Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Optimism vs. Pessimism

This great article "Train Yourself to be Happier" (which is a more fun read than it sounds) is all about thinking positive. Although it probably isn't news to you, it's something to keep in mind.

I still believe that pretty much the same kind of stuff happens to everyone, so all that really matters is how you deal with it. For the most part it just boils down to whether you are an optimist or a pessimist.

I realize that it is probably extremely hard to switch from being a pessimist to being an optimist. Pessimism is good for only one thing: protecting yourself from being let down. If you expect to always be let down, then when it happens, it's what you expected. Of course, the cost is that you live in a world of negativity, where you expect bad things to happen to you. Seems like it'd be pretty hard to ever really reach for something, doesn't it?

Ego protection aside, there's no cost to being an optimist. Better stuff does happen to you. And guess what? Even if it doesn't, at least you'll live in a life that expects, remembers, and promotes happiness.

Why would you want it any other way?

Monday, May 28, 2007

I've got everything I need, now what?

Brink Lindsey, author of The Age of Abundance (How Prosperity Transformed America's Politics and Culture) was on the Daily Show the other night and had this to say:
For most people throughout human history, they're worried about filling their belly, they're worried about basic food and shelter and clothing and so they don't have time to think about personal fulfillment, meaning of life, quality of life, self realization and all of those things. You know the baby boomers are the first generation ever raised to take basic material needs for granted.
So basically, this is both good news and bad news. The good news is that if you're having a personal fulfillment crisis, it's probably means that all of the necessities have been taken care of and you're wondering "now what?" The bad news is that no one is going to sympathize with someone who has everything they need!

Of course that would imply that the solution is to intentionally deprive yourself of life's basic necessities. That'll teach you to be unhappy!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Out of left field

In an unusual article for the Somerville News, James Norton gives us some random life encouragement. My favorite part is this:
It’s being stuck in the middle that brings out the irony in life. That’s where we learn to push things down inside and not deal with problems.
I'm sure many can relate. I like to think that I don't push things down inside, but you know, in a few years I fully expect to be able to look back and realize that I was.

The first comment is great too,
thing #3 if your really upset with someone and they dont know it, you are suffering and they are going on as usual, let them know or let it go.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

On Momentum

This blog is a good metaphor for how momentum works in our personal lives. If I write well every day, my readership continues to grow. As soon as I miss posting even one day, the number of readers drops off, and takes a few days to get back to where it used to be.

If I don't write for several days, it takes even longer to get back into the swing of things.

I realized that I'm almost an expert at killing my own momentum in my personal life. I put stuff off for so long that when I actually do something, it feels like such an accomplishment that I use it as an excuse to reward myself. This "reward" usually comes in the form of some time killer that is designed to last 30 minutes to an hour, but inevitably seems to kill my momentum for the rest of the day.

I don't feel too bad because I checked off that nasty item that had been hounding me for weeks. I'd be so much better off if I just immediately moved onto the next item. The weight of all these little things can easily add up to a subtle unhappiness that is hard to pinpoint.

The time is now for me to start learning how to make friends with momentum...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Everything is related

So recently, the other day, I hurt my back. There wasn't an incident, it just started hurting (well, I had been doing some flooring). The next day, my hamstring started getting sore...then my other hamstring was sore.

As I learned last year after going to a few physical therapy sessions, everything is related. You wouldn't think that your back problems might be related to your hamstring, or that your neck might be related to your back...but it only takes a few minutes of someone who knows what they're doing to prove it to you.

I wouldn't be surprised if this extends past physical issues, and into your other problems. I'm sure you could imagine how changing just one thing (for example, arriving on time), could snowball into other changes in your life. You show up on time -> The person you meet with has more respect and patience than they otherwise would have -> They are happier and more friendly to you than usual -> That makes you respond and act with more confidence than you otherwise might have.

Not only did you change the other person's impression of you, but your behavior even changed for the better.

What's that one little thing that would be easy to change?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Off the Wagon

Sorry I disappeared there for a few days. I've been feeling like I have run out of things to say! Already a man of few words, this "write something interesting every single day" was getting to me, and it felt like I was forcing entries just to get something out. I've been considering going from 5 posts a week down to 3, so maybe I'll give that a shot.

I can be a really excellent procrastinator, which of course is especially worrisome when you're about to quit your job for something far less structured and mostly absent "deadlines from above". Perhaps this will have to be where I finally learn to be organized about information and paperwork, and disciplined about my time and effort.

I really, really don't want to be sent back to a 9-5 office job because that's the only structure that doesn't allow me to procrastinate! Then again, being a real estate agent is based on helping individuals, which ratchets up the accountability. It's much easier to slack off when you answer to a company.

Maybe it will be a good fit afterall...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Giant leap

Why is something that should be so simple, so hard? Maybe it's when taking that first step means you're crossing some sort of invisible barrier. One that somehow signifies the beginning of a whole new era for you. It's a small step for mankind, but a giant leap for you.

I don't feel any different now. But I wonder why I was afraid in the first place.

I guess it's good I've got conviction somewhere deep down. Hopefully I've learned from this, and won't have to be such a wuss about the next giant leap.

Like I've said, you can pretty much do anything if you really want to.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Other people know best

Pay attention to what people say when you're going through change. It's hard for you to have an objective perspective about it, so sometimes you need that outsider point of view.

If they go one step beyond just polite support, and are generally happy and excited for you, then you are on the right track. It's really interesting when you end a relationship, and all of the sudden people are happy for you. You can't help but think: "how long ago should I have gotten out?" But, it's not like you can blame one can tell you what to do with your need to figure it out for yourself.

Well...I suppose they could tell you, but it's hard, if not impossible, to listen.

On Comfort

When major change makes you really uncomfortable, it's either a really good sign, or a really bad one.

I just haven't figured out which yet.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The grass is always greener

I've been noticing lately that I always want more spare time, but as soon as I get it, it promptly goes to waste. Why is that?

Is it a sign of laziness? Procrastination? Or just sort of human nature?

Perhaps we're just so conditioned with work, time and responsibility, that we fall into a routine that will only ever get a certain amount of work done, no matter how much time we are given.

Actually, that sounds exactly like me.

So maybe more time isn't what I need after all. It's better conditioning.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The giant 26 letter skeleton in the closet

From this article comes a story of illiteracy turned happiness:

Jacques Demers coached the Montreal Canadiens to the Stanley Cup in 1993 and later became a general manager in the National Hockey League. During the entire time he was unable to read or write, according to his 2005 biography "En Toutes Lettres."

Demers' father was an abusive alcoholic who beat his son for poor grades, so he left school at 16 functionally illiterate. If someone asked Demers to read something, he would say his English was poor; if the document was in French, he would say he'd been in the U.S. for too long. If all else failed, he would say he forgot his glasses.

Demers talked his way into a license, a job, a green card, and an executive position in his nation's most popular sport. He surrounded himself with a team that compensated for his weaknesses. When he became a general manager, for instance, he hired two associates to handle contracts and give him verbal summaries.

Finally, in his 50s, Demers came clean; he worked through his childhood issues with a psychologist and overcame his illiteracy. "I wanted my head to be free," Demers told one sports columnist. "Now I'm free. I'm happy."

Can you imagine keeping anything a secret for that long...must less something so big that you would be required to lie about it pretty much every day of your life? My god that has to be exhausting.

People everywhere do this with things small and large. It's done in the name of happiness (to keep other people happy), but at the expense of our own happiness. This isn't to say that we should be 100% selfish in life, but in the end, you aren't really doing anyone any favors by being dishonest or disingenuous.

I know I've touched on this before but some things are worth repeating. The truth is painful in the short term, but think of the alternative...

Happiness is excitement

I'm currently reading The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss, which has been a truly eye-opening read thus far (I'm halfway through). His brief analysis of the word happiness (on page 51 if you must know) includes this passage:
Bear with me. What is the opposite of happiness? Sadness? No. Just as love and hate are two sides of the same coin, so are happiness and sadness. Crying out of happiness is a perfect illustration of this. The opposite of love is indifference, and the opposite of happiness is -- here's the clincher -- boredom.

Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase. It is the cure-all. When people suggest that you follow your "passion" or your "bliss", I propose that they are, in fact, referring to the same singular concept: excitement.

This makes perfect sense. I never feel unhappy when I'm doing something exciting (shocking, right?). The only time it ever hits me is those moments when I'm at a loss for what to do with my time, and I feel like I should be using it more valuably.

Lately in my life, I've had so few moments of boredom, that I confuse them with sadness.

This would certainly help define why some people are generally happy...because they are doing something that excites them! It could even be a "job". They could be "working" 80 hours a week. But if it truly excites them, they'll be happy.

So let's not mislabel boredom as sadness. Although, not everyone realizes what truly excites them...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Love what you do

I missed my chance to post on wednesday by 54 minutes. Drat. Hopefully my non-east coast readers will forgive me.

The author of this post subtitled "Paychecks are Boring" posits:

The way I see it my life will turn out one of two ways.

1. I will get lucky somewhere along the way and strike it rich. I will pay for my kids’ education, I will buy a moderate house and moderate cars and I will make smart investments for the future. I will use the money to make a difference in one way or another. I will be happy.

2. I will find meaningful, fulfilling jobs with decent salaries or start a mildly successful business. My kids will take out loans for their education, I will buy a moderate house and moderate cars and I will continue to work and invest a reasonable amount. I will donate my time rather than my money to make a difference in one way or another. I will be happy.

This of course, is within the context of an article related to money and paychecks. I can't help but wonder, is money and happiness forever linked?

I believe it's safe to say that most people cannot (or do not believe it's possible to) live cheaply enough that they won't easily fall victim to "working for a paycheck". This of course, is a bad trap to be caught in, because it becomes seemingly more inescapable over time.

If you know how to live cheaply enough, you don't have to just work for a paycheck, and can make sure that you're doing something you love, regardless of how little you get paid. But it's hard to know that the option is available when most people don't see examples of this in their everyday lives.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

One step beauty

I think happiness is what makes you pretty. Period. Happy people are beautiful.
Guess which happiness pundit said this? Drew Barrymore. (That's what I get for thumbing through the latest People Magazine right?)

I'd never thought of it that way, but it's true. I'm attracted to happy people. Think of someone you're attracted to....don't you imagine them smiling or laughing?

See, not only does On Happiness teach you how to be happy, but you also get free beauty advice!