Monthly Archives: November 2013

#25 Forgive Yourself

yellow-dotPeople who are excessively critical of others are usually prone to fault-finding with themselves as well.  It is as if our internal radar which is scanning theart show piece,bunnell environment is tuned to mistakes, errors, and lapses.

Learning to forgive others, and ultimately to live in harmony with the human race, begins with forgiving oneself.

At the end of Sheldon Kopp’s book, If You Meet the Buddha, is a  “laundry list” of words to live by.  My favorite is this one:  “I must forgive myself again and again.”

Toward the end of the day, complete this statement,

“I forgive myself for my mistakes and my less than stellar performances.  Today I forgive myself for:

If at the end of the day you find yourself reviewing all your mistakes and frustrations, your failures and regrets, bring your negative brooding to a close  with your statement of for-giveness.  Then shift over to asking yourself this question,

“What are three things I did right today?”    Write it out for today.

“What went well today?”

“What lucky break came my way today?”


Kopp, S.  If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him. Bantan:  1972, re-issued 1982.

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#24 Know Your Strengths


Courage (Photo credit: drp)


It is often easy to see our weaknesses.  Maybe you’re not good with money.  Perhaps you’re impatient and get agitated when you have to wait.  You feel you would like to get more organized, but you’ve been procrastinating on that (that’s two weaknesses).

What are your strengths?  Martin Seligman (2002) asserts that it is important to know your character strengths as well.  He defines a character strength as “a trait, a psychological characteristic that can be seen across different institutions and over time” (p. 137).  Strengths in people are valued for their own sake, whether they produce good outcomes or not.  They are embodied by the people we most admire.

Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman have developed a questionnaire to measure 20 core character strengths in people.  They are:

Wisdom and Knowledge

(1)  Curiosity, Interest in the world

(2)  Love of learning

(3)  Judgment/Critical thinking/Open-mindedness

(4)  Ingenuity/Originality/Practical intelligence/Street smarts

(5)  Social intelligence/Personal intelligence/Emotional intelligence

(6)  Perspective


(7)  Valor and bravery

(8)  Perseverance/Industry/Diligence

(9)  Integrity/Genuineness/Honesty

Humanity and Love

(10) Kindness and generosity

(11) Loving and allowing oneself to be loved


(12) Citizenship/Duty/Teamwork/Loyalty

(13) Fairness and equity

(14) Leadership


(15) Self Control

(16) Prudence

(17) Humility and modesty


(18) Appreciation of beauty and excellence

(19) Gratitude

(20) Hope/Optimism/Future-mindedness

(21) Spirituality/Sense of purpose/Faith/Religiousness

(22) Forgiveness and mercy

(23) Playfulness and humor

(24) Zest/Passion/Enthusiasm

* Go to the Values In Action (VIA) website at:

Register, create your password, and take the 48 item survey of signature strengths.  List your top three:

*  Consider how these strengths have brought you satisfaction, success, or positive feedback from others in the past.

*  Make a note of how these strengths are bringing you satisfaction, success, or positive feedback from others currently in your life.

*  Take one of these strengths.  How could you do more to use this strength in the near future?


Seligman, M.  2002. Authentic Happiness.  New York:  Free Press.

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#23 Imagine Your Best Self

yellow-dot DSC_0187Is it possible to cultivate optimism?  Many people have spent a lifetime cultivating pessimism.  For those who are perpetually in a state of mild depression, the future is a land of emptiness, heartache, and disappoint-ment.  For the anxious the future is a landmine of disasters, crises, and catastro-phes waiting to happen.  They focus on job loss, rejection, failure, illness, and lack of money.  Optimistic people are aware of the possibilities of these things, but are able to also focus on future possible events.

Laura King, a psychologist at the University of Missouri at Columbia, set about to see if you could train people to be optimistic and, if so, what would be the effect on their mood.  In an experiment conducted in 2001, she had participants come to her lab and spend twenty minutes writing about their “best possible future selves.”  They wrote about a future in which their goals were realized—they found the mate they were looking for, they were successful in some endeavor in life, they were financially secure, etc.  She found that subjects who did this for several days rated themselves as being in a more positive mood than those who wrote about mundane topics.  They still reported themselves to be happier several weeks later and even reported better health several months later.

This experiment was repeated by Kennon Sheldon and Sonia Lyubomirsky in 2006 using college students, except that they asked the students to complete the writing exercise just once in their lab, then continue it over the course of four weeks.  They, too, found very positive outcomes for students who did this writing exercise several times.

Is this the same as “visualizing” what you want in hopes that your wishes will be fulfilled?  Not at all.  Lyubomirsky (2007) points out that in this exercise participants focused on their future goals.  In doing so, especially by writing them out repeatedly, it seemed to get them to focus on these goals on a regular basis and link what they did today with a goal they hoped to reach in the future.  It also seemed to help them deepen a sense of identity, of who they were and where they were going in life.

Imagine your Best Possible Self 5 years from now.  List three goals you hope to attain:

(1) ___________________________________________________________________________

(2) ___________________________________________________________________________

(3) ___________________________________________________________________________

Imagine your Best Possible Self 1 year from today.  List three goals you hope to attain:

(1) ___________________________________________________________________________

(2) ___________________________________________________________________________

(3) ___________________________________________________________________________

Imagine your Best Possible Self 1 month from today.  List three goals you hope to attain:

(1) ___________________________________________________________________________

(2) ___________________________________________________________________________

(3) ___________________________________________________________________________

Do this exercise again in a week.  Copy it and post it where you might see it often—on your refrigerator, by your computer.


King, L. A.  2001.  The health benefits of writing about life goals.  Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 798-806.

Lyubomirsky, S.  2007.  The How of Happiness.  Penguin. pp. 103-106.

Sheldon, K. & Lyubomirsky, S. 2006.  How to increase and sustain positive emotion:  The effects of expressing gratitude and visualizing best possible selves.  The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1 (2), 73-82.

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#22 Become a Stakeholder


I like the term “stakeholder.”  It conjures up images of the pioneers in their covered wagons, flailing their whips over the horses’ heads when the gunshot sounds, eager to be the first to stake their claim on a patch of good land when the West was opened up.  Our minister used the term stakeholder once during the annual canv?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????ass, urging us to move from just attending church to becoming a stakeholder (by increase-ing our pledges, of course).

There are visitors and stakeholders in most forms of social life.  The visitor parent takes the child to school.  The stakeholder parent joins the newsletter committee.  The visitor votes in city council elections.  The stakeholder campaigns for a candidate, attends local community meetings.

Why should we care about being a stakeholder?  The eminent psychologist Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, summed up years of research on the subject of happiness in his book, Authentic Happiness, published in 2002.  He found that happiness is composed of three things:  pleasure (the moment to moment sensation or emotion of lightheartedness, euphoria, joy, or sensuality), engagement (the depth of involvement with one’s family, work, or passions) and meaning (using personal strengths to serve some larger end).

Our society in the 21st century has been caught up in a whirlwind of the pursuit of pleasure.  Writing in Time magazine in January of 2005, Seligman said, “Of those three roads to a happy, satisfied life, pleasure is the least consequential  It turns out that engagement and meaning are much more important.”

Stake holders are those people who commit themselves fully to the thing they cherish.  They move from visitor status to the fully committed.  They have the deeper level of happiness that comes with engagement and meaning.

How can you move from being a visitor to a stakeholder in your church?  Have you considered serving on a committee?  becoming a greeter?  teaching a religious education class?

How could you become a stakeholder in your community?  Attend meetings of your neighborhood association?  Join the Neighborhood Watch group?  Join the garden club and plant flowers in the park?

How can you be a stakeholder in your children’s school?  Be a room parent?  Volunteer in the office?  Collect extra school supplies for the teacher?

Don’t feel you have time?  Remember, visitors are observers and outsiders.  It is the stakeholders who feel they are an important part of the group, and that their day to day lives have meaning.


Wallis, Claudia.  “The New Science of Happiness.”  Time, 2005, Jan. 17.  Also:  Seligman, M.  2002.  Authentic Happiness.  New York:  Free Press.

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