By Marianne Renner: Leadership Coach, Speaker, Author
“See, I knew it!”
Does that turn of phrase sound familiar? For years, it was an old familiar tune of mine that referred to any and every disappointment that came my way. I didn’t get the call back after the job interview, “I knew I wouldn’t get it!”
Or better still, I didn’t get the call back after the first date. “See, I knew he would turn out to be a jerk.”
Regardless of the issue: my boss doesn’t like me, I didn’t get the promotion, I didn’t win the award, or my best friend hurt me. The result was, “I knew it! That’s always the way it is.”
When I was younger, I used to listen to records – yes, it’s true! Good old-fashioned LP, vinyl records. Every once in a while, one of the albums would have a scratch, which basically meant that there was a groove in the record where the needle would get stuck and couldn’t make its way out. Thus, a particular part of the song would repeat over and over and over.
This is basically an oversimplified way to explain how the brain works. My thought pattern was stuck in a groove that repeatedly stated, “I knew it.” I “knew” I was going to fail.
I can’t really say what came first – depression that caused the needle to get stuck in a pattern of negative thoughts, or a pattern of negative thoughts that caused the depression. A friend asked me recently, “Marianne, what happened? How was it that you had this depression for so many years? Did something happen to you? Was it your genetic predisposition? Was it your environment? Was it your thinking?”
I’m here to tell you that I was about as bad of a case as there ever was. In fact, a psychiatrist once wrote me off, saying, “well, Marianne there really isn’t anything else I can do for you. I’m going to refer you to a specialist.” Well, isn’t psychiatry a specialty? Yes, but apparently not specialized enough for my case.
That’s the moment I decided, there had to be another way. There had to be something else. I knew in that moment that I had to figure out how to get that record needle out of the groove once and for all.
I took a close look at the enormous set of tools that I had acquired throughout my life’s search for happiness and fulfillment. As it turned out, I had been sitting on a Godzilla-sized toolbox filled with answers. I had shelves of books on every topic from stress-relief, to debt-relief. I had articles and worksheets filled with keys to mental health and financial wealth. Whether overcoming alcohol addiction or spiritual affliction, I had the answers. I just hadn’t applied them. Or, I hadn’t applied them consistently.
Heck, if you want to build a new house, the hammer and nails don’t do you any good if they’re locked in the toolbox that you never open.
The good news for most people is that they’re not starting from such a deep pit. You’re probably not in a dark pit of despair, which means the road to success and happiness can be a much straighter line than it was for me.
As I mentioned in last week’s blog, I started to develop habits in my life that not only relieved me of depression, but led me to success in multiple areas of life including career, business, finances and relationships.
Success is an elusive word, because it can mean different things to different people. To some, it means having healthy families and loving relationships. To some, it means achieving career, business and financial goals. To others, it means personal growth and staying true to one’s spiritual beliefs. For me, it’s all of the above.
Last week I talked about my “Habit to Happiness #1 – Acceptance.” Here is my “Habit to Happiness #2,” that will help you achieve success and happiness, no matter how you define it.
Habit to Happiness #1 – Acceptance
I shared that the first step to moving forward is acceptance. Letting go of any resistance to the current circumstances will allow you to release negative emotions that inhibit your ability to think creatively or successfully solve problems. Accepting the current state paradoxically is the key to changing it.
Habit to Happiness #2 – Expectance
Many years ago, I had a job that was absolute drudgery. I had outgrown the position and had been trying desperately to either move up in my organization or move on to another organization. And neither scenario was happening for me. With my record needle stuck in the groove of “this stinks,” things started to feel worse by the day.
Until one morning when I was listening to an audio program and heard the speaker say, “you have to get up every day and expect great things to happen to you today.” Hmmm that sounds pretty good, so I figured I’d give it a try.
Well, after day 1, it didn’t really seem that anything “great” had happened. So I started thinking about what “great” really means. I found myself starting to look hard for those “great things.” I started developing a habit of expectancy. One day I was walking down the hallway at work and passed several people whom I thought were pretty terrific people. I thought, “wow, it’s pretty great that I get to work in place where I get to see people I really enjoy.”
I noticed an immediate change in my mood. Wow, is that all it takes to feel a shift in my mood? It dawned on me to re-invent my definition of “great.” Every day, I looked for something great to happen to me. At first, I passed someone in the hall that brought a smile to my face. Then, brainstormed a way to team up with that person by developing a project that we could share. So now, I doubled my positive mood because not only did I get to work with someone I enjoyed, but I now worked on a project that was more meaningful to me. This gave me the added benefit of elevating my fulfillment at work. Which meant that groove of “work stinks,” began to smooth out and eventually disappear.
Creating a habit of expectancy means committing every day to looking for something great to happen. It might mean that you get that front row parking space. Maybe you get a friendly customer service representative when you call the local cable company. (Miracles do happen). Maybe you eat your favorite meal for lunch.
If you can expect great things to happen today, you will begin to see things as though you have never seen them. Before you know it, a momentum will build.
Believe it or not this habit to happiness has scientific proof to back it up. In the 1960s, a Harvard researcher by the name of Robert Rosenthal developed what’s known as “Expectancy Theory,” which basically says that our brain reacts to our expectations. In other words, if we expect great things, our brain releases chemicals and reacts as if those great things already happened.
Rosenthal went into an elementary school and performed IQ tests on the students. He selected three names and told the teacher that those three students were rock star, geniuses. But he told the teacher she was not allowed to tell the students or treat them any differently.
He then re-tested the students at the end of the year, and what do you suppose happened? The IQ of those three students increased dramatically. Oh, and by the way, they were just average students all along.
The teacher’s expectancy that the students would over perform actually came to pass. I love sharing that study with leaders to demonstrate that our expectations and beliefs about the people around us can have a dramatic and positive impact on their ability to perform.
OK so, Habit to Happiness #2 is Expectance.
Expect great things to happen today. And expect them every day. You have to practice this habit every day to get that record needle into a new groove.
The beauty about this habit is that it doesn’t take any extra time out of your day. It doesn’t cost money. Yet, it has the potential to be a game-changer for your life.