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Tag happiness

Filling the bucket

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So there’s a bit of debate about bucket lists. You know, those lists of all the things you want to do before you kick the bucket. Some experts say they’re essential because they help you to focus on the things that make you happy. A great form of stress relief. And we all know how good that is for you. Giving you something to look forward to and getting the happy juices flowing. It’s about focussing on the things you want to do, rather than letting the things you feel you should do take over. It stimulates creativity, helps you dream bigger and opens possibilities you might never have discovered otherwise.

And of course the fantastic thing about actually writing your bucket list down, is how much easier it becomes to make these things happen. In writing them down those goals actually become tangible.  That’s one big step closer to making them real. It’s amazing how things can just take on a life of their own when you set your intention.

And how good do you feel when you actually get to tick them off? I’m all for good feelings. Keeps you healthier. Did I mention that learning new things actually wards off dementia? That’s another big tick for the bucket list.

But then there are other experts who are nothing short of critical of the bucket list. Labelling it as yet another list in a life already dominated by ‘to dos’. A superficial list devoid of true meaning and purpose. Hedonistic, competitive, trite. Striving for happiness outside of ourselves, rather than finding true happiness within. Living for future goals rather than living in the now.

You know, they might have a point.

But I reckon there’s a middle ground.

Because just like with any goal setting, a bucket list is your opportunity to get in touch with your values. Those things that are important to you. And while swimming with dolphins may be something you’d like to do at least once in your life, it may be that saving the reef is also important to you. And while the thrill of skydiving may be your thing, perhaps donating blood once a month is also something you value. Or maybe it’s to start a business that puts shoes on kids feet for free in the parts of the world you’ve discovered on your travels.

Rather than being purely hedonistic, a meaningful bucket list can actually be the means by which to connect with another human being at an even deeper level.

For some people their bucket list is about leaving a legacy.

Take this guy Patrick Soon-Shiong. Ever heard of him? Well just in case you haven’t he’s the world’s richest doctor. Doing all this fancy stuff with the human genome in an effort to eradicate the world of diseases like cancer. But on the side he shoots hoops at home and is a part owner in the Lakers. I often wonder if a bucket list with this sort of balance – passion, purpose and an outlet for just enjoying yourself – is actually the fuel by which you can create the very legacy you want to leave behind. Because when we take time out to just enjoy ourselves we refuel for the longer journey.

The thing is when we are living a life aligned with our true values we can reach a depth of feeling much greater than happiness. It’s called fulfilment. And while you might not achieve everything on your list I reckon you’re guaranteed to get more out of life than if you never did the list in the first place. And leave more behind.

So what’s on your bucket list?

What legacy will you leave behind?

 

Life is not a dress rehearsal – Paul Blackburn

Go on, yawn!

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I want you to count how many times you yawn before you get to the end of this post.

Weird, isn’t it. That you can start to yawn just at the mention of it, or the thought of it, or the sound of it or an image of someone or something else yawning.

It’s the why of it that fascinates me.

I yawned six times just finding the picture for this post. And it’s not that it bored me. Far from it. I love this stuff. The inner workings of the human psyche.

Fact is it seems I yawned because I have developed my ability to have empathy for other beings.

In another stellar bit of research they took a bunch of psychologists and a bunch of engineers. Then they had a person yawn 10 times in front of both groups. Then they recorded how many times each group yawned in response. Needless to say the psychologists won hands down… reason being, it seems they have a greater sense of empathy. Given their choice of profession that’s no surprise.

But why is this important for us?

Because empathy, that closeness to others, is so fundamental to the development of compassion. And compassion is love made visible. It’s about moving out of judgement and walking a mile in another’s shoes. Understanding that they might be struggling in ways we can’t even imagine. And when we are compassionate toward others, regardless of whether or not they are in pain, we give ourselves the opportunity to experience things we would otherwise have not had the chance to. Being compassionate, enriches not only the lives of others, but our lives too.

As the Dalai Lama says:

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

How many times have you yawned?

Flow

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They call it ‘Flow’. That effortless state of being in which we can find true happiness. That state of focus where we are so engrossed in an activity that we lose track of time and all other distractions. Maybe it’s being engrossed in a book. Or in the zone through physical activity. Or it’s your work. Or doing something you love.

What most people don’t realise is that our subconscious minds take over when we’re in the state of ‘Flow’. Thinking stops and the creative mind takes over. We are simply being. Fully present to the moment and the experience. Fully engaged. An effortless state. And the result… research shows it’s pure happiness.

But ‘Flow’ doesn’t always just happen, does it. Sometimes we need to make it happen. And we can do this by giving ourselves the opportunity to experience this state of being. Making time for the things we love. Prioritising what gives us meaning and purpose.

In the heavy demands of life, we need to be ruthless sometimes in protecting this private space for ourselves in which we can recharge and create for ourselves the opportunity to experience our own happiness. And it’s not selfish. In fact, it’s a community service. Because the happier you are the happier the people are around you. It spreads like wildfire.

Lots of moments in flow, equals a life in flow. And the more I discover and practice this, the easier my life becomes. Even through the rough times.

Where can you create ‘Flow’ today?

Don’t worry, be happy!

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I was talking with my good friend Nicholas de Castella the other day. And we were discussing overwhelm. You know, that feeling when it’s all too much and you’re just about to explode. Or perhaps you’d rather run away. I guess your response all depends on your default coping strategy.

But the thing about overwhelm, and stress in general, is it’s only a reflection of our feelings of being unable to cope. So it’s not really about the overwhelm. Or the things happening outside of us. It’s really all about our reserves within and how we perceive them. It’s all about our mindset.

Most people don’t realise it’s exactly the same for worry.

Because we only worry about things if we don’t think we’ve got the reserves to cope with them. Otherwise they wouldn’t bother us, would they?

The human species is quite amazing in its ability to conjure up worry out of nothing. The monkey mind they call it. Always busy. Makes stuff up just for the hell of it really. And we can create the end of the world right here in our minds, a thousand times a day.

Not really living is it.

And that’s why taking time out to be quiet is so important. Because it helps us to pull back. And gives us the headspace to see what’s really going on. To get things in perspective. And to realize that if we’ve made it this far, then we really do have some reserves in there, don’t we! I’m amazed how often people forget this.

And another thing… have you ever noticed how much easier it is to cope with what life dishes up when you’re feeling happier? Much easier, isn’t it.

So if we focus on creating happiness for ourselves and those around us, even our real worries are that much easier to handle. Makes sense then doesn’t it, to focus on what’s going right in your life, rather than what’s going wrong.

So what’s worrying you?

If you knew you had the reserves to cope with it, could you look at it differently?

And if you took the emotion out of it, what would your next step be?

As the man said… Don’t worry, be happy. It’s a great philosophy.

Learning to move forward one step at a time with emotional intelligence, helps to move us through the worry and back to a state of happiness.

Catching the bug!

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These days I’m very careful who I choose to be around. Because I’ve come to realise that who I hang out with has a major impact on what I think and how I feel. Some people are beneficial and some obviously aren’t. And I guess it’s a sign of how much we care for ourselves when we limit the negative and seek out the positive wherever and whenever possible. And that means some tough choices sometimes, doesn’t it. Not always popular ones.

And there’s nothing selfish in this. In fact, quite the opposite. Because they’ve shown that emotions spread like diseases.  Pretty incredible, huh. That we can ‘catch’ being happy. And ‘catch’ being sad. Harvard University we’re talking. Not some pseudo-science piece but hard arse research. The scary thing is it’s twice as easy to catch the ‘sad’ bug than it is the ‘happy’ one. But when you catch happy it lasts longer. Emotional contagion. It even has a name. And it spreads like wildfire between people in frequent close contact. Like families. Like workmates. Anyone we hang out with really on a consistent basis.

Take a friend who lives a mile away from me. If that friend becomes happier, I have a 25% chance of becoming happier too. If my neighbour becomes happier then it’s a 34% chance. Huge! And the thing is the happier I am, the happier people are around me. Because I pass it on. So when I am happier, because someone around me is happier, then I spread that on to all the people in my life too. And that’s the sort of contagious I’m in favour of.

Happiness gone viral. And because I want to spread happiness to those I love, I am really conscious of who I spend my time with.

Happiness. It’s so important, isn’t it. For health. For leaving the world a better place. So it pays to be careful who’s in your inner circle. Who should you avoid? And who should you hang out with more?

 

Creative Genius

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They do their best to stamp it out of us. Those creative dreams. And with the emphasis on reading, writing and ‘rithmetic it’s no wonder we have so many left brain zombies walking around. Not able to tap in to the creative genius living within.

I was watching a TEDxTalks this morning. And this young dude Logan LaPlante spoke better than many adults ever would. All of 13 years of age. And he talked about hacking. Not hacking in the sense of causing computer chaos. But hacking in the sense of mindset. Because hacking to Logan is simply thinking outside the square. Challenging a mindset that is the status quo with an alternate way of seeing things. Any mindset.

Sensing the creative genius within, Logan’s mum helped him hack his education. Removing him from the constraints of traditional school to allow the creative genius within him to grow. Making the decision to nurture her son’s mind rather than allow it to be held captive by the do’s and don’ts of the normal classroom. Despite the pressure against her. It takes a strong mind to go against the flow, doesn’t it. And most people don’t realize the education we give our kids is predominantly left brain. An emphasis on marks and IQ rather than EQ and creative intelligence. Worship of analysis, literacy and logic at the expense of right brain creativity. It’s a bit like valuing your left hand over your right. Doesn’t make sense, does it. Because we need both. But in a world where we are taught from a young age not to question, we so often sacrifice our right brain for our left. At what cost?

Because it’s creative genius that drives the world. It’s what brought us the age of computers. And space travel. And the humble ‘post it’ note. It’s what brings us cutting edge medicine, and solar energy. And while some people think it’s science that drives discovery, it’s actually creativity. Because behind every scientific development is the creative question… what if?

And when we’re creating, happiness follows. Just watch any child at play.

There’s no doubt creativity enhances our lives.

So how can you unleash your creative genius?

And how can you help your kids to nurture theirs?

 

The Fallacy of The Never Ending Story

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Your perceptions coupled with your mindset determine whether or not you achieve your goals. That is why it is in your interest to clear any hindrances that are not obvious especially the ones that lurk beneath your conscious mind; one such insidious game spoiler is The Story.

The Story is the wellworn narrative you tell yourself (and anyone who cares to listen) about why it is not possible for you to achieve your financial or health goals. Or why you will never find the partner of your dreams because you are convinced by the dreaded story about the lack of loving, dependable potential mates out there in the big bad world.

If left unchecked it morphs into The Burning Martyr Syndrome that looks to serve up the charred remains of what otherwise could have been a magnificent life of wealth, health and happiness.

How The Story got constructed may have been via some unpleasant/frightening experience where you felt threatened, vulnerable, diminished and certainly disempowered. It’s the feeling of helplessness, of not having the right of reply or being able to defend yourself that is likely to be at the root of The Never Ending Story.

I am not for a moment making light of past events where physical or emotional abuse, bullying or intimidation was inflicted upon you usually by an authority figure. Nor am I condoning the behavior of the person against whom you felt powerless.

But, running The Story is choosing to be the victim (still)

Essentially you are saying that unless the perpetrator apologizes, makes amends, shows remorse, acknowledges their mistake or is punished and now behaves in a manner that meets your approval, you cannot move on or be happy.

You are saying your sense of happiness is dependent on another person. Since when has another person been responsible for your happiness and fulfillment?

What if that person is dead? What then are your chances of getting closure?

Buckleys

You have no control over that event; however, what you do have absolute control over is how you choose to think, behave and act from that point in time.

So why are we loathe to let go of the story?

1) Because it justifies our reluctance to move on, (moving on takes effort). It allows us to take the high moral ground and feel self righteous. All the while each precious second that otherwise could have been dedicated to achieving what we want is frittered away.

2) Because of the time, emotional energy already vested in keeping it alive. The Story thrives on this emotional charge it receives with each retelling and reliving and takes on a life of its own. In fact there is scientific evidence to suggest that neural pathways associated with the memory and feelings are strengthened with each repeating of the event.

When will you give up on telling The Story?

When you have a big enough reason to; it will happen when you decide that it’s time to let go. For me it was simple as making a choice after I attended Illuminations Bootcamp. I recall Paul saying that until we sort out our relationships with father, mother, self and Source it will be a case of one step forwards two steps back, snakes and ladders and any other metaphor that illustrates the self sabotage and treachery your story supports.

I let go when I decided I had bigger fish to fry i.e., I identified huge personal and social goals I wanted to accomplish. It was when I got clear about why I am here and what I am to do until the day I am laid to rest.

Besides, the axe grinding was starting to lose its lustre and frankly it was beginning to be tiresome replaying the same event over and over again.

Funnily enough I had thought that I could never let it go because of all the anger, pain, angst that I had nursed through decades. Nah, that’s over rated; it’s perpetuated by people who have yet to discover their raison d’etre, that’s all.

The ball is in your court. What choice will you make today?

Emotional Congruence

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So we know that emotions are contagious. But did you know our emotions directly affect what we see in the world? And our actual experience of it.

Take two people. One happy, one sad. Show them 50 slides of mixed emotional content. And then ask them to remember what they saw. The happy person remembers more of the happy slides. And of course the sad person… you fill it in.

Both potentials are there but the emotion is like wearing a pair of glasses that let’s you only see half the view.

And it’s because of this thing called emotional congruence. Which means we pay selective attention to our world dependent on how we feel. In plain English, we focus on the stuff around us that mirrors how we’re feeling on the inside. So if we’re feeling crappy we see more of the crappy dark side of life. Things look blacker so to speak. But if we’re feeling more positive, we see more beauty. And our creative self comes out to play. It’s quite something to think that we all live in the same world but our emotions determine what we see and how we experience it.

And instead of realising the world is just reflecting what’s inside, the temptation is to play the blame game. Gathering evidence to justify why we feel the way we do. Creating a story.  Giving away our power. Rather than seeing that it’s because we feel lousy we are necessarily experiencing more of the negatives in life.  And it can become a downward spiral.

Because these moods affect the way we think too. In a study out of UNSW, they talked to people who’d just been to the movies. Some people saw happy movies, some people saw sad or more aggressive movies. And then they asked them questions about things like the future, about their quality of life. Needless to say those who saw the happier movie were more optimistic than those who saw the sad or more aggressive movies.

And I’m sure everyone’s experienced  at some time or another how much how we feel influences our perception of ourselves and others…

So if you want the opportunities that come with a positive mindset, it’s important to get yourself around happier people and be aware of the mood you’re in when you’re making those important decisions. Because creating happiness is a choice that we make minute to minute and day to day.

So where can you bring greater happiness into your life?

 

The Wisdom of a Child

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She comes to visit the office quite regularly. This pint sized little person. No more than 2 and a half foot tall. Blond curls to boot. And so gorgeous. She’d fit in her schoolbag no problem at all. She entrances us all.  And it’s at these moments the office comes to a standstill.

Five pm and I watched her leave. Her mother had called her. Time to go. She carried a huge pile of things as she headed for the car. Ipad, school bag, pencils and drawings. Pretty impressive effort for a three year old. But as she obediently headed across the grass something caught her attention. And she couldn’t resist it. Stopping to turn back. Reaching down, reorganizing everything she was carrying to capture something that had captured her. A simple dandelion in the grass. Some of us see only weeds, don’t we.  But she obviously saw so much more. And I held my breath as I watched her take a moment to respond its beauty. Willing her not to drop the ipad. But she managed it all. And her prize was the exquisite joy the flower gave her.

In that moment, the child became my teacher. It’s so easy to think we know more than them, just because we’re all grown up. But adult eyes can lose their focus, can’t they. Dulled by time. So caught up in our stuff it’s so easy to forget the simple pleasures.

I wonder what beauty awaits you at this very moment in time, that you may not yet have discovered…

Gratitude

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I drove in to the office this morning with a strong sense of gratitude. The sun is finally shining again, for Canberra it’s actually warm outside and the day is pure magic. What a trifecta.

And what I found was that this sense of gratitude just seemed to snowball. Because there are so many things we can be thankful for, aren’t there. As soon as I thought of one thing, another one came to mind. And it continued for some time. The windscreen must have felt so good.

But the great thing about gratitude is that it makes us feel good too. Happy, feel good chemicals flow through our bodies whenever we think those thankful thoughts. Not only does gratitude make others feel appreciated, it causes us to shift gear in our brains. And that turns on the happy juice for us too. A pretty awesome bonus, huh. Every wondered why people say grace or a take a moment’s pause before a meal? Because gratitude has physical consequences. Religion aside, the simple act of thankfulness slows us down, bringing us into the present. Enabling us to switch out of our stress and busyness and switch on our happy feelings. Which naturally switches on our digestion. Makes sense, doesn’t it. Such brilliant engineering.

But even more than this, gratitude is the very best way we can affirm our hearts desires, giving ourselves the very best chance of receiving them. Simply by giving thanks as if we have already received them. And by releasing those feel good chemicals, we can lock in the idea of what it is we want. Straight into our subconscious. You know, that awesome gift we all have. It’s a real treasure house so many people are yet to discover, let alone make full use of.  And like a dog with bone, an idea once locked in to your subconscious has no choice but to take form in your life. Just give it the idea of what you want, and get out of its way, because it will do everything in its power to get it for you. No wonder they say, be careful what you wish for.

So for what you already have and the good things yet to come, what are you grateful for today?

An attitude of gratitude. It makes sense to practice it daily.