Day 24: STRIKE A GOOD BALANCE
Welcome to Day 24 of Confidence Boot Camp. It’s hard to believe we are in the home stretch of our month-long commitment to building core confidence and resilience. We’re happy that you’re still with us, and we hope that you’re finding this journey helpful.
Today our topic is called, “Strike a Good Balance”, and it actually fits into all the domains of The Chemistry of Confidence—physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual. We think you’ll see why by the time you reach today’s practice exercise.
There is a great deal written today about how to achieve “work/life balance”, how to be happier, and how to be more successful. Clearly, these are all areas that grab our attention, mostly because they seem so elusive. If we could actually achieve balance, happiness and success all at the time, who wouldn’t want that? Happiness is one of the most studied topics today in psychology, and seems to have been our human pursuit since the beginning of time.
But the questions most often asked are, “How do you define happiness?” “How do you define work/life balance?” and “How do you define success?” It appears that our answers may vary as widely as the number of people responding to the questions.
In our Villa Leadership programs, one of the exercise sequences we do is centered on each person developing her own definition of success, integrating three common areas of life. These areas are the “big buckets” of work/career, “tribe” (family, friends and community), and self. When we define success from the perspective of these three areas, it helps us design a career or life plan that actually balances all of our needs in these domains. Quite often, women tell us that doing this simple exercise gives them the ability to prioritize their decisions and allocate their energy in a more balanced way, and alleviates the anxiety and guilt they feel from believing they have to be a superwoman in all areas of life.
Since the 1980’s, the study of happiness, optimism and positive psychology has exploded, and most of this work emphasizes helping people focus on what is going well in their lives, as opposed to what is wrong. Dr. Martin Seligman is considered to be a pioneer in the field of positive psychology, and published several books highlighting his research, including Learned Optimism, Authentic Happiness, and Flourish. He continues to do research, teach, write and speak on these topics, and has now influenced several generations of psychology professionals, educators, students and general populations around the world.
Another contemporary “happiness guru” is Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage. Achor’s research on happiness carries forward the groundwork laid by Seligman, and his premise is that happiness is essentially a daily practice, and not an endgame, as we are inclined to believe. He promotes the notion that you don’t become happy once you’re successful; you become successful once you’re happy. He also shares several practices that he claims have demonstrated increased levels of happiness, positive emotion, and optimism in large numbers of research participants from all walks of life.
“But what does all this have to do with confidence?” you may ask.
If you have been practicing with us every day, learning new skills, and trying some new approaches, you’ve probably discovered that our premise reflects the same notion we see in studies of happiness: Confidence—like happiness--is not simply an endgame or final destination. It is an everyday practice. Confidence gets stronger when we develop skill sets to manage emotions, see situations differently, find support, or recover from confidence shakes, rattles or quakes. Becoming confident is a journey with ups and downs, slips and slides. But the more you build your skills to know where that confident place in you lives, the better you’ll be able to pull it up when you need it, call on it when the situation demands, and lean on it when you feel the pangs of fear and self-doubt.
Today, we want to share with you an approach that brings together many of the ideas that we’ve been working on throughout Confidence Camp, and connects the dots in such a way that you can see how all of these things work together to help you feel more confident, whole, and balanced.
Dr. Seligman’s work continued beyond his original studies from the 80’s and 90’s. As he studied groups of people in different parts of the world who seemed to be happy, he identified five elements, or characteristics that each of these groups of people had. The more they had of each of these factors, the happier they were. He broadened his study from simply “happiness” to calling it “well-being”, because he also discovered that the groups of people who had these five characteristics were also healthier and lived longer than people who had fewer of these factors present in their lives. Seligman first published these findings in his book, Flourish, in 2011.
The PERMA Model
Seligman’s framework is commonly known as the PERMA model, because the 5 elements of well-being are represented in the acronym, “PERMA”. Below is a brief description of each of these elements, followed by a short list of our Confidence Camp topics you’ve already completed.
1. Positive emotion: This is the ability to create positive emotion for yourself (like being “above the line”), no matter what the circumstances of your life may be. This includes having skills to feel good more of the time than not, approaching life with optimism and a positive outlook, and managing negative feelings in such a way that you limit their disruptions to your life.
- Tame Your Lizard Brain
- Journal Your Feelings
- Live Above the Line
- Use the Frame
- Harness Positive Emotions
- Find Your Rhythm
- Hit the Reset Button
2. Engagement: This is having activities, work or hobbies that are so engaging to you that when you are doing them, you experience a “flow” state, wherein you may lose track of time. During high engagement, you are “all in” or totally present with what you are doing, not worrying about the future or fretting about the past. Having time in our lives where we are highly engaged in this manner allows the brain to function optimally, and releases neurochemicals that heighten creativity and openness to learning.
- Practice Mindfulness
- Use Your Breath
- Let Go of Control
3. Relationships: Having positive relationships is another important element of well-being. As social creatures, having people in our lives who accept and encourage us is essential. These may be family members, partners, friends, colleagues, teachers or mentors—people who will support us and “have our back” no matter what. And we don’t have to have hundreds of people to get this benefit. If we have just one person who will stand by us and whom we can lean on for support, that’s enough.
- Speak Assertively
- Practice Vulnerability
- Build Trusting Relationships
4. Meaning: Having purpose or meaning in our work or other activities is another factor that builds well-being. As humans, we need to know that our existence in the social order matters, and that we can contribute and make a difference—even in small ways. Having meaningful work or life activities increases our sense of contribution, and helps us feel part of something bigger than ourselves.
- Define Yourself
- Use the 10/10/10 Rule
- Step into the Mystery
5. Accomplishments: Setting and achieving goals, completing tasks, finishing projects, or reaching milestones fulfills the final part of the PERMA well-being model. We are designed to improve ourselves, and we are fueled by dopamine—a “feel-good” neurochemical when we are in pursuit of goals or on a path of self-improvement. Accomplishment gives us data to validate our purpose, and helps us recognize that we do matter, and are significant—to the people in our lives, to our companies or organizations, or to the good of mankind.
- Build Your Expertise
- Reach Your Most Challenging Goals
- Do Something that Scares You
- Gather Evidence of Past Success
Achieving “balance” in our lives can be tricky, because the nature of balance is that it is not a static condition (just like happiness or confidence are not), and requires continual adjustment, focus and re-prioritizing to find the sweet spot. We have to recognize that balance, just like confidence and happiness, requires us to make choices and develop skills that help us return to center when we get out of balance.
We like the PERMA model because it gives us a framework and criteria for measuring our well-being, and the more well-being we have, the more balance we will likely have as well.
Your assignment today is to do a brief self-assessment, using the tables below.
1. In the first table, “Flourishing at Work”, fill in the boxes of each corresponding PERMA category under “Where I get it now”. Your answers will reflect the sources of each of the categories.
- For example, under “Relationships”, you might put, “great team” or “supportive supervisor”. Under “Accomplishment”, you might put, “promotion to Director” or “increased revenue by 30%”. Do the same for each category.
2. Then complete the row below, “Where I need more,” filling in your ideas of where or how you could get more of what you need in that category.
3. Now, repeat the above steps for the table, “Flourishing Outside of Work”.
4. Finally, answer these questions:
- Where am I getting my well-being needs met most consistently?
- Where do I need to invest more attention and energy to get more of my well-being needs met?
- What easy thing could I do first to get a “quick win”?
The ironic thing about trying to achieve balance is that if you try to do too much all at once, you will almost ensure that you’ll tip yourself way out of balance. Just choose one thing that you could do to get more of what you need in one category. What is the easiest, most straightforward action you could take today to fill just one of your boxes?
Do that. Today.
And we will see you tomorrow. Great work, Campers!
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