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The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.-Marcus Aurelius
The thing about happiness habits is that you might feel overwhelmed thinking about implementing them. So we either don’t start or stop before it truly becomes an automated habit. But the thing is that if you have chosen the right habits for you they will energize you. Although you have more on your to-do list it feels like less because each of these things energizes you to do the next and more.
Sometimes people are not that impressed with exercises like the best possible self where you imagine what your life would be like if everything worked out. They simply don’t see the point. Yet this is not some airy-fairy psychology stuff: it has helped me in daily business at the bank. Whenever I procrastinate something constantly I know that it is inefficient and could be done better. Now if I would just look at existing systems the new solution might suck a bit less. But it wouldn’t be as good as the solutions we frequently end up implementing. Because even if my dream solutions can’t be implemented (surprisingly often it actually can) we still end up getting a better product than if we would aim for the level that practical reasoning would suggest. The same is true for your own life.
Most of us don’t like liars. But how easy do we make it for others to tell the truth?
Yesterday we talked about how the general sometimes keeps us from experiencing tangible everyday events. Often the general is a hollow vessel filled with some shadow of experiences or whatever information we encountered on the past, true or not.
When we want to change our minds it’s often very hard to convince ourselves of abstract concepts like ‘the world is a good place’ or ‘diversity is a good thing’ if we don’t already believe these things. The more we learn specific things the easier it is to change our abstract ideas.
So for example if we set out travelling and everyone from the kebab seller to the person sitting next to you on the train is helpful and open you will find it much easier to believe that people are generally good. You experienced it yourself, it’s not something that you just heard from others. Similarly if you have worked on a team where people from very different backgrounds successfully worked together and you experienced that the creative energy and level of interest was higher there than in more homogeneous groups believing in diversity is not so hard anymore.
Therefore one part of changing your mental climate lastingly in a positive way is to seek out the experiences, books and movies which turn the abstract into tangible concrete examples.
Our mind conveniently categorizes everything we routinely see. It attaches labels to things and then gives us the message that there’s nothing to see here. While this is an essential and helpful mechanism it also erects walls between us and the experience of life. We know for example that lots of little kids are playful so there’s no need to pay attention. Sitting at Starbucks yesterday I was amazed at the ability of two little girls to stay perfectly happy using paper cups. One of them was pretending to be the magician shuffling the cups while the other had to guess where the rolled up paper wad was hidden. They repeated this while giggling and just watching their joy left me completely helpless to feel anything else than joy as well.
I don’t very much enjoy looking at paintings in general. I know too much about them. I take them apart.-Georgia O’Keeffe (Painter)
Gratitude practice can feel stale if we don’t bring in some variety. How about being grateful for something you have never been grateful for? Like your country’s constitution or the fact that you have the headspace to read this right now.
With never-ending to-do lists and available stimulation it’s only natural to want to leave it all behind. But why wait for a holiday once or a handful of times a year? Let’s install little mini refuges into our week. It’s not time when we crawl into bed and do nothing (unless that’s the most appealing mini-refuge you can imagine). Instead it’s something where we allow ourselves the luxury to be completely engaged and present but with the absence of any obligation. For me I am just rediscovering my electric piano. The ten minutes or so I play free the mind from the multiple things I could be thinking about and focus it on a simple task: playing a few notes. That’s it. The piano will let me instantly know if my thoughts have drifted off and gently call me back to the task at hand. And as a bonus it even sounds somewhat nice and there’s a sense of progress. What could be your mini-refuge?
We are so used to talking about either X or Y that these things become opposites in our minds without us even realizing it. You have to be in service of others instead of looking out for yourself. This throws us into moral dilemmas which don’t necessarily exist. Because there are things where your self-interest and other people’s needs overlap. Where doing something for others brings forth the biggest joy in yourself. Are any imaginary opposites limiting you?
How do you relate to your emotions outside of language? Let’s explore our emotional landscape through things like paying attention to posture, music orour response to what’s happening around us today.