Tag Archives: happiness

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

10 Reasons You Should Always Laugh Out Loud

10 Reasons You Should Always Laugh Out Loud

By Louise Jensen

I watched a silly movie last week with my seven-year-old son. At one point he was rolling around the carpet, clutching his stomach while tears of laughter rolled down his bright red face.

By comparison, I went to the cinema last night to see a new comedy with my partner. I found one part really funny but noticed when I started laughing out loud that I immediately toned it down. Looking around, I could see I wasn’t the only one stifling my natural urge to exude a huge belly laugh. My fear of drawing attention to myself sadly outweighed my natural instinct to noisily share my happiness.

I am not sure when I lost the ability to unselfconsciously roar with laughter, but now that I’m aware of it, I’m claiming it right back. To be able to express pure joy without any inhibitions is not only our birthright, it’s also darned good for us. Here are 10 reasons why:

1. Laughter releases feel-good endorphins into your system, which can help to relieve pain.

2. Laughter contracts your abdominal muscles and gets your shoulders moving giving you a mini-workout.

3. Laughter increases blood flow and improves the function of blood vessels, which can help protect the heart.

4. Laughter has a relaxing effect on the whole body for up to 45 minutes afterwards.

5. Laughter initially raises blood pressure, then reduces it, leaving a lower blood pressure than normal.

6. Laughter can be contagious, increasing happiness and intimacy, thus enhancing relationships.

7. Laughter speeds up metabolism and heart rate, which could help you lose weight.

8. Laughter expels more air than normal breathing, which has a cleansing effect on the lungs.

9. Laughter reduces anxiety and helps relieve depression by reducing stress and releasing pent-up tension.

10. Laughter increases the number of T-cells in your body, giving your immune system a boost.

Wow. Next time I won’t be afraid to publicly acknowledge my amusement!