The Happiness Advantage Principle #4 – Falling Up Insights

This is part of a series of posts based upon the book The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. See this post for my summary book review or follow along with the entire series below. If you like what you read, then spread the love and share this with your friends and fans socially. Thanks!

Principle #1 – The Happiness Advantage

Principle #2 – The Fulcrum and the Lever

Principle #3 – The Tetris Effect

Principle #4 – Falling Up (this post)

Principle #5 – The Zorro Circle

Principle #6 – The 20 Second Rule

Principle #7 – Social Investment


The primary message in Principle #4 Falling Up relates in a lot of ways with the message of Principle #2 The Fulcrum and The Lever which had a lot to do with choosing a positive mindset. When we are aware and consciously choose to see the positive in any situation, we can have the most benefit and change the course of our future experiences.

In this chapter of Achor’s book he shares findings from studies about the setbacks, adversity and challenges we all face and how best to navigate our way to leveraging them to make our lives better.

Mental Mapping Our Way Out of Adversity

According to the author, “All human decisions involve this kind of mental mapping; they start with an ‘I am here’ point (the status quo), from which a variety of paths radiate outward, the number depending on the complexity of the decision, and the clarity of your thinking at the moment. The most successful decisions come when we are thinking clearly and creatively enough to recognize all the paths available to us, and accurately predict where that path will lead. The problem is when we are stressed or in crisis, many people miss the most important path of all: the path up.

Our minds can easily see when we face adversity or a setback that we can keep doing what we’ve done and keep getting what we’ve been getting in terms of results. The mind can also conceive of worse case scenarios where we could do something that would put us even worse off than we are now. These two paths are readily available and most can see these two and often choose the current path because it’s better than the worst case.

Yet, there is a third path and that is one that leads us to growth and a better future. Achor refers to this as “Falling Up”. Finding the path to a better future can be difficult to find during challenging times. When you have a negative physical diagnosis, hardship in your relationship, or you’ve lost your job seeing the bright side of things isn’t easy. But it is there!

Finding the silver lining – or having a growth moment – is when we really have an opportunity to rise above adversity and stand on the shoulders of the situation and make our lives even better because of it.  We are either defined by our circumstances or we define our circumstances.  We can give the adversity a negative meaning and allow it to drag us down or choose to remind ourselves of one of my favorite lines “everything happens for a reason and that reason is there to serve me.

Achor says that, “….when we feel helpless and hopeless, we stop believing such a path [up] even exists – so we don’t even bother to look for it….our ability to find the Third Path is the difference between those who are crippled by failure and those who rise above it.”

Failure As Growth

In a lot of books I’ve read and in talking with lots of entrepreneurs over the years there’s a common theme about risk. All business comes with some risk and therefore there could be failure. Failure to successful business owners isn’t the end of the road. It’s a part of the path. They accept and learn from failures, trying not to repeat them in the future.

This same idea can be applied to our lives. If we perceive of failure as growth, we are more likely to experience growth from the experience than to be taken down by it.

Achor writes, “however counterintuitive it may seem, psychologists actually recommend that we fair early and often.” It’s in the living through failure that we grow more confident in our abilities, we learn to figure things out and feel better and less afraid of failure in the future because we know we can do it.

Post-Traumatic Growth

One of my favorite parts of this chapter is when the author talks about studies that show people who have been through traumatic situations and are able to see the silver lining have better lives after the trauma.  We’ve all seen people who have lost limbs, eyesight or were severely burned and their resilience during and after the event is totally inspiring.

I heard the story of Turia Pitt, an ultra marathon runner who was caught in a brush fire during a race and received burns on nearly 70% of her body.  She’s now an inspirational speaker.  She lived through a hellish journey of 8 months in and out of the hospital for surgery to repair the damage the fires did to her body.

What’s often interesting to watch are people who come into the world with a seemingly normal set of circumstances and their lives spiral downward because they let events determine their life.  Then there are people like Turia who was a model, had a loving boyfriend and a life that seemed to be going well.  She has a horrible injury and she goes on to allow that experience to propel her into the atmosphere instead of curl back into nothing.  This is post traumatic growth.

Actor says, “Success is about more than simple resilience.  It’s about using that downward momentum to propel ourselves in the opposite direction.  It’s about capitalizing on setbacks and adversity to become even happier, even more motivated, and even more successful.  It’s not falling down, it’s falling up.”

To me, the way to have access in the challenging times to the path up is to practice conditioning our mind before those setbacks happen.  To create an underlying belief that supports the story “things are always working out for me.”

It’s the daily rituals and thought patterns that you choose that give you access to your path up, your potential growth when you experience adversity.  The momentum of thoughts can carry you through adversity and surf the waves of challenges or be swept under the current.  Positively reinforcing to yourself that you have good karma, are blessed or whatever you want to reinforce to yourself will allow you to see opportunity in adversity and experience post traumatic growth.

Learned Helplessness Is Just Conditioned Thoughts

Achor talks about how people have a setback in one area of their life – or even read about it like watching the news when they report the economy is doing poorly – they carry it over into other areas of their life.  It’s incredibly common for people to have a setback, shock or failure to fall into hopelessness and give up.  We think “why bother trying.”

This learned helplessness is like a cancer.  If we allow one setback, one failure to be the catalyst that teaches us to give up and that life’s not worth winning we’ll never succeed.

Sadly, the author reports that often people feel helpless in one area of their life, say finding a job, and they carry that over into other areas.  They think they’ll never find a life partner, or that they’ll never lose the weight, or they’ll never save money and on and on.  The downward spiral continues.

As we talked about in Principle #3 Tetris Effect, the impact we can have on the experience AND results in our lives is greatly impacted by the thoughts we think.  Our outlook and attitude can change our reality.  The same idea applies here in seeing opportunity out of adversity.  We can condition our mind to look for the opportunity, or silver lining, in the setback.

So how exactly do you do that, you ask? Practice.

I’ve had my share of adversity and setbacks in my day.  Debt, divorce, death…you name it.  I have set up my life and my daily rituals so that they create a positive and happy life.  That sets my baseline at a higher place than if I weren’t in the practice of neutral or negative thinking.  It’s a great way to live to begin.

Then, when adversity hits I’ve also trained myself through repetition to recall thoughts like “everything is always working out for me so what ever this looks like now I know it will turn out in the end…I just may not see it now.”  I also trained myself to ask in the face of a problem or setback “I wonder what’s trying to happen here?”  That idea I picked up along my path has served me so well over the years.  Whether I’m traveling and I hit some bumps in the journey, I’ve had car problems, relationship problems, client problems…all “problems” are merely opportunities we don’t yet see from the other side.

Change Your Explanatory Style – Tell a New Story

Achor tells of a study where researchers were baffled because there was a minority of people who seemed immune to feeling distressed or helpless after a setback.  They explained that these subjects had “a positive way of interpreting adversity – or what the researchers termed an optimistic ‘explanatory style’.”

The explanatory style is how we tell the story of our life.  Do we tell it with an optimistic or pessimistic outlook?  Do things always work out for us or is it “why does this always happen to me?”  It’s a choice and I believe it comes from our underlying beliefs which are just conditioned patterns of thought.

The story we tell ourselves about the way our life is – or adversity is – is the way we experience life.  If we can learn to condition ourselves to tell a good-feeling, empowering story when adversity comes up we can grow and even experience the post-traumatic growth talked about earlier.  To learn more about telling a new story, check out my post Tell a New Story & Create Your New Life.

Final Thoughts on Principle #4 Falling Up

This is a big chapter and a lot of great insights.  To recap and share a few additional points the author talks about, here’s a quickie summary:

  1. There are always three paths out of any situation – the same path, the negative path and the path up.
  2. Successful decisions about which path to choose are made when we are thinking clearly and creatively so we are sure to see all paths available to us.
  3. If we perceive failure as growth, then we will benefit from the failure and grow.
  4. Post-traumatic growth – growing out of adversity.  More than bouncing back, we bounce up!
  5. Psychologists recommend failing early and often.  We become more confident and learn how to figure things out better in future.
  6. Learned helplessness can be over learned when we begin to apply feeling helpless because of a setback to other areas of our lives.
  7. Having an optimistic, opportunistic mindset helps us see the growth in the loss, adversity or setback.
  8. We have the power to create the story, to give meaning to what happens in every situation.  Choose an empowering meaning!
  9. How we “explain the nature of past events has crucial impact on our happiness and future success.”
  10. Optimists see adversity as “local and temporary”.  They don’t think it will last forever and it doesn’t apply to other areas of their life.  Just that situation.
  11. “Our fear of consequences is always worse than the consequences themselves.”
  12. Falling up is using downward momentum to propel us upward.

Continue reading with Principle #5 – Zorro Circle

With love and light,



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The Happiness Advantage Principle #3 – Tetris Effect Insights

This is part of a series of posts based upon the book The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. See this post for my summary book review or follow along with the entire series below. If you like what you read, then spread the love and share this with your friends and fans socially. Thanks!

Principle #1 – The Happiness Advantage

Principle #2 – The Fulcrum and the Lever

Principle #3 – The Tetris Effect (this post)

Principle #4 – Falling Up

Principle #5 – The Zorro Circle

Principle #6 – The 20 Second Rule

Principle #7 – Social Investment


Training Your Brain to Capitalize on Possibility

This is a slightly shorter chapter in the book, but no less important in terms of helping us improve our lives. As a student of habits, addiction and how to improve our lives by stopping things that no longer serve us I enjoyed this chapter.

I’m hoping you know what the game Tetris is and how addictive it can be for some gamers. My dad fell into this category playing hours of Tetris each day. He got pretty good at it!

In this chapter Achor talks about a few studies that show the effects of training or conditioning our minds. In one study people played hours of Tetris each day and they reported seeing Tetris-like patterns outside in the world like the cereal boxes on shelves at the store that they wanted to reorganize just like in the game.

The only thing I could think of that this could be helpful with is if you were a librarian or had messy kids and playing this helped them be better at straightening up their rooms.

The Positive Tetris Effect

As you may know, our minds are energy efficiency-seeking mechanisms. The mind is constantly editing or deleting information from the outside environment to filter our experience. There is so much information coming at us that if we had to take it all in we would be easily overwhelmed with data. Our minds have adapted over millions of years to filter – or edit out – what we have identified as being non-important to our survival.

Just like in the Tetris study, our minds can become conditioned to view the world in patterns. The brain is trying to conserve energy so it looks for signals from one thing that tells it what that thing is – often related to something else we’ve already experienced before it can relate to and categorize as harmful or helpful.

Here’s the good news about having a mind that sees things in patterns; we can train the mind to see what we want it to see. If I were to ask you to look around the room you’re in right now and look for everything that’s brown, brown, brown. Take a minute look around you – above, below, in front, behind. Everything that’s brown.

Now close your eyes and answer this….

Tell me everything in the room that’s red.

You’d have a harder time remembering things that were red because you had just sent your mind on a mission to find the brown in the room. It was filtering out the red and anything else that wasn’t brown.

Once you know this you can put this into practice to serve you! Instead of helping you see the brown or red, condition your mind to see opportunities and positive things in your environment. Our minds can become opportunity seeking mechanisms for us! Your mind can be conditioned to filter out the negative and help us be alert and see things that we choose to see.

Where attention goes, energy flows and results show.  If you can condition your mind to focus on the things you want to see grow or improve in your life, that is what the mind can help you do.

Training Your Brain to See Positive

I don’t know that I need to tell you that focusing on the positive in the world could be a good thing, but scientists have actually studied this and found that we gain access to three resources when we focus on the positive:

  1. Happiness
  2. Gratitude
  3. Optimism

The more you pick up on the positive around you, the better you’ll feel. In Principle #1 – The Happiness Advantage – we learned that when you’re happier your performance at work goes up. In fact being happy trickles out and improves every area of your life. Being happy is a very good thing.

There are studies that have found that nothing improves your overall well being better than gratitude. As a student of Abraham Hicks I’m going to turn gratitude into appreciation (Abraham says gratitude is laced with some negative but appreciation is pure positive so let’s go with that, ok?).

Results show people who are consistently thankful are more energetic, emotionally intelligent, forgiving and have less depression, anxiety and loneliness.

Amen to that! Or should I say…thank you for that!

Building Momentum by Focusing On Positive

I’m pleased to report from my own experience and from the studies Achor shares that we can start to build momentum when we focus on the positive.  It takes practice, but it’s so worth it.

Actor talks about one method to begin practicing focusing on the positive by keeping a “Three Good Things” journal.  He explains it as a way to write down at the end of each day three good things that happened that day.  This forces your brain to pick up on the good things in your experience and filter out the rest.  It teaches the brain to look for brown or red, in my earlier exercise.

Many people now keep a gratitude journal where they write down their blessings each morning or night before bed.  I think this is a wonderful start. I’ve moved past this in my personal practice. In the work I teach I encourage people to start with a gratitude journal, but move on into being a person who IS thankful and appreciates things throughout the day. Start with a journal to get the habit and when you’re ready start off each day with the question “what’s awesome about today?” or “what can I appreciate or be thankful for?”  You get the idea. Set the course for your mind to look for good things and it will see them more and more often.

Just a reminder here; if you want to become a more thankful or appreciative person it takes focus and practice.  You’re creating a new habit and habits rely on consistency and repetition to allow the mind to engrain them.  Do these rituals every day for at least 30 days. Some of my coaching clients do them as rituals, fall off the wagon without reminders and then find their negative vibrations creep back in.  I’ve found it’s helpful to have reminders either on your calendar, phone alerts or the journal each night is a great fall back.

I hope you’ll play with this mind conditioning and see the benefits for yourself.  People I coach are sometimes amazed when they first try it how good it feels.

Quick Recap for Principle #3:

  • Negative Tetris Effect – when we focus on solving problems and finding things to fix (in our work, in others, or at home) we fall into a pattern of seeing negative or problems all around us.


  • Positive Tetris Effect – we can train our brain to focus on the positive. “…we see what we look for.”

Continue reading with Principle #4 – Falling Up

With love and light,



If you resonate with this article, you may also enjoy receiving my newsletter with my personal updates and all the goodies I don’t share on my blog.

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The Happiness Advantage Principle #2 – The Fulcrum and The Lever Insights

This is part of a series of posts based upon the book The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. See this post for my summary book review or follow along with the entire series below. If you like what you read, then spread the love and share this with your friends and fans socially. Thanks!

Principle #1 – The Happiness Advantage

Principle #2 – The Fulcrum and the Lever (this post)

Principle #3 – The Tetris Effect

Principle #4 – Falling Up

Principle #5 – The Zorro Circle

Principle #6 – The 20 Second Rule

Principle #7 – Social Investment


It makes sense when you read the story why the author titled this chapter and principle the fulcrum and the lever, but I think I would have called it “Your Thoughts Create Your Reality”. Ok, maybe that line is a bit overused, but it’s easier to get your mind around as a principle.

The sub-title of this chapter is “Changing Your Performance by Changing Your Mindset”. I think this is where I started really getting into this book because a lot of my behavior change and addiction recovery coaching comes down to shifting our mindset. Stopping old habits has a lot to do with undoing or replacing old patterns with new ones.

I’ll admit I studied this chapter a lot because I really wanted to best understand what the author was teaching under the metaphor of fulcrum and lever. I get what they are, but for some reason the way he described them in this chapter as two distinct areas of potential I had to ponder, question and relate to things I’ve studied and observed over the years. I think I finally got it and will do my best to convey this to you as clearly as possible.

The Archimedean Formula – Using Our Fulcrum and Lever Increases Our Possibility

If you’re familiar with the idea behind a fulcrum and lever (think a big stick or board wedged under a rock to lift something too heavy to lift with your own strength), you get that you can create a ton of energy potential – or work – with less effort than if you tried to apply your energy to it directly. You increase your power potential when you use the fulcrum and lever to your advantage.

Achor says that, “…our brains work in precisely the same way. Our power to maximize our potential is based on two important things: (1) the length of our lever – how much potential power and possibility we believe we have, and (2) the position of the fulcrum – the mindset with which we generate the power to change…simply put, by changing the fulcrum of our mindset and lengthening our lever of possibility, we change what is possible.”

I needed to double check a few definitions because mindset, paradigm, attitude and a few other words were beginning to come up for me and I wanted to clarify before moving ahead and hope this clarification helps you, too.

Mindset is defined as:

  • the established set of attitudes held by someone.
  • a fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person’s responses to and interpretations of situations.
  • an inclination or habit.

I’ve heard mindset described as the glasses through which we see our world. If your glasses (mindset) is rosey colored, you see the good in the world. If your glasses are muddled, then you see what’s wrong with the world…the problems. You’re likely to be called an optimist.

Achor says that the power to improve our possibility, our future, our life lies in our hands. We can move the fulcrum and the lever to better suit the future we want. We have the power to change. It’s not always easy, but what a wonderful thing to know!

Our beliefs are a magnet that create your realityAchor goes on to say, “In other words, ‘reality’ is merely our brain’s relative understanding of the world based on where and how we are observing it….we can change this perspective at any moment, and by doing so change our experience of the world around us…Essentially, our mindset and in turn our experience of the world, is never set in stone, but constantly in flux.”

Much of his chapters are filled with recounts of study after study that reinforces his points. I highly encourage you to read this book because the studies are not only sometimes entertaining, it’s absolutely shocking what they can teach us about how powerful our mind is. If I shared every story and study this would turn into a book but that’s why we have his book. I’m here to touch upon the highlights and the insights.  Let’s keep moving…

The Placebo Effect and Expectancy Theory – Why We Get What We Expect

There’s a great quote from Wayne Dyer that says, “Man does not get what he wants, he gets what he expects.” I believe the premise behind this has largely to do with energy and the law of attraction, but that’s for another post.

In this part of the chapter Achor shares several examples of studies that prove the placebo effect is very real. He reports, “an empirical review of placebo studies found that ‘Placebos are about 55-60% as effective as most active medications.”

Wow. Just wow.

I remember learning what the placebo effect was as a young student, but I’m seeing the impact of this data in a whole new perspective now that I am a life coach. Goes to show you the true power of our mind in shaping our reality.

One study Achor shared I found incredibly fascinating and surprising at the same time. In one experiment they took people allergic to poison ivy and brushed them with poison ivy and told them it was another type of leaf. Many participants didn’t break out. In another experiment they took people who thought they were allergic to poison ivy were brushed with a non-poison ivy leaf, but were told it was poison ivy and many of them broke out. They experienced a negative placebo effect.

How is that possible?

THAT is the power of our mind.

There are many examples in psychological studies that have proved that our mindset not only changes how we feel about an experience but can actually change the result of the experience. We break out in a rash even when we’re not rubbed with poison ivy.

What does all of this say about us and how can we use this information in our lives?

What this means is that if we can practice new mindsets, we can have a different outcomes and experiences in the world. If you want to apply this towards performance, then if you can shift the way you see how you perform (tell a new story) or the outcome you desire you can achieve better results. I’ve seen this many times in my own life and I’ll share just one example. See if you can relate…

My mom and I have had a rocky relationship most of my life. Hot and cold. Up and down. As I matured I realized I didn’t want to feel all of the lows, the downs, the negativity. I wanted to feel better in this relationship and I expect she did, too.

My mindset about my mom for most of my life was that she was angry and picked fights. I’m glad to say several years ago I had an ah-ha moment and realized she was being attacked or triggered by my dad when I was growing up. Most of her upset and fighting was in response to his behavior.

I practiced letting go of the idea that my mom was a “fight picker” and chose instead to see her as a kind, warm-hearted person. Not long after I changed my mindset and practiced new thoughts about her our relationship turned around so radically it was obvious to me that my mindset was the only thing getting in the way of us having a loving and connected relationship.

Now you…

Think for a moment about where in your life you are not seeing the results you want for yourself. Maybe in the area of love, finances, family, children, physical health, career, relaxation or freedom, creativity, etc.

What is your current mindset about that area?

What story do you tell yourself about “the way it is”?

Is it generally a positive or a negative perspective?

Does it serve you to look at that area through those glasses or could you perhaps shift your mindset to a brighter, more optimistic viewpoint?

If so, what would be a new story you could tell yourself in that area?

Achor says, “…our expectations create brain patterns that can be just as real as those created by events in the real world. In other words, the expectations of an event causes the same complex set of neurons to fire as though the event were actually taking place, triggering a cascade of events in the nervous system that leads to a whole host of real physical consequences…beliefs can actually change the concrete results of our efforts and our work.”

It really is important that we expect good things if we want good things to happen. In my coaching work I teach clients the Abraham Hicks method of “pre-paving”. In pre-paving we are having a mental rehearsal in advance of stepping into that experience.

Allow me to share an example. Before I go on stage or give a presentation I always take a few moments with my eyes closed to see the audience during the talk, really engaged and interested, asking questions or taking notes. I imagine them coming up to me afterwards and sharing what they learned, thanking me and telling me what they’re going to do when they get back into their lives. I take a few moments to practice the feeling of the experience during and after and it prepares my brain to help me deliver the talk that will create that outcome. I’ve had a lot of success with it and hope you’ll try it!

More than anything I’ve found that our beliefs, our expectations, about a situation or outcome will have more influence on the event than the work or steps we take in the activity itself. There are some great studies Achor shares in this chapter that reinforce this idea.

One of the common ways we see this is when people go on a diet or start an exercise routine but they’re not into it. They don’t expect to have good results (maybe because this is their 10th attempt) or they’re doing it to please someone in their lives and they limit their results again. Sadly, the results they get are the results they expected. “This stuff doesn’t work.”

Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life because you become what you believeIf you’re going into something, line up your energy and your mind with what you’re doing and see things turning out well. Practice expecting good things or don’t get started until you do. Otherwise, you’re investing way more energy for a way less result…or no result.

What you say to yourself about the way it is becomes your reality.

Now for a quick word of precaution:

Doing activities we enjoy can greatly enhance our performance in our work. However, if we do the activities we normally enjoy begrudgingly, feeling like we should be working or worse we tell ourselves “this isn’t helping” then those activities won’t have the positive impact on our performance. If you’re going to take time out at lunch to go for a bike ride, do yoga on a break or spend time with your family after dinner instead of checking emails you’ve got to line up with those choices or it won’t help your performance.

You’ve got to tell yourself the story that taking time out to relax, enjoy yourself and treat yourself well IS of benefit to other areas of your life. The inner conflict will kill off the benefit. Make up your mind doing things you enjoy makes you more creative, productive and happier will give you those results.

The author says, “when your brain conceives of family dinner or Sudoku or fantasy football or a phone call with a friend as a ‘waste of time,’ it won’t be able to reap its inherent benefits. But if you change the fulcrum so that you conceive of such free time as a chance to learn and practice new things, to recharge your batteries and connect with others, you’ll be able to leverage the power of that rest time and return stronger than before.”

The Lever of Possibility

I’m a big fan of possibility thinking and using our mind to set the course for our future, if you hadn’t noticed. I like in the book when Achor says, “the more you believe in your own ability to succeed, the more likely it is that you will…” and

“…studies show that simply believing we can bring about positive change in our lives increases motivation and job performance; that success, in essence, becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.”

When we begin to work on our thoughts, to change our mindset and put on a new set of glasses, we not only have a better experience in the moment, but the outcome will be better than if we had not.

So how do we move the fulcrum? How do we adjust our lever of possibility?

A few ideas from the book include:

  • focus on the reasons you will succeed, rather than fail
  • remind yourself of the skills you bring to the table, rather than what you lack
  • recall a time you faced a similar (or challenging) circumstances in the past and things turned out well

When we focus on our strengths, our successes, what we’ve done well (how bad ass we are!), we improve our current performance and influence the outcome of our situation in the right direction.

You can use these practices for big and small tasks. Whether it’s an important presentation to a big client or making dinner for your new in-laws for the first time. It works!

The Process of Manifestation

The process of manifestation is how we turn thoughts into things.  It demonstrates how our beliefs create thoughts which lead to our feelings which we then take action from and get results from those actions. It is represented as

Beliefs –> Thoughts –> Feelings –>  Actions –> Results

If we want to have different results, we’ve got to change the underlying beliefs. The work that Achor is teaching us in shifting our mindset is much like working on our beliefs. Beliefs are just thoughts we keep thinking and eventually regard as true or normal.

But what if they weren’t normal? What if there was a new perspective we could take on outside of our “normal”? If we had a new perspective (move the lever) about how well we could perform in a situation, for example, what results could we create?

Tell a New Story

How much we do in life is based upon what we believe we can achieve.

Our lives are created in the language we use to tell the story of our life. When you relay a past experience to someone you choose your words to relay what you felt or experienced. Most often, once you come up with the words or language about that experience you use pretty much the same language and tell the same story.

Yet, what if the story could be told differently? What if we chose to see the situation from a different perspective? If there was another person in the story, could we tell the story incorporating what their experience was more than just our own? Would it make the story feel better to us?

If your fears and doubts about your future are laced with language that defeats you at every turn, how can you begin to study your story and refine the words or the entire story all together? What else could be possible? What’s another way of looking at and seeing the outcome we want with a different mindset?

Continue reading with Principle #3 – Tetris Effect

With love and light,



If you resonate with this article, you may also enjoy receiving my newsletter with my personal updates and all the goodies I don’t share on my blog.

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The Happiness Advantage Principle #1 – Happiness Advantage Insights

This is part of a series of posts based upon the book The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. See this post for my summary book review or follow along with the entire series below. If you like what you read, then spread the love and share this with your friends and fans socially. Thanks!

Principle #1 – The Happiness Advantage (this post)

Principle #2 – The Fulcrum and the Lever

Principle #3 – The Tetris Effect

Principle #4 – Falling Up

Principle #5 – The Zorro Circle

Principle #6 – The 20 Second Rule

Principle #7 – Social Investment


In his book, Achor identifies the first principle as The Happiness Advantage or as the sub title of the chapter says, “How happiness gives your brain – and your organization – the competitive advantage.”

Because minds that are positive have a biological advantage over minds that are neutral or negative, this principle teaches us why and how to capitalize on positivity and improve our productivity and performance – in all areas of our lives.

This book is designed to help people be better employees or maximize the performance of their teams given the focus of the author’s work in teaching these happiness principles to Fortune 500 companies. Yet, the power behind the principles can be applied to any area of your life as the author points out again and again in the book. I hope you’ll read these insights and consider applying them to your work performance but beyond that, as well.

With that said, let’s dive deep into this chapter and Principle #1 – The Happiness Advantage.

Success Doesn’t Make Happy, Happy Makes Success

Depending upon how many years you’ve been on this planet, and how aggressively you’ve been pursuing that thing called “success”, you may have already come to realize the first data point the author outlines:

Success doesn’t lead to being happy.

Being happy does lead to more success.

Success is not key to happiness, Happiness is key to successIf you live in a western society you’re probably swimming in a culture that has taught you to”pursue success and then you’ll be happy.” If you work hard and become successful, then you’ll find yourself with all the trappings you could want and you’ll, of course, be happy.

Sound familiar?

Research in the past 50 years has proven that is a flawed premise. The premise of working to be successful and then you’ll be happy is pervasive. Heck, it even sounds logical. […maybe it seems that way because I’ve been swimming in that story my whole life like you!] I’m not completely sure, but it would appear this story came out of a post-war era where most people had to work hard to survive…let alone thrive.

However, as the results of study after study shared in The Happiness Advantage demonstrate there is proof that happier people are more successful. What the author points out is we need a new story, a new paradigm and new reality to live into. We need to turn things upside down and change our perspective.  We don’t need to grind out our lives working in a negative or neutral space chasing that elusive success in the hopes we’ll be happy…someday.

If there’s anything my life experience has taught me it’s that being happy needs to be part of the journey, not the destination. You can’t have an unhappy mind or attitude and have a happy life. Living in despair, doubt, struggle, suffering or anything else that doesn’t feel good is not going to create happy in your future. That’s like following a recipe and adding ingredients for vegetable soup and expecting it to turn into apple pie. It’s never going to happen. You need to change the recipe (your story) and change the ingredients (your attitude).

The author points out that the most successful people are happy along the way. “When we are happy – when our mindset and mood are positive – we are smarter, more motivated, and thus more successful.”

So I asked myself, “what’s the new paradigm, or story, we’d have to begin to believe and live into to turn the old premise upside down?

I came up with:

When I’m happy I’m more successful so I practice being happy each day.

What could your new story sound like if you turned “be successful and then you’ll be happy” around?

Take a moment or two to consider that new reality. Imagine what your life could look like if that were the story you were living into. [pause, reflect]

I want to take a quick moment before we move on to point something out that was taught to me many years ago. Humans are motivated by feeling good and seek out good feeling experiences (ie. we do what we do because we think they’ll make us feel good). Because we’re motivated by feeling good if you felt happy each day then aren’t you already successful? Consider that if our motivation is to be happy and we achieve that each day, is that success?

Happy, Human Flourishing and Thriving

For all the many years I’ve been studying and practicing being happy (my 30 day challenge for example) in my life I’ve not thought to come up with a definition for happy. Shocker, I know! In this book the author shares a similar experience and says that there is no one definition of happiness.

Positive psychologists say that happiness is subjective and I think they’re spot on. What makes you happy is different from other people. Just look at how many different hobbies, foods and lifestyles people enjoy around the planet. If there was one definition of happiness it would seem we’d all be doing the same things, but we’re not.

We each define our happiness.

And that’s a good thing! I just don’t think many of us ever stop to recognize what makes us happy….and then actively think about or do those things intentionally!

Have you? Do you know what makes you happy?

I mean have you ever written out or even thought for five minutes about 10 – 15 things that make you feel happy? Most likely not. And that’s ok.

Here’s an opportunity if you want to take a pause and do that now. Pull out a sheet of paper or just sit for a few minutes and reflect upon the times you’ve been happy in the past couple of days or weeks or months and notice what you were doing and thinking about. (this feels good, so I encourage you to give it a try right now)

What made those moments happy?

What did you do?

Who did you do it with?

Were there any common threads? People/places/activities?

It feels good to become more aware of your own causes of happiness, doesn’t it?

If you had a little trouble finding moments of happiness, that’s ok. Let’s look a little further into what scientists tell us make us happy.

Happiness = Pleasure + Engagement + Meaning

According to Achor scientists often collectively define happiness as “experiencing positive emotions.” They would say “pleasure combined with deeper feelings of meaning and purpose. Happiness implies a positive mood in the present and a positive outlook for the future.”

To me happy is a unique emotional experience and isn’t all positive emotions. Achor shares that his own definition of happiness is “…the joy we feel striving after our potential.”

There is no path to happiness, Happiness IS the pathI like the joy and potential parts in his definition. Those two ingredients seem to make up happiness in my world, too. The striving part of his definition leaves me with a sense of effort and working hard again. I like to think of being happy as going to the river and putting your boat in and paddling downstream with the flow. You’re heading towards your destination, you’re enjoying the momentum and you’re not struggling by paddling upstream.

In my study of happiness I’ve learned there is an emotional scale we operate on as vibrational beings. Different emotions vibrate within us at different speeds and just feel differently. I think happiness is a state along a scale of positive emotions. Feeling passion feels different than optimism and that feels different than eagerness. Happy is a vibrational energy state along the emotional scale (example below).


Emotional Guidance Scale Abraham HicksHappiness is a state of being created out of our focus, our experiences and thoughts that make us feel, well, happy. When I asked you to think back to a time when you were happy you were able to find unique moments when you felt happy. You labeled those moments as “happy.” You might say you also felt appreciation or hopeful or some other emotion and it’s not unusual to have several emotions comingled within you at one time. You can define when you feel happy.

I appreciate that Achor introduces Aristotle’s definition of happiness in his book because it’s the first I’ve ever heard it. He says that, “Aristotle used: eudaimonia, which translates not directly to ‘happiness’ but to ‘human flourishing’ when he defined the state of happy.

My eyes opened wide open when I saw that definition! As the author behind the website Get Busy Thriving! what do you think I’m all about?

Human Flourishing!



It’s no wonder I am loving this book so much. It’s in alignment with everything I’m up to.

How ever you look at happiness it’s clear we all want to be happy. In fact, I’d say for most anything you think you want to do or think you want to have is because you believe it will make you happier. It’s human nature. Yes, there are other emotions we want to experience (confident, love, connected, fulfilled, etc), but on the whole most of us are living in the pursuit of happiness.

To me, this is a worthwhile pursuit. I’m eager to share more from this book because Achor has some great insights and tips about how to go from the pursuit of happiness to the journey called being happy.

Being happy now. Not someday.

Every. Day.

As in…living a happy life.


If you’re not convinced that living a happy life shouldn’t be the goal and believe that you must pursue success and achievement, there are many, many studies that have proved that “happiness causes success and achievement, not the opposite.”

If you want the nitty gritty data, read The Happiness Advantage – it’s packed with great studies and research evidence. Having read it and many others on happiness I’m convinced being happy first is the best way to live especially if you enjoy being successful.

Happiness Creates Success in All Areas of Life

Achor talks about a study of 275,000 people that found that “happiness leads to success in nearly every domain of our lives, including marriage, health, friendship, community involvement, creativity and, in particular, our jobs, careers and businesses.”

The good news if you manage people is that happy people are more likely to sell more, have higher income, higher performance ratings and less sick days, be less likely to quit and feel burned out.

Sounds like a clear formula for success:

Help employees be happy, get better results.

Now, modify this if you’re self-employed or are the business owner and look at your own performance and potential. This means that your business will do better and experience more success the happier YOU are.


Instead of grinding it out as the business owner your #1 priority should be to get happy.

Sounds simple? Maybe it sounds hard?

Whichever way you look at it, don’t take it for granted or brush this off as simply positive thinking. There’s way too much data to support it. You’d be doing yourself a favor in so many ways if you took stock of what makes you happy and do that before you take action in your business.

If we look at the success of Virgin and listen to the words of Richard Branson who obviously knows a few things about being successful (he’s a billionaire and a very happy one I might add) he has said that, “more than any other element, fun is the secret of Virgin’s success.” For him, fun leads to happy and happy leads to bottom line success. I’d call that a success clue.

Hopefully by now you’re convinced that your happiness can lead to greater success. With that idea in mind how do we go about being happier?

Get Happy First

Experiencing positive emotions like happiness broadens our horizons. Psychologists call it the “Broadening Effect”. Negative emotions often lead to fight or flight reactions to situations. They harbor doubt, worry, fear, disbelief, discouragement and a host of other non-effective emotions. When we’re feeling happy or positive we have access to more creativity, more possibility thinking, we’re open to new ideas and are better problem solvers.

Experiencing positive feelings floods our brains with dopamine and serotonin (aka the “happiness drug”). These chemicals make us feel better and give us access to learning centers in our brains where we can access more information, better organize it and retrieve it. Powerful stuff!

Achor reports in The Happiness Advantage that both children and adults primed to think positively and feel positive emotions before taking on a task performed better. He also shared that a study done with doctors who were told they would be given a small reward after evaluating their patients were more likely to make the right diagnosis of patients.

Want to know something funny about that study? The doctors were given a candy as their potential reward.

Candy…really? Yes!

Even small rewards or a little positive thinking can have a positive impact on our state and thus performance.

Achor told of an experiment where students who were told to think about the happiest day of their lives just before taking some tests and those who were primed with positive emotions performed better than neutral or negative thinkers.

I smiled to myself when I read of these studies. I have often taken time during my workday to do things that make me feel good. Pet my cats. Look out the window to watch a bird fly by. Watch a funny video. Talk to a friend or colleague and create some laughs. Whatever it was I enjoyed breaking up the day with good feeling activities. Sounds as if these practices may have been part of my secret to success. Second success clue.

Think for a moment about what activities make you feel good that you could do before you take on a project or dive into work each day? Can you come up with 2-3 small things that you could begin introducing into your work day…or morning routine? Remember the candy experiment.

The Happiness Advantage as a Work Ethic

I really enjoyed in this book how Achor proposes that “happiness is not just a mood – it’s a work ethic.”

I couldn’t be more in support of that idea as a way of living. However, I’ll reiterate we want to get happy because feeling happy feels so good, not just for the performance results. Having the success and performance results will be a natural outcome, so I guess having a work ethic to be happy is a great one. And recognize being happy will spill over into improving every area of your life.

I believe that to maintain the “work ethic” you need to remember three things:

  1. Focus – you’ve got to be aware of what you’re focused on, thinking and momentum to each day. Sure, some days can get off track, but being focused on feeling good should be the goal each day so you are being happy.
  2. Choose – negative energy is a default state for too many of us. We must choose and be intentional about our decision and desire to be happy each day. We have to remember we are responsible for our feelings and can choose to be positive or negative. Either way we’re choosing where to add momentum.
  3. Practice – the discipline of choosing to be happy takes practice – daily. We need to introduce rituals such as a morning routine that will keep happiness top of mind especially first thing in the day. We also need to be very self-aware so we take steps to do things to keep us feeling good if we start to fall into a negative state. It takes daily practice with our energy to build momentum in a positive direction.

We all have a baseline level of happiness. The good news is with focus and positive rituals we can increase our baseline level of happiness. That should make you feel good! You’re in the driver’s seat.

You are responsible for and in control of your happiness.

I’ve found that since I started studying and pursuing daily happiness that people in the world have grown too comfortable with negative feelings. It seems like negative is familiar. Familiar feels normal because we practice the behavior until it becomes a habit. Like a new habit we want to start, feeling positive takes practice and discipline to reinforce.

To become more happy each day we want to be aware and resist the temptation to think or do things that feel negative. We have to raise the standard of the emotional baseline we’re willing to live at.

A few years ago I did a 30 day challenge based upon the book The Happiness Project and ever since I won’t tolerate living a life that feels negative. Sure, I dip into low vibration emotions sometimes. But, I’ve raised my self-awareness and conditioned myself so much over the years that my brain kicks in and helps me do the things that feel better and have better thoughts so I’m happier each day. If you’d like further advice and support to help be more aware and practice happy daily, contact me about life coaching.

7 Ways to Permanently Raise Your Happiness Baseline

I hope you’ll read The Happiness Advantage for many reasons, but one is so you can learn more in-depth about these 7 ways to permanently raise your happiness baseline. Here they are in a nutshell:

  1. Meditate – a consistent practice of 5-15 minutes of meditation each day has huge benefits, especially over time. You’ve probably already heard this, so I’ll leave it at that.
  2. Find Something to Look Forward to – as the author says, “often the most enjoyable part of an activity is the anticipation.” Look for things you can put out into your future that you can look forward to no matter how small. Remember the candy experiment.
  3. Commit Conscious Acts of Kindness – people who commit acts of kindness each day report higher levels of happiness.
  4. Infuse Positive Into Your Surroundings – our physical environment can have a huge impact on our state of mind. In my home I have an altar I see all the time that is my altar to fun and joy and is filled with things that remind me of happy times in my life. Surroundings are in all areas of your life (office, home, car, etc) and include the people, too.
  5. Exercise – by now the evidence of the correlation of exercise and positive emotions is pervasive, so enough said. Move!
  6. Spend Money (but not on stuff)invest your money in experiences, don’t waste it on stuff. Research shows the enjoyment from a happy experience goes a lot further than the benefit of any “thing” we could buy. Spend wisely.
  7. Exercise a Signature Strength – “even more fulfilling than using a exercising a strength of character, a trait that is deeply embedded in who we are.” A signature strength is something you do that feels good when you do it. Like for me coaching, learning or contributing to people are a few of my signature strengths. If I’m doing these things I feel better. Reflect on yours and practice them each day.

Final Thoughts on Principle #1 – The Happiness Advantage

There is a lot in this chapter and principle that can be of benefit to you in your life. A few quick recaps:

  1. Happiness creates success, success doesn’t necessarily create happiness. Get a new story.
  2. Happier people are smarter, healthier, live longer, perform better, make more money and have better relationships.
  3. Happiness is a journey, a choice and a practice. Learn what makes you happy and make it your goal to live happy, not pursue it.
  4. Aristotle’s definition related to “human flourishing”, not sunshine and rainbows. When you’re thriving inside, you’ll thrive outside as well.
  5. Focus on feeling good each day. Put your boat in and paddle downstream.
  6. Happiness improves performance in all areas of life including work performance. Be happy and help employees be happy and you’ll be more successful.

Being a life coach there is no greater reward than teaching and helping people be happy in their lives. Whatever our personal definition of happy is, I encourage you to define it for yourself and go after it. If you would like support in living a happier, more successful life, please be sure to reach out to me about 1:1 coaching.

Continue reading with Principle #2 – The Fulcrum and The Lever

With love and light,



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The Happiness Advantage: Book Review & Insights

When I read The Happiness Advantage I was so eager to share what I was reading that I immediately made a video and started sharing what I could with my Facebook fans.  To say that I enjoyed this book is an understatement; I thought it was awesome!

The author, Shawn Achor, does a great job of interspersing research and facts with humor and real-world stories to explain each of the 7 Principles of Happiness he presents.  Before I started writing this review I started reading another book and it became so clear to me how easy a read The Happiness Advantage was; the stories and his naturally smooth writing style helped make it digestible and enjoyable.

What is The Happiness Advantage About?

What you think you become, what you feel, you attract, what you imagine, you create.If you ask me, the Happiness Advantage is a natural result of the many years of research and fact-finding Shawn Achor did while as a student and professor at Harvard.  He went on to develop and began sharing his 7 principles of happiness which leads to greater  performance and success to Fortune 500 companies.  He worked as a consultant traveling around the world teaching top executives how to boost their bottom line by learning what makes employees happier. He’s even shared his insights with TED audiences.

You see, the Happiness Advantage is essentially about turning the old paradigm of, “Work hard to be successful and then you’ll be happy” into “Get happy and then you’ll be more successful.

Achor shares study after study in the beginning of the book that reinforce that the happier we are the wealthier, healthier and higher performing we are.  While this book is primarily focused on how to be a more successful employee, manager or business owner, the underlying messages relate to all areas of life.  That’s why I love this book as a life coach who helps facilitate people thriving in their lives. Get happy!

The 7 Principles of the Happiness Advantage

I have chosen to be happy because it is good for my health.It’s so clean and convenient when a presenter or author summarizes their work in a nice little package of tips or secrets; in Achor’s case it’s The 7 Principles of Happiness.  As I mentioned earlier, I really enjoyed what I got out of this book, so I will be publishing a series of posts about the seven principles and will link them here when complete.  Below are my summaries of each of the 7 Principles of Happiness:

Principle #1 – The Happiness Advantage – success doesn’t lead to happy but happy leads to success, using positive psychology really can help us be happier now and ultimately that will carry through in our health, performance at work and in our relationships.

Principle #2 – The Fulcrum and the Lever – by moving the fulcrum (our mindset) in a positive direction we can access a lot more power from the lever.

Principle #3 – Tetris Effect – we can train ourselves to see opportunity and positive experiences in our environment instead of the negative with practice which allows us to act and seize opportunities.

Principle #4 – Falling Up – we have the opportunity to take three paths in every situation; same as before, go into negative/retract or “fall up” and grow from the experience. Positively minded people actually improve after major life setbacks.

Principle #5 – Zorro Circle – when faced with a crisis or threat we can maintain control of our emotions by focusing on manageable, small goals that we can handle now and then grow our circle outward as we gain confidence and feel more powerful.

Principle #6 – 20 Second Rule – when forming new habits or stopping old ones it’s a good rule of thumb to reduce the “activation energy” which are any steps we can take to make the habit easier OR harder to complete – depending upon whether we want to start or stop a habit.

Principle #7 – Social Investment – social support networks are the most important things in life and if we want to be happier and more successful investing in our relationships at work, at home and community are the most impact factor we can focus on.

In general, what you’ll learn from these additional posts, if you choose to read them, are more in-depth ways that you can cultivate happiness and therefore improve your performance in all areas of your life. I hope you’ll dive in and get started!

Big Take Aways from The Happiness Advantage

There is so much good stuff in this book I felt I wanted to create a series of posts for you.  To summarize some of the yummy quotes, here are some big take aways:

Waiting to be happy limits our brain’s potential for success, whereas cultivating positive brains makes us more motivated, efficient, resilient, creative, and productive, which drives performance upward.

Happiness is the center, and success revolves around it.

The most successful people, the ones with the competitive edge, don’t look to happiness as some distant reward for their achievements, nor grind through their days on neutral or negative; they are the ones who capitalize on the positive and reap the rewards at every turn.

Aristotle used: eudaemonia, which translates not directly to “happiness” but to “human flourishing.”

What I mean is that the more you believe in your ability to succeed, the more likely it is that you will.

What we expect from people (and from ourselves) manifests itself in the words we use, and those words can have a powerful effect on end results.

…if we are able to conceive of a failure as an opportunity for growth, we are all the more likely to experience that growth.

The most successful people see adversity not as a stumbling block, but as a stepping-stone to greatness.

Small successes can add up to major achievements.

We are mere ‘bundles of habits.’

The reason willpower is so ineffective at sustaining change is that the more we use it, the more worn-out it gets.


Re: activation energy – …the initial spark needed to catalyze a reaction.  The same energy, both physical and mental, is needed of people to overcome inertia and kick-start a positive habit.

“70 years of evidence that our relationships with other people matter, and matter more than anything else in the world.”

Learn more by starting with Principle #1 – The Happiness Advantage

With love and light,



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Simple Insights Into Successful Bulimia Recovery: Podcast About The Brain Over Binge Recovery Guide

A Conversation With Kathryn Hansen About Her Second Book: Brain Over Binge Recovery Guide

Kathryn Hansen Author, Bulimia Recovery GuideI read Kathryn Hansen’s first book, Brain Over Binge, in June of 2014 and wrote a glowing review of it and began recommending the book to my bulimia recovery coaching clients.  Kathryn and I connected and collaborated to create our first podcast you can listen to from this blog post.

As you maybe can tell I’m a big fan of Kathryn’s work and the message she has for those with bulimia who want to recover.  Her fresh approach to recovery is based upon her own experience and what she recommends to people through her website and blog. I’ve found her journey was similar to my own recovery and I also recommend a similar approach when coaching clients towards their recovery.

I’m excited to share our latest podcast (audio recording below) of a conversation we had about her book the Brain Over Binge Recovery Guide.  I’ve titled it the Simple Insights Into Bulimia Recovery podcast because it includes the simple steps or ideas we found helpful for our lasting recovery as well as what we suggest to people who have contacted us over the years based upon what’s worked well.

Brain Over Binge Recovery Guide Podcast

I reconnected with Kathryn after the launch of her second book Brain Over Binge Recovery Guide and had the pleasure of recording this podcast just for you. Click the play button below to listen and my notes continue below…

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I highly recommend finding an hour so you can listen to the podcast and tune into the golden gems of wisdom that were shared during the conversation. Additionally, I’d like to also make notes for you below of the insights I shared on bulimia recovery during our conversation.  For most of Kathryn’s contribution, you’ll really want to listen to the audio.  I think it’s awesome!

My intentions for the conversation were to:

1)   Offer you hope – to provide a ray of light and hope to anyone still binging who wants to stop. I think without hope or faith or belief that you can recover, you’ll have a rough road or a dead end.  Hope is the first step.  You’ve got to talk yourself into a place where you think what you do could work.

2)   Share insights and ideas from our experience – we both recovered from bulimia on our own in 2005 and have since gone on to help give ideas and guidance to people we’ve met.  We’ve seen what works for lots of people.

3)   Create an invitation to make a decision and take some action – just listening to the conversation will not change your life.  Making a decision to do something, just one thing, will change the course you’re on.  If you listen, I strongly encourage you to take one idea or one step to change something you’re thinking or doing.

Alternative Ideas About Bulimia

The ideas and opinions Kathryn and I shared are our own and may not work for everyone and that’s ok.  We all have to find what works best for us.

The alternative philosophy Kathryn and I agree on is that binging and purging isn’t a disorder or a disease.  We don’t think there’s something you were born with that caused you to become bulimic (as is often the case in a hereditary disease).

We do realize there are neurological, biological, chemical and physical responses that are tied in with the urges to binge that seem to run rampant and make your life feel not in your control.

While our ideas maybe aren’t exactly radical or rogue, they do appear to be an alternative idea into what causes bulimia from traditional therapy textbooks, scholars and what’s being talked about by professionals and even the national associations on the subject.

Our hope is that we help shift that conversation and perception for people with bulimia about themselves.

You’re not broken.

You don’t have a disease.

You’re not flawed or doomed

…and you don’t have to solve what’s screwed up in your life to stop binging and purging forever.

We also hope our message will help traditional counselors and therapists who maybe were taught methods for treating bulimia that aren’t showing great results to consider a different paradigm to work with.

In the recording you’ll hear Kathryn do an excellent job of explaining how binge urges are created in the brain and how it seems we’re driven to do them.  We binge even when we know it’s yucky and makes us feel worse after.

The wiring in our brain was created when we started binging/purging and a habit was formed.  A path for the brain to follow that was set into motion and whether we’ve had bulimia for 4 or 40 years, we’ve just been replaying that old tape over and over without knowing how to change the station.

I’m here to tell you that you can change the station, you can stop the urges to binge (with time) and you can live a life that doesn’t have binge urges.  In fact, there comes a point they never bother you again.  If you stop giving them energy and focus, those parts of the brain (wiring) merely die off.

Brain Over Binge Recovery Guide – 2 Simple Goals

The bulk of my conversation with Kathryn centered around her second book’s central message.  She says there are two goals to the recovery process:

  1. Dismiss Urges (to binge)
  2. Eat Adequately

You’ll want to read Kathryn’s book to clearly understand her perspective on both goals, but I’ll explain a few additional insights and supportive techniques I added during the call.

Goal #1 Dismiss Urges to Binge

One housekeeping item before I continue is to say that Kathryn emphasizes in her book and did so on the call that the first goal (dismissing urges) comes first in the book and is important to learn how to do (she explains at length with exercises in the guide).  However, the second goal (eating adequately) is really a first step if you’re not eating enough food/calories or are restricting in any way (no sugar/no wheat etc) when you start your recovery process.  It is very helpful to make recovery go more successfully to eat adequately first, then work on dismissing urges.  She said that she puts dismissing urges first in the book because we can work on them while we’re learning to eat adequately, but we shouldn’t focus on one before the other.

In the book and on our call Kathryn does a wonderful job of explaining her 5 Components for Dismissing Binge Urges.  I won’t share them all here so you can really learn them from her, but I would like to insert a few additional thoughts on what’s important when you’re working on changing a habit like dismissing urges.  Please understand you don’t have to do any of the things I suggest and you can still dismiss the urges.  I guess I like to give myself the best boost I can in the right direction and this is what I think helps.

Get Prepared – Plan Ahead

Creating habits are very easy for us and our brain is designed to instill habits that save us energy.  It’s part of our survival matrix and the brain tries to conserve energy so it looks for things that it thinks we want and will save us or keep us safe.

Prepare for Your Recovery Journey

I’m training for my first a triathlon at this time in my life and training and recovery have a lot of parallels I find.  When I first decided to do a triathlon I didn’t know what was ahead, but I set out my goal and I prepared myself and my body along the way. I learned a lot, but I had a clear vision and made a decision that I was going to do a triathlon and enjoy it.

Preparing for recovery is similar. You’ve got to decide, set your goal, and work towards it even when you fall off your bike or have sore muscles after a long workout.  It doesn’t always have to be rough, but there will be new things to learn, you’ll be uncomfortable and it WILL BE WORTH IT.  Prepare your mindset so it supports you on this journey.

Understand Your Body Will Go Through Changes

Some clients and people I’ve read their stories were unaware of the changes that may take place when you stop binging and purging.  Some of the side effects of recovery include:

  • bloating
  • gas
  • constipation
  • upset stomach
  • small weight gain (at first, not long term)
  • skin conditions

Most people really, really don’t know how this thing called our body works.  If you thought of your body like a high performance automobile it might help.  The things you put into the system will determine how well it runs.  Put junk in the pipes, forget to add oil and have regular tune ups, things are going to get clogged and shut down real quickly.  Your body is also an engine, although much more sophisticated.

I won’t go into all of the symptoms and what to expect, so find out what other people have experienced and how to mange the systems so you’re prepared.  Sort of like having ice packs in the freezer after a hard day of training so you can take care of sore muscles.  Be prepared.

Also realize your old “I’m getting fat” thoughts will sneak back in.  Those that started you down the restricting diets path.  Look where those took you the first time.  It’s important to reframe it when you gain a little weight and say “I know this is normal. My body’s metabolism is adjusting to eating normally. I won’t get fat, but my body will need time to normalize and I’m ok with that.”

You don’t have to be afraid of gaining weight.  That’s a lie your body is telling you. I didn’t keep any weight I gained and you don’t have to either.  Restricting is NOT the answer.

Daily Visualizations

The power of visualizations can’t be understated in my opinion.  Your mind is a powerful tool and visualizing what you want most actually helps you realize it more quickly.  Learn more about visualizing and practice it until you are super clear what your life will look like after you’re no longer binging and purging.

I’ll add to this one more thought and that is the power of telling our new story.

Creating a new life for yourself is about telling yourself a new story about the life you want to live.  It may feel like a lie at first, at least it did for me.  But eventually my life became my new story.

Set Yourself Up for Success

Having an environment that is supportive and makes you feel good as much as possible can help.  Maybe have music you like around, cards that have positive statements, buy yourself flowers, throw away old junk or clean up clutter, have snacks you enjoy around for when hunger starts so you avoid getting hangry (hunger + angry).

Forgive Quickly & Celebrate

If you eat a little too much or do binge forgive yourself quickly and move on.  The less time you spend on what didn’t work or where you slipped up, the more energy you’re giving to your brain to reinforce that behavior. Instead, we want to reinforce what is going well so the brain learns quickly to have us do that again.  Self-forgiveness is a wonderful act of self-love.

Celebrate!  Giving yourself acknowledgement for the little successes because their reinforce re-wiring, be kind to yourself and supportive to yourself so you have the encouragement to press on – self coaching

Extreme self care

Extreme self care is about getting enough sleep for your body, staying hydrated, lowering your stress, nurturing and rewarding yourself.  What we think of as self care I find really needs to be re-examined.  Many of us are running around so busy and depleted it’s hard to be our best self, let alone give it a go to change a really entrenched habit like bulimia. Extreme self care asks us to take a good look at what caring for ourselves could look like and realize it might look a little extreme compared to what others are doing.

And that’s OK.

It’s not my deal if someone can live on 4 hours of sleep, run 10 miles a day, get the kids to school, work a full day, make dinner, make love to her husband, work on her new book, and practice her favorite hobby before she tucks herself into bed.  I’m not that person.  I have learned what I need to feel and be my best and so I do it.  I do it for me and the people around me.  When I’m my best, I can be my best qualities and my life works better.

Goal #2 Eat Adequately

This step is specifically for bulimics who are restricting or haven’t come into balance with normal eating habits.  This is actually the first step as I mentioned if you’re not eating healthfully and in balance.

There are a lot of ways you can learn to eat more normally for your body and your lifestyle. Kathryn explains in the podcast a few ways to get started if you need to work on this goal. She talks a little about four methods for eating during recovery that include:

  1. Planned eating
  2. Servings-based eating
  3. Calorie minimum eating
  4. Intuition-based eating

Please have a listen to the podcast for greater details and insights into each one.

What I tell my clients is…EXPERIMENT!

You don’t know what works for you and neither does anyone else!  You haven’t learned it yet, so you’ll need to be open to trying a few things until you feel good about your eating.

My recipe: Try and learn. Fail and learn.  Keep evolving.

If you don’t know what normal looks like, start learning.  Find people who have success or what you want and see if you resonate with the message and try it out.  Maybe try a program for 2 – 4 weeks and see how it makes you feel.

You’ll need to put in time to get this dialed in.  Make it a goal to try and experiment until you have balance and feel good consistently.  You may find that while you’re experimenting you can also experiment with goal #1 dismissing the urges to binge.

One item to note is working with a nutritionist.  I’ve had some success with nutritionists when I get a good referral.  Not every one I’ve worked with has had the best solution for me or have they been aligned with my values. If you can get a good referral, give it a try. You don’t have to work with one, but some find it helps.  There are also forums and support networks around nutrition online. Just be sure you don’t get into any focused on diets. Diets are not the answer.  You just need good sound information about how many calories you need, how much protein, fat and carbs to take in and if there are any things to avoid for your body type.

My Final Message of Hope and Inspiration

Sometimes people contact me who have been bulimic for 20, 30 or even 40+ years. I can hear in their voice they’re either resigned that nothing can work or they’re open and willing to see.  Even if you’ve tried recovery for years and years and nothing’s worked, there is still a way you can stop this behavior.

Bulimia is about habits you created and habits you can change.  The power lies within.

I hope you will find inspiration to try again…just once more.  That could do it!

What is one decision you can make a decision and take action on this week based upon something you heard?

Please share in the comments below or email me. I’d love to hear from you.

If you’re interested in bulimia recovery coaching check out my programs and contact me for a complimentary 30 minute session.  Please remember to order Kathryn’s book Brain Over Binge Recovery Guide online.

With love and light,



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Bulimia’s Health Issues

Bulimia – The Physical Health Issues

A post from my friend and writer/blogger Laura Chapman.

Generally, when bulimia is discussed, it is the psychological effects of the condition which are highlighted. This is in many ways right – Bulimia Nervosa is a mental health disorder, and the impact it can have upon the mind is utterly devastating. However, it is important that the very real and very dangerous physical effects of the condition do not get lost or overlooked. Bulimia Nervosa can cause some incredibly serious physical health problems, many of which sufferers are unaware that they are at risk of. Here are just a few of the physical issues which may arise from bulimia.

Reproductive Troubles

If you are a women, it is likely that a prolonged period of purging could lead to serious reproductive issues – including (but not limited to) trouble conceiving and amenorrhea (abnormal reproductive cycles). If you do manage to get pregnant without your body fully recovering from the ravages of bulimia, you are at a seriously increased risk of pregnancy complications such as hyperemesis gravidum (the life-threatening pregnancy-related sickness which killed Charlotte Bronte and recently hospitalised the Duchess of Cambridge), and the likelihood of going through the trauma of a miscarriage rises exponentially. Post-natal depression is also common among bulimic mothers. In general, the female reproductive system suffers enormously during bulimic episodes. Some may find that their periods cease altogether as the body diverts precious resources to more immediately crucial organs (such as the heart and the brain). Others may find that the disruption to the menstrual and hormonal cycles cause intense mood swings and searing menstrual cramps – it is not uncommon for pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder to present as co-morbid with bulimia. If you wish to be a mother, or at least wish to have a healthy menstrual cycle, it is imperative that you seek treatment for bulimia as soon as possible.

Heart Problems

Constant purging can lead to dehydration and an imbalance of electrolytes. This throws the entire body out of balance, but its effects upon the heart are particularly noticeable. Purging, and the dehydration it brings with it, place enormous strain upon the heart muscle.Chemicals lost during purging include sodium, potassium, and magnesium. All of these are absolutely essential for maintaining a healthy heart. Potassium in particular is needed to keep muscles ticking over as they should. When potassium levels get low, people may develop a condition known as ‘hypokalemia’, which prevents the muscles from working as they should. As the heart is a muscle, the potential for serious and even fatal consequences is high. It is often thought that people with eating disorders die of starvation – but all too many bulimics pass away from heart problems related to purging. Singer Amy Winehouse suffered from heart problems related to her bulimia which may well have hastened her untimely death.

Bad Breath

The acid regurgitated during purging by vomiting can start to corrode your gums and eat away at your teeth. This not only causes your smile to look pretty awful, but can give you some serious dental problems and/or gum infections. Bad breath in these cases is the least of your worries – mouth infections and rotting teeth are associated with an awful lot of nasty bacteria slipping down your throat and attacking your internal organs. So this is bad news on both a cosmetic and a physical level.

Kidney Failure

Some bulimics purge through vomiting, others through laxatives and diuretics, and still others through excessive exercising. Both of the former two purging methods can cause permanent kidney damage. The dehydration caused by vomiting and laxative use to induce purging are extremely bad for the kidneys, which really struggle to cope under such conditions. The use of diuretics to purge water and salt from the body also causes the kidneys to be put under an immense amount of strain. The kidneys are not designed to operate according to binge and purge cycles, and will quickly start to show signs of strain if binges and purges become frequent. Kidney damage is often irreperable, and very serious. Those who damage their kidneys through bulimic purging may need a transplant, and even then may have to be on dialysis for the rest of their natural lives. Sadly, many bulimics die from kidney failure before they can get help for their condition.

To read more from and learn more about my friend visit Laura Chapman’s website.

Additionally, you can download my (Polly’s) ebook called

How to Help a Friend with Bulimia

UCSD Eating Disorder Research Study (Participants Wanted)

UCSD Eating Disorder Center for ResearchI was recently contacted by Laura Greathouse (cool name!) from the UCSD Eating Disorder Center for Research. They are actively seeking participants for a study of eating disorder recovery and the brain.  Below are some of the details and please feel free to visit their website for more specifics or contact them:

We are looking for female volunteers with current or past bulimia nervosa to participate in our study. The project is a brain imaging study looking at how participants make decisions about and experience rewards. The neurobiology of decision-making and reward in bulimia nervosa MRI study is a one-hour scan session. Those who are eligible to participate will be requested to fill out questionnaires and carry out tasks while undergoing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

Participant eligibility includes:

  • women between 15 and 30 years old
  • drug and medicine free for at least 3 months (birth control is okay)
  • currently have or be recovered (behavior/symptom free for at least 12 months) from bulimia nervosa, or may have never had an eating disorder

Participants do not have to be from San Diego. If we find them to be a good fit for our study, we will cover their travel costs to our clinic. Participants will be compensated up to $150 for taking part in this study. 

For those interested, they can email for more information and to start the recruitment process.

What is Divine Timing? 3 Tips to Working With the Universe

Divine Timing - Allow Universe To DeliverIf you’re like me you may have heard people talk about or use the phrase divine timing.  Perhaps you had an inkling what is was but never actually put much thought to ask yourself “what is divine timing and how can I work it?

I’m excited to share what I’ve experienced over the past few months as I’ve been steeped in self-awareness, learning, processes, practice in order to have a greater understanding of what the heck Divine Timing is…to me. 

I say what divine timing is to me because I think it’s up to each of us to define it for ourselves. I’d like to share some definitions I’ve found around the web and then help explain what I’ve learned from my practice of being in the space for divine timing to show up.

Definitions for Divine Timing

Here are some definitions from around the web:

Someone on Yahoo Answers About Divine Timing: “It means God brings and does things for us at the perfect time. Not to soon nor too late, just at the right time.”

From on Divine Timing they say, “Divine Timing is the idea that everything happens at its exact right time.”

From a more foo-foo site called on Divine Timing we learn, “Divine Timing means that everything needs to fall in place organically (like fitting the pieces of a puzzle together) before it can work out. “

And I absolutely loved this comment from an Abraham-Hicks forum I found…

Divine Timing - Right Place Right Timing“Timing is all about how long it takes you to come into alignment with your desire. If you’re waiting, you’re a little bit off track. Waiting is all about noticing the absence of what you want, so that’s not being in alignment with what you want. You need to ask yourself how you really feel about your desire — not trying to be positive, this is all about accurately assessing where you are in relation to where you are. How you feel tells you how close or far you are. Are you worried? Hopeful? Frustrated? Optimistic? My guess would be that you’re actually on the negative end of the scale, because if you were at hope or better, you wouldn’t be “waiting,” you’d feel good and you could feel yourself moving toward what you want and LOA would be giving you feedback reflecting back those feelings. Regardless, the answer is always to accept that where you are is okay, and then wherever you are, to gently lean in the direction of feeling better.”

Being a fan and follower of Abraham Hicks for many years I would say that last comment is pretty spot on. I’ve found from being in the practice of noticing divine timing that it is about the time it takes for me to line up with my desire.  I’m really, really not a patient person thanks to being practiced in instant gratification and action.  One of the things I learned by studying divine timing is that I don’t have to be patient, I just need to be aligned and when what I want isn’t here it’s because I’m noticing its absence and keeping it from coming to me.


That was pretty powerful for me.  There were some more religious websites I didn’t include in my definitions above because they didn’t resonate for me.  They talked about divine timing being God’s timing – like it was happening outside of me and I needed patience to wait for it.  Not that I don’t think the Universe is waiting to give me what I want, but it doesn’t have a divine timing outside of my own time to align.  To line up, be in harmony and in a place of expecting what I want.

 Divine Timing vs Make It Happen

If you’re a type-A personality like me, you’ve probably also picked up along your trail that you’re the one who needs to do stuff to make things happen.  One quote I picked up from a leadership workshop years ago was, “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me.”

There’s a bit of truth in the “if it’s meant to be it’s up to me”, but I sure took that to mean I needed to go out and get myself busy if I wanted to manifest shit!  I’ve found it is up to me, but I don’t have to go running around making myself crazy busy, sacrificing my health or emotional well-being in exchange for my dreams to come true.

I’ve come to see the contrast between what I learned about Making It Happen vs Divine Timing that I want to share with you.

Make It Happen

Divine Timing

Motivate yourself Act from inspiration

Effort and tons of physical action is required for results

Ease and allowing in tune with good feeling actions

“Yeah, I want it, but…” “Everything is always working out for me”
Be a go-getter and carve out the path I trust the signs from the Universe of my path
Controlling Receiving

 Examples of Divine Timing

Your Attitude Determines Your DirectionAllow me to share a couple of examples of divine timing that I can recall noticing recently.  I bought a ticket at the beginning of the year to attend Lightning in a Bottle – a music festival I attended in 2014 and absolutely loved.  When I bought my festival ticket this year I didn’t think too much about buying an RV pass because they cost $350 and that’s more than I wanted to spend for the festival (on top cost for the 4 day pass). As the festival date got closer I started looking for people selling RV passes. I didn’t see any up for sale like I did last year (at the 11th hour last year I was able to buy one for only $150 – pretty cool!).  I kept waiting and looking and searching. I started to give up home in the last few weeks and settled into the idea that this year I would be camping.  I started looking for car camping passes instead, only to find out those were in high demand!

As the day of the event drew even closer, like 24 hours before it started, I had an ah-ha moment and started to get really excited about going to the festival. Up to that time I was a little stressed about all the work I wanted to complete before I left for a few days off.  When I released the stress and began to visualize enjoying the event in my RV instead of camping on the hard ground…poof!  Three people came online selling RV passes. I contacted each one and eventually bought a pass for $200. That felt fantastic!

Then, as I went to the event I was in a really great mood – definitely high flying. I enjoyed listening to music on the radio and driving my RV onto the festival grounds.  The previous year my camping spot was a bit tight and so not level that when I parked up on the curb/ground a big bottle of something came crashing out of one of the kitchen cabinets and broke all over the floor.  There was glass everywhere.  This year, when I pulled into the event there was plenty of room around me, the spot they gave me was incredibly level and easy to get in/out of AND I had a view of the main stage from my front windows (yet I was far enough away it wasn’t too loud).  “Holy cow are you kidding me!?”  That’s what I said when I finally parked and got out of the driver’s seat.  Thank you Universe!

Well, that wasn’t the end of the divine timing moments.  As I settled in, grabbed my pack and a drink and headed to the main stage (aka The Woogie) I was still on my high flying disk and ready to dance. [sidenote: I have this thing about concerts and pretty much travel in general that says that I get adopted by great people wherever I go so I’m a happy solo traveler.] After a few songs I had a group near me say hello.  I told them I was alone and looking to get adopted by fun people.  They said they were there to adopt me then!  I went on to hang out with them the rest of the day and late into the night.  Happiness Wants You - Let It InWe had some amazing encounters that night – yes, more divine timing and serendipity.

These are just a few examples I could think of where the Universe delivered to me exactly what I wanted because I was aligned and expecting what I wanted, feeling good on my journey and wasn’t keeping them away by noticing the absence of them. It was all about ease and flow that day and the Universe delivered even better than I could have maneuvered my way into happening.

3 Tips for Working With the Universe and Divine Timing

I’m constantly learning how this world we live in works and I appreciate tips or “life hacks”.  I like to share life hacks for personal transformation so here are 3 tips I’d like to pass along for you to work with the Universe and capitalize on the power of divine timing:

  1. Surrender – if you find yourself in struggle or efforting too much, getting frustrated, and impatient then remember to surrender.  Struggle is the opposite end of the stick from divine timing. If you’re working hard and things aren’t unfolding, then step back and surrender by saying something like “I know the Universe knows what I want and it’s on its way to me now. If it’s not here, I can clean up my attitude/energy and expect it.”
  2. Be Happy Now – if you’re anxious, frustrated, worried about something or any other negative emotion you’re keeping what you want from coming to you. When you find yourself wrapped up in low vibrations about something you’re doing the very thing that will keep you from receiving what you want.  So get happy now on your way to it.
  3. Trust the Path is Always There – the path of least resistance or most allowing will be revealed to you as inspiration. If you find yourself saying, “Well, I could do it that way but that would really suck” then that’s not the path.  Yes, action will be necessary because you moving towards what you want actually helps you shore up your own belief in what you want coming.  The Universe will do it’s part so look for ah-ha ideas and inspiration that comes to you and then act on it.  Don’t wait!  Don’t put it on your to-do list or after you finish 15 things and forget.  If you receive divine inspiration, act then.  Trust the inspired action or path is always being shown to you and always will if you’re in a good feeling place.

Stop Waiting to be HappyThis all boils down to being happy on your way to what you want.  The path of least resistance will feel good (yes, there may be “work” but it will be motion forward).

Final Words on Divine Timing

I feel like I could go on and on about the idea of divine timing and what I’ve learned, but allow me to share a couple final words on divine timing.

Prepare your grid, your attitude, your energy for what you want to come to you.  If it’s not coming, look within and address where you are now.

Feel good along the way.  We get so focused on the outcome that we miss the journey.  If we have everything we want then we would not have anything to look forward to in the future – and the Universe would stop expanding.  That will never happen.  Sometimes I find that I enjoy the journey or the idea of having something even more than the having of it.  I am in the practice of letting go of having the thing I want while I enjoy the process of wanting it and visualizing it as if I already do.

I can’t be anxious in my anticipation of what I want.  Anxious is out of alignment. I must chill out, maybe take care of myself and find something to appreciate or enjoy now.

When I allow the Universe to surprise and delight me in it’s own creative and unexpected ways, I am actually amazed what it comes up with that I didn’t even realize I wanted at the time.  It has way better ways of delivering to me what I will enjoy more than I can craft for myself. I now go through my days asking “what spectacular fun adventures does the Universe have in store for me today?

Expect great things.  Period.

The more I am feeling ease and flow, the happier I am in each moment and then more I am in a place of allowing good things to come to me.  Ease and flow is a state of alignment and therefore I’m not doing the things that keep great experiences from coming to me.  It reminds me of this post I wrote many years ago about allowing well being.

Now Your Turn!

The Universe is waiting to deliver a spectacular life to you in each moment. What’s one action you can take to align more with what you want, to be happier now or to take action towards what you want?  Step up and share in comments below.

With love and light,



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Bulimia Recovery Research Study (Australia) Seeking Particpants

I was recently contacted by Dr. Elysa Roberts, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Newcastle in Australia.  She is part of a group conducting a study and is looking for participants to work with them in the next few weeks/month. If you are interested, please see details below.University of Newcastle Logo


We are currently recruiting volunteers who might be willing to participate in an in-depth interview about the recovery process from Bulimia with the aim of gaining a better understanding of how the “occupational experiences”, i.e., activities, routines, habits and environmental changes, influenced recovery from Bulimia. The following are details about the project and attached are flyers in two forms that we’ve used or shared with others.   

Specifically, we are looking for a small number of:

  • English-speaking women
  • aged 28 or older
    with history of diagnosis of only Bulimia Nervosa (no other eating disorder history)
  • who received some medical, psychological and/or psychiatric treatment at some point in recovery
  • who assesses herself as recovered from Bulimia Nervosa for a considerable time and
  • is willing to share her experience in a confidential, audiotaped, semi-structured interview via SKYPE – the interview will take 1.5 – 2 hours, and can be completed in two parts as needed.

Those interested in participating or seeking additional information may contact me directly at +61 2 4921 6663 or by email at