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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Is Wealth A Burden?

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I read an interesting article in Vanity Fair magazine the other day about Perfection Anxiety, and it discussed how extreme wealth may actually be a burden. The article proposes that when money is limitless, it ceases to make one happy. We’ve all fantasized about winning the lottery, (I know I have) and becoming rich beyond our wildest imaginations. Rich enough to quit our 9 to 5ers, rich enough to buy that expensive sports car or take your friends to a fancy dinner….every night. What if this fantasy was just that, and if extreme wealth was really a burden?

Statistics show that money does make you happier, but only up to about $50,000/year. After that, the more money you have, the less it matters. Think of it this way, if you gave a starving man a cheeseburger, that one cheeseburger would make him really happy. If you gave a starving man 2 cheeseburgers, the second probably wouldn’t make him as happy as the first, but it may make him a little bit happier in comparison to how happy he felt after the first one. If you gave a starving man 8 cheeseburgers, he would not feel 8 times happier than he did after the first one. It’s the same with money. Money can give you the things that you need and want, and this will make you happier, however only to a certain extent.

            The Vanity Fair article explains that when one has too much money, it “stops working” to make you happier. I wrote a post about happiness and how we don’t just want to experience happiness, but we also want to achieve it. In fact, in order to feel truly happy, we must also experience sadness in contrast. Think of how happy and excited you feel when you buy something you’ve been lusting after for a while, something you’ve saved up for. Think of how grateful we feel when a loved one buys us a present we’ve really wanted for a long time; that high you get when you get that new iPhone or super nice yoga mat. Now, imagine you could buy anything you wanted, always and forever, and suddenly that excitement, anticipation, gratitude is lost. It’s important to have goals, things we can’t yet attain, because we feel a sense of pleasure in working towards these goals and then a sense of accomplishment when we reach a goal.

If you are among the extremely wealthy, I’m sorry. Let me know if I’ve gotten it wrong. If you are not among the extremely wealthy, you get to take this moment to be grateful that you can still derive pleasure from things. We get to feel grateful that we have things to work for, presents to give, and get, and we can still derive simple pleasure from saving up for a special treat. And remember, winning the lottery probably won’t solve your problems, so enjoy the moment : ) Happy Weekend!

Happy Weekend!

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I’m finally in the final stretch of graduate school and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, what this also means is that I am constantly inundated with responsibilities, deadlines, meetings and class. Busy is not a glamorous lifestyle. One thing that I do when I am stressed is eat. lots of carbs. and lots of sweets. I read a quote that directed the reader to “love yourself” as you are eating, and I thought that this intention could completely shift my stress eating. What else could we change if we brought love to the forefront of our intentions? Love yourself as you eat. Love your husband/child/mother when you tell them goodbye as you rush off to work. Love for yoga as you roll out your mat. Love for yourself as you move through your asanas. Love for your town as you take an afternoon walk. Love for mornings as you sip your coffee. Do all things with love. This is not an easy practice. It’s something we must work on, constantly, forever. Try to do all things with love for one day, even just for one morning and see what happens. Or, try to do all things with love for one yoga class. Happy Weekend : )

The Importance Of Relationships

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Many years ago, during our graduation from UC Santa Barbara

 

I just got through visiting some of my favorite people in the world: my best friends from college, one of which just got engaged and is taking the leap of faith to open her own business in San Francisco! Woo hoo! Spending time with my friends from college always reminds me of the importance of relationships, because regardless of how much time has passed, I always feel close and connected with them. We always have things to talk about. I feel comfortable, and spending time with them feels natural. We understand each other’s personalities, nuances, neuroses, and we love one another more for them. All of my friends from college have strong personalities. We are all characters, and yet we all love and appreciate each other for that clear, strong personality. At one point in college we all lived in a house together, saw each other everyday, showered in the same shower, got ready in the same bathroom together before going out for the night, watched all of our favorite television shows together. It was great (except for times when the toilette paper ran out), and while I love having my own house, and my own space am I happier?

     In high school, I knew a couple girls who lived on a commune. Just two families, with a shared kitchen and living room. Each family had their own buildings for bedrooms and I thought this was an ideal. In college I would talk longingly about living on a commune someday with my “soulmate friends”.  Now, I don’t even live in the same town. Some of my “grown up” dreams include owning my own home someday; having a space to call my own. Isn’t this the American dream? As we make more money, we separate ourselves even more. Dorms become apartments. Apartments become homes. Homes become estates. As an individualistic society, have we forgotten about the importance of relationships? Are we not a social species, wired for human connection, wired to need to feel part of some social whole? I often walk around Costco on a Saturday and think “I hate people” as I look around weaving around an oblivious family who is moving at molasses speed, dodging the screaming child and employees pushing samples of some overly processed, finger food. But seriously, after spending a day with a group of friends, exchanging updates about our present life, talking about music, drinking wine, and trading info about common interests, I felt energized, renewed, part of the group of my favorite people in the world and proud to be included in that social circle.

In the Geography of Bliss, the author poses the argument that “about 70 percent of our happiness stems from our relationships, both quantity and quality, with friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors. During life’s difficult patches, camaraderie blunts our misery; during the good times, it boosts our happiness.

            So the greatest source of happiness is other people-and what does money do? It isolates us from other people. It enables us to build walls literal and figurative, around ourselves.”

Like it or not, our society appears to be heading in the direction towards further isolation where phone calls are replaced by texts, college class is replaced by online learning, and social circles are dictated by Facebook. We can’t let ourselves slip into this online, disengaged society. LOL doesn’t replace laughing until you cry. Posting a status update on Facebook does not give you the same release as venting to a friend, or sharing a special accomplishment with someone face to face, watching their excitement at learning of your accomplishments. We are hardwired to require human contact, social experiences, touch; we need to feel part of a group of people. We need to feel accepted, included, valued, and relationships are the only true way to meet these needs. Schedule in time for friends and loved ones. If 70% of our happiness truly does come from our relationships, I’d say that we greatly under prioritize social hour. Call a friend, meet up for drinks. Fit in social time any way you can. 

 

Happy Weekend!

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The “why” is such an important question to ask yourself. “Why” is much more important than the “what”. If you have the “why” right, then the “what” will fall into place. Whenever you are struggling with a choice or a decision, ask yourself why. If the choice would be made because of fear, insecurity, ego, pride, or anger, then this is probably not the right decision. If the why is based on love, hope, integrity, determination, then the choice is probably the right one. When we make a choice out of fear, we give fear power over us and our lives. I believe that fear is never a good reason to make a choice, and thus when I realize that fear is dictating my anxiety, or driving my decision, I am able to step back and re-evaluate. What do you want to fill your life with? Make decisions based upon the intentions for your life. Be motivated by these positive intentions, and the “what” that results from this motivation, will most likely be positive as well. Happy weekend : )

Happy Weekend!

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We are a culture that has become obsessed with “happy”. Commercials, adds, all feature smiling people and promise you that their product will make you happier. Social media, too highlights this phenomenon as everyone posts pictures of their fun trips, smiling family and successes. Social media was called a “hall of flattering mirrors” in something I read once, and it’s true, but what you see on the commercials, and on Facebook pages is not the truth. Everyone suffers. Everyone feels sad, has doubts, feels envious of others’ “perfect” lives. This is what unites us. We must not fight our sadness. It’s natural to have low days, sad days, bad moods. Just like the rain, a good cry can cleanse our minds and bodies. Of course, it’s not healthy to feel sad ALL the time, but every now and again is completely normal, and healthy. It’s a sign that you are human, that you are alive and experiencing life. Next time you feel sad, don’t judge it, just notice it and let yourself feel whatever it is you feel. Happy Weekend!

Happy Weekend!

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Eastern philosophers always speak of water because of its unique qualities. Water is soft and flexible. It always chooses the path of least resistance, and yet, it carves paths through rocks, creates canyons, and holds up ships. A ripple in water, effects every other water molecule associated with that body of water, regardless of distance. Water soothes and heals. It washes and renews. Water can slip through fingers, but hold up ships. In your life, try to be more like water. Flexible, soft, but strong. It can be done. Happy Weekend!

Simple Pleasure-Doing Nothing

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Sunday was a rainy day, a lazy day. Matt and I spent the entire day inside, reading, browsing the internet, and watching our favorite movie “Garden State” for the millionth time. We had to resist the urge to go out and “do something”. I’ve noticed that if I don’t do something each day, I feel a bit worthless and unproductive (even on my weekend days). In “Eat Pray Love” Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about the Italian attitude towards a lazy day.

“Il bel far niente means ‘the beauty of doing nothing’… [it] has always been a cherished Italian ideal. The beauty of doing nothing is the goal of all your work, the final accomplishment for which you are most highly congratulated. The more exquisitely and delightfully you can do nothing, the higher your life’s achievement. You don’t necessarily need to be rich in order to experience this, either.”

-Elizabeth Gilbert quoted from the book “Eat Pray Love”

I’ve also been re-reading “The Geography of Bliss”, as it’s been a few years since I read the book for the first time. Eric Weiner writes about this “beauty of doing nothing” as a concept in happiness studies. He highlights this idea most beautifully through the concept of the café. Cafés, Weiner explains, are a place where Europeans can spend an entire day, people watching and socializing without an ounce of guilt. The most delicious part of this pastime is that it costs very little money, if any, but can provide you with a tremendous amount of joy, peace, relaxation, and reconnection.

I don’t think I’m the only one who feels guilty spending an entire day doing nothing. So why is that? What is it about our culture that has made us feel as though we have to do “something” everyday? Why do we feel guilty spending an entire day in our pajamas, reading, drinking tea, and laying around? And, if you say “but I am too busy to take a day off” should this be so? Our culture has glorified the concept of busy, and I know I have days where I’m rushing constantly from one thing to the next. It doesn’t feel good to be too busy, to have obligations, a planned and packed schedule. In fact, when I get too busy, I begin to feel as though I’m not in control of my life. I miss the option of spontaneity. There is something freeing about having the option to do whatever you feel like doing, in that moment, for an entire day. This is such a simple pleasure; one that anybody can enjoy regardless of economic status. I’ve written about the importance of creating space in order to feel mindful, connected, or creative, in the past and the concept of doing nothing is connected to the concept of creating space. How would people’s lives change if everyone in our country took one day off a week to enjoy the beauty of doing nothing? Try this sometime and allow yourself to really enjoy the day.