A blessing in disguise?

Blessings are not hiding in the shadows. They don’t conceal themselves from us.

No, most of the time they’re in plain sight–in the form of opportunities waiting to be seen and to be welcomed.

Too often though we pass them by, lacking the courage to embrace them or worse not feeling we are good enough to deserve them.

Gratitude is a skill. It is a posture. It is in every breath we take. No one is born with gratitude. It is something we develop.

(Just because we can’t see oxygen doesn’t mean it isn’t there.)

“The more pleasure you seek the more unhappy you get”

We are the most in debt, the most obese, the most medicated and the most drugged up adult population in human history.

Why?

Because the culture seeks pleasure over happiness. Dr. Robert Lustig has pointed out seven differences between the two:

  1. Pleasure is short-lived.
    Happiness is long-lived.
  2. Pleasure is visceral.
    Happiness is ethereal.
  3. Pleasure is taking.
    Happiness is giving.
  4. Pleasure can be achieved with substances.
    Happiness cannot be achieved with substances.
  5. Pleasure is experienced alone.
    Happiness is experienced in social groups.
  6. The extremes of pleasure all lead to substance or behavioral addiction.
    There is no such thing as being addictive to too much happiness.
  7. Pleasure is dopamine.
    Happiness is serotonin.
    (These are two types of biochemicals / neurotransmitters that the brain makes to communicate between one neuron brain cell and another.)

Pleasure is what our culture is hooked on, always in search for bigger hits:

  • “Would you like fries with that?”
  • “The next big thing is here.”
  • “Open happiness.”

No matter how much we try pleasure is no substitute for happiness. We can’t seduce ourselves to believe happiness can be bought or manufactured.

Connection, love, generosity, contribution, making a difference…these are the things that lead to a life of happiness. Not so much what you get but what you can give.

(Check out the first five minutes of Dr. Robert Lustig’s interview and Simon Sinek’s take on dopamine.)

We can’t stay where we are

We place absolute confidence in the Titanic. We believe the boat is unsinkable.” – White Star Line Vice President P.A.S. Franklin

As news broke that Titanic was in trouble, there were many that refused to believe that it was impossible for a boat with 70,000 tons of steel could ever sink.

Of course, we were wrong. And of course, many died that didn’t need to.

Thomas Andrews, the architect of the Titanic, knew that after four compartments were filled with water the ship would inevitably sink. When he saw five were gone, he didn’t try to bargain or deflect responsibility or even complain about his circumstances. No, he knew he had to make a decision because he couldn’t stay where he was.

Many lives were saved because of Thomas Andrews heroic efforts and many were lost (including his) because of the hubris of man.

Andrews suggested that the Titanic should carry 46 lifeboats but it was rejected. Only 20 were ever put on board. Why? Because if you believed the boat was unsinkable then you wouldn’t need life boats.

There are those out there that refuse to change their minds in the face of truth. On a sinking ship, the status-quo is no longer good enough. We don’t get to choose to stay where we are or keep things the same.

The goal

What is it?

Is it to make a profit? To make an “impact”? To make a difference in the world? To solve an interesting problem? To live a happy life? To be remembered?

What is the specific goal you are trying to achieve?

Once you have decided, everything you do is a means in achieving the goal.

Everything.

So what is it that we’re measuring in order to achieve the goal?

Examples:

The goal is not to lose weight but to live a healthy lifestyle, to feel good about oneself, to run and not be weary.

The goal is not to get to a good grade but to learn something, make yourself more marketable for a career.

Losing weight comes when you live a healthy lifestyle and you get good grades when you are an active seeker of truth and knowledge. Not the other way around.

As a rule, we improve what we measure. More often though, we are measuring the wrong things that don’t help us actually achieve the goal.

Flash-lag effect and the procrastinating brain

David Eagleman ran a fascinating experiment by rotating a circle with a flashing center. The participants were observing that the flashing light was slightly behind the circle–not inside it.

It turns out that our nerve impulses travel at a speed of 250 miles per hour and it takes 80 milliseconds after an action has occurred for our brains to process what has happened.

Think about that for a minute…

What we are thinking is happening “right now”, is actually the story of what our brain is narrating to us of what actually happened 80 milliseconds ago.

In other words, in everything we do the brain is waiting for the slowest information to arrive and it causes a delay.

We are always living in the past.

The safest the world has ever been

Contrary to what the media has told us, there has never been a safer period in human history to be alive.

Steven Pinker has shown deaths by homicide, worldwide battles and genocide are all down. Our culture has grown, we no longer accept torture and mutilation as a source of entertainment. We no longer chop off a limb or sentence someone to death / slavery for stealing a loaf of bread. Technology and the internet has brought us closer together. Human rights have shattered barriers. Resources are more abundant lifting entire nations out of poverty for the first time. Vaccinations are combating diseases. More people are dying of old age than ever before.

Yet, if the world is the safest it has ever been, why are we so afraid? The thing is we are more likely to be killed in a car accident than a terrorist attack.

Senseless crimes are still senseless. No question, we still have a long way to go. But it is important to note in the steps we have taken towards a just world, how far it is we have come. We need to realize that the fears we have of the world are often wrong, irrational and distorted because of the media we consume. We are led to believe things that distracts from being the person we are born to be.