For Montclair Local


Allison Task is a career and life coach in Montclair, and the author of “Personal (R)evolution: How to Be Happy, Change Your Life, and Do That Thing You Always Wanted to Do.” Her website is

As a career and life coach, I’m in the gratitude and happiness business. So this time of year, I'm like a pig in mud.

People walk into my office with anxiety and stress — something in their life isn’t working as they want it to. During the hour we spend, something shifts in their body, mind and spirit. I watch as possibility and hope takes over, and by the time they leave they feel happier and they have momentum.

How the heck does that happen?

I help my clients shift their thinking. And in honor of Thanksgiving, and the fact that this is my last column for Montclair Local (and the fact I’m filled with gratitude for having had this conversation space for the last year and a half), I want to share one of the ways in which I help people shift their thinking.

Here’s one tool I use: Happiness. Happiness gives my client creativity and hope.

Here’s how I do it: I help my clients create a gratitude high. Gratitude leads to happiness. So if you want to shortcut your way into happiness, start with gratitude. Look at what you have, not what you don’t.

To help a client pursue a goal, I help them get happy. It’s much easier to take action when you are happy. Luck favors the prepared mind; opportunity and achievement favors the positive. Happy people are positive. Grateful people are happy. We can reverse engineer a state of joy; happiness is hackable.





And there’s no down side. None. It costs you little more than the price of momentary vulnerability. Aka courage. Can you spare a little courage to give this a shot? Of course you can.

(Deep breath.)

Gratitude. You got this. Answer these five questions for a little Thanks-hacking gratitude exercise and prepare to feel happier. If we do this right, you’ll get a buzz in no time. Ready?

  1. What have you done in the last 12 months that you’re proud of? Birthed a baby? Navigated a pothole in your life, marriage, parenting or work life? Improved your health? Reconnected with an old friend? Nailed an item on the bucket list? Identify an achievement (or three) that YOU DID in the last year.

2. Take that achievement and sit in it. Think about what you needed to do it to make it happen. When did you realize that something needed to be done? How did you decide to approach it? Where did you find the fortitude to do it? Dollop some gratitude on yourself, like whipped cream on that pumpkin pie. Don’t be stingy — spread gratitude all over yourself!

Pause to enjoy that delicious feeling.

And now, let’s take it to the next level:

  1. Return to that same achievement. Can you identify a person or two who helped you along the path? Who helped identify the situation and maybe helped solve it with you? Who was in the trenches with you to think it through? Who encouraged you to take action? Identify these people. Then think about that person and how they came through for you.

Reach out. You’ve got a four-day weekend. Write the note, send the card, make the phone call. Express your gratitude and once you start, feel no reason to stop. Just keep dolloping. You can’t overdo it, and the more you give, the better you feel, the better the recipient feels and the gratitude and happiness spreads.  

Is it really simple? I think so. But you be the judge. Give it a try, and let me know how it goes.

And now, my turn:

Thank you, Thalla-Marie and Heeten Choxi for having the passion and courage to create this paper, this gift to our community. We all benefit from your spirit, and the asset you’ve created. Thank you for being role models as parents, people, and local business owners.

Thank you, Gwen Orel, for being an editor and a thoughtful partner. You pushed me to feel the edges of my own skill set and helped me grow. You gave me the space to try things that felt scary, and you were an advocate for my skills when I didn’t see them.

Thank you, reader, for reading. Thank you for stopping me around town and telling me how my column impacted you. Look at that — the gratitude thing, you were already doing it! Thank you for choosing to read, learn, apply ideas and grow to make yourself —  and our community — a more perfect place.