Tag Archives: happiness

Musings

Looking for everlasting happiness?

This post, like the previous one, might leave more questions than answers. Perhaps this is in keeping with my current state. :)

They say he only knows the taste of water who has traveled through the desert for it. If you are thirsty, water tastes sweeter than honey. But if you have a ready supply of drinking water, there is no excitement in the, now simple act of drinking it.

This seems to go for everything. There was a time when my father strictly restricted eating chocolates, watching movies and even TV. I craved for these things. Getting to experience them in some rare moments would make me excited and happy beyond all bounds. Now, when I have easy access to all of them, none of them feel as desirable. These are but a few examples of so many other things in life that loose there sheen once they become an easy and everyday experience.

So can the same be said of happiness? We all look for lasting happiness, I wrote an eBook on the topic. But is it possible to have everlasting happiness? If one has a ready supply of happiness, if one can be happy all the time, won’t happiness become boring, mundane and, consequently(and ironically), make the person unhappy?

If the only constant in this world is change, wouldn’t continuous happiness be an anomaly?

The happily ever after

Most of us, at some point in our lives, create a dream of a perfect life. It is the best that can happen, it is the point beyond which nothing would be needed. There would be no wants and nothing more to achieve. This dream, when realized, would keep us happy for ever, it would get us the kind of ‘happily ever after’ we come across in the stories.

But can there be a happily ever after? My experience says that a situation that I get to experience continuously, no matter how desirable in the beginning, does not keep me happy for ever. All situations become boring after sometime. When it did, it seems it was not the situation that gave me happiness, it was probably the challenge or the novelty of it.

Challenge is exciting and fun, when it makes me do something I have never done before, when it requires me to go up a level, when uncertainty of success is involved. Doing such a thing makes me feel alive. Probably, it is also the growth experience that this challenge provides. It is the process of my expansion, brought about by this situation, that gives me happiness.

Sometimes, happiness seems to come from an activity I love, like watching movies. Or it may come by being with some people I like, friends, family. But if I get to do this activity continuously or I get to be with these people all the time, the situation becomes routine and unremarkable.

I am tempted to say that trying new things and people gets me happiness but then trying new things and people all the time can become routine itself and become less desirable. :)

 The discontinuity of happiness

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity. -Carl Jung

Jung seems right to me here, happiness would lose meaning without sadness. Happiness, it seems, can only be had in bits and pieces, it comes only in highs and lows. The greater the elation you feel on the highs, the greater the sadness and misery at the lows.

I don’t completely see his point about how to face this reality though. If, as Jung says, you decide to face things with equanimity, you can avoid big miseries, but wouldn’t you also loose the highs you feel? Wouldn’t equanimity be boring? What would you rather have? – big highs at the cost of big lows, or an equanimous feeling? Or would you have something in between – where you probably stay somewhat grounded but allow some space for experiencing the highs and lows?

An acquaintance of my wife’s, told her that his wife, who is a classical singer, doesn’t like talking after she has sung for a while. She goes into a sort of a depression. This happens to many of the other singers that this guy has seen over the years(courtesy his wife) who, after going through the high elation of being one with a song, realize that it is gone now. They understand that there is no point in holding on to it for it cannot be continuously had. They cannot sing for ever, they will have to come back to it later. It leaves behind a vacuum that is filled with a lot of sadness.

This is the reason he thinks why many artists resort to drinking heavily or even drugs, they try to recreate that bliss through artificial means.

It seems the misery is the price for the high you get, and the level of the lows you can bear will decide the level of the highs you can have.

*****

So what do you feel about it? Can happiness be continuous? If it cannot, what attitude would you prefer to have towards it – would you accept the big lows to experience the highs? Or would you prefer equanimity?

Until next time…

Image: Lavoview

Personal Growth

Understanding and dealing with reality

Many people feel held back by the reality of their situation. Some want to get a more satisfying job but are stuck with the reality of their present demanding job that does not allow for preparations. Some want a peaceful marital life, but are stuck with the reality of an irate, un cooperative spouse. Some want to be rich but are stuck with the reality of their present poor lives that allows few options and opportunities. And so on and so forth…

The interpretation of reality is very personal and unique for each one of us

Most of the time, when we are talking of the reality of our situation, we are actually talking about our own interpretation of it.

What is also interesting is that all of us have our own different interpretations of reality.

As a kid, I would often visit my mother’s village(some 3 hours train journey from New Delhi). I met an old lady there who was convinced that the moon is not very far from the Earth and is inhabited by dwarfs. These dwarfs live by drinking water off a well. She could see and point out the well on the moon. No amount of passionate explanations from me and my brother, backed by our geography and physics lessons, would make her believe otherwise.

For those who believe in God, no amount of scientific explanation is enough to make them believe otherwise. In fact, a lot of them have their own, ‘scientific’ explanations of how God is an irrefutable reality. Come to think of it, the idea of God itself has so many different interpretations.

Why are we so obsessed with reality?

And why do we, the humans, seek to understand reality so badly? Animals don’t seem to be bothered by it, they just take and respond to whatever comes. It is perhaps because we can see that it affects how our lives go, how we feel, what we are able to do, accomplish, experience.

So, to ensure our own happiness and peace, we try to understand the reality of things around us. We want to be able to manipulate and control it.

This is a concept agreed upon by many. Understanding reality is a big part of growing up. We are encouraged by everyone to get a better hold of reality and learn how to manipulate it.

In the wake of this popular ‘common sense’, it is interesting to note that there have been some great minds who have pointed out that this approach is upside down. They say it is not the external reality that affects our internal state but the other way round – it is our internal state that affects the reality outside(or, at least, our interpretation of it).

The outer world represents our inner world

According to the people who believe in this, each one of us is creating our reality by the thoughts, feelings and emotions we hold dominantly.

There are 2 schools of thought among those who believe in this maxim. One can possibly be called the extreme believers, who say you are fully responsible for creating all your life experiences and situations. The other group, the moderates, say that you are responsible for the emotional and physical response you have towards the situation.

So, for example, if you have an irate and un cooperative spouse, the extremists would say you have manifested him/her in your life with your own thoughts. You have created this experince with your thoughts. The moderates might say that, while you can not control fully whom you come in contact with and how they behave with you, you sure can control how you respond to their actions. They might not agree that you are fully creating your reality with your thoughts, but they will agree that your thoughts(your emotional response to situations) decide how you ultimately end up feeling about yourself and your life.

So, whether it is a moderate or an extremist, both agree that…

It is just a thought that we are ever dealing with

What ever the problem with your reality, it is just a thought that you are dealing with. The problem because of an irate spouse, or a bad boss, or your low image of yourself, or your guilt over a life not spent well, or your unfulfilled desires for riches… they are all just thoughts in your mind.

And thoughts can be changed, at the drop of a hat. If you are unhappy about something right now, you have a choice to replace these thoughts of unhappiness with something else that you can be happy and grateful about.

Well, maybe I over stated. It is not just a simple change in thoughts, it has to be a bigger change in thinking habits and thought patterns. And breaking old patterns and habits takes conscious, continuous effort.

But the point here is not that. The point is, it is always and always just a thought. Your regrets of the past, your worries about the future, your anger, guilt, sadness, longing.. these are all just thoughts. And you have absolute power over them.

Now since you are habituated to them, you might disagree with me here, you might feel you are not in control. A simple test can prove the truth about this. Repeat slowly in your mind the words that follow. Feel their meaning, do this for a minute.

I am grateful that, of all forms of life, I have recieved a human form that gives me infinite possibilities.

I am grateful for living in a time when life has been made so easy to live that I don’t have to fight for every next meal. I have time to pursue higher goals.

I am grateful for having facilities and comforts(internet, phone, TV, automobiles, air travel, running water, electricity, air conditioning, ready made clothes, toilets with a flush!) that people just a couple of hundred years ago could not have imagined.

I am grateful for having been born into a such a privileged life, a life privileged not only among other animals, but among humans as well.

Now, how do you feel? Is sadness, want and anger still there? If you really tried to feel the words, the answer is probably ‘No’.

What you just witnesses was the absolute control you have over your thoughts, and hence your experience of this world. You made a conscious choice to read this post, you made a conscious choice to feel the words written above, just as you make a conscious choice sometimes to think of the people and situations that hurt you, just as you sometimes focus on all the things that are not right in your life.

*****

It is your own thoughts that decide how you feel. You have the power to completely control your life experience. If you believe the extremists, you can mould your whole life just with your thoughts. Even if you don’t, you will probably acknowledge that a change in attitudes will render you better prepared to make use of whatever opportunities life presents you with.

Until next time…

Image: Salvatore Vuono

Relationships

Changing others for the better

In our living room and coffee table discussions, so many of us wonder why people(especially the ones we consider less in stature than us) can’t see what is so obviously good for them. Some of us also strive to change these people for their own good.

Their attitudes and habits often lead to uncomfortable situations that irritate us. We feel an even stronger revulsion to their attitudes and an even stronger urge to change their ways.

And this is not limited to those lesser in stature, so many of us try to control our peers in office, our family members and our friends. We try to change them because we know what we are doing will be for every one’s good. It will make everyone happy in the long run.

What makes people happy?

I think before trying to change others, one needs to decide what really makes people happy. Is it different things for different people? Is it, at it’s core, the same set of things?

It has been my experience that, on the surface at least, different people like and enjoy different things. Different people even have different ideas of right and wrong. In fact, most fights among individuals, or groups, seem to be the result of such differences.

Now, for us as individuals, it is a huge task to understand what makes us happy ourselves. Most of us, if we look back at our lives, will find that we have pursued happiness in different things, only to find later that we were looking in the wrong place. So many of us, at some point in the past, craved for the very job that we so hate now. So many of us wanted to be in a loving relationship. Only now, it is not so loving anymore. So many of us wanted to make money. And today, inspite of making more of it than we ever dreamed of, we don’t seem to be any happier than when we started out.

No, it is not easy for us to find what really makes us happy.

So what is the point in deciding for others what we can’t seem to decide for ourselves? While it is difficult to find our own happiness, it is almost impossible to find what makes someone else happy.

Why don’t people do what is right for them?

How many of us find ourselves guilty of not doing what we know to be right? We know what we have to do to feel better(exercise more, watch less TV, spend less time on the internet and more with friends and family, take less stress at work etc etc), yet we just can’t seem to get ourselves to do all this.

It is so difficult to get our own selves to do what we have decided in our minds to be right. It is difficult to break out of our comfort zones. So what is the point in expecting others to follow what we think is right?

So what is the best we can do?

The best we can strive for, is to look for what makes our own selves happy, and to try regulate and control our own efforts.

Let go of the urge to control others. Just decide your response to what others do. Does someone try to make fun of you? Would you ignore this person? Would you leave their company? Would you fight back? Whatever you decide, understand that it is your own response that you can modulate.

Now here is something interesting – when you focus on finding what makes you happy and change yourself to get there, you motivate others, through your example, to do the same. In other words, when you change yourself, the world around you starts changing.

It doesn’t happen in a controlled way, it doesn’t happen according to what someone may have anticipated. But it happens in a very pleasant way. You start feeling good when you focus on changing yourself. And it gets better when others take a cue from you, on their own, and start making some changes in them selves.

Things start falling in place, you start enjoying the world around you. Note that this change happens in 2 simultaneous ways – first, you stop expecting the world to change, you adapt to it. This kills expectations and the troubles caused due to them, And second, when you stop trying to change the world and focus on yourself, the world takes notice and starts adapting to you!

This is how positive change happens. The world surrounding you starts changing when you focus on improving yourself.

Societies change when individuals in it start looking inwards for change and happiness.

*****

Letting go off the urge to control others and only focusing on your own response makes things so much easier and simple. When the focus moves away from controlling others, you get to see them for what they are, you can now start connecting with their core self. It is now that you will start sharing happiness with them.

 Image: Salvatore Vuono

Career Motivation Personal Growth

The enemies of success and happiness

Often in my conversations with others and in my own experience, I have seen that we are held back from happiness and success for mostly the same reasons. There are some recognizable traits, attitudes and habits that you see in every unhappy and unsuccessful person.

A recent conversation with a friend reminded me of the same issues I have seen play out, earlier in my life, and then in so many others. I could not help write a post on them. So, here we go.

 

Guilt

Everyone suffers from self hatred and guilt. -Louise L. Hay

Most of us have our own unique desires and dreams. Most of us also feel that we could have done, and can do things better to realize our dreams. This often leads to invisible undercurrents of guilt in our minds. This guilt is ever present, continuous, and eating away at our energies and enthusiasm. A lot of mind energy, that can otherwise be used for moving ahead, gets used up for thinking over what could have been. Even this realization, that we are wasting our energy in guilt, puts a lot of people into futher guilt. Guilt over Guilt, that is a vicious cycle.

Guilt does absolutely no good, saps your energy and keeps you in a negative state. What’s more, with your focus on what has gone wrong, you manifest and see more of it in your life.

No, guilt doesn’t help, in any way. Banish it this very moment. Whenever it tries to creep in through a back door, shove it out firmly. Remember, when you try to go after your dreams, mistakes and blunders are inevitable. Feel good about yourself, feel good about the mistakes you have made and the lessons you have learnt because of them. Love yourself for your human tendency to err, for it is this human tendency that makes life uncertain, adventurous and interesting.

The past is gone, you don’t have the power to change what is done. Power is only available in the present moment, in the Now. This is the only moment you can change things in, it is the only moment in which you can make a clear shift from the past. Don’t waste it in guilt.

Yes, analyze your efforts, see what mistakes you have made. But do so without guilt, do so only to see how you can do better now. Go ahead, try, make some more mistakes and keep learning from them. When pain and heart break happens, accept it, feel it. Then get up, pull up your pants and get moving. No shame, no blame.

Keep greater focus on what you want. When you think more about the state that you want to be in, you manifest more of it.

Fear of failures

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. -Henry Ford

Yes things take time, sometimes,you just seem to be at the bottom of the pit with no way out. Yet you know you will come out, as you have come out in similar such situations before. Success could not be sweet if it came easy. Let it be hard, let it test you, make you cry. Let it do all this, for when it comes, it will be the sweetest thing in this world. Stay firm, hang on.

Failures cannot be avoided, until you decide to avoid life. Failures are not the anti-thesis of success as most seem to believe, they are an essential part of it. So many of us have a tendency to avoid failure and pain. We think failing is uncool. That is a very warped, fear-based idea. If you go out to the mountains for adventure, you have to be ready for the thorns, you have to be ready to take a few falls.

If you avoid failure, you end up avoiding all opportunities in life. You live a life that seems more and more unbearable, uninteresting and meaningless day by day.

There are so many examples of great personalities who have faced grave failures before they reached greatness. Usually there are tens of hundreds of failures before success comes. Look at Edison’s effort to invent the light bulb, look at Lincon’s struggle in life, or Amitabh Bachchan’s effort to get a foothold in Bollywood. If you ever feel God or the world has denied you ability or opportunity, look at the lives of Stephen Hawkling, Helen Keller and Wilma Rudolph.

Let go of ego, become humble and become accepting of failure. Take it for the lessons it brings. Take it for the challenge it adds to life.

Resentment

Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. – Malachy McCourt

So many of us also hold a lot of anger and animosity towards those who we think have harmed our progress. These are people who, in their own selfishness and for their personal gains, have used and abused us, hurt us and kept us from moving ahead towards our dreams.

Regarding the role of these people in your life, you had better answer some questions – At this very moment, what really determines your success? Their actions, or your response to them? Do you believe you have absolute power over your destiny, or do you beleive you are at the mercy of these people?

Decide carefully, for whatever you decide will become the truth of your life. This Universe respects your ideas completely and without judgement. If you decide you are powerless, the Universe will make that true for you. You will see ample examples and proofs to believe you have little power. But should you decide that you hold complete and absolute power over your destiny, the Universe will respect that too. You will find proofs to this effect, you will find the examples of the likes of Wilma Rudolph, Helen Keller, Gandhi, Dhirubhai Ambani, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and hundreds and thousands more.

Decide, and decide well.

Like guilt, all the resentment you ever hold in your heart has only one effect, it creates negativity in your own heart. It causes loss of life force to you and it keeps you experiencing the same, again and again. You can decide to hold on to it and live with it, or you can decide to let go, forgive, move on and do better.

It helps to remember that those whom you hold villains in your lives, are also humans. In their limited understanding of things, they do whatever best they can think of. If they think they are required to harm others for their gain, they are pitiable souls. They are not happy, they are very troubled and don’t know any better. Would you spend your own energy on resenting them and, thus, ensure you become like them? Or would you just have pity, forgive and move on?

Whatever or whoever the problem, just decide your own response to it. Just ascertain what is the best you can do to move ahead in this situation. Keep your focus steadily on what you want. Slowly, things will fall in place.

*****

These are the reasons I got reminded of during that conversation with my friend. I am sure there are more reasons why people are unsuccessful or end up unhappy. Can you think of any? Share them with us.

Love yourself, believe it’s a friendly Universe and accept life as an adventure. Happiness is most often just a choice, and you can make that choice right now.

Until next time…

Image credit: photostock

Motivation

Using group energy to move out of hopelessness

Are you suffering from a lack of enthusiasm for life? Do you experience a general sense of pessimism and hopelessness? Does everything and everyone around you seems to strengthen the idea of a sad and bleak world?

If you find yourself in this state, your company probably consists of friends who have similar attitudes. If you ever try to break out of your funk, the company of your friends pulls your spirits down. They don’t do it intentionally but their sense of hopelessness convinces you of the uselessness of your own efforts.

At the same time, I am sure you can recall at least one instance when, just being in the company of a positive person or a group of positive people lifted up your spirits. It probably felt magical to see the positive shift in your attitude. It probably left you yearning for more.

Recently, I had a similar experience. I attended a club here in Bangalore, by the name of Game Changer Forum. I had no idea what it was about and just went to check it out. And what a pleasant surprise it turned out to be! I met with a group of positive, courageous and motivated people. And my spirits found wings!

Group energy

Crowds have an energy of their own. During riots, people in a crowd can do things that they otherwise won’t consider doing, that they might consider downright wrong.

This is true of being in a positive group as well. You find that in a positive group, the group energy will pull you out of your fears, limiting beliefs and doubts, and make you cross over into exciting zones you have never dared venture into.

Energy is infectious, and it multiplies in groups of similar minded people.

So choose the right groups

The most noteworthy thing here is that, while you become susceptible to group energy and do things you would otherwise not do, you have the choice of associating with the right groups in life. You are not left at the mercy of your situation. Just move to a more conducive company. Company that can help lift you up, company where you can lift others up, and share in their happiness, enthusiasm and hope.

You may be feeling down in the dumps, you may be feeling that you don’t have it in you to go all the way. But you don’t need to go all the way alone. Just get yourself into good company.

Let them help you on your way, let the Universe support you in your journey.

Until next time….

Image credit: jscreationzs