Create Your Heartfelt Plan B | HumorOutcasts

Create Your Heartfelt Plan B

September 5, 2017
Sometimes you need help in finding your path to happiness, and so we are thrilled that Mary Farr, Author of If I Could Mend Your Heart, is sharing her ten-point guide to heartfelt success with HO. Please check out her blog at 

A TenPoint Guide to Heartfelt Success 

The term heartfelt success explored in the following ten steps highlights a way of living rather than a way of winning. It invites you to step into a life review, an inner process of moving toward worthy goals and contentment. This kind of success inspires wholehearted living. It raises our awareness of what matters most and least; what is most precious, and what we can release.

Success, understood in this context leads to an expansion of personal qualities, assets that rarely appear on a resume. Nor do these abilities such as creativity, compassion, gratitude, and worthiness show up in many job descriptions. Yet each of these and many more comprise a foundation on which to craft our next steps toward successful living—a Plan B.

Whether you have experienced a loss or believe it’s time to take stock and make course adjustments, use the following guide alone or invite friends and family to join you in meaningful talk about things that truly matter.

  1. First, describe what success means to you

 Many experiences, traditions, and beliefs contribute to our idea of success. We’re a culture that likes to measure everything, from job performance and unemployment numbers, to TV ratings, cholesterol, stress levels, and Facebook friends. While traditional measurements of success provide value on some levels, other quality measures contribute to well-being.

 Ask yourself

 What three things bring you the most, though perhaps simplest, joy?

  • What, outside of work and personal responsibilities, engenders feelings of accomplishment?
  • When do you feel as if you’re contributing the most? The least?
  • Beyond specific achievements, what nurtures your self-esteem and sense of delight?
  • On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your level of success?
  • What could you add or remove that would enhance your success.
  1. Pay attention to your beliefs

It’s so easy to drift through life paying scant attention to our goals, relationships, and surroundings. One day we’re twenty-five charging out to join the flow. The next, we see that time has moved forward, though we might not have done the same. Using our beliefs to resist transitions comes easily to most of us, even when that change promises to improve the quality of our lives.

 Ask yourself

  • Name some dreams you held in your twenties; forties; sixties.
  • Which of these dreams have you realized?
  • What has it felt like to not fulfill certain dreams?
  • What dreams and hopes do you hold at this moment?
  • When has a life change caused you to feel stuck?
  • Have people or expectations made it hard to move forward?
  • Do you have the will and the resources to shift direction?
  • What will life feel like if you choose to remain in the same place?
  1. Review Your Assets

Whether interviewing someone for a book, or engaging in the work of a hospital chaplain, I have been amazed at the emotional and spiritual assets people possess. Some of these qualities come naturally. Others develop when someone faces a life challenge. Most people tell me that their best asset has helped them move beyond a serious interruption toward a renewed or rewarding new path. Assets come in all shapes and sizes, from optimism and joyfulness to courage and faith. Begin with the list below, and add your own.

Ask yourself

 Most of us possess qualities we either under value or rarely reveal. For example, a serious illness can inspire remarkable courage and calm. Or, the loss of a job might prompt a highly successful professional to grow in humility. What assets do you bring to your work, personal relationships, and decision-making? What roles have these assets played in mapping your life direction? What role could they play right now?

  • Resilience
  • Creativity
  • Adaptability
  • Self-worth
  • Capacity to forgive
  • Resourcefulness
  1. Stop Resisting

 I’m convinced that few of us chooses to change much. Instead, we seem to resist going with the flow until all else fails. Moving forward with resilience rather than resistance opens many more opportunities and room for happiness. Saying, “Yes,” is good for friendships, broadens the possibilities for fun, opens doors to learning something new, and almost always sparks up a dull day.

 Ask yourself

Remember a time when, faced with what felt like loss or failure, you let go and said, “Yes,” to walking forward?

  • Describe the process and the result of adapting to your new reality.
  • Most of what we learn in life begins with a question or a problem. List some problems you have negotiated successfully. List some you have had to release.
  • Name a pivotal point when an unexpected change brought you meaningful new insights and discoveries.
  • Name a personal quality that helped you make an important transition.
  1. Judge Less

 It’s fair to say that most judging of self and others comes from a place of insecurity or fear of being wrong. Yes, we see plenty of problems, offensive people, and defects in our own personalities. The negativity and injustice surrounding us can truly invite judgment. Sometimes compassion seems beyond reach. Yet judgment creates a gulf of separation that lacks both love and forgiveness.

Ask yourself

 When I am judgmental, do I:

  • Feel energized?
  • Foster others’ trust and confidence?
  • Win friends?
  • Exhale negativity into the space around me?
  • Close my heart and mind to new people and different ideas?

When I resist judgment, do I:

  • Grow in gratitude and empathy?
  • Promote happiness and creativity?
  • Focus more on life emerging around me?
  • Give less attention to imperfections?
  • Become a conduit of peace?
  1. Heal or Re-energize Relationships

 Re-energizing relationships can be as simple as wasting time wisely with a friend, or as complicated as releasing resentments from past hurts. And not every relationship can be healed. Sometimes obstacles such as addictions, long-held resentments, and betrayals make it hard to reach a meeting of the minds with another. In these cases, the answer might require letting go and coming to some level of peace on our own.

Ask yourself:

 How do I feed, protect, and keep my important relationships strong?

  • Think of a time when you had to let go of injured feelings about past conflicts?
  • Recall a situation when you had to reach out to an estranged friend or family member.
  • Describe a time when you needed to make amends.
  • What happens when healing a relationship is not an option?
  • Can you let go knowing you have acted sincerely and that this is no longer a reflection on you or your intentions?
  1. Seek to Belong

Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, MD, director of the seventy-five year Harvard Study of Adult Development, offers two clear messages from this comprehensive investigation that began in 1938: Loneliness kills, and one of five Americans reports being lonely and isolated. Social connections including friendships, family, and welcoming faith communities, engender happiness, better health, and more meaningful lives. Belonging involves coming together peaceably with others and enables us to grow a common vision of respect. Meaningful personal connections and supportive communities literally breathe life into living.

Ask yourself

What does it mean to belong to a community of inclusion and acceptance?

  • Describe your sources of community and social connections.
  • When did you last join or create a new community? (book club, walking group, etc.)
  • Do you routinely unplug from technology in favor of face-to-face meeting?
  • Recall a time when you reached out to someone who appeared to be isolated or alone?
  • Ideally how can a community (including a faith community) encourage and advocate for its members? 
  1. Cultivate Humor

You don’t have to be a comedian to enjoy a healthy dose of humor. Not only does a good laugh relieve stress, it offers a great communication tool with real healing power. Laughing out loud at ourselves and our observations of the world around us can take the edge of seemingly impossible situations. It also can diffuse anger, fear and grief. I’ve often heard hospital patients and their families guffawing over irreverent family stories and common memories.

Ask yourself

  • What kind of topics and situations do you find funny?
  • Do you enjoy reading humor or watching funny movies?
  • Name favorite humorists or comedians that make you laugh.
  • What makes them funny?
  • When was the last time you laughed out loud?
  • Have you experienced humor as healing during a difficult time?
  1. Have fun with food

 Many cultures and religions offer a spiritual perspective on food that we have forgotten over the centuries. Most embrace rituals that use food as a means of connecting to a deeper spiritual significance. This includes Jewish, Buddhist, and Muslim faith traditions, among others. For example, Christians sustain a relationship with Jesus Christ through the bread and wine of Holy Communion. From a social standpoint, food wields a mighty power for the comfort it brings to heart, body, and soul.

Ask Yourself:

  • Do you view food as a simple necessity, fuel, nourishment, or hospitality?
  • Describe your relationship with food growing up and today.
  • How might food heal heart, body, and soul?
  • How can food serve as a universal language?
  • Describe how food has connected you to others during times of celebration or sorrow?
  1. Don’t Postpone Joy

 I have heard many patients and friends describe the plans they had been postponing for the future. Some expected to travel, or reconnect with old friends. One looked forward to climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Another planned to buy a bike, learn to play the piano, and visit Mt. Rushmore. Then something happened that derailed their future. A significant life interruption.

While we can’t all fly off to Paris, or seek our bliss by purchasing a ranch in the Colorado mountains, we can find joy and refreshment in unlikely places. Consider the following, and add your own.

  • Practice saying yes.
  • Own a pet.
  • Have fun with food.
  • Feed the birds.
  • Celebrate large and small (don’t wait for marriages or birthdays)
  • Turn off the electronics.
  • Be a contributor.
  • Be a friend.
  • Be a blessing.
  • Be the change you wish to see in the world.
  • Whatever you do, Don’t Postpone Joy!



Mary Farr

Mary Farr, a retired pediatric hospital chaplain and inspirational speaker has published five books including the critically acclaimed If I Could Mend Your Heart, and her newest release, The Promise in Plan B, Mary’s capacity to infuse audiences with joy and laughter inspires kindness, concern for one another, and a deep understanding of happiness. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, Mary completed her divinity studies in the Episcopal Diocese of Eau Claire where she was ordained to the permanent diaconate in 1983. She received a Master of Arts degree in Theology from St. Catherine University in her hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota.

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