I’ve been watching lately some Hollywood’s box office movies. I soon realized there were many similar messages they were sending to the young audience they are intended for, for example:
- Bullying individuals were pretty people, whether boys or girls.
- People with brains (not particularly keen on partying wild and showing off) were either ugly or ‘needed a makeover’ (needed to be fixed in one way or another).
- Promiscuous individuals are more popular and successful (mostly well off).
- Dressing as minimally as possible (especially if one has a great body) is a sign that the guy or girl is attractive, confident, sexy, cool, popular and successful, like a guy with his shirt off or a girl whose dress is open and short, etc.
These were some of the messages that jumped out at me repetitively as I was watching.
This has also brought me to think that perfecting all those requirements (great body, money, fancy clothes or cars, etc) to look and be successful or popular do not really lead to happiness. Most of the time, those perfect-looking people are looking for something that makes them feel complete inside. If they couldn’t find it, they constantly look for sedatives (a wild fling, drugs, pills, alcohol, etc.) to help them get through time, forget and move on. They also look ‘cool’ as they do so. So this does highlight the spiritual/emotional gap that results from their lifestyle and the daily choices they are making.
This led me to contemplate the difference between vanity and gratitude. I realized that being vain means contributing every blessing one has to oneself, such as saying to oneself: I am beautiful because I am better, I have a nice body because I am not lazy and I workout, I have a big house and a big car because I am successful and rich, I have a sexy partner because I wouldn’t settle with anything else, I have a career because I want power, I have children because I want others to see the great parent I am and that I am ‘on-top-of-it-all’, I have great health and I am powerful, etc. Meanwhile, as this sounds like self-confidence, it does also imply a great degree of vanity and superiority; like I am the origin of everything I am and have. What contradicts this idea, however, is that there are ‘other’ attractive, hard-working, ambitious, confident, and cool people who may not be as successful, rich, healthy, fertile, etc. as they are.
I believe we are constantly driven to believe that we are the cause of our own blessings, like the recent books titles implying that we are our own god, genie, diva, miracle-maker, etc. Whereas achieving one’s goals may lead to one’s happiness, it does not imply that the achievement of our goals ‘made possible’ was entirely attributed to us. What popular movies usually imply is that when you are, perfect-looking, sexy and smart, you are bound to succeed in life. On the other hand, I have seen and known real people with real lives who may just be doing a bit more than what those in movies do, and they may not look as 100% perfect as they do.
We are encouraged to believe that ‘things’ make us happy, but it is the opposite; it is us who bestow meanings upon things, and not vice versa. That being said, I don’t negate the psychological factor that does make us feel more confident when we achieve a goal, like having a great body, sexy clothes, wild friends, or being popular in our circle, etc. Yet, these are not happiness-making factors. Therefore, feeling vain because of the blessings you have does not mean you are happy or complete, especially that nothing is permanent in life; health, wealth, beauty, a successful career, etc. may be lost at any time, as we have seen during this recent recession, which has led a lot of people to fall prey to depression, mainly because when one sees oneself at the centre of that self-portrait, one is only focusing on one’s self and the fulfillment of one’s needs, wishes and desires. This emphasizes that one lives by oneself in this world, in isolation from others and ‘their’ needs and wishes that we can help them with. In other words, vanity thinking is seeking happiness through attaining proclaimed happiness requirements without seeing or caring for anyone else in the picture but oneself. It is the opposite of empathy, which growing our sense of self-worth and genuine happiness through seeking a noble life purpose through helping others and being attuned to their needs and wishes.
In coaching, coaches are encouraged to support clients to recognize blessings (minimal to bigger ones) in their daily life. They say it is proven in the science of the human psyche that feeling grateful significantly enhances one’s brain capability to think more productively and positively, and elevates negative emotions, like sadness, sorrow, anger, etc.
Feeling grateful means – even if you don’t believe that there is a God in the world who distributes blessings upon people – that you appreciate and count the privileges you have got, i.e. that you feel privileged because you have so and so of blessings that other people who are just as smart, successful, charming, attractive, healthy, fertile, well-off, etc. may not have. Therefore, when one gets oneself out of the centre of the fancy self-portrait one has drawn for oneself for years, and starts thinking that whatever one has is a privilege that deserves feeling grateful for. Then, one starts feeling that one has been endowed with them, and not ‘entitled’ to them.
This offers a fresh perspective on life and everything you have. If we believe we are entitled to what we have, we may take them for granted and become blind to the minimal and bigger privileges we have got. However, if we see everything we have as a privilege, then we start thinking positively about everything we consider about our lives, bodies, health, partners, etc. Simply because we start appreciating what we have, we grow our sense of satisfaction about it. This is where the feeling of gratitude develops. However, I’ve had someone asking me: But if I don’t believe there is a God in this world, who will I feel grateful for?
It was a pretty tricky question, because I personally do believe that there is a God in this world, and my feeling of satisfaction and gratitude towards everything He has blessed me with is the secret behind my resilience in life, despite all challenges. I pondered upon the guy’s question, then decided to ask him back: If you don’t believe there is a God in this world, who would you feel grateful for? It can’t be you who is the causing factor of everything you have got. For example, you were not the reason behind your good looks when you were born. Nor is it up to you to stop yourself from having cancer or an accident, because we have seen perfectly healthy people dying due to both of these despite their healthy, organic and safe lifestyles. If you didn’t die in an accident or by cancer, old age will do the trick. But how do you know until when you are going to live?
He was silent for a while, and contemplated my questions, then said: I definitely feel I am grateful for having what I have, simply as I see my friends don’t have half of what I have, even though we almost worked in the same companies and graduated from similar reputable universities. Then, we went on to talk about luck. This is definitely taking me away from the core subject of this article, but it was a conversation worth mentioning, as it helped us delve into deep thoughts and questions typically people – on the run – don’t bother themselves to think about.
All in all, vanity is feeling we ‘control’ what we have, and this is a false conception. The recession has taught us that nothing is fixed and permanent. Not only that, but also diseases, airplane crashes, earthquakes, etc. Vanity – or thinking one is the source of his/her own blessings – may lead one to severe depression if things do no go the way s/he intended them to do.
On the other hand, gratitude is appreciating and seeing life for what it is. This inspires us to see even the most mundane blessings as gifts that we did not sweat for. For example, silence at night is a great gift. I have lived in countries where building and constructions workers do not stop working on weekends or even in the evening when people put their kids to sleep. Other countries are war-stricken, and kids have to sleep despite sounds of bombs and gunshots that become a habitual happening in their neighborhoods. Not only silence at night, but on the weekends, in the evening, the ability to clearly hear birds singing early in the morning, the soft breeze that gently touches your cheeks as you stand in front of a water landscape, the beauty of nature, the cuteness of our kids, the genuine care of our loved ones, our ability to hear, see, touch and smell, etc. There is so much to be grateful for, and I do not believe we – people on the run – are the causing factor of them all. We are too busy to see these simple blessings but they are there. Believe it or not, it is us who can make the choice to appreciate them or not, to think that despite any hardships we may be going through there are still some good things to derive from them and to enjoy around us, and finally, I personally find the gift of life as the best gift ever, because every minute is a chance to turn oneself life around the way you want. This is an opportunity that is unavailable in any other domain in our lives (work, parenthood, commitments, loans, etc.)
What do you think?
Disappointment is a killing feeling we know too well. It is a feeling of sinking in the heart, body, mind and soul. You literally feel your energy level goes down gradually, until it almost touches your feet. It feels like sadness merged with bits of anger. It can be described as the antonym of anticipation, like anticipation gone bad.
Eliza Tabor once said: “Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.” I like this quote because it gives us hope, that even though disappointment cools/ kills off our passion in one instant, the result it produces is to our benefit, more strength. It is such an unpleasant feeling yet it seems inevitable sometimes. Yet, who said it was a bad thing? It happens frequently and commonly, and almost no one is immune to it. However, the more we overcome disappointment, the more capable we are of dealing with it, and the more resourceful we become in seeking alternatives. So what causes disappointment to hit our brains and hearts, and robs us illusion and excitement? Most importantly, how can we avoid it from happening over and over again?
People are creatures of habit. They’re creatures of hope and anticipation too, especially when it regards a personal matter that they really want to attain. Therefore, out of the eagerness to get to a certain goal, we start building hopes to get to them, and some of us – through imagination – may even start feeling they’re there already, which is not a wrong thing to do per se. Yet, one cannot deny that dwelling in such mental and emotional state is a type of illusion. One creates an illusion and believes it. The defining line then between illusion and turning it into reality is whether or not one commits to a set of actions that lead them to achieving their illusion.
Most self-help books promote such practice, and even go on to describe it as the formula or “the Secret” for achieving our goals. Yet, how many of us would try what those books say and believe entitled already of the privileges sometimes even in the middle of the road to achieving their goals. When passion gets triggered in our hearts, our levels of excitement rise to unprecedented levels, and we feel we want to act upon this immense positive energy. Sure, optimism and positive thinking are key in stimulating the brain to try to generate a productive perspective on matters, and therefore, not surrender to failure or bitterness resulting from feeling disappointed upon experiencing a constant failure.
When imagination starts generating more passion, which – in turn- triggers intrinsic motivation in individuals, they charge people to reach their goals with maximum force and without a single moment of hesitation. That can be described as action-upon-passion. This can be visible in cases where one falls in love; he/ she is capable of going all lengths to get to what they want.
On the other hand, while there’s nothing wrong with acting-upon-passion, but pausing to think every once in a while is a key element in the formula of success. The notion of going forward without a pause is commonly believed to be productive, especially if it was producing favorable results. On the other hand, going on without a stop is like asking a car to run non-stop without gas. Not stopping to assess the current situation is a mistake we often make, especially following a dense period of thinking or production.
The Need To Pause During Action
Circumstances change, new surprises emerge, and if we keep looking forward without moving our eyes around to have a complete perspective on our current surrounding, we may then become oblivious to any influences, factors or disturbances that may hinder us from achieving our goals. New learning is formed of the current obstacle, and a healthy brain starts generating other possible ways of going around that obstacle. However, this depends on whether one sees things from negative or a positive perspective, which also dictates their level of productivity as result. The more negative a person’s thoughts are, the more prone to disappointment this person is. Certainly, disappointment is a very unproductive place to be per se, but the knowledge forming from it is what determines its usefulness.
For instance, a man sets out to arrive to work early, as this is important to his entire department, and helps him score high in his boss’ eyes. While driving along, his car breaks down or has an accident. Clearly, there are several ways of looking at this hindrance; one of which is very common, i.e. one is unlucky.
One may say to oneself:
- I’m unlucky, and this is gonna be a very bad day for me from the looks of it. I wonder why I am not as lucky as others are!
- I’m hopeless. Although I have left particularly early this morning, I will still be late. If it’s not my own delay, something else happens to make sure that I’m late. What are they going to say about me at work.
- Life is always against me. All people go to work every day, but life just chooses me out of everybody else to get an accident or have a blown tire!
- I must’ve been envied by others because I am such a high achiever at work. I must be careful of all those evil-eyes at work! Mark said I had a great car the other day! He must’ve envied me for having such a fast and reliable car that gets me to work every day on time.
This way of negative self-talk or ‘self-suggestion’ (as Napoleon Hill calls it in his book “Think & Grow Rich“) creates disappointment along with a list of other negative feelings and thoughts. All previous monologues carry the potential of setting ourselves for disappointment, anger, fear, doubt, resentment, etc. They certainly are unproductive as they promote self-limitation, self-doubt, misery, feeling victimized, etc.
Other possible ways of looking at the same situation:
- It’s OK. These things happen. I’m not the only person with a blown tire. Let me call Melissa to tell her I’m gonna be a bit late today.
- It was very important to me to arrive to work early today, but it’s OK. Better arrive late but safe than fast but sorry.
- I have to keep making the effort to arrive early at work. It’s important to me and to the people at work, especially my boss.
Self-suggestion is a crucial dynamism, by which we constantly construct our self-image in our minds. If it is influenced by negative thoughts, it may pollute our self-image with unproductive traits, which lead to disappointment eventually, which then feeds self-loathing into the vicious cycle.
If we see ourselves or others as a failure, we are bound to be disappointed by ourselves or others.
Hesitation and Delay
One may quickly judge hesitation and delay as disappointing acts. One may also think they are obstacles in the way of moving forward. As a matter of fact, when we find ourselves suddenly hesitating to make a certain action, of which we had been contemplating for a while, it may just be the most appropriate step for us to do. In addition, we may spare ourselves the disappointment of a possible failure resulting from committing that action, or from not stopping to think about it while acting upon it. Hesitation in this sense offers an opportunity for further assessment of the current situation, which may well save us from a possible disappointment, had we committed the action we had set to do.
How can delay be useful? I heard someone say yesterday that delay is a good thing too, because it allows one to re-evaluate one’s expectations and take on things. It also reminds us why we went on to do a certain thing, or why we thought of someone in a particular way. The longer we heighten our awareness around the details of the current situation, the clearer our vision becomes. This way, even though delay may be a disappointing act by itself, it may still be to our benefit, as our re-assessment of the situation shall provide better clarity.
How To Deal With Disappointment:
Following are some tips that can help us deal with disappointment in a productive way, as opposed to the unproductive habits people usually fall for, like complaining, whining, silence, lack of action, etc.
- When you are in a situation and you feel disappointed of yourself or others, stop and take time to understand why you feel and think that way. Consider whether you – in the first place - had formed realistic expectations around yourself or someone else. Consider why you had those expectations, what went wrong that led you to feel disappointed, and how can you better improve your expectations next time.
- If you plan on doing something or committing to a certain action, like dieting or studying, and then you got distracted or disconnected from doing that, do not surrender to the quick trap of blaming yourself and saying how how disappointed you are of yourself. It doesn’t lead you any where but to the place where you are. So in order to achieve your goals, you need to pause for a while, think, re-assess the whats, hows and whys and then commit to following your objectives with the new expectations in mind.
- If you set out to do something and your interrupted by a failure or an annoyance (something outside your control), don’t succumb to thinking that it’s destiny playing against you, and constantly sabotaging your progress. Don’t blame anyone for surprises or new experiences. You simply didn’t know what you learned later, so take it easy, deal with it and move on.
- Always check in with yourself, visualizing a table of three columns in your head, categorizing your Thoughts, Actions, and Feelings separately from one another, to better be able to raise your awareness around what it is exactly that is making you feel disappointed, how it happened and why. Then, you can start thinking of better ways of handling the new situation.
- Follow your intuition, even if that meant your feeling disappointed in yourself or somebody being disappointed in you, because you hesitated or delayed saying or doing something. Your larger self is wiser than your existential self, so follow its lead.
- Always remember who you are at the end of the day, and what is your life purpose at the end of your life. Trust that and act upon this wisdom. It is who you are and why you do things the way you do. Also, it’s a much more peaceful place than self-loathing.
Disappointment is a very unpleasant place to be, and if we settle with it, we are only blocking ourselves from more productive actions that can be learned from that disappointing situation. Therefore, raise your awareness around the details of it and set new action steps to handle it. No one is perfect, and certainly neither are you. So take it easy, embrace life with all its challenges, and surmount them with determination and faith that one way or another, you will eventually get what you want to achieve.
With that being said, one may find wisdom in just following their gut and making a certain action in the moment, without hesitation or delay, and the result may be less disappointing than not having done it altogether. With this in mind, I’d like to conclude with the fabulous song Disappointment by The Cranberries.
In Winter, especially when it snows or rains heavily, I find myself singing Tori Amos’ song, Winter, one of her best songs ever, in my opinion.
I’d like to share a recording of this beautiful song (sung by Tori in Warsaw) with everyone who’s experiencing a tough weather outside. Indulge in a cup of hot beverage to your liking, while listening to it.
The Four Seasons of Life, The Four Seasons of Love
Often times in conversations with friends or clients, I have used the analogy of the four seasons to assimilate the happenings of daily life and relationship challenges that happened in my as well as their lives. It is a positive thinking exercise and a very effective tool that can help one handle upsetting situations cleverly and realistically.
Life is not about what ‘we’ want it to be. Life is a free-flowing force that is so powerful, wise and miraculous. We can’t simply belittle it just because we may not get the wisdom behind it sometimes. Things happen for a reason, and things eventually fall into their places. So why push, pull, precipitate, complain, and so on. Repeating such unproductive/ negative attitudes only serve as a poison we inject into our blood.
The Four Seasons of Life, The Four Seasons of Love Exercise:
Image via Wikipedia
This is a visualization technique that I use to help me – and my clients - see incidents for what they are, make life more manageable and overcome challenges with positivity.
Here is how it goes.
In the past, whenever I had a gloomy day at work, or with my family, I’d look at it as a grey and cold winter day, with strong winds sometimes. Similarly, whenever my partner and I entered a gloomy phase of mutual discomfort, due to some misunderstanding, in which I felt I had not caused in any way, or if the subject of argument to me was no big a deal – instead of cursing the day and firing out my rage right at him – mentally, I’d declare it a grey winter day. On such weather, I’d go back to my comfort zone, treat myself to a hot and comforting drink, and stay in till the sun came out. Meanwhile, I’d contemplate what happened, why, and how we can solve the problem. If I realized that the problem had been caused by me in any way, I’d start thinking of a solution or a way to make up for what I did. If the result of my reasoning was that it was something my partner did or said that upset me, or if it was a simple misunderstanding – which as silly as it sounds can lead to major and upsetting arguments- I’d wait until it is the appropriate time to address and discuss it calmly, find a solution for it and then makeup.
At all times, I’d try to stay away from that gloomy weather as much as I could, since rain and cold make us sick. Similarly, going back to a heated situation – especially when one is not yet ready- can only make it worse. Arguments can have toxic effects on both parties, and may eventually cause us to become ill, whether emotionally or physically. So, by exercising such way of positive thinking, I have learned to make the most of life’s happenings, and instead of wasting a long time being upset and sad around a particular matter, I’d see it assertively as a winter phase, which will end sometime in the future, and the sun would come out again to shed on the world abundant positive feelings, like friendliness, empathy, gratitude, loyalty, happiness, etc.
Meanwhile, by visualizing that I was staying in, enjoying my treat, contemplating what had happened, I’d give myself and the other person (my sibling, partner, child, co-worker, etc.) a chance to calm down and reflect on what had happened. Instead of obsessing about it all day, I’d go about living my regular life in the most ordinary way. One bad thing, in my opinion, should not and does not deserve to spoil the other aspects of my life. Things fall into their places, when we handle them wisely. However, the least I can do in any heated situation is to mainly reflect on the part I had played in it. No one is perfect and certainly misunderstandings happen.
On the other hand, some challenges may be the product of a purposeful harmful act by others, and that too deserves contemplation, so we learn how to handle it. Yet, if we are going to allow ourselves to get dragged into an escalating negative emotional havoc, we then may not be capable of finding a solution for it. So at all times, stay away from negative energy and angry situations for a while, reflect then choose the right time (when the clouds clear out) to handle it.
The winter analogy can also be applied to one’s disrupting their diet. We are all guilty of that one time or another. We love our bodies, yet sticking to a regime may be challenging sometimes. Treating a messed-up dieting day like a tough winter day, on which it was difficult to commit, helps free us from the blocking feelings of guilt and self-loathing. You may have needed the comfort of a hot chocolate, a chocolate bar, a creamy soup, etc. This is certainly not a sin. It is OK. Life will go on, and you can go back to your regime, when the sun comes out, and you feel energetic, determined and active.
Certainly, this technique wasn’t there all my life. I have developed it through experience as a way of seeing problematic situations as “temporary” occurrences.
Living life as is, and not as ‘it is supposed to be’, may make it easier for us to accept its challenges, and rather rise above them with resilience. Unrealistic expectations, dreams, myths, gossip, etc. may never solve a problem, and most importantly, they may never become real. What we are left with then is illusion, and this is very lonely and cold place to be in.
What about the other seasons? They all work. This is how.
In fall, it is chilly yet it doesn’t take our eyes much time to see the beauty behind that cool weather. Similarly, some misunderstandings between two friends, sisters, brothers, etc. can occur but it may not take them a while to realize that the beauty of their friendship is worth coming forth and resolving the problem at hand.
How about spring and summer?
Well, in spring, things start to green and brighten up. The skies clear up, and the trees start to blossom. Similarly, this is usually the phase where a friendship or a relationship start showing off its beauty, and reflecting that in enjoyable feelings, whose sweetness we savor at all times. Usually, this period of bliss leaves the best memories especially that they mark their contrast upon happening after a period of coldness, absence from your loved ones (at work, on a business trip, normal everyday business, etc.) or fights. When winter resolves, spring shines its happiness in our hearts, and warms the body with blood that is pumped in it with strong palpitations.
Summer is usually a hard-core fun time (a trip somewhere nice, a good phase of achievement at work, some cool gatherings, etc.) This is where we regain our balance and renew our energy, or refill some trying to save for upcoming winter times. These happy deposits forge their memories into our hearts, souls and brains, and they are the ones that help us give the other person benefit of the doubt, when negative/unhappy occurrences happen.
There’s so much beauty in the world for the eyes to behold. It’s just a matter of observing it or not.
No one is perfect, not us nor them. So why assume that in the first place? This is only bound to hurt us more than them.
Hope this technique helps you like it has helped me. Allow your soul to embrace the beauty of other souls and things around you.
~~Peace upon you all~~
Copyright 2012 Wisdom Within Consultancy. All Rights Reserved for Wisdom Within Consultancy, Wisdom Within Coaching.
This funny talk by Dan Gilbert explains what makes people happy. It comes in two parts, so I’m embedding both onto this page.
Looking inwards provides us always with a clue onto what affects us, how we react and what choices we make in our lives. This explains then why we behave the way we do.