In The Happiness Equation, Neil Pasricha writes how when he was blogging, he kept on setting more and more ambitious goals and hitting it. He finally realized, “No matter how many external goals I achieved, I just kept setting more. I started realizing that external goals didn’t help me become a better person. Only internal goals did.”
How many times do we find ourselves in the same situation? We reach a goal and suddenly, we’re not satisfied with what we have, and we end up wanting more. That’s practically the definition of ambition, and it’s a good trait…except when it’s not. Like when a person back stabs a friend to get ahead or when that hunger causes them to sell their family…
You were willing to sell your family for pizza?
I actually read something close to that once, and found it funny…
The Let-It-Go approach
I’ve seen people suffer because they hung their hopes on one job, one person, one thing…and when they don’t get it, or when they get it and end up losing it, they spend far too much time whining over it. So the let-it-go approach is simple, especially when it’s something or someone (I guess I’ve seen more scenarios where that thing was a person) that’s making you unhealthily obsessive…just let it go. Cut all connections with them. No FB friendships, no twitter following, no blog following….just let them go. And I would like to tell you that with time they might come around, but chances are, they won’t but you’ll be happier without them in your life anyway.
I mean, so many times I’ve seen people trying to force a narrative in their life; two people who come from sparring claiming to fall in love just because they want to stage a Romeo-and-Juliet kind of story even though they’re totally incompatible….and every time people try to force such narratives, things become so complicated that eventually it breaks apart.
So let them go. Write their name on a paper and burn it. Find reasons to hate them if it’s possible. Freeze your heart whenever you hear their name, and scowl. Do whatever it takes for your peace of mind.
So let it go. And don’t follow.
Background image via pixabay.com
A while back, somebody started the #100happydays project that asked the question, ,”Can you be happy 100 days in a row?”
The idea is quite interesting as it made people appreciate life’s simple pleasures. Soon social media sites were filled with pictures of coffee and books and cats and of course…selfies.
But if you really think about it, it’s quite an unrealistic expectation; staying happy for a 100 days in a row?
Life goes in cycles. There’ll be good days, not-so-good days and outright horrible days you wish you can forget and delete from your memory. There’ll be days when the alarm will go off and all you’ll want to do is throw it across the room; when no matter how much coffee you have you can’t seem to stay awake; when you just need everyone to go away and leave you alone. And when they do, you sit and brood about why you’re so alone…
My point is, there’ll always be ups and downs. It’s not really about having a 100 happy days in a row, but rather about having a repository of little things to help buffer you from the radioactive effects of the not-so-happy days. I say radioactive because sometimes one bad incident can have a long lasting effect on you; it causes a sort of mental tumor so you don’t think the same about something anymore.
Let’s take an example. I’ve always been used to seeing bodies of water wherever I go. It could be a lake or a river or an ocean…For the longest time, the Indian Ocean was the basis of one of my anxiety-reducing techniques. I would go into details about the technique but not today. Anyhow, come 2004, and the videos of the Tsunami spread around the media….and it took me a very long time to get over these mental images. Sitting down on the fence right outside of Fort Jesus in Mombasa was no longer something I enjoyed doing. It just made me anxious to leave.
It took a while to get over it.
So I guess the take-home lesson is to focus on the happy moments more than the unhappy ones, but don’t pretend the unhappy ones don’t exist because that’s just another way of numbing your emotions and as a great writer once said, “Pain demands to be felt.“
In a previous post, I spoke about being present and living in the now as a means to fix feelings of frustration. Sometimes it’s not easy to do that because the whole goal of frustration is to rattle you enough to make you forget all the things you know in theory you should be doing. Like being present. And mindful.
Ellen Langer is a professor of psychology who spent her lifetime studying the benefits of mindfulness, which she defines as an active state of mind where you’re intentionally noticing things. It’s what blogger Neil Pasricha (the guy behind 1000 awesome things) did to come up with his awesome blog posts – he continuously noticed things. He spoke about the three A’s of awesome; the second one of which was awareness. He says, “I love hanging out with three year-olds. I love the way that they see the world, because they’re seeing the world for the first time. Having a sense of awareness is just about embracing your inner three year-old...”
We’re definitely losing that sense of engagement with the world around us as we explore the world at our fingertips. So it’s good to have mementos and reminders to reinforce the idea that we need to slow down, engage with the world around us and take things one step at a time. While others might write down statements on post-it notes and hang them around the house, my favorite anchoring technique is a video I took last October in Mombasa.
Here’s the trick. You must watch it until the end. Do not skip it. Do not forward it. Just keep on watching.
So how did that make you feel? The first time I saw that hippopotamus emerge from the water, I was filled with awe. Its slow walk towards the feeding area made it seem as though it had all the time in the world. It seemed to poke fun at all those people who walked around with pocket watches crying out, “I’m late. I’m late. I’m late.”
And if there’s nothing else it taught me; it taught me to live in the moment, engage with life and just be present.
So yeah, I hope this is a good reminder to slow down your pace in life if your life is very hectic. Remember.
One. Step. At. A. Time.
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It’s easy to find yourself in a downward spiral when every time your aunties see you they quack about how you need to get married, or when your work colleague rudely mentions about your biological clock (which by the way, is NONE of their business!) or when getting your facebook friends show off their honeymoon, anniversary and first/second/third baby pictures. But here’s the thing:
1) Nobody’s going to save you. The problem happens when people sit and think that someone out there is going to somehow save them and make them happy but that’s just seeking happiness from an external source, which could – or could not – work out. Why give an external factor that much power? Such an attitude leads to anxiety and insecurity. The best way to counter that is to practice self-love and understand that you are enough as you are, with or without someone.
2) A lot of times, people think that the solution for everything at your age is to get married. For instance, a guy has spending problems…get him married (because according to their logic, if he settles he will learn to be more responsible). Instead of solving this guy’s financial problems head-on, the marriage obviously compounded his financial woes since having a family is not exactly cheap. While marriage might solve a few problems like keeping those quacking aunties quiet for a change, it could also open more doors to trouble; the sort you always hear about but never imagine could happen to you. So as the Arabic saying goes, “Close the door that brings in the wind and relax.”
الباب الذي يأتي منه الريح أغلقه واستريح
3) Get rid of emotional triggers. What drives people to sit and pout about how they’re so lonely and miserable is all the emotional triggers around; in the malls, on the road, on TV, on Facebook. As the quote says, alone people don’t like to hear about the together people. That doesn’t mean to avoid the together people altogether but to avoid those who can’t stop talking about how their spouse did this or that or “Oh My God! Doesn’t that show he’s so adorable!”
“No, it only shows you’re pretty annoying.”
4) Reach out to friends [those who can actually have a conversation about something other than their spouses]. It’s very easy for lonely people to withdraw into themselves thinking they don’t have anybody out there. Again, nobody’s going to save you. You’ve got to do all the legwork yourself. And just because you’re single doens’t mean you don’t have friends, work colleagues, knitting club members, or even old neighborhood grandmothers you can call and visit [those last ones are the best because they appreciate the calls and visits the most + visiting them always comes with the added bonus of free food].
5) Loneliness resulting from a downward spiral is an emotion triggered by a mental thought process. It has been shown that getting some exercise helps with the symptoms of the clinically depressed. Exercise is known to release the happy chemicals endorphins. And if that doesn’t work, have a banana (bananas are known to work great for mood elevation).
In the end remember that we do live in a lonely world nowadays. With too many screens and information overload, maybe technology has helped increase the number of relationships but it didn’t do much about improving the depth and quality of those relationships. And also, there are people who happen to be married and yet still feel lonelier than you probably would on your own. So enjoy your solitude.
And have a great week!