WHEN ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

WHEN ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

Money gives you freedom and choices.

You can decide where and how you want to live when you have a good income or financial resources. On the other hand, when you do not have much money, choice may be something that you cannot afford. The choices available to you may not really be choices at all.  But how do we decide that we have enough?

Our sense of well-being, comfort, and peace of mind has less to do with how much money we have — and everything to do with how we think about it. In most cases, regardless of how much we actually have in the bank — we only have enough when we think we have enough.

So when is enough really enough? For me, I began to feel comfortable when I crossed the $80,000 income level.  Above that level, emotional well-being corresponded to my individual temperament and life circumstances rather than any extra income. Below that level of income, my happiness was diminished by higher levels of stress related to climbing the ladder.  In that endeavor enough was never enough.  I could always make one more call or plan one more sales presentation.

The level of a person’s expectation rises steadily with the level of income. While increasing income does not change a person’s emotional happiness on a daily basis, it does make people think of themselves as happier and more successful.  This confirms that happiness and feelings of well-being are less dependent on the amount of money you have, and very dependent upon what you think about it.

If you are so fortunate to be earning an amount that gives you the sense of well-being, don’t compromise or sacrifice yourself to make more. If the increased income does not come relatively smooth and naturally into your life, then think carefully before you pursue it. Maybe, probably, perhaps what you are making right now is enough.

Take time every single day to look around and be thankful for the things in your life. Remember, whatever we focus on tends to grow in our experience. If you spend more and more time being grateful for the small things in your life, they could add up to being way more than enough.

Develop your own emotional measuring stick for personal happiness and well-being. Most of us use an external measure far too often and then are surprised when we do not measure up. When we get in touch with those things that make us happy — regardless of whether anyone likes it or “gets it,” then it does not matter how much money you make. Love jogging or gardening or riding your bike? Then do it. Enjoy playing with your kids or your guitar? Then do it. Like to read or hang out with your friends? Then do it. Most of the things that make us smile and feel happy are unrelated to our income. Start separating those qualities and focus on them.

Find something to get passionate about. Have you ever been around someone who is on a mission? If we don’t think we have enough, there is a chance that we are focusing on a fear of loss.  Fear comes into our life when we believe that we will not get everything we deserve OR we are going to lose everything we have. People who are passionate about things are focusing on something that so inspires them that they are not worried about gain or loss. Get involved in something bigger than yourself and you might be surprised at how “good enough” and “rich enough” you feel.

Start hanging out with people who are happy and satisfied with their life just as it is. If you spend time with people who are never satisfied and always wanting more, more, and more, you’ll soon feel the same way. Instead, surround yourself with those who realize life is much more fulfilling and spectacular than how much they make or what they own. Hang out with people who have passion, who regularly help others, and who know what makes them happy from the inside-out, and you’ll start doing the same.

 Instead, it might be SMART to start realizing that our well-being and peace of mind start within. That is probably the only way to discover we have more than enough just as we are, right now.

CONNECTIONS

CONNECTIONS

We are clearly influenced by people around us, our circle of friends and relatives. These folks impact our beliefs, our health, our careers and how we feel – some for better and some for worse. We live in interconnected networks and become like the people we spend time with. The number of theses connections we have affects the quality of our lives, influences our expectations, determines the sort of people we marry, where we live, our emotional maturity, and our health.

We often copy our friends and they give us permission to do things. If a friend has done something/bought something/been somewhere, then we are much more likely to also do it/buy it/go there. Not only that, we are influenced by our friends’ friends and surprisingly by our friends’ friends’ friends.

No one controls or owns the network that you and I are in.  It self-organizes and is complex, dynamic, and constantly evolving.  It has no central control point but rather a shared intelligence. Some people are on the edge of networks, others at the very heart of them. Some people have lots of connections within the network, others are more insular.

Emotions are a genetically inspired way of quickly spreading information that people pay attention to. Certain people are more susceptible than others and likewise, certain people are more influential than others.  Likewise in teams, emotions quickly spread – and when a team is happy, it has been shown that performance improves. Unhappy people tend to cluster with other unhappy people and vice versa.  Furthermore, unhappy people seem more peripheral in networks.

It is not just that happy people prefer the company of happy people, it’s that happy people make other people happy.  People with friends who have lots of friends are also more likely to be happy.

The closeness of happy people affects us.  When a friend living less than 1 mile away becomes happy, it can increase my chance of becoming happy. Consequently, the people I spend the most time with heavily influence my mood.   Likewise loneliness begets loneliness. Proximity to other lonely people also increases my tendency towards loneliness.

Networks can heavily affect our personal identity. The way people react to us either builds or weakens our self-valuation, confidence, and esteem. How we look also affects how we are treated.  Since we are heavily influenced by others, we dress in a way that our network will accept. We are mightily influenced by the norms of our society/group.  We unconsciously copy others to be part of that group. The more we relate to a group or want to be a part of it, the more influential their norms will be upon us.

The power of social compliance is often underestimated.  Comparisons to others are a key factor in determining contentment. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith once determined that many consumer demands stem not from innate need but more from social pressure.   Merely observing another person’s behavior (especially someone we admire) can be as influential as words.  Our best friends influence how we perceive our prospective partners attractiveness.

When people sit next to a person who is over-eating they will also tend to eat more.  An obese person has more friends, friends of friends and friends of friends’ friends who are obese than would be expected by chance.  If a mutual friend becomes obese, it nearly triples a person’s risk of becoming obese.  Groups such as weight watchers and alcoholics anonymous form powerful social networks of influence – it is the people not the techniques that drive success. An individual’s success story echoes throughout the network. This provides a positive reference experience of success, so building their own belief that success is also possible for them.

For networks and connections to be effective they also need ties into other networks – e.g. those people who have a number of different circles of friends/acquaintances are the critical connectors that allow information to flow between networks. Networks that are more insular are less equipped to solve novel problems than those networks with lots of interconnections with other networks.

The circles we live and work in are fundamental to the opportunities and quality of lives we get to lead so it is less about absolute ability as it is about the connections one has around you as they create the initial opportunities and levels of expectations.

Human social network behaviors are hard wired – its genetically conditioned.   Networks have been fundamental to the advancement of the human species. People who worked together were able to kill more prey and were able to protect each other against predators (human and animal). Thus the ‘connectors’ survived better than the loners.

The Internet has created multiple ways to connect and share.  We are now hyper connected, sharing large chunks of our daily lives with a wide group of friends – thus we know more about more people.

Will these social network relationships replace our deeper personal connections? Research suggests that like the advent of the phone, these technologies supplement the development of relationships rather than supplant them. The media often reports that intense use of the Internet increases the risk of alienation, isolation, depression, and withdrawal from society. In fact, available evidence shows that there is either no relationship or a positive cumulative relationship between the Internet use and the intensity of sociability. Overall, the more sociable people are, the more they use the Internet. And the more they use the Internet, the more they increase their sociability online and offline, their civic engagement, and the intensity of family and friendship relationships, in all cultures.

A new social structure has emerged from the interaction of a technological paradigm based on the digital revolution and some major sociocultural changes. A primary dimension of these changes is what has been labeled the rise of the Me-centered society, or, in sociological terms, individualism, the decline of community understood in terms of living space, work, family, and achievement in general. This is not the end of community, and not the end of place-based interaction, but there is a shift toward the reconstruction of social relationships, including strong cultural and personal ties that could be considered a form of community, on the basis of individual interests, values, and projects.

The process of individualism is not just a matter of cultural evolution, it is produced by the new forms of organizing economic activities, and social and political life. It is based on the transformation of places to live, work, and engage  in economic activity (networked work processes), culture and communication (shift from mass media to mass self-communication based on the Internet); on the crisis of the patriarchal family, with increasing autonomy of its individual members; the substitution of media politics for mass party politics; and globalization forging networks around the planet. The Internet has created the opportunity to connect up with people around the world who are interested in a very specific activities/interests (such as people with specific health issues but it can also be used for some less palatable groups such as self-harmers, anorexics, suicides and bomb makers). The connections with each other reinforce their belief system and legitimize their actions.

Internet use empowers people by increasing their feelings of security, personal freedom, and influence, all feelings that have a positive effect on happiness and personal well-being. the Internet does not isolate people, nor does it reduce their sociability; it actually increases sociability. 

Seven Attributes of Good Character

We all have areas in our personal, professional, and social lives where we have failed. It is hard to point the finger, as we all make mistakes, big and small. So, how do we improve? How can we do more of the right things and less of the wrong ones?

Who we are as a person is the total of everything we have learned as children, plus the choices we make and habits we develop as we grow older. The good news is that we can always learn to make better choices, we can choose to believe in better values, we can create better habits, we can continue to learn.  We will never attain a perfect state; we are humans, and we will continue to make mistakes and experience success and failure in every aspect of our lives. We learn lessons through our defeats. Failure motivates me to change. Ponder this: our most significant pain comes from mistakes we make; our greatest fears come from the consequences of our wrong choices; it follows that our greatest joy will come from doing the right things, and greater love will cast away our fears.

What we do and say reflects our values!   Values are beliefs that help empower our life and the quality of what we experience. How we act and behave in our everyday life, reflects our deep-seated convictions and beliefs. Live by your set of values, and do not compromise them was the advice given to me by my grandfather.

Character is what we are when we are all alone. It is what we do when there is no one around to impress. Reputation is what people think of us; character is who we know we are. The existence or lack of certain virtues will determine who we are.  I believe there are seven attributes of good character: fortitude, tolerance, compassion, patience, hope, faith, and love.

Fortitude is courage in the face of adversity. It is the means by which individuals have the emotional power or reserves to withstand and confront serious problems.   Our mistakes and failures provide us with the opportunity to develop a type of courage which is born of humility, rather than of bravado.                                            

Tolerance is a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins differ from our own. It permits freedom from bigotry.

Compassion involves allowing me to be moved by suffering of others and experiencing the motivation to help alleviate and prevent it.  Often an individual goes out of their way to help the physical, mental, or emotional pains of another and themselves. Compassion involves sensitivity, another emotional aspect of suffering. It is often based on notions of fairness, justice, and interdependence, it is rational in nature, and most often based on sound judgment. 

Patience is the ability to endure difficult circumstances such as delay; or a provocation without responding in annoyance. It is forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties. Patience is the level of endurance one can have before negativity. It is also used to refer to the trait of being steadfast.

Faith is confidence or trust in a person, thing, or concept. In the context of spiritual matters it is belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of a spiritual leader. For some, faith is confidence based on a perceived degree of justification, while others who are more skeptical view faith as belief without evidence.

Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world. Hope allows us to expect outcomes with confidence and to cherish a desire with anticipation. Hope is necessary to keep us focused on the goal because we are never in charge of outcomes, no matter the effort we put in.

Love is a feeling of strong attraction and emotional attachment. It  encompasses a range of strong and positive emotional and mental states, from the most sublime virtue or good habit, to the deepest personal affection and to the simplest pleasure The love of a mother for her child  differs from the love of her spouse, which differs from the love of food. But they are all love. Love for each other is the way to peace and serenity.

Why do I want to cultivate these seven attributes? Why am I concerned about the content of my character?  When I took a fearless look at myself through a rigorous inventory, I did not like who I had become.  I was not close to the “good” man I imagined myself to be.  My father-in-law, who I considered to be a weak man at one time, became my role model as he was the man I wanted to be..  I wanted the core ethical values of honesty and integrity, respecting others, taking responsibility for one’s actions, being fair and just, and being someone who promotes love and compassion in others. I wanted to be filled with humility, courage, justice, temperance, and the value of human dignity. My well-being—indeed my very existence—depends upon the content of my character.

These seven attributes were the necessary ingredients for me to become the new person I wanted to be, the rebirth of Michael. The first four of these character traits give me tools to deal with my own suffering as well as that of others. Keep moving forward despite my mistakes and shortcomings is the fundamental lesson I have found to have peace and serenity, which equates to a successful life. The last three are ways to proceed to freedom and joy. Trust yourself to do the right thing and joy will come your way.  Its joy that I am after. Happiness is too dependent upon transitory things and other people. Joy comes from faith, hope and love. Trust God knows what you need. He will do for you what you cannot do for yourself. And love God and others with all your heart.

SUFFERING & GROWTH

PERSONAL GROWTH THROUGH SUFFERING

Often turmoil and trauma just seem to be destructive and negative. But in the long term, these may be balanced—or even transcended—by powerful positive effects.

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You have probably experienced the negative effects of turmoil in your own life, or at least been aware of them in people close to you. Many people who have suffered traumatic life-events such as death of a loved one, illness (such as cancer), housefires, combat or becoming a refugee, find that dealing with this trauma is a powerful spur for personal development. It was not just a question of learning to cope with or adjust to negative situations; they actually gained some significant benefits from them.

Many folks gain new inner strength and discover skills and abilities they never knew they possessed. They became more confident and appreciative of life, particularly of the “small things” that they normally take for granted. They become more compassionate for the sufferings of others, and more comfortable with intimacy so that they have deeper and more satisfying relationships. One of the most common changes is that they have a more philosophical or spiritual attitude to life.

Initially, most folks experience a “dark night of the soul,” where their previous values are thrown into question, and life ceases to have any meaning. After this, most go through a phase of spiritual searching, trying to make sense of what has happened to them, and find new values. And finally, once they have found new spiritual principles to live by, they enter a phase of “spiritual integration” by applying these new principles. At this point, they find new meaning and purpose in life, together with a grateful heart for being alive, and even for having been through so much turmoil.  In some ways, it seems, suffering can deepen us.

There are only two choices when facing hardships: rise to the challenge and overcome it, or retreat into despair.  Suffering initiates a search for significance. It is important to make sense of and find meaning and purpose in suffering and grow past limits that create vulnerability. We all need one another and nothing is certain or uncertain, both are illusions. Humans cannot predict exactly what is going to occur so letting go of sureness of an outcome brings vulnerability.

The facts are that suffering SUCKS! I always want to get it over with ASAP. But to really cash in on the strength-building benefits, the idea is not to bypass the process.  Patience is key.   A lot of times that means you have to allow yourself to feel the pain: Vent to a friend about your demanding boss, cry after a breakup, push through the last six miles of the marathon on your bucket list..

When we process the pain, we reap the rewards. Most goals and accomplishments could not be completed without periods of suffering. Suffering builds character by giving us a sense that if we can get through times of suffering, we can accomplish anything.

Not all pain can provide the rewards noted above.  Destructive suffering or “bad pain” comes from repeating old patterns and avoiding the pain it would take to change them. Suffering at the hands of someone else is not valuable at all.

Many times people suffer because of their own character faults. Then other people come alongside them and give them comfort or a spiritual pep talk about how God is with them in this testing. They usually frame the experience as the testing of an innocent person.

The difficulty arises when the suffering is the fruit of the individual’s own character and is of no value unless they see it as a wake-up call. This is bad pain. And bad pain is basically wasted pain. It is the pain we go through to avoid the good pain of growth that comes from pushing through. It is the wasted pain we encounter as we try to avoid grief and the true hurt that needs to be worked through. It is the wasted pain of trying to get a person to love us or approve of us instead of facing the loss of this love and moving on.

In too many support circles, people are supported in ways that do not make them face the growth steps they need to take to keep from repeating their mistakes. They are seen as victims and are then set up for failure all over again.

DO NOT BE A VICTIM! Convert worthless pain into transformative growth.

I hate the cliché, “NO PAIN!  NO GAIN!”  BUT…………………………………!