How To Create A Life Of True Fulfillment

By Deepak Chopra

I receive many questions from people who want to know how to experience more fulfillment, happiness, and meaning. They often express frustration that bubbles over from a variety of sources, including not knowing what they really want, confusion about which direction to go in, and worry about the obstacles that rise up as they pursue their dreams.

At the root of all these frustrations is a misunderstanding about who we really are and the nature of true fulfillment.

Who Am I?

Let’s begin with the question of who is the “I” that is seeking to create your life. Take a moment right now and ask yourself Who am I? Jot down your answers on a piece of paper. Many people will begin this exercise by identifying their external roles in life: I’m a mother, a doctor, a daughter, a Harvard graduate, a CEO, a triathlete, an artist, and so on. However, as they continue to ask themselves this question, the responses will begin to go beyond the ego level to the deeper realm of the soul. I am love. I am joy. I am spirit . . .

In order to create a life of genuine happiness, we need to realize that we’re all much more than skin-encapsulated egos. We are more than our titles, positions, accomplishments and relationships. Our true self is multidimensional, unbounded, pure potentiality.

When we ask ourselves What do I want?, it’s important to know if we are listening to the voice of our ego or the voice of our soul, because they have two very different visions of fulfillment:

The ego’s vision of fulfillment

The soul’s vision of fulfillment

I have everything I need to be comfortable.

I am everything I need.

I am calm, because bad things can’t come near me.

I am secure because I have nothing to fear in myself.

Through hard work, I can achieve anything.

The flow of life’s abundance brings me everything.

I measure myself by my accomplishments.

I don’t measure myself by any external standard.

I win much more than I lose.

Giving is more important than winning.

I have a strong self-image.

I have no self-image. I am beyond images.

Because I’m attractive, I win the attention of the opposite sex.

Other people are attracted to me as soul to soul.

When I find the perfect love, it will be on my terms.

I can find perfect love,
because I’ve discovered it first in 
myself.

While we have all been conditioned to believe that the ego’s vision is practical and more realistic, what the ego promises is an illusion — a will-o’-the-wisp that you can chase all your life without ever coming close. The ego’s vision of fulfillment is unattainable because it is dependent on external conditions that it ultimately can’t control

It can’t compete with the soul’s vision of fulfillment, which is based on our inner awareness. The soul holds out a kind of happiness and fulfillment that doesn’t depend on whether outside conditions are favorable or bad. This vision of fulfillment may seem more difficult, yet it unfolds automatically when you live from the level of the soul. Your inner intelligence comes into alignment with the creative intelligence of the universe, guiding you unerringly in exactly the way you need.

Of course, you can manifest your ego desires using sheer willpower, but it takes lots of effort and you may not feel as fulfilled when you attain it as you imagined you would. It’s like rowing a sailboat against high winds and a strong current: you can do it with enough effort, but if you harness the forces of the wind and current, then the journey is more comfortable and enjoyable.

Ego or Soul Desires?

Most desires are straightforward ego wishes. The natural impulse toward action that flows from our true self will also express itself as desire, but it will be an easy, gentle preference that does not come from a sense of lack or neediness.

The easiest way to evaluate whether your desire to create something is coming from your real self or your ego is to tune in to your body and ask yourself, Does this desire feel relaxed and loving? Is it coming from a place that already feels good about itself? Does it want this for others as well as for oneself?

Keep in mind that creative drive isn’t facilitated by feeling like you “should” create something, or that you ought to start a project or you’ll regret it. When your inner dialogue is dominated by feelings of frustration, self-judgment, or fear, your ego is trying to take charge. When your desire to create something comes from a feeling of enthusiasm, inspiration, joy, and fullness within, then you are in touch with your true nature and the guidance that will help you create and experience fulfillment.

Tuning into Your Soul’s Desires and Purpose

As we have seen, it is important to learn how to think and desire from your silent self beyond your ego. From there, desire without expectation is easy and automatic. And as your experience of the soul deepens, you will spontaneously find that you will desire from that level of innocence and fulfillment.

There are a variety of practices that can help you connect to your soul’s desires and purpose. Here are a few of the most powerful techniques you can use:

Meditate

When you meditate, you go beyond the mind’s restless, confused state into a higher state that is clear and steady. This expanded awareness is the birthplace of all your inspiration, creativity and insights.

When you meditate on a regular basis, you cultivate inner calm and peace — not just during your meditation sessions, but as you go about your daily activities. From this place of centered awareness, you will be in the best position to access the intuition and creativity to manifest your dreams. Learn more about meditation here.

Here is a simple meditation practice you can try right now:

Meditation on the Heart 

Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Now gently place your attention on the area of your heart. As you breathe in and out naturally, keep your attention. Allow any feelings and sensations to arise pass. If you attention drifts away, gently bring it back to your heart. Try this meditation for a few minutes and notice how you feel before and after the experience.

Cultivate Clarity

Clarity means being awake to yourself and your true desires. Instead of being overshadowed by external situations or events, in clarity your awareness is always open to itself. You’re able to tell the true from the false so that you can identify what you want to nurture and what you want to release in your life.

One effective way to cultivate clarity is to ask yourself the soul questions, Who am I? What do I want? Why am I here? Here is an exercise that you might find useful in working with these questions:

1. Think back on situations and projects where you excelled and had fun at the same time. What were you doing and why did it make you feel good? What gifts do you have that can serve others?

2. Keep a daily journal for 10 days, asking yourself the questions above after meditation and then writing down everything that comes to you. Your passion is the force of evolution that drives your life energy, so don’t suppress it by telling yourself that you can’t do it or that it is impractical. 

3. After 10 days you will have some good ideas to work with. Now list one or two action steps that you can immediately take for each idea. Start with the smallest manageable step, such as making a phone call, signing up for a course, or getting the name of a mentor or someone who may be able to help you. The important thing is to identify that current of energy in you and then give it an outlet. Once it starts to flow, it builds its own momentum and creates its own path forward. 

The more clarity you achieve, the more you will find that the universe is on your side, supporting your thoughts and intentions. Therefore, focus on clarity, not on getting results. The results will come according to their own rhythm and timing.

Practice One-Pointed Awareness

This is a form of mindfulness meditation that will help you create more clarity and present-moment awareness. Choose one simple activity that you do every day, such as brushing your teeth, making the bed, or washing the dishes. Instead of rushing, put your complete attention on this task. If your mind is impatient or prods you to move on to more “important” business, ignore it. This simple daily practice of focusing your awareness on one small activity can create a powerful ripple effect that will expand your experience of present-moment awareness throughout the day.

As you become more aware, you will begin to notice many opportunities that in the past you would have overlooked in your hurry.  This is the phenomenon I describe as synchrodestiny — the ability to use your attention, intention, and awareness to awaken to all the possibilities that always surround you.

 

Does Trying to Be Happy Make Us Unhappy?

By: Adam Grant

As we muddle through our days, the quest for happiness looms large. In the U.S., citizens are granted three inalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In the kingdom of Bhutan, there’s a national index to measure happiness. But what if searching for happiness actually prevents us from finding it? There’s reason to believe that the quest for happiness might be a recipe for misery.

In a series of new studies led by the psychologist Iris Mauss, the more value people placed on happiness, the less happy they became. I saw it happen to Tom, a savant who speaks half a dozen languages, from Chinese to Welsh. In college, Tom declared a major in computer science, but found it dissatisfying. He became obsessed with happiness, longing for a career and a culture that would provide the perfect match for his interests and values. Within two years of graduating from college, he had bounced from working at the United Nations to an internet startup in New York, applied for jobs as a supermarket manager, consultant and venture capitalist, and considered moving to Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Colombia, or Canada.

These careers and countries didn’t fulfill him. After another year, he was doing standup comedy, contemplating a move to London to pursue an advanced degree in education, philosophy of science, management, or psychology. But none of these paths made him happy. Dissatisfied with his own lack of progress toward happiness, he created an online tool to help people develop more productive habits. That wasn’t satisfying either, so he moved to Beijing. He lasted two years there, but didn’t find the right cultural fit, so he moved to Germany and considered starting a college dorm for adults and a bar for nerds. In the next two years, he was off to Montreal and Pittsburgh, then back to Germany working on a website to help couples spend more quality time together. Still not happy, he abandoned that plan and returned to Beijing to sell office furniture. One year and two more moves across two continents later, he admitted to his friends, “I’m harder to find than Carmen San Diego.”

Tom made four mistakes that are all too common on the road to happiness. The first blunder was in trying to figure out if he was happy. When we pursue happiness, our goal is to experience more joy and contentment. To find out if we’re making progress, we need to compare our past happiness to our current happiness. This creates a problem: the moment we make that comparison, we shift from an experiencing mode to an evaluating mode. Consider several decades of research by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on flow, a state of complete absorption in an activity. Think of being engrossed in a Harry Potter book, playing a sport you love, or catching up with a good friend you haven’t seen in years. You’re in the zone: you’re so immersed in the task that you lose track of time and the outside world.

Csikszentmihalyi finds that when people are in a flow state, they don’t report being happy, as they’re too busy concentrating on the activity or conversation. But afterward, looking back, they describe flow as the optimal emotional experience. By looking everywhere for happiness, Tom disrupted his ability to find flow. He was so busy assessing each new job and country that he never fully engaged in his projects and relationships. Instead, he became depressed and entered a vicious cycle documented by psychologists Katariina Salmela-Aro and Jari-Erik Nurmi: depression leads people to evaluate their daily projects as less enjoyable, and ruminating about why they’re not fun makes the depression worse.

The second error was in overestimating the impact of life circumstances on happiness. As psychologist Dan Gilbert explains in Stumbling on Happiness, we tend to overestimate the emotional impact of positive life events. We think a great roommate or a major promotion will make us happier, overlooking the fact that we’ll adapt to the new circumstances. For example, in a classic study, winning the lottery didn’t appear to yield lasting gains in happiness. Each time Tom moved to a new job and country, he was initially excited to be running on a new treadmill, but within a matter of months, the reality of the daily grind set in: he was still running on a treadmill.

The third misstep was in pursuing happiness alone. Happiness is an individual state, so when we look for it, it’s only natural to focus on ourselves. Yet a wealth of evidence consistently shows that self-focused attention undermines happiness and causes depression. In one study, Mauss and colleagues demonstrated that the greater the value people placed on happiness, the more lonely they felt every day for the next two weeks. In another experiment, they randomly assigned people to value happiness, and found that it backfired: these people reported feeling lonelier and also had a progesterone spike in their saliva, a hormonal response linked to loneliness. As Tom changed jobs and countries alone, he left behind the people who made him happy.

The final mistake was in looking for intense happiness. When we want to be happy, we look for strong positive emotions like joy, elation, enthusiasm, and excitement. Unfortunately, research shows that this isn’t the best path to happiness. Research led by the psychologist Ed Diener reveals that happiness is driven by the frequency, not the intensity, of positive emotions. When we aim for intense positive emotions, we evaluate our experiences against a higher standard, which makes it easier to be disappointed. Indeed, Mauss and her colleagues found that when people were explicitly searching for happiness, they experienced less joy in watching a figure skater win a gold medal. They were disappointed that the event wasn’t even more jubilating. And even if they themselves had won the gold medal, it probably wouldn’t have helped. Studies indicate that an intense positive experience leads us to frame ordinary experiences as less positive. Once you’ve landed a gold medal or won the lottery, it’s hard to take pleasure in finding a great parking spot or winning a video game. Tom was looking so hard for the perfect job and the ideal country that he failed to appreciate an interesting task and a great restaurant.

Today, for the first time in more than a decade, Tom reports being—and appears to be—happy. Instead of pursuing happiness alone, he fell in love and got married. Rather than evaluating his happiness daily and hunting for his dream job, he’s finding flow and experiencing daily satisfaction in helping his wife set up a company. He’s no longer bouncing around from one continent to another, following the advice of psychologists Ken Sheldon and Sonja Lyubomirsky: “Change your actions, not your circumstances.”

In Obliquity, John Kay argues that the best things in life can only be pursued indirectly. I believe this is true for happiness: if you truly want to experience joy or meaning, you need to shift your attention away from joy or meaning, and toward projects and relationships that bring joy and meaning as byproducts. As the great philosopher John Stuart Mill once wrote, Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness.”

For more on happiness, see Adam’s new book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller

How To Stop Making A Big Deal About Your Problems

Meditation teaches us how to let go. It’s actually a very important aspect of friendliness, which is that you train again and again in not making things such a big deal. 

 

When you have pain in your body, when all sorts of thoughts are going through your mind, you train again and again in acknowledging them openheartedly and open-mindedly, but not making them such a big deal.

 
Generally speaking, the human species does make things a very big deal. Our problems are a big deal for us. So we need to make space for an attitude of honoring things completely and at the same time not making them a big deal. 
 
It’s a paradoxical idea, but holding these two attitudes simultaneously is the source of enormous joy: we hold a sense of respect toward all things, along with the ability to let go. So it’s about not belittling things, but on the other hand not fanning the fire until you have your own private World War III.
 
Keeping these ideas in balance allows us to feel less crowded and claustrophobic. In Buddhist terms, the space that opens here is referred to as shunyata, or “emptiness.” 
 
But there’s nothing nihilistic about this emptiness. It’s basically just a feeling of lightness. There is movie entitled The Unbearable Lightness of Being, but I prefer to see life from the view of the Bearable Lightness of Being.
 
When you begin to see life from the point of view that everything is spontaneously arising and that things aren’t “coming at you” or “trying to attack you,” in any given moment, you will likely experience more space and more room to relax into. 
 

Your stomach, which is in a knot, can just relax. The back of your neck, which is all tensed up, can just relax. Your mind, which is spinning and spinning like one of those little bears that you wind up so it walks across the floor, can just relax. So shunyata refers to the fact that we actually have a seed of spaciousness, of freshness, openness, relaxation, in us.
 
Sometimes the word shunyata has been translated as the “open dimension of our being.” The most popular definition is “emptiness,” which sounds like a big hole that somebody pushes you into, kicking and screaming: “No, no! Not emptiness!” 
 
Sometimes people experience this openness as boredom. Sometimes it’s experienced as stillness. Sometimes it’s experienced as a gap in your thinking and your worrying and your all-caught-up-ness.
 
I experiment with shunyata a lot. When I’m by myself and no one’s talking to me, when I’m simply going for a walk or looking out the window or meditating, I experiment with letting the thoughts go and just seeing what’s there when they go. 
 
This is actually the essence of mindfulness practice. You keep coming back to the immediacy of your experience, and then when the thoughts start coming up, thoughts like, bad, good, should, shouldn’t, me, jerk, you, jerk, you let those thoughts go, and you come back again to the immediacy of your experience.
 
This is how we can experiment with shunyata, how we can experiment with the open, boundless dimension of being.
 

Are You Sick or Are You Stresses? 8 Tips to Relax and Feel Healthy

Everyone experiences stress at some point in life. Whether it’s from working too many hours, a career that lacks passion, worries about finances or the economy, a sick family member or relationship troubles, stress will find its way into our life.

With illness on the rise, stress is often the biggest culprit.

If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, it’s time to boot stress out of your life:

Emotional Symptoms

Depression
Irritability, agitation or short temper
Negative feelings
Feeling overwhelmed
Sense of loneliness and isolation
Feeling hopeless
Cognitive Symptoms
Mental fogginess or forgetfulness
Poor concentration
Poor judgment
Pessimistic mindset
Anxiety
Racing thoughts
Constant worrying
Poor problem solving ability
Behavioral Symptoms

Loss of appetite, binge or emotional eating
Insomnia or sleeping too much
Isolating yourself from others
Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
Feeling the need to use alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
Nervous habits (i.e. nail biting, pulling out your hair, pacing)
Self-doubt
Speaking negatively of yourself
Physical Symptoms

Aches and pains
Diarrhea or constipation
Digestive issues
Nausea
Dizziness or vertigo
Chest pain, rapid heartbeat, or palpitations
Loss of interest in sex or low libido
Frequent colds
Increased belly fat
More fat around your face or a rounder appearance
Weight gain
Fatigue
Asthma
Arthritis
Migraines or headaches
Chronic illness such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol
For women: painful menstrual cycle or hormonal imbalance
As you can see, stress produces a wide range of negative effects on our minds and bodies. Here are eight tips to help you overcome the problems stress may present in your life:

1. Make “me-time” a priority.

Carve out 30 minutes to an hour daily. Schedule it. Use this down time to take a nice hot bath with dead sea salts, essentials oils and your favorite natural bath products. Light candles and play soothing music. Give yourself a massage with coconut oil. Give yourself a facial. Finish off with a mani-pedi. This isn’t just for the ladies. Guys, you can do this too.

2. Say no to others and say yes to yourself.

Overextending yourself is the fastest way to accrue stress. Saying no doesn’t mean you aren’t helping others. It means you’re saying YES to yourself and respecting your own needs. If an invitation comes up that makes you say, “meh,” skip it. If someone requests something from you that feels too heavy, not aligned with your present focus or doesn’t make you feel resourceful, pass on it. As an added bonus, this frees up time to do things you actually enjoy.

3. Allow nature to re-energize you.

Spend some time in the sun’s healing rays. Ground yourself by walking barefoot on grass or sand. Spend some time in ocean water. Get plenty of fresh air and breathe deeply. Spend some time stargazing or watching the clouds. Hug a tree. Plant a flower garden. Grow your own food.

4. Do something fun and adventurous every day.

Even with a busy schedule, you can find 30 minutes to do something fun. Be creative with your time. Create a bucket list while you’re on the toilet or in between calls at work. Begin checking off those items each day as you try new things. When time is more available, do the bigger things you wish to accomplish.

5. Ask for help.

If you need help with any of your daily tasks such as cooking or laundry, ask. If there’s a project at work that’s causing frustration, see who you can enlist to speed up the project. If you’re bored or lonely, ask friends or family to spend time with you. If your back hurts, ask for a massage. It’s not that others aren’t willing to support you; you simply haven’t articulated your needs.

6. Let your plate heal you.

Plant-based food has natural healing components. Eat more plants and less meat. Use food as medicine and eat foods that reduce illness. Reduce or eliminate caffeine, sugar, gluten, alcohol, dairy, and soy, which are often the biggest culprits of diet-based stress. Swap out coffee for herbal tea. Try almond or coconut milk. Instead of sugar, try stevia, raw honey or medjool dates to sweeten.

7. Slow down.

Meditate for at least 20 minutes per day. Take several deep breaths. Close your eyes for a few minutes every hour. Resist the urge to tightly pack your schedule. Practice gentle and slow paced forms of exercise such as yoga, qigong and tai chi.

8. Reduce your time with energy vampires.

This includes people and technology. Identify people who drain your energy and distance yourself from them. Have one “unplugged” day every week with no television, phone, video games or internet. Reduce the amount of time you spend texting, emailing, working, updating your Facebook status message, and tweeting.

Happy healing!

BY TORRIE PATTILLO
APRIL 24, 2013 11:00 AM EDT

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Be More Like A Tree

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6 Signs Your Marriage Is Rock Solid

6 Signs Your Marriage Is Rock Solid – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-stir/6-signs-your-marriage-is-_b_3037425.html

Quantum Mechanics Supports Free Will

APRIL 3, 2013, 12:47 PM

Do you believe in free will?

Some physicists and neuroscientists believe in the opposite proposition: determinism. The mathematics of quantum mechanics have a say in this argument: Determinism is impossible unless you are willing to make an even greater philosophical sacrifice.

 

A determinist point of view says, “If I precisely know the complete workings of a system — i.e., the position of every particle and how the laws of the universe operate — I can tell you exactly what it will do in all future situations.” For example, by measuring the sun’s gravity and the motion of solar system bodies, we can calculate whether an asteroid will hit us or how to position a satellite in a complex orbit above the Earth.

Obviously, humanity has been fairly successful at this: Science and technology underpin the modern world because we largely can understand and anticipate the actions of inanimate objects.

But are you prepared to accept that your mind follows these same rules? That it is a machine which can be completely predicted, like pool balls on a felt table or comets circling a star? That you don’t make choices: the choices are already made by the wiring patterns in your brain, and you just carry them out like a colossally complex adding machine? This is the philosophical endgame of classical physics (i.e., Newtonian physics) taken to its logical conclusion.

Those who accept this philosophy simply apply physics to the human brain: If we could know all the molecules and cells and what they were doing, we could predict human thought perfectly. In practice, of course, this is nearly impossible, but it is philosophically possible. And chilling.

Then along came quantum mechanics. When physicists observed that behavior at the atomic level was fundamentally indeterminate, the universal validity of classical physics, as well as philosophical determinism came into question. Physicists recoiled at the idea that their science could no longer claim to predict all things with infinite precision. But, that’s what quantum mechanics teaches us. We absolutely cannot know exactly how something will turn out before it happens.

Most physicists eventually accepted this idea as an empirical fact of measurement, but assumed that a flaw in quantum mechanics created the uncertainty. Perhaps, with further insight, some “hidden variable” could allow them to predict things with perfect certainty again.

But that never happened.

John Bell, in a famous 1964 paper, forced everyone to reconsider, both scientifically and philosophically, their support for determinism. His famous theorem, Bell’s inequality, is an incredibly profound statement. This relatively simple mathematical proof, when applied to experimental results, gives us a choice: We must either give up determinism or give up the existence of an objective reality explained by science and measurable by humans with instruments. (You can read the gory details about the experiments here.)

So if experiments on quantum phenomena are reliable, then Bell concludes that determinism is false. Most physicists agree.

Essentially, quantum mechanics tells us that there are things which we cannot know about the future, things which are not predetermined but happen with some factor of chance or randomness. Although many things in the world may be predicted, everything is not predetermined, and our actions do not unfold mechanically in a manner predetermined since the very moment of the Big Bang. Free will is preserved.

Thank God/gods/lucky stars!

Tom Hartsfield is a physics Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas and a regular contributor to the RealClearScience Newton Blog. The original post appeared here.

Let’s Get Physical: The Psychology of Effective Workout Music

New research clarifies why music and exercise make such a good team, and how to create an optimal workout playlist

By Ferris Jabr

“I dare them to find the iPod on me,” Richie Sais told the New York Times in 2007, when he was preparing to run the Marine Corps Marathon. USA Track & Field, the national governing body for distance racing, had just decided to ban athletes from using portable music players in order “to ensure safety and to prevent runners from having a competitive edge.” Rais resolved to hide his iPod shuffle under his shirt. Many fellow runners protested the new rule, which remains in effect today in an amended form: It now applies only to people vying for awards and money.

For some athletes and for many people who run, jog, cycle, lift weights and otherwise exercise, music is not superfluous—it is essential to peak performance and a satisfying workout. Although some people prefer audio books, podcasts or ambient sounds, many others depend on bumpin’ beats and stirring lyrics to keep themselves motivated when exercising. A quick Twitter search uncovers plenty of evidence: “Trying to let my phone charge a little more before I go, because lord knows I can’t even try and workout without music,” tweeted @Gianna_H21. “I just made my mom turn around to get my headphones. I can’t possibly work out without music,” @Codavoci_Kyle admitted.

In the last 10 years the body of research on workout music has swelled considerably, helping psychologists refine their ideas about why exercise and music are such an effective pairing for so many people as well as how music changes the body and mind during physical exertion. Music distracts people from pain and fatigue, elevates mood, increases endurance, reduces perceived effort and may even promote metabolic efficiency. When listening to music, people run farther, bike longer and swim faster than usual—often without realizing it. In a 2012 review of the research, Costas Karageorghis of Brunel University in London, one of the world’s leading experts on the psychology of exercise music, wrote that one could think of music as “a type of legal performance-enhancing drug.”

Selecting the most effective workout music is not as simple as queuing up a series of fast, high-energy songs. One should also consider the memories, emotions and associations that different songs evoke. For some people, the extent to which they identify with the singer’s emotional state and viewpoint determines how motivated they feel. And, in some cases, the rhythms of the underlying melody may not be as important as the cadence of the lyrics. In recent years some researchers and companies have experimented with new ways to motivate exercisers through their ears, such as a smartphone app that guides the listener’s escape from zombies in a postapocalyptic world and a device that selects songs based on a runner’s heart rate.

Let your body move to the music
Research on the interplay of music and exercise dates to at least 1911, when American investigator Leonard Ayres found that cyclists pedaled faster while a band was playing than when it was silent. Since then psychologists have conducted around a hundred studies on the way music changes people’s performance in a variety of physical activities, ranging in intensity from strolling to sprinting. Looking at the research as a whole, a few clear conclusions emerge.

Two of the most important qualities of workout music are tempo—or speed—and what psychologists call rhythm response, which is more or less how much a song makes you want to boogie. Most people have an instinct to synchronize their movements and expressions with music—to nod their heads, tap their toes or break out in dance—even if they repress that instinct in many situations. What type of music excites this instinct varies from culture to culture and from person to person. To make some broad generalizations, fast songs with strong beats are particularly stimulating, so they fill most people’s workout playlists. In a recent survey of 184 college students, for example, the most popular types of exercise music were hip-hop (27.7 percent), rock (24 percent) and pop (20.3 percent).

Some psychologists have suggested that people have an innate preference for rhythms at a frequency of two hertz, which is equivalent to 120 beats per minute (bpm), or two beats per second. When asked to tap their fingers or walk, many people unconsciously settle into a rhythm of 120 bpm. And an analysis of more than 74,000 popular songs produced between 1960 and 1990 found that 120 bpm was the most prevalent pulse.

When running on a treadmill, however, most people seem to favor music around 160 bpm. Web sites and smartphone apps such as Songza and jog.fm help people match the tempo of their workout music to their running pace, recommending songs as fast as 180 bpm for a seven-minute mile, for example. But the most recent research suggests that a ceiling effect occurs around 145 bpm: anything higher does not seem to contribute much additional motivation. On occasion, the speed and flow of the lyrics supersede the underlying beat: some people work out to rap songs, for example, with dense, swiftly spoken lyrics overlaid on a relatively mellow melody.

Although many people do not feel the need to run or move in exact time with their workout music, synchrony may help the body use energy more efficiently. When moving rhythmically to a beat, the body may not have to make as many adjustments to coordinated movements as it would without regular external cues. In a 2012 study by C. J. Bacon of Sheffield Hallam University, Karageorghis and their colleagues, participants who cycled in time to music required 7 percent less oxygen to do the same work as cyclists who did not synchronize their movements with background music. Music, it seems, can function as a metronome, helping someone maintain a steady pace, reducing false steps and decreasing energy expenditure.

Extending this logic, Shahriar Nirjon of the University of Virginia and his colleagues devised a personal music player that attempts to sync music with a runner’s pace and heart rate. Accelerometers and a tiny microphone embedded in a pair of earbuds gauge the runner’s pace and record the pulsing of blood vessels. The device wirelessly transmits the data it collects via a smartphone to a remote computer that chooses the next song.

Brain beats
Recent research clarifies not only what type of music is best suited to a workout, but also how music encourages people to keep exercising. Distraction is one explanation. The human body is constantly monitoring itself. After a certain period of exercise—the exact duration varies from person to person—physical fatigue begins to set in. The body recognizes signs of extreme exertion—rising levels of lactate in the muscles, a thrumming heart, increased sweat production—and decides it needs a break. Music competes with this physiological feedback for the brain’s conscious attention. Similarly, music often changes people’s perception of their own effort throughout a workout: it seems easier to run those 10 miles or complete a few extra biceps curls when Beyoncé or Eminem is right there with you.

“Given that exercise is often tiresome, boring and arduous, anything that relieves those negative feelings would be welcome,” Karageorghis explains. The benefits of distraction are most pronounced during low- to moderate-intensity exercise. When up against high-intensity exercise, music loses its power to override the physical feelings of tiredness, but it can still change the way people respond to that fatigue. The right music elevates mood and persuades people to ride out waves of exhaustion, rather than giving up. Karageorghis cautions, though, against listening to music while running in heavily trafficked areas—distraction from fatigue is great, as long as it does not put you in danger.

Music also increases endurance by keeping people awash in strong emotions. Listening to music is often an incredibly pleasurable experience and certain songs open the mental floodgates with which people control their emotions in everyday situations. If one strongly identifies with the singer’s emotions or perspective, the song becomes all the more motivational.

Consider a song from someone’s favorite musical film or Broadway show, such as “One Day More” from Les Misérables—an ensemble song with a complex melody and building energy—or “Defying Gravity” from Wicked, in which Elphaba, a central character, vows to overcome all limits others have imposed on her. In addition to exhilarating melodies and vocals, such songs immediately recall the entire milieu of the performance and awaken memories of particular characters who are part of a complex narrative. This mesh of associations and connotations woven into the music provides not just a inspiring perspective to adopt, but also an entire alternate reality to enter while running in place on a treadmill at the gym. Some game designers have experimented with new ways for people to escape into fictional worlds while running. In 2012 the online game company Six to Start released the immersive running game, Zombies, Run!, in the form of a smartphone app that narrates the listener’s quest to survive the zombie apocalypse. Following spoken prompts, the listener imagines him or herself running around to collect ammunition and medicine to complete various missions.

Whether music or zombie sound effects, what people listen to for motivation when they exercise acts on the same neural circuitry. “We are almost hardwired to appreciate music aesthetically,” Karageorghis says. People’s emotional response to music is visceral: It is, in part, ingrained in some of the oldest regions of the brain in terms of evolutionary history, rather than in the large wrinkly human cortex that evolved more recently. One patient—a woman known in the research literature as I. R.—exemplifies this primal response. I. R. has lesions to her auditory cortices, the regions of the cortex that process sound. When I. R. hears the normal version of a song and a horribly detuned version, she cannot tell the difference, explains Jessica Grahn, a cognitive neuroscientist who studies music at Western University’s Brain and Mind Institute in Ontario. But when I. R. hears a happy song and a sad song, she immediately distinguishes them from one another.

Scientists now know that, although different regions of the human brain specialize in processing different senses—sound, sight, touch—the brain uses the information it receives from one sense to help it understand another. What people see and feel while listening to speech or music, for example, changes what they hear. Music and movement are particularly entangled in the brain. Recent studies suggest that—even if someone is sitting perfectly still—listening to enjoyable music increases electrical activity in various regions of the brain important for coordinating movements, including the supplementary motor area, cerebellum, basal ganglia and ventral premotor cortex. Some researchers think that this neural crosstalk underlies people’s instinct to move in time to music. “We have also known for decades that there are direct connections from auditory neurons to motor neurons,” explains Grahn, who enjoys working out to cheesy techno-music. “When you hear a loud noise, you jump before you have even processed what it is. That’s a reflex circuit, and it turns out that it can also be active for non-startling sounds, such as music.”

In fact, the human brain may have evolved with the expectation that, wherever there is music, there is movement—although this idea emerges more from the imaginative minds of speculating evolutionary psychologists than from experimental evidence. Before the invention of reed flutes and other musical instruments, our ancestors likely produced the earliest forms of music by singing, screaming, chanting or otherwise using their vocal cords, as well as by physically interacting with their own bodies, other people and the environment. A fast tempo would have likely required fast movements: quick clapping or foot stamping, perhaps. Deep, loud sounds would have demanded great energy and force—belting a note or beating the ground or a rock. In its conception, music was likely an extension of the human body. Maybe the brain remembers it that way.

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The Best Definition of Success Is The One You Never Use

The Best Definition of Success Is the One You Never Use
March 14, 2013

By: Jeff Haden

Forget kaleidoscopes, forget people are like snowflakes, forget we’re all individuals (bonus points if you got the last reference without following the link.)

There is only one real way to define success.

Just one.

Granted success in business and in life means different things to different people, and should mean different things to different people. Whether or not you feel successful depends on how you define success — and on the tradeoffs you are willing to not just accept but embrace as you pursue your individual definition of success.

Still. Determining whether you are successful is based on answering one question: How happy am I?

Your level of success is based solely on your answer to that question.

How Happy Are You?

Extremely successful people — at least in terms of how “success” is typically measured — tend to work impossibly long hours as they focus almost exclusively on building their careers or businesses. In many cases (some would argue most cases) their personal and family lives are to some degree a casualty of that focus.

Is that a fair tradeoff?

Fair or unfair is beside the point, because tradeoffs are unavoidable.

If you’re making serious money but are unhappy on a personal level, you haven’t embraced the fact that incredible business success often takes a heavy toll on relationships. Other things are clearly important to you besides just making money.

If on the other hand you leave every day at 4 you can pursue a rich and varied personal life yet you’re unhappy on a material level, you haven’t embraced the fact — and it is a fact — that the profession you’ve chosen and the way you’ve chosen to pursue it will not make you wealthy. Personal satisfaction is nice, but for you it’s not enough.

That’s because your profession, your family and friends, your personal pursuits… no aspect of your life can (or should) ever be separated from the others. Each is a permanent part of a whole. Putting more focus on one area automatically reduces the focus on another area

Want to make more money? You can, but something else has to give.

Want more time with family? Want to help others? Want to pursue a hobby? You can, but something else has to give.

Think about what motivates you. What do you want to achieve for yourself and your family? What do you value most, spiritually, emotionally, and materially? Those are the things that will make you happy, and if you aren’t doing them you won’t be happy.

Sounds simplistic… but think of all the people you know who complain about the results of a path they purposely chose to follow. For example, a friend of mine constantly complains about his salary. He feels his pay doesn’t reflect his education and experience and in no way recognizes his true value to society.

While I agree, there’s a problem: He’s a teacher. You know what teachers make. He knows what teachers make. He knew before he went to college what the average teacher makes. Fair or unfair, his income is almost exactly what he knew it would be.

Still, it drives him crazy and he spends a ton of emotional energy on the subject. So occasionally I say, “If feeling underpaid bothers you this much, I think you owe it to yourself to do something different.”

“But I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love teaching!” he always replies.

“Yeah, but not enough,” I always think. If he truly loved teaching he could better accept the inevitable — and it is inevitable — financial trade-off.

So, Are You Happy?

Defining success is important, but taking a clear-eyed look at the impact of your definition matters even more. As in most things your intent is important but the results provide the real answers.

If helping others through social work is your definition of success, you may make a decent living but you won’t get rich… and you must embrace that fact. If you’re happy, you have.

If building a $100 million company is your definition of success, you can have a family but it will be almost impossible to have a rich, engaged family life… and you must embrace that fact. If you’re happy, you have.

So forget traditional definitions of success. Forget what other people think. Ask yourself if you feel happy — not just at work, not just at home, not just in those fleeting moments when you do something just for yourself, but overall.

If you are, you’re successful. The happier you are the more successful you are.

If you aren’t happy it’s time to rethink how you define success, and start making changes to your professional and personal life that align with that definition, because what you’re doing now isn’t working for you.

And life is way too short for that.

16 Inspirational Quotes To Help Make Your Dream Life A Reality

16 Inspirational Quotes To Help Make Your Dream Life A Reality

By Silvia Mordini

Spending time dreaming is not the waste of time some would have you believe. Daydreaming, more than anything else, can stoke your creative energy and amp you back up. It’s vital to your overall mental, emotional and physical health, and neuroscientists have found dreaming to be an important part of your cognitive wellbeing. A 2012 study published in Psychological Science by researchers from the University of Wisconsin and the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Science suggests that a wandering mind correlates to higher degrees of what is referred to as working memory. This means dreaming might help us tap into creative problem-solving.

Apathy and complacency are the real enemies of love. They sneak up on us like small leaks in a boat and drain our imagination until we lose all motivation to keep growing. We’ve all fallen into this chasm of downward energy, but it’s vital to continue dreaming and acting on dreams to develop as human beings.

Recommit to letting your mind explore new possibilities by conceptualizing your biggest dreams and acting on them within the next 24 hours. Here are 16 quotes that will inspire you to live your dream life.

“Dreams are necessary to life.” – Anais Nin

“All human beings are also dream beings. Dreaming ties all mankind together.” – Jack Kerouac

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” – Harriet Tubman

“As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Dream and give yourself permission to envision a You that you choose to be.” – Joy Page

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask, why? I dream of things that never were, and ask, why not?” – Robert Kennedy

“All men of action are dreamers.” – James Huneker

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!” – Goethe

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” – Colin Powell

“Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living.” – Anais Nin

“We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.” – Jesse Owens

“If you take responsibility for yourself you will develop a hunger to accomplish your dreams.” – Les Brown

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.” – Henry David Thoreau

“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.” – Anatole France