The POISE Archives book series, in which I play a minor role to begin with, but just you wait until the end, is a magical realism trilogy based around the laws of Karma. I mention this here because, as I write this post, I can see how the lessons here fit together with those laws.
For me, Karma does not mean that we are living a fixed life, pre-written and unchangeable; rather that we need to ‘listen’ to our higher selves, our sub-conscious, our inner voice, and ask ourselves ‘Are we on the right path? Are we doing the best with our lives? Are we heading for happiness? And if we are not, what are we going to do about it?
So, if you’ll give me a few minutes of your time, let’s take a look at the things to consider in order to answer those questions.
Are you living the life you want?
Is your life one of your own choosing or are you meeting the needs of others in the choices you are making. The first way will lead to happiness, the second to frustration, resentment, and depression.
If money is the only goal, you could be setting yourself up for discontentment. Whilst it is undoubtedly true that money can help to secure the essential and sometimes more frivolous things in life, this only brings happiness up to a point. If money is all that you strive for, even when you attain it you will not find happiness.
So, what else might you need? Read on to find out how you can recognise if you are on the wrong path.
Are you constantly battling the flow of life?
If things are not working out the way you hoped or planned, are you able to make the changes you need to, or are you stuck on your path? It can be difficult, you may feel that you are letting others down, your parents, your teachers, your sponsors, but if you stay stuck you are letting yourself down.
It becomes easier to go with the flow of life and recognise what is needed if we can live in the present. Living in the present takes practise and discipline. A Mindfulness meditation can be useful here to still your mind and allow you to hear that inner voice.
In life there are things we can control, and things we can’t. Learning to recognise the difference, knowing that we are doing all that we possibly can where we can, and being satisfied with that may not be the road to happiness but it is definitely heading in the right direction.
Are your basic needs met?
It is generally accepted and illustrated through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, that there are certain needs to be met in life before the next attainment level can be reached. We all need air to breathe, shelter, and food for example. Moving up a level we find our safety (physical safety or employment security) and health needs. The stages culminate in Self Actualization, a state of becoming all that you can be.
Becoming all you can be, however, is more than just being successful. You might be at the top of your career in the medical field, but if you were born to be a musician you are not going to feel self-actualized; you are not going to feel happy.
So, what can you do about it? First, you need to recognise the disparity.
Are you achieving what you want to in life? Do you have a plan?
If you are young, changing course could still be an option. It is possible to change course throughout your career, though it gets progressively more difficult the further you get into it. Think of it as a fork in the road, the further you travel along the wrong path, the further you get from your true one.
If you are older, and feel a change in your working life is not an option, there is still much you can do. Life is not all about work. You can introduce elements of your true self into your current life. Join an art class, or a band, design an app that betters the world or write a book. Find a way, through work, volunteering or recreation to do what you are supposed to be doing.
Do you have healthy relationships with other people?
Now, I’m not necessarily talking about a romantic relationship here, although the areas below certainly do apply to those too. I’m talking about all relationships, family, friends, colleagues, service providers etc. etc. So here are the essentials.
Respect. We come back here to Carl Roger’s ‘unconditional positive regard’ (covered in a previous post) and the words of 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant, who said ‘all people are owed equal respect in virtue of their shared humanity, irrespective of their achievements, abilities, and qualities.’
Trust. The trust we are talking about here differs according to the circumstances. You need to have trust for example, that when you see a doctor, that doctor knows what they are doing and will keep your personal information confidential. The doctor, in turn, needs to trust that you will take the medication and follow the advice so that you work together to get better. If you arrange to meet a friend somewhere, there needs to be mutual trust that you will both turn up. And in a relationship, there must be trust according to the rules of that relationship, which brings me on to the next point.
Honest and Open Communication. Trust cannot be obtained unless both parties understand what is expected. Sometimes, this can be a well established standard (as in visiting your doctor), but sometimes, as in close relationships, things need to be discussed, openly and honestly.
Do you feel satisfied?
Satisfaction can be the feeling gained by the fulfilment of a need, desire or appetite. It can be as simple as a good meal, the winning of a race or how you feel when you achieve something you have worked long and hard for. Maybe.
In theory this would seem to be the case, but if that goal you reach is not (in Disney’s words) ‘your heart’s desire’, that satisfaction will feel hollow. The fulfilment you seek will not be achieved. This links with the points earlier about living the life you want and being able to change course if that is the right thing for you to do.
On balance, do you feel more positive than negative?
Are you a glass half full person, or a glass half empty? Often, things in this world are a matter of perspective. Choose how you want to think about things. We can’t all be world changers, influencing global warming or working toward peace on earth, but we can all do our bit. Try to look at what can be done rather than what can’t in every situation, and you will find your mood improves.
Are you open minded and keen to try new experiences or ideas?
If you are unhappy in your life, you will undoubtedly wish that it was different. Warning – here comes another quote, this one is from Albert Einstein.
‘Madness is doing the same thing over and over while hoping for different results.‘
The only way that things will change is if you are open to new ways of doing things. If something is not working try something else. Small changes to start with, even changing the way you think about something can be enough, then, if small changes don’t make the difference you need, you can step up to larger ones. Don’t wait for circumstances or other people to change. The change needs to come from you.
Do you look after of yourself?
Happiness is largely affected by our health. No matter how well we look after ourselves, there are things we cannot control, genetics for one thing, ageing for another, and there are still many conditions we don’t know enough about to know what causes them.
But just because we may develop these conditions in the future, or we may have them already, this should not stop us from taking every step we can to live as healthy a life as possible. I’m not going to go into all of these areas in details here, but have provided links if you would like to follow up on them further. In short though, we should be looking after:
Our mental health. Enough sleep, minimal amounts of stress, resilience and supportive environments are all necessary for good mental health. Check out the 5 ways to wellbeing at the end of this post for ideas on how to achieve positive mental health.
The World Health Organisation’s definition of mental health…
“Mental health is not just the absence of mental disorder. It is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
… speaks about fulfilling potential and making a contribution, which ties in with what we covered earlier under section four, and shows the importance of this element in our search for happiness.
Are you grateful for what you have?
I have known very wealthy people who are so frightened of losing any of their possessions, their status, their reputation, that they spend their lives monitoring their financial progress allowing each deal to dictate their mood. Conversely, I have known homeless people who are grateful for the sun coming up in the morning and being able to walk freely on the beach.
Your attitude to what is yours, not just possessions but health, relationships, experiences, opportunities and the knowledge that you are contributing in some way, makes so much difference to your happiness.
Take a look at this video on gratitude from Louise Hay.
Do you have purpose in your life?
If you have already found your purpose, great, I am delighted for you, and would love to hear how you found it, recognised it when you did find it, and what you are doing about it. But if you are still wondering about how to find it, please take a look at these few steps which will help to get you started.
Think about what is important to you. What is it that you are passionate about? What makes your blood boil or leaves you feeling so low because ‘nobody is doing anything about it’.
Take a moment to visualise the best version of you. Maybe it is easier if you imagine yourself a few months from now. What would you be doing? In what ways are you making a difference to what is important to you?
Think about your skills and experience. And before you say you don’t have any, we ALL have skills and experience. Maybe you can coordinate a raid on World of Warcraft – those are planning and strategy skills, maybe you can follow a knitting pattern – (kudos to you by the way, I find that impossible), that’s creativity, dexterity, motor coordination and knowing the right tools for the job. Maybe you can sing, paint, or have a gift for making people smile.
Are you giving of your time, energy, and joy?
The skills above, and so many more, are all valuable and can be used to help you fulfil your purpose, maybe not alone, but if you are contributing toward an overall goal with a likeminded community, so much the better.
Giving of your time, your energy or even sharing your own joy with someone, is contributing positivity to the world, however small, however seemingly insignificant. A simple smile or stopping to speak to a neighbour on your way to the shops may mean nothing to you, but you could be the only person they speak to that day, and it could mean the world to them.
I’m not suggesting that we should all go around with a permanent smile on our faces, that would be a bit creepy. What I am saying is that we should recognise and acknowledge when we have done something toward brining happiness into the world and allow that to make us happy too. Glass half full, not half empty.
Well, that’s about all from me today, but I leave you with the promised link to the Five Ways to Wellbeing, from its originators the New Economics Foundation and if you would like to delve into this area further, you might like this book by Dan Millman.
Be happy and I’ll catch up again next Monday,