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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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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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