Almost every action we take in life is aimed at achieving or maintaining “happiness” – that elusive state where we feel contentment, satisfaction and bliss. Happiness can be a bit hard to define. Yet unhappiness, on the other hand is easy to define, you know it when you see it and you definitely know it when it’s taken hold of you.
Happiness has much less to do with life circumstances than you might think. A study at the University of Illinois found that people who earn the most (more than $10 million annually) are only a smidge happier than the average Joe’s who work for them.
Life circumstances have little to do with happiness because much of the concept of happiness is under your control – the product of your habits and your outlook on life. Psychologists from UCLA in a study found that happiness is 50% genetics and life circumstance – the rest is up to you.
Unhappiness can catch you by surprise. So much of your happiness is determined by your habits (in thought and behaviour) that you have to monitor them closely to make sure that bad habits don’t drag you down into the abyss.
Some habits lead to unhappiness more than others do – these traps are easily avoided once you become self-aware. Writing a journal is often a great way to express yourself and a great reflective tool.
Here are 9 Traps to fall into that may limit your happiness and outcome on life.
Holding Your Feelings In
One of the great misconceptions concerning emotional intelligence (EQ) is that it is about repressing our feelings and holding onto them. While it is true there are feelings that high EQ individuals do not allow to erupt on impulse, that does not mean those feelings are not expressed. Emotional intelligence means honouring your feelings and allowing yourself to experience what comes from embracing them for what they are. Only then can you express them in a manner that helps rather than hinders your ability to reach your goals. This is the foundation for the concept of resilience and the ability to recover and rebound from ‘life’s obstacles’.
Numbing Yourself With Technology
Everyone deserves the opportunity to binge watch a TV show now and then or to switch on your e-reader and get lost in a book. I gave my TV to a gentleman I play golf with and prefer paper pages rather than electronic ones. The real question is how much time do you spend plugged in and whether it makes you feel good or simply makes you numb. When your escape becomes a constant source of distraction, it is a sure sign that you a probably falling into a trap of too much of a good thing. Get reconnected with nature and be present.
Spending Too Much Effort Acquiring Things
One of my favourite topics. I recently down sized my life to accommodate a mobile lifestyle. Half on my limited amount of clothes when to charity and anything I hadn’t used within the last 6 months … aside from my snowboard, when in the bin by choice and necessity. It has been documented that people living in extreme poverty experience a significant increase in happiness when their financial circumstances improve, but this drops off quickly above and annual income of $40 000. There’s an ocean of research that shows that material things DO NOT make you happy. When you make a habit of chasing things, you are likely to become unhappy because, beyond the disappointment you experience one you get them, you discover that you’ve gained them at the expense of the real things that can make you happy, such as living with purpose, family and hobbies.
Waiting For The Future
Telling yourself, ‘I’ll be happy when ….’ Is one of the easiest unhappy habits to fall into. How you end the statement doesn’t really matter (it may be a job promotion, pay rise, holiday or relationship) because it puts too much emphasis on circumstance and expectations. Improved circumstances and expectation of others or situations don’t lead to happiness. Don’t spend your time waiting for something that’s proven to have no effect on your mood. Instead focus on being happy right now, in this present moment, because there’s no point dwelling on past experiences and certainly no guarantee of the future. Time, this moment, is exactly all we actually have.
Change is an inevitable part of life, and those who fight it do so because they are struggling to remain in control. The problem with this approach is that fight change actually limits you control over the situation by putting up a barrier between yourself and the actions you need to take to improve the situation. The idea here is to prepare for change. This is not a guessing game where you test your accuracy in anticipation of what comes next, but rather it means thinking through the consequences of potential change so that you are not caught off guard if they surface. The first step is to admit that even the most stable and trusted facets of your life are not completely under your control. People change, businesses go through ebbs and flows, and things simply do not stay the same for long. When you allow yourself to anticipate change – and understand your options if changes and challenges occur – you prevent yourself from getting bogged down by strong emotions like shock, surprise, fear and disappointment when changes actually occur. While you are still likely to experience these negative emotions, your acceptance that change is an inevitable part of life enables you to focus and think rationally, which is critical to making the most out of an unlikely, unwanted or otherwise unforeseen situation.
Nothing fuels unhappiness quite like this one! The problem with a pessimistic attitude, beyond it being hard on your mood, is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and self-sabotage: if you expect bad things, you’re more likely to get bad things. Pessimistic thoughts are hard to shake off until you recognise how illogical and catastrophic they actually are. Force yourself to look at the facts, and you’ll often see that things are not nearly as bad as they seem. Getting perspective and not buying into other people’s ‘horror stories’ on situations is often the solution.
Trying To Keep Up With The Joneses
Jealously and envy are incompatible with happiness, so if you’re constantly comparing yourself with others, it’s time to stop! This is rat on a wheel mentality. Who do you think the Joneses are trying to keep up with? … and so on …
Because unhappy people are pessimists and feel a lack of control over their lives, they tend to sit back and wait for life to happen for them while life is happening around them. Instead of setting goals, learning and improving themselves, they just keep plodding along, and then they wonder why things never change. Often there is a victim mentality associated with this and inability to see the reality of their situation. Don’t let this be you. Read, explore, challenge yourself.
When you feel unhappy, it’s tempting to avoid other people. This is a huge mistake. Socialising, even when you don’t enjoy it is great for your mood. Exercise plays an important role in happiness and fits well into this category. We all have those days when we just want to pull the covers over our heads and refuse to talk to anybody, but understand that moment this becomes a tendency, it destroys your mood. The days when you want to hide, are the days when you need to step up and step out of that comfort zone.
So bringing it all together. When was the last time you experienced true happiness. What did you have and what did you not have? Me? That’s easy, last weekend: sleeping under the stars in a rainforest, no internet signal, no Joneses, living in the moment with the bare essentials.
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When I was a kid some of my fondest memories were lying on a blanket in the back yard and watching the night sky. It still fascinates me and working in remote spaces where there is little to no light pollution affords me this opportunity again. Pollution is a hot topic globally with our war on plastics and I am a major advocate of ocean pollution and have been for some time. More recently I’ve become particularly interested in the amount of debris orbiting us. As a kid in the late 70’s and early 80’s spending hours watching the night sky for a glimpse of a single satellite was a highlight. Working on the Snowy River earlier this year an gazing at the night sky one night yielded 7 satellites and 1 flyby of the International Space Station in a 2 hour period. This peaked my interest about what’s really going on up there. Here’s what I found about being looped by thousands of intelligent devices and defunct parts that are up there.
How many? Workers with a NASA group and the US Strategic Command keep track of working satellites and space junk. They monitor more than 35 000 of these things, some the size of a baseball, others the size of floating trucks. Many more smaller objects aren’t tracked and may be intricately small like paint flecks. A bunch of these objects are military secrets. The other 19 000 now orbiting us in tight circles or long ellipses are not. You can see them on a website called Space Track. The ‘rough’ estimate of all elements that range between 1 – 10cm in diameter is 500 000 and over 100 million other debris particles less than 1 cm ….. so yep, it’s pretty crowded up there.
As far as the US in concerned, at this point in time there are 1578 working US Satellites, 694 US rocket bodies and 3990 pieced of US space trash. So who owns the rest of it? What happens to it? … and where will it eventually go?
The big issue is the number of collisions between debris and satellites and the costs involved. The number of collisions has doubled in the past decade to 1200 and is estimated to quadruple over the next five years if we don’t find a solution.
Some weather and other Earth observing satellites fly about 300 miles above us. A crowd of ‘geosynchronous’ satellites are parked above the equator 22 240 miles above us and are in the perfect place to stay in sync with our 24 hour rotation. Satellites used to monitor space weather orbit 186 000 miles above us and for reference, the moon, our only natural satellite is approximately 240 000 miles away. Most of our concentrated ‘waste’ is found in the 500 mile zone and travels at a rate of 4-10 miles/second.
The International Space Station is required to remaneuver 1-3 times a year on average to avoid collision courses with debris. The junk in orbit below 370 miles will usually fall back to Earth within several years, however anything above 600 miles will continue to orbit us for centuries. Currently there is an agreement that you put it up there, you bring it back, however this is not widely adhered to.
The newest defensive project to come about is the SPACE FENCE project, which won’t reduce the amount of space debris in orbit, however it will be able to assist in better tracking of what is up there. The Space Fence is a digital radar system the extends a virtual fence around the planet and will have the ability to log debris as small at 10 cm. The ability to track much smaller objects will give scientists a much more accuracy in predicting the movements of such objects as well as direct astronauts and satellites out of harm’s way. A step in the right direction, but it’s very much a stepping stone to where we need to be before the problems are under control.
Private companies are now stepping up to the cosmic plate with suggestions on how to combat the problem with ground breaking ideas like ‘harpooning’ and dragging larger object to desired locations for entry and reburn. If no way is found to stem the ever growing amount of dead man made items floating around our planet then it is predicted that in only a few hundred years we will essentially be trapped on Earth with space missions impossible due to the certainty of collision and loss of life.
So next time you jump in the car and turn on the Sat Nav, take a hike and turn on the GPS or lie in your tent looking at the stars …. Just think.
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Fear and Failure
“Whatever you fear most has no power – it is your fear that has the power.” – Oprah Winfrey
Fear of failure can stop you in your tracks, even if you are after something that will bring you joy and excitement. I struggle with this often as I feel most people with perfectionist qualities do. Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will. Fear can cause people to miss out on opportunities that allow them to reach their full potential.
This morning I sat will someone talking about redefining some major goals I have in motion and how to get there. Since changing careers several years ago and undertaking a major life transformation, the conversation was interesting.
“You know this stuff”, she said to me. “You teach this stuff, you’ve done this stuff before and that puts you one step ahead of most people.”
So how did I do this stuff before? Time to rewind the clock and put pen to paper. Here’s what I found.
By stopping and not reaching your goal, the path remains unclear. Instead of allowing fear to stop you, see fear as forcing you to think about the path forward. Fear should not be a roadblock. It can be used to clarify the path. Successful people want to reach their goals more than they fear failing. Here are 4 steps to help you embrace your fear of failure and get what you want.
IDENTIFY WHAT YOU WANT
When you are overcome with fear, this is the time to pause. Sometimes, fear can overpower your ability to see your goal clearly. You get lost in the emotion and lose sight of your vision. Reflect on what it is that you want. There is a reason why you are told to focus on a motionless point far off in the horizon when you are nauseated. It helps stabilize the body. Think of fear in a similar way. When you are fearful, focus on your end goal to stabilize yourself. When you can see your goal, you are in a better position to tackle it. Don’t let fear cloud your vision.
REALISE WHAT IS STOPPING YOU FROM REACHING WHAT YOU WANT
Once you regain you footing and clarity on what you want, own up to what is making you fearful. Are you afraid of criticism? Are you afraid of not being able to be yourself? Are you afraid of competition? What makes you afraid? Understanding what is stopping you so you can overcome it. If you don’t see the hurdles, you can’t jump over it. Embrace the barrier to break free from it.
OWN YOUR DISCOMFORT
As in the quote above – fear has the power. Don’t let fear weaken you. Do not feel shame in being fearful. Find strength in your fear. It is the key to unlocking your potential. Your fear is your power. Let’s say you want to be more proactive in something with a team of people, but you fear not everyone will agree with you. Your opinion is what make you, you. Your opinion is your power. Own your opinion. Own your power. Diversity of thought is ultimately what moves conversations and matters forward. Capture the energy that you are putting into being afraid and use it to conquer your fear. Fear can’t hold you down if you don’t let it.
START FEELING COMFORTABLE WITH BEING UNCOMFORTABLE
Yep …. Comfort Zones, Stretch Zones and Panic Zones. To restart your journey towards your goal, take a small step. Dip your toe back in. You might feel very uncomfortable. Now take another small step. Push yourself out into that space. Coaching people through this process is something I do commonly with participants in perceived high risk activities such as abseiling. It’s getting over the edge that is the hard part for most people. If you are not feeling slightly uncomfortable, you might not be putting yourself out there and not moving towards your goal. If you stay comfortable, you stay put. If you feel comfortable, this is when you should be most afraid. It is a clear sign that you are not moving actively towards your goal.
Rethink the risk. Risk is no longer the actions you take but rather the actions you choose not to take. The risk is feeling comfortable. How does feeling comfortable sound now? Being uncomfortable is the new comfortable.
To achieve your goals, see fear as the key to helping you clarify your path forward. Identify your goal, realise what is stopping you from achieving it, feel the discomfort and start getting used to the uncomfortable. Simple concept but often for some they freeze at the first big challenge and walk away. Failure is defined by the ability to allow yourself to walk away. Failure is to not try.
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