Program 6 - The best New Year's resolution - Become a happier person in 2011
discussion and definition
So here we go again. It's 2011 and we're dragging out the same old list of resolutions that have been around forever. So what's the deal? Do we just have to accept that this the way it has to be? Or can we humans raise the collective bar on our behaviors and really move to a higher level?
Well I'm here to say... YES WE CAN DO BETTER! And it's not so much a matter of effort. It's a matter of aim. We just have to get better at targeting our energies on the things that really cause positive change. To find our way there, let's start with some necessary groundwork.
Some of the common resolutions for 2011 are as follows:
• lose weight
• get my family to lose weight
• quit smoking
• get my finances in order
• fall in love
• spend more time with family
• get organized
• enjoy life more
WHY THESE RESOLUTIONS DON'T STICK
These and many other resolutions rarely stick for a simple reason. These aren't problems, they're symptoms. We can and we do put a lot of effort into addressing symptoms but results are almost always short-term. That's because the way to cure symptoms isn't by addressing the symptom. We cure symptoms by addressing the underlying problem that causes them. And the deeper we can go when addressing the problem the more significant and more enduring the solution. So when it comes to New Year's resolutions, if we really want to lose weight, fall in love, get organized, stop smoking, etc. what we need to do is shape or evolve ourselves into persons who no longer have a need to engage in the weak behaviors that cause the unwanted symptoms. And here is the very great news.
THAT ABILITY TO ADDRESS THESE WEAK BEHAVIORS THAT CAUSE OUR UNWANTED SYMPTOMS CAN BE IDENTIFIED AND ADDRESSED BY US, STARTING NOW.
That's not to say it's easy. It's not. But here's the deal. It is possible. And it is rewarding. And in the long run much easier than the confusion and cyclical pain caused by behaviors that we dislike but choose to do anyhow. Stick with me and you'll see what I mean.
THE DEEPER TRUTH THE BETTER THE ANSWER
Let's start with a somewhat cryptic statement that will make a lot more sense as we go. That is that... “Positive change and happiness come in understanding the deepest truth and then living in accordance with it”. OK, so how about some examples to clarify that?
Example 1 - The Right Dirt
If we plant flowers, bushes, trees, etc. in the right dirt, the right sun exposure, and in the right temperature zone they'll do well. They won't require a lot of intervention and effort from us to flourish (achieve plant happiness). Things are simple and “natural” when we get the foundational stuff right.
If we plant the same plants in something other than the right dirt, sun, and temperature zone they'll require great amounts of intervention and external efforts to survive, let alone flourish. People do this in gardening all the time. And we do the same in many other aspects of life. We often don't get to the deeper or more foundational truth of situations and as a result have to spend lots of time and energy on things just to keep afloat so to speak. All kinds of control oriented “steerage” and “force-based” behaviors appear necessary when we're on the complex path that comes from misalignment with the foundational truth.
Example 2 - Ability and Accountability
Another example. We've all heard the saying. “Give a person a fish and you've fed them for a day. Teach them to fish and you've fed them for a lifetime”. In this case by going deeper and providing a person the skill we've given them knowledge and accountability and positioned them to succeed rather than making them dependent. Again, deeper truth, and a far more encompassing and enduring solution (as a side note, companies that do this win).
Example 3 - Values Make a Strong Foundation
Let's look at an example closer yet to where we're headed. If we teach a child values such as to be honest, responsible, respectful, thankful, etc. which includes an understanding of why these values are important (something society seems to be losing track of), we set them up for a lifetime of good choices and success. These foundational “behavioral compasses” promote alignment with our higher nature and point us towards the most rewarding aspects of life. Whereas if instead of underlying values we place the emphasis on more surface behaviors, trying to get children to do things in certain ways that we think are appropriate, we've supplied them with much less. And probably have made them more dependent and less capable of knowing how to do the right thing.
I hope we're getting the idea. In our increasingly meaningful examples, alignment with deeper truth yields immeasurably better results. So back to our New Year's resolutions for a minute. Looking at destructive behaviors such as overeating, smoking, excessive drinking, excessive spending, etc. If we want to change these undesirable surface behaviors, we have to understand the motivations that drive us to make choices that literally cause ourselves pain. There's a lot to this beyond what we can cover here (see Assembling the Happiness Puzzle). But at the same time, there are undoubtedly some “deeper truth starting points” that can be provided that really (no kidding, really) can put us on a permanent path away from negative choices and towards more positive ones. After all, doesn't it make sense that we would want to do what is healthiest and most advantageous for ourselves? And isn't it strange and even unnatural that we want to participate in self-destructive behaviors? The answers can't be that difficult, right?
So the obvious question is... What is this “deeper truth starting point”? Well, we all wish that everything we need to know about our human nature in order to remove all weakness and negativity and replace it with our “perfect self” were as simple as the “dirt, sun, and temperature zone” truth for the plants. But as we said, happiness isn't easy, it's possible. If you're looking for easy (is anything worthwhile easy?), then you can stop reading now. But I will say with much passion and fortitude that this truth is more definable and actionable than many believe it to be.
ONE ELEMENTAL TRUTH - ABSOLUTELY THE RIGHT DIRT, SUN, ETC. FOR US HUMANS
The place we want to start is, big surprise, at the beginning. With... Who we are. Simply stated we have three parts to our human nature. We all have a biological / physical component, an intellectual / reasoning part, and a spiritual / manifesting part. Everyone agrees on the biological and intellectual parts, that's pretty clear. It's with the spiritual piece that the most unnecessary confusion comes. But here's the simple observable facts about our spiritual or higher nature. Our spiritual nature is simply the part of us that deals with “higher nature stuff” (duh!). So higher nature stuff or “positive energies” such as love, inspiration, inner-peace, joy and even enthusiasm, courage, thankfulness, forgiveness and many others come from the “well” that is our spiritual nature. These things obviously don't come from our biological or intellectual natures. But they sure exist. And importantly, we can choose to bring them into existence at any time or not. Happiness has much to do with our becoming persons capable of bringing these positive energies into existence, into the moment.
So yes, our spiritual nature is a little less obvious than our foot or our lungs. But it clearly is there. Kind of like gravity, the proof of it's existence is in it's effect. Picture a situation where four people are gathered together and they hate each other compared to the same situation where they love each other. Every thought, feeling, and action will be different. Examples are endless. If we can bring positive energies to the moment we are very different people than if we bring negative energies to the moment. We choose to do either based on all kinds of stuff. The point is our spiritual or higher nature is by far the most influential and powerful part of us, yet it is drastically misunderstood or under-understood and therefore misused or under-used.
Tying this discussion to our original point about needing to get to underlying truth in order to
affect positive change, here is that powerful “deepest truth starting point” in summary:"
• We all have a spiritual nature that is a component of our total human nature;
• Our spiritual or higher nature is the part of us that can bring forth positive energies such as love, compassion, inner-peace, inspiration, courage, and many other positive things; • We all access our spiritual nature at times whether we think about it or not;
• As we learn to better understand our higher nature and work to develop it we expand our power to shape ourselves into the persons we most want to be (more able to bring positive energies to any moment).
When we see ourselves as spiritual beings this greatly changes our self-view and view of others. This foundational perception of self and others “ripples upward” affecting our thoughts, our feelings, and our behaviors in positive ways. It is very much the equivalent of the right dirt, sun and temperature zone for the plants in that it provides the starting point upon which all day to- day events go “better” (to say the least). From this vantage point, love, humility, understanding, honesty, contribution, forgiveness, inner-peace, enthusiasm, and many other positive things are a fit. And negative thoughts, feelings, and actions towards self or others just aren't a fit.
SUMMARY There is a lot more knowledge that we can acquire and ideas for practices to develop our spiritual nature and continuously move away from negativity and towards positive energies. For instance, understanding how our conscience and free will work, how values, principles, and faith fit into our improvement plan, how the positive and negative energies come into being, how to go from understanding, to practice, to spontaneity, and many other things. It's another truth of our human nature that there is no silver bullet that jumps us from who we are to perfection.
But consistent with our opening statements, the closest thing there is to a silver bullet is to identify and understand the deepest truth and live in accordance with it. Trying bend and twist life (control and force-based behaviors) to fit our misconceptions is much like growing plants in the wrong environment. Much effort and at best mediocre results. And as we've pointed out, for we humans that elemental truth centers around our understanding of our spiritual nature and the application of it. This continual development and application of our spiritual nature amounts to a wonderful lifelong endeavor that when done even reasonably well brings increasing happiness as we continually grow in grace and wisdom as we age.
Program 4 - OUR SPIRITUAL NATURE - A “happiness-based”
discussion and definition
This past week we dedicated a segment of our Assembling the Happiness (AHP) Program (Saturday, 11:00 am - Noon on WBLF 970 am) to providing a working definition of our spiritual nature.
KEEP IT SIMPLE, ACTIONABLE, AND ACCEPTABLE
Consistent with all of our work at AHP we like to keep our happiness and personal growth efforts directed towards ideas and approaches that are universally acceptable, simple in nature, and as actionable as possible. This is very much the case with the definition of our spiritual nature.
For one, our definition is simple in that it presents an image that is easily “pictured” in both effect and value. Also, because of the broad description it is supportive of all love- based religions. Just simple observational truth.
So, to our definition.
MAKE IT CONSISTENT WITH OUR DEFINITION OF HAPPINESS
Let's recall what our purpose is here at AHP. It is happiness we are after. And per that, we've said that we are going to use a simple, universal, and actionable “working” definition of happiness as our objective. As we've discussed, that definition is... “A progressive path away from negative energies (see list in book and on site) and towards being able to bring more positive energies (see list) into our lives more often”. No doubt that when we do this we are happy.
Another thing we've discussed that is worth recalling as we set up for our definition is that we humans are all wonderful, beautiful, uniquely gifted, talented, and capable physical/biological, intellectual/reasoning, and spiritual beings. We all want to learn and grow our abilities, use them to contribute to worthy efforts, and to love and be loved. So working from those basics, we all have a pretty good feel for the physical and intellectual components of our human nature. For instance, we might say that when we're hungry, thirsty, or running and jumping our biological nature is leading the way. When we're memorizing, remembering, or analyzing something our intellectual nature is leading the way. Simple enough.
Our spiritual nature then is just the part of us that helps us align with positive energies. Our spiritual nature is the component of our nature that leads the way when we bring love to the moment. When we bring enthusiasm, inspiration, inner-peace, forgiveness, thankfulness and other positive energies into reality it is our spiritual nature that is operating. It aligns with honesty and trust, responsibility, and other values and virtues.
WE ALL ACCESS OUR SPIRITUAL NATURE
Of course there is much more to say on this subject but from a simple, practical, and advantageous view, our spiritual nature is just the well that we dip into in bringing positive energies into reality. They are always there, the only question is to what degree are we capable of “going and getting them”.
This has great and obvious implications. This definition makes it clear that if we develop our spiritual nature, just as with our minds and bodies, it will become more effective. We can through spiritual endeavor (like exercise) learn to bring positive energies into our lives and the lives of others more and more by developing our spiritual nature.
OUR SPIRITUAL NATURE IS ALL GOOD
How we access and develop our spiritual nature is for another segment. But for now let's understand that;
a) we have a spiritual nature, that it is simply a part of our human nature, and that we all access it at times;
b) some people access their spiritual nature more than others and as a result spend more time in “positive energy zones” than others, this is pretty obvious;
c) we can all learn to do a better job of accessing and developing our spiritual nature and in doing so we greatly benefit as we are able to bring increasing positive energies into our momentary reality;
d) higher nature things come from (big surprise) our higher nature, there is nothing but good that comes from our spiritual nature, it is only a matter of how much good can we bring forth.
LASTLY - A TOPICAL / COLLECTIVE LOOK AT OUR SPIRITUAL NATURE
Consistent with our secondary mission here at Assembling the Happiness Puzzle, to discuss topical issues as the opportunity presents itself and within the framework of our personal growth objectives, let's ask this question.
CAN WE USE THIS DEFINITION TO EXPAND VALUES AND VIRTUES
IN PUBLIC LIFE?
Because it is not “religion-specific” the above definition may allow a connection with values and principles that is acceptable for discussion in public venues. This is very important and potentially a positive step forward for our collective well-being. The slippage of values and virtue in public life puts our well-being at risk. As has been discussed on the program, the absence of values leaves only self-interest. And when every group is pursuing self-interest harnessed only by competing self-interests and legal mechanisms the degradation of our free society is inevitable as each group battles for the levers of power in order to further their self-interests. Laws, regulations, policies, contracts, etc. cannot ensure a productive democracy. The self-evident truths that values represent must sit in front of self-interest if we're going to promote what is best in people individually and as a civilization. It has proven difficult to find a way to promote these fundamental aspects of happiness and a productive society given the common connection between values virtue and religions and interpretations of division between church and state. Our happiness-based approach may offer acceptable approaches relative to this important issue.