Excel At Life--Dedicated to the Pursuit of Excellence in Life, Relationships, Sports and Career
CBT Jealousy Depression Relationships Conflict Self-efficacy Happiness Goal-setting Motivation Wellness Sport Psych

Popular Articles

Crazy-Makers: Dealing with Passive-Aggressive People

Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

When You Have Been Betrayed

Struggling to Forgive: An Inability to Grieve

Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions

The Secret of Happiness: Let It Find You (But Make the Effort)

Excellence vs. Perfection

Depression is Not Sadness

20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

7 Rules and 8 Methods for Responding to Passive-aggressive People

What to Do When Your Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage

Happiness is An Attitude

Guide to How to Set Achieveable Goals

Catastrophe? Or Inconvenience?

Popular Audios

Panic Assistance

Motivational Audios

Mindfulness Training

Rational Thinking

Relaxation for Children

Loving Kindness Meditation

Self-Esteem Exercise

Lies You Were Told

Choosing Happiness

Audio Version of Article: Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People

Audio Version of Article: Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

Audio Version of Article: Happiness Is An Attitude

All Audio Articles


Previous        Next

Rule 5: Dream the Dreams of Fools

If you read biographies of successful people, they usually had a dream. All too commonly, however, they were told that their dream wasn't practical, or it couldn't be done, or they weren't talented or special enough, or some other negative comment to indicate they were just being foolish.

However, these successful people ignored the naysayers and pursued their dream anyway. As a result, they not only achieved success but often admiration and wonder at their accomplishments. Yet, underlying the admiration are frequent comments about how lucky these successful people were.

But how much did luck have to do with their success? These successful people often had to choose to pursue a dream in the face of much criticism. That takes a great deal of effort. When you are being told repeatedly that something can't be done, you have to have a great deal of fortitude and belief in your dream to pursue it. Maybe the luck was that somewhere along the way they either learned or were taught to ignore these criticisms and to pursue their dreams no matter what others might say.

Dream the dreams of fools When I was young I was often in trouble in school for “daydreaming.” But I didn't quit dreaming. I just became more clever at it. I learned to split my focus so I could continue to dream while following along with the lesson. I learned not to stare out the window but look at my book. I even enjoyed the challenge of knowing the answer when the teacher called on me to catch me not paying attention. I probably developed some important skills from this “game.” However, most importantly, I never quit dreaming and I didn't listened to those who told me something couldn't be done.

A review of the literature indicates that daydreaming provides several benefits including improved problem-solving, ability to develop plans, greater self-insight, ability to delay gratification or wait for reward, and enhanced creative thinking (McMillan et al., 2013; MooneyHam and Schooler, 2013). Researchers speculate on several reasons why mind-wandering can contribute to these benefits:

1) Switching between thoughts.
The ability to switch between streams of information or tasks improves the ability to achieve multiple goals.

2) Development of a new perspective.
Many times people report that when they are struggling with a problem and they change their focus to something else, when they return to the problem they often have a different perspective and are able to solve it more easily. This concept is known as “dishabituation” in psychological terms, which means to respond to an old thought, behavior, or event as if it were new.

3) Relief from boredom.
Mind-wandering can refresh the brain and improve the ability to cope with boring or routine tasks.

Researchers McMillan and colleagues (2013) conclude that “...sometimes behavior that appears 'unintelligent' measured by external standards may actually be quite intelligent as judged by its relevance to achieving personally meaningful goals.” In other words, what could be called “foolish” by others could actually be “smart” when judged according to the goals you want to achieve.

Most dreamers have been called fools at one time or another. Don't let that stop you from dreaming. If you have a dream, don't let the opinions of others prevent you from pursuing your dream. How many dreams haven't been pursued because others have criticized the dreamer or the dream? Sometimes the only difference between success and failure is the willingness to pursue the dream.

Be willing to dream the dreams of fools. Later, those same “fools” are called geniuses, or innovators, or trailblazers.

McMillan, R.L, Kaufman, S.B. And Singer, J.L. (2013). Ode to Positive Constructive Daydreaming. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 1-9, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00626.

Mooneyham, B.W. and Schooler, J.W. (2013). The Costs and Benefits of Mind-Wandering: A Review. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 67, 11–18, DOI: 10.1037/a0031569.

The Secret of Happiness: Let It Find You (But Make the Effort)--page 1

by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
"...happiness doesn't come with fireworks and a parade. Instead, it sneaks in quietly as the night so that you don't realize it has been there for awhile."

The first and most important key to finding happiness may be the most difficult for many people (especially those reading this article): To find happiness you must not seek it! In other words, the more you try to find happiness, the more it will elude you. I think Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) said it best, “Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”

However, don't be discouraged. You can do many things to create a life where happiness is more likely to find you. Yet, the same caveat applies: If you do everything for the purpose of finding happiness, you may achieve much, but you are not likely to find happiness. Researcher Mauss and colleagues (2012) who found that the higher the value a person places on being happy, the more likely they are to be unhappy, stated, “encouraging a mindset to maximize happiness (as some “self-help” books do) may be counterproductive.”

The reason happiness becomes elusive the more you strive for it is due to creating a fixed desire of achieving happiness. If you have read some of my previous articles, you know that a fixed desire is a demand that something has to occur, or be true, or be achieved in order to be happy. Demands, or “shoulds,” are irrational thinking styles that create conditions for stress and unhappiness. Most of the time these demands take the form of “To be happy, I must be thin and wealthy” or “I must find the love of my dreams” or “I must have a fulfilling job.” In fact, a fixed desire can be almost anything. It could be "I should feel good today" or "My son should get an A on his exam."

However, typically the demands are not completely under the control of the individual and/or they are externally focused which means that the individual may not be able to make these things occur even with a great deal of effort. Therefore, this demand attitude allows happiness to be at the whim of the external world.

In the case of happiness itself, many people make the attainment of happiness a fixed desire: “I must be happy.” However, it is only when we realize that we don't need to be happy that we can find happiness. As William Saroyan (1908-1981) said in My Heart's in the Highlands “The greatest happiness you can have is knowing that you do not necessarily require happiness.”

The difference between a fixed desire and a desire or a goal is that the latter doesn't connect personal happiness with the outcome. For instance, a person may desire to find a fulfilling job but doesn't demand that it has to occur.

Interestingly, people who have desires rather than demands may be more likely to achieve their goals (Berg, Janoff-Bulman, & Cotter, 2001) possibly because they are more motivated and less discouraged. When the very essence of happiness is dependent upon the achievement of a goal, striving towards that goal can be quite overwhelming and even frightening: “What if I fail?”

The one time I experienced test anxiety was just as I started to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) that would affect my entrance into graduate school to become a psychologist. Just before I picked up my pencil, I said to myself, “This is the most important test you will ever take. If you don't do well, your life will be ruined.” My anxiety shot up as I opened the booklet to read the first question which might as well have been written in Russian because I couldn't comprehend a single word. Fortunately, I knew enough about self-talk and recognized what I had done to myself, so I put my pencil down, did five minutes of deep breathing and told myself, “This test doesn't matter. If you fail, all it means is that your life will take a different path.” That is the difference between a fixed desire and a desire.

The Tao te Ching (also known as “The Book of the Way” which I think of as early cognitive therapy) states, “If you want to be given everything, give everything up.” If you reflect on this statement you may realize that to give everything up, you must also give up the desire to be given everything. Very paradoxical and mind-boggling, isn't it? But that is the first step: To find happiness you must not seek it.

Similarly, Charles Dickens stated in his novel The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, “Happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it, but to delight in it when it comes.”

However, that being said, let's discuss how to achieve happiness. Actually, how to create the conditions so that happiness can find you. The work to finding happiness is to remove the obstacles to happiness. READ MORE: page 2

Intro  to Secret of Happiness--page 1

What Is Happiness?--page 2

Is Happiness Possible for Everyone?--page 3

What Intentional Behaviors Can Influence Happiness?--page 4

How Do You Choose Which Intentional Behaviors to Pursue?--page 5

A Final Word About How to Know Happiness When it Finds You--page 6

Kindle Books by
Dr. Monica Frank

Recent Articles

Analyzing Your Moods, Symptoms, and Events with Excel At Life's Mood Log

Why You Get Anxious When You Don't Want To

Why People Feel Grief at the Loss of an Abusive Spouse or Parent

“Are You Depressed?”: Understanding Diagnosis and Treatment

15 Coping Statements for Panic and Anxiety

Beyond Tolerating Emotions: Becoming Comfortable with Discomfort

Emotion Training: What is it and How Does it Work?

How You Can Be More Resistant to Workplace Bullying

Are You Passive Aggressive and Want to Change?

When Your Loved One Refuses Help

Newest Audios

Building Blocks Emotion Training

Hot Springs Relaxation

5 Methods to Managing Anger

Panic Assistance While Driving

Autogenic Relaxation Training

Rainbow Sandbox Mindfulness

Mindfulness Training