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5 Little Life Skills That Promise Success

Here’s good news: If you had a less-than-wonderful childhood, you can still have amazing success in life. How? It comes to do these little life skills.

What makes us healthy, wealthy, and successful?

It’s true that a nurturing upbringing, with lots of love, support, and opportunities for play, learning, and growth, seem to give people an advantage early in life. But that head start only goes so far. The rest of the recipe, according to new research, comes from you.

In a new study published in PNAS, the official journal of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, researchers from the University College London followed 8,119 men and women to determine which life skills most directly contributed to their health and success in life—or lack thereof.

What they found was that those who had successful, wealthy, and happy upbringings weren’t necessarily the most successful, happy, or healthy once they grew up. Instead, it was people with specific personality traits who were the healthiest and most successful. And these traits helped ensure that were internally, rather than externally, fulfilled.

Emotional stability

To be successful in life, start with your own mental health. “Our ability to stay ‘in check’ with our emotions is one of the most powerful life skills we have,” explains Joshua Klapow, PhD, a clinical psychologist and Associate Professor of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“Emotional stability is like a regulator on our life skill set. It allows us to not be falsely optimistic, overly determined, too self-sacrificing, or too controlling. It allows us to experience life but to come back to a middle ground.”

Researchers at the Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus found a direct correlation between emotional stability and future success in a work environment. Those who were more in control of their emotions could handle typical work stressors better, leading to further opportunities at work and less stress overall. Fortunately, this is a skill you can develop.

Another study found that exposing yourself to common work stressors early in young adulthood can have profound effects on your ability to navigate stressful work situations later in life. Of course, less stress leads to better overall health. So, if you want to know how to become wealthy and healthy in the future, you may want to focus on your resilience now.

Determination

The U.K.’s University of Kent conducted a study that outlined the top skills employers look for when searching for new employees. Determination was among the top 10. Very simply, determined people get things done, so it’s no wonder that employers would want them on their teams.

Determined individuals are willing to move past obstacles to reach their future goals. According to the PNAS study, 26.4 percent of people who had four or five of the important life skills outlined here, including determination, were in the highest wealth range of participants.

Determination also boosts health. According to Dr. Klapow, “Determination is critical for health and well-being as the majority of our health and well-being goals require daily prolonged effort.

Determination allows us to move beyond day-to-day living.” Not everyone is born with a fire in their belly, but it can be learned. Self-determination is something therapists and teachers help instill in people every day. In fact, about 62 percent of teachers often plan activities for students that will help them develop self-determination skills.

Many therapists focus on self-determination theory (SDT), which supports one’s personality traits and innate abilities to build their motivation. Of course, you’ll need to find some motivation to stick to what you learn, so sometimes you have to dig deep.

Control

“As we learn to look at the world as a series of events and situations that we can exert control over, we feel mastery and predictability. That allows us to remain calm, to be determined, and to take action,” says Dr. Klapow.

One study that shows the importance of self-control followed 1,000 children from birth to age 32. Those who continued to exhibit the highest amount of self-control through their lives were less likely to develop health problems, have a substance addiction, have low income, or commit a crime. A person with self-control understands that actions make a difference.

“It is not a matter of having false beliefs that we can control everything in our lives, but rather looking at situations and challenges and believing that our own actions can have an impact,” explains Dr. Klapow. “This results in less stress, more proactive behavior, and more opportunities to succeed.” The same study shows that people can foster their own self-control—7 percent of participants dramatically increased the skill on their own throughout the study.

The most important thing you can do to become master of your universe is to start looking at the bigger picture. How will your actions now affect you later? You’re less likely to start something that could drag you down later if you understand the risks now.

Optimism

Just because optimists believe that good things will happen to them doesn’t make them unrealistic; instead, it means they try to find the good in everything they do and see.  The University College London study, led by psychology professor Andrew Steptoe and his colleague Jane Wardle, showed that this key life skill, when combined with at least some of the other life skills, had profound impacts on our ability to take better care of our health and find success later in life.

A study in Clinical Psychology Review researched the impact of optimism alone on health and success and found that optimistic people are more resilient to life’s stressors, allowing them to move past negative aspects of their jobs and everyday lives more easily.  Optimists are also less likely to be re-hospitalized, develop heart disease, and have low immunity, and are more likely to live longer and healthier lives.

When it comes to future success, optimists have a lower college drop-out rate and are more persistent in achieving goals than pessimists. If you don’t always look on the bright side, you can still develop a greater sense of optimism. Cognitive behavior therapy is common for pessimists, as it focuses on changing thinking patterns to be more optimistic and productive. This intervention can even help those who feel they’re spiraling into depression from negative thoughts.

Conscientiousness

By definition, conscientious people are concerned with doing things correctly. They’re typically very organized, pay attention to details, and are generally responsible. A study in Frontiers of Psychology found that high conscientiousness more consistently determined one’s life satisfaction, income, and success than the other life skills examined, including emotional stability and cognitive ability.

Conscientiousness is a reliable predictor of academic grades, job performance, marital stability, and physical health. University of Illinois psychologist Brent Roberts told businessinsider.com, “Highly conscientious employees do a series of things better than the rest of us. [It] is like brushing your teeth. It prevents problems from arising.” These are people who like sticking to rules and achieving goals.

Determination is often a trait you’ll see in a conscientious person, so they’re more apt to be aware of what’s needed to be successful, stay healthy, and then stick to those norms.

According to Harvard Medical School, you can heighten your conscientiousness by hanging around conscientious people who can encourage positive behaviors. Also, make a specific schedule for yourself and follow it daily. If you have to, set reminders on your phone to get yourself in the habit of sticking to your plan.

BY AMY BOYINGTON
source: www.rd.com


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13 Things You Should Give Up If You Want To Be Successful

Somebody once told me the definition of hell:

“On your last day on earth, 

the person you became will meet 

the person you could have become.”  

 -Anonymous

Sometimes, to become successful and get closer to the person we can become, we don’t need to add more things — we need to give up on some of them.

There are certain things that are universal, which will make you successful if you give up on them, even though each one of us could have a different definition of success.

You can give up on some of them today, while it might take a bit longer to give up on others.

1. Give Up On The Unhealthy Lifestyle

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” — Jim Rohn

If you want to achieve anything in life, everything starts here. First you have to take care of your health, and there are only two things you need to keep in mind:

1. Healthy Diet
2. Physical Activity

Small steps, but you will thank yourself one day.

2. Give Up The Short-term Mindset

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” — Mae West

Successful people set long-term goals, and they know these aims are merely the result of short-term habits that they need to do every day.

These healthy habits shouldn’t be something you do; they should be something you embody.

There is a difference between: “Working out to get a summer body” and “Working out because that’s who you are.”

3. Give Up On Playing Small

“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone, and as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

If you never try and take great opportunities, or allow your dreams to become realities, you will never unleash your true potential.

And the world will never benefit from what you could have achieved.

So voice your ideas, don’t be afraid to fail, and certainly don’t be afraid to succeed.

4. Give Up Your Excuses

“It’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.”― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

Successful people know that they are responsible for their life, no matter their starting point, weaknesses, and past failures.

Realising that you are responsible for what happens next in your life is both frightening and exciting.
And when you do, that becomes the only way you can become successful, because excuses limit and prevent us from growing personally and professionally.

Own your life; no one else will.

5. Give Up The Fixed Mindset

“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” ― Robert Greene, Mastery

People with a fixed mindset think their intelligence or talents are simply fixed traits, and that talent alone creates success — without effort. They’re wrong.

Successful people know this. They invest an immense amount of time on a daily basis to develop a growth mindset, acquire new knowledge, learn new skills and change their perception so that it can benefit their lives.

Remember, who you are today, it’s not who you have to be tomorrow.

6. Give Up Believing In The “Magic Bullet.”

“Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better” — Émile Coué

Overnight success is a myth.

Successful people know that making small continual improvement every day will be compounded over time, and give them desirable results.

That is why you should plan for the future, but focus on the day that’s ahead of you, and improve just 1% every day.

7. Give Up Your Perfectionism

“Shipping beats perfection.” — Khan Academy’s Development Mantra

Nothing will ever be perfect, no matter how much we try.

Fear of failure (or even fear of success) often prevents us from taking an action and putting our creation out there in the world. But a lot of opportunities will be lost if we wait for the things to be right.

So “ship,” and then improve (that 1%).

8. Give Up Multi-tasking

“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” ― Winston S. Churchill

Successful people know this. That’s why they choose one thing and then beat it into submission. No matter what it is — a business idea, a conversation, or a workout.

Being fully present and committed to one task, is indispensable.

9. Give Up Your Need to Control Everything

“Some things are up to us, and some things are not up to us.” — Epictetus, Stoic philosopher

Differentiating these two is important.

Detach from the things you cannot control, and focus on the ones you can, and know that sometimes, the only thing you will be able to control is your attitude towards something.

Remember, nobody can be frustrated while saying “Bubbles” in an angry voice.

10. Give Up On Saying YES To Things That Don’t Support Your Goals

“He who would accomplish little must sacrifice little; he who would achieve much must sacrifice much; he who would attain highly must sacrifice greatly.” — James Allen

Successful people know that in order to accomplish their goals, they will have to say NO to certain tasks, activities, and demands from their friends, family, and colleagues.

In the short-term, you might sacrifice a bit of instant gratification, but when your goals come to fruition, it will all be worth it.

11. Give Up The Toxic People

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
― Jim Rohn

People we spend the most time with, add up to who we become.

There are people who are less accomplished in their personal and professional life, and there are people who are more accomplished than us. If you spend time with those who are behind you, your average will go down, and with it, your success.

But if you spend time with people who are more accomplished than you, no matter how challenging that might be, you will become more successful.

Take a look at around you, and see if you need to make any changes.

12. Give Up Your Need To Be Liked

“The only way to avoid pissing people off is to do nothing important.” — Oliver Emberton

Think of yourself as a market niche.

There will be a lot of people who like that niche, and there will be individuals who don’t. And no matter what you do, you won’t be able to make the entire market like you.

This is entirely natural, and there’s no need to justify yourself.

The only thing you can do is to remain authentic, improve and provide value every day, and know that the growing number of “haters” means that you are doing important things.

13. Give Up Your Dependency on Social Media & Television

“The trouble is, you think you have time” — Jack Kornfield

Impulsive web browsing and television watching are diseases of today’s society.

These two should never be an escape from your life or your goals.

Unless your goals depend on either, you should minimise (or even eliminate) your dependency on them, and direct that time towards things that can enrich your life.

source: medium.com


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Bend, Not Break: 9 Powerful Traits of Resilient People

The noun resilience stems from the Latin resiliens “to rebound, recoil.” As a character trait, resilience is a person’s mental ability to recover quickly from misfortune, illness or depression.

For most, life eventually throws us a major curve ball. Like millions, I have had my share of adversity. Growing up in Bangladesh, I have seen war, famine, and inhumane poverty. As an entrepreneur, technologist, and author, I have faced many professional and personal failures and rejections. I had to learn the art of resiliency to survive and then thrive.

Resilient people develop a mental capacity that allows them to adapt with ease during adversity, bending like bamboo instead of breaking. They possess a set of powerful traits. I’ve shared some of these traits separately in my previous posts; in this article, I wanted to bring them all together.

They Protect Their Soul

Dusting ourselves off every time we fall requires disciplining our inner energy and drive to protect our soul.

1. They Control Their Destiny. It is difficult to understand how you can control your destiny when the very nature of adversity takes away your control. Destiny results from “intention” — our spiritual will, something that drives us to do what seems impossible.

Laurence Gonzales, author of SURVIVING SURVIVAL: The Art and Science of Resilience, in an article writes:

Julian Rotter, a professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut, developed the concept of what he calls “locus of control.” Some people, he says, view themselves as essentially in control of the good and bad things they experience — i.e., they have an internal locus of control.

This internal locus allows us to create options and scenarios based on instinct, the situation, and foresight. It allows us to create alternative plans in anticipation or in the midst of adversity.

2. They Accept Their Battle. As humans, our instincts are to fight bitterly against adversity. The most resilient among us will often find a way to fight it by embracing it.

On my desk is a copy of “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. Very few have talked about embracing adversity like him. A professor at Carnegie Mellon and a husband and father of three, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given only a few months to live. He gave his Last Lecture on Sept. 18, 2007. His story, and particularly this final lecture, are a powerful reminder of the strength of the human spirit.

It’s not about how to achieve your dreams, it’s about how to lead your life … If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself, the dreams will come to you. — Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

Randy decided to accept his situation and live out the days he had remaining by making a difference. He died on July 25, 2008, and now he lives on not only through his family but also through the millions he inspired. I am certainly one of them.

If you haven’t seen the “Last Lecture“ or read the book, then you must.

Once we accept our situation and let go of the outcome, it allows us to adapt and even thrive in the face of adversity.

3. They Use Adversity As Their Compass.

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable. — Helen Keller

Sometimes, if we pay close attention, we see that adversity can come into our life to guide us to our true destiny. It certainly did for Helen Keller.

Helen Keller fell ill, lost her sight, her hearing and fell mute while she was a child. Today, her name is known around the world as a symbol of courage, strength and determination in the face of overwhelming odds. Through the tutelage of her teacher, Ms. Annie Sullivan, and other great supporters, she used her adversity to find her vision, her voice, and a calling for herself that led to great benefits to others.

resilliance

They Learn to Suffer Well

Adversity inherently invokes pain, suffering, and disappointments. Accepting and growing through our pain is part of our personal growth. This is hardly easy. Like any other skill, learning to suffer well requires conscious practice and learning.

4. They Practice Patience. The realization of the power of patience was most obvious to me during my visit to the Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, Japan. There, I stood in front of a famous Japanese calligraphy, a quote by Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa shogunate which ruled Japan for over 250 years until 1868.

It says: “The strong manly ones in life are those who understand the meaning of the word patience. I am not as strong as I might be, but I have long known and practiced patience. And if my descendants wish to be as I am, they must study patience.”

Over time, I have found that the practice of patience begins with:

  • Compassion — The Dalai Lama says, “a truly compassionate attitude toward others does not change even if they behave negatively or hurt you.” It is perhaps one of the hardest things to practice, yet there’s no substitute for compassion.
  • Gratitude — When life turns upside down, staying in an attitude of genuine thankfulness helps us realize what we have.

5. They Let Go. Fear is a protective emotion signaling danger and helps us to prepare for and cope with it. Fear perhaps is the key fundamental emotion that holds us back — fear of failure, losing people, success, the unknown, and fear of moving forward or making a change. Emotional pain is another key factor that often holds us back. Although others can cause pain for us, our pain can also be caused by our own actions, including our inability to achieve a desired aspiration.

The physical reaction to fear and pain is called the “fight or flight” response. Letting go is the inner action that stops resisting fear and pain, allowing us to restore our ability to see clearly. Letting go comes from having a “nonjudgmental” outlook toward life and people. It allows us to forgive others and ourselves equally for mistakes and incompatibility. We must be willing to let go of fear, pain, anger, and people. It is the ability to let go that drives a constant process of change — it is what makes us flexible and adaptable. This is hardly easy, takes a conscious effort, and is something I know I struggle with every day.

6. They Live in the Moment. Being truly in the moment allows us to escape from adversity and conserve our inner energy. Living in the moment doesn’t mean we don’t care about the past or future. It means that when we make a choice to do something, we focus on solely doing it, rather than letting our mind wander into the future (or the past).

It’s been said that the only two jobs of a Zen monk are sitting zazen (meditation) and sweeping. Cleaning is one of the most important daily rituals of a Zen monk. They sweep or rake, and they try to do nothing else in that moment. The next time you’re doing housework, try concentrating on the housework — on the dust, the motion, the sensation. Cooking and cleaning are often seen as boring chores, but actually they are both great ways to practice mindfulness — something I ritualistically try to do at least once or twice a week. Sounds simple — but it’s actually pretty hard.

They Lead From Within

Despite our darkest moments, it is our duty to stay connected to our core intention. Resilient people reach their highest potential by taking risks that are consistent with their ethos and purpose. They lead themselves by constantly standing on an uncomfortable ledge.


7. They Develop Flexibility. Lao Tzu said, “Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: What is soft is strong.”

Our ability to effectively survive, thrive and lead comes from flexibly riding out our ups and downs. An authentic journey does not always come from blasting through rocks and impediments, rather from having the faith, resilience and adaptability to cope with harsh realities of life.

8. They Find the Right Traveling Partners. The people we surround ourselves with make the difference between failure and success. It’s not only whom we surround ourselves with that matters, but also how we interact with them that make the difference. It is important to avoid people who bring us down, waste our time, take us backward, and have no interest in our suffering. While we cannot always avoid them, at a minimum we can choose to not allow them to weaken us. And sometimes the right companion shows up through chance encounters.

In life’s journey there are many encounters. Some are planned; some are by accident; and some by divine intervention. I have had many amazing “Chance Encounters,” where it seems the universe rallied to come to my aid when I needed the help most. They have occurred when least expected — and many of the people I’ve encountered have become friends and family. And whenever those encounters initially left me with a “negative” experience, they turned out to be much-needed lessons for me.

9. They Take the Next Step Forward. The ability to visualize our dreams creates a mindset that makes our ambitions possible. Understanding exactly what we want is the foundation for our success. But executing that success requires taking the next step, every day, no matter how hard it may be.

Author Joseph Marshall III shares Native American wisdom on taking the step in his book Keep Going.

It means letting the tears flow through the grief; it means to keep looking for the answer though the darkness of despair is all around. Each step takes you closer to the top of the hill, closer to the light of the next sunrise, and the promise of a new day.

Faisal Hoque    02/06/2014 
 
Entrepreneur, Author | Founder of SHADOKA and other companies.
Author of “Everything Connects”, “Survive to Thrive”, and Others.
Serial entrepreneur and author Faisal Hoque is the founder of SHADOKA and other companies.
Author of several books, his newest book is “Everything Connects – How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability“
(McGraw Hill, Spring 2014). Copyright (c) 2014 by Faisal Hoque. All rights reserved.
 
Follow Faisal Hoque on Twitter: www.twitter.com/faisal_hoque

 


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Pursue Meaning Instead of Happiness

What would you rather have: a happy life or a meaningful life?

You can both be happy and lead a meaningful life, of course. But most of us, consciously or not, choose the pursuit of happiness over the pursuit of meaning. “Happy holidays,” we wish each other; “Happy New Year,” we say. If you’re like 45 percent of Americans, you are setting New Year’s resolutions with the aim of leading a happier life: One of the most popular, according to Nielsen, is to “enjoy life to the fullest.” In surveys, most people list happiness as their top value, and self-help books and life coaches make up part of a multibillion-dollar industry.

But should happiness really be the only goal that motivates us?

Research by the two of us shows that the happy life and the meaningful life differ — and that the surest path to true happiness lies in chasing not just happiness but also a meaningful life. Psychologists have started to look more closely at how seeking happiness affects people, and unearthed some unsettling trends. The pursuit of happiness, it turns out, negatively affects our well-being.

In one study by the behavioral scientists Jonathan Schooler, Dan Ariely, and George Loewenstein, participants listened to a piece of emotionally ambiguous music, Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” The researchers told some participants to try to feel as happy as possible while listening; the others were simply asked to listen. The people who tried to feel happy ended up unhappier after the experiment than those who listened without trying to boost their mood. In another recent study, Iris Mauss of Berkeley and her colleagues found that people who highly value happiness — as measured by their endorsement of statements like “Feeling happy is very important to me” — reported feeling lonelier on a daily basis, as assessed in diary entries over two weeks. By contrast, the pursuit of meaning leads to a deeper and more lasting form of well-being.

The distinction between happiness and meaningfulness has a long history in philosophy, which for thousands of years has recognized two forms of well-being — hedonia, or the ancient Greek word for what behavioral scientists often call happiness, and eudaimonia, or what they call meaningfulness. The happy life is defined by seeking pleasure and enjoyment, whereas the meaningful life is bigger. In a new book that will be published next month, one of us (Emily) reviewed hundreds of empirical papers from the growing body of research on meaningfulness — as well as the writings of great thinkers from Aristotle to Tolstoy to Camus — and found that the defining features of a meaningful life are connecting and contributing to something beyond the self, which could be your family, your work, nature, or God.

But because meaning involves investing in something bigger, the meaningful life is often characterized by stress, effort, and struggle. In a survey of over 2 million people in more than 500 jobs by the organization PayScale, those who reported finding the most meaning in their careers were clergy, teachers, and surgeons — difficult jobs that don’t always cultivate happiness in the moment, but that contribute to society and bring those doing them satisfaction.

When people say their lives are meaningful, it’s because they feel their lives have purpose, coherence, and worth.

Of course, you can have both happiness and meaningfulness. In one analysis of five data sets comprising nearly 3,000 people, Veronika Huta of the University of Ottawa found that 20 percent of respondents reported being happy and leading meaningful lives — while another 20 percent were low on both. Among those remaining, 33 percent were high on happiness and low on meaning and 26 percent were high on meaning and low on happiness.

In two studies tracking over 400 Americans and published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, one of us (Jennifer) and her colleagues studied the type of people who fell into the last two groups — high on happiness but low on meaningfulness, and high on meaning but low on happiness —and found important differences in how they led their lives. Those in the happy group tended to avoid difficult or taxing entanglements, described themselves as relatively self-oriented, and spent more time thinking about how they felt in the moment. In contrast, those high in meaning spent more time helping others, being with friends or taking care of children, and thinking about the past, present and future.

purpose_quote

Though different people have different wellsprings of meaning, meaningful lives share three features, according to a paper published this year in the Review of General Psychology. After conducting an extensive review of the literature, the psychologists Login George and Crystal Park of the University of Connecticut identified the three features as purpose — the degree to which you feel directed and motivated by valued life goals; comprehension — the ability to understand and make sense of your life experiences and weave them into a coherent whole; and mattering — the belief that your existence is significant and valued. When people say their lives are meaningful, in other words, it’s because they feel their lives have purpose, coherence, and worth.

But meaning isn’t something you either have or don’t have. It’s an approach to life — a mind-set. People can choose to pursue meaning as well as happiness. In a recent paper, Veronika Huta and Richard Ryan discovered that people behave very differently depending on which they emphasize, and that in turn affects their well-being. In one study, college students were asked to pursue either meaning or happiness over ten days by doing at least one thing each day to increase meaning or happiness, respectively. Some of the most popular activities reported by people in the meaning group included forgiving a friend, studying, and helping or cheering up another person. Those in the happiness group listed activities like sleeping in, playing games, and eating candy.

Although the students in the happiness group experienced more positive feelings and fewer negative ones immediately after the study, three months later their mood boost had faded. The students focused on meaning, meanwhile, did not feel as happy right after the experiment, which makes sense: meaningful pursuits, like helping a friend, require sacrifice and effort, and can even be painful in the moment. Yet three months later, the picture was different. The students who had pursued meaning said they felt more “enriched,” “inspired,” and “part of something greater than myself.” They also reported fewer negative moods. Over the long term, it seemed, pursuing meaning was more deeply satisfying than chasing happiness.

Viktor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, would not have been surprised. “To the European it is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to ‘be happy.’ But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to ‘be happy.’”

Our goal this coming year shouldn’t just be happiness. Our goal should be meaningfulness. Instead of picking projects, hobbies, and relationships based on how happy they will make us, let’s focus on those things that make our lives more significant and worthwhile. If happiness ensues, great. But if it doesn’t, we can still take comfort in knowing that our lives matter and are contributing to the world in some way.

By Emily Esfahani Smith and Jennifer Aaker

Emily Esfahani Smith is the author of The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters, to be published in January by Crown. Jennifer Aaker is the General Atlantic Professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

source: nymag.com


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Lao Tzu’s Four Rules for Living

How to Live an Inspired and Peaceful Life

Many centuries ago, Lao Tzu, spoke of the four cardinal virtues, teaching that when we practice them as a way of life, we come to know the truth of the universe. The ancient Chinese master said that living and practicing these teachings can open you to higher wisdom and greater happiness, as they realign you to the source and enable you to access all the powers that source energy has to offer.

“When you succeed in connecting your energy with the divine realm through high awareness and the practice of undiscriminating virtue, the transmission of the ultimate subtle truths will follow.”  Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu means ‘Old Master,’ and he was believed by some to be a God-realised being. The Four Cardinal Virtues are found in the Tao Te Ching, a collection of sayings expounding the principal Taoist teachings. It has 81 short poetic verses packed full of universal wisdom for politics, society, and personal life, and aims to support personal harmony through the right view and understanding of existence. The Tao (also known as the Way or the Dao) has baffled its readers for centuries with its cryptic and deliberate contradictions, yet it offers a profound contemplation to seekers, lending itself to varied interpretations and inner questioning.

lao-tzu
Lao Tzu means ‘Old Master,’
and he was believed by some to be a God-realised being.

“The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The Tao is both named and nameless. As nameless it is the origin of all things; as named it is the Mother of 10,000 things. Ever desireless, one can see the mystery; ever desiring, one sees only the manifestations. And the mystery itself is the doorway to all understanding.” ― Wayne W. Dyer, Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao

The Tao Te Ching is the basic text of Taoism, but it has also influenced Confucianism and Chinese Buddhism, and is among some of the most translated works in world literature. This powerful text of the Tao, road or way of life, reflects the force of the universe and even the universe itself. While many have tried to make sense of its mystery, one man immersed himself in this text, literally living its wisdom, and then distilled the essence of these ancient mystery teachings for a modern audience.

In 2006, the late Wayne Dyer was inspired to spend his entire 65th year reading, researching, and meditating on Lao Tzu’s messages, going into retreat to practice them and ultimately write down the insights he felt Lao Ttzu wanted us to know.  Dr Dyer researched ten well respected translations of the text and the result of that life-changing year was his best-selling book Change Your Thoughts—Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao.

Affectionately known as the Father of Motivation, Dr Dyer says Lao Tzu’s four cardinal virtues represent the surest way to leave habits and excuses behind and reconnect to your original nature. “The more your life is harmonised with the four virtues, the less you’re controlled by the uncompromising ego.”

Dr Dyer says
Lao Tzu’s four cardinal virtues
represent the surest way
to leave habits and excuses behind.

The Tao encourages us to be in touch with our own selves, particularly our deepest selves, for when you know who you really are, that is when you discover eternal peace. Lao Tzu liked to compare different parts of nature to different virtues. He said, “The best people are like water, which benefits all things and does not compete with them. It stays in lowly places that others reject. This is why it is so similar to the Way (Dao).” Each part of nature can remind us of a quality we admire and should cultivate ourselves—the strength of the mountains, the resilience of trees, the cheerfulness of flowers.

We enter life with a seemingly clean slate, a spectacular pathway ahead of us with unlimited potentials and choices. To navigate our lives and get a handle on the challenges and gifts life will throw at us, it is useful to have some sort of compass so that we don’t end up on the rocks or lost at sea.

For many people this may be religion, morality, or the belief systems passed down by their family, and they may derive a sense of strength and direction through their strongly held inner compass sourced in this integrity. No matter what happens in life, they’ll always fall back on that maxim, whether it be, for example, to lead from the heart, or to be kind.

“To realise the constancy and steadiness in your life is to realise the deep nature of the universe. This realisation is not dependent on any transitory internal or external condition, rather it is an expression of one’s own immutable spiritual nature. The only way to attain the Universal Way is to maintain the integral virtues of the constancy, steadiness and simplicity in one’s daily life.” – Lao Tzu

The four cardinal virtues, or rules for living life, can provide a framework for a life filled with inner peace and purpose.

1. Reverence for all Life

This virtue manifests as having unconditional love and positive regard for all creatures in the universe, starting with ourselves, then this will naturally flow out to all others. This reverence is for all life, not just some forms. It is honouring all forms of life, and at its core has an innate spiritual understanding of how the universe truly works – that we are all sparks of the one fire. When we live with reverence for all life, we surrender our need to control and to dominate. We naturally come into heartfelt appreciation and gratitude for all of life. This first virtue is the key to diminishing the ego.

“Affirm this as often as you can, for when you see yourself in a loving way, you have nothing but love to extend outward. And the more you love others, the less you need old excuse patterns, particularly those relating to blame.” Wayne Dyer

2. Natural Sincerity

This virtue encompasses kindness and authenticity. To me, it has a feeling of compassion and an all-encompassing love for all beings. When we are sincere and act with integrity, we move towards peace and inner tranquility. Our conscience clear, we don’t have the inner niggles over our dishonest actions that can erode a peaceful mind. Much of these four pillars relate to karma, the law of cause and effect, and maintaining equilibrium and impeccability. This virtue is honesty, simplicity, and faithfulness, says Wayne Dyer. It is about being true to yourself and walking your talk.

According to Dyer, if you find this challenging, try affirming, “I no longer need to be insincere or dishonest. This is who I am, and this is how I feel.”

kindness_wisdom
Having unconditional love and positive regard
for all creatures in the universe.

 

3. Gentleness

Gentleness is a deeply powerful trait. Often interpreted as weakness, gentleness is sensitivity, respect, and reverence for all life. Perhaps this virtue can be summed up by the Dalai Lama who often says; “my religion is very simple, my religion is kindness.” In life, it is far more important to be kind than to be right, and to be kind rather than important. Gentleness is an umbrella for forgiveness, acceptance and love. It is much like the yogic term ahimsa, or non-violence. When we give up being right and being superior, we start accepting ourselves and others, and so much conflict in our lives drops away.

“Gentleness generally implies that you no longer have a strong ego-inspired desire to dominate or control others, which allows you to move into a rhythm with the universe. You cooperate with it, much like a surfer who rides with the waves instead of trying to overpower them. Gentleness means accepting life and people as they are, rather than insisting that they be as you are. As you practice living this way, blame disappears and you enjoy a peaceful world.” – Wayne Dyer

dalilamaquote

 

4. Supportiveness

When we are supportive of ourselves, with kind words, loving actions and self-care, we are naturally supportive of others. This virtue is the basic tenet of humanity. We are naturally social beings and, at our core, we want to be with others and to help others. Many experiments show how humans are motivated by connection and will move towards this rather than other things. When we give to others, share and support others, we become happy.  Our lives become meaningful and our hearts full. Supportiveness is about service. Open hearted service for the sake of helping others and benefiting others, with no thought to our own gain. Supportiveness is also about holding space for another, listening to another, and being there for others. It is radical loving kindness in action. This quote by the poet, Hafiz, sums it up: “Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth ‘you owe me.’”

“The greatest joy comes from giving and serving, so replace your habit of focusing exclusively on yourself and what’s in it for you. When you make the shift to supporting others in your life, without expecting anything in return, you’ll think less about what you want and find comfort and joy in the act of giving and serving.” Wayne Dyer

Let these four virtues fragrance your life, and notice the grace and ease that will come your way. For each one of these virtues brings in a way of being that is light, graceful and flowing and will help you shed destructive, self defeating patterns that sabotage your inner peace and happiness.

“The four cardinal virtues are a road map to the simple truth of the universe. To revere all of life, to live with natural sincerity, to practice gentleness, and to be in service to others is to replicate the energy field from which you originated.”  Dr Wayne Dyer

 

By UPLIFT on Saturday January 7th, 2017
 


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How To Use Goals To Avoid Depression

Warning: depression linked to setting the wrong type of goals.

People who are depressed tend to use more generalised goals than others.

They tend to have goals such as: “I want to be happy.”

The problem with general goals is that they are difficult to achieve.

Depressed people also give less specific reasons for trying to reach their goals.

People who are not depressed, however, tend to have more specific goals, such as “I want to take a 30 minute walk every day.”

goal-setting

 

Dr Joanne Dickson, the study’s first author, said:

“We found that the goals that people with clinical depression listed lacked a specific focus, making it more difficult to achieve them and therefore creating a downward cycle of negative thoughts.”

It may be that more general goals are harder to visualise, which partly explains why they are harder to achieve.

Depressed people are motivated

One fascinating thing that came out of a related study was that depressed people are just as motivated as the non-depressed.

goals-smart

For the research the depressed and non-depressed listed their goals.

Dr Dickson said:

“…both groups listed a similar number of goals and valued their personal goals similarly.
However the group with depression were more pessimistic about achieving their goals and had more difficulty generating goals focused on positive outcomes.
The group with depression were also more likely to give up on goals they saw as unattainable and at the same time reported greater difficulty in setting new goals to pursue.
While disengaging from unattainable goals is thought to help break a cycle of goal failure, negative thinking and depression this is complicated by the difficulty in setting new goals for people with depression.”

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE (Dickson et al., 2016).
source: PsyBlog


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How To Unlock Meaning In Life: 4 Proven Secrets

There’s no shortage of tips about what brings happiness, but what gives your life meaning?

“Meaning in life” is one of those things everybody insists is vitally important — yet nobody tells you what it really is, and directions to get there never seem to come up on Google Maps.

I had to take geometry to graduate high school but knowing what a rhombus is has never helped me. Nobody thought it was important to teach me about meaning. Seriously, my air conditioner came with better instructions than anything that’s important in life.

Thankfully, somebody took it upon themselves to get to the bottom of this by looking at what the research has to say.

Emily Esfahani Smith has written a wonderful new book entitled The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters. And it has many of the answers we need.

So what makes for a meaningful life? How does it differ from just being happy? Let’s get to it…

What’s The Difference Between Happy And Meaningful?

People commit suicide because they’re unhappy, right? Wrong. They do it because they lack meaning.

From The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters:

When they crunched the numbers, they discovered a surprising trend: happiness and unhappiness did not predict suicide. The variable that did, they found, was meaning — or, more precisely, the lack of it.


So there’s more to life than “pleasure good, pain bad.” (Sorry, Epicurus.) But that ain’t the half of it…
Research shows meaning and happiness can be at odds with one another. People with the most meaningful lives were “givers.” But those with the happiest lives were “takers.”

Best example? Parenthood. Cleaning poopy diapers makes nobody happy. Kids are really expensive. They crash your Mazda. (Sorry, dad.) My MBA friend Vlad loves his kids but also adds, “They’re definitely ROI negative.”

And the research agrees. Kids don’t make you happier:

Using data sets from Europe and America, numerous scholars have found some evidence that, on aggregate, parents often report statistically significantly lower levels of happiness (Alesina et al., 2004), life satisfaction (Di Tella et al., 2003), marital satisfaction (Twenge et al., 2003), and mental well-being (Clark & Oswald, 2002) compared with non-parents.


However, I’m guessing you aren’t rushing to schedule a vasectomy or a tube-tying right now, are ya? Why?

Because as Emily points out, research also shows children bring enormous meaning to people’s lives. Getting zero sleep for the first year of your child’s life does not make you happy. But as we saw, happiness isn’t everything. Parenthood is the ultimate form of giving. And givers lead meaningful lives.

So it seems we’re in a real sticky wicket here: do you have to be unhappy to have meaning?
Thankfully, the answer is no.

A life focused exclusively on happiness is like that container of ice cream that quickly brings a huge dose of pleasure — followed by a stomachache, regret and a root canal. A meaningful life does produce good feelings — but it takes a while to catch up.

For a 10-day period, researchers told one group of students to do things that make their life meaningful. They helped people. They studied hard. They cheered up friends.

The researchers told another group of students to just do stuff that made’em happy. They slept in, played video games, and ate candy. (My guess is they probably also did other stuff the study did not discuss but to my knowledge, nobody got pregnant or had their liver explode.)

So what happened at the end of the study? Initially, exactly what you’d expect. The “be happy” group got happier. And the “be meaningful” group got meaningful-er. But three months later, things changed. The happy feelings of the second group faded fast. Meanwhile…

From The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters:

The students who had pursued meaning said they felt more “enriched,” “inspired,” and “part of something greater than myself.” They also reported fewer negative moods. Over the long term, it seemed, pursuing meaning actually boosted psychological health.


Parenthood can be a pain in the ass. But it also brings tremendous meaning to life. Don’t sell your kids on the black market just yet. Meaning is the tortoise. Happiness is the hare. You remember who won that race? Exactly.

So over the long haul, meaning beats happy. But how do we get there? Emily’s book covers 4 things that came up time and time again in the research on meaningful lives…

1) Belonging

Remember how it wasn’t unhappiness that led to suicide but lack of meaning? When Emile Durkheim, the father of sociology, looked at suicide demographics the numbers initially seemed all over the place and didn’t make a lot of sense. For instance:

  • Living in a country in the midst of war actually reduced suicide.
  • Being educated increased suicide.
  • Jewish people were more educated — but somehow were less likely to kill themselves.

What the heck was going on?

It was about belonging. War is miserable — but it bonds people together against an enemy. Education often means leaving friends and family to go to school or that fancy job. Jewish people were educated, but they often lived in strong communities.

I am lucky enough to belong to a group that gets together as often as three times a week. Chances are, I’ll see Andy, Justin, and Charlie tomorrow. Bob’s outta town but should be back soon. And we’re still coaxing Drew to move back from Montreal.

What groups do you belong to? Quickest way to add meaning to your life is to see them more often. Not part of a group? Join one. No groups to join? Start one. It’s as easy as texting people to get together regularly around a common interest.

Alright, so you gotta belong. But you can’t just sit around “belonging” all day. What do you actually have to do?

true-meaning-of-life

2) Purpose

The word “purpose” is downright intimidating. Relax — you don’t have to strive to cure cancer. Purpose is less about what you do and more about how you see what you do.

In her book, Emily tells a story I love. It was 1962 and President Kennedy was visiting NASA. He runs into a janitor. The President asks the guy what he’s doing. The janitor replies, “Helping put a man on the moon.”

That’s purpose. He didn’t say “emptying trash cans” (and he didn’t make a Marilyn Monroe joke like a certain blogger who has issues with authority might.)

“Helping put a man on the moon” has both of the qualities that Stanford developmental psychologist William Dawson says we need for purpose:

First, it’s a stable and far-reaching goal. “Make it to the end of the workday without getting fired” doesn’t cut it. You need something that motivates you and that you can organize your actions around.
Second, it involves a contribution to the world. It makes a difference in the lives of people who don’t happen to be you.

Wharton’s Adam Grant did a study that looked at over 200 million people in 500 different jobs to figure out which careers are the most meaningful. All of the ones at the top (surgeons, clergy, educators) were roles that helped other people.

So how can you redefine your role at work to find more meaning? What’s a bigger goal it contributes to? How does it better the lives of others?

In school I hated writing term papers. Now, one could argue, I write them for a living. But I don’t see it that way; I’m helping people learn.

Alright. You feel like you belong. You’ve got a purpose to what you do. But that doesn’t seem to sum up a deep “meaning” in life that you could explain to others. And, as it turns out, that’s vital…

3) Storytelling

No, you don’t have to write a novel or anything. But you need to remember that your brain is wired for stories. It’s how you make sense of the world. And you have a story you tell yourself about your life — whether you realize it or not.

My story is that I was a nerd who got picked on in high school but after being bitten by a radioactive spider I… Oops, that’s not my story, that’s Spider-Man’s. But there is something we can learn from Spider-Man’s story…

Dan McAdams is a professor at Northwestern who studies “narrative identity.” And he found a trend in the stories that people with meaningful lives tell themselves. Their lives are a “redemption story.”
From The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters:

In these stories, the tellers move from suffering to salvation — they experience a negative event followed by a positive event that resulted from the negative event and therefore gives their suffering some meaning.


Peter Parker gains superpowers from the radioactive spider bite. But filled with hubris, he refuses to help stop a criminal. The criminal later kills Peter’s beloved Uncle Ben, the man that raised him. Wracked by guilt and loss, he realizes that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Peter resolves to use his superpowers to fight crime and becomes Spider-Man.

It’s a redemption story. But people who lack meaning in their lives usually tell a very different kind of story: a “contamination story.” In these stories, tragedy doesn’t produce growth. No good comes from the bad. Is this you?

If so, the good news is you can change your internal story. You get to decide what scenes it contains, and whether it ends with the death of your uncle, or in your decision to snare evildoers with your webs.

Professor James Pennebaker has shown that just 20 minutes of writing your story for 4 days has the power to dramatically improve your life. It helps people overcome anxiety, tragedy and heartache. Those who wrote about their problems felt happier, slept better, and even got better grades.

You rarely get to change the world, Peter Parker. But you can change your story, Spider-Man.

So we’ve talked about friends, purpose and stories but what gives that real whammo-bammo visceral feeling of meaning?

4) Transcendence

Another intimidating word. Don’t worry. It doesn’t involve any heavy lifting or math. You don’t need to know what a rhombus is.

Sometimes life feels so small. You’re heavily focused on a few things or maybe just one thing, like your career or your romantic relationship. And then that bubble pops. You lose the job. You get dumped.

You’re all-in on that one thing and now that thing is gone. It’s absolutely crushing. There’s a whole big world out there overflowing with opportunities and potential but right now it doesn’t feel that way. It feels meaningless.

But there are experiences that provide that feeling of just how big and amazing life is. The secret is a little word with big impact: awe.

Astronauts have reported seeing the Earth from a distance has these sorts of life-changing transcendent effects — but let’s focus on a slightly more practical option, shall we?

Get out in nature. Researchers had one group of students stare at 200 foot trees. Another group looked at tall buildings. Afterward, those who had looked at the trees became far more helpful when tested. Why?

From The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters:

The awe-inspired people, researchers found, felt a diminished sense of their own importance compared to others, and that likely led them to be more generous… They abandoned the conceit, which many of us have, that they were the center of the world. Instead, they stepped outside of themselves to connect with and focus on others.


You don’t need a spaceship to find meaning. But a trip to the Grand Canyon might not be a bad idea.
Alright, we’ve covered a lot. Let’s round it all up…

Sum Up

Here’s how to find meaning in life:

  • Belong to a group: I’ll be at lunch with Andy and the guys. Where will you be?
  • Give your work purpose: You’re not emptying trash cans. You’re helping get a man on the moon.
  • Craft your story: End it with redemption, not contamination, and become the superhero of your life.
  • Transcendence: Nature is big. Your problems are small.

Life can be hard. But remember, while the difficult moments may decrease happiness, they’re essential for building meaning. And that’s what matters in the long run.

We flourish around friends. Unbearable stress becomes yet another challenge when you have purpose. A superhero origin story gives you hope and redemption. And nature makes your big problems seem tiny.

Collect all four and you’re on your way to learning the meaning of your life.

And that’s a lot more important than learning what a rhombus is.