“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” –Westley (The Princess Bride)
There was a time when I agreed with Westley. The buddhists mention this as one of their core beliefs as well… that what we are doing here as humans is struggling… that the human condition is pain and that our mission is simply to minimize pain for everyone on the planet… to make our time here as comfortable as possible.
I’m realizing today that this is not just a glass-half-full debate. It is an incorrect vs. correct issue. Westley, and that buddhist notion, are simply incorrect. Life is not pain.
And yet for a good deal of my life I think I believed that. And I have this image, this memory, which I can not escape: those twenty minutes that I held my grandmother’s frail head up while EMT’s tried to bring her back, every day I am here I think of it, and it drives me know what the reason is… why someone who lit up when I was around is now vacant, in that body no more… somewhere else… gone… and for what?
When you finally start to once again get 7+ hours of sleep … when you are not sick, and you drink enough water… when you limit the amount of caffeine and alcohol… when you exercise and eat things that support your health and give you energy…
When you finally start to do all of those things at once, your eyes re-open to something that you knew as a child:
Life is joy. Pain is simply a sign that a specific condition exists that is getting in the way of the underlying joy. Once we remove the pain, the joy returns.
For many of us, we started to chase something that we thought would be a means to an end… a temporary pain that would bring us more lasting security or a level of more permanent happiness. Yet who is more joyful than a child? Who brings out the best in us more than a child?
Would we feed our children crap food, dump loads of coffee into their bloodstream, make them sit on the couch or in a desk chair for 8 hours, and limit their exercise to nearly nothing, force them to stay up late or get up too early?
No. Of course not. We know that it would turn them into unhappy individuals. It would get in the way of their essence… their pure underlying default existence: Joy.
So why do we not insist on the same for ourselves? And will our children not learn more from our example than from our rhetoric?
If life sucks for you right now, it can be temporary. Write down the things that are covering up the essence of you … of life… the joy you had as a child. You might think it’s your job or some condition that can’t be changed. But what if it’s bigger than that? What if the reason you’re not just smiling right now is because of the behaviors that you have chosen, and habits that you continue to strengthen each day that you ignore them, pretending that the world is out to get you?
What can you do differently today and tomorrow than you have in the past? What is getting in the way of you feeling joyful, like a child, like you did when you were young?
It’s 5am and a brand new day here in rainy Madison, Wisconsin. Wherever you are reading this from, whatever time of day, remember that the future starts when you want it to. The thoughts that persist in your mind are the heart of it all. From that comes every word and action you take. 90% of life is lived in your head and seen from your own eyes through a set of frames that you design. And in that truth comes the phrase that “Attitude is Everything”. No lie. If you can control that, you can control everything. From here we can begin to write our own story.
Meditation is proven to increase your happiness and health. Beta and Theta brain waves are markers of deep meditation… if you need relaxed creativity at work, throw this on repeat!
I wouldn’t recommend “not sleeping …. not eating” but beyond that, take this to heart.
Still fantasizing about being rich? Stop. 70% of your happiness is tied to your relationships, Period. I’d recommend this book to anyone on the planet:
The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work
About the book: Our most commonly held formula for success is broken. Conventional wisdom holds that if we work hard we will be more successful, and if we are more successful, then we’ll be happy. If we can just find that great job, win that next promotion, lose those five pounds, happiness will follow. But recent discoveries in the field of positive psychology have shown that this formula is actually backward: Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work. This isn’t just an empty mantra. This discovery has been repeatedly borne out by rigorous research in psychology and neuroscience, management studies, and the bottom lines of organizations around the globe.
In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor, who spent over a decade living, researching, and lecturing at Harvard University, draws on his own research—including one of the largest studies of happiness and potential at Harvard and others at companies like UBS and KPMG—to fix this broken formula. Using stories and case studies from his work with thousands of Fortune 500 executives in 42 countries, Achor explains how we can reprogram our brains to become more positive in order to gain a competitive edge at work.
There is a light inside each one of us. Something distinct. Something different from anyone else who has ever come before.
There is something that you were put on this earth to do.
Maybe it’s simply to be there for someone else.
For the young and the old alike, perhaps you are here simply to provide hope to someone you have not yet met. Perhaps that person does not yet exist.
Perhaps you will one day utter a few words to the right person at the right time… and for whatever reason those words will stick in their head and never leave… words that come to them at an hour when they need to remember them most.
For we all experience dark days, and in the darkest of hours it is those who have come before us, who leave traces of themselves lodged in our minds, in a place that we will return to when we need to most.
You have a purpose in this life. And i know what that purpose is, if only because I know it has nothing to do with you or me. You are here for those around you. You are here to lift up those you are tied to while on this earth.
There is a reason for you to strive to become better than you are today. To reveal, more accurately, the better self that lives within you. There is a reason to be in a better mood. To stay true to your self and your word. People are watching you whether you realize it or not. People aspire to greatness or allow themselves to fall, in part, because of what they see you do. In no small way we provide an example to others of what is OK. The standard we hold either lifts up or erodes the standard of the person in the cube or the room or the house next to us. We are all part of a fabric that rises and falls in no small part to the decisions you and I make every day.
Do not let this day go by without doing your best. Anything less is a waste of time.