My secret sauce for happiness – psychology, psychiatry and Tony Robbins

My first encounter with psychology was pre-adolescent. I was having trouble getting along with other kids.  I wanted to force them to play with me.  Frankly – I was ostracized the first few years of our life in North Carolina by the children my age because I was a “yankee”.  Forget playing with me, they didn’t talk to me for a couple years and I’m not making this up!  Anyhow – I got to see a counselor who was very nice and kind and basically just reassured me that everything was going to be ok.  That I was going to be ok. Did she teach me how to get those kids to open up? Mmmmmm, not that I remember but she was a nice lady.

I was back in counseling at 15 when I was depressed  and feeling generally pretty worthless.  I didn’t tell most of my real problems or the trouble I was getting into to my counselor.  And he preached to me about avoiding “high highs and low lows”, without giving me any tools to get there.  Somehow I was supposed to stay neutral in the midst of teenage years of pain and hormones and rebellion. Fat chance.

At 19 I was on to a new psychologist as I continued to dip into low lows on a regular basis.  He didn’t teach or preach or do much of anything but get me to talk.  Once again, I did not confess the half of what I thought, felt or did in my life and I felt no release, no lasting worth from the process.

In my early 30’s I tried a French psychoanalyst.  After multiple bouts of cyclical depression, two very deep post partum depressions, I was desperate to find help.  After tons counseling and psychoanalysis, mountains of self help and psychology books, I KNEW what was underlying my depression, my fear, my anger, my sadness.  I didn’t want anyone to help me understand them again, I wanted the key to help myself change.  She gave me no answers, just a few more nuggets of understanding to the why’s and how they were impacting me.

I kept searching.  I read and read and read some more.  I learned about my “chatterbox” and became conscious of the constant dialog going on in my head.  I explored Buddhist concepts and despaired of ever finding within me the courage to let go of expectation. I related completely with the notion that everything is connected , that my actions have far reaching results but that also I am never completely in control because the world is connected to me and that changes everything.  I read several books from the Dalai Lama and held on to the notion of living an ethical life.  The recipe to happiness per the Dalai Lama is mental outlook, inner worth and “wanting and appreciating what we have”. All of these things are part of my beliefs.  By themselves though, these principles weren’t enough.  How does anyone teach you to stop suffering for all the pain in the world?  For the small and large pains of your loved ones?

I tried meditation, I tried sophism and visualization.  I found some moments of peace.  I collected nuggets which accumulated as pieces of an unsolved puzzle I would turn and turn again on the verge, but unable to fit together into one cohesive vision.

In my continued search, I opened a book that had been given to me years before but that I had never read.  From Anthony Robbins, “Awaken the Giant Within”, I began to find some answers – or rather the tools to find the answers within me.  Anthony Robbins book put me clearly in the driver’s seat to my happiness. Here are just a few of the key principles I learned from that book.

  • Know what you believe and know how that impacts your behavior. Don’t like it?  Decide on the new belief that will drive the different behavior. And rewire your brain.

  • We can ultimately decide what we want to take away from any situation – the negative or the positive.

  • Knowing who you are, what you really want in life and acting on it is such an extremely powerful tool.

  • It’s possible to intercept emotions and disable them from driving harmful reactions.

Anthony Robbins seems to have taken every positive concept and tool he could find and shared them with exercises to get someone to the end result.  That book changed my life.

The tool I found most powerful and come back to again and again is all about priorities.  Robbins lays out a simple list of key life areas : health, finances, relationships, career, emotional and physical well being.  And asks – where were you 5 years ago? Where are you now?  Where do you want to be in 5 years.  It’s so simple and so immensely powerful.

I did this exercise the first time and really didn’t realize right away the depth of what happened next.  Because I knew exactly what I wanted, my decisions were all based directionally on where I wanted to go. I mean, it’s simple.  If you don’t know where you are going, you’re never going to get there!  One of the goals I set had to do with having more sunshine in my life.  That may seem like a small thing, but it eventually lead us to move across the ocean to Florida where sunshine IS my life.  Not all the things I laid out for 5 years from now happened.  There were things I couldn’t or wouldn’t get out of my comfort zone to achieve. There were things that had to take a backseat (you can only focus on so many priorities at once).

One of my biggest strengths, I call it my superpower, is the ability to accomplish something I have decided on.  I have done it time and again – embarking on what seemed like a crazy dream with total confidence and making it happen.  The key is just deciding you want to make it happen. The rest comes down to “how bad do you want it” and how much you are willing to give and compromise on to make it happen. Nothing is free. There is no great passion without great sacrifice.  Thanks Tony and thanks to Emerson, once again.  I didn’t get that superpower from Tony – but using the priorities tool has kept me constantly focused on what was most important to me and what I wanted to achieve, which means I’ve had that many more opportunities to use my superpower.

So finally I found some tools to help me lay the tracks for my train.  What came next are more tools but ones that helped me to stay on track, all day, every day.  Stay tuned for some CBT tools I have found extremely useful.