Meaningful Living

Meaningful Living

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My research has focused on understanding the factors that foster well-being and reduce psychological distress in people’s lives. I have spent most of my time looking at the role that meaning in life plays in human well-being. Humans appear to have a strong desire to be able to understand their experiences, gain some clarity about their own identity, and identify some sense of purpose in their lives. In other words, people want to know what their lives are all about and how they fit into the grand scheme of things and the world around them. When we talk about meaning in life, we are talking about knowing these things. Meaning in life refers to the feeling that people have that their lives and experience make sense and matter. (Meaning in life is different, then, from The Meaning of Life)

People who feel this way, who have a sense of meaning in life, also report feeling more happy, more satisfied with their lives, less depressed and anxious, and more satisfied with their jobs. My research continues to explore the benefits of having meaning in life, as well as trying to elucidate how we get meaning in life. For example, through my research with twins, it appears that a good percentage of differences among people in how much meaning in life they experience is due to genetic factors. However, another line of my research indicates that what we do on a daily basis can affect how meaningful we find our lives to be. Thus, meaning might conceivably be “bred in the bone” to some degree, but it also appears possible that we might all be able to experience more meaning in life by engaging in certain activities.

Although it might seem like everyone should want to find meaning in life, my research shows that people differ greatly in how hard they’re looking. Some people would go so far as to say that they are always seeking and trying to understand what can make their lives more meaningful. Other people would say they are never searching for meaning in life. Surprisingly, even people who feel their lives are already full of meaning report searching for more. In general, those who are searching for meaning are somewhat less happy than those who are not. However, their search is a dynamic process, and those who are looking seem to be able to take advantage of “meaningful” opportunities. For example “meaning-searchers” who also feel like they’ve found an occupational path infused with a sense of higher purpose and spiritual calling report more well-being and more investment in their career development. This finding has been supported in an experimental career development workshop format as well, indicating that giving meaning-searchers information about purpose and calling in work boosts their well-being.

Some of my other research examines meaning in life across the life span, finding that older adults report more meaning in life, whereas younger adults report more of a search for meaning. An additional line of research has focused on religion and spirituality, including some studies that have indicated that meaning in life provides one reason why religious individuals report higher well-being.

I have been doing a bit of research on meaningful work and calling, which you can learn more about on the Meaningful Work page. My future research on meaning in life will concentrate on the role of meaning in coping with stress and severe mental illness. I am also actively researching how meaning can assist and promote positive health behaviors. I am also beginning research on the benefits of green and sustainable design (in consumer products, building spaces, landscapeing, and public spaces).

You can read some of my research papers by following links provided on my Curriculum Vitaepage.

 Source: http://www.michaelfsteger.com/?page_id=113
How to Gain Sustainable Happiness?

How to Gain Sustainable Happiness?

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Why is it that happiness is fleeting? How could it be that you feel great in the morning yet that contentedness fades away by the evening? If I would ask you about your happiest time during the last month your mind will probably wander to an event or a period of time where you felt good, experienced great pleasure and were filled with positive emotions. The association of happiness with joy is a natural one, and yet happiness consists of much more than these positive feelings. To understand this greater depth of happiness we need to explore positive psychology theory and research where a distinction is made between hedonic and eudaimonic happiness. Such a difference would also make it easier to understand why we experience happiness as a fluctuating emotion.

The first dimension of happiness is hedonistic. This is where a certain event triggers a fabulous feeling – you are eating a slice of pizza which is fresh, hot and delicious, being told by your boss that you’re getting a raise, or receiving praise in school or at work for an assignment. It feels great, and you are glowing inside – it’s a fabulous feeling of joy and pleasure. This aspect of happiness is easy to understand as it is based upon a very simple rule: a maximum of positive emotions and a minimum of negative emotions. In other words, to experience it you need to feel as much joy as possible but sadness or frustration cannot be part of the equation. You might be thinking, “Well, of course they can’t be part of the equation, it’s happiness we’re talking about here”. But as you will see, happiness is a much more complex phenomenon than commonly thought. To better understand this intricacy let’s move on to eudaimonic happiness.

If hedonic happiness is the celebrating, carefree brother, eudaimonic happiness would be its purposeful, aware and deeply contented twin. Eudaimonic happiness asks “Who are you?” followed by “What do you do?” The relationship between the answers determines your experience of eudaimonic happiness. Put simply, if your deeply held values and beliefs are expressed in your life’s choices and activities then you would feel eudaimonia. This is the kind of happiness that is based upon the question of meaning in life. Research in positive psychology shows that people who wake up in the morning with a clear knowledge of their raison d’etre in their life, experience a deep feeling of happiness and satisfaction. Their lives are filled with passion and vitality which are at the heart of eudaimonic happiness.

However, as you might imagine, this journey of eudaimonic happiness is not an easy one. It is filled with challenges, questions, doubts, and the natural obstacles of life. Indeed, it is highly rewarding for long-term happiness, but frequently short-term impact might be difficult as you are struggling to express meaningful insights. Imagine, for example, you are dissatisfied at work. You go through an agonising period of time where you feel that “who you are” and “what you do” are mismatched. You then begin a personal journey of realising what is meaningful to you – and how to achieve it. It might be that you need to take further studies at university, or move down the job ladder into a new position. This process in the short-term is challenging and may instil feelings of frustration, sadness and even pain, as part of this self-actualising experience. And yet it is a natural part of eudaimonic happiness. Going through this development might be challenging but it would probably fill you with a highly satisfying and deep feeling of meaning as you proceed with it. You are investing in your long-term happiness.

The question “why is happiness fleeting?” might be easier to understand now. Hedonic happiness, in its essence, is a brief experience of joy and pleasure which quickly fades away. When you eat a delicious chocolate cake you get short-lived feeling of pleasure spreading through your body – but it is a fleeting one nonetheless. Even the gratification of winning an unexpected amount of money fades away much more quickly than we would have thought. As we equate happiness and pleasure, Eudaimonic happiness offers an instable experience of positive emotions. Eudaimonic happiness, as we have seen, is filled with challenges, making it difficult for us to experience consistent joy. We will no doubt discover moments of great satisfaction and positive emotion, but the difficulties along the way would make it feel as if this positivity comes and goes instead of being constant. And there it is – happiness which we much prefer to feel as never-ending bliss, becomes a fluctuating, fleeting experience. And yet, as we walk our personal path of eudaimonic happiness we discover a new kind of happiness: deep contentment and self-fullfilment. This kind of happiness might be challenging and lack pleasure and joy at certain points in time, and yet it fills us with the burning fire, and passion, of those who live meaningful and purposeful lives.

Why Is Happiness Fleeting?

Why Is Happiness Fleeting?

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Why Is Happiness Fleeting?

Why is it that happiness is fleeting? How could it be that you feel great in the morning yet that contentedness fades away by the evening? If I would ask you about your happiest time during the last month your mind will probably wander to an event or a period of time where you felt good, experienced great pleasure and were filled with positive emotions. The association of happiness with joy is a natural one, and yet happiness consists of much more than these positive feelings. To understand this greater depth of happiness we need to explore positive psychology theory and research where a distinction is made between hedonic and eudaimonic happiness. Such a difference would also make it easier to understand why we experience happiness as a fluctuating emotion.

The first dimension of happiness is hedonistic. This is where a certain event triggers a fabulous feeling – you are eating a slice of pizza which is fresh, hot and delicious, being told by your boss that you’re getting a raise, or receiving praise in school or at work for an assignment. It feels great, and you are glowing inside – it’s a fabulous feeling of joy and pleasure. This aspect of happiness is easy to understand as it is based upon a very simple rule: a maximum of positive emotions and a minimum of negative emotions. In other words, to experience it you need to feel as much joy as possible but sadness or frustration cannot be part of the equation. You might be thinking, “Well, of course they can’t be part of the equation, it’s happiness we’re talking about here”. But as you will see, happiness is a much more complex phenomenon than commonly thought. To better understand this intricacy let’s move on to eudaimonic happiness.

If hedonic happiness is the celebrating, carefree brother, eudaimonic happiness would be its purposeful, aware and deeply contented twin. Eudaimonic happiness asks “Who are you?” followed by “What do you do?” The relationship between the answers determines your experience of eudaimonic happiness. Put simply, if your deeply held values and beliefs are expressed in your life’s choices and activities then you would feel eudaimonia. This is the kind of happiness that is based upon the question of meaning in life. Research in positive psychology shows that people who wake up in the morning with a clear knowledge of their raison d’etre in their life, experience a deep feeling of happiness and satisfaction. Their lives are filled with passion and vitality which are at the heart of eudaimonic happiness.

However, as you might imagine, this journey of eudaimonic happiness is not an easy one. It is filled with challenges, questions, doubts, and the natural obstacles of life. Indeed, it is highly rewarding for long-term happiness, but frequently short-term impact might be difficult as you are struggling to express meaningful insights. Imagine, for example, you are dissatisfied at work. You go through an agonising period of time where you feel that “who you are” and “what you do” are mismatched. You then begin a personal journey of realising what is meaningful to you – and how to achieve it. It might be that you need to take further studies at university, or move down the job ladder into a new position. This process in the short-term is challenging and may instil feelings of frustration, sadness and even pain, as part of this self-actualising experience. And yet it is a natural part of eudaimonic happiness. Going through this development might be challenging but it would probably fill you with a highly satisfying and deep feeling of meaning as you proceed with it. You are investing in your long-term happiness.

The question “why is happiness fleeting?” might be easier to understand now. Hedonic happiness, in its essence, is a brief experience of joy and pleasure which quickly fades away. When you eat a delicious chocolate cake you get short-lived feeling of pleasure spreading through your body – but it is a fleeting one nonetheless. Even the gratification of winning an unexpected amount of money fades away much more quickly than we would have thought. As we equate happiness and pleasure, Eudaimonic happiness offers an instable experience of positive emotions. Eudaimonic happiness, as we have seen, is filled with challenges, making it difficult for us to experience consistent joy. We will no doubt discover moments of great satisfaction and positive emotion, but the difficulties along the way would make it feel as if this positivity comes and goes instead of being constant. And there it is – happiness which we much prefer to feel as never-ending bliss, becomes a fluctuating, fleeting experience. And yet, as we walk our personal path of eudaimonic happiness we discover a new kind of happiness: deep contentment and self-fulfilment. This kind of happiness might be challenging and lack pleasure and joy at certain points in time, and yet it fills us with the burning fire, and passion, of those who live meaningful and purposeful lives.

Dr. Itai Ivtzan is a psychologist; His work is focusing on mindfulness, spirituality, and positive psychology. You can find his workshops, books, and scientific work on his website: www.AwarenessisFreedom.com

His mindfulness training for teachers offers an in-depth discussion and practice of meditation and mindfulness, enabling you to complete a meditation certification online

Source:https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mindfulness-wellbeing/201603/why-is-happiness-fleeting

Money & Happiness

Money & Happiness

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MONEY & HAPPINESS

What is your earliest memory of being happy?

Do you remember that feeling being a kid on a warm summer night, the grass under your bare feet, and the freeing feeling of not having to go to school the next day?

For me, being happy is being free like on those summer nights.

We all want to be happy. It’s a full feeling. A feeling that connects us with others and deep into ourselves. Physiologically it’s pretty easy to understand – a chemical reaction happens in our brain, serotonin is released, and boom we feel great. Emotionally and spiritually it’s more complex. But how does money impact your happiness?

Studies show that the correlation between your salary’s impact on your happiness up to $75,000, and then it peaks at $125,000. Meaning that people are increasingly happy until they make $125,000 and then they plateau. This may be true for the participants in that study, but it’s not true for me and I am sure it’s not true for a lot of people. 

SO CAN MONEY BUY HAPPINESS?

Definitely. Money can make you happier when you look at the simple fact that when we make money it makes us happy and when we have experiences and purchase things, using money – it can make us happy.

But it’s not that simple, as you can see below. There are an infinite number of stories of people who have made a ton of money but are miserable. The same goes for people who have very little, but still, find joy in their lives. You don’t need money to be happy, but it can make you happier.

Earning more, saving more, and investing more will help you lead a richer life. And a richer life will make you happier. Happiness is personal.

If you aren’t already happy, then money can only provide a temporary escape from you inner well-being.

For a different perspective, we recently recorded a Millennial Money podcast episode on the topic of money and happiness.

The more money I’ve made in my life, honestly, the happier I’ve gotten – but the money is only one factor – the means. The reason I am happier is because I have more control over my time. This means I can spend more time doing things I love, spending time with people that I love, and well, doing things that make me happy. You can actually use the money to maximize your happiness when you know how to use it.

WHY MONEY CAN MAKE YOU HAPPY

Here are the biggest making more money can make you happier:

  1. Less worry and stress
  2. Freedom
  3. More control over your time
  4. More extraordinary experiences
  5. The opportunity to give back

To understand how money can make you happier at a deeper level, I think we should look at two different types of happiness – short term and long term.

SHORT-TERM HAPPINESS COMES FROM FINDING YOUR FLOW STATE

You know that feeling when you’re sitting on the beach with a cold beer and feel one with the world? What about the feeling you get after seeing your favorite DJ or band and walking out into the crisp air after the show? What about the feeling you get when you’re in such a good conversation time disappears? Or maybe it’s how you feel when you buy that new handbag or a new truck?

That’s your flow state. When you are happy. Finding your flow state will make you happy, but it’s still fleeting. One way to maximize your happiness is to find your flow state every day, or as often as you can. It’s about doing things you love. This is the most beneficial form of short term happiness.

Unfortunately, so much of American culture has linked happiness with consumption – this is why we feel happy, albeit temporarily when we buy stuff. But that happiness rarely lasts. It’s surface level.

Making more money can open up more time and the freedom to experience your flow state. Money is freedom, as long as you have control over how you use it.

LONG-TERM HAPPINESS COMES FROM FINDING PURPOSE AND EXPLORING YOUR PASSIONS

It’s pretty easy to go out and buy short-term happiness, but long-term happiness needs to be cultivated.

As humans, we all essentially seek and require the same things to live a happy life – community, loyalty, love, excitement, curiosity, passion, and peace. To explore more on how to live a fulfilled life check out Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

At its core living a happy life means having more fun, richer, more meaningful experiences. It also means living a life full of meaning, passion, and purpose.

The more money I have made, the more time it’s freed up for me to following my true passions – like Millennial Money, where I share my passion for helping others with their personal finances. I also get to spend more time traveling the world with my wife, more time with friends, and more time exploring other projects the fulfill me. This makes me happy.

I know that my long term happiness has less to do with making money and more to exploring the freedom and connections it provides. I’ve made a lot of money mistakes and it took me awhile to learn this. Money can only make you happy if you also work on other areas of your life.

I feel very blessed and lucky. 

I know that my success is not directly a result of hard work – it is more a result of building good habits, maximizing my value, and of course the luck of an insane bull market over the past 7 years. I truly believe that most people can escape living paycheck to paycheck and use money to live richer and happier lives.

Source:https://millennialmoney.com/can-money-buy-happiness/

Money is not the Goal, Time is

Money is not the Goal, Time is

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MONEY IS NOT THE GOAL, TIME IS

“Happy Friday,” the woman at the checkout counter says, “We finally made it.” Every week feels the same in the corporate world – my friends are excited it’s the weekend, clients ubiquitously end emails with “have a nice weekend” or Happy Friday,” and everyone starts talking about their weekend plans by Thursday morning. This is the cycle.

But for some reason this past week when the woman at the pharmacy counter said it, I could tell she really meant it. I was struck by how tired she looked. That’s one of the things I notice a lot more these days – just how tired so many people look on a Friday. I could tell she desperately meant it when she said “we finally made it.”

Most people live their lives for the weekend. It’s not surprising since we’ve been conditioned since we were kids to look forward to Fridays and doing whatever we want on the weekend. In 3rd grade, I was even in a school musical called “Saturday” about the best week all day long.

But how much of yourself can you really pack into 2 days, especially when you have weddings to attend and date nights and kids and chores and laundry? There just never seems to be enough time for anything – to read that book you’ve been putting off, or reaching out to chill with one of your friends you haven’t seen in a while, to practice that guitar you bought two years ago, or take that last minute trip.

Now we slog through the week so we can go out hard Friday night, hit up the Saturday recovery brunch, a Saturday night and all that entails, and Sunday football on the couch. Then comes the dreaded Sunday night when you start thinking about the stresses of the upcoming week. 76% of American workers say they get the Sunday blues. It’s a real thing. I used to feel it all the time back in the day. But you might be saying – well I only work until 6 pm every day and I have evenings to hang out with my family, friends, and doing the things I love. But data shows that most people are so tired from work, they tune out and watch TV every night.

On average Americans are watching over 5 hours of TV every day! So a vast majority of Americans are disengaged at work and they come home to disconnect into a new Netflix show. I struggle with this too. Like most people, I run pretty hard and often struggle to chill as hard as I hustle. But this really got me thinking – when it comes to money, time is not all the same.

NOT ALL TIME IS THE SAME

The study of time is as old as time itself and its relationship to money is deeply paradoxical. Time is both more valuable for some reason when you are young and more valuable for others when you are old. To me, financial independence has always been about time, not money. My goal was to make work optional as quickly as possible, so I could have more options with my time. If you view money as the goal, then you miss the point. Money is infinite, but time is not.

1. When you work, you are trading your premium time.

How many times have you felt energetic, inspired, and awesome at 11 am on a Tuesday, only to be called into another meeting in a windowless conference room or another call about nothing? Or you’re stuck at your desk on a sunny 70 degree day even though you don’t have enough work to do. This is your “premium” time when you feel most inspired, creative, and alive.

While those moments can come at any time, if you work 5 days a week from 9-5, you are working 72% of the week, just to get 28% off. Just based on the simple math, you are likely spending a majority of your “premium” time working at your job. Of course, this is great if you love your job, but if you don’t, and most people don’t, then you are selling your “premium” hours for your salary or hourly wage.

According to Gallup’s annual survey of the American Workforce in 2017, 70 percent of employees in the United States are disengaged at work. They are just getting by. This just makes me so sad – that people resign to a job that they don’t like and spend the best hours, the “premium” hours of the best years of their lives, “just getting by.”

In an office building where I used to work, there was an investment firm where the partners almost always were traveling – but they needed to ensure someone was in the office during the day to take calls and receive packages. A woman who was in her mid-20’s sat behind a big glass door at a receptionist desk without windows. I walked by almost daily for 3 years and never saw her move and only very rarely saw another person in the office. She was trading the best years of her life sitting behind a desk just waiting for packages. She always just looked so blah.

You spend more time with your co-workers than you do with your family. I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely heard the joke a few times in professional setting, always with a laugh: “I feel like I know you better than I know my wife and kids.”

This is why mini-retirements are so compelling because you can keep your job, but start reclaiming some of your premium time to do what you love. It’s also why it’s worth trying to retire as quickly as possible, so you can reclaim your own premium time for yourself.

2. When it comes to money, time is more valuable when you are young, because your money has more time to grow.

When it comes to investing, time is not equal and a lot of people are wasting it. It’s a well-known fact that the earlier you start investing the more time your money has to grow, so the larger it can grow. One dollar saved at 25 is going to be worth 2-3x more when you are 65 than a dollar saved when you are 35. When it comes to investing, every year earlier that you start makes a massive difference. This is why ideas like the Baby IRA are so compelling – if you open a Roth IRA for your baby at birth and max out the contributions at $5,500 every year for 30 years, your child will be able to retire when they are 30! Talk about a gift, haha.

This was one of the primary reasons I started saving as much money as possible when I was 24 and began to fast track financial independence because I knew I had time on my side. But no matter when you start or how old you are today, today is a better day to start investing than tomorrow. Waiting to invest is leaving money on the table and above all else, you are wasting the most precious resource of all: time.

3. Time is more valuable the older you get, because you get less of it.

Time gets more valuable as we get older for two reasons– we feel like it’s moving faster and we have less of it. Cognitive psychologists believe we as humans feel like time goes by faster as we get older because we have fewer “firsts” in our lives. By the age of 7, we have already experienced half of all experiences we will experience in life. Time moves slower when we are experiencing new things – it’s why when you travel time seems to move slower. But when it comes to working and our routines, those experiences are so comfortable – it’s why the weeks literally feel like they are flying by when we eat, sleep, work, repeat.

And not only does time feel like it’s moving faster as we get older, we have less of it. Time, becoming more valuable as we get older, is a simple concept, but unfortunately, but it doesn’t often align with how people value their own time or think about money in their lives. There’s no “I only have 20 more years to live” pay jump, bonus, or premium. In the corporate world, your compensation is based on how much experience you have and how valuable you are to the company, not how valuable your time is to you. You are paid based on how valuable you are to the market. And the market doesn’t care about you. If you don’t value your own time, no one else will.

CONCLUSION

With the recent passing of my 100-year-old great-grandmother, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own time left on this earth. I had the opportunity to spend some time with her 6 months ago at her 100th birthday, her mind as sharp as ever. When I asked for her thoughts on money, my great-grandmother who balanced her own checkbook every month until she died said, “What about it? I haven’t thought about money in over 50 years.”

At the end of your life what will you remember? What will you regret? As you get older, your dreams, and how you see the world will inevitably evolve. Your dreams of the past might even disappear, leaving unrequited trails of “what ifs” and “in onlys”. In her reflective book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, nurse Bronnie Ware, who works with people who are dying, shares their top regrets including “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me,” “I wish I didn’t work so hard” and “I wish I had let myself be happier.” She goes on to share that a vast majority of her patients had never accomplished at least half of their dreams, often because of their choice to keep working instead of following their dreams.  Here’s Bronnie Ware’s TED talk which is inspiring and well worth 15 minutes of your time.

When we’re in the trenches commuting to work, pushing through the daily grind, worried about money and our future, it’s important to step back and question whether the time we are giving up for the money is worth it. And to remind ourselves to ask that question often, because what you want, need, and love will continue to evolve. You can always find ways to make more money, but you’ll never get back the time you are trading for it. This is why investing is the OG passive income because you make money without trading your time.  So we should optimize our money for time above all else. Money is infinite, but time is not.

Source: https://millennialmoney.com/money-is-not-the-goal/

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