Success and Happiness

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As many of the loyal readers and frequent visitors of the blog may know, it’s been on a hiatus. Or rather, I’ve been on a hiatus as I finished the final stretch of gradschool. The end of gradschool included completing my thesis, a final case presentation, and finishing up the work I’ve been doing counseling elementary school children for the year. I am now, officially a Master of Social Work, and since graduating, I’ve been thinking a lot about careers and success. I am about to truly begin my career as a counselor/social worker/therapist. Something I’ve wanted to do since I was 12 or 13.

After watching this video this morning, I realize that success is a journey, not a destination. Just as one accomplishment ends, another quickly comes into view. Desire and ambition doesn’t end, (or should only end with the end of one’s life). Success is not a place that you arrive to, although when we are working towards a goal, it can certainly feel that way.  It is easy to think that once we accomplish one goal, our lives will change. Your life will change, but it is always changing. I just finished graduate school, and while I feel proud, accomplished, relieved, I also now have another chapter to begin. A new goal to work towards, new insecurities, new stressors as I begin to worry about how I will maintain my work/life balance. I realize that because success is a journey, not a destination, I cannot put my life on hold while I work to achieve a goal. This is life. This is it. This moment is all we have. We must enjoy the journey, and enjoy the ride along the way because it’s all there is.

One point made in this video by the author of “Before Happiness” is that those who are happy, tend to be more successful. Research shows that contrary to what logic tells us, success doesn’t actually make us happy. Happy comes first, and success follows. This reinforces the concept that everything starts within (I’ve written about this before). Work hard, but make sure that your work gives you fulfillment, not just money. My hope, as I begin the next chapter in my life is that my work feeds and nurtures me. I hope that my work contributes to my sense of meaning and fulfillment, that it pushes me to grow, and learn. My hope is that I remember success is about the journey, and this is my hope for you all, as well.

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Don’t Take Things Personally

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In my last post I mentioned the injury that occurred while I was practicing my headstand. I went to the chiropractor and, thankfully, I’m better now, but the injury put me into my own head. It phased me. I thought to myself “why me” and “why now” so close to the yoga competition. I got into a place where I wasn’t in the moment for a few days after the injury and I felt this weight on my mood and my mind. Then I listened to a podcast where Oprah interviewed Jon Kabat-Zinn, the man credited for bringing mindfulness to America. He discusses the concepts of mindfulness, which he defines as “paying attention, in the present moment, on purpose, and non-judgmentally”. While I had the awareness part right, the piece I had been missing was the non-judgmental aspect of mindfulness. I had the awareness that I felt fear and anxiety about the competition, fear about my injury, and some resentment as well towards the injury. I knew I wasn’t living in the present moment, and so while I was experiencing these thoughts and feelings, I was also experiencing dismay by these thoughts and feelings. The dismay was caused by my judgment that these thoughts and feelings were bad, wrong, unwanted. Eckhart Tolle says “What you resist persists, and what you fight, you strengthen”. By fighting my feelings and emotions, I was actually making them stronger. Part of being in the present moment is accepting whatever is your reality at the time and one of the core components of mindfulness is that when you simply notice a negative thought or emotion, the thought/emotion will fall away naturally. I stopped resisting and moved to a place where I simply noticed negative thoughts and negative feelings. The thoughts/feelings fell away (seemingly magically).

The second component of the interview was Kabat-Zinn’s description of our tendency to “take things personally” (not just actions from other people, but also, with experiences). I often get this concept in social situations, however I had never thought about the concept of “not taking it personally” in life situations. For example, I was taking my injury personally asking myself “why me” and feeling sorry for myself. It wasn’t personal. Shit happens. The better question is to ask “why not me”. Eckhart Tolle talks about how the situation is always neutral but that our thoughts and reactions to the situation are what make us deem the situation either good or bad. Accordingly, our emotions are affected by our thoughts on the situation. We cause ourselves so much more suffering by taking it personally.

If you find yourself stuck in a negative rut like the one I just described, where you realize that you are not living in the present moment. Stop. Take a few deep breaths and just observe. Let yourself stop judging or fighting whatever it is that you are thinking or feeling and just notice. Observe. Whatever you are feeling or thinking is okay. If you do this, you will truly be in the present moment, and I bet, you will begin to feel better, lighter, and freer.