Category Archives: Happiness

Five Words to a Younger Self

When you get older, you just can’t help thinking “if only I’d known that back when I was younger!” What follows is a short list of some advice I’d like to give my younger self (and my kids), at five words a pop!

  • Meander a bit in life.
  • Think before you react.
  • Make your education a priority.
  • Live in a large city once.
  • Embrace different thoughts and views.
  • Challenge yourself with physical activities.
  • Take more risks more often.
  • Don’t always rush so much.
  • Remain boss of your life.
  • Trust your gut instinct first.
  • Don’t get married before 30.
  • Learn to play an instrument.
  • Become an expert at something.
  • Read each and every day.
  • Go to class every day.
  • Don’t let technology take over.
  • Get good at public speaking.
  • Go camping when you can.
  • Smile and laugh every day.

Have Confidence

I would say to my 25-year-old self, and what I say to every 25-year-old woman, is have confidence in yourself. The trouble is that from the moment we’re born as women, the world conspires to make us feel insecure about absolutely everything in a way that doesn’t happen for men. We are made to feel insecure about the way we look, the way we dress, the way we talk. Nice girls do this, nice girls don’t do that.

I’ve realized from the great height of age 54, that the single worst dynamic in life and in business is the fear of what other people think. The best moment in my life — it wasn’t a moment, more of a gradual realization — was the day I realized I didn’t give a damn what anybody thought about me. Have the confidence to believe in your own opinions and your own thoughts. Be yourself, and coming out of that, have the confidence to decide what you would like to do in business. And if it doesn’t exist, start it.

(source: Cindy Gallup interview)

Success Won’t Make You Happy

Modern society tends to be characterized by “achievement orientation,” which devalues those who weren’t necessarily as “successful and happy” as others. To live a happy (and successful) life is not to chase after success, but instead to devote yourself to something greater than yourself, and let success follow as an inevitable byproduct of that devotion.

In his preface to the 1992 edition of Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl implored readers to follow their conscience above all else. He wrote:

“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.”

Source: Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, should be essential reading on how to achieve a life well lived.

Scientifically Proven

2013_HappinessMatrix_1

 

(source: The Huffington Post)

How Do You Achieve a Happy Life?

How do you achieve a happy life? That’s a tough question, and nearly everyone has an opinion on it. My thoughts come from 50+ years of living – sometimes amazingly happy and sometimes not.

Often, you’ll hear – from parents, teachers and mentors – “follow your passion”, “make your vocation your vacation”, “find something you love to do so much you’d do it even if they didn’t pay you” (this last one from my Mom)… all are good advice, but not really the silver bullet for a happy life in these 21st century United States.

So here’s what I think (and how I try to live as happy a life as possible):

First, realize that you won’t always be happy – things get you down from time to time and that’s ok – it doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong.

For genuine happiness to take root, you need to have your basic needs met (often called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs). You need food, shelter and safety. Without those, you won’t have the mental bandwidth to grow into your own happiness.

For a truly happy, satisfying life, one needs a strong foundation: a sense of self-confidence and a sense of self-pride. That doesn’t mean being self-centered, but more being comfortable in your own skin. Knowing who you are inside – that person you are when you are quiet and alone – and like that person.

Also, as much as you can control it, you need a healthy body. From a healthy body, a healthy mind can flourish. Don’t smoke, don’t drink to excess, don’t eat crap and exercise and move to maintain aerobic health. You don’t need to be a jock, but take care of your physical self.

You should also be curious and one who loves to learn. Change will come at you your entire life, and being able to learn and adapt will give you the tools to move forward and gain new skills and knowledge. And remember that creativity can only happen when you have rich experiences to draw from – read, take classes, experience life, talk deeply with real people and listen, listen, listen.

If possible, do your best to earn yourself at least a four-year college degree. Maybe it’s residential – maybe it’s online. It really doesn’t matter your major or your career goals – just that you do your best and get that degree. It shows the world that you can finish something – that you are educated and a competent thinker. Also, it sets you up so much better for the myriad of career choices that will come your way. And it’s been proven with genuine statistical correlation that those with a college degree are happier, have better relationships, are healthier, live longer and earn more money. Why not give yourself that advantage?

So what about your vocation? Obviously, you want it to be fun and rewarding, but will it make you happy? People are happy when they do challenging work. People are happy when they can see the results of their efforts. People are happy when they collaborate with others and accomplish something bigger than themselves. That could be almost any career – it’s not really the job itself, but what can you do in the job. Can you be challenged? Do real work? Collaborate? If so, then you can grow into a deep sense of satisfaction with that career path.

Don’t forget your life outside of work. Have friends – visit them, talk to them and share your time together. Enjoy a hobby or two of your own choosing – be an expert in something fun and obscure that you love. Volunteer and be an active civic participant in your community. Have a relationship that is based on trust and friendship and give more than you take. In short: participate in life fully, and don’t sweat the small stuff.

It sounds complicated, but it’s actually far simpler than just skating by the skin of your teeth or trying to get something for nothing or fretting and taking your “emotional temperature” far too often. Work hard, socialize hard and be comfortable with yourself: more often than not, you’ll find yourself quite happy and content with your life well-lived.

A Brief Guide to Life

  • less TV, more reading
  • less shopping, more outdoors
  • less clutter, more space
  • less rush, more slowness
  • less consuming, more creating
  • less junk, more real food
  • less busywork, more impact
  • less driving, more walking
  • less noise, more solitude
  • less focus on the future, more on the present
  • less work, more play
  • less worry, more smiles
  • breathe

Eight Principles of Successful Optimists

  1. Have an unashamed optimism of ambition.
  2. Engage in projects that are bigger than you are.
  3. Your ideas are for sharing, not protecting.
  4. Making mistakes is OK, but not trying is irresponsible.
  5. You’re defined by what you do, not by what you intend to do.
  6. Be an engineer.
  7. Be prepared to lose nine battles out of ten.
  8. Kick out cynicism.

Being Alone

There are many times you will find yourself alone. Make your peace with it. Look forward to it.

  • If you are alone, don’t just waste your time with meaningless tasks (like surfing YouTube or Facebook)
  • Get comfortable just sitting and thinking – especially in the morning
  • Always have a book handy for reading
  • Be mindful and take your time when you are alone – revel in the details

What We Crave

Our most important intrinsic rewards (most powerful over basic survival needs of food, safety and sex):

  • We crave satisfying work – clearly defined, demanding activities that allow us to see the direct impact of our efforts
  • We crave the experience, or at least the hope, of being successful – we want to feel powerful in our own lives and show off to others what we’re good at
  • We crave social connection – spending time with people we care about, doing things that matter together and collaboratively
  • We crave meaning – the chance to be part of something larger than ourselves, to contribute to a larger goal

(source: Jane McGonigal)
In this way, low-income high schoolers are very often confronted by both the weakest bridge between high school and college thesis writing and the widest gulf to cross.

Don’t Worry About Making Your Dreams Come True

College graduates are often told: “follow your passion,” do “what you love,” what you were “meant to do,” or “make your dreams come true.” Two-thirds think they’re going find a job that allows them to change the world, half within five years. Yikes.

This sets young people up to fail. The truth is that the vast majority of us will not be employed in a job that is both our lifelong passion and a world-changer; that’s just not the way our global economy is. So it’s ok to set your sights just a tad below occupational ecstasy. Just find a job that you like. Use that job to help you have a full life with lots of good things and pleasure and helping others and stuff. A great life is pretty good, even if it’s not perfect.

(source: Lisa Wade and Gwen Sharp)
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What’s It All For?

So why are we here? What’s the point of it all? Why do we need to live a good life? Those are big, big questions that we all ask throughout our lives.

At the most basic level, we live so that we can find a mate, reproduce and see our offspring to adulthood. It’s the biological imperative and I believe that at the core, it’s just part of a large biological mechanism to retain and duplicate our genetic information (see James Glieck’s “The Information”).

On a personal level, I feel that our human life is an opportunity to learn, discover and share. It is a chance to do meaningful, rewarding work that adds value to our society or world. It is a chance to love, laugh, cry and ache – to feel genuine emotions. It is a chance to share experiences with others – to learn, to teach and just to be together. It is a chance to raise children into curious, exciting humans who want to go further than I ever did in life. It is a chance to feel peace, happiness and satisfaction in a life well-lived.
But it would be a college homework service waste of precious resources to do so without carefully analyzing the conditions that make success possible.