“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

How would you like to have bulletproof happiness? The kind of happiness that nobody and nothing can take away from you?

That might sound impossible. We’re all affected by our circumstances, aren’t we? How can we possibly be happy if we’re lonely, bereaved, impoverished, stressed, or recently dumped?

It’s possible.

Viktor Frankl
Viktor Frankl

You probably know the story of Viktor Frankl, the Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who spent three years in Nazi concentration camps between 1942 and 1945. The camps claimed the lives of his mother, brother, and wife. From his immediate family, only his sister survived the Holocaust.

Surely life doesn’t get any worse than that. And yet, somehow, this incredible man was able to maintain his dignity and keep his spirit throughout his incarceration.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

How? This is how.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” —Viktor E. Frankl

This principle forms the basis of a model developed by coach Brooke Castillo, called the CTFAR model, which I have found quite useful in working with my clients. This is how it goes.

C = Circumstance. When something is “making” you feel a certain way, put your emotions on hold for a moment and go back to the facts. What actually happened? This is specifically not your opinion about what happened. For example, you might feel tempted to say, “My friend is ignoring me”, while the fact might be, “I sent an email to my friend two days ago, and I haven’t received a reply yet”. Stick to the facts.

antsT = Thought. This is where the trouble starts. Part of being human, which served us well for many millennia, is to be always on the alert for trouble – so alert, in fact, that sometimes we find trouble where there is none. We jump to conclusions, assume, and misinterpret. So a circumstance may give rise to a thought, and often it is not a happy one. Psychiatrist Dr Daniel Amen calls these Automatic Negative Thoughts, or ANTS.

F = Feeling. The thoughts that we think trigger hormonal responses that generate feelings. If the thought is a positive one, we get those lovely happy hormones, like serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine, and we feel good. If the thought is a negative one, those happy hormones shut off, leaving us feeling low, and we might even generate the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol that can dampen our immune system, affecting our health as well as our happiness.

A = Action. Depending on what thoughts we chose to think, and hence what emotions we’re now feeling, we react to the original circumstance. In our earlier example, we might send a stroppy message to our friend, demanding to know why we’re being ignored. If we’ve got ourselves really worked up about it, the words “you stuck-up cow” might even find their way in there. Yikes.

R = Result. Calling our friends rude names rarely yields positive results. Well, unless you’re a British male, in which case it is the standard (if not only) form of communication with one’s friends. But generally, if those ANTs have created negative feelings and we act from that place of negativity, the results we get will not be the results we wanted.

But we can flip this around. By pausing for a moment when we detect an ANT on the loose, and exercising our freedom to choose, we can find a different thought about the situation that will trigger a different kind of feeling and is more likely to lead to positive action and results. Instead of a downwards spiral, we can create an upwards one. Daniel Amen calls these positive perspectives ANT-eaters, and there are a lot of very useful tips on those in the ANTs article I mentioned earlier.

Of course, some things just suck. Like being in a concentration camp. If your situation is less bad than Viktor Frankl’s, get over it. In his immortal words:

 “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

 

 

16 Comments

  • Roz,

    Your comments on Victor Frankel really hit the spot this morning, funny how things work, as I am super excited to have received a great deal of response back from the Pure Moxie du Jour group in the past 24 hours. You see, after 10 years of sending out these quotes, I took a 2 year break to get back to my flying skills as a professional pilot. I had to focus on my improvements before I could help others. Now I am where I want and need to be so I can start up Pure Moxie 2.0 to help others. With that background I want to share the reverse of the Victor Frankel situation.

    I am so excited about reconnecting (and rightfully so) that I jumped out of bed about 3 hours earlier than my alarm normally rings. I need to sit back and make sure that I don’t over exaggerate the very positive. The best route is to mellow this out and use this energy for a long time. Not rev up and let myself come down hard in the next few days.

    Controlling ones emotions to keep yourself motivated, by having a moral compass in place (aka a plan) and a vector (vector is defined as a speed and direction). So very important to not only moderate your speed, not too slow and not too fast, AND to be pointed in the correct direction of forward movement.

    Funny thing is the title of today’s blog post is Bulletproof. I am sitting here this morning planning my day, and just purchased all the ingredients to make the now famous bulletproof coffee and see if it is all it is cracked up to be. So onto the coffee pot. Have a great day! DB, HF, AT, Pure Moxie (Dream Big, Have Faith, Act on it Today, Pure Moxie!)!

    Steve

    PS Roz your books have been a real treat, I suggest anyone who hasn’t read them yet get your hands and eyes on a copy of Roz’s Books.

    • Happiness – could be finding that winning loto ticket (that might be just the easy part of it) or a simple cuddle from a loved one to start the day.
      Teh words of Victor Frankel take some beating – but how about this one, Limestone, formed over an imense period of time but still retains its essential lifeforce and how it represents how our soul is shaped on its log journey protecting our core stability ! Perhaps living in a building created from limestone helps us recognise hopw we are shaped by people and the environment over the passage of time. Moving away from ingrained patterns of behaviours to follow ones own script. A balanaced lifestyle with activity and stillness bringing peace and Happiness.
      Think pyramids, suns rays, multi-dimensional travel and communication. Happy days eh, Adrian

    • Congratulations on launching PMdJ 2.0 – looking forward to that! Love the navigation metaphors too.

      I’ve just finished my cup of bulletproof coffee. We’ve been on it for a couple of months now. Hard to say whether it is all it’s cracked up to be. I wouldn’t say I’ve noticed a dramatic impact on my brain function, but it does taste nice and gets the day off to a good start. Let me know how you get on with it!

      • Roz,

        Moments after I wrote that initial reply, I made my very first Bulletproof coffee. I used about 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, and 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter, plus a few drops of real vanilla extract. I then used a wand/stick mixer to emulsify the whole hot mess. OM Goodness! I love it, (my wife the consummate coffee drinker could leave it before taking it) I drank it at about 8:00 AM went to do a light 1000 meter swim. Then was absolutely satisfied and energized for about 3.5 hours. Only then did I feel a bit peckish. Not bad. I had one this afternoon about 6:00 PM and ate a protein heavy dinner. I feel great. Now, how good it is for you, I will make no claims, but it is helping me feel satiated and therefor not likely to eat any more today.

        Keep up the great work Roz!
        Steve
        Pure Moxie du Jour

  • Similar to the comment above the title of this email made me think about bulletproof coffee…unfortunately I don’t have all the ingredients for it right now, though perhaps that’s fortunate actually, coffee isn’t that great for me anyway. 😉 I liked this email, thus following your instructions to comment. Hope all is well. Much love & aloha!

    • Thanks for your comment, Mariya! And much love and aloha to you too.

      I think the theory about bulletproof coffee is that it is really pure, so a lot of people who don’t usually get on with coffee are actually reacting to the moulds etc in ordinary coffee, and would be fine with the bulletproof version. There again, you could just save the money and carry on not having coffee. 🙂

  • Thanks, Roz. You are right…and Victor Frankl-like you has always been an inspiration. Trying to find the next thing that feels right for people like you and I… has been hard… maybe that is part of the journey.

    Michealene

    • Increasingly, I think of it ALL as part of the journey. Maybe it’s part of getting older and hopefully wiser, but I’ve stopped being impatient about finding the next thing, and have started trusting that whatever I’m doing right now will in hindsight be the perfect preparation for that as-yet-unknown future project.

  • I read Victor Franklels book Mans search for meaning many years ago I simply LOVED it !!!

    Thanks for bringing it back into my life . I will most likely read it again now just to inspire me!!

    Thanks for

    Maria x

  • Thanks for the tone and substance of your post. Loved your sharing of CTFAR. It reminded me of Marshall Rosemberg’s book and model on nonviolent communication which can be expressed as 4 questions: What am I observing or what are the facts? What are my emotions or feelings? What do I need? What can I request?

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