Entries Tagged 'Happiness' ↓
April 21st, 2013 — Happiness, Living Fully
[Flow is] being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. … Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.
The basic idea behind flow is we optimize our happiness by having the right amount of challenge for our talents and skills.
The thing I love about being retired is I have the freedom to choose activities/projects that keep me learning new things and developing new skills — projects that are challenging enough to make me excited to work on them but aren’t so big a stretch that they’re overwhelming. One doesn’t always have that choice when working for someone else.
I knew when I was a kid that I would go bonkers in a boring job — one of my main goals was to develop skills that would give me some choice. So I majored in physics and went into scientific computer programming. Mostly that gave me the chance to pick challenging problems — sometimes a bit too challenging when there were deadlines involved. But I kept reminding myself that I would rather be scared than bored, and that helped a lot. It also helped to remember the joke:
I also learned a lot of relaxation/stress management techniques, including how to ignore the deadlines and thoughts of failure and simply get curious about the problem and play with it. Ignoring deadlines may sound counterintuitive but in fact it was highly effective — our minds tend to shut down when we’re stressed, and it’s tempting to try to escape the tension by procrastinating, distracting ourselves by doing something else. The trick is to figure out how to make the problem fun so we want to work on it.
I didn’t learn to do that perfectly, but I didn’t do too badly either. I still had some anxiety, but I was excited to go to work and wouldn’t have changed my life with anyone.
The trick after I retired was to keep myself motivated without the external pressures and rewards. For me that was a no-brainer. I wanted the joys of flow to be an integral part of my life, and I was going to figure out how to get that, no matter how long it took. So I kept experimenting until I found projects with the right amount of challenge to be engaging. The neat thing is if we keep learning year after year the whole process gets easier and even more rewarding.
Anyway, that’s what works for me. But we’re all different — what works for you? How important is flow in your life? Do you agree with Csikszentmihalyi that flow is the way to happiness? Do you believe that the element of challenge has to be there for you to lose yourself in an activity? When are you the happiest?
March 10th, 2013 — Happiness, Living Fully
I’ve been seeing a lot of articles lately about healthy lifestyles. They usually mention the importance of having a lot of social interactions. In fact, that works for some people but not for everyone. The emphasis on being social no doubt reflects our society’s pro-extrovert bias.
I remember an article years ago about the health benefits of being an eccentric, being centered enough to follow one’s own path without worrying about social pressure to fit in, to act like others. It reminded me of Robert Louis Stevenson’s quote:
To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you ought to prefer is to have kept your soul alive.
And it reminds me of e e cummings:
It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
For some people being social is who they really are so it works for them. But that’s not the only way to a rich, fulfilled life.
So what are the characteristics of healthy eccentrics?
- Nonconforming attitude
- Intense curiosity
- Happy obsession with a hobby or hobbies
- Knew very early in his or her childhood they were different from others
- Unusual living or eating habits
- Strong values
- Sense of humor
Do you know any eccentrics? Do you have any eccentric in you?
December 17th, 2012 — Happiness, Living Fully
He never grew up; but he never stopped growing.
—Arthur C. Clarke, epitaph for himself
Have you ever gotten strange, disapproving looks because you take delight in the little things in life, because you’ve been enthusiastic and exuberant? As far as I can tell a lot of people think that sort of behavior is silly and immature, so for the sake of politeness I usually “behave myself” around them. Fortunately now that I’m retired I can mostly avoid people like that.
Instead I hang out with creatures who are turned on by life—I say creatures because some of the most enthusiastic “people” I know are dogs, not humans. One of them, Rusty, I didn’t meet until after he had passed away (pictures used with permission from The Thundering Herd):
Rusty knew how to enjoy life, to take delight in little things.
Thank you for sharing him with us D.K. Wall, and also for all of your other stories. My husband, daughter and I are especially laughing about The Escape Artist, Project Day – The Story and Frankencouch. Again, thank you!
December 9th, 2012 — Happiness
A little boy said to his father, “Let’s play darts. I’ll throw and you say, ‘Yay, Johnnie!’ ”
That’s one of my favorite stories because, “Yay, Jean!” is one of my favorite expressions—I use it generously. I’m sure a lot of people would think telling oneself that is silly, immature and stupid. I’ll go along with the silly and immature, but stupid? No way. I use it when I’ve done something challenging—either because it was complicated or because it was something I didn’t want to do. If I manage to do it cheerfully and even enjoy parts of the process I figure a “Yay, Jean!” is well-deserved. It’s a lot better than feeling frustrated.
A recent Economist article explains how an approach like this is healthy. Researchers have known for years that a positive attitude tends to lead to physical health, now they’re starting to understand how it works.
At any rate I’ve been telling Andy, “Yay, us!” a lot as we’ve been dealing with insurance paperwork. He wasn’t so sure until I reminded him of his grandmother. She was about our age when she decided dealing with paperwork was too much to handle. So when checks and bills came in the mail she simply tore them up and flushed them down the toilet. Andy laughed and had to agree, we’re doing a little bit better than that.
What about you? Do you praise yourself/celebrate your successes much?
November 18th, 2012 — Happiness
The secret of happiness is to ask yourself every day:
1) What’s good about my life?
2) What needs to be done?
3) How can I get this done and enjoy the process?
One of my biggest challenges this year was to learn to enjoy organizing our gazillion photos and dealing with insurance paperwork. We’ll be lucky if we have that paperwork mostly finished before it’s income tax time.
I’ll never be like the fellow in the above picture–happily sitting at a desk shuffling papers, but I do enjoy working on creative problems. So I’ve spent hours and hours this past week figuring out a good way to handle our paperwork. I tried different ways of doing it, and by 6:45 this morning I settled on a system that has organized what we’ve done so far and will be easy to use in the future. I celebrated by sleeping most of the rest of the day. I have a flexible schedule that teenagers would die for.
What kind of jobs do you like? In a Toastmasters meeting once I said my favorite jobs were ones that had challenging problems to solve and that gave me plenty of autonomy. One fellow in the group said his favorite job was in the military with a boss who was a stickler for detail. For instance, the stamps had to be precisely placed on the envelopes. The boss was strict, but the fellow knew exactly what he was supposed to do. What kind of jobs do you like?
August 21st, 2011 — Happiness, Living Fully
If this were my last hour on earth, would I be happy with how I’ve spent my time today, this week, or this year?
Would I feel good about the priorities I’m focused on right now at this point in my life?
Do I feel complete and at peace with the people who matter most?
Well, yes. We spent a lot of hours the past few weeks finishing up the insurance documentation. Thanks to the help Kaitlin and Torben gave us when they came, it was not only manageable but enjoyable. Instead of feeling the paperwork was a drag, it was a way of connecting with old memories and turned out to be rich and rewarding experience.
How would you answer Richardson’s questions?
June 13th, 2011 — Happiness, Living Fully
, used with permission.
As I lift Wilf into the back of the car he has a look on his face that says “Time that you enjoy wasting, was not wasted .”
—Angus, Wilf the PONS Discovers France: Life With A Blind Dog
tammy told me about Angus and Wilf last week. It’s a charming, heart-warming site. Wilf is blind and has cancer and Angus is making sure they both continue to celebrate the little pleasures in life while they still can. If you read nothing else please read the About Me section, on the right below the Blog Archive.
Angus does raise an interesting question: What does it mean to waste time? In a comment at Rummuser’s Ursula touched on the same subject:
…just to prove that I am the queen of wasting time, I will waste even more time on the subject…. Have fallen quite in love with the idea. WASTING time; rolls off your tongue; dreamy.
It seems to me to say we’re wasting time means we think there’s something more important we should be doing with it. And I’m fairly certain some of the things that are most important to me would seem like a waste of time to others. For me I’m wasting time if I’m not
- Enjoying myself, and/or
- Doing something constructive
As long as I can answer the question, “Is this a good use of my time” with a resounding “Yes!”, I’m not wasting my time and my life.
What do you think? What does “wasting time” mean to you?
February 28th, 2011 — Happiness
Do you have any favorite quotes or sayings? I’ve been collecting some for years and have a huge pile of them by now. I occasionally go through them to see which ones resonate the most. At the moment it’s these two:
It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look. To affect the quality of the day—that is the highest of arts.
—-Henry David Thoreau
The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty available to us now. And that is not a matter of faith. It is a matter of practice.
—Thich Nhat Hanh
Learning to “affect the quality of life” isn’t a common hobby, but it’s been mine since I was a teen and it’s been one of the loves of my life. It’s complicated enough to keep me curious and fascinated, and it gets even more interesting as time goes on.
Do you have any favorite quotes? Do you have any hobby you’re passionate about?
October 25th, 2010 — Happiness
To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive.
—Robert Louis Stevenson
People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality….
–Joseph Campbell in “The Power of Myth”
I was lucky to know at an early age that I was looking for what Joseph Campbell was describing, long before I read his description. It took me a long time to figure out how to get that resonance, but it was enough to know what I wanted and that I could figure it out if I kept exploring. The search itself was an adventure worth having.
So what resonates with my “innermost being and reality”? Playing with ideas and sharing them with other people is a big part of it. (My Brain Is My Favorite Toy.) I’m a visual thinker so finding or creating images to help me express my ideas is another big part. Immersing myself in a Photoshop project is one of my favorite forms of meditation.
I’ve always been interested in history and biographies as a way of understanding the world, so at the moment I’m spending a lot of time not only on history but also following some of the revolutionary changes occurring in the world today. A lot of those changes are scary and upsetting, so I get almost daily practice in staying centered and using that emotional energy creatively. As well as practice in keeping my sense of humor.
It goes back to my basic philosophy
Stay curious and open to life. No matter what happens keep learning and growing. Find what you love to do and find a way to share it with others.
That’s what resonates for me. What about you? Do you feel that resonance that Campbell was writing about? If so what is it like for you? If not do you think it’s worth trying to find it?
October 24th, 2009 — Happiness
As I’ve mentioned before, I was born to avoid being eaten by a crocodile.
What were you born to do? Is your life purpose as strange as mine?