Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Happiness vs. Contentment

I had a discussion with one of my students recently about happiness.  We were talking about different cultures around the world, and we discussed that in all of the areas of the world where the average life expectancy was higher than most other place the people seemed to be over all happier.  We talked about this for a while to try and find out what common threads there were between the people that lived for a long time.  There were some dietary commonalities, but something that was similar in all of the people is that they were active with working to help their families and communities.  The men and women in these areas had a very strong since of belonging and family that kept them working.  I am not talking about working as in a job, but working as in taking care of children, gardening and other activities that promote the common well-being.  After some contemplation I think we discovered what it was that made these people live so long.........

At first the thought came up that these people were just happy, and that got us talking about how many Americans are not happy.  We are so focused on results and goal achievement that we do not do the things that lead to happiness.  This strikes me as odd because I consider myself a pretty happy person, but I tend to focus more on results and goal achievement than on things that are supposed to make us "happy."  The student I was talking with told me he was the same way.  After some more thought we decided that it was not happiness that people need to live long, but it was contentment, or fulfillment.  In all of the areas that people usually lived a lot longer, the people had a strong sense of purpose that keep them active and working towards the well being of people that were important to them.  This fit perfectly along with how I felt, and I have felt this way for a long time but putting it into words when I discussed it with my student was refreshing.

What we realized is that we don't need happiness to be "happy."  We need to feel contentment and fulfillment from what we do; we need to have a sense of purpose.  Too many Americans it seems are working really hard to reach happiness, but the activities that they do on a daily basis to get there do not provide contentment.  I don't think that working 15 hour days makes anyone "happy" but if your work gives you a sense of purpose that leaves you content with the work you have done, then it doesn't matter that we are not happy, because we have something better than happiness; we are fulfilled.  The trick to it then is to find what it is that will give you this feeling.  From my personal experience and from what I have seen from observing others that seem "happy," the kind of life that does this is one filled with passion for what you do, and in every instance I can recall it involves helping others as much as if not more than yourself.  If you can derive fulfillment and happiness from others being fulfilled and happy then it matters very little how "happy" you are by the common standards because you can create happiness for yourself any time by helping others.

“I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy. From the very core of our being, we desire contentment. In my own limited experience I have found that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the principal source of success in life. Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. The key is to develop inner peace.”

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Problems....And why we should be glad to have them

I recently re-listened to "Live with Passion" by Tony Robbins (a must listen for anyone who is ready to commit to having a life of a higher quality by the way) One of the topics that he covers is his interpretation of problems.  If you look at problems as a negative, then that is exactly what they will be.  We must take that "problem" and instead turn it into a challenge that provides us the chance to grow and become better humans.

A problem is a chance for us to see an area in our lives that we need to improve on.  If we look at it this way and put a disciplined effort into improving the situation we will become better and be able to prevent the problem from arising again, but if we get so caught up on the problem that we don't look for a solution then we will be stuck.  It is all about changing the meaning that you give to the situation, if you have a positive mental state and ask the right kind of questions to yourself you will be amazed with the results.  

A problem is just an adversity that is in the way of you accomplishing something.  To overcome this adversity we usually must go out of our comfort zone, and this creates uncertainty and fear.  This uncertainty and fear is the reason why problems are so difficult for people to handle.  All it takes to overcome this adversity is to have the courage to act in spite of the opposition.  This action that is out of your normal comfort zone is scary and difficult for most people, but when you go outside of your personal comfort zone, that zone actually expands and things that were at one point problems for you will now be simple for you to handle.

The courage to act in times of uncertainty and fear comes from having certainty.  It seems like common sense that if you are uncertain, becoming more certain will make you feel better.  The difficulty here is that sometimes there is no way to become more certain about the specific thing that you are uncertain about at that time.  When this is the case then the certainty has to come from you being certain in your purpose.  If you are certain with yourself, and strong with the faith in your purpose you will be able to generate the courage you need internally.  When you have certainty that originates internally then it is yours, you can use it at will, and it can be the most useful tool in overcome life's challenges. 

"The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problem."  
-Mohandas Gandhi 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Understanding Goals to Maximize Results and Success

Over the past few weeks I have spent a lot of time thinking about goals; what they are and how they play a role in our lives.  At an early age we are taught that setting a goal is the way to accomplish things, but too often we are not actually actively moving towards that goal.  When we are younger in school it is easy to stay on track with our goals because we have regular assignments and tests, and in the workplace there are goals that the company has such as quarterly earnings and sales.  Are these really the goals that make up our lives though?

I am sure that if you ask a group of average adult what their goals are that the majority of them will be able to tell you something that is important to them.  My next question to them would then be "what are you doing to accomplish your goals?"  This is something I feel that people do not think about enough.  We all must be careful that when we decide what we need to accomplish a goal, we do not just blindly trudge forward.  Goals are dynamic, constantly changing, and the outside conditions change on a daily basis.  On our journey to reach our goals we will have to change our game-plan, redirect our angle of attack, maybe even adjust our goals.

Imagine it is your goal to go to Disney World.  If you just look at a map and decide to drive south you may have a hard time.  You are going to have to plan a specific route, but if you just set cruise control and drive you will not make it.  When you are driving you need to watch out for other cars and objects that get in your way.  It is important to stay mindful of how much gas you have, you need to check the tire pressure, and there may be road closures that force you to completely change your route.  It is the same for our goals in life.  If we decide that to accomplish our goals we need to do A, B, and C then blindly strive towards those without paying attention to what is going on around us, we may get to the end our lives and decide that A, B, and C were right at the beginning, but then X, Y, and Z needed to be done.  Life is too short to waste time and energy on futile efforts, so it is important to strive towards your goals in a constructive way and constantly work on areas of your life that improve your ability to accomplish your goals.

Spend some time to decide what your goals are, then decide what you need to do to get to those goals, and on a regular basis think about what you are doing to accomplish your goals and decide if those areas are still what you should be doing.

 "I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination."
        -Jimmy Dean

RJ LoPresti

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Difficulty of the Simple

Too many times these days I hear people tell me that "Life is difficult."  On a daily basis the "difficulties of life" come up in conversation, and we all gripe about how difficult our world is.  Just like everyone else, I find myself thinking these thoughts, but in reality it is not life that is difficult at all, it is only our minds that make it that way.  The way we think about things, perceive things, react to things; these are what make life complicated.  So if you think of life as difficult, then it is.  Of course life isn't always easy, things happen that are not favorable, and there is pain and suffering, but that is life; when we realize this life simplifies significantly.  When we go to the gym to exercise we are sore the next day, but this does not make us sad or upset it actually makes us happy because we know that the result of being sore is what we want.  So why is it that when we exercise life and are left a little "sore" we get so upset?  The "difficulties" and suffering are to be expected in life, so why let that affect your mental state?  When suffering arises just smile at it and keep moving; the result from that action will be a lot less "difficult" than getting upset at your current situation.  The wonderful thing about life is that a moment happens, than it is past.  This means that if you become upset, you can change that in an instant!  Your mental state is just a reflection of how YOU react to various stimuli.  Decide to be happy, each and every day, and enjoy the results.  Find happiness in the difficulties of life!!!

"If a problem can be solved, 
what reason is there to be upset?  
If there is no possible solution, 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

January-Time, Priorities and Rules

The month of January came and went before I even knew what happened.  There was a lot more that I was hoping to get done this month, but isn't that how it always goes?  Looking back at a month that has just finished is really an eye-opener to how we spend our time, and it brings up a lot of thoughts about time, priorities and personal rules for success.  It is obvious to anyone who has goals of reaching success and excellence that there just isn't enough time in the day to get everything done unless you work like an extremely efficient, well oiled machine.

Looking back at January, how well did your machine run?

There are many "strategies" of getting things done that can be used to accomplish just about any task that you put your mind to, but to me everything boils down to time, priorities and rules.  This is something that I feel like I have a very good understanding of, but it is the application that is proving to be difficult.

Time:  There is a set amount of time in every day.  We allocate that time to all the different activities that comprise our lives, and it is how we use this time that makes us who we are.  After you take the time for sleeping, eating and all the other bare necessities out of the picture, there really is not much time left in the day.  It is so crucially important that the time that is left over is managed properly.  The biggest waste of time in my opinion is the time that we set aside to complete a specific task that is not actually spent finishing what we are working on.  I can say that personally I spend a lot more time than I should focusing on things like what I am going to do next, what I have coming up and what has already happened.  Being present focused is very important to task completion.  Set aside time every day to get stuff done, and during that time focus on nothing but the tasks that you must get done.  If we focus on other tasks what we are really doing is procrastinating, and this is how we get behind on what needs to be done.   

Priorities: When you have 7 things that must get done, 4 things that should be done, and 5 things that you would like to get done, there is no way to do them all at the same time.  This is where prioritizing is king.  Break your tasks down into these categories, and this allows you to know what to attack first, and what may be able to wait until later.  When you prioritize properly you will be able to get things done in a timely fashion so that you are not bombarded with 16 things that must be an hour!  

Rules: In my opinion these are what make us who we are, and they dictate how we act on a daily basis.   On many occasions Tony Robbins talks about "Must-Do's" and "Should-Do's"  These are your rules.  Too many times in life we have something that is a Must-Do, but the steps needed to achieve that goal are not held to the same standard.  It is no wonder we get stressed and frustrated.  We need to embrace our Must-Do's and attack it with a passion.  For example if in order for us to be happy and feel fulfilled we MUST achieve result Z, then the steps to get to that result need to be Must-Do's as well; if they are not then it is no mystery why we don't achieve the desired result, which leaves us feeling unhappy and unfulfilled.  We should constantly evaluate what we are trying to get done.  If the result is a Must-Do then everything that leads to that result need to be a Must-Do as well.

Like I mentioned before these three things are not extremely difficult to understand, and it is really easy to use them to achieve the success that we all want.  The difficult part is having the self-discipline to actually practice the principles and the diligence to see it through. 

"I challenge you to make your life a masterpiece. I challenge you to join the ranks of those people who live what they teach, who walk their talk. " -Tony Robbins

RJ LoPresti