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My name is Jane Anderson, and I’m a recovering Rat Racer. “Rat Racer” is one of four approaches to life, according to Tal Ben-Shahar, popular Harvard lecturer, and author of NY Times Bestseller Happier plus other books on the science of happiness.
I spent the last few decades as a Rat Racer, striving for promotions, higher education, good health, my own business, successful children, and great relationships. Ambition is good, right?
I always admired the happy people who dedicated long, fulfilling days to their life endeavors. Although I worked hard and aimed high, I wasn’t one of them. More than once, I experienced incredible stress and burnout in my work, holding on to the belief that I’d be rewarded for my efforts with lasting happiness. As if I had to earn it.
To make things worse, “life” regularly interrupted my plans. I navigated a difficult divorce, the untimely death of my best friend, the demands of managing a responsible job and single parenthood simultaneously, and not one, but two rounds of breast cancer within the first five years of launching a business.
“Things in life don’t always happen for the best, but we can make the best of what happens.”
I worked hard to make the best of things and put on my brave face every day. But inside, I struggled to manage the effects of chronic stress – illness, sleeplessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating. My Rat Racer ways didn’t help.
Through faith, good friends and a supportive family, I was able to “keep it together,” as my dad would say. But it wasn’t the way I had imagined living my life. I wanted a more inspiring goal. I wanted to flourish, although at the time I wasn’t sure what that meant or how to change things.
Enter Positive Psychology, the scientific study of happiness.
Research shows that happy individuals are successful across many life domains – marriage, friendship, income, work performance, and health (Lyubomirsky, King, and Diener, 2005).
In fact, happy people are likely to achieve more, have higher incomes, enjoy better health and relationships, and even live longer. Scientists in this burgeoning field promote research-based strategies and tools that point the way.
To learn more, I enrolled in an intensive 1-year Positive Psychology program lead by faculty members Tal Ben-Shahar and Maria Sirois, PsyD, inspirational speaker, author, and consultant in the arenas of Wellness and Positive Psychology. The program’s objectives are to cultivate happiness and bring about lasting change to individuals and organizations through research-based strategies and tools.
Since becoming a student again, I’ve read many stories of Positive Psychology in action, like:
- Corporations improving performance through positive interventions that reduce burnout and turnover, increase employee engagement, build strength and creativity;
- Schools innovating to prepare students for both fulfilling lives and workplace success,
- Business and personal relationships that become transformed by positive interventions; and
- The US Army training soldiers in emotional resilience using tools from Positive Psychology.
“Positively, disruptively happy,” the title of my blog, is oddly descriptive of my journey thus far. By applying the research-based tools in my own life, I’ve begun to experience:
- A surge in clarity, energy, and creativity;
- The thrill of using my strengths, skills, and talents in more productive, meaningful, and enjoyable ways;
- Deep gratitude for my life, those in it, and the world around us.
I can also expect:
- Greater productivity at work;
- Resilience and the ability to bounce back from adversity more easily;
- A stronger immune system, and thus better physical and emotional health; and
- A longer, happier life full of meaningful work and relationships.
Cultivating happiness is arguably one of life’s most worthy goals. That’s why I’m cultivating happiness in my life and those around me.
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