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Posts Tagged ‘happiness

Are you confused by the nature of happiness?  Or the usefulness of positive thinking.

This picture from Roy Goodman explains the essence of happiness.

Happiness ny-image0.etsy.com.il_430xN.39722240

Happiness by Roy Goodman

The idea is to live happily.  Period.

Being successful or getting somewhere doesn’t make you happy.  Nor does being happy get you anywhere.   You just chose to be happy, or not, as you are getting somewhere.

Roy, the picture is linked by to your Etsy site. If you object to your picture being displayed here, please me know.  Great picture.

Zimbabwe's 'funny money': old and new currency
Image by Sokwanele – Zimbabwe via Flickr

I’ve just read this on  a university chat board:

If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?

Sadly, our first impulse is to try to answer the question.

Then we do a double take.  Are we trying to sell happiness?  Aren’t happiness and money two different currencies?

Then we get the real meaning.  What would you do that would make your friends jealous?

Happiness is not consistent with raw competition.

Happiness is consistent with good ‘sportsmanship’ and fair play, yes.  We can  be competitive when competitiveness is kept within the bounds of pleasure and fun.  As soon as winning becomes so important that we care neither about how we behave nor how our actions impact others, as soon as competition becomes excluding, then happiness is inconsistent with the project.

When happiness means oneupmanship that is not happiness.  It is just the pleasure – the pleasure of meanness.

When we win we should be deeply grateful to the losers

This one always baffled my students.  When we win, we should be grateful to the losers, for without their willingness to engage in a race with us, we could not win.  The three cheers for the losing team is not a ritual.   When the three cheers  is not longer more important than the game itself, then maybe we should stop playing the game.

People won’t play when the refereeing is bad

When a game gets too rough, in it or in the consequences after the finish, people stop playing.  They simply won’t come back.

We can bribe some greedy players to take part, true.  The world is a big place and if we have enough money, we can always find enough people who are unscrupulous, unsightful, greedy or masochistic.

Sometimes we are dazzled by their participation to think that something is acceptable. After all, why not take the money and worry about the morality later?

Go on, then.  Do it.  But when you come back to play with us, remember that we will not necessarily be impressed by your spoils.  We won’t give you a headstart in our game when you return ~ because headstarts are not what it is about. Fitting in is what it is about.  Taking part is what it is about.  Playing a game that everyone enjoys is what it is about.

If you don’t fit in now

If you don’t fit in now, you won’t fit in later just because you ran away to prove you could do something.

You have three choices:

  • Stay and make your way with us by fitting in.
  • Leave and find a group where you fit in and you feel you can be loyal and they to you.
  • Leave and take part in a race where winning and losing is what it is about ~ but enjoy the race for its own sake.  No one else will be impressed.  They aren’t impressed that you won it. They want to win to lord it over you. Get it?  So if you race, just enjoy it.

Race for the sake of it, not for the sake of money or happiness

So race because you want to.  Don’t race to get rich or to be happy or to impress anyone.

And if you enjoy the race so much, do it here!  Now!  If you just like racing and you don’t want to hurt anyone, they will enjoy your enjoyment and you will fit in.

And if someone insists on racing .  .  .

But if someone is racing against you and hurting you, if you cannot protect yourself, if your really, really cannot, then maybe it is best to leave and find a place where you can be yourself.

Leave to do what you must do but not because of them. Leave them to their misery and meanness

Happiness is just not competitive

Really it is not.  It is about finding a group where you are loyal to them and them to you.

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Gretchen Rubin over at the happiness project has 5 happiness hacks that are worth considering.

Would following even one help you enjoy your life more?  Or make you more enjoyable to live with and work with?

# 1 Impulse to tidy up?

Add File 13 – the rubbish bin. See if you can fill it up!

# 2 Determined to exercise some self-control?

Cut down the times you have to self-control to no more than 2 a day! Stop beating yourself up.  Side-step nonsense.

# 3 Think you need a treat to lift you up?

Live well all the time!  Make each meal a treat. Tidy up as you go.  Live elegantly!

# 4 Think you need to help people in the world?

Help people close to home! Look around the room!  Halve some else’s irritation in your own kitchen, your own office, your own commuter train.

An irritation shared is usually quartered.

# 5 Resolving to do something?

Don’t. If you must have a resolution, have one, till it is done! Pick the most important and don’t put anything else on the list!

 

 

Imagining goals doesn’t quite cut it

It’s a fact.  Our brains don’t distinguish very much between imagining something and doing it!  Mentally rehearse your perfect golf swing and your real one gets better.  Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?  Pity it doesn’t work with losing weight.

The trick is to imagine fully enough.  We have to be able to imagine something in its entirety and reasonably accurately.  We must have no objections or leave anything out!

That’s the rub.  By the time you can imagine something completely, or be totally confident that it will work, you have done it already, and probably often!

Using our brain’s confusion to our advantage but keeping it real

We want to capitalize on the inability of our brains to distinguish fact from fiction but we also want to keep it real.  We want to use our imagination to get us going, but bear in mind that we still have to do whatever it is that we do.  We still have to stumble and fall, and get ourselves up again.  (In fact, stumbling and falling and getting up again must be part of the story that we imagine – we need that skill of error recovery too!)

The ravine exercise

I’ve been using David Whyte’s story of walking alone in Nepal and coming to a ravine with a rickety bridge.  He couldn’t cross it and he couldn’t double back because he had insufficient supplies.  Panic!

We often find ourselves in similar predicaments.  We look at what we want – the other side of the ravine.  And we look at the bridge.  It’s too rickety to walk on.  The gap between where we are now and where we want to be feels too big.  We can’t help ourselves.  Our attention is drawn to the gap.   We stare at the ravine and the long drop down – and  we can think of nothing else.

The current advice is to do what you would do if you are on the edge of the ravine:  check your pockets, see what you have to help you, make sure you are safe.  Get your feet back on the ground. Then funnily, you find a way out of your predicament.  Or, at least survive until the rescue party arrives.

This metaphor works – but it is still hard to do.  The ravine draws our attention no matter how hard we try not to look at it.

The fast forward exercise

I’ve been trying out another mental trick but I haven’t tested it fully.  Would you try it too and let me know how it works?

Think of yourself as you are now, warts and all.  Now play yourself forward 10 years.  Don’t change a thing.  Just make yourself older and fatter!

You probably won’t like the image all that much. And you will be motivated to take the next step.  List the first thing to change and do it right now.

Do you do it?  Of course keep a record too.  In a few weeks, you’ll look back and be surprised at how much you have got done.

I’d also like to know how much effort it took and whether you got a lot done attending to little things.  The extra chocolate biscuit.  The internet banking that is not done.  Whatever!

The psychology of forward movement

The psychology is simple.  We keep our feet firmly on the ground rooted in now.  We imagine what we can imagine – what we understand – and roll it forward with obvious changes – slower, greyer, not as good looking.

Then do what has to be be done now.  It is so much easier!

At least, I hope it is.  Do tell me!

 

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If you came here saying “Yes!”, you probably also sat up straighter, jutted out your jaw just a little, and felt more determined.

We need one defensive pessimist on every team

You are probably what psychologists call a ‘defensive pessimist’.  You are essential to business and family life.  You think ahead and make sure things get done!

But do you really dare not to be happy?

What if I told you that happiness lights up different parts of your brain?  And in your steely resolve, you are shutting down processing power that you need, badly?

In short, you are running, well limping, like a computer that needs to be cleaned out sooner rather than later.

An organized person finds time to be happy

If you really are as organized and determined as you say, then you WILL find 5 minutes at night for some quiet time to reflect on the day.  You will have time to tick off everything that went well and you will have time to ask yourself a simple question: Why did I do so well?

So often, you’ve done well because you think ahead, because you are reliable and because you are persistent.  Carry on doing that!

Be organized.  We need you.  And be happy too.

Ask “Why did I do so well?” and marvel at how much better you sleep, how much you begin to enjoy hearing the birds sing, how much your appetite levels off (not too big or too small), how much you don’t have to push so hard but you get things done anyway.

You don’t believe me?

I thought you were the thoughtful one!  You can’t tell me I am wrong until you have tried.

An example of a social network diagram.
Image via Wikipedia

Back on February 6, when it was snowing, I made a list of 5 “recession speeds”.  In February, people were angry but not really doing anything constructive about restructuring their businesses.

  1. I am lucky. My business is OK.  People need us no matter what.
  2. This crisis is outrageous.  I take every opportunity to tell decision-makers.
  3. I have cut out all luxuries.  I’ll see this through by keeping my head down.
  4. I’ll wait and see.  I am optimistic that everything will work out all right.
  5. I am systematically reviewing my business looking for new opportunities and new alliances.

Mid-October, 8 months on, people are much clearer about how the recession will effect them.  At least, that uncertainty has resolved.

But few people seem to have any idea how to restructure.  They are just “hanging-in” or “working harder”.  The odd firm is booming but is not quite clear why!

Social networks affect on our attitude to the recession

In February, I also asked 3 questions about our social networks.

I want to ask these questions again because in the last 8 months, the media have publicized the network effects of happiness.  We all now know that we are more likely to be happy or sad, fat or slim, if our friends are.

And if our friends’ friends are -even if we don’t know them!

How much is your attitude to the recession affected by your friends?

  • Who are the 3 people on whom you most depend?
  • What is their recession speed?
  • How much does your recession speed help them, and how much does their recession speed help you?

I know I am positive because the business associates on whom I depend most are thriving.  Others are being resolute.  And I can avoid negative people with relative ease.

I’d love to know you situation and if these questions help you clarify any of your plans?

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Slurp, analyze, visualize, share

I was delighted to find Vinspired Voicebox this morning.  Young people are collecting data on young people in UK and presenting it online in interesting ways.

And you can share the data on Young Brits too!

  • What questions should Voicebox ask next?
  • What questions could Voicebox answer for you with a tweak or two of their current analysis?
  • What question should we ask other age groups?

This is good news.  Great work Voicebox!

This is what I did not know in my 20’s. That I would come to dislike the adrenaline-rush that made me feel so good.

In our twenties, we feel competent

We have smashing time. Suddenly we have a little money. We set ourselves up independently.  We take on responsibility at work.  We feel omnipotent.

We are in, a way. We have more energy than our jobs demand. And we throw ourselves into everything with gusto.

Until one day,

.   .  .  the story changes. We burn out.  We wake up in the morning so tired that the only thing to do is to sit quietly in the sun, if we can find it. We are too tired to read.   We are too wearied to put up with the banality on the TV.

From that day forward, we are wiser, if sadder

We resist the adrenaline-rush.  We put off being totally involved in anything because we know the withdrawal is not worth the excitement and the buzz.

We also become skeptical about what is accomplished while we are ‘high’.  We come to agree with poet, David Whyte. We are not nice people when when we are moving so fast that we trample over people who are moving slowly.

But we are also restless

When we are undecided, when we are still on the plains of ‘wish‘ and are still to cross the famed Rubicon river to the land of ‘intent‘, we feel restless and doubt we are achieving anything at all.

But does our restlessness have good cause?

I am not sure if anything gets done or nothing gets done when we resist the urge to become charged-up and driven. To my knowledge, no one has every compared our output in the two states.

Goal setting research has shown a more limited result. When our attention is focused solely on one goal, the goal is achieved.  Hardly surprising, is it?

We should be worried about more

The bigger question is what happens to other goals when we are focused on only one of the many things that are important to us.  What happens to everything else – including our health and the health of people around us?

In our thirties, we begin to get an inkling .   .  .

.  .  .  that we should pick our adrenaline-rush carefully.

How old do we have to be before we learn to balance our lives?

Do we ever learn the art of achieving balance?

Is it true that we achieve less when are lives are balanced?  Or is just that we feel cold in the shadow of a helter-skelter adrenaline-fueled chase of a goal?

Who is able to resist starting towards an overarching goal that destroys all else?  Who is able to go further and to dismiss such goals altogether and stop them casting a shadow over a life where all our different parts have equal call?

smaller Lorenz_Ro28.
Image via Wikipedia

“It’s about survival, not ego”.

So said Techcrunch about Pandora’s founder.

Hmm. Losada used Lorenz equations to find 3 factors to distinguish successful business teams from unsuccessful teams.

  • Sincere requests for information slightly outnumber proposals for action
  • Positive comments outnumber negative statements by 5 to 1 (83% in other words)
  • Talk about the outside world slightly exceeds talk about the team.

So sometimes the team is complaining that the team is shite.   Inactive, negative and internal.  That’s fine.  As long as later in the day they are talking about what their customers like and the positive points they will push off from.

Unsuccessful teams get stuck in a place of gloom, or, in a place of self-congratulation.

Successful teams swoop gloriously around the whole emotional space like a happy butterfly tracing its own shadow and colouring in the outline in 3D technicolor.

Being in touch with reality in all its forms, good and bad, is what it is all about.

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Front-loading washer machine.
Image via Wikipedia

I’ll be the last person so say that setting goals is easy – my life over the last 10 years has been as tumultuous as the life of a sock in a half-empty washing machine.

When we have to take a major turn in life – when we leave school, when we change career midstream, when we move countries – it is easy to feel utterly disoriented.

But it is undeniable that the day we stop dithering, the day we stop saying “I could do this, or I could do that”, when the humming and hawing ends, we lurch forward, taking ourselves, most of all, by surprise.

So how do we get from confusion to this state of goal clarity?

Shame – bad news – by hard work.

But take heart from my story of setting goals which dovetails oddly with positive psychology.

A long time ago, in my university lecturing days, in more stable and optimistic times, I was asked by a major multinational, whom you all make profitable on a regular basis, to be on a panel interviewing students for scholarships.

The company executive, who chaired the panel, asked every applicant the same question: what are the three things that you want out of life?

After the 10th candidate or so, I answered the question for myself:

  • I like to achieve.
  • I like to belong to something bigger than myself.
  • I like to have some comfort and style but I will sacrifice this for the other two.

So, I was somewhat amazed, some twenty years later, when my life had taken on the semblance of a sock in a half-empty washing machine, to learn that this is the scaffolding Martin Seligman suggests for positive psychology.

  • An engaged life.
  • A meaningful life.
  • A pleasurable life.

Seligman seems to think that most people waste too much time pursuing a surfeit of pleasure. I am not sure we do. I am not sure we spend most of our time pursuing pleasure, or do it very well.   But that is another story.

When we need to shrug off goal confusion and achieve goal clarity

It’s best to cut our goals down to 3, or at most 5, because that is all we can remember without looking up a list.

This three-fold schema is a good starting point.

  • The order of importance will be yours – there are 6 possible orders.
  • The weighting you give to each ‘life’ will vary – whether you go stark raving mad without it, or you would give it up for the others.
  • And the content will vary.

I’ve had to do some hard work rethinking what I want out of life in entirely new circumstances.

  • The order changed for me.  Meaning went up to No 1.  Pleasure went up to No 2.  And Engagement came in at No 3.
  • The weighting changed for each too. Order and weighting are intertwined a little.
  • The content changed slightly.  More on finding your content another day.

Achieving goal clarity for yourself

If you find yourself ‘humming and hawing’ and don’t have that sense of forward movement that comes of goal clarity, begin here.

  • What do you think about the three types of life?

And help me out a little:  Is it possible to think about these three lives beginning from the abstract principle?

That would be helpful for me to know, as I already thought that way before I heard the abstract principles.

More another day – probably on Wednesday!

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