Tuesday, April 26, 2011

On Vulnerability and Happiness

Does life suck? I know that for myself, it's not quite what I had expected or planned for. Life throws curve balls and one has to learn to "dance" in life, be prepared to alter your conceived destination, remember the good things in life and do not let failure or lack of achievement "damage your calm" to quote a famous Science Fiction character.

So, life CAN be good, even if life gives you lemons. Should you just make lemonade? Maybe, but maybe you will miss the forest for the trees if you do that, too?

Brene Brown is a very funny story teller. I mean, Researcher.

This is a surreptitiously seriously important talk. Her research showing that you cannot selectively numb vulnerability in our life. She indicates we are the most in debt, overweight, addicted, cohort in US history. If you need to numb yourself due to debt, or obesity, being fired, or firing someone, etc., you numb other areas, you lose your joy. "I'm so upset about work, I'm going to eat that muffin." "I'm so upset about my weight, I'm not going to do what my husband wanted."

To practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, is important. And understand that even though our job wants us to be more, our spouse demands more than we can give, we are enough as to who we are.

Check out the video from TED: Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability.

Along the same kind of consideration, we have Srikumar Rao. He contends that we have learned all our life, how to be unhappy. Why? Well, it doesn't really matter beyond the fact that the model we have grown to understand as what we should follow and how we should be, is flawed. We have to do something to be someone to get somewhere... but why? Yes, we should do something in life; we should set ourselves up for retirement; we should take care of our loved ones (but also those others, both who we know, or meet in life, and those we will never meet in life through charities, etc.).

Why do we invest in the outcome, rather than the process? Because if you work only on the process, completely invest in it, you will succeed, and if you don't, well you did your best. If you do the best you can, how can you fail? And if you do fail, then you couldn't have succeeded in the first place. But what is the difference between the two? One, if you succeed, using either method, you are good. But if you fail, investing in the outcome, you are unhappy; but investing in the process, you are happy either way because you KNOW you did your best.

This is something I learned when I was younger, because I seemed to fail a lot, academically. Karate, for me, and Asian Philosophies actually, taught me the process is more important. Why? Because, once I realized what I did was most important, and I competed only against myself, I tried harder, I invested more, and actually, I achieved my goal far more often. And life in general, was far better for me. I grew up thinking competition, because of all this, was bad. Perhaps not, as I competed with myself, but I seldom let myself down; although in competing against others, if I failed, I always felt let down if I failed.

What this way of going through life has done for me, was I had a great journey through life and I have achieved far more than I ever could have suspected, as a child, that I would be able to achieve. Basically, I have achieved nearly everything I ever decided that I wanted.

So, open yourself to life, allow your vulnerabilities a voice and focus on yourself, your process for achieving your goals. And see if life doesn't feel like it is constantly rewarding you far more than it ever had before.

Here are a couple of interesting articles from Srikumar Rao. the first one a video lecture from TED called: Plug into your hard-wired happiness . The second an article is on the Huffington Post on why positive thinking can be bad for you and why making lemonade when life hands you lemons, could be the wrong way to go.

Daniel Kahneman has an interesting supposition on happiness, that has to do with our way of remembering and the separation between the experience and the memory. Using examples from vacations to colonoscopies, Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics Daniel Kahneman reveals how our "experiencing selves" and our "remembering selves" perceive happiness differently. This new insight has profound implications for economics, public policy -- and our own self-awareness. Check out his TED video:
 The riddle of experience vs. memory

What all of this means, I think, is that we have to open ourselves to life, we have to pay attention to the right things, and we have to set ourselves up to remember the right things about what we have gone through and be aware of how this works. If we follow those few paradigms for life, our lives can be far more rewarding and happy for both ourselves and those around us.

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