Four Habits Happy People do Every Week

If being happy was easy, everyone would do it. Instead, there’s a lot of disagreement over what makes true happiness and how we should achieve it. One thing is clear – real long-term happiness depends more on individual interpretation than the specific situation. Two people can have the same experiences, and one person can report being happy while another person reports feeling unfulfilled.

 

So if happiness depends on how you interpret your life, are there ways you can choose to be more positive? The answer appears to be yes. There are specific habits and practices that happy people have in common. By choosing to adopt these strategies, you’ll be more likely to reframe your life experiences (both positive and negative!) in a way that can allow you to be as happy as possible.

 

Give Back

 

Helping other people is one of the fastest ways to get perspective on your own problems. When I started researching my first book, The Giving Prescription, I expected to find that volunteering helped people get perspective after going through a trauma. But what surprised me was WHY. I assumed that the reason volunteerism helped was because of something called “downward perspective,” meaning when you volunteer, you’re around people less fortunate than yourself, and being exposed to the less fortunate makes you feel grateful for what you have. That can play a role, but it’s not the biggest factor.

 

A major reason volunteering boosts perspective is because when you give to someone else, you’re increasing your personal power. Sometimes in life we can start feeling helpless or powerless. It may feel like there’s nothing we can do to fix our situation. But when you give back, you have the opportunity to realize that you could have just changed someone’s life. And that boosts your sense of personal power, which increases your self-confidence. Whether you formally become a volunteer through a nonprofit, or you make it a regular habit to give back your community, volunteering will give you the perspective you need to start on your path to happiness.

 

Take Care

 

Practicing self-care is on a lot of happiness lists. Some people recommend you work out and eat healthy. Others say you should meditate or take daily bubble baths. It matters less WHAT you do, than that you do it at all. Taking care of yourself isn’t optional for happy people.

 

A friend of mine once told me “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” I was running myself ragged trying to succeed at work and at home and in my volunteer life… and I was exhausted. I was happy that other people were pleased with my efforts, but I wasn’t HAPPY. How could I be happy, when I was miserably running myself into the ground? I had to realize that making other people proud of me wasn’t the same as being truly happy within myself.

 

What does “taking care of yourself” mean to you? It can be physical, mental, or emotional… as long as you find your own version and seek it out.

I had to realize that making other people proud of me wasn’t the same as being truly happy within myself.

Give Thanks

 

When I first heard of gratitude journals, I admit I thought they sounded a little… fluffy. Like, kumbaya, let’s all hold hands and talk about what we’re thankful for around the campfire. Then I hit a period of feeling depressed, when the bad things in my life felt ever-present, and the good things in life seemed to evaporate. In the middle of a rant to my husband about how terribly my life was going, he said “whatever happens, you’ll always have my love.”

 

That moment stopped me cold, because I realized what I was saying to him. If “everything sucks and nothing good ever happens to me,” I’m insulting my marriage. I’m saying his love isn’t something to be grateful for. That day, when I picked up a pen to vent in my journal about my frustrations, I made sure to balance every negative out with a positive. I didn’t do it in list format. I just noted my struggles as usual, but then afterward I wrote about one strength to balance out each struggle.

 

I have a friend who writes a thank you note every work day. Her postage stamp budget must be through the roof! But that’s how she spends time expressing gratitude. Maybe prayer is a good way for you to express gratitude. Heck, even a text message is better than nothing! But at least once a week, do something to reflect on (and hopefully express) what’s going right. When you focus on what’s going right instead of what’s going wrong, it’s much easier to foster happiness.

 

Take Time

 

We live in a world of speed. The faster we can make decisions and solve problems, the better. Moving on quickly in the face of an upset is considered a skill. There’s even a name for it: action-bias. We’re primed to want to move fast and put our problems behind us.

 

But…

 

When we move quickly, we aren’t always taking the time to make the best choices. For the past 3 years, I’ve been researching how people can successfully move on when situations in their life change. One common thread I found in my research is that making smart decisions (especially in uncertain environments and changing situations) takes time.

 

We’re all busy people, but thoughtfulness matters. When you resist jumping to action just to be in motion, and instead pause to gather information, you’re more likely to make smart choices. Don’t do the next thing on the list just because it’s the next thing on the list. Don’t get caught up in accomplishment for accomplishment’s sake. Happy people take time to reflect on whether their choice is the right choice for long-term good.

 


 

Happiness is elusive. It’s more of a regular practice than a destination. Work these 4 habits into your regular behaviors and try to think about them at least once a week. If you do, you’ll be on the path to building happiness in no time.

Courtney Clark first name signature keynote speaker

 

What Should I Say to My Staff About Upcoming Changes?

So much is changing in our work lives right now!

If you’re wondering how to communicate with your staff about upcoming changes, there are two simple rules of thumb to follow:

More, and Sooner.

More info rather than less, and sooner rather than later. The “old” way of doing things used to be that managers only revealed information once it was all hammered out and set in stone. But if you wait until everything is finalized and about to roll out, your staff could feel blindsided and kept in the dark.

Especially after the past year-and-a-half we’ve all had, your team will appreciate the transparency of more information, sooner. Here’s how to do it…

Should I Hire an Industry Speaker or External Speaker for my Conference?

With COVID-infection rates dropping, associations and organizations are starting to gather together again at conferences. As your group starts to consider future events, should you hire an industry-specific speaker to keynote your conference, or an external speaker who doesn’t work in your industry?

 

There are pros and cons to both choices. (you knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?)

 

If you choose an industry-specific keynote speaker, you’ll likely be working with someone you already know. They may even already be planning to come to your conference anyway!

 

Pros of choosing an industry-specific keynote speaker:

  • Relevant knowledge of industry keywords, acronyms, and issues
  • Case-studies from only organizations in the industry
  • The possibility of saving money, as many association members will present pro bono for organizations of which they are a member

 

If your organization and industry are in a stable position with very little change on the horizon, selecting a member of your group to deliver the keynote speech could be a smart decision.

 

But…

 

If your field has been facing uncertainty (like almost all fields have in the wake of COVID), it’s smart to consider bringing in someone from outside of your industry. Research shows that input from diverse fields helps increase creative problem-solving abilities. Diverse experiences and opinions leads to thought-provoking conversation and innovative ideas. When everyone at the table shares the same background, our choices and options can tend to stay close to status quo.

 

In order to break out of the rut of “the way we’ve always done things,” we need to gather ideas from people outside of our own industries.

 

Additionally, people are getting excited to come back to live events. They don’t want to see what they’ve seen dozens of times before. They want energy and interaction and excitement.

 

So…

 

The Pros of choosing an external speaker in 2021:

  • Your industry needs an outside perspective.
  • “The way we’ve always done it” is becoming obsolete, and you need to underscore that with a fresh voice
  • External speakers are professionals at crafting a participative (but safe!) experience that will bring the energy your people are craving
  • If your event will be hybrid, an external speaker will have the ability to engage both the in-person audience and the home audience at the same time, so no one will feel left out of the experience

 

For your post-COVID conferences, you’ll have lots of options (isn’t that a great feeling, after the year+ we’ve had?) To keep your attendees engaged and ready to move forward, consider a blend of industry-specific speakers and professional keynote speakers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things are Getting Better… So Why Do I Still Feel Crummy?

“Things are getting better… so why do I still feel crummy?”

A woman asked me that question last night at an event, and it’s VERY relevant. I feel the same way.

Life is starting to get back to “normal.” We’re more able to do things we love. And yet we can also feel nervous, uncertain, frustrated, and just plain traumatized from the upheaval of the past year+. Maybe you feel guilty that you aren’t just 100% thrilled and ready to run headlong back into the world again.

I have a couple of ideas to help you deal with this feeling caught between two worlds.

What NOT To Do As You Navigate out of COVID-19

The world is showing signs of emerging from its long, COVID-19 fog. As restrictions lift, groups gather, and businesses bounce back, people are expressing excitement to return to some kind of normalcy.

But if you aren’t prepared for the changes we’re going to be experiencing – both individually and within organizations – the transition into a post-COVID world may not be comfortable or successful for you. Here are 4 important problems to avoid as you shake off the COVID fog.

Trap #1: Going back to “The Plan” Post-COVID

Most of us were raised to believe that successful people make a plan, work hard, and get rewarded. So it’s no surprise that we want to cling to The Plan at all costs, even when circumstances change.

In 2021, I worked with the University of Northern Colorado to conduct research on how well people can adapt, and 74% of respondents expressed an unwillingness to improvise, change, and learn as they go in unfamiliar situations. Most of us struggle in some way when forced to redirect our plans and goals.

The Plan is alluring. It feels comfortable. It feels like the shortest path to success. But it’s not the same world as it was in 2019. You’re not the same person. To more easily let go of The Plan, remind yourself that The Plan 1.0 had problems, too. You may not have gotten far along enough on the journey to find them yet, but they were there. Spend your energy focusing on how to make The Plan 2.0 (or 3.0, or 117.0) the best it can be.

Trap #2: Expecting to Feel Better Right Away

There’s a lot to celebrate as more people get vaccinated and regular activities can start to resume. There’s also a lot to feel conflicted about. How do we celebrate when so many have died? How do we get excited when so many have lost everything?

Even if you’re personally MORE than ready to had back into the office or send kids back to school, and you have no fear of variants popping up, you might run into unexpected grief for the months you missed.

For the healthiest re-entry, don’t ignore the potential for grief to pop back up in surprising ways. Allow yourself to have mixed feelings about letting go of The Plan 1.0 (see above). In my research, the younger you are the easier it may be for you to move on to a new plan, possibly because you’ve invested less time than if you’re older (and committed to your plans for a longer time).

Trap #3: Thinking You Have to Operate at 100% Immediately

If you’re a “do-er” like me, you may be chomping at the bit to resume what feels like normal levels of productivity. But trying to go from wherever you are to top speed may surprisingly make you less successful.

Because of something called action-bias, many of us are primed to jump to action before we fully evaluate our options. Scientists who study brainstorming say the ideas that come up later in the brainstorming process that are more innovative and creative. Take advantage of this time to come up with new goals and strategies. Maybe the pandemic exposed new opportunities for your business or your life. Maybe it revealed gaps that you now know how to fix.

Resist the temptation to dive in and make up for lost time post-COVID. Instead, use this time intentionally to create new goals and new ways of operating that will lead to greater accomplishment in the long run.

Trap #4: Navigating Change Alone

What do you think of when you think of a resilient person? Many people imagine someone with a sense of toughness who draws on internal strength. In reality, studies show the most resilient people aren’t lone wolves relying on their own inner power, but those with strong support systems.

Many of us have spent parts of the pandemic alone or in small bubbles. We may be (or feel) less connected than we’ve ever been. But lone-wolfing isn’t a good way to accomplish your goals. In my research, the older you are, the better you get at leaning on others to help you… and the more you seek input and advice from others, the smarter the decisions you make!

Ready or Not…

If you’re expecting to run headlong back into “the way things used to be” at top speed, be prepared for a rude awakening. The changes we’re about to experience as we go *back* to life post-COVID are not that much different than the changes we faced when the world shuddered to a halt in early 2020. There will be changes, both operationally and emotionally. But if you’re prepared for them, you’ll be able to successfully make the transition back.

What I DIDN’T Accomplish in 2020

I’m seeing a lot of people post about what they managed to accomplish in this crazy year. Lots of posts: “What did you accomplish in 2020?!?!” Don’t get me wrong – I’m super proud of people who have fought against the fear, confusion, and general “blahs” of 2020 and come out with new skills and triumphs.

 

But I also realized it could feel a little… shaming. Personally, I’ve had lots of moments this year where just getting out of bed and turning on my computer felt like a feat of strength.

 

So I decided to write about what I didn’t accomplish this year! Those things I thought in April I’d get to do with alllllllllll my new free time. But I didn’t.

 

(I may have to add to this list over time, as I remember)

 

  1. Sourdough. Yeah, it sounded like a good idea when I watched all the rest of you do it. Sourdough bread is my favorite bread. But keeping myself alive this year was feat enough, so sourdough starter shall have to wait. 😉
  2. Regular Zoom calls/game nights with all my friends and loved ones. I was so happy when we all started inviting one another to virtual gatherings! Yay – I can be there even when I’m not! I had big plans to call or text several people a day, and just generally be better about keeping in touch. The Zoom invites got overwhelming. Sorry, folks.
  3. Ukulele. I learned one new chord. I wrote silly COVID-inspired lyrics to one song. Then I got bored. Whoops.
  4. A new book. In 2019, I started my research on the topic of Adaptive Thinking. When all this free time hit without any travel, it dawned on me that it might make sense to start working on a book now. Spoiler alert: there’s no book. This right here is as much as I’ve written in months.
  5. A better workout schedule. It’s hard to get into a consistent workout routine when you’re on the road a lot. I had big plans that I’d use my time at home to ride my spin bike a little more, and maybe lift some weights. Instead, I’m writing this from underneath my comforter.
  6. Crochet. See #3, ukulele. Crochet is harder than I thought, y’all.

 

If you didn’t accomplish as much as you wanted to this year, you aren’t alone. If you had big plans for skills you could pick up in your free time, but you mostly just binged Netflix, I feel you. If someone asks you “what did you accomplish in 2020?” feel free not to answer. I’d give you a hug if I could.

 

“Free” time isn’t free when we pay for it in depression, anxiety, and disconnectedness. This year people found things to enjoy and celebrate, and I’m really happy about that. But in our desire to find sunshine after the rain, we need to offer an umbrella to the people who are still caught in the downpour.

 

It’s okay to feel depleted by 2020. If we’re being honest, I think we all do.

The Virtual Critics are Raving!

Critics are raving!

In a world where conferences are cancelled and everything is virtual, Courtney Clark takes meeting attendees on a thrill ride to a land of resilience.

See what her clients and attendees have to say about Courtney’s energy and engagement at virtual meetings. These testimonials are just a sample of recent comments from Courtney’s 2020 virtual keynote speaker presentations.

Are Naps Good for You?

Do you know the truth about naps and success?

I’ve always been a big fan of naps (I got it from my Dad), but I recently read something VERY interesting about naps and our brains.

If you love naps or you hate naps, this is probably something you should know!

Because of something called the “default network” in your brain, your creative problem-solving is at it’s peak right as you drift off to sleep. Plus, if you’re tired, your brain shifts into threat mode, and the resulting linear thinking isn’t very good for being creative.

So feel free to take a nap – research shows it’s good for you!

What’s “Adaptive Thinking” and Why Does it = Success During COVID-19?

I couldn’t keep my new research to myself any more. Dealing with COVID-19 is actually the PERFECT time to bring the concept of “Adaptive Thinking” to the world.

If you’re struggling with the new reality of your work, your business, your home life… whatever, Adaptive Thinking is a concrete, constructive way to pivot and find a way to be successful when the world is uncertain.

Yesterday I gave a short presentation on the Adaptive Thinking concept to a group in California, and I realized that with everything that’s going on with COVID-19 and its impacts on the way we’re working and living, I couldn‘t wait any longer to send it out to everybody.

I’ve been learning a LOT over the past 18 months researching how people can develop Adaptive Thinking (and there’s still more to learn!), but here’s a very short introduction into something you can do TODAY to help you start thinking more adaptively and getting your brain primed for survival and success in this new world.

If you’ve got more questions about what Adaptive Thinking is and how it can help you – ask ’em! I’m going to be shooting more videos in the coming days and weeks.

Why Choose Courtney for a Keynote?

If you’re wondering “how do I choose a keynote speaker for my conference?” you’re not alone. It’s a tough job to find a speaker who will keep your audience engaged, teach them something, make them laugh, and motivate them – ALL AT THE SAME TIME!

 

Courtney Clark isn’t your average keynote speaker.

 

She’s inspirational, for sure. She’s high energy, interactive, and fun. But she also grounds all her work in research. She offers what she calls “content-based motivation,” so when you work with Courtney, you’ll create a customized blend of research, strategies, interaction, humor, and stories. Your participants will leave with both the *feelings* and the *skills* to be more successful in today’s fast-changing world.

 

If you’re looking for a keynote speaker on change, resilience speaker Courtney Clark will bring your group the tools and attitude they need!