The true standard of measurement for extraordinary outcomes
is that which brings extraordinary benefit and fulfillment
to me and to the lives of others. That's success!~Steven K Scott
Yes, I experienced it, I really did; the intense feeling of true happiness and success. Not just temporarily, but extensively for an uninterrupted period of several months. This was simply the most significant ‘achievement’ of mine: finding clarity, peace and happiness in a hectic and high-demanding life. This phase took the entire first half of 2007 and I came out the other end with much insight and understanding about myself and my purpose.
I have never felt so complete and content as I did during this period. With the most rewarding being the absolute stillness I felt within myself and the understanding that we can be truly and absolutely happy with living a simple life with very little material possession. Now, if this is your first visit here, this may sound a little mystical and hand-wavy. No, I am not a hippy, nor am I religious. I am just a girl, going through life, seeking that which we are all seeking: happiness.
To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love.
In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness.~Robert Muller
Do you ever kick yourself in the butt? No, not literally, but psychologically?
Have you done things in the past that you’re not so proud of? Perhaps it was hurting someone’s feelings or for being dishonest?
What about times when you were mean to yourself? Perhaps when failing to meet all the expectations set by your perfectionist self, you beat yourself up for it? Even just a little?
Where do you think all these thoughts go? Most likely, they stag like clutter in your inner space. The natural tendency is to repeat this in our head, until we eventually get sick of thinking about it and burry it deep in our subconscious. It is still in there nonetheless, keeping us away from being fully happy.
A Road to Happiness
Popular personal development strategies are known for using tools to achieve goals and techniques to become ‘successful’. If we drilled deep into these topics, you will find that they are all trying to lead you down the same path; the path to happiness. A happiness filled with fulfillment, purpose and peace.
This article was originally published on December 20, 2007, around the time this blog was born. Sometimes, older articles get buried and lost in the archives, but their advice is still applicable today.
As I transition into a full-time mom again, I recently experienced some guilt (more on that in a new post soon) and this articled helped to ground me with its gentle reminders to "Let go of the pain. It's all an illusion. Set yourself free. Everything will be okay." Enjoy the article!
Have you recently felt guilty for something you didn’t do?
Perhaps, feeling guilty for not replying to emails? Guilty for not reaching all your goals for the day? Guilty for having spent hours browsing the web aimlessly and not having enough time to do something important? Guilty for telling someone you’d call, but never returning the call? Do you beat yourself up for it?
I’m definitely guilty of having felt guilty. :) I’m also guilty for the self-inflicted mental beating I give myself, afterwards.
Thoughts like these have the power to bring you down. They carry an energy that weighs down on your mind, because part of you is constantly thinking about it. The guilt begins popping up in everything you do. Do you get random tightness feeling in your stomach? A sort of nervousness that you just can’t seem to shake off?
A positive mental attitude is the starting point of all riches,
whether they be riches of a material nature or intangible riches.~Napoleon Hill
Okay, so there’s no myth that I am a positive person, or at least striving to be one. However, I am aware that I’m not positive all the time. I am continuously working to become conscientious of my choices, thoughts and reactions. I frequently get asked about positive thinking, and I wanted to first clear up some points of confusion.
Positive people are not living like Pollyanna in some dream world with no hold on reality. Positive people may have an attitude like Pollyanna, but they are not necessarily unrealistic. Positive person are very capable of understanding the reality of a cynic. They just change their mindset to see the reality from a different perspective.
Why is it that once we become adults, we become so serious all the time (generally speaking). We get so caught up in the hectic race of everyday life that we forget that we are here to experience joy, to experience Life. We forget to smile and enjoy the beauty of the present moment. I notice that I fall into the many demands of my life story. Recently, I have gotten so busy that a week can pass without realizing. I don’t get the chance to slow down once to reflect and to be present. I seem to fall into the pattern of constantly living in the future, running after that next goal or achieving that next task on my never-ending list of Todos. Let’s take this moment to slow down, just for a few minutes.
Small children and family pets (dogs, cats) can serve as great ‘Zen’ teachers. Have you observed them before? Try it. It is so beautiful to watch the innocence of a small child, or a dog. They are so present in the moment, stress-free, open to their feelings and are a bundle of joy. I tell people that my dog Tommy is “made of love” because from observing him, he really is! A fluff of positive energy, which serves as a constant reminder to be positive in any situation and to not take things so seriously. Live life, enjoy the moment.
I also believe that child-like innocence and creativity have a direct connection. I work with lots of artists and creative people, and I have found that child-like innocence are very common among all of them. The purity, the openness, and the awareness of the present moment are clearly shown through interacting with each of them.
We can guide ourselves back to the inner child in us. You ready? Let’s first start with some common traits and characteristics of our cute little ‘Zen masters’:
Have you ever felt yourself resenting another person just because of their perceived success? Do you hear yourself justifying their success with some trivial reason so that you can easily dismiss them (and consequently feel good about yourself)? Through my experiences, I have come to learn that this instinctive emotion is merely trying to protect our ego, by burying our inadequacies and insecurities. Our mind is at work protecting us in the comforts of our little cocoon shell. But to what benefit does it serve?
Not only is the feeling of jealousy not conducive for relationship building and effective communication, but it just doesn’t us feel very good. Can you relate? That uncomfortable tightness in your stomach? Why do we put ourselves through it?
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word,
a listening ear, and honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring,
all of which have the potential to turn a life around.~Leo F. Buscaglia
Actually, there isn’t any art behind it. Just that you were born to be happy, and you can show this happiness with that beautiful smile of yours. C’mon! Let’s see it. :) Okay, good.
To some extent, we all know how to spot a genuine smile, basically this formula:
We are all sensitive to this genuine scale, so why then is it that when we cross paths with a stranger or casual acquaintance in the elevator, we give them a fake smile? That ‘polite smile’. You know what I’m talking about (don’t get me wrong, I do this too, unconscious at grocery stores, on streets, while waiting for something.).
The lesson? Smile with your eyes! Feel it genuinely and it will come out naturally.
Extras: check out this quick interactive quiz from BBC to test out your ability to spot the difference between a real smile and a fake one.
Side Note: I am now smiling as I write this article. I love it! Thank you for reading and allowing me to express myself creatively.
A smile is so simple, yet so powerful. Some noticeable effects of externalizing your internal joy are:
People will be attracted to you – I don’t mean sexually (well, maybe that too), but people will feel drawn to your energy. When you smile more, you will carry an aura and poise that will draw people to you. People will look forward to being around you, knowing only that they feel great around you. People on the street, at work, your friends etc. We all like and want to be around happy and cheerful people, right?
Optimistic – You’ll feel more positive about yourself and the world.
Happiness & Joy – A smile is an expression of happiness and joy in you. Like an upward spiral, a smile will boost the happiness you feel.
Healthy – A smile can affect your internal state, which can have physiological impact on your physical and mental health.
Approachable – A smile is so welcoming and will make people feel more at ease.
Making Other People Happy – A smile has the power to make other people feel good about themselves. It’s heart-warming and has the power to cheer up others instantly.
Smiles Are Contagious – Others can quickly and easily catch it and will experience the above ‘side effects’.
I believe that we were all sent here for a reason and that we all have significance in the world. I genuinely feel that we are all blessed with unique gifts. The expression of our gifts contributes to a cause greater than ourselves.
First, a personal story
Last year, I was running at full speed; chasing after my dream of money and ‘success’. However, I had forgotten why I was running. Luckily, I met Jim (not his real name). Jim had achieved all the financial goals I was reaching for. He had financial independence, several successful businesses, homes in multiple countries, and the luxury to afford the finest things money could buy.
Through hard work, persistence and sheer action; he had made it! But, Jim was not happy. He did not have the free time to enjoy his wealth. He wanted a family. He wanted peace. He wanted to live his life… but he was not able to. He had too many responsibilities, too much to lose, and too many things to protect. He had spent years building his castle, and now that it is complete, he is spending his time keeping it from eroding.
Getting to know Jim was a life altering and eye opening experience. His words snapped me out of my state of ‘unconsciousness’. It became clear to me that, “I did not want to spend the next 10 years chasing after money, only to find that I’ll be back at the same place I am at today; emotionally, mentally, and spiritually”. My ‘chase’ came to a screeching halt, everything was put on hold, and I spent the next two months re-evaluating my life and purpose.
This past year, I have come to appreciate the power of truly loving myself. Most of my life, being alone was one of my biggest fears. I found myself in numerous relationships for the wrong reasons and ended up settling in ill-fitting ‘partnerships’. This deeply rooted fear and lack of understanding of myself caused the relationships to become my whole world; my focus of attention; my center. I would sacrifice my own goals for the other person. And, when the relationship collapsed, so did my sense of self.
Through much introspection, I realized the source of these failed relationships was myself. I realized that I didn’t truly love or appreciate myself and had relied on external sources for love and approval. I decided to change. I had to overcome my fear of loneliness by finding independence and personal freedom. Even since I found true appreciation for myself, the quality of relationships I have attracted has been phenomenal. I have discovered that the more I loved and understood myself, the less I feared being by myself, and the more healthier relationships I was able to attract into my life.
I started doing what I called “Dates with myself“. Regardless my external relationship status, I would schedule time with myself. I would literally take myself out on a date and spend that time totally focused on myself. It’s my time. We spend so much time and energy focused on others that we forget to recharge the source of that energy. It is only when you are well that you can have the energy and internal resources to make a positive difference and help others. This is a simple, yet powerful concept that can dramatically improve your wellbeing, effectiveness and mental health.
Fear is one of my favorite topics. Much of my time has been spent understanding this emotion and how I can overcome my personal fears. A sense of personal empowerment, accomplishment, and fulfillment surges with each fear I face.
The most important fact about fears that we should always bear in mind is this: Fear is not a rational response to whatever challenges stare at us in life. And it is all in our mind, within us, and not anything external to us.
The purpose of fear is to protect us from life threatening circumstances. For example: to run away when there’s a bear chasing us, or to be careful when handling live electric wires.
Fear can cause us to make an irrational response to challenges we face. Fear imposes limits on our minds, removing our clarity and leaving only negative thought patterns. Fear causes us to act emotionally because we panic, our mind shuts down and we respond instinctively to protect ourselves and our egos.
Fear hinders us in situations where there is no direct threat to life, but we might perceive a threat to our life as we know it. Fear of failure is one of the most crippling emotions that can limit your potential in life. Fear of social censure makes one feel lonely. Fear of heights takes away the joy of reaching mountain peaks and touching the clouds.
A personal story: I started photographing people, because