Do You Really Want Your Neighbor’s Wonderful Life?

Are you feeling angry? Tired?  Frustrated? Envious? Do you think you are working harder than ever, yet not making much progress?

If your answer is yes, you are not alone.

Millions of people feel that life is passing them by. No matter what they do, it is always the other guy who gets the promotion, buys fancy cars, and sends his kids to Harvard, while they are barely treading water.

Are they right? And if so, what is the solution?

Facebook version of reality

Beach Vacation

Beach Vacation

You “friend” people on Facebook. Or other “social media” sites. Then they send you pictures of their beach vacations, their happy and smart kids, their new cars. And here you are, struggling with the daily grind of your mundane life.

Disconnect

Anger often arises if you want something badly, and your desires are thwarted. Or you think you deserve something, and yet you end up not getting it.

Frustration commonly has similar roots.

Reality

The real world exists.

We want it to be a certain way, but it is a stubborn beast. It goes along its merry way, impervious to our desires. It defies our efforts to control it.

Sooner or later, reality clashes with our expectations. The results, if not put into perspective, can be disastrous.

Grown-ups’ problems

tantrumAs children, we are often pampered. If we want something, we go to our parents, and demand we get it. If we don’t get our way, some of us throw a tantrum.

And then we grow up.

Control and compare

The first clash with reality in an adult world comes through comparisons.

We look at our colleagues and our neighbors. And we feel envious if they are better off than we are. Because we feel that we are just as smart as they are, if not smarter.

Envy, if not dealt with firmly and rationally, leads to resentment, bitterness, and anger.

From here, where?

So you are upset. You are better (you think), but your colleagues get all the riches. You hate that.

angryWhere is this going to lead you? Anger, hatred, resentment … this is a recipe for sleepless nights and an acid feeling in your gut. Will this make you any richer? Will that Lamborghini parked next door find its way into your garage?

No, and no.

You will be no richer, and your outlook towards life is likely to get clouded. Your enjoyment of life will diminish.

So what is the answer?

We need less envy, and more clarity of thought, more empathy, more gratitude.

Think about it.

You envy your neighbor’s mansion, his big car, his fancy vacations. But they do not exist in a vacuum. They are often the end result of a number of decisions he made along the way. Decisions which you do not know about. Decisions that you might not have made if you had that choice.

Perhaps he studied hard while his college classmates were out partying.

Perhaps he toiled at part-time jobs while others were slumped in front of their TVs, sipping beer and devouring potato chips.

Do you want his whole life?

This is the real clincher.

Your neighbor’s life is a package deal.

LamborghiniYou drool over his car. But with it might come his son’s drug addiction, his wife’s loneliness and depression, the alimony he pays to ex-wives, and the grief he gets from them. If you want his car, you will have to accept his problems, too. Ready for the deal?

Pick and choose

That is what we want to do. We want the “Facebook” elements of others’ lives, but we want to steer clear of their problems, many of which we do not even know about. Life does not work like that.

Live happily ever after?

And even if you got your neighbor’s life, and his riches, then what? You will ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after? Hardly. Life is not a Hollywood movie.

Where now?

You need a strategy to deal with life. Bitterness, envy, resentment, anger, and frustration are not strategies. They are symptoms. Symptoms that you are not happy in your own skin.

Accept reality

You are what you are. Sit down. Take a deep breath in. Look deep inside you. Analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Be grateful for what you have. You probably have more than a lot of the 7 billion or so people on this planet, especially if you live in the Western world.

Then take a cold, hard look at your problems. Is the lack of a Mercedes a real problem? Do you really need a beach house and several million dollars to be happy in this world? If so, mankind is really doomed.

What matters in life

Sooner or later, you will have to decide what it is that you really want. What will make you happy? What will give your life meaning? What will give you satisfaction?

If your answers deal with material things, you will always be disappointed. Kids will move out, and the large house will be mostly empty, except for stuff. Stuff that nobody uses anymore.

JunkThe car will lose its shine. The new car smell will fade. Eventually, it will go to the junk yard.

Stuff is temporary. Life is temporary.

The neighbor’s Lamborghini? It will end up as scrap metal one day.

So what should you do?

  • Remember all the good things that have happened to you.
  •  Be Grateful!

    Be Grateful!

    Be grateful for all of them.

  • Live in the moment and enjoy it to the fullest. This is the only moment you have. The past is gone. The future is not guaranteed. So enjoy all aspects of the present moment. This is when you are alive. This is your life.
  • Focus on friends, family, love.
  • You have one life. It might not be perfect. But it is yours. Live it, instead of grumbling about it.

 

Success or Bust: Why We Keep Chasing Our Tails!

“When I grow up, I want to become the biggest failure in the history of mankind!”

“I want to aim for the title of the worst tennis player on the planet!”

You never hear these sentiments from anybody. Nobody shoots for failure. All of us want to aim for the heavens, to become the biggest stars in the firmament.

We want to succeed.

Lack of failure?

However, we have difficulty defining success. We do not want to fail. But avoiding failure is not the same as succeeding.

Be the best?

Well-meaning slogans surround us. “Be all you can be!” But what exactly is that? How does anybody know that they have become all that they could become? Unless, of course, they are the best at what they do. And who would decide that?

Judging the best

The Best!

The Best!

In some fields of endeavor, this is easy. Tennis has its championships. So does golf. Even team sports have so-called “world championships.” A baseball team is on top of the world today. But next year, they might be down in the dumps. Has the best suddenly become the worst? And how much is the difference between the best and the worst?

Shifting goals?

Say you are a golfer. You are ranked number one in the world. Then you go on to lose the next few major tournaments. You lose your crown. Are you no good now?

Well, you might still be among the top ten players. Is that a good enough definition of success?

What if you drop to number thirty in the world? Are you still successful?

And these rankings keep changing every few months, if not more often. Is it reasonable to define success on a quarterly basis? Is that a reasonable way for people to judge their lives, their efforts, their careers?

That elusive success

In the field of sports, you can get a report card, or a ranking, or a score card. But what about other spheres of life?

Are you a successful parent, or spouse? Are you a brilliant lawyer, doctor, electrician?

Try defining it!

The achievement of a goal, aim, or purpose, is how success is often defined.

Others call it the attainment of popularity or profit.

“The correct or desired end of an attempt” is the opinion of the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Judging by results?

Let us look carefully at those definitions.

Attempts are supposed to be successful if they have the correct or desired ending.

What is the correct ending? The desired result of human endeavor? Some pursuits have no ending. Doctors are always “in practice.” There is no perfection.

Perfect?

We like to see results, especially good results, or desired results. But results are not always going to be favorable to us, and the world does not revolve around our desires.

There are other people on this planet, too, and they have their own desires. Two teams compete, and one has to lose. Is that team a failure, no good?

Real life

Student

Let us take other examples. Say you have children, and you obviously do your best to raise them well. But do you always get the desired results? You might want your kid to go to Harvard. If, however, he ends up in the local community college, are you a failure as a parent? And is your child doomed to fail in this world? Not necessarily. Many people who went on to achieve greatness studied in average colleges, and some did not attend college at all.

Teachers

Are teachers rich?

Some of the people who have had the most profound influence on me have been my teachers, especially middle school and high school teachers. None of them were rich, and none were famous. Many of them are no longer alive. But they live on in my mind. Were they successful?

Actions and results

If we keep judging success by results, we will invariably end up feeling miserable, or at least dissatisfied, in the long run.

The reason is two-fold

Results are transient. A star manager can, and often does, get fired. Successful shows on TV do not run forever. Mansions on the beach frequently end up as fodder for divorce lawyers. Even Tiger Woods could not maintain his dream sequence of golf championships. And then what?

Results are not under our control

This is one of the most bitter pills to swallow, especially in the modern world. We are taught to work hard, play hard, climb the ladder, and rule the roost.

Except that there may not always be a roost to rule.

Actions rule

Common sense dictates that actions are, for the most part, under our control. Especially our own actions. After that, our sphere of influence narrows considerably, and often stops.

But we continue to want to control everything: other people, events, results. And we continue to feel that that will make us happy and successful. We might be proved wrong, but we do not learn; perhaps because we do not want to learn.

Fear

We keep doing what we are programmed to do by society, because we are afraid that the alternative will mean failure, unhappiness, and loss of face.

Failure?

We cling to an antiquated belief system, because “everybody does it.” Everybody chases money, and fame. And becomes disillusioned, but does not want to admit it publicly.

Where does that leave us?

We need a new approach, based on age-old wisdom.

Success, happiness, and satisfaction are not found in external circumstances. The key to these lies within us, and can be found with introspection, clarity of thought, and a sense of perspective.

People living in miserable conditions have shown remarkable courage and achieved a state of peace that most of us cannot even imagine.

Concentration camp survivors have described methods they used to rise above their circumstances.

Nelson Mandela did not let years of imprisonment make him bitter, and radiated an inner joy which enabled him to forgive his tormentors.

Conclusion

  • External circumstances are transient. Using money, fame, and material possessions to determine our worth is likely to lead to frustration.
  • Living in the present, and making the most of the present moment, brings peace.
  • The past is gone. We should learn from it, and then move on. Constantly reliving the past will not bring joy or satisfaction.
  • The future is uncertain. It is not guaranteed, and is not under our direct control.
  • Human beings share this planet, and are more alike than different. A sense of empathy and kindness, and a focus on others, rather than always on us, will bring inner peace.
  • A strong feeling of gratitude, rather than of entitlement, will lead to humility, and lasting joy.
  • Focusing on appropriate actions, which are always under our control, rather than on results, which are unpredictable, will lead to satisfaction.
  • A successful life is a life of enjoying the moment, acting compassionately, responsibly, and without undue concern about outcomes.

What do you think?

I would love to know!

Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Don’t Miss The Boat: Grab Happiness Today!

Sail today

“I think once the home mortgage is paid off, I’ll be happy.”

“Wait a second, what about the kids? I think once they are married off, and well-settled in life, that’s when I think I can afford to be happy.”

“Happy? Are you kidding me? I have to get that promotion before Jim does. Who has time to be happy?”

I’ll be happy when…

We tend to lay down conditions when talking about happiness, or even when thinking about happiness. These are all external conditions. You get your promotion. But then the goal post changes. Now you want to be the CEO before you will allow yourself to be happy. And what if you do become the CEO?

You will then want to grow the company, increase revenues, buy other companies, create an empire.

Sound familiar?

What is wrong with right now?

If you ever want to be happy, you must decide to be happy right now.

Not tomorrow, not next week, not when the kids have grown up.

So what is stopping you from being happy right now?

Fear, confusion, and ignorance.

Most of us do not know what happiness is.

Oh, we see the external signs all right. The smiling faces, the big mansions, the stately cars. And the eye-popping yachts.

yacht

We get confused. We think that these are the things which produce happiness. And the media outlets do their best to reinforce this world-view. Because it is their job to sell. But it is not mandatory for us to buy.

Masks

mask

People walk around with masks on their faces. Maybe you do, too.

The smiley-face mask hides the pain underneath. The pain, and the confusion. Everybody is rich, everybody is smiling, so what’s wrong with me?

I must smile, too, and join in this pretense.

Fear

At some point, we have to turn our gaze inwards, do some honest-to-goodness introspection and ask ourselves what would truly make us happy, what we truly want. Not what we are programmed to pursue, but what really would give us lasting satisfaction.

Many of us are afraid to do that, because we are afraid of the answers we might get.

Many of us are afraid of slowing down, taking a step back, and doing some serious soul-searching.

Many of us are afraid of rocking the boat, of abandoning the rat race, the mad pursuit of material progress and accumulation.

But if you look inside you, there will be answers which will surprise you. However, these are answers which true seekers have always found, over millennia.

Gratitude

This is one of the major ingredients of a happy, fulfilling life.

Be grateful that you are alive. Most human beings, with very rare exceptions, would rather be alive than dead. So express your thanks. To whichever power you believe in.

Be grateful for your health. Whatever your state of health, you can always find people worse off than you. Be grateful for two arms and two legs. If you have had an amputation, be grateful for any arms and legs you have left. There are people with less.

Gratitude for nature

beach

No matter how sad you are, look around you. You will discover everyday epiphanies. The sky, the stars, the beach, the mountains: look at them carefully, and drink in their beauty. The sun rises daily, whether it wants to or not. And so does the moon. And they shine on rich and poor alike.

If you believe in God, thank him for the grandeur of nature. If you do not subscribe to the notion of a creator, you can still enjoy the wonders of nature. Your beliefs or non-beliefs do not subtract from the glory of nature.

Expand your focus

focus

You are not the center point of the universe. There are other creatures, great and small, who share this world with you. They have as much a right to happiness as you do.

If you think about yourself all the time, your pleasures, your pain, life will get difficult. What have you done to deserve a lifetime of unending bliss? Into each life, some rain must fall.

Expand your thinking and focus to include others.

Try and rejoice in the good fortune of others.

Try and feel the pain of somebody who is suffering.

Gratitude expands your focus, and makes you less self-centered. It makes you more happy, more satisfied with what you have, indeed more satisfied with your lot in life.

Be kind

happy

“There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.”

-Dalai Lama

Wordsworth

Studies on students have found a clear relationship between altruism and happiness. Happiness makes us more open to others. Those people who consider themselves to be the most happy are also generally the most altruistic.

Monks have been studied scientifically when meditating on compassion: their brains show more activity in the left pre-frontal cortex. This reflects a larger capacity for happiness and a lower tendency for negativity.

Out with resentment!

Holding-on-to-anger

Resentment and anger are wasted emotions. They affect you more than the person they are directed against. That person is often not even aware of your feelings, and usually doesn’t care! While you keep seething inside.

Resentment and unchecked desire are two of the major impediments to human happiness.

The Gita on resentment

Gita quote

There is a lot of confusion about the true meaning of sanyasi, a word used to refer to someone who has renounced the world, who is detached from this world. But to achieve that state, we are told in verse 5:3 of the Gita (an epic of philosophy  and religion), it is not essential to don sackcloth and ashes.

The true sanyasi is he who has renounced resentment and desire. Freed from the bonds imposed by those emotions, he can still live in this world, and perform appropriate actions.

So why wait?

shackles

Throw off the shackles causing you misery today, and lead a happy and satisfying life!

Want to read more?

You can download my book on satisfaction and happiness at: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00W5TGM1U.

 

Want to be Happy Right Now? Try Gratitude

family-521551_1280

Who does not want to be happy?

However, most of us are confused about what that means. We often choose the wrong ways of trying to achieve happiness, spending a lot of money chasing transient pleasures. And we are reluctant to do some simple, and often free, things which can bring about lasting satisfaction.

Gratitude brings happiness

thank-you-490607_1280

Most people tend to overlook the established fact that gratitude is a crucial component of happiness.  Regular inclusion of grateful thinking into your life can change the way you look at the world. This has been shown to boost happiness levels significantly.

Gifts

No matter how little you have, if you think carefully, you will find gifts that others have given you over time. Life is one of them. Whether your life is ideal, or less than that, it still is a wonderful thing to be alive, at least for the vast majority of us. Except for some people with serious mental health issues, and some with other tragic circumstances, most human beings would choose life over death.

How did you get here?

school-79612_1280

The human infant is quite helpless. Turning him or her into a functioning adult requires significant effort from numerous people: parents, teachers, friends, community members, relatives. It is naïve to think that you became successful just because of your own hard work.

Acknowledging that, and expressing gratitude for it, is nothing more than accepting reality. This is the first step to developing a healthy attitude to life.

A spark from another

fireman-446014_1280

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

-Albert Schweitzer

The sense of awe

coast-505858_1280

Look around you. The sky is amazing, as are the stars. The sun rises every day, and shines upon rich and poor alike. If you have ever enjoyed a sunset at the beach, or looked at majestic mountains, or just walked in the moonlight, you are bound to feel a sense of awe. If you believe in God, thank Him for the miracles of nature. If you do not believe in God, you can still feel grateful for an opportunity to enjoy nature, often free of charge.

Everyday epiphanies

“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.”

-John Milton

Good in the world

There is good in this world. There are good people, who perform good deeds. There are good things, many of which are free, such as the air we breathe. A self-centered view of the world can lead people to believe that they are the center of the universe. However, gratitude helps us to acknowledge that there are forces of good in this world outside of ourselves, and that these people, these forces, and these things can make a huge difference.

Of course, evil exists, too. And it is talked up all the time. Not too many people think and talk about the good that exists. Turning our attention to that can cause a paradigm shift.

Shift in focus

It is normal for human beings to think of themselves first and foremost. This is an attitude which promotes survival. But taken to an extreme, it becomes a damaging selfishness, which can color our attitude toward everything.

Gratitude allows us to shift our focus from ourselves to others, and encourages us to become more appreciative citizens of a global community. This is not just mumbo-jumbo. A grateful attitude has important, well-documented benefits.

More happy, less depressed

Research studies by Robert A. Emmons, PhD, suggest that gratitude leads to an increase in happiness and a reduction in depression.

Emmons is a leading researcher in the field of gratitude.

Gratitude journal

thank-you-515514_1280

Keeping a journal in which people regularly jot down things and people they are grateful for has been shown to improve the health and happiness of users.

Interestingly, it appears that writing down your feelings of appreciation and thankfulness even once a week in a journal has beneficial effects.

Sleep better

A study published in 2011 in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being revealed the positive effects of gratitude on sleep. People who keep a gratitude journal, and spend even 15 minutes a night writing down grateful sentiments tend to sleep longer and better.

Stress, optimism, immunity

The research of Dr Emmons suggests that feelings of thankfulness enable people to deal better with stress and other day-to-day problems.

There is also a link between gratitude and feelings of optimism. And there is some suggestion that optimism is linked to better immune function.

Better health

People who regularly express gratitude tend to exercise more often, and report fewer physical symptoms. In general, they admit to feeling more healthy compared to other people.

Teenagers

thank-you-645884_1280

A 2010 study in the Journal of Happiness Studies showed that high school students who are grateful have higher GPAs. They also have fewer signs of depression or envy.

Other studies reveal that grateful teenagers are better behaved in school and more hopeful.

Relationships

Gratitude and friendship go hand in hand. Grateful people recognize the positive contributions others make in their lives. As such, they tend to connect better with other people and have stronger personal relationships.

Athletic burn out

The journal Social Indicators Research published a study in 2008 showing that athletes who were grateful had higher life satisfaction and team satisfaction, and were less likely to suffer from burn out.

Conclusion

  • A world-view that begins and ends with oneself is unlikely to lead to lasting happiness.
  • Acquisition of material goods is unlikely to cause permanent joy.
  • Long-term satisfaction with life often requires a shift in the way we perceive ourselves and the world.
  • Developing and practicing a sense of gratitude has been shown to promote happiness and a feeling of well-being.
  • Even if you have very little, you can find something or someone to be grateful for.
  • Research into gratefulness has documented several physical and mental health benefits.

Call to action

  • Think of people who have helped you get where you are in life.
  • Appreciate what you have.
  • Keep a gratitude journal and write in it at least once a week.

thank-you-140227_1280