Gig: Quad Cities

Recently I spoke at a conference in Rock Island, Illinois. This was a very successful event speaking to municipal clerks from all over the state. After my presentation, a woman came up to me saying that her husband has terminal cancer and her child has a serious health condition, and that she really felt my speech to be meaningful as it is so easy to let all the negative stuff in life get the best of you. I don’t think I could have gotten a better testimonial as it sounded like she was going through life’s worst challenges, and yet she had an air of optimism and hope about her that I found surprising and comforting.

We all have our challenges. Some, like the example above, are extreme and can seem crippling to even the most hopeful souls, but the more I speak around the country, the more I find that life issues, big and small, can all be focused in a positive way. To be a happy person in the light of rough times is not a sign of blind faith, ignorance, or foolishness; but rather the research points out that it’s beneficial to be a “reasonable optimist” and choose to focus on what we can control and not let the things we cannot control consume us.

So take that away from this post. Life doesn’t have to be seen as all roses or as doom and gloom. You can be reasonable about it, and count your blessings.

It’s amazing how many people lose sight of this, as simple as it sounds!

Shoot me an email about coming to speak at your event…


Speaking at: Wauconda High School

On January 9th I was invited to speak at Wauconda High School, which is in a northwest suburb of Chicago, IL. The speech was a jam packed 30 minutes about group leadership, in relation to a new program they did at the school where they divided the school in half to compete for points, and also a bit of research in the world of positive psychology.

Of particular note was that after the speech a student, Isaac, came up to me and asked me a very “adult” question regarding jobs and income. His reference point was that the “good jobs” must be the higher paying ones since your family makes you happy and you want to be able to pay the bills to take care of your family. Right? His questions basically was, “How can you be a janitor and be happy when you are struggling to pay the bills and are having a hard time to support the family?”

I told him that it does not matter what job you have, money problems can exist whether you make 50k or 500k per year.

I told him to be happy in whatever your job is first, then when it comes to money, it is merely a math problem. “It is not about what you make, but what you net,” I told him.

There are two problems one can have with money: One is not having enough, and the other is having too much. This seemed to resonant with Isaac, and he responded, “so live within your means,” and I replied, “Absolutely!”

This was a great teaching moment. His question was in response to a study I had shared during my speech about how we perceive our jobs is more important than the type of job or the salary/description/details of it. It is easy to blame the industry in which we work, or the specific job itself, but the truth is that any job can be horrible and any job can be fantastic… a physician can look at their work as a chore and a janitor can look at their work as a calling.

I hope the students at Wauconda, like Isaac, can at least take that tidbit away from my talk, as the jobs we do in life SHOULD be ones we enjoy doing, for the sake of the activity itself, and not just because of money, power, prestige, etc.

I’m looking forward to the next school, thanks again Wauconda for having me!


Focus on 1 of 9 things — The Martin Short Method

Famed comic actor Martin Short writes about “The Nine Categories” or how he chooses to work on aspects of his life in course-load terms, the goal being that you might not be high in one category (like your career) but you can get a higher grade in a different category (like your family) to boost up your average. This is an incredibly easy way to split your life into easily digestible worlds in which to provide some focus.¬† Here are his nine categories:

The Self

How is your health? Do you do a yearly physical? Do you ever go to the gym? How is your diet? Do you like who you are? Why or why not? Give yourself a grade and perhaps choose this as a focus for a week or two.

The Immediate Family

Can your family relationships be made stronger? When was the last time you told your significant other/children that you loved them? Perhaps you would like to know more about family members (including your children) so you might want to ask them more questions. Maybe you rarely do something your significant other wants to do, and you decide to actually surprise them and do it!

Original Family

How is your relationship with those you grew up with…parents and/or siblings?


Are you keeping in touch with your good friends (and maybe even some not-so good friends) at all these days? Maybe give someone a call and just say hi.


Many of us go through periods of financial ups and downs in life, we need to set goals for where we want to be and what we can do to get there. Can we pay the bills and cover the essentials? Do we have any savings? Any investments?  Can we balance fun and work?


What grade do your give your working life? Some of us can plan out our whole career on paper, from entry-level all the way to the pension. Some of us take a more zig-zag route of occupational existence…getting ahead, then a step back, but then getting ahead–and so on.


Are you doing hobbies adequately, if your work isn’t serving a creative purpose? Make sure you take some dance lessons, learn how to scuba dive, write a novel, or cook some gourmet meals etc…¬† if your dayjob is not giving you the right opportunity to get out and do creative projects.


Have the self-control to actually implement your goals. This is a tough one.


Are you actually enjoying life? Are you doing anything to make the world a better place?

Look at these and assign yourself a grade in each category. One category can have subcategories (like your weight can be a subcategory of category 1). Just pick a time every week (like a specific time such as Monday morning) and go over this. Choose a category to focus on and get the grade up, rinse and repeat.

Thank you, Martin Short, for a cool way to improve!

Exercise: Taking Action

I think it is fair to say we often want to do certain things in life but something holds us back from actually doing it.  Perhaps you have always wanted to go white water rafting or ride in a hot air balloon? Maybe you want to ask someone out on a date or begin working on a novel you have always thought about writing?

Last weekend I went to a rock concert I had wanted to see for many years (the Chili Peppers) and got to finally cross that one off my list of great experiences to have in life.

Look for opportunities to venture outside your comfort zone, ask for feedback and help, admit your mistakes, and so on.

We may be having anxiety about taking action on these things, but the truth is the only way to get past that anxiety is to do it. Avoiding that feeling of being uncomfortable will not help in the long run!

For me that was performing. I started doing stand-up (very uncomfortable), then work as a stage actor (difficult to ‘be in the moment’), then got into improv comedy (a whole new set of anxiety feelings!), but with each time I do these things it gets so much easier and that much more rewarding! I work on these activities all the time, little by little.

So pick something you’ve always wanted to do… ¬†and take some action!

Happy July 4th!!

How do researchers do studies on happiness?

When I spoke yesterday for a Rotary Club, I had someone ask me to email her a few of the attributes I noted that researchers use when they examine happiness. In my presentation, I talk about how people often ask, “what does happiness really mean?” and so it is helpful to see how it is broken down in the academic world. These positive emotions and attributes include:

Joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love. 

My goal is add posts with bits and pieces of the research, questions I come across during my talks, as well as exercises that we can add to our arsenal of daily “five minutes a day” activities that make a big difference in our life. For example, remember that:

Your brain at positive performs significantly better (31 percent more productive!) than it does at negative, neutral or stressed.

That’s huge!

Many more posts coming soon!


June 2017, Positive Psychology Speech


Sweet Psychology?

Did you ever wonder why successful people are successful and what makes them turn into that person? Is it genetics? Intelligence? Work ethic? Pure ass-kissing to get up the corporate ladder? Or perhaps a level you doubt you could ever obtain such as a six figure income or, at the most simplest level, just being happy everyday?

Is it too much to ask that we could at least strive to be… happy… every day? lol

I don’t think so. Researchers in the field don’t think so either, and yet most of us continue to want to be the best BUT¬†spend life in places that are, well, not fun …or definitely not happy-inducing.

Welcome to the Sweet Psychology site.

When our mental health is “sweet” it is working FOR¬†us, not against us, which is a fascinating byproduct of the field of Positive Psychology.

Why is this fascinating?

For example, solid scientific research has shown that there are things we can do in life not just to “feel better” but will actually change us biologically.

Um, really?

…Yes, this is why I am going around speaking on this subject, because most of us do not understand the extent to which it can affect our personal and professional lives.

My goal is for this to be a site where we can share stories, resources, learn about products that add to the field produced by people you really want to listen to and learn from, and maybe learn more about me… a theater person who has done years of stand-up, improv, straight acting, writing, and has a practical and academic background in psychology.

My practical experience is twofold:

  1. I worked for a while as a suicide hotline counselor.
  2. Over the years I have given talks to organizations and schools regarding positive psychology and also leadership.

I am here to provide a platform and center where this great material can become more accessible.

If you wish to contact me for questions, comments, or to see if I can come speak at your organization, please feel free to shoot me an email.

Cheers,  Michael Bromberg, MA