“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” ― Albert Schweitzer
This is Part-3 of the multi-part series on life-altering shifts of mindset and perspective. Here is Part-1 and Part-2.
10. From “Serving The Self” To “Serving a Greater Cause And Assisting And Uplifting Others”
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” ― Rabindranath Tagore
This is a great shift in perspective. The ancients maintained and promoted this idea for a very long time. Having a higher purpose, a cause greater than you that infuses meaning and contentment in your life.
When we pursue the highest goals of our life with only the intention of self-service or to gain ahead in wealth, fame and prestige, eventually we feel like something is deeply missing. There is a very deep but undeniable sense of vacuum that bothers us from the inside out. It is as if we have everything yet there is something important missing.
Some of the wealthiest people in the world including Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett and Jeff Skoll consciously chose to give away and share their wealth for the cause of philanthropy and the greater good.
What do you think motivated such a change in perspective and mindset? I think that primarily we are highly connected social beings and can empathize with the difficulties that others are facing.
In a Review of General Psychology article published in 2005, Happiness researchers Lyubomirsky et al. showed the relationship between acts of kindness and general happiness and well-being. In the study, students were asked to perform five acts of kindness per week and over the length of six weeks. One group was asked to perform the acts in one day while the other group was asked to perform them over a week. A third group served as the no treatment control.
The acts ranged from writing out a thank you note to a professor, visiting an elder relative or helping a friend write a paper. All the acts involved a cost to the participants while they benefitted others or made others happy. Happiness and well-being levels were measured before and after the six-week period. While the control group showed a decrease in their happiness over the six-week period, those that practiced their weekly acts of kindness in a single day showed a significant increase in their levels of well-being and happiness.
The researchers hypothesize that the greatest impact to the habitual behavior of the participants might have happened when they grouped kind acts together instead of diluting their effects over a week.
According to the authors:
“We assume that acts of kindness and generosity can boost happiness in a variety of ways. Such acts may foster a charitable perception of others and one’s community, an increased sense of cooperation and interdependence, and an awareness of one’s good fortune. In addition, people who commit acts of kindness may begin to view themselves as altruistic people, as well as to feel more confident, efficacious, in control, and optimistic about their ability to help.”
When you uplift others, you feel great and you feel a revitalization of your own mental, emotional and spiritual life. You may think that you have nothing to contribute and do not have the resources to assist others out. But nothing can be further from the truth. You have a lot more to contribute than what you may think you have.
Never think that giving words of encouragement and enthusiasm and being a positive role model require a lot of money or time.
This shift does require a will and a change of perspective from only helping your cause to assisting a higher cause of assisting others.
When you combine your unique interests and desires and combine it with a sincere and heartfelt desire to provide great value to many others, you most possibly will never be without a job your entire life. People will naturally gravitate towards you and you will actively create great meaning in your life.
“When you are able to shift your inner awareness to how you can serve others, and when you make this the central focus of your life, you will then be in a position to know true miracles in your progress toward prosperity.” ― Wayne W. Dyer
Shift from self-service to serving a cause that will infuse great meaning in your life.
Give a smile, listen to someone, uplift the people who come in contact with you and you are engaging in service towards a greater cause.
11. From “Overwhelm And Doing Too Much” to “Slowing Down, Doing Less And More Quality Work”
“You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, simply wait, just learn to become quiet, and still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”-Franz Kafka
Overwhelm is one of the main reasons that people live unfulfilled lives and combined with going too fast all the time and doing too much, it has the potential to rob the joy out of your life. A lot of overwhelm is created and sustained by taking on too much all at once.
You may think that you have something to prove by doing everything all at once and taking on too much at a time. But in this case, doing less and doing it really well is more productive and will keep you sane and happy much longer.
Understanding and playing to your natural rhythms and structures takes you a long way in living your life and enjoying it more. Of course, there will always be the moments when everything will seem to be going completely wrong and when you will feel completely overwhelmed. Those are the moments when you need to slow down and allow yourself to do less and not more.
A sense of overwhelm and listlessness are great signals that you are taking on more than you can chew and that you need to slow down. When you allow yourself to replenish your mind, body and spirit, you are in a much better place and position to make a big difference in your life and in the lives of others that matter.
Change is hard and if you are habituated to feeling overwhelm and feeling stress and pressure all the time, you will have to make very small but meaningful changes to reverse that. Stop buying into the idea that relaxed uni-taskers cannot achieve a lot.
When you do less, pay more attention to the present and allow yourself to take small steps in the face of overwhelm and stress, you have freed yourself from the cycle or the so called “rat race.”
Shift from doing it all to doing small amount of quality work.
Slow down, breathe and take frequent breaks to feel less overwhelmed.
Take very small and meaningful actions in the tasks and projects that matter the most.
12. From “Others or Things Are Responsible For My Happiness” To “I Am Responsible For My Happiness”
“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” ― Aristotle
This is meaningful shift that places the responsibility of our lives in our own hands. If the meaning of life is to live a reasonably happy life infused with meaning and purpose, outsourcing your happiness is not going to do it.
This is a very easy idea to understand but a very difficult message to master and practice. It is very easy to blame others and situations and circumstances for your lack of happiness. It is a lot more difficult to take charge and responsibility of your life and your day-to-day happiness.
“Paradise is here or nowhere: you must take your joy with you or you will never find it.” – Orison Swett Marden
The complaining and blaming mind likes to dwell on the reasons that make you feel miserable. You convince yourself that others are sabotaging your happiness and out to make your day a lot worse. However, you still have control over how you choose to respond to life’s events. Instead of having a reaction, you may choose to step back from the situation and make a choice to respond to it.
According to Happiness researcher Shawn Achor, author of the book, The Happiness Advantage, The model or formula for happiness that we have been taught is that happiness follows success. However, Achor says that the formula is broken and there is growing evidence that it is the other way around.
According to Achor:
“We think: If I just get that raise, or hit that next sales target, I’ll be happy. If I lost that five pounds, I I’ll be happy and so on. Success first, happiness second. The only problem is that this formula is broken.”
Achor goes on to say:
“Even more important, the formula is broken because it is backward. More than a decade of groundbreaking research in the fields of positive psychology and neuroscience has proven in no uncertain terms that the relationship between success and happiness works the other way around. Thanks to this cutting-edge science, we now know that happiness is the precursor to success, not merely the result. And that happiness and optimism actually fuel performance and achievement-giving us the competitive edge that I call the Happiness Advantage.”
This shift transforms your perspective from outsourcing your happiness and being at the mercy of others and situations to re-discovering your inner wellspring of happiness and joy.
Thinking and feeling that you are responsible for your happiness is a very empowering position to be in.
“Happiness depends upon ourselves.” ― Aristotle
When you actively decide that you are not your circumstances and that they come and go like clouds in the sky and that you are free to choose your attitude and your internal weather, you get a sense of relief.
“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.” ― Martha Washington
Here are a few ideas for taking charge of your happiness right NOW!
1. Take charge of your realm of control and influence. Allow yourself to let go of the things that are beyond your control.
2. Become aware of what makes you happy and what makes you unhappy.
3. Agree to be 100% responsible for your life and your feelings, beliefs, and actions.
4. Allow yourself to create beliefs, think thoughts, feel feelings and take actions that make you happy right now!
5. Actively pursue what makes you happy instead of getting stuck in what makes you unhappy.
6. Give others the benefit of doubt. Accept that it is not other people’s job to exclusively be in charge of your happiness.
7. Allow yourself to release habitual complaining, resentment, blame, excuses and shame.
8. Call out on false assumptions and beliefs that keep you stuck in believing that happiness is out there instead of originating from yourself.
9. Enjoy the current moment and allow stress, overwhelm and tension to melt or float away.
13. From “Life Is A Series Of End Points” TO “Life Is a Journey To Be Enjoyed”
“The journey is the treasure.” ― Lloyd Alexander
This is a very powerful shift and if you take it seriously, life slowly becomes an adventure to aspire to. The problem you may be having is that there is too much anticipation, expectation and emotional charge associated with the end point, the completion of a goal or getting somewhere.
The obvious drawback with this approach is that you feel like you have never quite arrived at where you would like to go or be at. If life is a series of checkpoints and potential accomplishments, then you are so consumed in getting to the end point that the journey becomes a blur or a necessary inconvenience on the way to Shangri-La or your paradise. Except that there is no paradise to get to. It is a well-designed myth.
It sets you free to recognize that this moment is all there is and you can make a series of well meaning goals and aspirations. The fulfillment of life does not depend on getting there as much as it depends on enjoying every moment, every milestone, and every new vista of your journey.
Shift your perception that when you get somewhere, your life will be complete to the scary but ultimately fulfilling idea that life is now and the journey matters more that getting somewhere. If you keep that in mind and take it to heart, you will begin to choose your journeys carefully and move towards destinations that are of your choosing and those that fulfill your purpose and calling.
Live life like a grand adventure and enjoy and imbibe all the novel experiences that it has to offer. Remember there is too much of importance placed in becoming something, going somewhere and getting something or someone. But if the journey is not challenging, adventurous and rewarding, the destination feels lackluster as if did not have much meaning.
His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama is known to stop in his walks and journeys to look and smell small flowers along the way and enjoy their beauty.
“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” Greg Anderson
If your need to control or manipulate your journey or your results is so great that you do not experience any challenge, joy or contentment, you miss the journey for a small bit of surety and safety.
The journey become an adventure when you are improvising and challenging yourself, when you feel great excitement and also deep fear, when you experience great joy but do not shy away from the melancholy.
In other words, the journey becomes an adventure when you let go of your fixed expectations and plunge in and go with the flow while doing the best that you can with what you have at hand.
Center your presence and your attention to this very special moment and become an active participant in your own unique journey.
Instead of an obsessive focus on results and destinations, focus on what you enjoy and cherish about the process and transform the current journey into a memorable adventure.
Now over to you! Please let me know in the comments below about your thoughts on the shifts in mindset and perspective in this post and share any stories that you have.
Photo Credit: B Gilmour via Compfight