How to be happy even if you're English

what is happiness and how to get it


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Would you be happier if you won the lottery?

 

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Apparently, lottery winners tend not to report themselves any happier ten years down the line.  In fact, within just three months of a significant lottery win, statistics show we return to the level of happiness we had before.

Oh dear.

Do I buy that ticket, then, or not bother?

Well, buying a ticket is our way of putting our hand up; “yes please, I’d like to be happier”.  No harm in that, aiming for happiness.  We all want to be happy.

You’re right.  But I’m sure I’d be happier if I won just a bit. Enough to pay off the mortgage, or get a deposit on a house.  That would do it.  I could relax a bit.

Sounds good, I agree.  I met a man once who did just that, and bought an extra field and a horse.  He took his horse and a cart around the village every day after that, and was very happy.  A simple life.  That’s all he wanted.

Cool.  But didn’t he want anything else?

No, he was happy enough.  He’d lived in the village all his life, with his family and friends.  That was enough for him.

There you are then.  You only need a bit.

Yes, but how much is a bit?  I met another man who had won £2,000.  “Lucky you”, I said.

“No, he complained.  It’s a kick in the teeth, £2k.  What can I do with that?  That’s only enough to keep the wife happy for a couple of weeks”.

“A kick in the teeth?”

“Too right.  I’d rather not have won anything”

“But for some people that’s life changing.  They could buy a car which could get them a job”.

“Yeah right”.

OK I get your point.  If you’re miserable by nature perhaps money can’t help.  But that was only £2,000.  The other guy obviously got more.

He did.  He won £80,000 in a syndicate win with his friends.  But I got the feeling that the first would have very happy with an extra £2,000, and the second probably wouldn’t have been any happier with the jackpot win.  It’s just the way they were.

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Is that it, then?  Just the way we are?

I think so.  It’s nice to think that a magic ticket would change our level of happiness just like that.  But imagine… say you got your gold lamborghini, did your round-the-world-trip, bought your dream house and had champagne for breakfast.  Six months later you’re sitting in your dream kitchen and your champagne breakfast is nice, granted, but it doesn’t have the same wow-factor that it did the first week. And you realise that breakfast is breakfast, wherever you are, and you are still the same you.  You might have a touch more tan and whiter teeth, but you’re still the same underneath.  The only difference might be that you’ve nothing left to dream about because, frankly, you’ve done it.  So what now?  What’s left?

Another holiday?

And then?  That’s the trouble; we keep chasing our tails.  Once we’ve got something, we want the next fix.  It’s like an addiction.  A habit we’ve got ourselves into, that we all subscribe to.  We link money with happiness without thinking.  Our whole society’s bound up in it.  Ultimately, money fails us on a personal level.

Point taken.  But I could give some to my friends, too.  That would be nice.  And some to charity.  It’s not all bad.  A few million could go a long way!

Yes, altruism is certainly a contributor to personal happiness.  Giving is good.

But lottery winners get hassled, don’t they?  Everyone asking for money.  And working out how to distribute it.  That’s a big responsibility.  Hard to do the right thing.

Sure, there’s a lot of thinking to be done.  And a lot of discernment.  Working out who’s genuinely motivated, where best to focus your money, all those things.  Not a bad problem though.  Not if you can do good with it.

A tough one, though.  You could lose a lot of friends and be left very untrusting.

Yes, it happens.  And our friends are one of our primary ingredients for happiness.  So it can be a major loss.  Being without friends can make us more unhappy than we were before, very quickly.  We’re social beings.

It’s not looking quite so attractive, winning the lottery…

Well, there’s a lot of good that can come of it.  But as superman said, with great power comes great responsibility….

Maybe it’s responsibility we should be working on, then.  You don’t need money for that.  And friendships.  Friends are free.

Not a bad idea.  We could put the money we saved on tickets towards self-help books to share with friends.  A self-help library!  Then we might not feel the need for a ticket! 🙂

Is that the answer, do you think?  Work collaboratively with our friends towards a happier society?

Funnily enough, they’ve been doing that in Bhutan since 1972.  They made ‘Gross Domestic Happiness’ a priority above economic wealth.

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You’re kidding!  For real?

Yes, and they’re officially the happiest country in the world (the UK is about halfway in world ratings).

Why can’t we do that?

Why indeed…  Here’s the World Happiness Report, compiled in 2013 by Richard Layard, John Helliwell and Jeffrey Sachs. Their aims are to end extreme poverty, achieve environmental sustainability, embrace social inclusion and operate under good government. Maybe you could use your lottery winnings to propel these aims?

Good idea, if I win.  But I’ll start at the source.  I’ll think more carefully about what makes me happy every day, and make sure those things feature regularly in my life.  Friends, yoga, walking, making cakes… all that stuff…. perhaps I’m happier than I thought!

 


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make friends with your weaknesses

Not so long ago we all felt we had to be perfect to succeed. If we didn’t feel perfect, we could pretend. We could bully our way through.

Hats off to visionaries like Steve Jobs, thinking more of helping people than perceived leadership convention and consumer targets.

This morning I woke thinking of the word exemplary. Of leading by example. Now I’m reading an article in The Guardian by Tim Adler ‘why women make better CEOs in the 21st century’. It focuses on the need for ‘feminine’ qualities (empathy, humanity, collaboration, communicating vision). It also gives this rather lovely list of qualities that make up good leadership;image

1.  Good vision is about communicating a vision that doesn’t yet exist.

2.  Once you’ve defined that vision, you need to articulate it.

3.  Surround yourself with people who are better than you.

4.  Avoid being pushed into instant decisions.

5.  Walk the walk.

To walk the walk requires purpose, conviction, vision. And humility. We’re none of us perfect, and accepting this in ourselves but going for it anyway inspires others. Knowing your flaws, seeing them for what they are, but not allowing them to hold us back can bring us forward. Flaws can provide an opportunity for growth, and developing empathy. Any one of us could meet this list if we chose to.

Lovely things, flaws.


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Sunday morning reflections; the world in your coffee cup

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Fear less, hope more;

Eat less, chew more;

Talk less, say more:

Love more, and all good things will be yours

 

This, apparently, is a Swedish proverb. The gentleness and directness of it appealed to me.

Simplicity.  

Notice the smallness in your actions. Feel the beauty in the mundane. Open yourself to the positive and invite it in. Recognise what is truly good.

Happy Sunday everyone.  Enjoy your cuppa 🙂


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A motto for January

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A year can go fast.

This time each year I play a game. I scan over the previous year’s flavour – it’s course, events, emotional stamp and goals. Then I take a deep breath, and feel where I am now, and pick a little motto that summarises what I feel I need to do this coming year. It has to be authentic (it’s for me after all; I don’t emblazon it on a T-shirt, just hold it in my head) so I sit with it for a few days, and if it still feels right, it becomes a guiding light to return to when I get a little uncertain.

Past mottos have sometimes been financial guides; ‘claw back’ was one year, ‘reign in’ was another. Others have seen ‘look sharp’ ‘get to it’ and ‘hang in there’. They’re not fancy, but a hook to reconnect where I am occasionally. It helps me.

Some years you just know will be about play, or growth, struggle or challenge. But you know that next year will have a different theme, or a different kind of learning. It’s just the way it is. Sometimes simply remembering that can really help. No matter how stuck you are, life does shift. And especially, you have the power to shift internally. Always. And if you know that, then it will.

A year can be like a step forward towards a goal. The important thing is to recognise each step taken, and then take the next. Don’t linger in no man’s land, afraid to make the next move. Be bold and move your life forward. It won’t happen without you. You have to steer the ship.

Take a motto. Take several. Let your friends know what they are.

Mine’s ‘Be Kind’ (to others and to myself). What’s yours?

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twelve nights of thankfulness (surviving christmas with mum)

Day 1

My mum arrives.

I love my mum. Thanks Mum, for travelling all this way to see me.

Day 2

My kids are pleased that Mum brought some of her famous brownies.

Thanks Mum, for being such a great cook and thanks to the great inventor of brownies and em, chocolate generally. Thanks.

Day 3

The brownies have all gone and there’s a little uncertainty over proportional gain which led to a few words, but hey it’s Christmas.

Am a little concerned that my mum doesn’t seem to need any breakfast and has eaten nothing but a half portion of dinner. But she’s my mum and she can if she likes. Just because the roles are shifting doesn’t mean she’s less of a mum.

Thanks, Mum, for being with us this Christmas.

Day 4

Lots to do today and find myself apologising for not taking mum out. She says she’s fine but I worry because she doesn’t go out for any exercise. Must take her to the shops. Wonder why she doesn’t just take the bus as she has a free pass after all. And legs. But if she’s happy that’s fine.

Thanks, Mum, for being ok with everything.

Day 5

Realise that after 5 days together (nearly solidly) haven’t discussed anything of any substance with my mum. Just food and conversations about the children. Have no idea what’s going on in her life, and she’s not asked about mine. Feel a little frustration. Compounded with realisation that she hasn’t actually let slip when her return ticket applies. I asked, but she just laughed in a nervous (and, actually, slightly sinister) way.

Thanks, Mum, for being here and feeling ok enough with our company to make your stay a lengthy one. And anyway it’s bank holiday so there won’t be any buses for a few days. I shall just relax and let the uncertainty wash over me. Thanks for bringing me opportunities to exercise patience.

Day 6

Christmas Eve. Conscious that my sausage rolls don’t measure up. Something about lard (lack of). At least mine weren’t burnt underneath. My mother is renowned for burnt things. Burnt toast and sausages in particular. Beyond burnt, in fact. Resigned and irreconcilable charcoal.

Thanks, Mum, for showing me what happens when you forget about the grill entirely and imprinting the results in my brain. Thanks for the blueprint of well-intentioned vagueness you bestowed on me, and the resultant determination to sharpen up my act. That was a good and thorough lesson.

Day 7

Christmas Day. I do love Christmas, and my parents were great for traditions and family involvement. Interesting now, how my mum steps back from the rituals and practices that make christmas special. I wonder if I will do the same when my kids have their own families; will I create special moments or will I be the impartial, smiling observer?

Day 8

Thinking today that maybe Boxing Day is the best? We did it, we actually did it. And it was all nice. Thanks everyone and well done mum for going with the flow. Especially well done, Me. Box ticked for another year. Pass me that glorious box of chocolates and another glass of Baileys…

Day 9

A teary goodbye to my mum on the bus. And a hug, and a kiss. Our best together time in a long while. Thank you mum, for being my mum. Because you can’t ever, ever be a perfect mum no matter how hard you try or want to be. Having a mum, and being a mum, has taught me that. And a good long walk in our gorgeous countryside.

Day 10

Goodbye tree, and thank you. You were picked for your sparseness, to let light through, and you were no more sparse at the end. You did a good job, even though you fell over, but that was my fault. I was trying to be mum and dad all at once. But I have only two hands. You can’t wind a long length of fairylights and hold the tree at the same time. It’s a law of physics. Really, that tree did very well not to reveal the story too much. Just a couple of broken bulbs that you couldn’t see without really looking. Trees are very forgiving things. Is that why we have them at Christmas?

Day 11

I have my home back. It feels bigger, more orderly, and I can feel the ‘me’ in it’s composition smiling at me. A reminder of who I am, of my family, of the hints at aspects of myself belonging to the past and perhaps the future. Bits of me that need waking up, that need to forge new directions.

Day 12

New Years’ Eve. Wow. Overwhelmed with potential and thankfulness.

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The law of attraction – does it work? Part 3

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This is where I was –

1) In a dark, lost and scary space emotionally

2) With an advanced awareness of the power of the focussed mind.

It led me to the Law of Attraction.

If you don’t know about this, it’s basically the premise of an abundant universe and the innate ability we all possess to tap into it; namely to focus on our desires and follow our hearts and achieve our goals. Akin to the power of prayer.

Probably the most well-known publication is Rhonda Byrne’s ‘The Secret’, and I spent a summer ingesting the content of it. All very familiar.

The idea of the Law of Attraction is that it can be applied to any aspect of your life, and there’s no higher power affiliated; just you and the universe. What’s good about it is that it dispenses with the ‘I don’t deserve it’ or ‘it’ll never happen to me’ attitudes that create barriers to progression and achievement and which, frankly, a lot of us commonly hold. Including me. It offers a vehicle for more expansive thinking and an opportunity to challenge your expectations and perceived placement in the world around you. What’s difficult about it is that it commands a leap of faith, and that comes with a risk.

I put it to the test.

Guidance on Law of Attraction principles suggests that you identify your goal, visualise it (this is a deep visualisation process which necessitates FEELING the realisation of your goal – a practice that cements the aim in your mind and body so that it becomes ‘real’) and make an internalised assumption that it will happen; a kind of ‘abracadabra’ approach (which translated from Arabic, essentially means ‘make it happen’).

Essentially, my experience of focussed application (see part 2) made me well practiced and I could see that there were wider and larger possibilities than the small goals I’d set myself. Reading The Secret, I knew I was on a well-trodden path and the guidance given could cement my learning. Already something of a pro, I’d set myself a tangible target to test the theory.

The website for ‘the Secret’ offers a print-out cheque book that you can fill in with your wish-figure. I’m not comfortable with the materialistic applications but as an experiment (and partly to challenge my too-English approach to assumed wealth) I plumped for £100,000. It’s a sum well beyond my experience, so a clear indicator should it leap into my account, but also one which I’d be comfortable with should it arise. (There’s greed and then there’s Greed). I gave it a year to materialise, but fully expected it to be sooner. I’m often surprised at how quickly opportunities arise when goals are clearly set.

746d737b8f7849b9eb2b4bb5b26e1c2cWell, I can confidently report that it didn’t.

You might not be surprised, but I was. I’d had such consistent results throughout my life that I believed it would come. Not in a ‘it will, it will’ persistent kind of way but in a gentle, pervasive knowing. Like an accepted truth. I’d done everything by the book, as it were. Using all my previously gained knowledge and awareness, and that gleaned from the Secret. But no £100k. Hmm.

The thing is, though, that I didn’t really need it. I’d been feeling so much more affluent since the experiment began, and in the knowledge (albeit misguided) that the money was coming I’d set myself little goals; tick lists of purchases that needed addressing to make my family’s life more comfortable. I’d bought a reconditioned mac, a new fridge from the charity shop, a condenser dryer (hooray!) step by step, purchase by purchase. Nothing frivolous, just helpful. Things to aid our time and quality of life.

And in the meantime I’d stopped feeling the need for ‘feel good’ purchases. I wasn’t trawling charity shops and supermarkets any more looking for a little ‘something’ as a trophy. And my habit for lifestyle magazines was quenched. Altogether, I felt less pinched, less hard-done-by. Happier.

I heard via a friend a story recently whereby a couple she knew purchased a house on the strength of their belief, based on the Law of Attraction principles, that their ship would come in. It didn’t, with all manner of devastating consequences.

Where am I going with this?

I’d say this; that the Law of Attraction is a practical truth, inasmuch as this – if you apply focussed attention to your goals and your actions, carefully examining your motives and behaviour, you will move forward. If you notice what happens around you, and learn to see opportunities, you will benefit immediately. Recognise inauthentic action (namely greed) within your daily life address it. Your needs will become less and your blessings will multiply. If you can identify your real needs against your periphery ones attend to them and leave the others.  They will dwindle accordingly and you will find space and peace. Then you will find yourself abundant, and you will feel blessed and grateful. Then all you need to do is learn to apply your gratitude.

Watch your internal motives and external actions. Listen to yourself and look to others. If you see good practice from others absorb it and apply where you can. But don’t let the desire to believe overtake your awareness. Be soft and gentle with yourself. You’re a puppy in this, and if you crash it will hurt.