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When you Change the Way you Look at things, the Things you Look at Change

For the past 18 months, I’ve been trying to wrack my brain as to why I can’t sell a fantasy book series (the only thing I’m not doing in the world of mental health) to an agent or publisher, despite moderate levels of interest... 
After reading a series of blog posts by a literary agent specializing in the kind of book I’m selling, I realized: both the title of my book and the name of the title character are crap. They don’t accurately describe my expertise in writing the book, nor do they include the entire market I’m trying to sell to.  
While working to sell this series, I knew that my test readers aged 7-70 all loved the book and all could articulate why. I knew and know now that the book would work and relied on the fact that nearly 40 test subjects loved it, and figured that on those merits alone, I could sell this book as-is. 
I was dead wrong and after some soul searching, I have proof of having made this mistake on previous occasions with a book I wrote that is already in the public canon (that has done pretty well), a business I started with some friends (that flopped), and a play that I wrote (that has done really well). The content was great on all but the title sucked. And in all of these cases, if I chose a to look at the overall product in a different way, I would have chosen a better title, and therefore I would have had greater commercial success. 
Changing the way we look at things can dramatically impact the way we approach our personal relationships, our business lives, our mental health, and anything and everything in between. 
I’m approaching next steps with this book, my mental health, and several personal relationships by asking “what am I not seeing,” and “what connotation am I putting on X that is or isn’t true.” 
What are some other questions we can ask of ourselves to create more desirable outcomes in our world(s)?

Happiness Hacks

The past few weeks, I have had the best handle on my depression that I’ve had in almost a year. Because I’m not putting out fires in my brain or because of my actions (due to my brain), I can focus on higher level activities. One of my focuses has been happiness. 

Happiness is a choice, yes, and it’s a choice I must make every single day. 

I’ve been reading up on life hacks, things that will make me more present in my day to day, and actions that I can take to make my physical being affect my spiritual being and vice versa. Here’s a few I’ve worked on for a long time and some I’ve recently discovered—and as always take what you like and leave the rest:

  • Take 10 seconds per day to look around, and inside your head, wish 2-3 people happiness. Simple. This feels a little like drive-by praying for someone you love. It instantly lifts my spirits.
  • A reminder to smile. This instantly affects my mood and helps me get out of my head (which can dive into the negative quickly because of the depression)
  • Volunteering or giving back. This doesn’t have to be some grand-sweeping “I’m going to change the world right now.” It could be as simple as holding the door for an elderly woman in your apartment building. It could be as huge as joining the Peace Corps. You decide. But serving others gives me a sense of purpose that I could never find if I did things solely for my own benefit
  • Take 20 minutes in the morning and get in some kind of routine. The routine should include some kind of meditation, even if it’s only a minute. There’s no right or wrong here. It’s just a way to center yourself myself before the craziness of the day. If I don’t take time for myself for even a moment, who else is going to make time for me? Consistency is key for anyone and doing something every day gives the sense of accomplishment, which is definitely something human beings need to feel every day. 
  • Practicing gratitude. I have a calendar reminder every day at 415pm Pacific Time, to take 5 minutes and remind myself what I’m thankful for and what’s going well. It also helps make the road bumps or problems of the day seem less gigantic. 
  • A physical activity that makes you feel good or feel better. Mine is piano. Some people it’s the gym. For others it’s knitting. It helps you engage a different side of your brain. There’s a little problem solving involved as well, which is a healthy activity for your brain, and it can take some of the focus off the negative and help realign you toward your desired choice, which is happiness.
  • Tetris before bed. I got it as an app on the iPhone. I started playing it hours before bed one night and put it down for a few days. To help me sleep, I started visualizing the blocks moving around and fitting into one another. Several days later I read that a study showed that playing Tetris before bed can help put a person to sleep. I need my sleep, otherwise I’m an emotional train wreck. ‘Nuff said.
  • Vulnerability in the face of fear. After I made the choice to be vulnerable to the person that means the most to me in the world; along with a select few others—those people became more vulnerable with me, deepened our relationship; which makes me happy. 

Do NOT Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater

Just because you “failed” doesn’t mean every element of your plan is complete crap. There are nuggets of gold inside that you can build off of. Ask questions: of yourself, people around you whom you trust, and the ones whom your plan affects. Take the good stuff and ditch the rest. 

This works in relationships, in life, and in business. 

To put it in business terms (an arbitrary example): The next “big thing” you invented may not work as an all-purpose bug spray as you intended; but it could be a big seller as a sealant for wooden patio decks. 

But first you have to: mourn your “failure,” reset, ask questions about your invention, and then move forward with your findings. 

You could be on to some great things with a change of mindset. 

When Rinsing and Repeating is a Bad Thing (and how to fix it)

I find that when I read online or on blogs about people going through difficult times*, the focus is rarely on, “How did I get to this place?” but rather how bad the situation is at the moment and how to remove yourself from that situation: a bad relationship, a horrible boss, an uneasy work situation, or an uncomfortable circumstance that will require confrontation.

*Difficult times: in no way, shape, or form am I referring to a genetic disorder in a person’s brain or physical makeup, nor am I referring to traumatic events where a person forces their will on another person. I’m referring to something that, in part, involves a choice. 

I even do the same thing: a bad contract, a sour business relationship, an argument with a friend. I look at the negative component of each and try to figure out how to remove myself. 

But really, how did I get to this place? I chose that friendship and, in part, I chose not to set certain boundaries. Why? Why did I let that business partner rope me into working seven days a week? I wanted to associate myself with XYZ company but six months later I know they’re just using me. Did I rush into this? Why? 

Even if this _fill in the blank_bad scenario is only 10% my fault, what can I do in that 10% margin to change for the better?

To resolve the situation at this moment, you must focus on the level of severity and then find a way to remove yourself. That’s a great thing. But asking the “why” makes sure that you don’t repeat your mistakes on a regular basis.

You once set an intention to get to where you are now, so why not set that same intention to learn “why” so you can: make the best of this situation, leave, learn something from this situation, never repeat this again, or transform this situation.