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Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

How to live: Peterson’s self-help book, 12 Rules for Life, is offered as ‘an antidote to chaos’. Photograph: Phil Fisk for the Observer

Last Monday I read about an intriguing interview with Jordan B Peterson on the Guardian website. Given that I have recently stated that spiritually oriented psychologists are almost as rare as the Phoenix, I may have to eat my words. Peterson may say some things I don’t quite agree with, but more often that not what he says about giving life meaning resonates strongly with me. I think I will have to buy his book. I can hear my shelves groaning with the weight of that thought. Below is a short extract: for the full post see link.

It is uncomfortable to be told to get in touch with your inner psychopath, that life is a catastrophe and that the aim of living is not to be happy. This is hardly the staple of most self-help books. And yet, superficially at least, a self-help book containing these messages is what the Canadian psychologist Jordan B Peterson has written.

His book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos is an ambitious, some would say hubristic, attempt to explain how an individual should live their life, ethically rather than in the service of self. It is informed by the Bible, Nietzsche, Freud, Jung and Dostoevsky – again, uncommon sources for the genre. . .

Peterson’s worldview is complex, although 12 Rules makes a heroic attempt to simplify it into digestible material. It might be encapsulated thus: “Life is tragic. You are tiny and flawed and ignorant and weak and everything else is huge, complex and overwhelming. Once, we had Christianity as a bulwark against that terrifying reality. But God died. Since then the defence has either been ideology – most notably Marxism or fascism – or nihilism. These lead, and have led in the 20th century, to catastrophe.

“‘Happiness’ is a pointless goal. Don’t compare yourself with other people, compare yourself with who you were yesterday. No one gets away with anything, ever, so take responsibility for your own life. You conjure your own world, not only metaphorically but also literally and neurologically. These lessons are what the great stories and myths have been telling us since civilisation began.”

. . . “It’s all very well to think the meaning of life is happiness, but what happens when you’re unhappy? Happiness is a great side effect. When it comes, accept it gratefully. But it’s fleeting and unpredictable. It’s not something to aim at – because it’s not an aim. And if happiness is the purpose of life, what happens when you’re unhappy? Then you’re a failure. And perhaps a suicidal failure. Happiness is like cotton candy. It’s just not going to do the job.”

But how do we build meaning? By putting it before expediency. Which is quite close to simply “acting right”. Peterson believes that everyone is born with an instinct for ethics and meaning. It is also a matter of responsibility – you need to have the courage to voluntarily shoulder the great burden of being in order to move towards that meaning. This is what the biblical stories tell us. The great world stories have a moral purpose – they teach us how to pursue meaning over narrow self-interest. Whether it’s Pinocchio, The Lion King, Harry Potter or the Bible, they are all saying the same thing – take the highest path, pick up the heaviest rock and you will have the hope of being psychologically reborn despite the inevitable suffering that life brings.

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Happiness_TrackYet again the Greater Good website wafted the scent of some refreshing ideas across my untidy desk. This article by Kira M. Newman focuses on an intriguing shift of perspective that seems deserving of further thought. Intuitively for me, it makes sense to shift my focus even more from my todo lists (content) to how I use my energy (process). I’ve been moving increasingly in that direction, from time management to mindfulness, for several years now, but this is the first coherent statement I’ve come across about how to do this more effectively across the board.  I’m definitely going to try it out even though it means adding another book to my list of purchases. Below is a short extract. For the full post see link.

Emma Seppälä and I have something in common: we are both recovering chore-haters.

“There was a time when I couldn’t stand running errands: getting gas, taking my car for an oil change, calling the electricity company about a bill, or going grocery shopping,” she writes in her new book The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success. “Taking care of this or that silly errand instead of being ‘productive’—doing things that would serve some future goal like advancing my career—felt like a waste of time.”

Sound familiar?

In The Happiness Track, Seppälä tries to untangle one of the knottiest problems of the modern age: our burned out, overscheduled lifestyle. We are stuck in a jumble of feeling overwhelmed yet never accomplishing enough, trussed up by the underlying assumptions that we hold about productivity: Success requires stress. We have to compete with others. We can’t cut ourselves any slack. “We have simply accepted overextension as a way of life,” she writes.

So it’s no wonder many of us aren’t not happy—we’re drained and emotionally exhausted! Nearly half of us lie awake at night due to stress, the worries of the day coming home to roost when we finally stop moving. We tell ourselves to “tough it out” rather than to rest or reassess what we’re doing.

To combat this problem, the typical advice is to manage your time better: Prioritize. Make better to-do lists. Delegate unnecessary tasks. If that hasn’t worked for you, don’t be surprised; nature abhors a vacuum, and so do we. If we give ourselves an extra hour, we’ll find some task to fill it with. So time is not the commodity we should be tracking and managing, Seppälä argues. Instead, we need to manage our energy.

In Seppälä‘s formulation, we drain ourselves of energy anytime we experience intense negative emotions or thoughts, or struggle against our urges and desires. If we allow ourselves a walk during lunchtime but are consumed by worries about our afternoon workload, we’ve drained energy rather than gained it—yet the same amount of time has elapsed. If we have to peel ourselves out of bed morning after morning running a sleep deficit, it takes a toll on our vitality, even though we have more waking hours to get things done.

Seppälä outlines six qualities to cultivate that will contribute to both our productivity and our happiness.

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