I have spent a great deal of my life searching for happiness. I have primarily looked for it in romantic relationships, which only concluded in divorce, certainly not in money or possessions, because fortunately I am not particularly materialistic and I struggled for years to change my wonderfully dysfunctional family until one day I stopped and watched my child at play. It occurred to me that we are reborn every single day and we are given a chance to start over and be a better person. This awareness along with someone to love and hold is the foundation of a joyful existence. I have condensed my new found insight into the 8 steps to contentment and making friends with the life you’ve actually got.
1) Discipline & setting goals. Steve Pavlina is someone who has written some interesting facts about self discipline. He has authored over 500 personal development articles. He ended up in jail at age 19 for grand theft and felony and discovered upon his arrival home after jail time that he had been expelled from school. It was January 1991 and it was there and then he made the decision his life had to change. He started college and graduated in three semesters in Computer Science and Mathematics. He went on to become a successful business man, (he is the founder of Dexterity Software, a popular computer game) an entrepreneur, who now dedicates his time to his website “Steve Pavlina.com. Personal development for smart people”. He has a good acronym for discipline he calls “A WHIP” being acceptance, willpower, hard work and industrial persistence. Delaying gratification that is doing the most difficult things first, good time management and persistence are a great start to developing good self discipline without which almost nothing will ever be accomplished.
In his book “A Road Less Traveled” Dr M Scott Peck states, “Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with. It is the only decent way to live.”
Setting goals for yourself will bring a sense of purpose and satisfaction to your life. Be careful though to set realistic goals. Leo Babauta, the creator of the blog “Zen Habits. Net” has a philosophy in regards to goal setting, “I believe that goals – especially ones that are worth reaching – are ultimately achieved through the building of good habits.”
2) Order & simplify your life. Having order is essential so one can feel control over one’s life. Start by cleaning up your environment and your living space and remove all clutter. Clean up your body and begin to introduce healthier patterns such as a good diet and exercise which can release endorphins and this will dramatically improve mood, this is where a good dose of self discipline will come in handy. Simplify your life style by “decluttering”. This includes time spent on things and people that are just not enriching your life in any way. Leo Babauta claims simplicity is crucial, “I have become fairly frugal, and have reduced a lot of clutter in my life. A little at a time, gradually getting better, but I’m pretty happy with the simplicity of my house and the rest of my life.”
3) Live in the NOW. Living in the present moment is a Buddhist concept to teach us not to let slip life slip away. Dr Phil McGraw says, “The past is over the future hasn’t happened yet therefore the only moment we have is now.” Eckhart Tolle is the author of wonderful books titled “The power of Now” and “Practicing the Power Of Now”. The aim is to free ourselves from “enslavement of mind” and wake up to a different state of consciousness by quieting our thoughts and live entirely in the present. Be mindful of each and every moment especially time with loved ones. Life is made up by a series of moments and good or bad they all pass, so it would be a shame to waste the good ones. Saviour each and every hour as though it may be your last and you will find yourself living a much fuller life. To surrender and detach yourself from material things is useful in order to center yourself and look at the world from the inside out and truly live in the present. When faced with unpleasant tasks it can be helpful to break the task down and get through one thing at a time instead of looking at the bigger picture which can be overwhelming.
4) Fear less, hope more and develop a sense of humor. “If you believe that feeling bad or worrying long enough will change a past or future event, then you are residing on another planet with a different reality system.” Dr Wayne W.Dyer Your Erroneous Zones. Dr Dyer also says that guilt and worry are useless emotions. Let’s face it the past cannot be undone and the future has yet to happen and although planning things through is certainly sensible, we don’t have that much control over outcomes so instead of worrying let’s assure ourselves that whatever happens we will be able to handle it.
A sense of humor is essential in this life. A good laugh is most of the time the best therapy. Healthy laughter is physiological, spiritual and psychological gift. Dr Annette Gooheart PhD author of “Laughter Therapy How To Laugh About Everything In Your Life That Isn’t Really Funny” says that laughing increases intellectual performance and information retention.
5) Love yourself and others. It sounds cliché but being your own best friend can be a challenge, especially if you have low self esteem issues and have not received unconditional nurturing as a child. You cannot change your parents or whoever has not treated you as you would like. All that is left to do now is to give to yourself what you have missed out on. The best way to practice love is by giving. From here appyou will develop the ability to extend love to others. The better you feel about you the lesser your need of approval from other people. “Needing roval is tantamount to saying, your view of me is more important than my own opinion of myself” says Dr Wayne W. Dyer. Don’t be afraid to spend a little time by yourself and get to know who you really are and give yourself the gift of an authentic life. Steve Irwin (22 February 1962 – 4 September 2006), the popular Australian “croc” man was a fine example of an authentic life lived to the full doing what made his heart sing.
6) Be curious and never ever stop learning. Bruce Duncan Perry M.D. PhD Medical Director, “Provincial Programs in Children’s Mental Health” for the Alberta Mental Health Board claims there are three common ways adults constrain curiosity so obvious in children 1) fear 2) disapproval 3) absence. Fear and disapproval are the more obvious ones. Kids respond to our own fears and biases. If we convey disapproval or fear over say the bugs the child has caught the curiosity toward this will be diminished. Absence of a caring adult takes away the sense of safety as a child sets out to feed his or her curiosity. We can never be full or complete when it comes to knowledge. Opening of the mind is one of the most satisfying and fulfilling habits one can develop such as spending a certain amount of time each day reading. Books can come alive and enrich our experiences.
7) Talk less listen more. “We should all know this: that listening, not talking, is the gifted and great role, and the imaginative role. And the true listener is much more beloved, magnetic than the talker, and he is more effective and learns more and does more good.” – Brenda Ueland author and columnist (1892-1985) from one of her essays “Strength To Your Sword Arm: Selected Writings by Brenda Uelan.” Listening truly is an art and not as easy as it sounds. As Brenda Ueland has written, learning to live in the present moment and to truly focus on another’s words requires a lot of practice. She said “Watch your self-assertiveness. And give it up. Remember, it is not enough just to will to listen to people. One must really listen. Only then does the magic begin.”
8) Be grateful. “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is Thank You, it will be enough” (Meister Eckhart). Sarah Breathnack created a wonderful book called “Simple Abundance Journal Of Gratitude”. The idea is at the end of each day to list 5 things that you are grateful for. It is a life changing exercise to do this. It will help you to focus on all the positive things in your life and to say Thank You is one of the most powerful prayers. It will also teach you to appreciate the people in your life.
“We give of ourselves when we give gifts of the heart: Love, kindness, joy, understanding, sympathy, tolerance, forgiveness.” From The Art of Giving by Wilfred A. Peterson.