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Archive for the ‘Happiness’ Category

The Only Constant is Change

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One of the strangest things about human beings is that we seem to be wired to believe that where we are in life, that the people and things all around us, are somehow their final versions… that everything is how it will always be.  That our homes, our families, our likes and dislikes, our daily routines… they’re all carved in stone and won’t really change much if at all.

Intellectually we know things will change, of course.  No one really thinks they’re still going to be doing the same things with the same people at 78 as they were at 18.  But most aren’t emotionally aware enough to let themselves think about just how things will change over time.  To welcome the vulnerability.

We even think our tastes in music won’t change and yet looking back, we know they already have.  Psychologists have taken to calling this the “end of history illusion” – our inability to foresee change in our lives despite knowing how much change we’ve already experienced.  We believe to the core that we are who we are, who we’ve always been, and who we will always be… and we’re so incredibly sure of it.  That even though we talk about ourselves as ‘growing’ and ‘changing’, that we’re really the same person despite this, and that everyone and everything around us is as well.

The older you get the more you realize that the passage of time isn’t a linear path either; that time speeds up each year, and this perceived reality contributes to this generally vague awareness that things are more constant than they actually are.  The first time you realize that an experience you can remember so well that it’s so a part of your being was, in fact, 20 years ago, you realize that time has sped up beyond your ability to catch up to it.  Most everything in your life has changed since then. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Torres

June 25th, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Posted in Happiness

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Downtime with Nature: What You Need to Reduce Stress, Increase Attention, and "Create Again"

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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.

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Give up on Work/Life “Balance” Now

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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.

balanceYou 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.

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Written by Mike Torres

December 13th, 2010 at 5:24 pm

The Beginner’s Guide to Self-Tracking & Analysis

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‘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.

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Written by Mike Torres

June 7th, 2010 at 6:21 pm

My Happiness Interview: Bookstores, Hugs, and Making Movies

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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?

PicCapturing 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.

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Written by Mike Torres

November 5th, 2009 at 10:17 pm