A long-time perfectionist and over-achiever, I used to accomplished my goals through the sheer force of my iron-clad will, my grit, and darn hard work.
Until about five years ago, when my ability to push through pain and difficulty started to slip away. My body began breaking down; in 18 months, I blew through nine courses of antibiotics (at the end of which I still had a chronic strep infection).
I had it all, except the thing that mattered most — my health. (The fact that I was a successful happiness expert did not escape me!)
Fortunately, I did have the solution to my utter exhaustion at my fingertips: I was absolutely steeped in the science of happiness and resilience and well-being. I knew that I could find a way to apply all this research to my life so that I could be happier and more successful without also feeling sick and tired.
And so that is what I did. I consciously and deliberately road-tested any tactic that had been validated scientifically that could bring more ease into my life—anything that could make me more efficient or more productive or more creative or more intelligent. I tried out every research-based strategy that promised to give me more energy. I consciously sought to develop my “sweet spot,” that place where I had the greatest strength, but also the greatest ease.
In short, here is what I did:
(1) I learned to dramatically increase my brainpower through play and positive emotions.
(2) I developed daily micro-habits that channel my brain’s natural ability to run on autopilot, so my habits could bear the burdens that I’d been hoping willpower would shoulder.
(3) I figured out how to ease overwhelm. On a typical day, we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information, five times as much as we did in 1986. Unfortunately, feeling overwhelmed makes us dumber than if we were stoned or deprived of an entire night’s sleep. It also makes us irritable, irrational, anxious, and impulsive.
(4) I learned new ways to connect with the people around me and repair relationships that had frayed, knowing that our social connections are our single greatest source of both strength and ease.
(5) Finally, I learned how to become comfortable with a little discomfort while I built mastery and developed the grit I needed to bounce back from life’s inevitable setbacks.
All of these tactics of ease made me healthier and stronger. Before long, I’d made my sweet spot bigger, and I’d found my groove. I hadn’t dramatically changed my career or my family structure or moved to the woods without my smartphone. I’d made a series of small shifts.
Our lives are like a set of interlocking gears of varying sizes. Often, we try to improve our lives by moving the large gears: by getting divorced, or married, or moving out of the city or quitting our job. And sometimes it is very necessary to rotate these big gears—but these big ones are always difficult to move. The Sweet Spot is about shifting the small gears, the ones that rotate relatively easily. And because all the gears are interlocking, when we tweak a small gear here, the large gears start to move—effortlessly—as well.
So that is my story, and the story of my new book, The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work. My hope is that it will be your story, too (but without the health crisis!). I want to hand you all the preventive medicine I’ve discovered to start living and working more from your sweet spot.
Take Action: If you are inclined, please pre-order my book! I know that it seems silly to order a book so far in advance, but pre-orders really matter a lot for authors; in most cases, they determine whether or not a book is a best seller. One reason to pre-order The Sweet Spot: Lots of people have read it, and they recommend it. No need to wait for reviews, you can check them out here.
Join the Discussion: When do you feel most in the groove, like you are living or working from your sweet spot? What factors contribute most? Share in the comments.