile

This is the first of a series of blogs on Raising Happier Humans.

Many of us have forgotten to trust our children to learn, grow, and mature.

We reward them for a good grade, and take their video game privileges away for a bad grade. We nag them to get their homework done, monitor their work, obsess over their progress, and apply excessive pressure to perform in hopes that they are accepted into the best universities.

Moreover, we oblige our young people as they cross into adulthood to choose practical vocations in pursuit of security and status over following one’s dreams; a compromise that haunts our children for years to come. In essence, we value grades, compliance, and achievement over the love of learning, relationship, and happiness.

I know I found myself pushing my children at times. Looking back, I realize it was in actuality an attempt to calm my own anxiety and feelings of helplessness regarding their future. I love my children, and wanted what was best for them. We all do. But placing external controls on them and pushing them to succeed is not the answer.

The truth is that placing external controls on a child only teaches them to comply. It also gives them the message that they are not capable of doing or thinking for themselves.

And when we push them, or when they believe they are not capable, they either become anxious, stressed, and easily overwhelmed, or depressed, unmotivated, and quit at the first sign of difficulty.

I see this all the time in therapy, especially amongst teens. They come to my office anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed. They worry about getting their homework done, failing grades, college applications and/or living up to the unrealistic expectations of parents, teachers, and society. They complain of being tired, sad, unmotivated, behind in their work and frustrated that they have no control over their own lives. They share deep feelings of loneliness and worthlessness. These young people also report not feeling seen or heard by their parents and/or teachers. Some are inundated with extracurricular activities, while others are overwhelmed with chores at home and taking care of younger siblings while their parents are working. Almost all communicate an overall sense of hopelessness in the future.

What I have learned over the years as a mother of three, and a therapist working in the schools is what parents describe as laziness or entitlement are actually our child’s lack of autonomy necessary to self-direct one’s own life, and the resilience essential to carry-on when life gets difficult.

For autonomy-the freedom to self-direct one’s own life-is the key to motivation, physical and mental health, academic success, and happiness.

It is possible to achieve this in your home.

I have found these five principles to be quite supportive in helping our children and teens overcome the stress and anxiety of life, feel more motivated, and go the extra mile at home, in school, and in life:

1. ) Trust them to self-direct their own lives.

This does not mean that you leave them to their own devices. As parents, we have a responsibility to make sure that our children are safe.

This does mean that we trust that they are capable of self-direction such as making important decisions or choosing their friends, what to wear, and/or what to eat.

And when trust is a prevailing value in our homes, feelings that, “I am worthy,” or “I can do anything I set my mind to” become our child’s prevailing beliefs.

2.) Love them unconditionally.  

When a child understands without a doubt that there is nothing they can do that will change a parent’s love for them, they then feel worthy.

And, when a child feels worthy, they are more likely to work hard and try new things.

This means no strings attached.

3.) Allow them to be part of the decision process.

When a child is given the freedom to collaborate in decision-making, they feel heard, seen, and important.

And when a child feels important, they are more apt to believe in themselves, take themselves seriously, and achieve their goals.

4.) Let them choose the activities that they want to participate in, and the peers they want to hang out with.

When we trust our children to choose their own activities and friends, they learn to make important decisions, and/or adjust accordingly when things go awry.

Again, this does not mean that you leave them to fail alone. This does mean that we give them the freedom to fail if necessary.

We can support them without rescuing them.

Because it is within the disappointment and defeat that they gain the resiliency to carry on.

5.) Allow them to express themselves freely through clothing, music, food, etc. without passing judgment.

By allowing your child to freely express themselves, they are more able to let loose the “free-spirited parts” of themselves.

This allows them to imagine their future without risk, as well as their place in the world.

And when they can imagine this place, they are more likely to know what they want and work towards getting there, ultimately achieving their goals.

This list is just a few of the ways we can help our children learn, grow, and mature.

What is on your list?

Deanne Brown is an Associate Professional Clinical Counselor. She is also a parenting expert. She has a passion for helping parents and their children achieve Better Lives and Better Relationships. 

12 Homeschooling Principles to Help Parents during the Coronavirus Quarantine

To all the parents who find themselves involuntarily homeschooling their kids, hang in there. Yes, it can be daunting, but I found that when I lived by these 12 principles while homeschooling my own three children, the panic attacks stopped, and I was able to let go and enjoy the process. Take what you want from the list and leave the rest. I do not profess to know everything, but I do know that today my kids are grown, well-adjusted, happy and successful contributing members of society.

Principle 1: Spend Time Together. Play games, read books, watch a movie, go for a walk, bake, color, paint, cuddle, make music, watch a virtual concert or take a virtual tour of a museum. Explore something you or they have always been interested in learning but never had the time or energy to pursue. Have some fun! Children learn through play. They learn about math by baking cookies or building shelves for their room. They learn about botany, the seasons, and the environment when planting flowers in the garden. They learn multitasking and the ability to quickly switch strategies playing video games. It may not look like the learning you are used to—textbooks, worksheets, and grades—but I assure you they are learning each and every day with or without school.

Principle 2: Let Kids be a Part of the Planning. Empower your kids to be a part of the decision process. Create a culture in your home where your children feel free to share their ideas without worrying about being criticized or judged. Ask them what they would like to learn about. Have them make a list, and then provide them with the time, materials, and resources that they need. This helps them to not only feel important, they will know that their opinions matter. Providing an opportunity for your children to make decisions is essential in developing critical thinking skills, self-agency, autonomy and a feeling of belonging.

Principle 3: Be a Good Role Model. Like it or not, our children are watching. Long gone is the old adage, “do as I say, not as I do.” It simply doesn’t work. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. When a parent is able to regulate their emotions, be mindful of their own feelings as well as the feelings of others, while also adopting positive life habits such as exercise, getting lots of sleep, and eating healthy, a child will too. That is your role. To show them how to “be” especially during times like these.

Principle 4: Do Not be Afraid to Show your Vulnerability. Bring your whole heart and your whole self to the world, your family and your projects each and every day. Show up fully, let go of your defenses, dare to be seen, get into the arena and allow your children to do the same. These are essential elements to helping your children learn to participate and fully engage, get into flow, enjoy life, and feel like what they do as a citizen of this world matters.

Principle 5: Encourage Your Children to do What they Love. If your child wants to learn to play drums instead of the piano, so be it. You may not agree with your child’s choice of instruments or worry she is disturbing the neighbors, but when work becomes pleasure, it is not work at all. Doing what your child loves brings great joy and a sense of deep purpose and meaning. Being forced to do something that they don’t love, and they will quit the minute it gets too difficult or when they turn eighteen. Allowing your child to follow their dreams not only compels them to take on challenges and learn new things, it inspires them to keep on going when things get tough. It is your job as parents to encourage them. If you can’t, then the least you can do is stay out of their way.

Principle 6: Allow Your Children to Fail. As Albert Einstein once said, “anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Let your children play, explore, take risks, make a mess, and mess up. Yes, life can be scary, especially right now. But a life driven by fear is no life. Let go of the fear and say “yes” to your children, so that they can learn to say “yes” to themselves.

Principle 7: Let Go of Expectations. Do not expect your child to live up to all of your expectations. This is a heavy burden to place on them. They either become ridden with a feeling of failure or guilt because they did not live up to your expectation, or they create a false-self attempting to live up to your expectation. Either way, it is a no-win situation. Instead, it is imperative that your child feel in control of their own destiny so that they can learn self agency (the opposite of what happens when you micromanage). Self agency is one of the most important elements of overall happiness and well-being.

Principle 8: Live by Principles not Rules. Abraham Lincoln so beautifully expressed, “I never had a policy; I have just tried to do my very best each and every day.” Many of our lives, especially our children’s lives are full of rules; many of them arbitrary. This can result in compliance for sure, but at a high cost. Our kids end up living their lives trying to please others instead of pleasing themselves. A better alternative is 1) to adopt a more gentle approach, one that is responsive to your child’s needs while still keeping them safe and 2) teach them basic fundamental beliefs and values that are good and desirable which in turn will result in good and desirable actions.

Principle 9: Be Patient. The human being takes longer to develop than any other mammal on earth. Your child needs time to grow and learn. Growth occurs when they have the opportunity to play, explore, dream, imagine, and follow their interests. This requires not only an enormous amount of time, but patience. Accept this natural process and hang in there. There is no point in trying to rush or control their development and learning. I promise, if they haven’t done a math problem in weeks, they are not going to be failures in the future. Please do not lose sleep over this like I once did. Not only will your stress and nagging interfere with your child’s natural learning process, you will interfere with your relationship with your child, and cause unnecessary anxiety; pressure that will only add to the already stressful times.

Principle 10: Love Them Unconditionally. To love your children unconditionally and to affirm that love gives them the ability to love themselves. Let your children know that they are precious to you no matter what. Support them, accept them for who they are and encourage them to always stay true to themselves. They need to know without a doubt, that you will not judge them especially in times when they fall or fail. This requires respect, treating them like individuals, and not expecting them to please you.

Principle 11: Stay Optimistic. Your child’s beliefs about their abilities is directly correlated to your beliefs about their abilities. If you think they can, then they will. If you think they can’t, they wont. To add, people who are hopeful and have confidence in the future and in each other (optimists) tend to be more successful than those who lack confidence in the future and see the worst in people (pessimists). During these strange and uncertain times, adopting a glass is half full attitude is far more helpful than freaking out and losing hope. We are all in this together. There may be a silver lining in all of this yet.

Principle 12: Get comfortable with being Uncomfortable. We can’t control external forces or change our circumstances, but we can change our attitudes and reactions to these events in our lives. As Holocaust survivor and psychologist Victor Frankl once said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Although Frankl’s experience was more than most of us will ever have to endure in a lifetime, Frankl understood that attitude and love were first and foremost to survival. When one lives life from this perspective, one is able to be more open to the uncertainty that is certain in life.

I hope that you find this helpful. Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I would love to hear from you.

Good News for All Your Video Game Playing Kids!

A metanalysis of 89 studies recently published in the Psychological Bulletin, found that there is a strong positive relationship between gaming and high scores on tests of perception, top-down attention, spatial cognition, multitasking and the ability to quickly switch strategies when the old strategy they are using no longer works. Researchers found that theses results did not require an exorbitant time spent playing video games. Simply 10 to 30 hours over the duration of the experiment was sufficient for significant change.

In addition, researchers found that the benefits gamers experience from playing video games match the same benefits as other forms of play. Not only are these games becoming more complex, creative and social—especially with the increase in popularity of online multi-player games—they may in fact be helpful in ameliorating social isolation rather than causing it. In fact, these on-line games may actually be counteracting the harmful effects of the loss of playing outdoors and finding other children to play with, for example, without adult’s supervision, as they once did.

So if you are worried about your kid’s brain turning to mush after a weekend spent bingeing on video games, you can relax, pull up a seat next to them, and pick up a controller. Your brain and your child will thank you.

First published January 2019 at

Why Taking a Vacation is Essential to Your Physical & Mental Health

Did you know that taking time off work has long-lasting physical and psychological health benefits?

People who take vacations, for example, report:

  • lower stress rates
  • a more positive outlook on life
  • a higher level of motivation to achieve their goal
  • and they are happier.

Yet, research shows that Americans work longer hours, retire later, and take less vacation days compared to other industrialized countries.

I know that many of you can relate. Maybe you are worried that you will get behind in your work or feel less productive. You may have people relying on you and due dates to meet and you don’t want to let anyone down, including yourself. With these many concerns, taking time off can seem to create more stress.

But studies show that this is not true. People who take time off work are actually more focused, engaged, and productive. This is because taking time away from work can reduce the production of the stress hormone, cortisol. This hormone is responsible for stress, anxiety and depression and can wreak havoc on our bodies, cognitive abilities (like thinking and remembering), and peace of mind.

It seems Dolly Parton knew a thing or two when she said:

“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

Here are a few more reasons why taking time to go on a vacation is a good idea:

  • The New York Times reported that those who go on a on a vacation every two years have a lower incidence of coronary heart disease compared to those who only take a vacation every six years.
  • Those who take time for regular trips have a 69.4 score on the Gallup-Heathway’s Well-Being index compared to a 51.4 who traveled less frequently. In addition, people reported that three days after their vacation, their mood had improved, they could sleep better and had less physical pain than before their trip. And what may be surprising to many, these benefits lasted as long as five weeks after their vacation. Although there are some studies that say it lasts three weeks.
  • With this positive mood comes more mental power. In fact, employees reported feeling more focused and being more productive after a holiday from work. Why? Chronic stress can actually inhibit the goal centered and memory parts of the brain.
  • I love this one. The Arizona Department of Health and Human Services found that women who took vacations reported being more satisfied with their marriages.
  • And when it comes to job burnout, it’s a no-brainer. Not surprisingly, employees who take time to travel experience less fatigue and exhaustion. They are more rested, creative and content.
  • Last but not least, studies show that it is the actual planning of a vacation that gives one an extra happiness boost – sometimes as much as eight weeks before – and not just the vacation itself.

By the way, you don’t have to fly off to some exotic Island to reap the benefits of a vacation. A “staycation” can have the same positive results.

Now that you know the facts about vacation, staycation, and productivity, I recommend you put as much importance on your vacation time as you do your annual doctor’s check-up. For your physical and mental health are simply not up for negotiation!

Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

I have learned to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I had to, because the alternative is…well, there is no alternative if you are going to enjoy life, learn and grow.

We lost everything in the 2008/2009 recession. Soon after, I was diagnosed with cancer. We didn’t know where we were going to live or how we were going to pay the medical bills. I didn’t even know if I would survive.

It is in moments like these when you are hit with great challenges, and the uncertainty that comes with it, that we want to be assured that everything is going to be okay. We desperately want to know what’s going to happen. We want answers even where there are none. This state of ambiguity can result in feelings of insecurity, stress, anxiety, and if it lasts for an extended period of time, depression.

People do not like uncertainty. But the truth is that as long as change is ever present in our lives, so is the uncertainty that comes with it. My dad used to say, “the one thing that is for sure is that nothing is for sure.” Of course, when I was a kid, I didn’t quite understand what he meant. After experiencing many unexpected changes in my life, I get it now.

So, what do we do we in times when we do not have the answers? What do we do when we have to live in a state of ambiguity and uncertainty, sometimes for weeks, months or even years? How do we deal with the insecurity and anxiety that comes with a change in relationship status, for example, a new job, or the kids moving out? How do we deal with the fear that comes with an illness, ours, or a loved one? How do we stay calm when plans do not turn out the way we planned, financial upheaval hits, or any other situation that results in an uncomfortable state of being?

Answer: We learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Yep. Sorry if you were hoping for a better answer.

In fact, not only is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable a way to help reduce the anxiety that comes with uncertainty, Jungian psychologist, James Hollis says that being able to live in uncertainty for long periods of time is a sign of growth and maturity; “it is is learning to live with how life really is, full of complexities and strange surprises.”

And how do we get comfortable living with the complexities and strange surprises of life? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Let go of certain expectations and prepare for different possibilities. When your expectations are not met, you set yourself up for disappointment. If you are open to different outcomes, there is nothing or no one to disappoint you.
  2. Avoid black and white thinking and one-sided solutions and accept the paradoxes and complexities of life.
  3. Approach each day with curiosity. Look at life as both a gift and an adventure rather than a sure thing.
  4. Know when to let life unfold rather than attempting to control every twist and turn. In other words, focus on what you can control, accept the things that you cannot and know the difference between the two.
  5. Have patience with not having all the answers. As Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “live in the question.”
  6. Do not avoid the anxiety that comes with being uncomfortable. Instead. go towards it. Depression can be a sign of regression. Anxiety is a sign you are moving forward.
  7. When in need, apply stress reduction techniques such as being mindful, taking a walk, meditation, and/or yoga.
  8. Be kind to yourself and others in time of change and uncertainty.
  9. Know that “This too shall pass.”
  10. Change the narrative. As the Indian spiritual leader Osho said, “Don’t call it uncertainty; call it wonder. Don’t call it insecurity; call it freedom.”

And last but by no means least, love each other. We can’t control external forces or change other people, but we can change our attitudes and reactions to these events and people in our lives. As Holocaust survivor and psychologist Victor Frankl once said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Although Frankl’s experience was more than most of us will ever have to endure in a lifetime, Frankl understood that attitude and love were first and foremost to survival. When one lives life from this perspective, one is able to be more open to the uncertainty that is certain in life.

First published at

There is No Courage without Vulnerability

I love to perform with my band. There is something magical about getting on stage and expressing myself through music. The lights, the excitement, and the connection I make with the crowd, the band, and myself makes me feel truly alive.

Do I get nervous? You bet. Do I worry I might mess up? Yep. Do I worry about what others might think of me? Of course. Do I do it anyway? Absolutely!

“Vulnerability is the risk we take when we put ourselves out there. It is a natural feeling we get from uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure,” says research professor and author Brene Brown in her show, A Call to Courage, now streaming on Netflix.

And believe it or not, feeling vulnerable is a good thing.

What? Feeling anxious and exposing oneself to the possibility of being fully seen or criticized is a good thing?


“Because there is no courage without vulnerability,” explains Brene. For example, “when we build cultures at work where there is zero tolerance for vulnerability, no open conversation happens,” says Brene. “We end up talking about each other instead of to each other.”

Instead, according to Brene, we need real conversation. We must bring our whole heart and our whole selves to the arena, each and every day. We must choose courage over comfort and create a culture where we feel free to share ideas without worrying about the critic. We must show up fully and let go of our armor, be open to failure and dare to be seen and take risks if we are going to feel fully alive and make a difference in our organizations, our communities, and the world.

Theodore Roosevelt says it beautifully in this celebrated quote:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

So how do we overcome the fear that comes with being vulnerable?

  • Brene Brown says we do it anyway. We dare greatly!
  • Second, she says that we get rid of the following myths around vulnerability.
  1. Vulnerability is weakness – Not true. Vulnerability is the most courageous thing you will ever do.
  2. I don’t do vulnerability – Everyone does vulnerability knowingly or unknowingly. “You do vulnerability, or vulnerability does you.” Says Brene. People take their pain and work it out on other people when they don’t acknowledge their own vulnerability.
  3. I can go it alone – Not true either. We need each other. We are neurobiologically wired to other people. We can’t go it alone. In fact, in the absence of love and connection, there is always suffering.
  4. We can engineer the uncertainty and discomfort out of vulnerability – No, you can’t. The minute a situation becomes comfortable it is no longer vulnerability.
  5. Trust comes before vulnerability – They actually work together. The more you share the more trust is formed and the more you trust, the more you share.
  6. Vulnerability is disclosure – Not full disclosure. Vulnerability without boundaries is not vulnerability. Everyone deserves privacy.

So show up my friends! Do not be afraid to get in the arena. And when the time comes, do “it” anyway, it spite of the fear you feel. Only then will true connection to each other and yourself take place.

First published at

Why You Want to Adopt a Growth Mindset

Not too long ago, scientists believed human intelligence was determined by the size of a person’s skull. They assumed that the larger the skull, the smarter the person. Of course, this is not true.

A few years later, people believed you were born with a fixed amount of intelligence that remained constant over a lifetime. The idea that intelligence remains constant is still a commonly held belief today. This is not true either.

While genes, for example, do indeed influence some things, they do not determine everything. This is important, because the belief that an inborn talent alone without effort creates success is wrong.

This notion is based on flawed beliefs about intelligence—you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, I’m too old, or I am not good enough, smart enough, etc.—and can keep people from going after their dreams and achieving their goals.

The reality is that you are smart enough! You are never too old! And people can and do learn new tricks!

I know first-hand! Writing did not come naturally to me at first. In fact, I disliked writing immensely growing up, and it wasn’t until I was in my 40’s, that I actually called myself a writer. With continuous effort, lots of practice, positive feedback, and the grit and determination to stay the course, today I am not only a published author, I LOVE writing! It is my happy place.

Current research shows that intelligence does indeed change within a lifetime especially when the following two conditions are present:

  • One makes a purposeful and meaningful effort
  • and one understands that purposeful and meaningful effort makes you smarter

This is what Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset. According to Dweck, a growth mindset is when:

People believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work, and brains and talent are just the starting point.

What is so cool about this concept is that the science backs it up. Studies show, for example, that when educators create a growth mindset in classrooms, where instructors reward effort, strategy and progress rather than getting answers correct, students not only become more engaged and confident, but new and stronger neuron connections are formed in the brain. Put differently, people get smarter as seen in a group of 4th grade student’s in the South Bronx. These children were way behind their cohorts. Today, they are the number one 4th grade class in the state of New York on the state math tests.


“This happened because the meaning of effort and difficulty were transformed,” says Dweck. Before, effort and difficulty made these children feel dumb and give up. After being taught about growth mindset, they excelled.

It is important to note that when looking at learning from this vantage point, not only is a love of learning created within the individual, but a certain resilience is built that is essential for accomplishing one’s goals in life; your “WHY”! That is the power of adopting a growth mindset.

With a bit of work and a belief that you can indeed learn, then you will, no matter your age, background, or situation! Everyone can learn something new. Everyone! Even you!

Why Knowing your “Why” is so Important

“Successful people all think, act and operate the same way. They all know what they do, some know how they do it, but very few know why they do what they do,” says author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek in his 2009 TED Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.”

How many times have you heard an adult in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s ask facetiously, “What am I going to do when I grow up?”

When people don’t know their “why”, they don’t know what is important to them. And to their misfortune, end up being motivated in life by what is important to other people instead of what is important to themselves. And when you are motivated by the wrong thing—money or riches, for example—you will not be able to sustain anything difficult or challenging for the long haul. You will quit the minute it gets too difficult!

That is because knowing your “why” not only compels you to take on challenges and learn new things, knowing your “why” inspires you to keep on going toward your dreams when things get tough.

As Sinek points out in his TED Talk, “Martin Luther King gave the ‘I have a dream’ speech, not the ‘I have a Plan’ speech.

Knowing your “why” is like a magic GPS pointing to your True North. Not only is it the absolute key to achieving your dreams, knowing your “why” gives you:

  • deeper purpose and meaning
  • more direction in your life
  • a reason for your existence
  • and a “knowing” of what to do with the time that you have on this planet.

Because when you can start with “the end result in mind, everything else will naturally fall into place,” Sinek explains.

  • You will be motivated by something you truly believe in
  • You will work harder and better
  • You will push through obstacles such as fear, self-doubt and procrastination
  • You will make better choices
  • You will live longer.

Yes, you will live longer! Studies show that having purpose and meaning in one’s life is correlated to longer lifespans. Now that’s some pretty powerful stuff.

As friend, colleague, and psychologist Dr. Woody brilliantly states, “…when your goals are tethered to your passion, you become driven not dragged to the results you want. You are then poised to do only what is in the interest of your highest and best goals, and your highest and best self.”

If you claim to not have a “Why”, don’t worry, it’s there somewhere, probably buried under the many should’s and ought to’s you have adopted over the years. To help you uncover your true purpose, here are a few questions that you can ask yourself:

  • What makes you feel alive?
  • What are your strengths?
  • Where do you add the greatest value?
  • How can you make a difference in this world? (Think greater than yourself)
  • Are you willing to do it anyway, no matter what people think or if it embarrasses you?
  • What struggles are you willing to tolerate, or what sacrifices are you willing to make?
  • What gets you excited about the future?
  • How will you measure your life?
  • How would you like to be remembered? What would you like written on your epitaph or spoken at your eulogy?

By pondering these questions, you are forced to take a closer look at your life and make sure you are living the life you want.

A special note: For some this may be a scary exercise, especially when thinking about your epitaph, for instance. This brings up the idea of death which can trigger all kinds of uncomfortable feelings. But our mortality plays a huge role in our lives. Death is a fact of life, our clocks are ticking and none of us are going to get out of this alive. This awareness of our own mortality can be frightening, but it can also be motivating. When we know our time is limited, we are forced to use that time in the best way possible. As Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon diagnosed with terminal lung cancer when he was only thirty-five writes in his memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, “Tell me three months, I’d spend time with my family. Tell me one year, I’d write a book. Give me ten years, I’d get back to treating diseases.”  Kalanithi lived his life based on his “why”!

What is your “Why”?

First published at

Say “Yes” to Yourself this New Year!

Less than 50% of those who make New Year’s resolutions will be successful, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. That means over half of those who set a goal will fail.

The most common New Year’s Resolutions according to a YouGov poll are eating healthier, exercising more, saving more money, self care, reading more, making new friends, learning a new skill, getting a new job, and taking up a new hobby.


So how does one achieve these worthy goals?

One very important strategy is to simply agree to say “yes” to yourself. I have learned that this small little word–yes–has a lot of power. By saying “yes” to yourself you will open up your world to amazing possibilities, and all those things you want to do—eating healthier, getting more sleep, reading more, taking on a new hobby or traveling to Costa Rica—will simply become a by-product.

So how does one say “yes” to yourself? I have come up with seven principles to live by: certain values and philosophies that will help you not only say “yes” to yourself but they will become part of the fabric of your lives leading you to transformation and change.

But first, let me give you a little background. A few years ago, I started the The Yes Mom Blog. My goal was to share my life’s adventures as a homeschooling mom, inspire people to say “yes,” be open to new experiences, stir up a little controversy, and as Maya Angelou suggested, “grab the world by the lapels and kick some ass.”

And I did just that. Kicked some ass, that is. But I also learned something in the process that changed my life. I found an immense measure of courage, respect, confidence, and myself each time I uttered this three letter word: yes!

And that is what I want for you this new year–to say yes and watch what happens. Watch how every “yes” transforms, requiring stepping out of your comfort zone, and living on the edge where all new growth occurs.

So here is my list. The great thing about this list is that you already have what it takes to say “yes” and achieve your goals. This just helps bring it, or shall I say bring “you”, to the forefront. Let the adventures begin.

Principle 1: Love Yourself and Others Unconditionally
Love with no conditions and no boundaries. Love just because. As Brazilian author, Paulo Coelho, explains, “One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving”. When you love yourself unconditionally, it gives you the ability to love others. To love in this manner is the most precious gift you can give to yourself and to the world.

Principle 2: Don’t Be Driven by Fear
Do not be a road block to your full potential because of fear. It is amazing how many people automatically say “no” to the world and choose comfort and security over taking risks or trying something new. Like Albert Einstein said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Yes, life can be scary, but a life driven by fear is no life. It takes a bold person to let go of fear and say “yes” to the world, but the risk is well worth it.

Principle 3: Let Go of Expectations
It is imperative to let go of expectations. By letting go of expectations, you let go of control. Placing controls on one’s self, limits your true potential. So ditch those controlling words like “I should”, “I ought to”, and “I must”. Instead, embrace “I can”, and “I will”. Living life based on “should” is a heavy burden to carry. You either become ridden with a feeling of failure or guilt because you did not live up to your expectations or create a false-self attempting to live up to your expectations. Either way, it is a no-win situation. Living life based on “I can” is a win-win situation!

Principle 4: Believe in Yourself
You are awesome. Throw away doubt and believe in yourself. Doubt will only hold you back and keep you from the life you are meant to live. As Eleanor Roosevelt so brilliantly said, “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Trust and believe that you are worthy and valuable. Give yourself permission to live, play, explore, dream, imagine, follow your passions, and of course, make mistakes. If you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying. In order to achieve you must believe.

Principle 5: Live by Principles not Rules
Live by principles, not rules. Many rules are biased, arbitrary and not necessary if you live by principals instead. Principles are basic fundamental beliefs, values and truths. When you live by these truths, good and desirable actions will follow. Like Abraham Lincoln so beautifully expressed, “I never had a policy; I have just tried to do my very best each and every day.” These are words to live by.

Principle 6: Roll with the Punches
As Mastin Kipp from The Daily Love says, “If you fall down 1000 times, get up 1001 times.” Life is full of setbacks but do not dwell, crumble or feel like a victim. It is better to roll with the punches and take a few hits than to duck out of the way. You will be stronger and wiser from the experience. This is called resilience. We actually gain resilience over the years by taking punches and dealing with life’s problems. So the old adage is true, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

Principle 7: Do What You Love
Do what you love. When work becomes pleasure, it is not work at all. As Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “Doing what you love is the cornerstone of having abundance in your life.” It brings joy and a deep sense of purpose and meaning to one’s life. So, if you want to be a drummer in a rock band, travel the world on a bicycle, join the circus, perform open heart surgery or write that New York Times Best Seller, GO FOR IT! It is your choice. Don’t find yourself behind a desk when you were meant to be behind a drum kit.

As you embrace these seven principles and learn to say “yes” to yourself, you will be amazed at what happens. When you love unconditionally, you will have the ability to love others. When you love others, you live fully. When you are living fully, you will not be afraid to try new things. If something doesn’t work, you will try again. When you let go of “I should” and “I ought to”, you embrace “I can” and “I will”. You will be able to make your own decisions even if it goes against the crowd. You will follow your dreams and become who you are meant to be, not what someone else wants you to be. Your good example will inspire others and in turn give them permission to go after their own dreams. When you live by these 7 principles, you say “yes” to yourself paving the way toward your goals and aspirations.

Happy 2019!

These seven principals were first published November 2011 © Copyright

Posted 1st December 2011 by Esteem Yourself BlogTalkRadio