“It is the mind that translates good and bad circumstances into happiness or misery. So happiness comes with the purging of mental toxins, such as hatred, compulsive desire, arrogance and jealousy, which literally poison the mind. It also requires that one cease to distort reality and that one cultivate wisdom.” Matthieu Ricard
Mindfulness is an effective mental technique, originating from the 2,500-year-old Buddhist contemplative practices and adapted to suit non-religious contexts, including board rooms, corporations, hospitals, schools and sports teams.
It is a practice that supports the capacity to stay focussed on what you are doing as you are doing it, a powerful antidote to the distractible nature of the mind and the information overload in our digital world. When practiced regularly, it can bring more calm and effectiveness into everyday life, reducing stress and enhancing mental capacity.
Here are four ways mindfulness can make you happier:
1. It can help you get out of negative thought loops
The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” — William James
So often what gets in the way of our happiness is the tendency of the mind to fall into unhelpful loops of negative thinking. This can propel us into a downward spiral and affect our lives in many unhelpful ways. Mindfulness meditation is a form of rigorous training of the mind which helps us to become more familiar with the nature of the mind and more skillful in noticing when our minds are getting caught up in these unhelpful patterns of thought. When we learn to observe this, we can actually choose to disengage and move our attention in ways that support us rather than pull us down. Whether it’s loops of worry, planning into the future, replaying events from the past, or caught up in self-judgment — when we develop the skill of mindfulness and bring this quality of awareness to the working of our own mind, we open up a whole new possibility toward greater happiness. We begin to have the power to be the master rather than the slave of our mind.
Next time you catch yourself in a negative thought loop, see it for what it is, the mind caught up in a wheel of thinking, and realize that at any moment you can simply disengage from that pattern of thinking and move your attention to something else. Try redirecting your attention to the body by engaging in some kind of physical activity. This may short circuit negative thinking and ground you back to the here and now.
2. It can make you feel more connected to others
The greatest gift you can give someone is your attention.” — Jim Rohn
We are social animals that have evolved to be in relationship. From a very young age the healthy development of our own brain requires interactions. Loneliness has now been suggested to be a risk factor for diseases ranging from cardiovascular disease to Alzheimer’s. In order to flourish we need to feel connected to others. Mindfulness can deepen and enrich our relationships as we bring a quality of present moment attention to the people around us.
3. It can connect you to a sense of inner contentment
Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you — Lao Tzu
Many of us can get caught up in the hedonic treadmill, constantly needing stimulus from the outside world to give us a hit of happiness and pleasure. Whether it is money, relationships, approval, or success, this kind of happiness is dependent on external factors which are transient and over which we have no control.There is another form of wellbeing and happiness, eudaimonic happiness, first explored by Aristotle. This type of happiness and flourishing is not dependent on external circumstances but rather emerges from an inner sense of wellbeing and a living in alignment with ones values. Mindfulness is a practice which can help us cultivate a sense of inner wellbeing which allows us to feel content and well without needing to obtain anything from the outside world. It’s a rare feeling in this age of consumerism but it is available to all of us at any moment.
4. It can enhance your gratitude.
Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance — Eckhart Tolle
The practice of mindfulness helps us to slow down even if just for a few moments and reconnect with what is happening from moment to moment. This slowing down enables us to notice more of what is present both in our environment and within ourselves. As we notice more of what is happening around us and within us, wonder and gratitude can spontaneously emerge. Whether it’s being more present to the tastes of a home-cooked meal, or connecting with something as simple and miraculous as the breath — mindfulness can infuse our lives with gratitude and enhance our appreciation of the ordinary things which can so often pass by unnoticed.
Learn the skills of mindfulness by registering online for Mindful in May the 31-day global mindfulness challenge. You’ll receive a one month mindfulness meditation training program including weekly audio meditations and video interviews with global leaders in the field of mindfulness, neuroscience and wellbeing. Register before April 30 to join thousands of people from around the world whilst raising money to bring clean, safe drinking water to the developing world. Try out a sample meditation to get a taste of Mindful in May.
Follow Dr. Elise Bialylew on Twitter: www.twitter.com/meditatecreate
What makes you happy?
This question is not as easy as it might seem.
According to Shawn Achor in the Happiness Advantage, most Americans find free time harder to enjoy than work. Yes, you read that right. It’s easier for most of us to be successful than to be happy.
Why do we have a hard time enjoying free time?
Guilt. Fear. Pressure. In today’s age of achievement, we put a tremendous emphasis on success and very little importance on happiness.
We are trained to be effective and successful, but we are not given skills to be happy. click to tweet
And this is a huge problem. Shawn Achor calls this the happiness myth:
The Happiness Myth:
If we work hard and become successful, we will be happy.
From a young age, most of us are taught that if we work hard, then we will be successful; and once we are successful, we will be happy. I am completely guilty of this myth. I used to live by what I call the ‘when-then’ mindset.
When I get an ‘A’, then I’ll be happy.
When I get this house, then I’ll be happy.
When I finish this program, then I’ll be happy.
We have this mindset all wrong. In fact, our ideas about happiness are completely backwards! More than 200 scientific studies on nearly 275,000 people found that people who start off happy are more likely to succeed; people who start off unhappy are more likely to fail. Here is the happiness truth:
The Happiness Truth:
If we are happy, we are more successful
Happiness helps our productivity, our immune system, our creativity, our income and our effectiveness.
Happiness gives us a huge competitive advantage–and it has great side-effects.
One study followed college freshmen for 19 years after graduation. The researchers found that those students who were happier in college had a higher income than their unhappy classmates 19 years later.
I chose the Happiness Advantage for our March Science of People Club and I couldn’t be happier = ) because the tips and science in this book are phenomenal.
Here is what you need to know about happiness right now:
1. Happiness Baseline
Research has found that all of us have a kind of happiness baseline–that we have a typical amount of happiness during our lives. However, with the right effort we can INCREASE our happiness baseline:
“It’s more than a little comforting to know that people can become happier, that pessimists can become optimists, and that stressed and negative brains can be trained to see more possibility.” – Shawn Achor
No matter who you are, what your experiences are or how you think, you can learn how to be happy–and it is absolutely a learned skillset.
Change Your Mindset: Happiness doesn’t just happen to you. Happiness is a lifestyle.
2. Your Mental Fulcrum
How can you change your mindset? How can you learn to be happier? Achor calls this the Fulcrum and the Lever principle.
You change your performance by changing your mindset.
Greek mathematician Archimedes said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”
Your mindset is the fulcrum and the length of the lever is your potential power. If you move your mindset to be more positive, the lever of possibility lengthens, which leads, as empirical studies have shown conclusively, to eventual success.
3. Happiness Habits
“Each activity listed below not only gives us a quick boost of positive emotions, improving our performance and focus in the moment; but if performed habitually over time, each has been shown to help permanently raise our happiness baseline.” -Shawn Achor
Write a thank you email to an employee or friend.
When you meditate, even just five minutes a day, it rewires your brain to “raise our levels of happiness, lower stress, and improve immune function.”
Set up something to look forward to–it can be as small as a chocolate after lunch or seeing a friend this weekend. Knowing you have this coming up releases dopamine in your brain as if you are actually doing it. In other words, you benefit from the reward before actually getting the reward.
Commit conscious acts of kindness by doing one nice thing for someone every day. Buy coffee for the person behind you in the drive through or help someone else bag their groceries at checkout.
Make your environment inspiring. How can you infuse positivity into your surroundings? A beautiful pen? A nice walk mid-day? A better ringtone? Make an effort to surround yourself with things that make you smile.
Exercise whenever you can–I know we have heard this one before. But even small walks a few times a week results in significant improvements in mental health.
Spend on experiences. Research shows that spending money on experiences and activities rather than on material purchases makes us happier in the moment and over time. Look at your credit card statement over the past month- what did you spend more on?
See #9 below, which is the most important happiness habit.
4. Find Your Thing
My favorite part of the book was actually a rather small section called “Signature Strengths.” Researchers told people to focus on a signature strength and focus on exercising it every day. This is more than just “pursuing your passion.” It’s the daily practice of utilizing your natural born strengths. This can be anything from organizing to cracking jokes to making small talk.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, most of us have no idea what makes us happy. Here in our lab, we find this fact amazing and we want to do some research on it.
Will you help us?
5. The Tetris Effect
The Tetris Effect found that our brains love to find patterns. In one study, participants who had to play tetris for 3 hours a day began to dream in tetris patterns and see tetris shapes in their mind all day long. We do this pattern finding with many things in our life. For example, IRS employees are trained to look for mistakes 8 hours a day on forms. When they leave work, they can’t help but keep looking for mistakes and errors. You need to train your brain to recognize positive patterns. Here’s how:
Whenever you have a positive experience put a star next to the event or time in your calendar.
Journal about positive experiences at the end of every day.
Talk about the highlight of your day over dinner.
Think of three positive things in your life before you check your email.
In this way, you can retrain your brain to spot patterns of positivity rather than patterns of failure.
6. Falling Up
I learned a new phrase in this chapter:
When you learn from failure and train yourself to capture growth after an apparent failure.
Michael Jordan was cut from his High School Basketball team. Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for not being creative enough. The Beatles were turned away by a record executive who said that guitar groups were on their way out. They didn’t let failure stop them. Why should you?
Don’t bounce back, bounce forward. click to tweet
“Things do not necessarily happen for the best, but some people are able to make the best out of the things that happen.” –Tal Ben-Shahar
Study after study shows that if we are able to conceive of a failure as an opportunity for growth, we are all the more likely to experience that growth.
Don’t define yourself by what happens to you, define yourself by what you make out of what happens to you.
7. The Zorro Circle
In the classic movie Zorro, the main character has to master everything in a small circle during his training. As he gets better, his circle gets bigger and bigger. Achor argues that in the face of overwhelming odds, we can regain control by beginning with small manageable goals. In other words, we should find small circles of control in our life and focus on making those small areas as good as they can be. Control brings us happiness and fixing small problems helps us fix bigger ones.
As humans, we crave the feeling that we are in control because it helps us see ourselves as masters of our own fate. Whether this is in social or professional spaces, it is one of the strongest drivers of both happiness and performance.
Interestingly, happiness has less to do with how much control we actually have and more with how much control we think we have. Hence the importance of small circles of control that we pick and work on purposefully.
8. The 20-Second Rule
Happiness has barriers. The 20-second rule is all about how to minimize the blockers of happiness by turning bad habits into good ones. It’s about lowering activation energy for good habits and making it really hard for yourself to engage in bad ones. Right now think of the things that cause you moments of frustration or minimize your productivity. These can be both big and small:
Now think of ways that you could prevent these blockers from coming up and put the better habit in a path of least resistance. For example, I want to improve my mile time. Snacking is a huge barrier to me and I mindlessly eat. I got rid of all the snacks in my kitchen that do not require assembly. I only kept the healthy ones (carrots, grapes) that are grab-able. I also realized I would get anxious whenever I saw a push notification from my email so I turned it off and put it in a folder in my phone so it is harder to open mindlessly. But, I moved my meditation app to the home screen. I also leave my workout clothes out next to my desk so I can change easily.
9. Make Social Investments
This chapter made me the most excited. This is the principle that stumped me for the longest time and when I finally figured it out, it completely changed my life:
Our happiness is directly connected to the strength of our social connections and support network.
Achor says that investing in social relationships is the most important of all the happiness principles. click to tweet
We typically think about investing in our stock portfolio or our savings account, I want you to think about investing in your social capital or your friend account. Strong relationships help our immune function, our happiness and our work success.
I thought that the chapter was a little skimpy on how to do this because social intelligence is not an easy thing to grasp. My favorite tip on building your social IQ is to embrace the idea of:
Abandon boring social scripts. Chatter, meaningless conversations and small talk breed shallow, unfulfilling relationships. If you really want to connect with someone try asking them real questions and giving them unscripted, uncanned answers.
10. The Ripple Effect
The tips in the Happiness Advantage don’t just benefit you, they benefit everyone in your life. Our emotions are contagious. When we have a more positive mindset, increase our happiness and invest in our joy, it runs off on others.
Increase your happiness and bring more joy to the world.
Did you like this book? Then you’ll LOVE Captivate!
Book Description:captivate, captivate book, vanessa van edwards
Do you wish you could decode people? Do you want a formula for charisma? Do you want to know exactly what to say to your boss, your date or your networking partner? You need to know how people work.
As a human behavior investigator, Vanessa Van Edwards studies the hidden forces that drive our behavior patterns in her lab—and she’s cracked the code. In Captivate she shares a wealth of valuable shortcuts, systems and behavior hacks for taking charge of their interactions at work, at home, and in any social situation. These aren’t the people skills you learned in school. This is the first comprehensive, science backed, real life manual on human behavior and a completely new approach to building connections.
POSTED JANUARY 08, 2014, 1:05 PM , UPDATED DECEMBER 14, 2016, 2:58 PM
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter
mindful meditation using a zen rock garden
My mom began meditating decades ago, long before the mind-calming practice had entered the wider public consciousness. Today, at age 81, she still goes to a weekly meditation group and quotes Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist monk known for his practice of mindful meditation, or “present-focused awareness.”
Although meditation still isn’t exactly mainstream, many people practice it, hoping to stave off stress and stress-related health problems. Mindfulness meditation, in particular, has become more popular in recent years. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing, and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future. (Or, as my mom would say, “Don’t rehearse tragedies. Don’t borrow trouble.”)
But, as is true for a number of other alternative therapies, much of the evidence to support meditation’s effectiveness in promoting mental or physical health isn’t quite up to snuff. Why? First, many studies don’t include a good control treatment to compare with mindful meditation. Second, the people most likely to volunteer for a meditation study are often already sold on meditation’s benefits and so are more likely to report positive effects.
But when researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD sifted through nearly 19,000 meditation studies, they found 47 trials that addressed those issues and met their criteria for well-designed studies. Their findings, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that mindful meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain.
Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says that mindfulness meditation makes perfect sense for treating anxiety. “People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power,” she explains. “They can’t distinguish between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit.”
“If you have unproductive worries,” says Dr. Hoge, you can train yourself to experience those thoughts completely differently. “You might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’ Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self,’” says Dr. Hoge.
One of her recent studies (which was included in the JAMA Internal Medicine review) found that a mindfulness-based stress reduction program helped quell anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder, a condition marked by hard-to-control worries, poor sleep, and irritability. People in the control group—who also improved, but not as much as those in the meditation group—were taught general stress management techniques. All the participants received similar amounts of time, attention, and group interaction.
To get a sense of mindfulness meditation, you can try one of the guided recordings by Dr. Ronald Siegel, an assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. They are available for free at www.mindfulness-solution.com.
Some people find that learning mindfulness techniques and practicing them with a group is especially helpful, says Dr. Hoge. Mindfulness-based stress reduction training, developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, MA, is now widely available in cities throughout the United States.
My mom would point you to Thich Nhat Hahn, who offers this short mindful meditation in his book Being Peace: “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.”
December 31, 20077:00 AM ET
Christine Carter studies the mystery of human happiness — from what makes us smile to which muscles we use when we do it sincerely. Carter is the executive director of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California Berkeley.
ALISON STEWART, host:
So are you in a reflective mood, on this last day of ’07, thinking about your successes, your failures. Maybe looking for a resolution to bring more happiness to your life. Easier said than done, and the last counts for a lot of people. Wouldn’t it be great to take a happy pill? And I don’t mean Zoloft or Paxil.
Well there is some science to uplifting your spirits. And studying this subject is the business of Christine Carter. She holds a Ph.D. in sociology, and is the executive director of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California Berkeley.
Dr. CHRISTINE CARTER (Sociologist; Executive Director, Greater Good Science Center, University of California Berkeley): Hello.
STEWART: So the study of happiness is part of what is called the positive psychology movement. Please explain it what the positive psychology movement is?
Dr. CARTER: Sure. Well, you know, psychologists have traditionally really focused on why people are so dysfunctional. They study – they have traditionally studied depression, anxiety, why people get psychotic illnesses, rather than really, what makes a thriving child’s thrive.
Let me – the happy people are optimistic. So the Greater Good Science Center is where UC Berkeley’s answer to this depressing history of psychology. We’re really an inner disciplinary research center that does two things, I think pretty well. We investigate the roots of what make people good and happy and emotionally intelligent, and then we translate that research in all academic research from other universities for the general public, so that people can really use this information.
STEWART: Now, how do you measure happiness in your studies? And just so we have a baseline definition. Science, you always start with the baseline. What is the definition of happiness?
Dr. CARTER: Well, you know, there are a lot – there are, of course, a lot of different definitions. And happiness can measured in a lot of different ways. So there’s kind of two questions there. I like to think about what makes up a happy life? And I think that that is a helpful way to they think about any these sort of discussions.
Dr. CARTER: So it’s not really just about what makes you feel happy in the present or joyful or cheerful in the present, but it’s – we only – what makes up a happy life is one that is really full of positive emotions. So what we’re really doing here is looking at all different kinds of positive emotions, so not just about the present but also maybe about other people like love and compassion or about the past. That would be a positive emotional path, the gratitude and appreciation.
STEWART: Now this is interesting. You said gratitude because you can feel grateful but not necessarily happy.
Dr. CARTER: Right.
STEWART: How do you translate your gratefulness – you know, I’m grateful I have a home, I’m grateful that I have food on my table, but you might not be feeling about things.
Dr. CARTER: Right, right. Well, it’s interesting because gratitude really is a positive emotion. And the more – the research shows that the more you practice gratitude and the happier you actually will be. And that the changes for you will be laughing. So if you start – but it’s an interesting thing because right now, today, you could be kind of an unappreciative cynic, and if you were to begin practicing gratitude more seriously, the research shows that you would, in fact, increase your – probably would increase your level of happiness.
And we know this. This is – it’s interesting the way they do this research, they just pick people at random. They don’t – we’re going to saying that people who are already appreciative and grateful are happier. We’re saying, okay, there’s a lot of things that you can do to practice gratitude more often.
So, for example, you can keep a gratitude journal, and at the end of the end of the day, write down a few things that you feel grateful, for or you can write a gratitude letter to somebody that you feel grateful for, obviously, and go and deliver it in person and read it out loud to them and tell why you feel thankful.
These are practices that can get you in the habit of feeling more grateful and will likely lead to long-term changes in your level of happiness if you keep doing them.
STEWART: Do you have any opinion about the benefits of mood-altering drugs in terms of promoting happiness in your life?
Dr. CARTER: Well, you know, I’m actually – I’m sociologist, so I’m not – I don’t study drugs. I do know that they have an effect.
Dr. CARTER: I don’t really have an opinion. I think that what my focus has really been is on what things that people can do besides drugs that regular people or all people, whether or not you’re already depressed or whether you’re sort of that neutral or you’re already happy, things you can do that will make you happier in the future.
STEWART: All right. We’ve talked about gratitude. What’s something else?
Dr. CARTER: Well, you know, as a sociologist, I think that what we know from 50 years of happiness research is really the power of our friends and our social connections.
Dr. CARTER: So that shot is that social connections are really so closely related to well-being and personal happiness that, honestly, I think you can practically be equated. So, really, if you’re thinking about how to spend your time in the New Year, I’d say try to remember that human happiness is best predicted but the quantity and quality of our relationships with other people.
STEWART: I’m curious if genetics are important versus environment. Can one outweigh the other?
Dr. CARTER: Oh, for sure. I mean, I think genetics are very important, and we have more and more good studies that show how genetics play a part in our happiness. Certainly, anybody with children knows that some children are just born with really cheerful dispositions and others just…
STEWART: Just aren’t.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Dr. CARTER: …tend to be a little bit more grouchy. We think, you know, the best research we have right now, I think, shows that genetics account for about half.
Dr. CARTER: Of what we’re looking at. But that, you know, if that – there’s a lot of room in there.
STEWART: That’s 50 percent room to take control on your own.
Dr. CARTER: Yes, I think there is. And a lot of that is not – it’s not just especially for adults, it’s not just individual choices and that – well actually for adults it is a lot of individual choices, things that you’re doing that other 50 percent. But, you know, your environment plays into a lot of things too, and that – what I should have done is especially for children.
Dr. CARTER: And then there’s a lot about your life that’s already decided.
STEWART: Christine Carter is executive director of the Greater Good Science at the University of California Berkeley.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.
“Happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.” ~Chuang Tzu
Do you feel, on some level, that your life is hard work? That you need to struggle in order to improve things in your world? Do you feel that you even need to struggle to reach a desired goal, to overcome adversity before achieving something worthy?
Our addiction to struggle is an impediment to us feeling the joy of quiet and the now, the place from which subtle and natural development can occur.
This addiction to struggling—the addiction to striving, always trying to achieve—used to hold me back from experiencing the whole of life.
My awareness dawned slowly. Once an over-achieving lawyer working sixty-hour weeks (and then ducking off to volunteer my time for another cause), I am now much more relaxed, and able to give from a place of increased abundance and energy. But hey, it’s taken time, and it’s still a work in progress.
I’ve dabbled in meditation for years and had a daily practice for three years. But it’s not just all about the cushion—getting out and having fun, dancing, enjoying life is what helped me see that I was actually trapped in a pattern of thinking that I had to work hard and reach (and overcome) a crisis point to be successful.
The more I meditate, the more present I am, even off the cushion. I can even catch the moment at which I start being run by my own subconscious beliefs that life involves struggle.
Some mornings, in the liminal state between sleeping and waking, I can catch an almost imperceptible shift, where my mind switches from the ease of a sweet dream to a battle with consciousness and being awake.
Oh really, do I have to get up now?
(And the deeper revelation: how subtly and consistently I struggle with reality itself.)
The point at which I am able to accept my current reality is the point at which I surrender to that experience.
Funnily enough, this is usually the point at which life becomes easier. Not because I have won a battle against my mind, but because I have allowed myself to stop resisting what just is.
I get up. I go about my day. No big deal; in fact, I enjoy it.
So, how is this addiction to struggle holding us back? After all, I’ll be the first to put my hand up to say how much I’ve learned from those with the strength of character, creativity, and resilience to overcome the most trying of times. Survivors inspire us and bring us hope when we can only see darkness.
Yet, it seems that overcoming adversity has become the primary narrative arc in some corners of the spirituality and personal development online worlds.
Our relationship with mind and ego are often phrased in ‘battle’ terms, and having a gruelling experience has become the necessary precondition to success.
This is so subtle. But this preoccupation with overcoming struggle holds us back in many ways. It conceals other paths to growth. It even may cause us to devalue presence and surrender.
Overcoming struggle is only one way to grow and to learn.
Some of my most significant advancements in my thinking and changes in my life have been the result of product of gentle, consistent effort. In this way, old holding patterns have dissolved quite naturally.
My decision not to drink alcohol is one example. Upon finding out that I’m a teetotaller, people often assume that my self-destruction precipitated a crisis with booze, followed by hard-won sobriety.
Of course, I celebrate those who have overcome alcoholism, but I don’t have a victory-over-struggle story with alcohol. Once upon a time, I enjoyed a drink. Years of enjoyable meditation changed my brain, and I now happily don’t drink alcohol because I don’t feel a desire to drink. (And as it turns out, the benefits are innumerable!)
Accepting that it’s possible to be ripe when you are ripe, that you may not be following a familiar path of overcoming adversity, doesn’t make a riveting story in the manner to which we’ve become accustomed.
Perhaps we can track the predominance of the struggle trope back to the popularity of the hero’s journey: the tale of the swashbuckling hero confronting and triumphing over symbolic dragons and ogres on the transformational journey.
To be clear: the hero’s journey is, of course, inspirational. We all have periods of darkness. We all love to win our battles. We all love to be inspired by others who can lead the way.
My point is that only some journeys are punctuated by ordeals. On other paths, there is no dragon. There may just be a path to walk—even a playground in which to frolic!
Moreover, we definitely do not need to manufacture a challenging transformation if there was no such ordeal. Our experience is not less worthy or true as a result.
Noticing my own addiction to struggle has been humbling and revealing. Releasing my own tendency to slip into struggle means that I am more present. (And I have more fun!)
Our addiction to struggle can lead us to devalue the gentle and humble evolution that can accompany development without drama. It can lead us to miss the happiness that can be found in the here and now, regardless of the circumstances.
My question for you is: where in your life are you struggling? How are you playing out this subconscious script yourself?
And what would your life be like if you were able to notice and celebrate your consistent and gentle evolution?