What Matters Most…

What matters most are the simple pleasures so abundant that we can all enjoy them…Happiness doesn’t lie in the objects we gather around us. To find it, all we need to do is open our eyes

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry ~ The Little Prince

I recently re-read The Little Prince and quickly remembered why this is such a popular and powerful book, read across the globe. While it was intended for a younger audience, it’s a book which i’d recommend to adults too as it contains powerful observations about life and human nature. The story itself is enjoyable, but the real value comes from the way in which it makes the reader stop and think about the world and their place in it.

The main theme of The Little Prince is the importance of looking beneath the surface to find the real truth and meaning of a thing. It is the fox who teaches the Prince to see with one’s heart instead of just with one’s eyes. Unfortunately, this is something which most adults have difficulty doing. As we get older, we get bombarded with messages about what life should look like, and are processed through an education system which is out of tune with the world for which its students are being prepared. In the process, too many of us lose our sense of curiosity and even our creativity as we focus instead on becoming the kind of person society wants us to be. We focus on getting the best education, to secure the best career which will in turn pay us the best salary with which we can afford to buy a nice house and a nice car before meeting someone with whom to start a family. All pretty intensive and exhausting stuff, and with only 24 hours in a day, something has to give…

That something which usually falls by the wayside? The simple pleasures in life which bring so much happiness, joy and meaning to our lives. That is why I wanted to share the above quote, because it’s so powerful. We become so busy chasing after grades and jobs that we often forget or forego the time we should be spending enjoying our lives. We find ourselves overworked, stressed and often miserable, desperately seeking a solution.

This is where Marketers and Social Media Influencers come in. Their sole purpose is to influence our decision-making processes, so that we spend our hard-earned cash on things which we neither want nor need. We all like to think of ourselves as intelligent and perceptive, so how are they able to get away with this?! In short, they assign certain emotions to their products or services. We are led to believe that having their product in our lives will lead us to feel happy, satisfied or fulfilled. Or, another approach they use is one by which we become convinced that without their product or service, we won’t be happy and our quality of life will not improve. All of which is, of course, nonsense.

Buying things in order to feel better doesn’t work. All that happens is that you are left with a cupboard full of junk and an empty bank account. Hardly a cause for celebration. The reality is that happiness is a feeling and a mindset. It’s internal, and controlled by you, and you alone. It is, essentially, your choice whether to be happy or not and all comes down to what you choose to focus on. Do you focus on that which you already have in your life, and for which you are thankful? Or do you instead spend your time reflecting on what you don’t have but others do? Attaching your happiness to material possessions, or comparing your life with others, will only lead to disappointment, frustration and a lack of fulfillment.

Achieving happiness doesn’t require the latest smartphone or designer handbag. It requires quietening your mind through meditation or journalling, before taking time to appreciate the true beauty of life; whether that’s in our personal relationships or spending time surrounded by nature. These are just two of the simple pleasures which are so abundant that we can all enjoy them. Anybody can experience these pleasures at any time, young or old, rich or poor. It doesn’t even require you to open your wallet.

All you need to do is set some time aside to open your eyes and your heart. Take some time to truly appreciate the beauty of life, and the things which money can’t buy. That is the path to happiness.

Passion, and doing what you love

“Anything that gets your blood racing is probably worth doing”

Hunter S Thompson

Passion is a powerful emotion and, when it’s controlled, it is a beautiful thing. It can bring untold joy and satisfaction, or simply provide an antidote to feeling lost or unfulfilled. It can inspire and motivate us, or provide a welcome respite from the trials and tribulations of daily life.

Passion is more than just an emotion, however, but also a very popular topic for conversation and debate. Business books, journal articles and blogs are increasingly advising us to chase our passions. After all, if we are passionate about something, we will be more inclined to devote a large chunk of our time to it, as it won’t feel like work. We are told that we should think like entrepreneurs and find a way to turn our passions into businesses. Many people are doing exactly this and have become incredibly successful in the process, but it’s not for everyone. It’s not easy, either.

Not everyone wants to turn their passion into a business. Some people just want to enjoy the benefits of doing something which they love. Their rewards come from the happiness, inner peace or adrenaline rush which they may experience. Monetising your passion and turning it into a business, on the other hand, can take away some of its shine and enjoyment. Your passion then gets tied up with the added pressure of financial gain and this can blur the lines between work and fun. That thing which you did simply because you loved it, you are now doing it for money.  Some people are successful in this pursuit, but others find themselves unable to turn their passion into a sustainable or scalable business, or simply lose interest.

Before you even get to the stage of deciding whether to turn your passion into a business, you need to know what it is that makes your heart sing. Many people just don’t know. Their lives become routine and comfortable, and almost seem to run on autopilot. This is why we need people to rediscover their passion, whether it’s to become a business venture or just for personal enjoyment. Passionate people are, after all, happy and can create wonderful things. This all starts, as with most things, with reflection and becoming more self-aware. You have to know yourself, in order to know what truly makes you happy.

So, as you ponder your passion and what it is that makes you tick, i’d like to leave you with a few prompts for reflection which might help;

  • What did you enjoy doing when you were younger?
  • What do you feel that you would be unable to live without?
  • If money were not an issue and you were finances were comfortable, what would you spend your days doing?
  • What would you be prepared to do full-time without being paid?
  • What subject could you read 20 books about without getting bored?

Well… what are you passionate about?

 

Duty

“Man’s happiness lies not in freedom, but in the acceptance of a duty”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Duty is a word which we often hear in our daily lives, from the workplace to the church and everywhere in-between, but struggle to define. What actually is it? It’s sometimes interchanged with the terms purpose or responsibility, but is it really the same ?

There are a lot of similarities. Responsibility, as with duty, can mean being accountable for someone or something. It can also mean an obligation to successfully carry out an action. While there is a lot of interchangeability here with duty, the difference is that I regard duty as being the more powerful driving force of the two. Duty is intrinsically motivated. With a sense of duty, you become involved in an activity not out of self interest and gain, but rather out of compulsion, commitment and a drive that comes from deep inside. Duty is stronger than purpose too. Purpose illuminates the path towards a goal or aim, on which you will focusing your thoughts and actions. Purpose helps you to remain focused when things are going well and to get back on track when faced with challenges. A duty, however, runs deeper.

Duty is something which we feel morally obliged to do, but it is born within us only after we become more self-aware. In essence, duty comes from a clear understanding of the principles by which you will live your life. To be able to fully understand and define those principles, however, you must first have a good understanding of who you really are. If you truly hope to embark on a journey of achievement and discovery, at the end of which you fulfill your potential, inward reflection is the logical starting point. Once you have a good idea of your strengths and weaknesses, what drives you and what you hope to achieve from life, you are then in a good position to define your goals, purpose, duties and responsibilities.

In defining our duties and devoting ourselves to them, we can find fulfillment and a sense of inner peace. Subordinating and sacrificing ourselves to our duties can also give a deeper meaning to our lives, or simply make us happier.

 

 

 

 

Before you help others, help yourself.

I recently watched a video in which serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk warns that you need to be selfish before you can even think of being selfless. I was initially surprised to hear this because they are complete opposites, but it gave me plenty of food for thought. A few days later, I had a flight to catch. As usual, my mind wandered as the safety demonstration began, but I came back around just in time to hear the announcement instruct passengers that, in the event of an emergency, they should secure their own safety vest before helping others with theirs. In other words, only after you have helped yourself should you attempt to help others. Cue even more reflection.

After my initial skepticism, I actually began to understand and appreciate the brilliance of this advice. If your intentions are noble and you only wish to help others and be kind, the first step is to be kind to yourself. After all, if you are struggling in your personal life or career, how are you going to help anyone else?

Helping others in place of helping yourself will neither make your troubles go away, nor is it a substitute for them. Simply put, if you prioritise the needs of others over your own, it’s just another form of escapism.

In order to achieve anything in life, regardless of your goals, you need to first work on yourself. You need to define your purpose, identify your goals and learn to become resilient in the face of challenges and setbacks. This, in turn, will help you to become stronger and more rounded as a person. From that position, you can use your experiences to help other people meet the challenges which they may be facing.

In short, the more you work on yourself and build your self-awareness and strength, the better you will be able to help others and make a difference in their lives.

 

Discipline

“In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory was over themselves. Self-discipline with all of them came first”

Harry S Truman

When exploring the multitude of factors which have the power to influence or contribute to our happiness and success, there is one which reigns supreme. Discipline. Mastery over the self, and a certain level of control over our emotions and impulses, can bring serious benefits to all areas of our lives from our health and fitness to our relationships with others, our professional lives and everything in-between.

There have been a number of studies over the years which have explored the power and benefits of discipline in depth, and if there is one common theme, it is that those who practice self-discipline are often happier as a result. Better yet is the fact that discipline is a learned behaviour. It is not something that you are born with, but rather it’s within reach for all of us. So, if you want to become more disciplined, it is entirely possible as long as you put the effort and hard work in. And hard work it most certainly is. In order to become disciplined, you must master the self. This means becoming more aware of who you are, what motivates you, your hopes and fears and your vision for the future. Furthermore, you become more acutely aware of your emotions and what triggers them, leading you to becoming more effective at controlling them as well as your impulses. This culminates in a person developing a sense of balance and becoming more able to make better informed and more rational decisions, which are not governed by impulse and emotion. Your decision-making process becomes proactive and guides you towards your goals as you spend less time and energy simply reacting to the world around you.

Becoming more disciplined requires constant practice and reflection, but the results are more than worth the hard work and effort required. Alongside the increased self-awareness and impulse control, as you work on becoming more disciplined, you will find bad habits being broken and replaced with healthier, more productive ones.

When it comes to the “how” of becoming more disciplined, there is no singular, winning formula. This stands to reason, as we are all unique and on our own individual journeys towards our vision of success. There are, however, a few proven and popular methods, and i’ll end with my top 4;

  • Expressing gratitude. We live in an age of consumerism and are relentlessly bombarded with messages about things that we need to buy in order to be happy. The result is that we spend a ridiculous amount of time and energy focusing on what we lack, and how important it is for our future happiness to have it. Essentially, we are allowing our impulses and actions to be manipulated by clever marketers and salespeople. If you want to become more disciplined, you need to take control here. This starts with a shift towards appreciation and gratitude. Focus, instead, should be switched to what you already have and are grateful for.
  • Eating healthier foods, sleeping well and exercising regularly. Fighting temptation and cravings in order to lead a healthier lifestyle will build a healthy mind as well as a healthy body. As the saying goes, “Mens sana in corpore sano” or “a healthy mind in a healthy body”.
  • Organisation. This is one area which you can practice at work, as well as at home, in order to become more disciplined. In becoming more organised, you become better able to prioritise tasks and manage your time effectively, as well as your emotions and energy levels.
  • Resilience. Discipline is also about willpower and mental strength, and the one area where this guaranteed to be regularly tested is in our response to setbacks. As you develop the ability persevere through hard times, you will find yourself becoming more disciplined. This, in turn, will help you to develop the strength to bounce back from challenges and get yourself back on the path towards your goals.

 

 

 

 

If you want to be happy, be true to yourself

Recently, we have looked at authenticity  and being yourself from several different angles. Why do I feel that it is so important to address this issue? In short, I am sharing my reflections on authenticity because I strongly believe that knowing who you are and behaving accordingly has the power to lay the foundations for happiness in your life.

Too many people live in fear of the judgement of others, be it the disapproval of a parent or sibling, or a negative comment on social media. As a result, people live their lives seeking acceptance and fearing rejection. In effect, people are allowing others to dictate their lives, and their happiness. This breeds frustration, misery and inner conflict. 

The time has come now to stop complaining and making excuses for your unhappiness and why your life may not be  progressing as you’d like. The truth is that you alone have the power to address this. Once you have progressed far along enough on your journey of self discovery to have a good understanding of who you are, act accordingly. There may be some resistance from friends and family at first, but that will fade and they will accept the new, happy you. If social groups reject and ostracise you this is a sign that it wasn’t meant to be, but another group will welcome you with open arms and accept you as you are. After all, as one door closes another will open.

We only have one life. Wouldn’t it be a terrible shame to spend it living up to the expectations of others while denying our true selves?! This has the potential to breed regret later in life, which is a powerful and painful emotion. The good news is that this scenario is avoidable if you can find the courage to be yourself. It’s not easy, discovering and accepting who you truly are, but the rewards make the  effort and hard work worthwhile.

I’d like to end this post with some food for thought from the philosopher Carl Jung;

Whoever looks into the mirror of the water will see first of all his own face. Whoever goes to himself risks a confrontation with himself. The mirror does not flatter, it faithfully shows whatever looks into it; namely, the face we never show to the world because we cover it with the persona, the mask of the actor. But the mirror lies behind the mask and shows the true face.

“Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious” (1935). In CW 9, Part I: The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. P.43