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4 Unexpected Sources of Happiness

4 Unexpected Sources of Happiness

Humans have been discussing what it means to be happy for thousands of years, and what we have to do in order to achieve this elusive and desirable state. Modern science has confirmed many ancient philosophies of happiness – like accepting things the way they are and expressing gratitude, as well as offering new insights, such as the fact that happiness tends to increase with income up to the $60,000 level before leveling off.

Yet, despite this knowledge, the achievement of happiness remains a difficult if not impossible task for many of us. Sometimes, the extra boost we need comes not from well-trodden conventional wisdom, but utterly surprising, unexpected sources.

1. Lower Your Expectations

Most of us hear the words “you can be anything you want to be” ringing in our ears. We’re constantly sold the image of people who can be, do or have anything and everything they want in life – and that it’s easy! This is not an accurate reflection of reality and sets us up for disappointment. Of course, with hard work and dedication we can all become excellent at somethingbut going through life with massively inflated expectations sets us up for massive disappointment – not success.

Lowering our expectations isn’t about being negative or pessimistic, it’s about eliminating the sense that we’re entitled to positive outcomes and accepting that most things don’t go exactly as planned. Aspire to greatness and expect little. That’s the recipe for happiness.

2. Throw Out Your Goals

There’s hardly a more universally-accepted idea about happiness than goals and goal-setting. Set good goals and happiness is yours! But this conventional wisdom has been thrown into doubt by the work of psychologists like Dan Ariely. In his book, “Predictably Irrational,” he reveals that the achievement of goals only provides a short-term boost of emotion and does little or nothing to affect our overall happiness.

Does that mean goal-setting is useless? Of course not. Goals are a great way to express our values and to orient ourselves towards action. We have to realize that reaching a goal doesn’t fundamentally change who we are or how we see the world. It’s the internal work that we do, not the external results we create, that determine how happy and fulfilled we feel.

3. Set Yourself An Income LIMIT

Money worries top nearly everybody’s list of concerns. No matter how much we make or how much we have, it seems like there’s never enough. We try to overcome these fears by increasing our earning and limiting our spending. But there’s another, counter-intuitive option: Set a cap on our income.

Why? Because this forces us to define one crucial thing that no other technique adequately addresses: how much is enough. And while this seems crazy at first, we can realize that we do this in almost every area of our life: how much food to eat, how many cars to own, how much TV to watch, etc.

And one thing we can notice with these limits, is that dysfunction starts to occur when they’re not adhered to: obesity, excessive consumption, and in the case of money, debt or workaholism. So where should we set our personal income limit? Low enough to feel some minor discomfort – we live in a society of excess after all – and not so low that we feel outright fear.

A good benchmark to use is the median income level in your area (if you live somewhere with relative income equality). An income limit forces us to examine what is truly important to us and where we’re unconsciously following social norms and expectations. This way we have to decide what we value and where we want to invest our limited financial resources in the exact same way we have to choose how to invest our limited time and energy each day.

Once we do that, and we start putting our money towards the things that matter most, then we can start doing the impossible: buying happiness.

4. Stop Self-Analyzing

We should all spend time reflecting on our past and planning for the future, but this behavior can be detrimental if done excessively. By placing constant surveillance on ourselves, wondering, “am I happy now?” and then asking why or why not, we take ourselves out of the moment and cease being able to enjoy it.

If we insist on analyzing each and every emotion that floats across our consciousness, we put ourselves at the mercy of people and environments that are going to sway our emotions whether we want them to or not. Instead, we must learn to stay present and focused on the situation at hand, and save reflection for a special time we’ve set aside explicitly for that purpose.

Conclusion

These strange sources of happiness, being at odds with conventional wisdom, may take adjusting before we can integrate them into our lives. Take it slow, choosing the one idea you feel will have the most impact on your life, and work on adopting the new mindset and seeing how it works for you.

Know any other unexpected sources of happiness? Share them in the comments below!

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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