Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

Why You Should Ditch Your To-Do List

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

In this post, I’m going to tell you why you should get rid of your to-do list, and what to replace it with. I wish I had learned this years ago, but I’m very glad I finally did. I think you will be too.

I heard about it from a woman named Monica (if she gives me permission, I’ll tell you her last name). I’m taking a 5-week prayer class at my church to become a prayer minister and she is one of my classmates.

Monica, who is many years younger than me (I wish I knew how she got to be so wise at such a young age!), shared in class that she has replaced her to-do list with a “want to experience” list. And as soon as I heard her say that, I realized what a powerful idea it was.

Creating and then looking at a to-do list can easily leave us feeling drained, especially one that has time-consuming, hard-to-do items on it. And when we get that way, it’s hard to feel motivated.

But if instead of making a to-do list, you make a want to experience list, you will most likely find yourself empowered and motivated.

For example, one item on a to-do list might be to exercise. Exercising is something that is unpleasant (or worse) for a lot of people, and can be especially hard if you have a chronic illness. But if on your “want to experience” list you write down “I want to experience the most enjoyable time I can with my children (or grandchildren if you’re my age)” and exercising is one of the things that will make that possible, then you are much more likely to exercise than you would be if it were just an item on your to-do list.

Just about everything on your to-do list, including taking medications, picking up the kids at school, buying a present or sending a card, making an appointment with your doctor, etc., can be restated as something you want to experience, and then put on that list. And when you do that, you’ll be much more likely to take the steps needed so you can have the experience, whether it’s of more peace, better health, more happiness, or anything else, that you want.


Tom Robinson, who has a chronic illness (Crohn’s disease) himself, helps people with chronic illnesses meet their many challenges and then find and follow a path to happiness and fulfillment.

Get his free report, Has Living with a Chronic Illness Worn You Down? Learn How to Outsmart Your Illness and Have a Much Better Life.

How to not be miserable when you have a chronic illness

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Here is something I have learned from being a life coach for people with chronic illnesses that may surprise you: How happy or miserable you are does not depend on how serious your illness is or how painful or debilitating your symptoms are.

Now, I’m not saying that there is no correlation between your illness and your happiness. Most people who have chronic illnesses have good days and bad days, and we usually feel better on our good days than we do on our bad ones. But I have known many people with relatively minor symptoms who are very miserable, and have also known many people with very serious symptoms and illnesses—sometimes even terminal ones—who are not at all miserable, and many times are actually very happy.

If whether a person is happy or miserable does not depend on how bad their illness is, then what does it depend on?

I could write a book about that to add to the many that have already been written. But what I will say here is this: how we feel often depends on how we feel about how we feel. Okay, I bet you’re either thinking that doesn’t make sense, or at the least wondering what I mean.

Here’s what I mean: when we are happy, we are also happy that we are happy. That’s because when we were growing up, we felt happy when we were loved, we felt happy when we were rewarded for doing something well (like getting an A on a test), we were happy when we got presents, etc. So in our minds, happiness has a lot of positive associations.

On the other hand, we felt unhappy or miserable growing up when we were criticized or punished for doing something our parents thought was wrong, for falling short of their expectations (getting an F instead of an A), feeling like we were different and weren’t accepted by others, etc. Because of that, feeling unhappy or miserable has lots of negative associations.

When we feel unhappy or miserable, we don’t remember those negative associations. But they are there. And there is a part of our mind that thinks that being unhappy means the same things it did when we were growing up: we’re not okay, we’re not good enough, we’re different and not acceptable, etc. And so we become even more unhappy and even more miserable than we already were.

But the truth is that being unhappy and miserable does not mean those things it meant when we were growing up. We can be unhappy because a friend canceled a lunch, because we overcooked our dinner, because we got stuck in traffic, etc. None of those reasons mean that we are bad or not okay.

We can be unhappy and miserable for all those reasons and many more. But if we realize that those feelings don’t mean what they meant when we were growing up, we can allow ourselves to just have them without feeling bad for having them. And when we do that, we will feel a whole lot better.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 31st, 2012

We made it! The world didn’t end a week ago like many people told us it would. But you still have a chronic illness (or several of them), and it’s very likely 2012 had a lot suffering and struggling in it. So what I would like you to do for the new year is to take a hard look at doing whatever you need to do to much better, happier, and fulfilling life, with a lot less struggling, in spite of the fact that you’re living with a chronic illness.

I was a well-paid software engineer for over 25 years. But I didn’t find it satisfying, so I decided to change careers. For several reasons that I don’t have room to go into here, I became a life coach. And because I had learned to live well with a chronic illness (Crohn’s disease) and saw that there were (and still are) many people who haven’t learned how to do that, I decided to coach them. I don’t make as much money as I did when I was an engineer, but I am very grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to help people who were struggling and suffering turn their lives around in spite of their illnesses.

And if this post helps more people with chronic illnesses turn their lives around in 2013, I will be even more grateful.

If you are one of those people who will turn their lives around in 2013—and I hope you are, reading this post is a good way to start doing that. You can also read the other blog posts I’ve written over the past three years and get suggestions and ideas to help you from them. And if you are ready to take a big step to make your life a LOT better in 2013, I highly recommend that you sign up for a no-cost How to Have a Better Life than You Ever Thought Possible coaching session with me. I will give you personalized suggestions to help you with your biggest challenges, whatever they are.

Happy New Year!

Tom Robinson, who has Crohn’s disease himself, helps people with chronic illnesses feel a whole lot better, and live lives with much more joy and fulfillment

How to Feel Better Instantly

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Today I want to tell you how to feel better instantly. It’s something I learned from my ex-wife.

Here’s how the lesson came about: When we were married, we had more than our share of heated arguments, and sometimes when we in the middle of one, the phone would ring. My ex would answer it in a completely normal voice. And if it was a friend of hers, she would have a conversation that often included smiles and laughter. There would not be even the slightest indication that up until the moment when she picked up the phone, she was furious or upset.

A friend of mine recently shared with me another example about feeling better, although the change didn’t happen as quickly as it did for my ex-wife.

What happened was that her ex-husband had told her that he was going to have her declared an unfit mother and take her young daughter away from her. As you can imagine, she became very upset, anxious, and afraid. She could have stayed that way, but she consciously made the decision to change. What she did instead of dwell on those feelings was to ask her five-year-old daughter what she wanted to be for Halloween. Her daughter responded that she wanted to be a waterfall. My friend used her ingenuity, creativity, and sewing skills to create a wonderful waterfall costume, and experienced a lot of happiness and aliveness as she did. And her ex-husband’s threat to have her declared an unfit mother went nowhere.

In case you’re wondering what these stories have to do with people with chronic illnesses, the answer is a lot. That’s because dealing with the feelings and emotions that come with having a chronic illness can be as hard as or even harder than dealing with the illness itself. And as the examples I’ve described have shown, there are things we can do so that negative feelings get replaced by positive ones – sometimes in an instant.

So I strongly suggest that when you’re struggling and feeling upset, anxious, or overwhelmed, that you not dwell on those feelings. Instead, have a conversation with a friend or find something to do that you enjoy and find engrossing.

If you would like more ideas for how to live well when you have a chronic illness, I invite you to get my free report: Do You Hate Having a Chronic Illness? You Can Live Well Anyway – Here’s How!

Do You Try To Be More Positive?

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Last month, I asked the people in my How to Have a Better Life When You Have a Chronic Illness tips list what their three biggest challenges were and also what the three most important changes they would like to make were. Lots of them said their biggest challenges were their chronic pain and their other illness symptoms, and they said the change they wanted most was to not have those symptoms.

But a significant percentage of those who responded put down being more positive, happier, or more optimistic as either one of their three biggest challenges or as one of the three changes they would like to make. If you’re like them and would like to happier and more optimistic, keep reading, because I’m going to tell you how-and how not-to achieve that goal.

One of the most important things I have learned about becoming more positive and upbeat is that I can’t get there directly. What I mean is that trying to be more positive hasn’t worked well if at all, and whatever increase in happiness I achieve is quickly gone and forgotten when the next setback triggers my fears, or when I experience my next computer problem, etc.

However, if instead of trying to be happier, I give myself lots of compassion for those setbacks and problems, if I use my God-given gifts (and we all have them) to make a positive difference for other people, and if I make the time and take the time to do things I enjoy, the result is that I’m a whole lot happier.

You may be thinking that what I’ve written sounds good, but that your ability to help others and your ability to do the things you enjoy is greatly limited because of your illness. My response is that even if your ability is limited, I recommend that you still give my suggestion a try.

First, give yourself lots of compassion for the symptoms, pain, and limitations you have. Then make as much of a difference for others as you can, and do as much as you can for your own enjoyment. (Brainstorming helps here. When you do, you will probably come up with several ideas of things to do that never occurred to you before.)

If you follow my suggestion in spite of your limitations, you will find that there is what I call a sliding scale for happiness. What I mean is that you will experience as much happiness by doing as much as you are able to as a person without the limitations of a chronic illness will experience following the same suggestions as much as they are able to.

So I encourage you to try my suggestion, and don’t try to be more positive. I wish you much happiness.

Chronic Illness and Depression

Friday, August 7th, 2009

I had an initial coaching session recently with a man who said he was a little depressed and wanted to be happier. Bruce, as I’ll call him, was 38 years old and he has had ulcerative colitis, a chronic and often severe inflammation of the colon, since he was 15. Given that he had been sick for 23 years, it wasn’t surprising to me that he was depressed.

However, Bruce had a better life than most of the people I work with. He had a supportive wife and two young children whom he loved, and he had a well paying job that he enjoyed a lot that he was able to do well in spite of his illness. I guessed that there were other factors besides his illness that were contributing to his depression, so I asked Bruce a few questions about different areas of his life, including his childhood. Without hesitation, but in a detached way, Bruce told me that his father was killed in an accident before he was born.

As he told me his story, I got a strong sense that a lot of Bruce’s depression came from his early childhood. It would sure be understandable if it did. Most families look forward to the birth of a baby, but Bruce’s mother was overwhelmed and grieving from the loss of her husband. Life must have been very hard for both of them.

I would have liked to help Bruce heal the depression he had because of his illness and his childhood, and possibly other factors as well. I think it’s very likely that his ulcerative colitis symptoms would have improved a lot with coaching. But Bruce decided not to hire me at this time. I hope that sooner rather than later he gets the help he needs so that he can have the happiness he wants.