Especially now when winter is coming up, I would like to share some thoughts and tips on happiness. Everybody is looking for happiness as if happiness is hidden somewhere and we need to go on a treasure hunt to find it.
If you observe a truly happy person you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing dahlias in his garden, or looking for dinosaur eggs in the Gobi desert. He will not be searching for happiness like it was a collar button that has rolled under a radiator (W. Beran Wolfe). Be very honest with yourself and ask yourself when were you most happy?
I am convinced that you can learn everything, and that includes being happy. I lived as an expat in many different settings and I met so many wonderful people, rich, poor, happy, unhappy. I came to realize that wealth and status have nothing to do with happiness. Happiness is an attitude, a habit, which you can cultivate. Because of positive psychology we now know that the skills of happiness can be learned. The two important pillars for cultivating happiness is how you deal with setbacks and how you cultivate positive and loving relationships.
How to deal with setbacks
From a live chat with the author and philosopher Alain de Botton I learned:
"A lot of happiness is created by things outside our control. This is very worrying in a way - but should lead us to humility and an acknowledgement of how much we rely on fate. This should teach us compassion for ourselves and others at moments when the context lets us down".
When something goes wrong often we tend to internalize the problem. When you experience a setback rather then seeing it as "all your fault", look at what part was out of your control, know that it is temporally and do not internalize it.
* make it specific
* know that is temporary
* make it impersonal
* and most of all take steps to improve your situation
A second pillar of happiness is cultivating loving relationships. And as usual it always starts with you! First of all love yourself, be as a best friend for yourself. It is the relationship you have with yourself that will reflect in the outer world. Love yourself first.
Get out of the realm of wanting to be right. If you want to be happy let go of the notion of being right. Relationships are hard wired. Letting go of wanting to be right is a first step in a better connection with the people around you. Being open to the otherness and taking the interaction with the other person as a chance for you to get to know yourself better and the other, is very valuable for your happiness.
If you think you are enlightened try spending a week with your family on Christmas and you will know what I talk about. You love them dearly but they do push your buttons. Be aware that every irritation can tell you something about yourself and can help you to grow and to become better in building relationships. A beautiful way of doing this is through the core quadrants of Daniel Offman.
Just remember that life has its own way. Dance with it.
Enjoy the festivities.
I know you struggle sometimes but in case I don’t tell you enough, you are beautiful.
Thank you for being so strong and transparent, the world sees you even when you feel invisible or unheard.
I appreciate your heart and stubbornness. Your willingness to love even after being discarded or forgotten is admirable.
I am so proud to know you have grown to acknowledge your worth.
Writing a letter to yourself can help you to overcome difficult times when in self-doubt. And we all have these moments of self-doubt especially in mayor transition periods.
It is amazing how a kind word or a compliment can lift your spirit. But what if there is no one around to lift your spirit? Ah well there is always one person around who can do just that, and that is YOU!
A great exercise to do just that, is to write yourself a letter with all nice and encouraging words about your SELF.
This negative, self-dough, unconfident part of yourself is our shadow part. And just as we all have our shadow we also have a light side, the positive, optimistic and productive side. By writing to your shadow part you accept its existence and calm it down, telling your shadow part everything will be fine.
Try it! You will see it truly helps!
If you like guidance in overcoming self-doubt, feel free to contact me.
"Only in the presence of compassion will people allow themselves to see the truth". -A. Hameed Ali
Image: Nicoletta Ceccoli
Back from a beautiful first series of workshops by Brenda Davies.
I feel inclined to write something short on compassion. Thank you Brenda for showing us what compassion is and that compassion is a necessary stepping stone for healing.
What is compassion?
Compassion is different from empathy in the sense that empathy is the ability to understand, recognize and feel the emotional state of another or oneself. It has a lot to do with our mirror neurons. While compassion adds the desire to alleviate or reduce the suffering of another, to take action towards the reduction of that pain.
Its’ origins comes from the Latin, meaning co-suffering. To me that can only be completely integrated if we are willing to understand the other completely. It also comes downs to the willingness to look at the other with a different perspective. A perspective that whatever the other does, the person does this with a positive intentions for himself or herself. Instead of assuming that the reason someone has done something that hurts you is because they are selfish or unconsiderate, we replace this with the perspective that this persons behaviour serves a purpose for him or herself.
The positive intention behind 'aggressive' behaviour, for example, is often 'protection'.
The positive intention or purpose behind 'fear' is usually 'safety'. The positive purpose behind anger can be to 'maintain boundaries'. 'Hatred' may have the positive purpose of 'motivating' a person to take action. The positive intentions behind something like 'resistance to change' could encompass a range of issues; including the desire to acknowledge, honour or respect the past; the need to protect oneself by staying with the familiar, and the attempt to hold onto the positive things one has had in the past, and so on.
To be able to have compassion you first have to be compassionate with yourself. It is only then that you can have compassion for others. Perhaps most importantly, having compassion for yourself means that you honour and accept your humanness. Life will not always go the way you want it to go. You will encounter frustrations, losses will occur, you will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us. The more you open your heart to this reality instead of constantly fighting against it, the more you will be able to feel compassion for yourself and all your fellow humans in the experience of life. The more you accept this the more you are able to see opportunities to grow and to become the best version of ourselves and all experiences will become fertile ingredients that can help us to bloom.
"Happiness is not the absence of problems but the ability to navigate them "
source image: Rob Gonsalves
If happiness was a country what would it look like?
How would you name the capital of happiness? Who would live there?
Would it be an island, would it have a costline or would it be landlocked?
Happiness is not so much a state of being, rather it is a never ending ability to navigate through life, not avoiding change and difficulties but rather embracing change and accepting that difficulties are part of life.
If happiness was a country it would not be a country without problems or difficulties, it would be a country where people use an inner compass called resilience.
Resilience is your ability to get up after a fall. We all encounter fall backs in life and life changing experiences can be overwhelming, how we react and deal with change is an important factor in experiencing happiness.
Different elements can help to stimulate or develop your inner compass of resilience:
1. Self-knowledge is an important factor. Being aware of your reactions when in difficulty and
knowing your preferred coping mechanism are important factors to deal with change.
Asking yourself the right question: Why am I having such difficulty with this?
Knowing what you want and what is important to you will help to determine which actions
2. Accept reality don’t fight it. Resilience is about accepting your new reality as it is. You can
scream and shout about it or you can choose to accept the situation and take action to
make something good of it.
3. Reframe and choose a different perspective. Looking at your difficulty from different
angles, also called reframing, is a cognitive ability that sheds new light on a situation
in order to creatively look for alternatives.
4. Trust the process. Take appropriate action to deal with the problem and trust the process
that things will get better, not by itself but by taking actions in the direction you want to go.
5. Trust in the goodness of the world. Positive attitude towards life, believing in the
goodness of the world, embracing support that is out there, are key elements to deal with
If you want to know more about how to take your life into your own hands, you are welcome to come enjoy the workshop by Brenda Davies on 23/11/2013: 'Creating the Life you would Love to
Live' or on 2 4/11/2013: 'From Then through Now and into your Future'. For more details feel free to contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new” -Socrates
Letting go of my expat life and embracing my new life, is not an easy one. I realise now that it was more easy to move from one place to the next that resettling in my ‘ home country’. In my latest post I describe that my home country as changed and so did I. Coping with this change and with changes in general, is not straight forward, we all deal with change in our own way. With every transition, be it changing jobs, changing countries, a part is about letting go of the old, known and the
other part is about embracing change, the new.
Before we can embrace change we go through several stages. Understanding our process can help us deal better with change. The Kubler-Ross research team came up with S.A.R.A.H. This model acknowledging that as people meet with change they generally have the following reactions:
Sometimes one change in your life can lead to different changes, also on the personal level. If you like some guidance in the transition you are going through or you want to make the most out of the changes you are dealing with, feel free to contact us.
your inner purpose
to outer goals
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