You know those nights where you get home late from work and you're already in a bad mood because there was traffic and before that someone in the office did something that was annoying and even earlier still you woke up late and accidently had that decaf you keep for guests and pretty much everything went downhill from there? Now you're home and the kids are hungry and dinner is so far away from even being figured out let alone cooked. Homework needs to be checked and laundry needs to be cleaned and you haven't even taken off your shoes yet when you notice the late bill on the counter. Oh, and it's Monday.
We've all had those days, or weeks or years or gasp - decades. Check yourself for a moment, when was the last time you didn't have one of those days - really? Well, I was in the midst of one of those days when my son asked if he could play on PowerPoint. What? He's eight! Are they teaching power point in second grade now? (No they're not yet, but he's heard of it and wanted to check it out).
I gave him exactly seventeen seconds of my attention (and not divided by the way) while I booted up the program and presented him with the basic template model and then walked away.
Later he wanted to present his PowerPoint to me. He nearly fell over when I showed him the Slide show movie view feature. And that's when my life sort of shifted a bit and my worldview became clearer and everything changed.
Four simple slides with four simple ideas. He called it The 8-Year-Old Zen Master's Four Steps to Having the Best Life Ever. The steps are:
1. Fun - be ready to have fun.
2. Good - this year be good.
3. Afraid - do not be afraid.
4. Happy - be happy.
It's not too hard to do these four steps. It's just easy to forget to do them. And sometimes we need a little reminder.
Prevention.com talked with psychologists about what makes people have a great life and remain happy and uncovered that research has proven that "we can make ourselves happier-and (even) how to do it."
Martin E.P. Seligman, PhD works on discovering the keys to having a great life. As founding director of the Positive Psychology Center he ran a detailed study investigating this issue and has "classified the 24 character strengths that make people thrive, including creativity, curiosity, bravery and kindness. But all these traits aren't equal when it comes to producing satisfaction. Combing through questionnaire responses from more than 5,000 study participants, the researchers found that happiness was most strongly associated with a core subset of the character-trait list that they labeled heart strengths: gratitude, hope, zest, and the ability to love and be loved. Topping the charts was love, says Nansook Park, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Rhode Island and a study author. "Relationships with other people are what make us the happiest," she says."
Positive psychologists focus on three specific areas that can help one on this path to a wonderful life. Seligman suggests that the first is "the pleasant life, full of pleasure, joy and good times. The second is the engaged life, in which you lose yourself to some passion or activity, experiencing what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, PhD, calls flow. And the third is the meaningful life: It may not have many high moments or blissful immersions, but it is packed with purpose."
Gretchen Rubin, decided to focus her attention on the idea of what makes someone happy and published the findings in her book "The Happiness Project".
From her website Rubin explains, "My happiness project has convinced me that it's possible to be happier by taking small, concrete steps in your daily life. I write about what I've learned as I've test-driven the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture. Plutarch, Samuel Johnson, Benjamin Franklin, St. Thérèse, the Dalai Lama, Oprah, Martin Seligman ... I cover it all."
So it turns out my little 8-year-old Zen master isn't alone in the pursuit of all things happy and good in life. The worldly wisdom from a second grader sounds very close to some of the points from psychologists. Is this something we all know inherently, are born with perhaps and then forget in the blur of busyness?
Maybe next time you're juggling five tasks and dealing with one pressing issue after the next you'll remember the Zen master's words and remind yourself that you need to have some fun in life (like maybe rollerblading by moonlight or a weekend trip to the beach). You need to be good (like maybe donating your time to charity or helping your friend through a tough time). You should not be afraid (of the future or all the million what if's we all worry about all the time). And you must be happy (by spending your time doing what you love with the people you love. Easy.
Posted in Wellness on Monday, March 5, 2012 12:10 pm