Saturday, July 24, 2010

Roadblocks on the Path to Happiness

Happiness experts advise that in order to attain the magical state of happiness, one must traverse a path of our choosing, and that path, or journey, is one of happiness. When you’re on that path you’re pursuing goals that you believe are worthwhile, and you’re enjoying doing so. This is one of those love yourself situations. You have to believe you’re worthy of the pursuit of happiness to travel on this path.

You decide you need to take a yoga class three times a week, or go on a meditation retreat for a week, or attend a gourmet cooking school, or change careers. Whatever it is, it has to meet a few criteria. It has to be something that is meaningful to you, that you enjoy and that you’re good at.

The first roadblock is you. Don’t tell me it’s selfish. It’s not. It’s the only path to happiness. If you think you’re being selfish when you pursue a personal goal, you’ve got to ask yourself, why? Why can’t you get a job you'll enjoy? Why can’t you get a PhD?

The second roadblock is others. If the person you call your soul mate cannot understand why you would need to do such a thing and tries to stop you, it’s time to ask yourself what makes you think this is your soul mate. You see, to be in a healthy relationship, you have to be free to do the things you need to do for yourself, as well as for the relationship. If your best friend thinks it’s weird that you’re taking off for an ashram, that’s fine, as long as s/he doesn’t try to stop you. And if they do try to stop you, what’s that about?

So ask yourself, what do I need to do to make myself just one little bit happier? And you’re on the path.

I’m thinking Sting, If you love somebody set them free.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Lucky Charms Enhance Performance?

Research has recently shown that having a lucky charm improved performance on a memory game. The researchers draw the conclusion that lucky charms boost confidence thereby enhancing performance. I’ve written before about pre-performance routines (vs pre-performance rituals). I’ll have to respectfully argue again that it’s not the ritual but the routine that makes the difference.

Take a difficult talk you’re about to give. Preparing carefully and telling yourself you’re going to do a fantastic job are great. Doing a little abdominal breathing helps calm you down. If you have a “lucky” object that you keep in your pocket, touching it occasionally to remind you to breathe, it’s the routine you’ve developed, not just the ritual of the thing, that I suspect makes the difference.

You’re going into a job interview, or preparing to play a tough match. The same principles apply. Do your preparation carefully. If you have an object, it could be a piece of jewelry or a pen, that reminds you of your plan to be calm, or talk slowly, or play smart, that object can add something positive to your routine.

Mood music, of course, Stevie Wonder’s Superstition.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happiness is a Journey

According to Tal Ben-Shahar, happiness expert, there are four ways in which we attempt to find happiness. They relate to the present and future benefits of our behaviors. We all have characteristics of all four types. Consider how you fit into these types:

The Rat-Racer, or, present detriment with future benefit. You are always in search of the next success and trying to reach your next goal. You’ll have fun once you get there. But of course, when you arrive, there’s yet another goal. You’re totally future oriented and the present only matters as it serve your future goal. While workaholics are the typical examples of this mentality, there are many others. For example, If I just stick to this diet and lose 5 more pounds, I’ll be happy.

The Hedonist, or, present benefit with future detriment. The opposite of the rat-racer, all that’s important is the present. You attempt to satisfy all your desires no matter what the consequences. You’re always ready for the next best thing. No surprise, you’re not terribly happy or interested in anything. Challenge and meaning are essential for happiness.

The Nihilist, or, present detriment and future detriment. To you, life has no meaning. There is no happiness, just continued unhappiness. You’re never more disappointed because you no longer have any expectations. You believe you have no control over anything.

The Happy, or, present benefit and future benefit. You’re happy now and hope to be happy in the future because of your present actions. Sometimes, you do things you don’t completely enjoy, because it’s going to be good for the future. More often you manage to have a pretty good time. You have frequent flow experiences.

Ben-Shahar recommends considering the times in your life you fit each of these types. You might also ask yourself some questions to get on track. In which type would you like to spend most of your time? How can you enjoy the journey more? What’s your road to happiness?

“Attaining lasting happiness requires that we enjoy the journey on our way toward a destination we deem valuable.” Tal Ben-Shahar