Courtney’s Blog

Why Can’t You Just Be Happy?

There’s nothing really wrong. Things are mostly going pretty well. So why can’t you just… be happy?

 

Seriously, it’s not that hard.

 

Except… it is. Just “being happy” turns out to be a lot more complicated than it sounds. For starters, some people’s brains just don’t naturally cooperate with society’s expectations of happiness, because of depression or anxiety. For other people, we anticipate we’ll be happy when we reach a certain goal, or have a certain experience, but it doesn’t happen automatically.

 

Admit It: The Holidays Sometimes Stink

 

For a perfect example, just look at the holidays. This time of year, we’re expected to be happy. We should either be basking peacefully in the glow of the reason for the season, or bouncing joyfully between friends and parties and glitter-covered wrapping paper. But what we get instead is stress, overwhelm, and disappointment.

 

See, expectations of happiness often ruin actual happiness. If we feel like happiness is REQUIRED, or else we must be broken, we put so much pressure on ourselves that happiness becomes nearly impossible. Who can be happy on demand? Probably not you.

 

Who Needs Happiness, Anyway?

 

In fact, studies have shown that the things that make us ACTUALLY happy are pretty hard to predict. Happiness doesn’t always come from the things we think it comes from, because a greater sense of overall joy in life comes from feelings like “meaning” and “significance.” Happiness and meaning are similar, but different, according to research out of Stanford. If you’re looking for happiness that’s longer-lasting, go for meaning, not contentedness.

 

 

But I Just Want A Little Joy

 

Just because it’s not so easy, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give up on being happy. It just means you won’t find it in any of the presents under the Christmas tree. For a deeper, longer-lasting happy, try these strategies:

 

  • Don’t Do So Much. We’re so convinced that activities and experiences are going to make us happy that we cram our lives full and end up stressed out and miserable. Instead, focus on what matters most. For a way to fit more into your life without feeling MORE stressed, you can download my free Time Targeter, a tool for helping you figure out where you ought to be spending your time for maximum life satisfaction and success.

 

  • But DO Do Something For Someone Else. It’s the giving time of year, after all! When we give back to other people, we get a boost in so many of the elements that factor into happiness, like connections to other people and a boost in our own personal sense of power and accomplishment. Helping someone else is also one of the best possible ways to make life feel meaningful (which you now know is more important than plain happiness, anyway!)

 

Don’t let happiness and the actions that bring true happiness end up buried at the bottom of your to do list in your busy life. Find what matters most and bring some meaning to your days.

 

 

Want The Best Books on Resilience, Happiness, and Managing Stress? Read My Library, FREE!

Want to know what books to read to be more resilient, happier, and healthier? Want to get a great reading list started for next year?

 

I’m starting the “Read My Library” Giveaway!

 

Every few weeks, I’ll pick a favorite book off my shelf and send my copy to a lucky winner. The first book will be Option B, by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. To enter, make sure you’re on my list of readers – join by going to http://www.CourtneyClark.com/timetool and entering your email address. You’ll get some free tools on beating stress AND suggestions of other books I love.

 

The winner of Option B will be drawn at random before December 21st!

 

Happy reading!

Giving Thanks is Hard! (… and Here’s What You Can Do About It)

We know having gratitude is supposed to be good for us, but sometimes it’s just not easy! Here’s why giving thanks can be hard, and what you can do to try and find some gratitude anyway.

5 Ways To Stay Calm When Getting Terrible News

“It’s cancer.”

 

“You’re fired.”

 

“I want a divorce.”

 

Some words cause your body to go numb. Your ears buzz. You start to float above yourself. In those moments, you’re experiencing so much stress, and your body is being flooded with so much adrenaline, it can be difficult to think straight.

 

As difficult as it may be, thinking straight is the #1 thing you can do to help yourself when you’re getting terrible news. It’s crucial, in those moments, to keep your wits about you, gather information, and maintain self-control.

 

So how do you stay calm when you’re in the middle of receiving terrible news?

 

Take a sip of water.

It’s a tiny action, but taking a sip of water can be a great move when you receive shocking information. First, it gives you a mental break from the tough conversation. You may feel like you need a split second to close your eyes and process the information, and taking a sip of water gives you an excuse for breaking eye contact without looking “weak.” Taking a sip of water also gives you something to do with your hands, to keep them from jittering. Especially if the conversation is with someone like a boss, you want to appear composed and stoic. Having a glass of water as a prop can cover up your nerves.

 

Stay present in the moment.

It’s human nature, when getting bad news, for your thoughts to start spinning out of control. You can’t help but think about the future, and how this news will shape your life for months or years to come. Instead, keep your thoughts in the moment at hand. When you keep you mind focused, you’ll be better able to process what’s actually happening than if you allow your mind to wander to all the worst case scenarios. As this Forbes article remarks, it’s definitely best to avoid heading down the spiral of “what if…?” When you stay in the moment, you’ll be a better participant in the conversation, and you’ll remember the important information more accurately. Which dovetails perfectly with the next step…

 

Ask questions.

When I found out I had cancer, there were so many questions I wished I had asked the doctor when I was right there in front of him. Because I was so flustered at the news, I sat there in shock instead of asking smart questions. I had to email my concerns to the nurse and wait several days for a response. If you get bad news, don’t hesitate to ask as many questions as you need, rather than assuming the worst. It also helps to take notes. Many times our adrenaline keeps us from recording good memories of these tough conversations, so taking notes will help you not only focus in the moment, but also give you something to jog your memory later.

 

Remind yourself all the ways it could be worse.

We’ve been taught to believe we should think positive when we get bad news. But last week I had the honor of hearing Sheryl Sandberg, the author and Facebook executive, participate in a Q&A, and she had a different perspective. She recalled that a friend told her, after her husband Dave died, that “it could have been worse. Dave could have been driving the children when his heart gave out.” She realized that she could have lost her entire family in a single moment. By remembering that things could, in fact, be worse, we put our struggles in perspective.

 

Take a single action.

Getting bad news makes us feel powerless. We can’t control the situation, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything. Figure out the first action you can take to regain control, no matter how small. Through a psychological construct called “self efficacy,” taking even the smallest action helps you feel more competent and powerful. If you’ve been diagnosed with an illness, your fist step could be finding a specialist. If you’re faced with divorced, your first step could be protecting your financial information. If you’ve been let go from your job, it could be brushing up your resume. By doing what you can do, even if it doesn’t feel like much, you’re building your self efficacy for the moments ahead.

 


 

Getting bad news can feel like life as you know it is over. But if you keep calm, stay present, gather information, and put the situation in perspective, you’ll be able to move forward as quickly as possible.

 

“Surviving the Toughest Day of My Career”: Interview with “Real Beauty” Model Stacy Nadeau

Meet the most authentic, honest model on the planet!

 

Dove Campaign for Real Beauty model Stacy Nadeau tells us all about the hardest day of her career, and the technique she used to move past it. (Spoiler alert: she didn’t do it alone!)

Are You Using Happiness as a Weapon?

“Hey, girl. Gimme a smile.”

 

If you’ve ever been hollered at on the street (and if you’re a woman, it’s probably not really if, but when), you know how insulting it can feel when some stranger demands you flash a smile and fake happiness.

 

The real problem? It’s not just sexist strangers on the street.

 

We attempt to force happiness on ourselves and others all. the. time. Even when we mean well, we often discourage sadness in our friends and loved ones. “Don’t feel bad,” we say. “It’ll all be okay.” “It could be worse.” Or the ultimate punch in the gut: “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”

 

Happiness is supposed to be a private emotion. But because of a focus on personal development in recent years, happiness has morphed from an internal journey to an external measure of how evolved and successful we are. We’ve somehow come to believe that if someone isn’t happy, there must be something wrong with them. They aren’t trying hard enough to find happiness, or they need to control their stress, or they’re choosing to be sad.

 

When we think like this, we turn happiness into a weapon. If people don’t meet our definition of happy, society begins to think of them as “weak.”

 

Why You Beat Yourself Up About Happiness

 

Weaponized happiness is a new epidemic, where everyone is expected to meet societal standards of joy or else be deemed not tough enough. Of course we all WANT to be happy. But it isn’t always quite so simple. Life can be stressful and difficult. And even if we aren’t in the middle of a crisis, life simply may not always be enjoyable. (And that’s not even accounting for clinical depression, where guilt over not being happy is likely to just make things far worse.)

 

Everyone else’s life looks shiny and perfect from the outside. Blame it on Instagrammers, but we’ve come to believe that if we aren’t running through a meadow with flowers in our hair and a blissful look on our faces, we must not be truly happy. Happiness doesn’t always look like a shiny blog post. When we judge our happiness but what other people’s lives appear to be, we’re measuring against an unreliable yardstick.

 

 

Why You Judge Others’ Happiness

 

Insisting that others be happy is a bad habit that comes from a good place. When you care about someone, you don’t want them to hurt. You want them to be happy. But when we attempt to shortcut their hurt or sadness, we’re not actually helping them find happiness any faster. In fact, studies show that ignoring feelings of sadness can actually keep you feeling sad for longer.

 

A life of blissful joy isn’t the best goal. People need a little struggle, a little effort, and a little sadness to appreciate the humanity of being alive. The people who have overcome THAT, and can still find happiness even after sadness, are the ones we should really be looking up to. So when a friend or family member is struggling, don’t judge their sadness. Don’t force them to be happy. Allow them their experience, and then help them move on when they can.

 


 

It’s time to stop measuring excellence in others based on how happy they seem. Happiness is not a weapon we use to beat up others. It’s a  tool, and it must be a tool we use by ourselves, for ourselves alone.

 

Why You Should Hire a Content-Based Motivational Speaker

Are you looking for a motivational speaker for your conference or event? Not all motivational speakers are created equal!

 

If you’re planning a meeting, you may think you have to decide between hard-hitting content, or uplifting motivation. But you don’t. Courtney Clark provides something she calls “content-based motivation,” where she blends research and strategies with stories, humor, and hit-you-where-it-counts inspiration. The reality is that we all learn in different ways. Some people like to hear the personal experiences, while others just say “give me the tactics!”

 

Courtney’s blend of inspiration and information resonate with groups from nurses to IT leadership. There’s something for every audience member in one of Courtney’s motivational keynote presentations.

 

If you’re planning a meeting and looking for a speaker, think about bringing content-based motivation to your event, for maximum impact.

Does Your Teenager Have These Real World Skills That AREN’T On a College Application?

Think grades are the only thing that matters? Not all important predictors of success are on a college application. Here are two real-world issues that your teenager needs to know how to handle in order to succeed in college and life beyond. Teach your teen these real life skills for an easier path to success.

Forget FOMO. Here’s What You Should REALLY Be Afraid Of.

I thought the fad would be over by now, but it looks like FOMO, the “fear of missing out” that’s gripped society via social media, is still going strong.

 

Oh, it’s not that I expected us to get over our natural human desire to have it all. We’ve always had it and we probably always will. But it’s so prevalent right now. Everywhere I turn people are talking about feeling that FOMO, that worry that everyone else is doing more, having more, and just being more than you.

 

But here’s the bottom line: “missing out” isn’t a big threat to your life happiness. You know what is a threat? Burning out. We should all have more FOBO: fear of burning out. Fear of getting so stressed that you just can’t take it anymore.

 

When it first became a “saying,” we all thought FOMO was a (mostly) positive emotion. If we don’t want to miss out, it spurs us to work harder, go out and spend more time with friends, and have great experiences. FOMO launched many a skydiver, entrepreneur, and Thursday-night whiskey-fueled country line dancer (for better or worse).

 

But there’s a downside we didn’t see: saying “yes” to everything is exhausting and impossible to sustain. FOMO leads to burnout.

 

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Burnout?

 

We should be afraid of burning out. Burnout is characterized by unrelenting stress that leads to disengagement and a loss of excitement. Burnout is a feeling of hopelessness. So why don’t we have more FOBO? We know burnout is bad, but we often don’t take measures to prevent it. We work and work and wait until we’re just so stressed out, until we decide that something needs to change.

 

If we want to be happier, peaceful, and more resilient to stress, we need to trade our FOMO for FOBO. Burning out is a far bigger threat to our success than missing out on any one opportunity, no matter how good.

 

Why Burnout Limits Opportunity

 

When you burn out, you limit your ability to enjoy life. You feel a sense of detaching from your surrounds and the people in your life, even your closest loved ones. If you’re burned out, you’re also hard to get along with at home AND at work, because you’re more likely to be sarcastic and unkind without even realizing it.

 

Burnout also makes it hard to be successful, because it is often characterized by a sense of exhaustion. If that happens to you, you’ll notice you just start coasting at work, because you’re just too tired to care, even if you’ve been getting plenty of sleep. That’s not a way to get a promotion!

 

To Do: Ditch FOMO for FOBO

 

It’s time to let FOMO be a thing of the past. Too much FOMO leads to burnout. For a peaceful life, forget the FOMO and arm yourself with a stronger sense of FOBO.

 

Want Someone to Help You Be More Successful? Here’s How To Find Them.

Do you wish someone would give you a leg up and help you get where you deserve? Well, here’s how you find that person! My friend Rami told me an incredible story about the moment that led to his success, and it’s a great lesson in being collaborative instead of competitive.