I want to master the art of Wu wei. It is a key concept of Taoism and means effortless action, to be in sync with our natural order, the way of the universe, or God’s will if you prefer. It doesn’t mean you progress less, you just don’t fight against life, you don’t try and control the uncontrollable. Allow life to flow through you, allow it to guide you, accept what is as it is. Soak into the divine perfection that is all around you and within you, let them communicate. ‘Be’ more, rather than ‘try’ more. Float with the current of life and you need never be exhausted.
**Evolution must find balance and harmony.
Are we proud of the human race to which we are part?
Of what accomplishment does man stand in pride? Nuclear fusion? Going to the moon? Tall buildings? Yet we continue to destroy all that is infinitely beautiful around us. Splurging the true wealth we inherited like a spoilt child of his father’s riches…showing off to all and sundry our self-centered shiney glory at the cost of our collective soul.
We have existed for but a drop in the ocean of time; yet our planet burns with the ache of our presence. As a species we just aren’t getting the hint. Nature screams for our attention yet we lie numb; deafened by the sound of industry.
Must we wait for nature to correct our ill? Animals evolve with anti-predator capabilities, need we convincing that mother nature herself can’t evolve in self preservation? Maybe not in a hundred years or a thousand; but balance and harmony will be restored, either by our hand or another, it is universal law.
**Global culture must find balance and harmony.
Cultures of indigenous peoples focused on the land; respect of mother earth; spiritual connection to harmony a vein through ritual and custom. Nature was respected and her gifts celebrated. Too high is the price of ‘progress’; the devil counts his souls. Now what do we stand for; what culture do we call our own?
Our children are born to the world with a consciousness principled on pure joy and wonder. Judgement, hate and fear have no place with a child. For a brief moment we protect their fragile perfection, their entertainment is rich with moral fibre and virtue. Cometh of age and their mind deemed ready for pollution; media gives only what we crave; culture now corrupts; we poison our adolescent minds; our own hand in its making. Anger, violence, despair, disappointment and greed become the dominant diet of consciousness. We feast on the fear.
Adulthood arrives and slaves we have become; our dreams but memories. Fear holds the majority in the culture of influence. We become more sheep than the very herds we muster. The slaves that dragged the Egyptian queens were more free than we. Our chains are harder to see but exist no less. Money, power and celebrity take their place at the throne; all gather for worship.
If a man speaks from atop his riches his words are coated in the same gold upon which he stands. Those who seek an awakened culture where man shines from within are ignored, because they stand detached from all that society worships. The masses dismiss the value of a man’s words if he speaks them from a shack draped in cheap robes.
This need not be our destiny.
Faith in mankind remains when our potential is served. Discovering our inner genius and brilliance delivers natures purification of consciousness; salvation’s key. A mankind driven by a consciousness immersed in the expressions of the soul is a mankind to which we can all be proud. Let love, compassion, understanding, joy, hope and wonder deliver us back from the valley of power and greed.
Technological and industrial development no doubt has it’s place; there must though be balance. Within the indigenous cultures the counterweights exist. Let us find a culture of balance and harmony. For a culture to evolve to a place of harmony, those of the culture must evolve to the same..
**Individuals must find balance and harmony.
We must take back personal responsibility.
Man’s evolution must include that of his consciousness; his path to enlightenment; the awakening of his potential. The living of a life full and rich of all natures emotional gifts his reward.
Without the evolution of consciousness, the wheels of industry drive us toward our own demise. Life is becoming ever easier; yet without the evolution of consciousness our meaning in life dissolves and our happiness with it.
A sunset is most enjoyed after the longest darkness; we perform at our best when our backs are against the wall; our hearts open widest to spirituality when facing our mortality. Struggle and deprivation the commonalities to the best in us. Outside can not exist without inside. We know not beauty without knowing ugliness. Equally all life’s emotional joys, profound happiness and fulfilment can not exist in full potency without struggle, obstacle and deprivation.
Striving justly in the face of obstacle in service of a greater good is what our soul longs for.
The wealthier we become; the less struggle and deprivation we experience; the less contrast exists; the less appreciation there is; We are inadvertently destroying ourselves, choking off that which we really are.
Inner courage our course to correction.
The battlefield is no longer the Roman front or the beaches of Gallipoli. Our mind, our consciousness the battleground in this age; our enemy all things that stand between us and our natural state of harmony. We must find the same courage on our battlefield as our forefathers found on theirs; more than ever at stake. Victory and all of nature’s gifts remain; happiness, love, joy; abundance, for all of life’s warriors . Enough warriors and the future is bright and assured of the same.
It’s time to take responsibility for who we are and who we are capable of becoming; what we are capable of contributing. The battle rages with or without us; dare not look on from behind the trees. Regret; anxiety; sadness; guilt; all shadows cast by the trees of cowardice.
What will become of your mind? The greatest of servants or the most wretched master; the proponent of fear and paralysis or the gatekeeper graciously giving way to your inner genius and greatness?
What of a world filled with realised potential; da Vinci, Plato, Muhammad Ali, Beethoven, Bruce lee, Mother Teresa, Ghandi?
There are no great men; only men who are prepared to discover their greatness.
What of a world where we were all awakened to the purity of our inner ideals? All the gold of a nation could not buy. Buddha, Laozi, Jesus, all men who lived in that place. Why do we insist to elevate them to unreachable heights; build around them an institution and claim religion for all to worship. We drop quickly to our knees rather than stand tall knowing that no greater men were they than we. Let them stand as they were; men as you and I; example of our potential. Look close to their message and to this thought I am sure they give blessing.
Gods too need no idle audience. True homage is not paid on our knees. Let us honour our Gods on our feet; honour them with each virtuous step. Honour them with the respect of responsibility. Know that our Gods need no interpreter for they already have our ear, we need only listen. In selfless virtue we never walk alone; for the man in harmony sea’s will part and the mountain’s move; the universal law conspires to his will.
The time for the many to be lead by the few has past. Too often we have looked to the few for their answers; taken refuge in their vision; allowed their spirit to sustain our own. We have given our gaze outward in reverence and worship when our own guidance and wisdom will always be inward. No fault can lie with a man whom draws assurance and inspiration from another; though quickly we must outgrow that external reliance in favor of an inner trust.
It’s time for each man to lead his own actions; to take responsibility for his own potential; give fully of his own gifts. The future of mankind is directed by our collective culture; our collective culture directed by us. We must listen to that inner voice that pleads for our courage and yearns to be manifested in all our deeds.
Martin Luther King had a dream; it’s time to dream again. The vision of the few it cannot be. We all dream; yet few stand guard of those dreams; fewer still fight for their survival. We must now rise up against the formless oppressor of all men. The light within us grows dim if we allow; let us not stand in the shadows of the courageous; let the only shadow cast upon us be that of our skyward sword. Let our lives become our message, let all we are and all we might be shine brightly through every breath. Let our children look upon us and behold man’s true greatest.
For all men the wolf of apathy and fear stands confronting the wolf of hope and courage; to which will you cast your final meal?
We’ve talked about the ultimate currency of life being happiness and fulfilment and looked at twelve specific techniques that can increase our base level of happiness, all of which have been scientifically proven.
We’ve also talked about the meaning of life being man’s need to live in harmony with all things. If man lives in harmony with the universal order he will enjoy all of life’s abundant gifts as well as a deep connection to all that is. He will achieve the highest level of happiness and fulfilment. These beliefs are my own truth and intertwine with both scientifically proven aspects as well as ancient wisdom.
We now move into what is more of a personal philosophy, evolving as I attempt to live it. It’s influenced by my personal beliefs, external wisdom and my own experiences.
Ok let’s crack in…
I concluded the last post referring to a key ideal that when exhibited by any man would lead him to his natural state of harmony with all things. This ideal is the ‘how’. How do we live in harmony with ourselves and all that is?
I believe all other techniques to increase happiness and fulfilment act as support to or are embodied by this way of living; our natural state of being.
Ok, so what is this way of living?
I believe there are two sides to the practical act harmonic living:
One – Selfless Meaning & Purpose
Two – Virtuously pursuing one’s potential.
Let’s take a closer look at each side because it doesn’t get any more important than this.
One – Selfless Meaning & Purpose
In the book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, Viktor Frankl details his first hand account of living as a prisoner of war in a Nazi concentration camp. As would be later determined the chances of survival were one in twenty eight. Viktor speaks of the horror that was witnessed on a daily basis, men watching their families being taken from them and killed by the thousands in the gas chambers. Treated like dogs they starved their way from one day to the next. Exploited in work camps which operated in sub freezing conditions, many of them no longer had shoes and dragged their frostbitten feet with haste, knowing that if for a single moment they appeared no longer fit for work they would be killed. There was no end in sight for their degraded existence.
In his time of imprisonment Frankl spoke of the one thing that he could never be deprived, man’s final freedom; the ability to choose how he responded to a given situation. No matter what the hardship he always retained the freedom to create his own meaning and purpose.
Frankl wrote, “In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning…life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”
Frankl’s account is important because it gives us clarity. In extreme situations the cause and effect of life quickly materialises. Man’s hand is forced, he must decide. Find meaning and be empowered or become a victim, accept one’s life as meaningless and suffer.
At the age of twenty one, Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with an incurable and irreversible motor neuron disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, he was given two years to live. Progressively he lost the use of his limbs as they became completely paralysed. He eventually only had the use of a single cheek muscle. His cheek was and remains connected to a voice generation device enabling him to communicate at the speed of one word per minute.
Almost defying belief, Hawking is currently one of the most revered scientists of our day. He has carried on where Einstein left off developing his own theories of unifying general relativity with quantum theory. He has amassed twelve honorary doctorate degrees. He has been married twice, has three children (don’t ask) and three grandchildren. He travels extensively delivering lectures and yes he is still alive, aged 73.
Hawking sheds light on his amazing life when he advises, “One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.”
The human spirit can not only survive, but thrive in even the darkest corners of human hardship, it need only find a compelling meaning and purpose to do so.
Ok let’s move now to the other side of a harmonic life.
Two – Virtuously pursuing one’s potential.
In ancient Greece, to pursue one’s potential with virtue was considered the highest ideal. This way of life was called Arete.
The direct translation of Arete is ‘virtue’ although the Greeks held it to a wider meaning; to be the pursuit of excellence in all endeavours; the notion of living to one’s full potential. Arete was achieved through virtuous habits; living consistently in the pursuit of excellence.
Arete embodied the notion of never ending personal growth. It wasn’t a term reserved for the elite, it was relative to each man and the personal talents and gifts he possessed. Arete is about striving to act as the highest version of yourself from moment to moment.
Whether the output of a life of Arete is becoming an amazing parent or the president of the united states, societies measure of success is not the measure of Arete.
Martin Luther King once said “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures… sweep streets like shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of Heaven and Earth have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.” That is Arete.
In modern times one of America’s most famous psychologists Abraham Maslow professed in his acclaimed hierarchy of human needs that the highest need man could aspire to meet was ‘Self-Actualization’. It was the act of becoming all he could become, living out his full potential.
To illustrate the virtuous aspects of Arete a story was told in the 5th century BC of Hero Heracles (Think Hercules) who faced a crossroads in his life – Arete appeared before him in the form of a young woman. She offered Heracles glory and a life of hardship and struggle against evil. Her counterpart Kakia (who symbolised all that was bad and wrong) offered him wealth and pleasure. Heracles chose to follow the path or Arete.
To better understand the relationship between the two sides of ‘flow’ we can again look to ancient China.
I’m sure we’re all familiar with the yin yang symbol? The circle with black and white sections which resemble water drops together forming the whole. Each part is in flow with each other. The ancient Chinese symbol which is called ‘Taijitu’ has been used since 1000BC to illustrate a number of philosophical concepts pertaining to the duality of things. How things can be separate yet interdependent; the whole being greater than the sum of the parts; one part flowing into the other.
Symbolically yin yang does an exceptional job of illustrating the relationship between the two sides of harmonic living.
Just as in Yin Yang, in ‘harmonic living’ there is separation. Selfless Meaning & Purpose can exist in a man without him virtuously pursuing his potential. Likewise, one can virtuously pursue his potential without any selfless meaning or purpose.
However as black flows to white so too are the characteristics of harmony. If we live with truly compelling meaning & purpose, then it is the order of things that soon we will be drawn to pursue our potential in complete service to that purpose.
And so too, as white flows to black; If we virtuously pursue our potential, it will also be the order of things that soon our meaning and purpose will become clear.
Once combined, as is with Taijitu, the whole is more powerful than the sum of it’s parts. We are in harmony.
The state of harmony is the all powerful means to the happiest and most fulfilling life man can achieve. He has found his true self; his connection to all things. It is the holy grail.
In nature’s way of perfect harmony, the only way we receive all of life’s gifts… is to give fully all of ours.
OK once again just a quick recap on the last post. We went through twelve techniques to increase our base level of happiness… all scientifically proven in a field of study which has exploded in the last decade. Using the analogy of our fulfilment being a balloon and the air that fills that balloon being our most profound positive states such as Love, Gratitude, Inspiration, Hope, Peace, Joy etc. Each technique provides a source of air to increase our base level of overall happiness, well-being and fulfilment.
Back up to speed? Ok great.
The scientific research has provided great new insight as well as validation for wisdom which has been preached throughout the ages where previously only anecdotal evidence could be cited.
There of course still remains much wisdom which science is yet to reach and may never do so. That doesn’t necessarily reduce its value to fable. Science would look foolish if it attempted to quantify man’s state of being when exuding unconditional love. Does the infancy and incapability of science alter that truth? Granted though without science, it does challenge the sceptical mind if the receiver has no personal experience on which the wisdom can be vetted.
Today we are going to venture beyond the realms of science in many respects.
It’s about to get deep.
If we think of life as an ocean, to fully explore all its wonder and better understand its unbounded brilliance, we can’t simply paddle on the surface…
So here we go.
Straight into the big question. What is the meaning of life?
To a flower, what is the meaning of life? To an eagle? A butterfly? The meaning of their lives is the same as it is of ours; and of all things. To exist in harmony with all that is. To exude our true nature so as to be an interdependent part of the whole; the divine universal order.
Everything on this planet and beyond works in perfect harmony. The trees, the oceans, the animals. Everything…except us, except man.
Ekhart Tolle says “Watch any plant or animal and let it teach you acceptance of what is, surrender to the Now. Let it teach you Being. Let it teach you integrity — which means to be one, to be yourself, to be real. Let it teach you how to live and how to die, and how not to make living and dying into a problem.”
While animals have brains and cognitive processing ability it is not that which guides them through their lives, it is their connection to nature, their innate connection to the divine, to all that is. Just as it is with the tree, the rose, or the butterfly, they all effortlessly exist in perfect harmony.
Yet man is different. The ultimate contradiction. What makes him strong, also makes him weak. What gives him freedom, so to enslaves him.
Our unique ability to reason, our superior cognition, that which separates us from all other life is what becomes our greatest barrier to harmony. Finding our way back to harmonic flow, in tune with nature’s way; that is the meaning of life.
Nature’s challenge for us as cognitive reasoning beings, is to find our way back. When we experience glimpses of expression from our true self, our soul, our spirit, which manifest into emotional utopias like love, Joy, Awe, they act as our internal guidance system showing us the way…the more we feel these states of bliss, the deeper we feel them, the closer we are. And so Nature communicates to us through it’s ineffable and infinite brilliance.
Science has reaffirmed the shortsighted benefits of happiness, however left from the equation is nature’s motive for such benefits. The extensive research into happiness has taught us many things, however to the most profound truths science can not reach. The desired emotional states were merely nature’s way of guiding us towards a state of harmony… These states are the uninhibited breaths of our soul, no longer choking on the toxic thoughts of the ego. They show us the way home as if through the beauty of an angel to which we cannot see but feel.
If man seeks happiness for his singular internal pleasure alone, he acts solely in his self-interest; to the greater whole, nature’s universal order, he largely remains oblivious; but nevertheless he is guided.
The philosophies of ancient Greece held highly this same ideal. Stoicism and Cynicism professed that it was virtuous to display a will that was in tune with Nature. They also believed that living that virtuous life was sufficient for happiness and fulfilment.
Further back still to ancient China around 600BC. Laozi who founded the philosophy of Taoism and who is credited with producing the timeless script of the Tao Te Ching also conveyed similar principles. Taoism’s key premise is to live in harmony with the Tao, the Tao is difficult to translate but considered to be ‘all that is’, ‘’the way’, ‘the source from which things came as well as the force behind them’, ‘the universal flow’.
I convey these words as my truth; not as a regurgitation of ancient philosophy or religion. Each man holds within himself his truth and eternal wisdom. He may learn from another where to look and may recognise much when it is found; but he need not inherit or assume the thoughts of another as his own.
On numerous pillars has my own truth been built. Often my own experience has been followed by the discovery of like wisdom. Other times words when read resonate with my very soul. All the time clarity progressively bestows itself. My nature, as is yours, is absolute.
Emerson wrote, “No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution; the only wrong what is against it.”
So if we are to find our rightful place in the universal flow, a place of harmony; how is it to be achieved?
I believe we must live with a specific practical ideal which can be embodied by any man in any situation. When living with this ideal man finds harmony with all things and all things are drawn to man.
To the ‘how’ of harmony we move next…
Here’s a quick recap on yesterday’s post. What we really want in life isn’t the ‘things’ but rather it’s the emotional states of happiness and fulfillment we believe will result from having those ‘things’. Therefore it’s happiness or fulfilment if you prefer that’s argued with the support of science to be life’s big prize.
So here’s how we can start moving in the right direction…
Heard of rose tinted glasses? They’re kind of like beer goggles but used when you’re sober. Well that’s how happy people look at the world. They look at the world through the lens of Happy tinted glasses. People who are always miserable look at the world through Shit coloured glasses.
You can put two people in the same situation and the happy person will build a perspective of it, and interpret it, and then react to it, in a way that supports their fundamental paradigm of the world. Look for yellow cars and you see them everywhere right? Or choose to look for black cars and you’ll see them everywhere too.
Within your default personality how do you see the world? Through rose tinted glasses or through shit covered glasses? Ultimately it’s not the situations you are faced with in your life that will determine the quality of it, it’s how you frame them and choose to interpret and respond to them, that will. What you focus on is what you will experience and ultimately feel.
I’m sure you know some people who are inherent moaners, ask them how their day was and they will always find something to complain or moan about, doesn’t matter how many great things happened, they’ll find the shit. And then their are the people who find empowering meaning is legitimately challenging circumstances. We all have bad days but what glasses are you wearing most of the time?
So if you are currently walking around with shit smeared all over your glasses, we need to do something about getting you some rose lenses.
Change the way you see the world and your world changes.
Ok, so allow me to introduce Sonja Lyubomirsky, she’s a prominent researcher in the field of happiness and written a couple of great books. I’ll reference her top 12 habits for increasing your happiness here from her book “The How of Happiness” as they provide a good initial spread and have been scientifically proven.
Before we kick into those, if it wasn’t enough to want to be happier because it just feels great, here are some extra proven benefits enjoyed by happy people.
A myriad of studies have found that happy people earn more (we’ll come back to this later when we revisit the bling), have more satisfying and longer lasting marriages, more friends, better social support and relationships, more energy, better health, increased immunity, less stress and live longer… just winning all round really.
More happiness, more mojo.
Ok so here we go…
It helps if you write it down and the more regularly the better. We all have so much to be grateful for and sometimes we are pre-programed to always be looking to the future and what we don’t yet have and forget to look around us and give thanks for that which we do. Change it up and you will scientifically be less likely to be depressed, anxious, lonely, envious and neurotic – bonus!
Ask yourself more empowering questions? What’s something good that can come from this? How have I been made stronger from this situation? How can this help me in the future? Avoid letting yourself fall into the victim framework.
Avoid Overthinking Things and Social Comparison.
If you get into a negative loop of contemplation, interrupt it and go for a walk or for a run, play with the cat. Change things up so it doesn’t get a hold. As for social comparison I love a quote from the ever-wise ‘Anonymous’ – “There is no nobility in being superior to your fellow man – true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
Practising Acts of Kindness.
I’m sure we all know how good this can make us feel. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, little things can generate just as much goodness.
Nurturing Social Relationships.
Be good to your partner, your family, and your friends. Remind them that you care.
Develop Strategies for Coping.
Find some techniques that work for you that you can turn to in times of hardship or trauma.
Learning to Forgive.
Write all the lingering feelings you have left on paper so you have an outlet and then release them along with that person. Forgiveness is about freeing yourself. It brings a great quote to mind from one of my favourite people Buddha – “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
Increasing Flow Experiences.
Do more of what you love to do, find that place where you lose yourself in the moment.
Savouring Life’s Joys.
We all know the saying “Slow down and smell the roses” – well slow down and smell the roses. Take your time a little, look at the sunset a little longer, enjoy the smile of your child. Speaking of children, revisit the wonder of the world as they see it. George Elliot warned “ The golden moments in life rush past us and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone.”
Committing to your goals.
Set meaningful goals and simply begin the journey towards them, little consistent daily efforts. Progress is powerful.
Strengthen your spiritual connections.
People often confuse religion with spirituality. You don’t have to subscribe to a religion to develop your spirituality. This is a big one in my opinion. Meditation can be a great place to start.
Take care of your Body.
Move, meditate, keep the blood flowing. We all know the benefits of some consistent exercise.
Now it will take a little effort to reform the way you see things but it’s about consistency.
Think of your Happiness, well-being and overall fulfillment like a balloon, each of these techniques is a source of air inflating that balloon… Think of the air as representing the positive powerful states enriching your soul in any given moment – Emotions like Love, Pride, Peace, Hope, Joy, Gratitude, Awe, Inspiration. The fuller the balloon the more fulfilled you are.
Focus on the strategies that you enjoy. You don’t have to do everything everyday. You’ll get just as much air from doing a few techniques consistently as you will from doing all just now and then.
Now here’s the kicker… I thought that was the whole story but then I uncovered in my own life experience as well as the literature what I feel is the ultimate source of air. I believe it trumps all others and if you live with this then your balloon of fulfillment will always be full.
Call it lucky number 13.
If you embrace this all powerful ingredient in your life, success in every sense will chase you, yes that means the bling too. There will be no need for you to chase it. It’s how I found early financial wealth and when I lost this special ingredient so went with it everything that was truly valuable in my life. But I have found it again and am excited to share it with you…
We’re building momentum here so stay with me… this will change your life forever if you let it…
It’s been put forward by the great scholars of our time in positive psychology that the ultimate currency of life is ‘happiness’.
What does it mean to be happy?
The term ‘happiness’ in this context isn’t the two dimensional word you might think of to simply describe a child given a lollipop. The broader definition would include this type of emotional state but also goes much deeper. While the harvard scholars use a broad definition of ‘happiness’ I personally find ‘fulfillment’ a term easier to digest. I’ll use the terms interchangeably in this post and consider their meaning to include all positive emotions and states like Love, Pride, Peace, Hope, Joy, Gratitude, Awe, Inspiration etc.
So what about the bling right? You might be thinking that these new age hippies need to get with the program. Show me the money! Well 15 years of scientific research in the field of ‘positive psychology’ has shown what many who have acquired some bling apparently already knew – the bling has no zing.
Anecdotally I think we all had a suspicion that this was the case. Didn’t we? If material wealth was the big prize and the key to fulfillment, then why are so many wealthy people suffering from depression? Some commit suicide, many are just unhappy. Not all by any stretch but quite possibly proportionately the same amount as those with average incomes. What about those families who live in impoverished communities around the world? We see documentaries and hear personal accounts of how happy they are. When we really step out of our conditioned beliefs and look at it, there doesn’t appear to be any correlation between people’s material wealth and their fundamental level of happiness and fulfillment.
Still think it’s all about the Benjamin’s?
Well back to the research then. It showed that each of us has our unique well being or happiness baseline. Some days we’re happier and are above that baseline experiencing positive emotions like love or pride or joy and some days we’re sad or frustrated and we’re operating below that emotional baseline… in either case a short time will pass and we’ll return to our inherent equilibrium.
Taking our baselines into account, you might find interesting the research conducted by Psychologist Philip Brickman and his team. They studied baseline happiness and well-being in people who won the lottery. They found that within as little as a single month some winners returned to their baseline level of happiness. If they were unhappy before winning sooner or not so much later that would be unhappy again. It also works the other way around. They found that accident victims who became paraplegic were returning to their baseline level of well being and happiness within as little as a year.
Truth is society sold us down the river with respect to its picture of success. You need to be rich, beautiful, preferably famous and have the latest gadgets. As a result many of us live our lives with true happiness as this elusive conditional prize. ‘One day when I have this then I’ll be happy.’ ‘One day when I get that promotion, then I’ll be happy.’ ‘One day when I’m famous, then I’ll be happy.’
So for many of us we’re heading in the totally wrong direction and could live our whole lives with our potential happiness and fulfillment attached to an outcome that may or may not ever eventuate. Fuck that.
So here’s the basic premise for why happiness and fulfillment trump C-notes and everything else as the ultimate currency in life.
Essentially it’s argued that what we really want is the emotions and states that will eventuate from having those things.
The researchers apply the big ‘Why’ test.
I want lots of money. Why? So I can travel. Why? So I can see the world. Why? Because it’ll make me happy and gives me a sense of awe.
I want to build schools in Africa. Why? So I have a sense of contribution. Why? Because I like helping people. Why? It makes me feel grateful, content and at peace.
Get the idea? Ok cool.
So the great news is, we can do a bunch of things to increase our baselines of happiness, wellbeing and overall fulfillment. So they need not be a conditional reward for some potential event in the future.
We can live with more Love, Pride, Peace, Hope, Joy, Gratitude, Awe, Inspiration right now. So in terms of what Harvard Professor Tal Ben-Shahar calls the ultimate currency of life, you can be amongst the truly wealthiest people in the world, in no time at all.
Want to know how?…Stay tuned.
Isn’t it weird that we spend 10-12 years educating our children on reading, writing, math and a few peripheral subjects but totally omit what I would argue is the most important aspect of a well rounded education system? The subject of how to thrive and succeed at life. The subject of how to find fulfilment and live in a positive state of mind and live on purpose with an intent to live out one’s potential.
There exists so much established wisdom on how to win at the game of life. The more I try and expose myself to it the more I find it hard to fathom that it isn’t collated and summarised into a subject to be studied in our schools. The ancient wisdoms of the Tao Te Ching, or Confucius and Marcus Aurelius, or the classics of ‘Think and Grow Rich’ in itself aggregating 25 years of research into america’s most successful people.
Maybe the dozens of books on positive psychology that have in the last decade solidified a massive body of scientific research proving just what actions you can take today that will lead you to living a happier life. How about the classic ‘How to win friends and influence people’ as a crash course in effective social interaction. Knowledge on goal setting, and visualisation, the power of gratitude, the connection to self through spirituality and meditation. If you think this is up to the parents to teach well that doesn’t work when parents were never given this knowledge either.
This wisdom has always been there, and now in the age of the internet it has never been more accessible. As it currently stands only those who seek it out or have access to an informed mentor are benefiting from it’s unquestionable fruits.
To what level could our society benefit if our children were emerging from school based education empowered with this type of knowledge? The knowledge to win at life. To be fulfilled and successful, whatever that means to them. Embodying this wisdom benefits the individual but the benefits go wider than that. All those who interact with that individual also benefit by association. The individual would likely make contributions on a wide scale so society wins as a result too.
The more people we can inject into adult society with a well rounded knowledge of optimal living the better for everyone. I would envisage we could begin to foster an upward positive cycle that over the course of a generation could change a nation forever. Crime could be slashed, our economy could potentially move into hyper-drive as the level of entrepreneurs explodes and industry benefits from creativity and innovation like never before. Those who prefer to be employed will likely be more productive and find more meaning in their work leading to fuller happier lives and yet more benefit for all those part of their home dynamic.
Fantasies of grandeur? Unrealistic? There is no doubt many will think so. I would encourage those unconvinced to seek out this wisdom, experience the benefits in their own life and then I hope they too will join me in seeing these possibilities.
We have lived through great times of progressive change in the last few hundred years, the end of slavery and segregation, woman securing their right to vote, gay couples given their right to marriage and no-doubt many more. The tides of change always favour liberation. They favour those who have had less being permitted the same opportunities as those who have had more.
I believe that we are entering a new age of liberation. It’s time we gave everyone especially our children the tools and opportunity to live their lives to their fullest extent, to know early on that there is a calling uniquely for them, that life need not be a mere existence. This crusade will not be for a persecuted minority. This liberation could be the one to set us all free.
They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit. I googled it, apparently not. It seems things aren’t always that simple. Well anyway I decided to make my own rule. I chose 100 days. It seemed like a nice round number. 100 sober days.
There use to be an alcohol awareness campaign that had the tag line ‘It’s not what we’re drinking, it’s how we’re drinking’. I can relate, I was drinking to oblivion. I was experiencing significant blackouts when I went out drinking. If you haven’t experienced blackout’s then you may find them hard to believe. Often times people can have selective memories the day after drinking or can experience ‘grey-outs’. Grey-outs are when you have forgotten but when someone reminds you of an event, the memory restores and you get that ‘oh my god I remember that’ moment. A blackout is essentially when the short term memories don’t convert to long term memories, the memories are gone, they are not stored anywhere so no matter what someone tells you, you won’t remember. It is an incredibly shit feeling waking up in the morning and not knowing how you got there and having no recollection of the final 2 or 3 or even 4 hours of the night. When you are obliterated like that you have lost all cognition, you are on automatic pilot. Bad decisions are imminent.
So I agree with the campaign slogan, “how we’re drinking” is definitely an issue, I also think though that “why we’re drinking” can be equally an issue. Are you drinking to celebrate a special occasion? Are you drinking to enjoy a social gathering? Or are you drinking to escape the challenges that you are faced with in life? Intoxication was giving me a temporary reprieve from the challenges of everyday life. For a short time any anxiety, stress or fear could be forced to the back of my mind and replaced with fun, laughter and freedom. That was of course until the morning after. There I was again, back in the real world, challenges and emotional bourdons intact. Now though I was hungover and emotionally drained with even less mental capacity to deal with them. The anxiety, stress and fear would then compound as my state of mind was weak. I needed to escape again. Rinse and repeat. Down we go. Emotional oblivion. Pass the Prozac.
I socialised with many people who would have partied at a similar level and frequency to me and maybe it’s not an issue for them, it’s not for me to judge others nor do I have any willingness to do so. I think ultimately no matter what it is, drink, drugs, gambling or anything else the line of moderation can be a blurry one. If your behaviour is outside of what society deems to be reasonable then you may likely be assessed as having a problem. If however you are below societies behavioural radar the measure of acceptable moderation is going to come down to your own self assessment. What is too much? What price am I paying? It really comes down to you and the questions you ask of yourself.
The moment that really got me in the end was when I started focusing on the man I wanted to become and what I wanted to achieve. When I thought of who that person was I knew that if I continued the way I was going I couldn’t become that man. I wasn’t going to achieve what I believed I could. That was my litmus test.
So I finally stopped running and started fighting, literally.
I would like to be able to have a social drink again and maintain a level of moderation. I know that if I do it has to pass my criteria, it cannot negatively influence or slow my journey forward. What I have learnt within myself is that sometimes abstinence is easier than moderation. Drinking again does freak me out because I currently enjoy the safety of abstinence, moderation is a beast I have yet to conquer and she is a fiery one.
There is a lot at stake. My boys deserve the best of me. My family and friends deserve the best of me. My colleagues deserve the best of me. I deserve the best of me.
Have you ever been in one of those moods when you can do no wrong?
You. Are. Unstoppable.
I call it the state of Flow. This is where I want to live.
I’ve felt like this before but it’s the exception to the rule rather than the rule. It makes me wonder what life would be like if you could condition yourself to operate in that state of Flow on a daily basis. Sure we’ll all have bad days now and then but I’d like to shoot for this state the vast majority of the time.
Can you change the way you think and feel on a consistent basis? Of course you can. Well I believe you can. But like anything it will take a strategy, commitment and dedication otherwise our state of mind will revert to the default. The default is one of reaction to the stimuli and circumstances around us based on the way we’ve been programmed to view ourselves and the world. If I grew up in an environment that made me believe the world was out to get me, that I was stupid, that I would be taken advantage of at every turn, that people are sharks and not to be trusted, or that money is the root of all evil, then that would naturally play a part in forming my view of myself and the world. Everyone who has had a significant influence on our lives has played a part in forming our personality, what we believe, what we value, and ultimately how we see things.
Many of the things I have been made to believe or views I’ve held of the world and myself won’t serve me productively in living a full, rich, empowered life. If I want to change a life time of programming it’s not going to be a five minute process.
If you had the opportunity to reprogram your view of yourself and the world how would you do it? How would you want to see yourself and those around you? What would make up your state of ultimate Flow?
Would it include beliefs like…
- I am incredibly confident and there is no problem I can’t solve with a smile?
- I am compassionate and understanding of the challenges others face in their lives?
- I believe in myself and what I am capable of?
- If determined enough I can achieve anything?
- I will give to others even when they take from me?
- I will love others even when they display hate towards me?
- I will be courageous in the life I lead and not fear failure?
- I believe if given a chance people are inherently good?
- I will not judge others as I understand they may have lived a very different life to me?
The way I see it, we didn’t ask for the values and beliefs we have and we may no longer want to have some of them. I figure I’d rather proactively program my own state of mind exactly how I want it. By doing so I want to try and build a state of mind that enables a reality where Flow is the norm, Flow is the default.
There is no reality other than that which we choose to experience.
Have you ever had a night out at a party and had a great time and been with someone who has had the worst time ever? You were at the same party! You loved the relaxed atmosphere, they hated the scruffy dress code. You loved the music, they thought the music was too loud. You loved the dancing, they thought the dance floor was too crowded. We are living the same circumstance but having a very different quality of experience. A big part of how we feel about a given event or day is going to be what we choose to focus on and which beliefs we choose to reinforce, those forced upon us, or those we choose to create for ourselves.
So I have created a new action to accompany the other tools I’ve adopted in my personal journey to reprogram my own state of mind. It’s a tool to help keep my focus on that which empowers me, a tool to hopefully take me ever closer to a sustained state of Flow.
Each time something good seems to go my way, or the world seems to bend in my favour, or one of my new beliefs is reinforced, I write it down in my journal. I write ‘#Flow’ and then write what happened. It’s a way to keep my eye on the prize, a way to remember the good, a way to… just go with the Flow.