Archive for the ‘Happiness’ Category
I’m writing this overlooking the Pacific Ocean with an iced coffee by my side, and a gentle breeze on my face. I’ve spent the last week in Maui with my family, so please excuse the obligatory photos of paradise!
While on the island, I’ve been doing everything I can to unwind. I’ve been devouring scones, French fries, margaritas, Oreos, bacon, Frosted Mini Wheats and other junk I don’t allow myself to even consider eating most of the time. I’ve stopped tracking my habits. I’ve exercised just once if you don’t count swimming and chasing my kids; a short run near the beach on our first day here. I haven’t spent any time checking tasks off of my lists; in fact I had moved them all over to a "Post Vacation" category before we left the mainland so I wouldn’t even stumble upon them accidentally. I haven’t done much writing, stretching, or flossing, and I’ve had a metric ton of Maui Coffee. It’s been great!
Yet I’m not too concerned about slacking off, or at least not as much as my Type A personality would suggest. Though I’m itching to get back into my routine, I’m not worried about what would normally be viewed as a setback.
Planned breaks like these are required to reset my passion meter from time to time. I try and force myself to "unplug" from my (somewhat) normal intensity to help me remember why I do what I do to begin with. It’s hard to hit the ‘off’ switch… it’s frankly just as hard as turning it back on again, but I try and view it as sort of like stopping at a gas station before a long road trip; breaks like this fuel me for at least a few months, and after six days of gluttony and objective laziness, I always realize that it’s not the permanent life for me.
But what you do for a few weeks out of the year doesn’t define the year, and it doesn’t define you. It’s what you do most of the time, not just some of the time, that makes the difference over the long haul. Have consistency in the fundamentals (modulo a week here and there) and personal growth is inevitable.
Ed. note: The real title of this post should be “Give up on Work/Life Balance Now Provided You Actually Care About Succeeding With Your Work and Having Fun In Your Life” but that felt too long and silly.
You hear it everyday. People want more balance in their lives. They’re tired of having to work long, hard hours without recognition or reward. They end each and every day exhausted beyond belief and dream of spending their days diving the Great Barrier Reef. They want more ‘balance’ (which usually equates to more television – sorry, can’t help the snark!) yet when you push them on what ‘balance’ means to them, they really mean “I want to work less”. They probably don’t talk about wanting to work more while sitting on a beach in Tahiti counting the waves.
In today’s world, the work/life balance of the 1950s desk jockey is a pipedream. Sorry, it doesn’t exist anymore no matter how hard you wish for it. Pulling in your driveway every night at 5pm after a day of slow work for a supper prepared for you isn’t going to happen for most people. The business world is more competitive than ever, we’re connected to the office via “direct neural interface”, and change is happening on a daily or hourly basis. The pace has quickened to a dizzying point and we’re expected to keep up or get off the train. And getting off the train means greater sacrifices than most people are willing to make.
How many emails do you receive away from the office? How many tweets, texts, news items, calls, or meetings are you dealing with outside of normal work hours? You know, during that time that you should be ‘living’ and not working. Probably lots – and it’s just going to get worse, my friend. Of course we won’t count the life stuff you do while at work, right? People tend to conveniently forget that!
Regardless of what we do or who we work for, we should just stop talking about balance entirely. Ultimately contentment isn’t about balance. It’s about feeling important again. And it’s ultimately about having control and perspective over everything in your life and work.
‘An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.’ – Ben Franklin
Self-tracking – or personal analytics as some call it – is a relatively new phenomenon brought about by the ubiquity of cheap sensor technology and the internet. It’s a space that’s just now coming into its own thanks to the tech getting cheaper and lots of interested, data-driven geeks finding each other on the net and exchanging ideas.
The potential impact of self-tracking on personal health and overall well being could someday rival the discovery of penicillin – seriously – and we’re just at the beginning of what’s going to be a huge wave of self-improvement and individualized health care based on self-tracking and analysis.
I’ve recently entered the world of self-tracking… and there’s no going back. My weight, body fat percentage, running speed and distance, calories burned, sleep patterns, investments, genetic predispositions, daily routines, mood, and even commute times are tracked and analyzed. Sound a little excessive? Maybe. But only because it’s still not 100% automatic. But it’s really, really close to being “set it and forget it”, and for me, the benefits far outweigh the few minutes I spend each day tracking things.
What is Self-Tracking?
The basic concept behind self-tracking is simple: our ability to determine cause and effect through our memory or experience alone is inherently faulty. It’s tough enough for most of us to remember a birthday or anniversary. Ask us to calculate how many calories we burned yesterday and how that affected our sleep last night and our blood pressure will rise – and we won’t even be able to detect that in order to prevent it from happening in the future!
Our minds play games with us… they trick us into seeing and believing things that aren’t there in order to "protect us". We can rationalize most anything we do or say (science shows this) which means deciding not to exercise because we’re busy or just don’t feel like it is easy to justify. Of course, machines aren’t as easily tricked.
Gretchen Rubin’s blog, The Happiness Project, is one of my all-time favorites. Every so often Gretchen interviews someone she knows and asks them the same short list of questions, each one related to happiness. I thought it would be fun to do a mock interview with that set of questions for Refocuser. Note that I don’t know Gretchen personally, so technically it isn’t really her asking the questions. I’m just talking to myself here. Check out all the Happiness Interviews over on The Happiness Project for the real deal.
What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Capturing photos and videos and reliving those memories with family. I love to catch my 2-year old daughter doing something fun and unique; something only she does. It gives me this overwhelming feeling that I’m witnessing one of the most special things in the universe – something that’s never happened before – and I can’t help but feel like I’m helping create the narrative of her life. Almost like I’m building memories with her that will someday encompass her early life experience. We’re helping build her past.
Last summer I made a short movie with photos from my daughter’s first two years as we were getting ready to release Movie Maker (what I work on all day). It was one of the best things I’ve done for myself. I was able to express my feelings more completely and creatively through pictures and short sentences, and it’s a gift I’ll give her someday when she’d old enough to understand it. Every so often I go back and watch it, and I find myself filled with pride (and nostalgia) as soon as I hear the first bar of the song start to play. <By the way, I actually got the inspiration for my movie from Gretchen’s The Years Are Short>
I feel like this is one way I tap into that “past positive” aspect of time perspective, which is so critical to overall happiness.
What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
When I was 18, I thought happiness was something I would have “someday” when things settle down. Until then, I’m go-go-go because I felt I had so much to do before I could really consider myself happy. But one day fairly recently (during the last couple years) I realized that “happily ever after” doesn’t exist at all. There isn’t a time in the future when all will be right with the world, when everything will be exactly how I had imagined it being. And if there is, that feeling won’t last forever… it may not even last a week. The present moment, the here & now, is the only thing that actually is. I realized I couldn’t wait until everything is perfect to be content with life. My perspective shifted for the better once I internalized this.