Friday, April 18, 2014

9 Common Pursuits That Rob Us of Happiness

“Happiness is not a destination, it’s a way of life.”
Happiness. We look for it in different places. Some of us hope to buy it. Some think we can earn it. Others look for it in a new job, a new relationship, or a new accomplishment.
But one thing remains: happiness is something we all desire. We were designed to experience it.
Why then, does it appear at times to be so elusive? How can a society search so desperately for something, but still struggle to find it?
Maybe it is because the pursuits we have set before us as a means to find it are actually keeping us from it.
Consider these 9 pursuits and how they may be distracting us from happiness. Each of them are common in our lives and in our world. But  rather than contributing to our happiness, they may be robbing us of it.

9 Common Pursuits That Rob Us of Happiness

1. Following the crowd. The crowd rarely has our best interests in mind. Instead, they seek their own benefit. Scientists call this crowd mentality. And more often than not, following the crowd leads to destructive behaviors rather than life-giving. We would be wise to seek input into our lives from other sources than the popular perceptions of the day.
2. Trying to please everybody. Bill Cosby said it this way, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” We are never going to please everybody. At some point, we will hold anunpopular opinion—one that gives us meaning and purpose and passion. And when we do, we ought to hold on to it desperately.
3. Chasing wealth. Studies confirm it over and over again: once our most basic needs have been met, money contributes very little to our overall happiness. And yet, we continue to pursue more as if it holds the secret key to lasting joy. But those who desire riches bring temptation to themselves and are often caught in a trap. Happiness is never the byproduct of chasing wealth.
4. Desiring a picture-perfect life. Happiness is not something we discover only after everything is perfect with our lives (our jobs, our appearance, our relationships). If that were the case, none of us would ever experience happiness. This world is imperfect—always will be. But happiness can still be found once we realize perfection is not a prerequisite.
5. Building our own kingdom. The size of our universe shrinks dramatically when we place ourselves at the center. Living selfishly for our own personal gain will never produce lasting happiness and fulfillment. Our lives are designed to be lived for something far greater. And only those who discover the hidden joy of living for others will find a happiness that truly lasts.
Read more:9 Common Pursuits That Rob Us of Happiness

7 Secrets Of Wise People (And How To Become One ... Now)

Quick -- who are the wisest people you know? Chances are they have at least a few things in common: They're experienced, kind and of a certain age. Wisdom, the thinking generally goes, is hard-earned by putting in your time and piecing together scraps of knowledge along the way.
But maybe a younger person also sprang to mind -- someone who, despite his or her relative youth, you regard as genuinely wise. That's because wisdom -- which University of Florida, Gainesville sociology professor Monika Ardelt, defines as a combination of cognitive, reflective and compassionate qualities -- is not the sole purview of the elderly. Wisdom, explains Ardelt (who studies the topic), is something that can be cultivated, and the potential pay-offs are big: Her research has shown that wise men and women enjoy improved well-being as they age, because they're better able to deal with challenges, such as declining health and the loss of loved ones.
So what are the secrets of those people who are wise beyond their years? Ardelt shares a few traits that wise people tend to have in common, as well as several pathways for getting there ... soon.
1. Wise people have a lot of experiences ... 
The reason it's often said that wisdom comes with age is, in fact, because older people tend to have had more life experiences than their younger counterparts. And experience, Ardelt says, is one of the true cornerstones of wisdom.
2. ... And they're sponges.
"It's not just experiences alone that make you wise, it is learning from them," Ardelt says -- and not everyone does that. That's why she pushes back against the idea that travel necessarily cultivates wisdom. Sure, some people leave their comfort zone and see the world through a different lens, which opens them up in new and valuable ways, but others travel the world and don't learn at all. If anything, Ardelt said, traveling just reinforces their negative stereotypes. The key is soaking up lessons wherever you are, whether it's the town where you've lived your entire life, or some far-flung location.
3. Wise people see what's right in front of them.
After the publication of a recent New York Times article on the connection between age and wisdom (which referenced Ardelt's research) a reader wrote her summing up wisdom as, basically, understanding the obvious. "Wise people know something," Ardelt says. "But the interesting thing is not that they know more, about, say, the origin of the universe ... wise people actually know the deeper meaning of things that are generally known, actually."
We all know we're going to die, for example. Wise people have a better understanding of the meaning of that, and live differently -- placing an emphasis on relationships, spirituality and personal growth rather than on more superficial markers of success.
Read more:7 Secrets Of Wise People (And How To Become One ... Now)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

11 Things We Do That Make Us Miserable

Worried Man Against White Background
Oftentimes we read about what we can do to increase our happiness through valuable tips, tricks and techniques. I love reading this stuff and noticing the impact it has on my day and my life. Sometimes equally important is identifying what habits we have that negate all of the positive mindset gearing we do.
Here are 11 things many of us are guilty of that sabotage our peace, joy and calm:
1. Hold a grudge
Forgiveness is the key to freedom. As Marianne Williamson says, "Forgiveness is actually out of self-interest." When we hate, feel anger or resentment towards another, the intended impact, to hurt them, backfires on us. We harbor the anger and resentment within our own minds and bodies. And it's poisonous. Under Williamson's advice, try to see a situation differently. How must my enemy have felt to act the way they did? What fear did they feel? What good qualities does this person have that perhaps I have never thought about? I have four sisters, and one of them has not spoken to me in 12 years -- despite lots of effort on my part. It made me confused and angry for a long time. My forgiveness way of thinking opened me up to compassion. When I think of her now I do so with love. It takes practice but this does get easier.
2. Give up on our dreams
To me this is the saddest one. As Marie Forleo says, "The world needs that special gift that only you have." So often we bury our gifts, follow a "safe" path or simply do not have the courage to pursue what it is that we want. This results in a lot of regret later in life and even in the present moment. I heard once that the definition of hell is when the person you are meets the person you could have been. Our inner voice knows when we are not living our truth and this voice does not go away although we do our best to tune it out. By ignoring our dreams we are not sharing our unique gifts with the world.

3. Not make time for what brings us joy
This is aligned with number two. Do you love to write, draw, sing, teach? When we do not make what brings us joy a priority we are often completely unaware of the happiness we could be experiencing. It results is a much less rich, less colorful life.

4. Settle for superficial relationships 

Since moving to New York I really noticed this. When making new friends I realized that a lot of time people do not talk about things that really matter, let alone make themselves vulnerable. Whenever I bring up my early divorce or humble upbringing, people tend to open up with me too, as we all secretly want to make a genuine connection with other people. People often tell me, "Its so nice to talk about this stuff." We don't realize that connecting with others has nothing to do with our exotic vacations or successful career stories -- it is about making a soul connection which often arises from deeper conversations.
5. Compare!
Buddha said, "Comparison is the thief of joy." Comparison is selective, exaggerated and unreal. We have no idea what is going on in other people's lives. We may envy their fortune but not know their child is struggling with bullying or that their marriage is falling apart. Instead we should be too busy envying our own good fortune (gratitude, my friends).
Read more:11 Things We Do That Make Us Miserable

10 Things You Haven’t Tried For Productive Time Management

Clock Feature
“Lost time is never found again.” Benjamin Franklin
Time is one of our most precious tools in life. It is so important that time is being compared with life; wasting time, is equal to wasting life.
People who accomplish a lot in life are often people who manage their time and tasks effectively and intelligently. Without time management and scheduling, we tend to waste a lot of time on unproductive tasks and projects and we realize this when it is too late.
Therefore in order to take control over our life and achieve our goals, we need to have a proper schedule and time management.
Below are simple steps that can help you plan and implement tasks more effectively:

1. Write Down Your Tasks

It is recommended to have a daily worksheet in which you can record all the tasks for the day. Writing down the tasks not only gives you clarity on the work that needs to be done, but also helps you to organize your time better.
If there are free slots in your worksheet in any specific day, you can fill in the gaps with your unfinished work or what you need to accomplish on the following days. You can also allocate such moments for educational or self-improving activities to help you gain more skills. In this way all your moments everyday will become fruitful and no time will get wasted in between.

2. Prioritize Tasks Based on Importance

Prioritizing gives you the ability to categorize tasks. Often we invest time in on doing things that are not important and miss out on the important ones. By prioritizing you will know which tasks need to be done first. Even if you don’t get a chance to finish all the work planned, at least you have accomplished what is important and urgent.
Sometimes not focusing on unessential tasks gives you better ability to focus on the important ones. This is called one-pointedness. Remove the unnecessary and focus on the essential!

3. Give Each Task a Proper Deadline

Without deadlines, we often take our sweet time in doing things. Deadlines give you purpose and emotional drive to finish what you start.
We all have experienced when the deadline is near, we become more alert, fast and focused to deliver the task as promised. Therefore in order to finish your tasks more effectively, give them a deadline. This will make sure you finish them as expected. Just remember to give your tasks a realistic deadline. If you set a deadline which is not realistic and impossible to meet, you will be disappointed after a while and deadlines will not mean anything to you anymore.

4. Group Tasks Together

In order to increase your productivity it is recommended to group similar tasks together and attend to them simultaneously or one after the other. This will save lot of time which is usually spent to understand and analyze the tasks, and get in the mood to start and complete them.

5. Practice Punctuality

Punctuality comes from responsibility. If you work on your punctuality not only can you project a better picture of yourself which gives you more confidence, but also save time that you need to explain and convince others and apologize for being late.
Read more:10 Things You Haven’t Tried For Productive Time Management

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

7 Life-Affirming Things Grateful People Do

7 Life-Affirming Things Grateful People Do
Christina Lu / BuzzFeed

Gratitude has been linked to stress reduction, increased happiness, and better physical and emotional health. Here are some ways to reap those benefits.

1. Keep a journal.

Dr. Laura Gambrel, professor of psychology at La Salle University, recommends keeping a journal specifically for gratitude, in which you write about three good things — big and small — that happened to you throughout the day, along with some background information on how and why each good thing happened. Studies show that doing this nightly for just one week can decrease depressive symptoms for up to six months; even those who did it once a week showed an increase in physical activity, fewer health complaints, and greater optimism about their future. The bonus is that you’re also creating an incredibly efficient and personalized pick-me-up. Having a bad day? Why not read about that time the subway arrived at the very moment you got to the platform? Isn’t life the best sometimes?!

2. Tell friends/partners/family why they’re appreciated.

Grateful people recognize that much of the good in their lives comes from those around them, and because of this they tend to cultivate the strongest relationships. But research shows that we can milk even more gratitude (and happiness) from our experiences with our loved ones by actually telling them why they’re appreciated.
In this 2005 study published by the University of Pennsylvania, people who performed a “gratitude visit” — i.e., wrote a letter of gratitude to someone who impacted their life in a positive way, and then read it aloud to that person — experienced an immediate spike in happiness, which lasted up to a month after the exercise. Of course, your gratitude visit doesn’t necessarily have to be as formal. If you find yourself remembering that time your friend brought over pizza or proofread your résumé, text them about it. You’ll get to relive the warm, fuzzy feeling all over again.

3. Stop thinking they’ll be happy once they get that job/laptop/dream home.

We are notoriously bad at predicting what our future selves will want or need to be happy, and research shows that the satisfaction we do feel once we reach these benchmarks often fades quickly. Two of the most defining characteristics of grateful people are a feeling of abundance, as well as an appreciation of simple pleasures (which this 2003 study from Eastern Washington University defines as “pleasures in life that are readily available to most people”). It’s a matter of shifting focus, and enjoying the things we do have.

Read more:7 Life-Affirming Things Grateful People Do

3 Ways You Zap Happiness (And How to Get It Back)

Happy Smiling Girl
For better or worse, we believe that happiness is a natural born right, and maybe even an obligation -- if you aren't happy, you have an obligation to your family, your work, and yourself to make it happen.
But as a recent program on NPR's "TED Radio Hour" pointed out, happiness isn't a final destination, nor is there a secret to attain it permanently. When show host Guy Raz asked his first guest, musician Pharrell Williams, if he had the secret to happiness, Williams was nonplussed.
"Okay," he said slowly. "Well, look. I'm not some guy who's walking around smiling every day. We all have our ups and downs lefts and rights and diagonals." This, from the man whose song "Happy" is a worldwide hit with a four-minute video of pure joy.
To think of happiness as an ultimate and long-lasting goal is, in fact, missing the point. Look at the Declaration of Independence again. The unalienable rights aren't life, liberty and happiness. What we get is the pursuit.
The pursuit of happiness. To me, this means that happiness is an approach to life. It's a mindset that, sure, includes moments of glee, but is really about responding to those ups and downs and diagonals with a commitment to health. When you pair an attitude of happiness with the skills of resilience, you can keep from being dragged down by everyday stressors, giving you a better shot at staying buoyant.
Because if there's an obligation here, perhaps it is to use your life well -- to be the healthiest person you can be for self, family, work, community. That's happiness with a purpose, which is happiness on a lifelong scale.
Here are three ways we zap our own happiness -- and how to build it back.
1. You try to do too much at once. Busyness is our common malady. I've written before on how busy is the new black -- a badge of honor and an unspoken expectation for success. Whether you're over-scheduling client meetings or taking on yet another school fundraiser, you blow out all your circuits when you stay in constant cram mode.
Try this. I have committed to three things that put me on a path to create a reliable ebb and flow between busy and not-busy:
  1. No smartphones at meals -- with friends, with family, with colleagues and clients.
  2. Taking a long walk three times a week -- yes, without my phone.
  3. And last, and this one is hard when you have many commitments: One day off the grid each week (at least, while there is daylight!).
Read more:3 Ways You Zap Happiness (And How to Get It Back)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

10 Things You Can Do Right Now to Become More Hirable

10 Things You Can Do Right Now to Become More Hirable
If you are currently on the hunt for employment or have been considering a venture into a new job, there may be some things that need your attention pronto. It's easy to become complacent, especially if you've been working in the same job for multiple years. But when it is time to find a new job, you may have a lot of catching up to do. (See also: Crucial Job Search Steps Most People Skip)
Here are 10 things you can do right now and in the coming weeks that can make you more hirable.

1. Start Removing Socially Inappropriate Posts and Comments

Social media has been known to help prospective job seekers land a position they may not have had access to otherwise. It is time to start thinking of your social media pages as an extension of your resume. Remove pictures, memes, and commentary you wouldn't want a potential new boss to see. Sending the wrong message may keep a lot of doors closed so clean up your pages.

2. Invest Time in Social Media Upgrades

In addition to removing potentially embarrassing things from your Facebook page, you should take the time to update other social profiles you have on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and the like. If you've never opened an account, now is a good time to start learning how to make it work for you in the job arena. Those in need of new employees have been known to conduct searches for talent through these online networks. (See also: Your Web Presence May Be More Valuable Than Your Credit Rating)

3. Update Your Resume

Simply adding a date to your last job history is not a good enough resume update. Take the time to restructure the resume information now that you've have more experience under your belt. Consider what matters most and set up your resume accordingly. Make sure it looks clean, concise, and professional.

4. Change Your Email

If you are trying to be taken seriously in the job market, do yourself a favor and set up an email address that is professional. Some hiring managers may be very turned off by address. Try using a variation of your name, and earmark the account for business correspondence only. Add the new email to your social profiles and resume.

5. Understand the Requirements

Start looking through different job postings to get a better feel for what people are looking for in a new hire. It is often hard to toot our own horns, but you can learn what people want and how to tailor yourself to fit in as a good candidate in your industry.
Read more:10 Things You Can Do Right Now to Become More Hirable
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