60 Minutes did a segment on Happiness.
Here is a 12 minute excerpt, followed by some highlights from this episode and some additional perspectives on how to be happy.
Denmark tops the list of the happiest country in the world. The segment takes a look at what makes Danes so happy. As one of the researchers puts it, this may be due to the Danes modest expectations. It may also have to do with the fact that college students get paid to go to school, a dad gets paid for 6 months to stay home and care for his child, free healthcare for all, subsidized child care, and 6 weeks vacation. As one of the Danish college students interviewed for the segment “we are secured from the day we are born.” The average tax rate though is about 50%.Some Danish college students state what is important to them, work they enjoy, time with their families, low stress, and one of the students offers advice to Americans “don’t depend too much on the American Dream, you might get disappointed.” I don’t agree with the notion not to attempt something because you could fail.U.S. comes in as the 23rd happiest country. Dont worry we come in ahead of Iraq.Tal Ben Shahar a professor and researcher at Harvard University teaches the “most popular course on campus; “Positive Psychology”. He is also the author of the recently released “Happier”. He suggests Americans would not be willing to pay a 50% tax rate for the lifestyle the Danes have. Americans have higher expectations a “want it all” mentality focused on material things, which does not make one happier. He loosely defines happy as the intersection between doing something that has meaning to us and which gives us pleasure.Ben Shahar offers 5 easy steps to happiness:
Shahar goes on to say that the number one predictor of well-being is close friendships and relationships in general.
60 Minutes is not the only media outlet covering happiness as of late.
Good Morning America and 20/20 both did stories just last month on Happiness. GMA Interviewed UC Riverside Professor and Sonja Lyubomirsky; author of the recently released “The How of Happiness.”
Her research shows “If we observe genuinely happy people, we shall find that they do not just sit around being contented. They make things happen. They pursue new understandings, seek new achievements, and control their thoughts and feelings. In sum, our intentional, effortful activities have a powerful effect on how happy we are, over and above the effects of our set points and the circumstances in which we find oursselves.” Based on her findings she offers 12 scientific strategies for happiness. ABC News has an excerpt of her book available.
This academic and scientific research on happiness stems from Positive Psychology, founded by Dr. Martin Seligman; Director of the Positive Psychology Center at The University of Pennsylvania. On their Authentic Happiness Website there are free questionaires which will measure different degrees of happiness, character, and other related areas.
I have great respect for the area of positive psychology. It serves as part of the foundation for the Life Coaching that I am trained in. While the academic research and findings are quite interesting, this look at Happiness would not be complete without mentioning “The Art Of The Happiness” by The Dalai Lama and Dr. Howard Cutler. The book is a dialogue between the two authors. While not free of modern science and research, the core premises of this book are steeped in Buddhism.
These premises are:
Gretchen Rubin is a New York City based author an fellow blogger, currently working on a book called “ The Happiness Project”. It states on her blog that it will be “a memoir about the year I spent test-driving every principle, tip, theory, and scientific study I could find, whether from Aristotle or St. Therese or Martin Seligman or Oprah. THE HAPPINESS PROJECT will gather these rules for living and report on what works and what doesn’t. On this daily blog, I recount some of my adventures and insights as I grapple with the challenge of being happier.”
So while there are a number of different perspectives and the subject of happiness is on a lot of people’s minds, with varying conclusions. One take-away for me is that so much of it has to do with our own attitude. The way that we choose to see things. The glass half-full or half-empty perspective. Do you need to have what you want, or want what you already have to be happy?
In 1945 Gunder Hagg of Sweden set the world record for running the fastest mile at just over 4:01. The record remaining static for almost 9 years, purpotrating a myth that it may just be impossible for a human to run a mile in less than 4 minutes.
It is evident that not everyone believed it was impossible, as there were a number of runners feverishly competing to be the first run a mile in less than 4 minutes. One of these runners, Roger Bannister set the world record in 1954 by running a mile in 3:59:04. Interestingly, almost 2 months later John Landy beat Bannister’s record. Later Bannister bested his own and Landy’s record in a race with Landy who also set a new personal record. Was this just a coincidence?
This story illustrates how important it is to question our own self-limiting beliefs, and the constraints that others may attempt to place on us. There may have been an almost famous runner who decided not to attempt a 4 minute mile because he bought into the idea it was not possible Regardless, of how ingrained a belief may be in our minds, culture, community, or society it is worth challenging these beliefs.
If all believed that a 4 minute mile was impossible, Bannister nor anyone else may have never set that record. It is interesting to note that once he broke this barrier, other runners followed suit. His achievment opened up the idea that it was possible for others as well. The current record is just under 3:45 having been set in 1999.
What do you believe is impossible? What would happen if you believed it was possible?
In considering living to a ripe old age, the ideal is to maintain independence and a quality of life. A recent study takes a look at 5 common behaviors of men who have lived past age 90. Yes, I have friends who have had a grandmother that smoked into their 90’s, I would guess those are exceptions and not the rule. A new study led by Dr. Laurel B. Yates at Brigham and Women’s Hospital suggests that a “healthy lifestyle in one’s elderly years may contribute to living past age 90 in men.”
Specifically the study mentions weight management, exercising regularly and not smoking as being factors that could play a role in increased life span. The researchers
estimate that”a 70-year-old man who did not smoke and had normal blood pressure and weight, no diabetes and exercised two to four times per week had a 54 percent probability of living to age 90.”
Any of these adverse factors could play a role in reducing probability of livng to age 90; Sedentary lifestyle, hypertension, obesity, smoking and diabetes. Various combinations of these factors raning from two to all five of them might give you only a 4 percent chance of living to age 90.
A key component of this study is that these factors also played a role in a better quality of life with better physical function, mental well-being, and self-perceived health in late life.
As the New York Times points out in an article citing this and other studies, there can be other mitigating factors including level of education and degree of social isolation which affect life expectancy.
The Times article cites another recent study which found that a large proportion of people who lived that long and lived with minimal or no assistance did so despite long-term chronic illness. In other words, instead of delaying disease, they delay disability. Dr. Dellara F. Terry, of Boston University, the another studies lead author.
Fast Company published 18 of the most innovative business minds of the past year. There are some familiar names on the list and some new. Regardless of the industry you are in, chances are you will find someone on this list who inspires you.
Included is Timothy Ferris; Author of The Four Hour Work Week.
Ferriss is a Princeton University guest lecturer in High-Tech Entrepreneurship, the first American in history to hold a Guinness World Record in tango, a national Chinese kickboxing champion, and even a MTV breakdancer in Taiwan. But, what he’s most known for is his 80-20 principle, suggesting that people outsource everyday tasks. He adds, “I’m asking some important and long-avoided questions that make people uncomfortable.”
Follow this link for the other honorees;
Often people feel stuck in their jobs, or have this underlying feeling that they are underperforming and underearner. “This is not how it was supposed to turn out.” Their situation could range anywhere from a financial crisis to being quite successful yet they end up getting stuck somewhere. You may be an underearner. Do you indentify with these symptoms?
If you are an underearner, the first thing you need to do is stop denying or pretending you aren’t one. Then there are some great steps you can take like finding a mentor, going to Debtor’s Anonymous-Don’t let the name fool you they have some great programs on underearning. Build a support network, find some friends who are earning more than you. A couple of great books to read on this subject are “The Soul of Money”; Rich Dad Poor Dad, and Millionaire Mind.
One might wonder what Google, Starbucks, and Methodist Hospital Systems have in common. In this case, the title of this article gives it away. What exactly would make a company a great place to work can be subjective to some degree, and then there are some things almost all employees want. We all know that waking up and going to a good working environment is far better than having to go to a dreadful working environment. It seems that employers have been catching on, and it is not reserved for one industry.
What would make a working environment enjoyable for you? Is there a company that would pay for 100% of healthcare costs; offers child-care, would let your work from home; or gave you five weeks vacation? Do these perks seem outrageous? Well there are companies that are offering these perks and more. If you are unhappy in your job and not sure what to do next, or where to start looking this may be the place: Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies To Work For 2008.
I participated in a Life Coaching Segment for the Late Show that aired this week on CBS.
Watch as I attempt to coach comedian Andy Kindler on getting a handle on his life and career.
Although I have not seen the Bucket List, I have an idea of the basic storyline. The plot is about two aging men, who through illness, are confronted with their mortality,and become intent on making the most of their remaining time. They make their “bucket lists,” a list of those things they want to do before they die, and set out to do them.
The theme of using the inevitably of death to make the most of your life is not a new one, although a movie can certainly help bring the notion into the mainstream. It was Socrates who said “practicing dying is the highest form of wisdom”.
This theme has been expressed in all types of literature, including articles, books, and poems.A quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes has always been poignant to me; “Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.” Does anyone really want to die with their music still in them? You don’t need to wait to you are older, or ill, to take make your list and take action on it.
One of my earliest recollections of coming across this idea of embracing the inevitability of death to live, is in the pioneering personal development book, The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. He asks the reader to imagine they were just told they have 6 months to live. What is the first thing you would do upon leaving the doctor’s office?
In the late 90’s Steven Levine’s A Year to Live was published. This book is essentially a manual, designed to instruct you on how to treat each moment as if it were your last.A blurb from the back cover says it best;“Most of us go to extraordinary lengths to ignore, laugh-off, or deny the fact that we are going to die, but preparing for death is one of the most rewarding and rational acts of a lifetime.It is an exercise that gives us the opportunity to deal with unfinished business and enter into a new and vibrant relationship with life.” No one knows which moment will be their last.People die at every and any age, from accidents, illness, and a myriad of other ways.If it were your last, would you want to die with your music still in you?
Even television is in on this; the Travel Channel’s “1000 Places to See Before You Die” is based on the book of the same name. The show features a couple who left their lives behind for 14 weeks to tour the world.
You do not need to wait until you are older or find out you have a life threatening illness, to act on your bucket list. You don’t need one more day to at least make your list. I made a list about a year ago, and Ialthough I haven’t visited all of the places on there, I am making headway. Just making the list can be a life altering action.
You may find it helpful to break your list down into sections
5 things I want to do before I die.
5 places I want to visit before I die.
5 things I want to tell the 5 most important people in my life before I or they die.
You get the idea. You can use whatever categories and amounts work for you.5
Life is a blip. As our lives go on, the years go faster and the days seem to stay just as long. There is no perfect time or moment; stop planning, start living. Life is the special occasion so use the good china for yourself, ask him out, let everyone you love know it, forgive whomever you need to forgive, make the call you have been waiting to make, take that trip, can you afford not to do what you think you can’t afford.
What’s on your list? What are you waiting for?
You know it’s coming, in the next few days someone is going to ask you what your
New Year’s Resolution is. Don’t worry though, hardly anyone asks if you kept your previous resolution. I guess they do not want to be asked the same question. In most cases the answer is no. Statistics say over 95% of New Year’s Resolutions are not kept.
There are many reasons why New Year’s Resolutions fall by the wayside. I am not sure how helpful it would be to look at them. Instead lets take a look at what actually works for people:
I would say, so big that it is a dream not a resolution. Whatever it is you want for yourself, it needs to be important enough to inspire. If fitness or losing weight is on your agenda; Can you see yourself training for and running The New York Marathon in November? This kind of commitment would engage your mind, body, and soul. This is the kind of experience that asks more of you than “losing 10 pounds” or “going to the gym more often”, it is also the kind of experience that could be life changing.
It needs to be important to YOU.
Make sure it is your dream, not what a parent, spouse, friend, boss, or society wants for you. It shouldn’t be something you think your supposed to want or do. If it is not your dream, will you be able to stay in it when the challenges come up. Wouldn’t you rather feel inspired? Inspiration comes from within. It’s o.k. if someone in your life has the same dream, however, it just isn’t worth pursuing a dream that isn’t yours.
Be specific. You need to know what you want to get what you want.>
If you ask someone their definition of success, the most common answers are money, health, job, security, and family. Those are words not dreams. Who is it that you want to be in the world, within your profession, family, community? If you are a financial advisor, being known as the “go to guy in your community for families that want financial freedom”, is very different than “finding more clients.” It asks you to see yourself in a different way. Who are you working with? What are they dressed like? Are you in the city or suburbs? Use all five of your senses, approach it as if you are writing and directing a movie. Use as much detail as possible.
Make it challenging but attainable.
If it is so challenging that it isn’t attainable, like winning an Olympic Gold Medal at age 55, you will lose interest. At the same time if it is too easy, you will probably lose interest just as fast. If you want to take into account your health and age, you may have you eye on competing in a race in your age group.
Write it down.
Writing it down gives your focus, clarity, and brings the energy of your ideas out into the world. If your dream is a single sentence, you are not using your imagination. “I want one million dollars” is not a dream. Ask yourself Who you want to be?, What you want to do? and What you want to have? in your future. I subscribe to the adage, what you dwell on grows. Writing it down will get your thinking out of the past and present, to what you want to see happening in the future.
It is much easier to create a new habit then eradicate an old one.
This is actually based in neuroscience; reasearch shows it is easier to create new wiring in the human brain than eliminate old wiring. Focus on what you are going to do, not on what you want to stop doing.
Make sure you have the support you need.
By nature human beings are highly adaptable to their environment. If your environment is not set up to support you, then it will drag you down. This is one of the key reasons, you can almost always get started on a resolution and somewhere along the line be pulled back.
This is not restricted to your physical environment, it includes people, financial, health, leisure, and other environments you engage with. Consider whether these areas of your life set up to support you, or are holding you back. As an example, if you are looking to earn more money; Who are the people you spend most of your time with? Are they earning less or more than you? Do they constantly say “money is not important”? Do they have prejudices against wealthy people? Consider spending time with people who are where you want to be.
The dream has to be in integrity with who you are.
It does not have to be altruistic, pick someting that is in alignment with who you are, your own idea of success. There is no moral judgment in what is important to you.If it goes against your personal values, it is not your dream.
Focus on the journey, not the destination.
You can’t control the outcome, only the actions you take and choices you make.There are no guarantess, so you may as well enjoy the ride. You can suffer, sacrifice, and even conjure up all sorts of unwritten contracts with the world, or your god. There are still no guarantees. If someone trains to run a marathon, they may actually have a lot of fun. It could involve joining a running club; training with a spouse, mate, or friend; and buying new running clothes. Even if you didn’t run in the marathon you may have had an awesome time training. Oh yeah, and probably lose a few pounds, build self esteem, and be healthier as a result.
When you get clear on what it is you want, you start feel empowered. You start to feel like you are right with the world, and have the inner knowing that I can do this. This isn’t some magical formula for greed, prestige, or status, it is about becoming more of who you already are.
Happy New Year
The movie “Peaceful Warrior” aired on Showtime this week. A few years ago I read the excellent book it is based on Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman . The movie reminded me of some really valuable lessons the story offers, a few of which I have listed below:
I call myself a Peaceful Warrior… because the battles we fight are on the inside.
Everyone wants to tell you what to do and what’s good for you. They don’t want you to find your own answers, they want you to believe theirs. I want you to stop gathering information from the outside and start gathering it from the inside.
Death isn’t sad, the sad thing is that most people don’t live at all.
Everything has a purpose, even this, and it’s up to you to find it.
Socrates: Where are you?
Socrates: What time is it?
Socrates: What are you?
Dan: This moment.
This moment is the only thing that matters.
The people that are the hardest to love are usually the ones that need it the most.
3 Rules of Life
Paradox: Life is a mystery. Don’t waste time trying to figure it out.
Humor: Keep a sense of humor, especially about yourself. It is a strength beyond all.
Change: Know that nothing stays the same.
The Journey is what brings us happiness not the destination.
If you don’t get what you want, you suffer; if you get what you don’t want, you suffer; even when you get exactly what you want, you still suffer because you can’t hold on to it forever. Your mind is your predicament. It wants to be free of change. Free of pain, free of the obligations of life and death. But change is a law, and no amount of pretending will alter that reality.
You haven’t yet opened your heart fully, to life, to each moment. The peaceful warrior’s way is not about invulnerability, but absolute vulnerability–to the world, to life, and to the presence you felt. All along I’ve shown you by example that a warrior’s life is not about imagined perfection or victory; it is about love. Love is a warrior’s sword; wherever it cuts, it gives life, not death.
Pain is a relatively objective, physical phenomenon; suffering is our psychological resistance to what happens. Events may create physical pain, but they do not in themselves create suffering. Resistance creates suffering. Stress happens when your mind resists what is…The only problem in your life is your mind’s resistance to life as it unfolds.
Wake up! If you knew for certain you had a terminal illness–if you had little time left to live–you would waste precious little of it! Well, I’m telling you…you do have a terminal illness: It’s called birth. You don’t have more than a few years left. No one does! So be happy now, without reason–or you will never be at all.
Moderation? It’s mediocrity, fear, and confusion in disguise. It’s the devil’s dilemma. It’s neither doing nor not doing. It’s the wobbling compromise that makes no one happy. Moderation is for the bland, the apologetic, for the fence-sitters of the world afraid to take a stand. It’s for those afraid to laugh or cry, for those afraid to live or die. Moderation…is lukewarm tea, the devil’s own brew.