by David Brown
Five life areas can lead to total happiness and well-being. Any improvement within the five results in happier you.
According to research, these are five fundamental categories or types of well-being. They are not “stand-alone” pursuits in themselves, but they are three things that can lead to greater fulfillment in life overall. For each category, I’ll include a question to help you determine if it’s something you need to focus on more in your life.
Relationships are about the quality of time you spend with other people in your life, whether that’s a partner, spouse or family member, friend, colleague, or anyone else you enjoy spending time with. It doesn’t matter how long you have known them for either. The important thing is that you have people in your life that are good for you, care about you, and who you enjoy being around. If this isn’t something that comes easily to you, if there are many people in your life but no one really stands out as unique, then it might be time to start thinking about making some new friends or investing more time in your existing relationships. And suppose you don’t have as many people as you’d like in your life. In that case, it might be time to look at opportunities for meeting new people and expanding your social circle. Relationship questions:
Do I know the names of all my neighbors?
Do I have a best friend or group of close friends that I enjoy spending time with?
Do I have at least one person to whom I can say anything without fear of judgment or consequences?
Health and Fitness
If you keep up a healthy lifestyle and eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly, then your physical well-being will improve. This means you will have more energy, be less prone to illness and generally feel better about yourself. If this isn’t something that comes naturally to you, or if it’s been a long time since you’ve looked after your health, then perhaps now is the time for some basic improvements. Start with small changes – eat healthier or start exercising – and build up from there. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Health and fitness questions:
Do I exercise regularly?
Do I eat healthy foods most of the time?
If you answered no to those, then it might be time to take another look at your lifestyle and ask yourself if there’s anything you can do to make things even better.
Career and Finance
This is about how you feel about your job, as well as whether or not you earn enough money to meet all your needs and those of people close to you. If you like what you do for a living and feel confident in your abilities, then it’s likely you’ll be happy with your job. If this isn’t the case, if you would like to make a change or even start your own business, now might be the right time. And if you’re lacking in confidence and don’t feel as though your work is valued, then it’s time to focus on building skills and gaining experience that will allow you to take a more confident, proactive stance at work. Finally, if you’re unhappy with your financial situation and feel as though your job isn’t providing enough money to meet all your needs, it might be time for a change or even a new career. Career and financial questions:
Do I enjoy going to work every day?
How does my job make me feel about myself?
Do I earn enough money to cover all my needs and the needs of people close to me?
Is it time for a career change or at least some further education to boost earning power? If you answered no to any of these questions, then your attention should be focused on working towards positive changes in this area.
Value systems are an often overlooked area of our lives. Where we get our values and, more importantly, how we can improve them are essential to our overall success. While there are many different value systems, we often only think about our personal ones.
Our family, friends, and community all play a role in shaping our values. However, we also have to be careful not to let others control us. We need to find our voice and figure out what’s important to us. This can be a difficult task, but it’s worth it in the end.
Once we know our values, we need to start living by them. This doesn’t mean that we have to be perfect, but it does mean that we need to try our best. We also need to be aware of our surroundings and how they might influence us. It’s not always easy to stay true to our values, but it’s worth it in the end.
When we live by our values, we’re happier and more fulfilled. We know who we are and what we stand for. We also have a sense of direction in our lives, which is essential.
Bottom line; we are what we consume. If we constantly scroll social media, we become the content we scroll. If we watch argumentative television, we become confrontational.
The final category is self-improvement. This is about doing the things that make you feel good, improve your life and help you grow as a person. It’s about finding fulfillment in what you do. If this isn’t something that comes naturally to you, if there are aspects of your character and personality that you’d like to change and develop, it might be time for a bit of personal development. And if you feel as though your life lacks meaning or purpose, perhaps the source of this problem is in how you choose to spend your time. Consider what positive changes would make a significant difference in your life and go from there. Self-improvement questions:
Do I make time for things that enrich my life?
What would be different if I spent more time doing what makes me happy and fulfilled?
If you answered no to the first question and are stumped on the second of those, then here are a few ideas to get you started. Identify one thing you could do every day that would add value to your life and take steps towards making that happen.
What are the most important things in my life?
Who do I spend time with?
Do those people bring out the best in me or tend to bring me down? If they don’t enrich your life, it’s probably time to either spend more time with people who inspire you or find strategies for dealing with the negative people in your life.
It’s time to take another look at your lifestyle and ask yourself if there is anything you can do to make things even better. Consider what positive changes would make a significant difference in your life and go from there. Whether it’s about career, finance, or self-improvement, the key is not making excuses for where you are but taking actionable steps towards improvement today.
by David Brown
It’s no secret that the job market is tough these days. With so many people competing for a limited number of jobs, you need to do everything you can to set yourself apart from the pack. One way to do that is by rebranding yourself.
Rebranding yourself doesn’t mean changing your name or your appearance. Rebranding implies that you’ve grown. You are not the same person you were a few years ago. You have been shaped by the experiences that have made you who you are today. It’s time to reflect on those changes. And to show them to the outside world.
Rebranding means taking your professional and personal growth and sharing that new image for yourself based on who you are and what you have to offer. It means emphasizing your strengths and downplaying your weaknesses. And it means communicating your brand clearly and consistently across all media channels.
It is not enough to have a resume that shows that you go to work. Everyone (for the most part) does. You need something to set you apart from the rest of the pack. Volunteering to sit on a board of a non-profit adds extra skills and knowledge to your resume. To effectively rebrand yourself, you must re-think how you fit into the job market.
If you’re reading this, you most likely are thinking to yourself, “I need a job. I want someone to give me a chance.”
That starting point is defeatist from the beginning. To effectively rebrand yourself, you must learn to think about solutions you can offer. The most significant mindset change you can make is acknowledging that you solve a potential employer’s problem. The employer would not be putting time and effort into recruiting or hiring without a problem or situation they are trying to solve. Therefore, it stands to reason that you are the solution.
If you’re ready to rebrand yourself, here are some tips to help you get started:
CREATE YOUR BRAND
The first step is to determine what your brand stands for. Start by examining yourself and your skills. What kind of impression do you want to give people? Think about the qualities that make you unique. What differentiates you from everyone else in the job market? For example, if most of your experience is in sales, but you’re applying for an office position, you might want to downplay your background in sales. Instead, emphasize the transferable skills that will help you succeed in the role, such as leadership or time management.
FIND AN OPPORTUNITY
Once you’ve determined your brand’s focal points, look for a job that aligns with those qualities. If possible, try to find a company whose brand is consistent with yours. For example, if your brand emphasizes diligence and hard work, it would be a good fit to apply for a business consulting firm where managers and peers alike highly value those traits. Don’t limit yourself geographically either – sometimes traveling can give you access to opportunities outside of what’s available in your local area.
BUILD YOUR BRAND
Before you apply for the job, build a brand around yourself that matches the company’s brand and reinforces what they’re looking for. One way to do this is by creating a website that highlights your skills and experience and links to any work samples or past projects you think would be relevant for employers to consider. You can also promote yourself on social media – make sure all of your posts and pictures reinforce your branding message.
DON’T GET DISCOURAGED
Like every other aspect of the job search process, rebranding takes time and requires effort – there’s no quick fix or magic bullet. Don’t get discouraged if things don’t work out right away. The more you rebrand yourself, the better your chances are of finding employment in your desired field or with a specific company.
Rebranding yourself isn’t just about applying for one job. It’s about creating a new image that will help attract multiple opportunities in the future. Remember, even if you get the job you’re looking for now, your employer values more than just what you can bring to this position – they want to know that you’ll be valuable to them in future roles as well.
REBRAND YOURSELF AGAIN & AGAIN…& AGAIN…
Like any good product or service, rebranding yourself doesn’t stop once you’ve found employment. You need to tweak and update your brand with each new role continually. Every time you take on a new responsibility or challenge, make sure it’s consistent with your brand’s image. This will help strengthen your value proposition and make you more appealing for future opportunities.
If you’re looking for rebranding inspiration, here is an example of self-reinvention from history:
Alan Shepard – Before becoming America’s first man in space, Alan Shepard was a pretty average astronaut trainee. He had good performance reviews, but he wasn’t considered an exceptional candidate by his peers or managers at NASA. But before his historic flight, he underwent extensive training to prepare himself mentally and emotionally for the mission ahead. After taking on this extra work, Shepard became known as “the right stuff” among his former and current co-workers who noted that he exhibited exceptional courage under pressure when faced with the unknown. And just a year after his historic flight, Shepard was given the Chief of the Astronaut Office position.
Shepard took on extra work rebranded himself as a hard-working, stop-at-nothing person. The extra work paid off.
Rebranding oneself can be a daunting task, but the right approach can also lead to great success. So don’t get discouraged if things don’t work out immediately – rebranding takes time and effort, but it’s worth it in the long run. Remember to update your brand with each new role and responsibility continuously.
by David Brown
The unhappiness we feel didn’t start overnight. It began long ago, back to when we were children. Long before any of us could have imagined where we are today…
Back then, it was the oppressive adults who held all the cards. And they laid them on the table for their kids, just one at a time. Rules, homework, chores. These are mine! That’s yours! You can’t have it until you are done! No, you can’t go out and play until you finish your work.
We wanted to call the shots. We tried to make the decisions. And then, we were thrust into the world of options. As soon as we are barely old enough to drive, we start making a long-range plan. Do we go to college? Do we join the workforce? If we decide to go to college, what for? What classes should I take? What career am I after? The list goes on.
Each time we make a decision, we force the decision of another. Our choices are interlinked with one another. If I choose to take the chemistry class, I must sacrifice music theory. And so our lives go. Boiling down to a series of choices. Each with its own unique consequences and sacrifices.
We hit a point in our lives where we start to question our choices. We come to the realization that there are trade-offs to each action. We had to sacrifice important things in our life to get to where we are today. Now, we begin to question whether our choices were the right decisions for ourselves. Think of it this way, have you ever described or thought of someone as “the one that got away.”? This is just one example of how your choices today can affect your entire life.
Is it possible to go back in time and change a decision that negatively affected your life? As humans, we become obsessed with looking back at our life choices and thinking of how different life would be if we went back in time. When we think about it, our ability to travel through time has been an ongoing theme in fiction books, movies, and various other forms of media.
That line of thinking directly impacts our current happiness. The older we get, the more difficult it is to let go of our past. It seems as though each year, the desire for time travel or having your younger self make better decisions grows even stronger. We begin to lose our youthful spirit and seek out any way possible to revert back to that state.
We question things because there is a finite number of choices anyone can make in a lifetime. The world is too big a place to do everything we are interested in doing. I can’t have a career and try to devote hours of practice to a piano to play in the world’s most renowned theatres.
I also can’t devote hours of practice to become an astronomer when I already have a full-time job. As we age, our interests change, and thus the decisions we make will change. We are in control of what decisions we make but not necessarily in control of how they will affect us in the long run.
Unfortunately, when we think of the decisions we could have made, we tend to think of the best-case scenario for the outcomes. For instance, if we think about the option we had in our youth to apply ourselves and become a doctor, we often imagine a fancy lifestyle that accompanies it. We don’t think about the hours of hard work to see patients each week. We don’t see continual research to keep our skills sharp.
In another example, we may think about how we should have stuck with photography. We imagine ourselves as National Geographic photographers, living life as an adventurer. We don’t see a lack of income if our pictures don’t sell. We don’t see the hours spent away from family. Most importantly, we forget that chasing that lifestyle negates all of our current family and friends.
We are trying to make that we humans don’t like to think about the bad parts of life. We only think of the good aspects and tend to gloss over all negative ones. This isn’t exactly helping us when we begin thinking about how our decisions could have been different.
As humans, we are biased towards thinking about our futures. This is why when we think about our past, we decide on what changes we should have made that impact our current and future lives. Philosopher Derek Parfit used a story about a time machine to help us mentally solve this dilemma.
He would tell people to imagine a machine that could take you back to the past. Whenever you wanted, for as long as you wanted, and with no cost or consequences. Would you use it? Most people would say yes because they tend to think of all the good things they could do.
However, if you think about it deeper, this isn’t a good idea. You would essentially live two lives with no guarantees that the second one would have a different outcome than the first.
Just because we had a bad day at work doesn’t mean that line of thinking can be applied to every other moment in our lives. If we let one wrong decision ruin the rest of our lives, then we have genuinely wasted our lives. This is why we should stop living in the past and move forward while looking at our decisions objectively. Unfortunately, I have seen too many people get fed up after a bad day at the office and altogether leave their profession. Now they spend all of their time reminiscing about the good times and what could have been had that one day never happened.
We need to accept that we will make bad decisions but also realize that we shouldn’t think about them constantly. It’s more essential for us to focus on what can be done in the present moment instead of incessantly thinking about all of the good decisions we could have made in the past.
by David Brown
Cognitive distortion theory is a branch of psychology that deals with the way people think about and interpret situations. It was developed in the 1960s by Dr. Aaron Beck and has been expanded on by other researchers. Catastrophizing is one of the cognitive distortions that can occur when dealing with a difficult situation. This happens when a person takes an adverse event or situation and blows it out of proportion, imagining all sorts of terrible things that could occur as a result.
Catastrophizing refers to the magnifying events into disasters that cannot be tolerated. For example, suppose you think that something like public speaking will lead to your becoming wholly humiliated and embarrassed. In that case, you are catastrophizing about what is likely to happen. When catastrophizing occurs, you are more likely to become anxious about what is happening or avoid doing things that involve the situation. For example, if you think some mild illness means you will be bedridden for a week and lose your job, then the illness may lead to anxiety and depression.
How to Recognize Catastrophizing In Yourself
Catastrophizing is often related to how you interpret situations. Often, people who catastrophize expect extreme outcomes in a situation when something wrong happens. For example, suppose someone bumps into you in a crowded room and does not apologize. In that case, you might think that they are “intentionally trying to make your life miserable” or that the person is “out to get you.” Catastrophizing often feeds the belief that a situation is horrible and unbearable, leading to feelings of anxiety.
One strategy for dealing with catastrophizing is identifying it when it occurs. You can ask yourself some questions if you think you might be catastrophizing:
(a) What is the worst possible thing that could happen?
(b) How likely is it to actually happen?
By doing this, you can make an objective prediction about what will happen. You may find out that it’s unlikely for something terrible to actually occur, and by realizing this, you’ll feel less anxious.
What does Catastrophizing Look Like?
A person thinking about starting their own business might catastrophize about the potential failure and risk of bankruptcy. Someone making plans with someone they like might catastrophize that if the person doesn’t show up for their date, or if the person cancels, they don’t want them anymore. Someone thinking about asking their boss for a promotion might catastrophize that their boss will say no and that they will be “stuck in this awful job forever.”
Catastrophizing can also occur when someone experiences a traumatic event. For example, a police officer who has witnessed the death of another person might catastrophize that they could have done something to prevent what happened or that it’s their fault. Someone who has experienced a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or an earthquake, might catastrophize that another event like this will occur again and lead to destruction. This is where anxiety is born. We have experienced a bad situation in the past. Our minds allow us to assume events will always be harmful in the future.
In interpersonal relationships, catastrophizing can also take the form of negative beliefs about yourself or someone else. For example, have you ever been left on read? When someone doesn’t respond to a text or a phone call, you might catastrophize that they are angry with you or don’t want to talk to you. Quite simply, the other person may have just been busy. People who have experienced an unfaithful partner may assume future romantic interests are cheating on them when they fail to immediately respond.
How To Handle Catastrophizing
Identify when catastrophizing is occurring: consider asking yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” and “How likely is it to actually happen?” Challenge yourself to come up with an alternative explanation. For example, if you think your partner doesn’t like you because they did not respond immediately after a date, consider asking them why they didn’t reply.
Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation. Sometimes these thoughts can appear when you feel overwhelmed or stressed, and reducing your anxiety will help counteract the thinking style before it spirals into a negative cycle of catastrophizing and further anxiety. Use behavioral experiments to test out the validity of your belief that something terrible will happen. Try doing something, and if the worst possible thing happens, practice accepting it. For example, you can tell yourself that you will be okay if your boss says no to your promotion request.
Change Your Focus
Think about how things could go well instead of focusing on the worst-case scenario. For example, “there’s a chance I might get this promotion, and if not, there are other opportunities out there.” Tell yourself that bad things could happen but that you can cope. For example, “It’s a possibility my boss will say no to my request for a promotion, but if she does, it doesn’t mean I’m going to quit my job.
Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, get adequate sleep, do things you enjoy, and learn how to be resilient. If something wrong happens, have an optimistic approach. Try to look at the situation from other perspectives or find the silver lining. Make time for activities that are meaningful to you. It is important to remember that although catastrophizing can feel like it is helping you cope with difficult situations, it isn’t. Try to find more effective coping strategies by speaking to a therapist or taking up mindfulness meditation if the issue persists.
It is normal to think catastrophically in certain situations. Still, suppose your negative thinking is so overwhelming that it interferes with your daily life and makes you unable to manage the situation effectively on your own. In that case, it is time to seek professional help.
Cognitive restructuring is an effective way to change your thinking style and reduce anxiety while catastrophizing. As we mentioned above, it makes anxiety worse and does not allow you to find solutions to the problem at hand.
Many cognitive behavioral therapy techniques can help you manage your negative thoughts and catastrophizing. Still, it is essential to know that the effects of therapy are long-lasting. This is because it changes how you think, not just how you act.
For some, catastrophizing is a common and normal thought process. But for others, it can be so overwhelming that they cannot manage the situation at hand on their own. If you find yourself in this position, then seek professional help as soon as possible with cognitive behavioral therapy techniques such as Cognitive Restructuring or Mindfulness Meditation. These will allow you to change your thinking style and reduce anxiety while also providing long-lasting effects because of how these therapies work, changing not just how you act but how you think about things too!
by David Brown
Anyone who has followed my personal journey knows that the non-profit Frontline Freedom was started out of need. I needed to escape. I needed to escape my own thoughts, struggles, emotions. I needed to escape and stay healthy.
I could have chosen to hit the bottle. That wasn’t for me. In fact, the best advice I ever received was more of a reminder. Alcohol was for celebrations. Not for sadness. Never drink when you’re sad, lonely, or depressed. Only drink to celebrate. Only drink to toast others for their accomplishments.
Enter the inner outdoorsman.
When I was a kid, I had an obsession with camping gear. I loved tents, cooking sets, and building fires from nothing. As I got older, my obsessions stayed with me. I bought all of the backpacking gear I could afford. Only, I didn’t backpack. I put all of my gear in a motorcycle and would take weekend trips, camping wherever I could find somewhere open for the night.
As life hit and I felt alone, I ran into Josh. We started taking backpacking trips and developed what would become Frontline Freedom. Things were going great. I was happy, healthy, and helping others in the process.
Then life hit me again. As it tends to do so unexpectedly.
I received a frantic phone call from my aunt. I could hear my dad screaming in the background. My heart sank.
My aunt said, “David, your brother is dead. He killed himself. He’s gone.”
It was December 1. Just a few days after thanksgiving. I never got to say goodbye. In the ensuing chaos that consumed my family, I did what I always do. I hid my emotions and tried to stay strong for everyone else. I offered encouragement and tried to help people understand that they would never fully understand. We cried, we laughed at old stories, and we wondered why.
Fast forward to four months later.
My mom called me. She was crying on the other end of the phone. “It’s bad, Dave. I need you.” Once again, the surge of adrenaline through my veins made me feel numb as I prepared for her following words. “Michael is dead.”
Michael was my step-brother. We came of age together and became adults at the same time. He was a good man who always provided for his family. Years prior, he became a victim of prescription pills, which turned to heroin use. He fought his demons in and out of rehab. Addiction is an odd thing. He never wanted to be addicted, but the disease overcame him.
He died of an overdose before leaving for work.
Once again, the family was in a state of mourning.
My younger brother, Ryan, was struggling with all of it. I was too. Yet, I again hid my emotions and tried to be the comforter to everyone else.
Luckily, Frontline Freedom had a trip planned between Michael’s death and his funeral. I told my brother, Ryan, that he needed to be on that trip with me. As we tend to do so, we went to Grayson Highlands and backpacked.
I remember looking over a ridge and wondering how to make sense of everything. Here was all the beauty of nature, and I couldn’t help but think that my two brothers would never see sunset again. They would never feel the rush of cool air on their faces again. I looked at Ryan as he watched the sunset over the ridge, and I could see the same look in him.
While I may have been in a sad place, the woods did something for me. It did the same thing it had done when I was a kid and again as an adult just four years prior. They gave me perspective. They gave me a chance to talk to the people on the trip. They allowed me to feel.
Sometimes, we lose feeling. Sometimes, that numbness we feel when we brace for bad news never goes away. Backpacking amid all that turmoil gave me back what I had lost. It gave me feelings, emotions, and, most importantly, safety.
I’ll admit it. I tend not to be a vulnerable man. I fall victim to some sort of never-showing ‘weakness’ mentality. That’s wrong. Weakness is not allowing yourself to heal. Weakness is not showing others that you’re a human.
Backpacking gave me the ability to share. Sharing brings vulnerability yet, courage. Strength comes from sharing. Power comes from admitting that sometimes the people who are always there for other people do, in fact, need people for themselves as well.
That trip was the perfect trip at the ideal time.
I am stronger for going and continue to be stronger today from the lessons I learned while on a trail.
**The above photos is of me and my brother, Ryan, on the Grayson Highlands trip**