4 Ways to Thrive as an Adult if You Survived Your Upbringing

Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/David Castillo Dominici

Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/David Castillo Dominici

“The whole world steps aside for the man who knows where he is going.” Anonymous

We spend more time planning our dinner than we do planning our lives.

That’s a fact.

Many of us live as if we’re floating on a raft being tossed about by the
currents of other people’s opinions and agendas.

But it’s not entirely our fault.

Many of us spent our childhoods being told what to do, being discouraged
from expressing opinions, and even being told by the adults in our lives that our feelings and desires weren’t real.

As a matter of fact, when I was a kid you never questioned an adult even if
they were lying through their teeth.

I remember my mother angrily asking me when I called her on something,
“Are you calling me a lie?”

It was an awkward position to be in since I was taught to tell the
truth, except when it applied to my mother or other authority.

To answer “no” would mean to lose a bit of my authenticity, but it
would save my hide.

To say “yes” would mean the dreaded spanking, now considered child abuse
but then was considered good parenting.

It’s no surprise to me that many clergy and other authority figures got
away with unspeakable crimes against children.

What protection is there for children when they are not believed or are too
afraid to point the finger at someone who is placed on a pedestal and
considered above reproach.

When we somehow survive childhood and move past that murky area called
adolescence, we arrive in adulthood suddenly expected to think for
ourselves and decide what we’re doing with our lives.

How can we thrive as adults  if we weren’t encouraged as kids to think for ourselves?

Treat it the way you get up to speed on a job for which you have no

1. Learn from the people who are where you want to be.

Locate and seek out people who are in the career you want or are living the
lifestyle you want.

Talk to them, get to know them, ask questions, hang out with them in person or build relationships through social media.

Successful, confident people are willing to share with you, maybe even
mentor you.

But don’t just follow successful people blindly. Choose your way based on your values and goals.

2. Get the skills necessary to get where you want to go.

Discover your own interests. What do you enjoy doing? What activities do you
enjoy? What are your strengths and weaknesses? And what about your values:
what matters most to you?

“Find something you love to do and you’ll never have to work a day in
your life.”  Harvey McKay

And then when you find what you love to do, add the skills and practice
that will move you to expert status.

3. Learn to love yourself just as you are now.

After you make a self-assessment and find what you want to do, you may be
hit with bouts of doubt. It happens to all of us, and may cause you to
question whether you’re too young, too old, too tall, too short, or some
other “too.”

Replace those negative thoughts with positive affirmations pointing you to
the goals you are now after. If positive affirmations are not to your
liking, see how others pulled themselves from despair or depression to
learn to love themselves. In his book, “Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It”
Kamil Ravikant, tells how he got his life back when he changed his
relationship to himself.

You may also experience fear, but remember that F-E-A-R is False Evidence
Appearing Real.

If you feel the need to get help with building your self-esteem or coming
to terms with the past, get the loving and professional help you deserve.

4. Decide where you want to go and take the first step.

The great thing about deciding where you want to go is that you don’t have
to know the full route, just the destination.

When you have passion, determination and skills, all you need to do is take
the first step. The next series of steps will appear as you go forward.

And don’t make the mistake of playing small, or only going after what you
think is within your reach.

There is no benefit in going after less than what you want or deserve.

Nature loves motion, the Universe loves bold action,and humans love to step aside for the person who knows where she is going.

That could be you.

If you enjoyed this article, share it with others and leave a comment. To get more tips and encouragement like this, subscribe to the Color Your Life Happy newsletter at the top of the page. You’ll even get a great free ebook, “It’s About Time: Managing Your Time to Create the Life You Want and Deserve.”

What did you do the day you stopped waking up with a smile?

Is change scary for you? You are not alone. ← Click to tweet

What did you do when you stopped waking up with a smile? ←Click to tweet

On his GoodLife Project, Jonathan Fields shares the story of a lawyer who left a 22-year successful practice when she no longer woke up with a smile.

Listen to her story and then share in the comments how you had the courage (or wish you did) to make a change in your life when you realized it was time.

You are Not Fine!

Mel Robbins, author, speaker, criminal lawyer, wife and mom, amazing career and relationship expert, wrote “Stop Saying You’re Fine” to alert us to how to get what we want. It begins by abandoning that word “FINE.” When we say “fine” we are saying we’ve settled for not getting what we want. If we had what we wanted in our lives we would be “fantastic” or “very frustrated” at not having it. When Mel spoke at TEDxSF recently she pointed out the whimpy word “FINE” is our problem. With scientists calculating the odds of any one of us being born as one in 400 trillion, each of us is here for reason. If we are not living a fantastic life it’s because we’ve settled for fine. Watch her talk on the video below and give me your take on it. Better yet, do what she suggests at the end, then tell us about it in the comments below. 5-4-3-2-1. Do it now!

Practical Happiness Tip: Take One Small Step

Rome2007Whenever you think of making a change in your life, the biggest obstacle is trying to make it in one leap.

Although it’s said that we should think with the end in mind, thinking of it as one step will block your progress and threaten your happiness. You are much more likely to succeed and feel gratified if you can think of one small step, one tiny move that will start your journey. Then take it.

That one small successful step boosts your self-esteem and gives you confidence to take the next one.

On his blog, Work Happy Now, Karl Staib talks about this in his article Loving What You Do is An Ongoing Process when he suggests letting go of a fixed perspective and asking yourself how you can improve by 1%.

Setting out to improve your job, your relationships or your life by just 1% at a time is so much easier to visualize and easy to do. Instead of making you fearful it is encouraging and in line with the way change occurs anyway.

If you’ve ever watched a plant, a child or a project grow, you know that the day-to-day changes are so tiny that they are imperceptible. And yet, you know that little by little they are progressing toward full growth.

Every idea, plan, dream has a first small step. Even if your goal is big one, it still has a small first step. Learn to respect that small step and congratulate yourself for taking it.

What is your big plan, dream, goal?

Whether your goal is getting a job, starting your own business, attracting a life partner, writing a book, traveling or some other wonderful thing, the progress toward it is the same. One small step.

The small step may be just gathering information, completing a phone call or application, talking to someone who is doing what you want to do or making an outline.

The ancient proverb “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” has survived for centuries not because is colorful, but because it is an encouraging reminder of the slow and steady progress it takes to accomplish meaningful and impressive work. (As a matter of fact, when I visited Rome, it was still undergoing construction.)

What one small step can you take toward your change, goal, plan today?

Are You Normal, Do You Want to Be and What Does This Have to Do with Happiness?

Rorschach_blot_01During a reunion of friends I hadn’t seen for a year, we met over dinner and each shared our progress toward personal and professional goals.  In the process of sharing events of her year one friend disclosed that she’s motivated by trying to prove to her family that she is as smart as her high-achieving  “specialist doctor” brother.

When she confessed that this stems back to childhood she recounted some of the verbal attacks and labels she has endured at the hands of this brother even now (although they are both highly educated professionals.)  The rest of us at the table were horrified, visibly shaken and some teary-eyed to hear and see the pain she has endured.  By contrast, she was surprised at our reaction. What was dysfunction with a capital D to the rest of us was normal family relations to her.

In a Psychology Today article, Peter Kramer discusses the concept of normal from two angles

As the experience of mid-century shows, we can hold two forms of normality in mind—normal as free of defect, and normal as sharing the human condition, which always includes variation and vulnerability. We may be entering a similar period of dissociation, in which risk and pathology become separated from abnormality—or an era in which abnormality is universal and unremarkable.

We are used to the concept of medical shortcomings; we face disappointing realizations—that our triglyceride levels and our stress tolerance are not what we would wish. Normality may be a myth we have allowed ourselves to enjoy for decades, sacrificed now to the increasing recognition of differences. The awareness that we all bear flaws is humbling. But it could lead us to a new sense of inclusiveness and tolerance, recognition that imperfection is the condition of every life.—Peter Kramer

I always equated normal with boring, so it was never my goal. According to my kids and friends I succeeded. As a matter of fact, my kids don’t mind reminding me from time to time with “You’re weird.”

“Good!” I think to myself, “I’m still on track.”

One of my favorite Twilight Zone TV episodes shows a scene of a doctor and nurse standing in a darkened room at the bedside of a patient whose face is fully bandaged. She has undergone experimental surgery to correct her disfigurement so she will be allowed to remain in the State. This is the  eleventh and final surgical attempt to make her beautiful. If this doesn’t work she’ll be cast out to live in a village with other freaks.

As the doctor and nurse remove the bandages, the doctor comments to the nurse that Janet, the patient, is a beautiful person no matter what a face looks like.  When they remove the last layer of bandages and Janet is revealed as a beautiful human female, the audience is confused for a moment.  When the staff turns on the lights we see that all of the staff  have pig-like faces.

Fearful over her fate, Janet runs out into the hall , past a State broadcast on complete conformity.  She runs into a room where she finds herself face-to-face with a horrifying sight,  a handsome human male, Walter Smith. The episode ends with Walter taking Janet to the village where others of her kind live.

Normal is very much what we decide it to be.

What we accept as normal can change as our goals, desires, and situations change. I believe that the source of  some of our unhappiness is discontent with what has become normal in our lives and failure to do anything about it. It’s a proven fact that to make changes in our lives we have to adopt new habits. That means resetting whatever was once normal for us.

The ever popular goal of  losing weight, for example, requires not just eating less and exercising more, but adopting a new lifestyle. If sleeping in and stuffing your face with donuts is your normal, it’s likely you will need to create new behaviors which when repeated over and over become your normal that will help you reach your weight loss goal.

Part of what lead to the demise of the Rorschach test (also known as the Ink Blot Test–see one of the images above) was the suspicion that the results of this projective personality test told us more about the examiner than the subjects.

Perhaps it’s time to recognize, as Peter Kramer proposes, that we let go of the myth of normality. It may be a useful construct for intellectual discussion and research, but in our daily lives recognizing and accepting imperfection in ourselves and others is one key to being happy. The next key, of course, is giving ourselves permission to change what we consider normal as we reach for new goals and rethink what relationships and experiences we want as part of our lives.