Flipping the Switch to a Happier Life

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Lately I’ve been happily devouring Chip and Dan Heath’s book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. The Heaths’ advice is enlightening on many levels, and has added some gangbuster techniques to my coaching tools. See how you like this one.

The Heaths suggest that it’s crucial to look for “bright spots” where we’re already succeeding, then replicate those results in other areas. Most of us look for “dark spots,” in our own lives, in our loved ones’ lives, in the world generally. As you may know, the reptile portion of our brains is tuned to danger, and the storytelling brain area takes ANY evidence of danger and perpetuates it through our personal Top Ten Tunes o’ Terror.

I’m a danger-story champion, but today I’m following the Heaths’ advice, so every time a dark spot turns up in my own mind, I’ll find a corresponding “bright spot” to replace it (or at least balance it). I’ll call this “Flipping the Switch.”

Step 1: Flip the Switch By Finding Brights to Balance Darks
Dark Thought: This morning, I didn’t get through to the woman I was coaching.
Bright Spot: But I got through to her husband.

Dark Thought: I barely talked to my son while I drove him to his workout.
Bright Spot: Adam thrives on silence, and he’s psychic, so he knows I love him.

Dark Thought: There are so many new technologies, and I can barely send email.
Bright Spot: I did eventually learn how to email.

Dark Thought: I haven’t finished my book.
Bright Spot: But yesterday I wrote 11 pages.

Step 2: Replicate the Bright Spots
Now my job is to replicate the conditions that caused the bright spots to occur. I’ll see what led to my successes, then extrapolate to other situations, which I basically manage by saying “Hmm…” Like this:

• I got through to my male client because I put very little pressure on him. Hmm: Put less pressure on clients.

• Adam’s psychic, so he knows I love him. Hmm: I sort of believe almost everyone can sense love at a distance. Hmm: Try just beaming love to my many adored ones, and see if they feel it.

• I learned how to email because I made a friend who preferred communicating that way. Hmm: When I want to learn a computer skill, I’ll get a friend who wants to learn it with me.

• I wrote 11 pages yesterday because I set an “action trigger”: while at the gym I pictured walking home, drinking a smoothie, and then writing. Hmm: Action triggers (visualized sequences of behavior) work. I’ll set another one to get me working on my book today. Let’s see…I’ll eat some Key Lime pie, sing along with three feisty Sheryl Crow songs, then write.

Having done this exercise, I’ve stopped brooding about my failures and begun seeing spots-bright spots. I feel way more motivated already. See if “flipping the switch” like this can work for you!