Happiness 101

I’ve come across a powerful paragraph that jumps starts our ability to transcend living in the past or future so we can fully enjoy and concentrate on the now. 

I thought I would share this with you from Gina Lake’s “Living In the Now:  How To Live As The Spiritual Being That You Are”:

“The ego is always trying to improve on the present moment, but instead, it ruins it with its dissatisfaction. It tells us the present moment would be better if: “if I had more money,” “if I were in a relationship,” “if I were thinner,” “if I were better looking,” “if I lived somewhere else,” “if that hadn’t happened,” “if I hadn’t…,” “if I had…,” and on and on.  Those are all lies. None of those things change your experience of the moment unless you believe they do. If you believe you need anything else to be happy, you won’t enjoy the moment. You won’t really let yourself fully experience it. If you don’t believe you need anything more to be happy than what’s here right now, you discover you have everything you need”.

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4 Things That Make You Happy and Productive

The professional golf instructor Sandy LaBauve has a great way of balancing happiness with productivity.

Think of what is important to you as the four tires on a car.

It may be faith, exercise, family and work.  Substitute your own priorities.

What drives you?

Then – and this is the part that will help keep life in balance when one of these “tires” needs inflating —  you devote attention to the one that is going flat and pump it up.

That way you’re literally always in the driver’s seat in achieving all four of the things that make you happy and productive.

“Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals and values are in balance” – Brian Tracy

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The Power of Quiet

The author Pico Iyer wrote a piece in The New York Times over a year ago that I have not been able to get out of my mind.

It was called The Joy of Quiet.

But joy is not the only benefit – it is increase productivity and a happier life.

Iyer wrote, “The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug”.

In 2007 Intel mandated 4 hours of quiet time every Tuesday morning for 300 engineers and managers.  No phone.  No email.  Most of those participating recommended that it be extended to others.

The average office worker, by the way, gets only three minutes of uninterrupted time according to researchers.

The average American teen sends 75 text messages a day.

And the average American spends at least eight and a half hours in front of some type of screen each day.

We’ve got no time to think, enjoy, interact or recharge.

Iyer suggests an “Internet Sabbath” every weekend – no online connections from Friday night until Sunday morning.  Okay, that’s not going to work for me.

There’s yoga, meditation and tai chi.

Long walks on weekends without a cell phone.

Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows about how much time we spend online, suggests that people who spend time in rural settings “exhibit greater attentiveness, stronger memory and generally improved cognition.  Their brains become calmer and sharper”.

Even simply becoming aware that a lack of quiet is a problem empowers us to find a workable personal solution.

“When things come at you very fast, naturally you lose touch with yourself” – Marshall McLuhan

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Positive Expectations

When new drugs are tested, placebos are used to ferret out whether the drug actually works or whether people just think the drug works.

Depressed people can have a 30 to 50% chance of feeling better whether they take an actual anti-depressant pill or a sugar pill.

Hotel room attendants who were told that they were getting a good workout from their job showed a significant decrease in weight, blood pressure and body fat – all this in just 4 weeks. (Published in Psychological Science, 2007)

Four weeks of simply thinking they were getting a real workout.

Patients with an irritable bowel condition were given inert pills and told that these pills worked by a mind/body process.  The patients started feeling better.  In other words, the medicine worked even after patients were told it was a placebo.

Asthma patients who were treated with placebos said they felt just as good as if they inhaled the medicine albuterol.

The mind is more powerful than the body.

We can harness the power of positive expectations today and every day.

If you expect good to happen, chances are they will.

We already know that when we expect bad, it never disappoints.

So, cop an attitude – a positive attitude about something you expect will happen and see if it doesn’t work for you, a friend or a loved one.

“Human beings are not made to take shortcuts … You’re to live your life, moment by moment. Your life isn’t here to entertain you – it’s to be lived.” – David Rotenberg, The Placebo Effect

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Change Your Life By Becoming a Free Agent

Sports stars get to negotiate contracts every few years with new benefits, conditions, incentives and pay.

There is something alluring to being able to refocus our wants and needs every few years.  And that’s what I recommend in my book – become a free agent.

At the same time each year, get away from your routine and take inventory of what you want next in life.  Too often, we just stay at the same job or with the same group of friends because it’s the easiest or safest thing.

Even if you want to do next year what you did last year, signing a mental contract with yourself gives more meaning and commitment to the time you are going to devote.

And if a change is brewing, thinking of yourself as a free agent instead of a person looking for another job can be transformative.

I recommend an off-season (to take inventory of your goals), pre-season (to acquire the skills you’ll need), “the” season (to ply those skills) and post season (to achieve new highs).

I sign a one-year free agent agreement with myself every year after carefully considering my goals, desires and dreams.  My off-season is a one-week vacation at the Jersey shore, which allows me to think more freely away from my regular routine.

“Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it” – Katharine Whitehorn

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