Category Archives: Happiness

On Success

thekeytosuccessHow do you view success? How do you measure it? These two are the usual questions whenever the topic is discussed. But I think the more important question that should be asked is – Do you consider yourself successful?

Before you answer those questions, let’s revisit the definition of the word. Let’s check  how online dictionaries define success.

Cambridge’s definition of the word is something broad  – “The achieving of the results wanted or hoped for.” Colin’s goes – “The achievement of something that you have been trying to do.” Oxford is more specific with its definition – “The attainment of fame, wealth or social status.” Merriam-Webster’s is almost the same as Oxford’s – “The attainment of wealth, favor or eminence.”.

Our favorite research assistant  – “Dr. Google” – says that success is  “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose” and “the attainment of popularity and profit.”

Let’s also check the synonyms: prosperity, affluence , wealth, riches, opulence, and triumph.

I hope that the foregoing definitions and synonyms are sufficient to help you come out with meaningful and definitive answers to the questions I asked at the beginning of this article. And by the way, do the ideas conveyed by those definitions and synonyms jibe with what you think success is?

The definitions and synonyms above actually show  the way people in our society quantify  success. They tell us about the measuring sticks being used by most people, including you probably, to determine whether or not a person is successful. Everything boil down to one or a combination of the following: wealth, fame and power.

So, when asked who are the most successful people in the world, people never fail to mention the names of the world’s richest men – Jess Bezos, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and the others who are listed in Forbes’ top 10 world’s billionaires . The next ones in our lists are the showbiz, sports, media, and political personalities. We also remember the names of quite a few people – some of them could be our own friends –  who excel in their respective fields of endeavors when we discuss about successful people.

Now, let me ask some questions.

Are those people we consider  successful happy also? Have the money, fame, power, and accomplishment they possess brought them happiness? They are the only ones, or their relatives (or their close friends and confidants), who could answer those questions. People outside of their inner circle could only make speculations and assumptions.

Many believe that rich people live under the constant pressure of  wanting to amass more wealth – famous people to ensure that their stars keep shining – politicians to perpetuate themselves to power – so much so  that they forget to live a life. Thus, they are perceived to be unhappy.

At least, they have the money.

“But can their money buy them happiness?” This question has been asked so many times that it could be considered meaningless already. But in the light of the present discussion it should be asked, not for the purpose of having it answered, but as a point to ponder on.

We presume that with all the luxuries the money of  the wealthy, famous and powerful could afford, it’s almost impossible that they are not happy. Unless it is true that of the needs which Maslow’s identified in the hierarchy of needs, only the basic ones (physiological and safety) could be covered by money. The psychological needs (esteem needs, belongingness and love needs) and self-fulfillment needs are definitely not available in the shelves of even the most expensive stores.

Here is the next question I would like to  ask – “Are they healthy?”

They are already rich, famous, and powerful. They are truly blessed if they are also in good shape. Of course they are – financially. What about physically, emotionally, and mentally? In their quest for riches, fame and power, did they not sacrifice their health, values, and relationships? While they sit on their thrones clutching their coffer, do they feel peace flowing within them? Again, they are the only ones, and the people around them, who could give a definite answer. They are the only ones who know whether or not they are suffering from any debilitating disease, mental anguish, and emotional stress?

I brought out the questions on happiness and health in the discussion of success because I believe that there is a need to strike balance between the ephemeral and the ethereal when defining the concept. The prevailing  view of success is materialistic. We attach tangible proofs to it – money, big house, new car, degree, job title, a certain body type, etc. I am not saying that such act (of attaching those tangible proofs to success) is wrong. I just consider it as not encompassing.

Why?

What about simple people who did not attend school, don’t have cars, and live in simple houses in far-flung farming and fishing villages happily living a simple life and diligently performing their role in society? Can’t they not be considered successful in their own right?

When you don’t have a mansion – a car – fancy clothes – expensive jewelry – a university degree – huge amount in the bank, when you’re not famous and not powerful, when you’re  just an ordinary decent individual honestly earning a living and contended with what you have and what you’re capable of achieving and you’re happy and  healthy, would people not consider you successful?

If a person’s goal is to be happy and healthy and he/she achieves it, isn’t that success?

Correlating happiness and health to success is a kind of paradigm shift that will make capitalists unhappy. It is the materialistic view of success that keeps most of their present business ventures alive.

Well, we define success in different ways. Success is subjective and I think that nobody could claim that their way of looking at it is the right one.

The most valuable lesson I learned about success is this – define it for yourself. Don’t allow other people to define success for you. Don’t subscribe to the standards they set. You know your capabilities and limitations more than anyone else, factor them when setting your success parameters. But be not satisfied with your current skill set. You have to improve and as you see yourself becoming better set the bars of your success higher. And most importantly,  don’t forget that as you march towards the achievement of your simplest goals and the realization of your grandest ambitions, you should not sacrifice your happiness and health.

What about you?  How do you view success? How do you measure it?  Do you consider yourself successful?

On Positive Thinking  

positive

How should positive thinking be classified – a science or a philosophy (or both)? Calling it a science would be contentious since critics believe that positive thinking has no scientific credibility. What about philosophy? It could be, if we take into consideration the meaning of philosophy in casual speech. We usually use the term to refer to any set of beliefs, concepts,  and attitudes of a person or a particular group of people.

Positive thinking is unquestionably that – an attitude. It is a mental attitude that leads a person to expect good results. It is a system of belief that makes people set positive expectations in all their undertakings in life. It makes them hopeful for the future. The term is synonymous to optimism, hope and cheerfulness. The Collins dictionary focused more on optimism in its definition of positive thinking.

Let’s just say that positive thinking is an idea. Ideas can either be embraced or dismissed. Thus, it is understandable why some quarters are negative about positive thinking.

Positive thinking, with many journalists and academicians ridiculing it, may not be accepted to mainstream philosophy. At best it can remain attached to the field of psychology. It is not that this system of beliefs was not advocated by any of the great philosophers. Buddha’s philosophy is anchored on the idea that “changing one’s thoughts can change one’s reality.”. Perhaps nothing beats the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ in advancing positive thinking. The bible is replete with verses that foster hope and optimism through faith. The Christ Himself said “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20.)

Again, those who consider themselves as thinkers, especially if you connect the dots of positive thinking to faith in God, might ask for an empirical evidence, a scientific basis, to accept it as valid and true.

William James , himself a famous philosopher who experimented in mental healing, defends the right  to violate the principle of evidentialism in order to justify hypothesis venturing. Such allows anyone to assume believe in God [or anything] and prove its existence by what the belief brings to one’s life. How credible is William James? His work  has influenced intellectuals such as Émile Durkheim, W. E. B. Du Bois, Edmund Husserl, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Hilary Putnam, and Richard Rorty.

Questions surrounding positive thinking are philosophical, not scientific. Being so, they are said to be foundational and abstract in nature thus treated primarily through reflection and does not rely on experiment. But of course the academicians would not settle for anything less than the product of a scientific inquiry.

What remained as the strongest argument thrown against this idea is – no proof can be provided to prove that it works. The question is, “Can the critics themselves provide a solid evidence that it doesn’t work?” We could go on and say that burden of proof should be on the side of those who are saying that positive thinking is not true.

The usual criticism on books written about positive thinking is that they are full of anecdotes that are difficult to substantiate. On the contrary,  not all evidence provided by advocates of this belief system are anecdotal. There were studies conducted to somehow help in building for positive thinking a scientific foundation. Mark Guidi, for instance, identified five (5) scientific studies that prove the power of positive thinking.  In his article “How the Power of Positive Thinking Won Scientific Credibility”, Hans Villanueva, explained that in 2011, “hundreds of academic papers were published studying the health effects of good things to happen, which researchers call “dispositional optimism.”

But despite all the efforts to establish academic credibility for positive thinking, it will be difficult for this idea to gain acceptance. It is not easy to convince people to embrace this belief system especially with critics vigorously disputing it. Some even resort to “name calling” the advocates of positive thinking.

Others are seemingly even cashing in on their disagreement. They published books discrediting positive thinking. This system of belief may have not been embraced by many but it has become a good read and lot of authors have earned (been earning) a lot from their publications. So, by writing something against it, some authors are hoping to get attention.

There’s one author who presented what he calls as seven (7) biggest myths about positive thinking. Among other things, he said that positive thinkers ignore the world’s suffering.

Positive thinkers do not ignore suffering. They do not deny the existence of problems and conflicts in society. They do not disregard the daily struggles people face. They just want to approach them in a different manner… look at them using a different perspective. What is wrong with that?

Positive thinking  simply promotes a new way of approaching all difficulties and challenges in life. It presents an alternative viewpoint. There’s no harm in trying it. It’s not inimical to anyone’s well-being. There’s nothing to lose but everything to gain.

Positive thinking wants people to realize that any phenomena, natural or otherwise… or any of life issues, can be viewed in many angles. There’s a negative or a positive angle… which means things could either be good or bad. Positive thinking does not ignore the bad but rather if offers hope that things would be better if proper actions are taken.

Does that sound harmful? Is it bad to take into consideration what Helen Keller said – “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet”?

This system of belief is not passive. Positive thinkers know that they have to take action and the best part of it is that positive thinking requires people to inquire into the nature of their problems using multiple perspectives before deciding on what should be done.

One of the things Rene Descartes explained in “Passions of the Soul” was “the key task of a philosopher is to help people understand and control their passions – that is to become a little less anxious, status driven and scared.”  Isn’t this the one of the principles that positive thinking is advocating.

There are some questions that critics of positive thinking need to answer.

What system of belief can you offer as an alternative to positive thinking?

With the system of belief you have, are you happy and successful?

If not, try positive thinking. It might work for you.

Do NOT Expect

Meditation-Silhouette

If you think this is a perfect world then prepare to face a perfect disappointment. This world is not a perfect one and will never be. Things are not the way you wish them to be. People don’t behave, talk and think the way you thought (or wished) they would. Your co-workers, your boss, your friends…even the people you love… might  treat you in a way quite the opposite of what you expect.

Nothing is perfect in this world. Nobody is perfect in this world. So, do not expect too much or do not expect anything at all from anyone.

Do not expect that the politicians will deliver on their promises. Do not believe them when they say that should you vote for them they would bring about utopia. Be thankful if they could but do not bet on it. The truth is no earthly being  is capable of making the social, political and economic conditions of the world perfect.

Expect nothing from your leaders. If you think you could do better than them…that your country is better off with you at the helm… then run for public office.  Oppose them. Or go to the street…. protest. Convince people to champion your cause.  Otherwise it would be best if you just keep quiet and perform your civic duties and be a responsible person and citizen.

Do not also expect that the workplace is a perfect environment. That’s the worst assumption to make. You will never find a heavenly workplace. You will end up disappointed if you expect that the people in your organization, from the rank and file to the people upstairs, are angels. They are not. They are just like you and me…humans.

Expect nothing from anyone in your workplace. Just work and perform your duties and responsibilities as stipulated in your job description. That’s the way to do it. Love the job and enjoy the pay.

If you’re not happy with the job and the pay… LEAVE. If you love your work and the compensation is good but you feel that the organizational climate is so terrible that it suffocates you then LEAVE. If you feel like you’re being taken advantage of…LEAVE. It is as simple as that. Find employment somewhere else. Find the perfect workplace you dream of. If you think you are too good to be just an employee then start a business. Make it grow. Employ people and see for yourself if you would be a better employer than the employers you hate.

You should not expect other people to solve your problem (or solve a problem for you)…not even if those people are mandated by their job description  to solve those problems. Even if it is the moral obligation of a person to help you get out of a difficult situation, don’t expect that you’ll get help from that person. Be thankful if you’ll get it but one thing you OUGHT to learn is to solve your own problems. Find a solution to whatever difficulty you are encountering.

Do not expect people to think and behave the way you do and embrace your principles and advocacies. Always remember that people look at things from their own perspectives and are driven by a set of motivations that maybe entirely different from yours. Never assume that your perspectives are correct and theirs are wrong.

Remember that people think and behave in different ways. The biggest disappointment you’ll ever encounter is when you expect that all people (or even half of them) are reasonable and conscientious.

You will be gravely disappointed if you expect that the love, generosity and kindness you show will be reciprocated by your friends, loved ones or anyone around you.  Do not expect any of them to praise the good things you’re doing and express gratitude for the favors you do for them. Lucky you if they would.

Lucky you, indeed, if the people you deal with , the leaders you elect, the ones you work with and work for, and your family and friends have conscience and conduct themselves within the bounds of reason.

If not, does it mean   you are unlucky? Not necessarily. Things just didn’t turn out the way you wanted. At least, don’t  be like them.

You have two options. You need to decide. Move away from them or embrace them for the way that they are.

Your choice.

As Mother Theresa said, “People are often unreasonable and self-centered, forgive them anyway.”

She added, “ You give the world the best you have and it may never be enough, give your best anyway.”

You might not get the fair treatment and respect you think you deserve but you do not have to retaliate. As Martin Luther King Jr. puts it, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

So, when your expectations are not met, move on and say, “Life goes on.”

Hold on to your dreams. Hold on to the values you hold dear.

Finally, there are two questions you need to answer. Are you a better person than those who you think disappoint you? That’s the first question. Here’s the second. Do they not consider  you a disappointment also?

Reflect!

Source: Do NOT Expect

%d bloggers like this: