The Art of Happiness

A book I’ve intended to read for decades. Obviously a good read (if you’re the type of person who doubts this would be a good read, you may need some type of therapy). In my ongoing never-ending and required quest to presence and mindfullness it was time to read this.

Recommended? Yes

Favorite quotes (too many to chose from):

“If you want others to be happy practice compassion; and if you want yourself to be happy practice compassion.”

“In fact, survey after survey has shown that it is unhappy people who tend to be most self-focused and are often socially withdrawn, brooding, and even antagonistic…Happy people, in contrast, are generally found to be more sociable, flexible, and creative and are able to tolerate life’s daily frustrations more easily than unhappy people. And, most important, they are found to be more loving and forgiving than unhappy people.”

“In another experiment at the State University of New York at Buffalo, subjects were asked to complete the sentence “I’m glad I’m not a …” After five repetitions of this exercise, the subjects experienced a distinct elevation in their feelings of life satisfaction. Another group of subjects was asked by the experimenters to complete the sentence “I wish I were a …” This time, the experiment left the subjects feeling more dissatisfied with their lives.”

“Now sometimes people confuse happiness with pleasure. Happiness that depends mainly on physical pleasure is unstable; one day it’s there, the next day it may not be.” the “right choice” is often the difficult one—the one that involves some sacrifice of our pleasure.”

“Now for instance, hatred, jealousy, anger, and so on are harmful. We consider them negative states of mind because they destroy our mental happiness; once you harbor feelings of hatred or ill feeling towards someone, once you yourself are filled by hatred or negative emotions, then other people appear to you as also hostile.”

“It is felt that a disciplined mind leads to happiness and an undisciplined mind leads to suffering, and in fact it is said that bringing about discipline within one’s mind is the essence of the Buddha’s teaching.”

“When life becomes too complicated and we feel overwhelmed, it’s often useful just to stand back and remind ourselves of our overall purpose, our overall goal. When faced with a feeling of stagnation and confusion, it may be helpful to take an hour, an afternoon, or even several days to simply reflect on what it is that will truly bring us happiness, and then reset our priorities on the basis of that. This can put our life back in proper context, allow a fresh perspective, and enable us to see which direction to take.”

“I believe that the proper utilization of time is this: if you can, serve other people, other sentient beings. If not, at least refrain from harming them. I think that is the whole basis of my philosophy.”

“And once you encourage the thought of compassion in your mind, once that thought becomes active, then your attitude towards others changes automatically”

“It is clear that intimacy promotes both physical and psychological well-being. In looking at the health benefits of intimate relationships, medical researchers have found that people who have close friendships, people whom they can turn to for affirmation, empathy, and affection, are more likely to survive health challenges such as heart attacks and major surgery and are less likely to develop diseases such as cancer and respiratory infections.”

“If what we seek in life is happiness, and intimacy is an important ingredient of a happier life, then it clearly makes sense to conduct our lives on the basis of a model of intimacy that includes as many forms of connection with others as possible.”

“Compassion can be roughly defined in terms of a state of mind that is nonviolent, nonharming, and nonaggressive. It is a mental attitude based on the wish for others to be free of their suffering and is associated with a sense of commitment, responsibility, and respect towards the other.”

“In recent years there have been many studies that support the idea that developing compassion and altruism has a positive impact on our physical and emotional health.”

“The only factor that can give you refuge or protection from the destructive effects of anger and hatred is your practice of tolerance and patience.”

“there is a solution to the problem, there is no need to worry. If there is no solution, there is no sense in worrying either.”

“the closer one gets to being motivated by altruism, the more fearless one becomes in the face of even extremely anxiety-provoking circumstances”

 

Praise Effort — not talent

You know you’re not supposed to tell children they are smart!? I think I knew that, but I’ve missed the mark numerous times. In short, tell someone they’re smart and they’ll be afraid to disappoint you, leading them to stop challenging themselves; tell them you are amazed by their effort and you teach them to never quit, take on new challenges and be resilient.IMG_2565

Parents, Teachers and Coaches should all understand the importance of praising effort as opposed to talent.  Most people may say they know that, but knowing it, practicing it, living it and doing it well are very different. I was recently reading Bounce by Matthew Syed and he references some groundbreaking research performed by Carol Dweck a professor at Stanford and author of Mindset.  Dweck used the terminology fixed mind-set and growth mind-set: A Fixed Mind-set being someone who fundamentally believes intelligence is innate or you’re either born with it or you’re not and a Growth Mind-set meaning intelligence can be learned and gained through work and effort.  She performed a study on ~300 5th graders.  First she gave them a list of questions to help her classify them as fixed or growth mind-set.  Then they all worked on a series of progressively more challenging problems. Quoting Dweck “We saw that students in the helpless (fixed mind-set) group blamed their intelligence when they hit failure. What did the students in the mastery-oriented (growth mind-set) group blame? The answer, which surprised us, was they did not blame anything. They didn’t focus on reasons for the failures. In fact, they didn’t even seem to consider themselves to be failing…” She went on to describe how the children in the growth mind-set were motivated to solve the challenging problems and even developed new strategies. The fixed mind-set group did not perform, or even stopped performing in the face of adversity. When we say “you are so smart”, or after scoring a goal “you’re so good…or are such a great athlete”, or upon seeing their art project “you are a natural”, we are cultivating the fixed mind-set. We are teaching them that they didn’t need to work for that accomplishment; they were born with the ability. On the contrary, responses such as “doing your homework every night really paid off” or “all those hours of practice you put in are really showing” or even responding with a question on the art “how did you decide on that color combination?” instill a different mind-set, attitude and motivation to continue to improve. Here is a great article from the NY Times, written by Po Bronson, How Not to Talk to Your Kids. An excerpt: “When parents praise their children’s intelligence, they believe they are providing the solution to this problem. According to a survey conducted by Columbia University, 85% of American parents think it’s important to tell their kids that they’re smart…But growing body of research strongly suggests it might be the other way around. Giving kids the label of “smart does not prevent them from underperforming. It might actually be causing it.” Ashley Merryman sums it up as praise what someone does, not who they are in this Primal Blue Print Podcast. She is the co-author of NurtureShock, along with Po, mentioned above. She also talks briefly about whether its ok to tell girls they are pretty; clearly don’t want to do it a lot, but a sometimes may be ok…interesting! I’m sure I’ll continue to tell my girls they are beautiful, but maybe not as much:) and of course, need to work on praising effort!

Praise Effort — not Talent

That’s a No No! 

You know you’re not supposed to tell children they are smart!? I think I knew that, but I’ve missed the mark numerous times. In short, tell someone they’re smart and they’ll be afraid to disappoint you, leading them to stop challenging themselves; tell them you are amazed by their effort and you teach them to never quit, take on new challenges and be resilient.

Parents, Teachers and Coaches should all understand the importance of praising effort as opposed to talent.  Most people may say they know that, but knowing it, practicing it, living it and doing it well are very different.

I was recently reading Bounce by Matthew Syed and he references some groundbreaking research performed by Carol Dweck a professor at Stanford and author of Mindset.  Dweck used the terminology fixed mind-set and growth mind-set: A Fixed Mind-set being someone who fundamentally believes intelligence is innate or you’re either born with it or you’re not and a Growth Mind-set meaning intelligence can be learned and gained through work and effort.  She performed a study on ~300 5th graders.  First she gave them a list of questions to help her classify them as fixed or growth mind-set.  Then they all worked on a series of progressively more challenging problems. Quoting Dweck “We saw that students in the helpless (fixed mind-set) group blamed their intelligence when they hit failure. What did the students in the mastery-oriented (growth mind-set) group blame? The answer, which surprised us, was they did not blame anything. They didn’t focus on reasons for the failures. In fact, they didn’t even seem to consider themselves to be failing…”

She went on to describe how the children in the growth mind-set were motivated to solve the challenging problems and even developed new strategies. The fixed mind-set group did not perform, or even stopped performing in the face of adversity.

When we say “you are so smart”, or after scoring a goal “you’re so good…or are such a great athlete”, or upon seeing their art project “you are a natural”, we are cultivating the fixed mind-set. We are teaching them that they didn’t need to work for that accomplishment; they were born with the ability.

On the contrary, responses such as “doing your homework every night really paid off” or “all those hours of practice you put in are really showing” or even responding with a question on the art “how did you decide on that color combination?” instill a different mind-set, attitude and motivation to continue to improve.

Here is a great article from the NY Times, written by Po Bronson, How Not to Talk to Your Kids. An excerpt: “When parents praise their children’s intelligence, they believe they are providing the solution to this problem. According to a survey conducted by Columbia University, 85% of American parents think it’s important to tell their kids that they’re smart…But growing body of research strongly suggests it might be the other way around. Giving kids the label of “smart does not prevent them from underperforming. It might actually be causing it.”

Ashley Merryman sums it up as praise what someone does, not who they are in this Primal Blue Print Podcast. She is the co-author of NurtureShock, along with Po, mentioned above.

She also talks briefly about whether its ok to tell girls they are pretty; clearly don’t want to do it a lot, but a sometimes may be ok…interesting!

I’m sure I’ll continue to tell my girls they are beautiful, but maybe not as much:) and of course, need to work on praising effort!