It seems amazing to me that we could be taught all these complex formula’s at school, but the one most desperately needed without doubt regardless of what field of endeavor you may enter is missing from the curriculum.There really is a science to happiness.The paradox is that it would be the simplest subject imaginable to learn, but our appetite for complexities and the rest of our education would undermine the practical application of this simple subject.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. (Leonardo da Vinci)
So in order to get back to an art form of living that seems to have gotten lost for so many along the way, i will highlight 5 keys to happiness as modeled by the greatest exponents of this craft.
1 . Autonomy.
From Paulo Coelho’s famous book “The Alchemist”, he asks the question, “What’s the world’s greatest lie? …. It’s this.That at a certain point in our live’s we lose control of what’s happening to us and our live’s become controlled by fate.It is a man’s only obligation to find his true destiny”.
There really is nothing sadder than a victim mentality.The average person goes from grown up to given up.Given up on their hope’s and dreams and settled for a life of existence rather than a life of substance.
It’s not about controlling circumstances, in fact this is perhaps the most debilitating of state’s to think we can control circumstances.It is about taking control of our response to stimulus.Turning stumbling block’s into stepping stones.Understanding that everything is on the way and not in the way.The key driver then is that our imagined destination is one that fuels us with continual anticipation and excitement whilst we go through whatever it takes.Happiness is having a journey worth taking .
2. Happiness is an Inside Job.
In his highly enlightening book” The progress paradox ” Gregg Easterbrook points out that we are better off now than ever before in human history and yet a growing number are reportedly depressed.Trying to replace what truly counts with what can be counted is a very poor trade- off.
One could say that we have been inflicted with the modern disease of affluenza.Instant gratification, quick fixes, stimulants and addictions to make us feel okay in the short-term but weigh heavily on our deep-seated self worth.Having the patience and focus to work on skills so that we may be able to contribute more and have a sense of self-mastery is the true ticket to high self worth.The dilemma we face today is that there are more distractions than ever to prevent us from staying focused long enough to develop and master new skills, so we need to have a goal that we are inspired to stay the course with.
Personal development is imperative for happiness because it ensures a commitment and an investment in ourselves that says “we are worth it”.Being happy with the way you see yourself demands that we are continually growing and learning.It guards from ever feeling that we are stuck,confined or defined.It is the flexibility of thought that even though we don’t control circumstances, we do control our attitude.The unhappy person is controlled by moods and feelings; the happy person is controlled by their values and principles.This is self-mastery.
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3. APPRECIATION and GRATITUDE.
Psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough point out that gratitude is the “forgotten factor” in happiness research. They point out the benefits of expressing gratitude as ranging from better physical health to improved mental alertness. People who express gratitude also are more likely to offer emotional support to others.Expressing gratitude in your daily life might even have a protective effect on staving off certain forms of psychological disorders. Researchers found that habitually focusing on and appreciating the positive aspects of life is related to a generally higher level of psychological well-being and a lower risk of certain forms of psychopathology. It improves our emotional and physical well-being, reduces stress, worry, fear and anxiety and the conditions closely related to these emotions such as high blood pressure, depression, heart disease and the immune systems deficiencies. Gratitude can save and prolong your life.
The value of deep connections could never be understated. It has been shown to extend our life. In fact, a large network of close connections has proven to outlast those with fewer friends by 22% (Tom Valeo web MD from Health and Balance article) Other benefits include decreasing loneliness, positive associations influencing healthier habits, wards off depression, boost self esteem, fewer cardiovascular and immune problems and more relaxed and at peace.
These connections need to be in an environment that celebrate us and not just tolerate us.To be clear, this does not mean that we only ever receive support from these people, but also challenge.If all we ever receive was support, then we become juvenilly dependent;and if all we ever receive is challenge then we become precociously independent and think that we don’t need anybody.Growth exists in the space between support and challenge.
Rather than pursuing independence, i will suggest that we desperately need to make the distinction and pursue inter dependence.Collaborating, co operating and synergising our idea’s provides the leverage that we need to achieve so much more than we can on our own.If we struggle with a problem, then a problem shared is a problem halved.
We always need the team work to make the dream work.
5. BEING FEROCIOUSLY CURIOUS.
There is perhaps no sadder state than to have become a constant cynic.It is a place where you think you have more answers than questions and those answers are not inspiring you.In fact, quite the opposite, they are like a dead-end street with nowhere left to go.It is where you say to yourself, this is the way it is, this the way it was and this is the way it will always be.It is at the end of hope and the beginning of despair.Being ferociously curious about possibility is the antidote.It opens up the fact that there is a far greater knowing than our limiting minds can comprehend.There is a far bigger picture than the one we can see and getting outside ourselves provides new perspective to an otherwise old picture.We were born to be extremely curious and the great tragedy of life is to have allowed anybody or anything to have taken that away.Research, discovery,adventure, exploring,wonder.Words that provide development of the spirit when we remain curious about the future instead of lost in the past.
“The most important thing is to never stop questioning.Curiosity has it’s own reason for existing.One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity; of life; of the marvelous structure of reality.It is enough if one merely tries to comprehend a little of this mystery everyday.Never lose a holy curiosity”.(Albert Einstein)
In truth, the idea of happiness as perpetuated by society is that it is a feeling that comes and goes according to how our day unfolds and through seeking pleasurable pursuits.This is extrinsic happiness and only ever fleeting. I am certainly not against seeking pleasurable pursuits, but if we have to resort to the instant buzz all the time, then there is no doubt in my mind that we are not intrinsically happy.The pursuit of the five key ingredients above will provide the framework around which a person can create intrinsic happiness.
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