Everyone wants to live a happy and fulfilled life.
So I went on a quest to find experiences that can boost life satisfaction.
Out of all the emotions and experiences, I found two phenomena that stood out the most. They both can boost your life satisfaction and make you lose the perception of time.
1. The State Of Flow
The concept of flow was introduced by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi.
Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
To enter the state of flow, there are three conditions that need to match.
Clear goals and progress
Clear and immediate feedback
There must be a good balance between your perceived skills, and the perceived challenge at hand.
If your skills are better than the difficulty of the task, it leads to boredom. And if the difficulty of the task is more than your skills, it leads to anxiety.
You have experienced flow when you were so immersed in an activity that you forget the notion of time and space.
The best ways to find flow in your everyday life is while working, learning or playing. Just make sure to clear away all the distractions that may come during the peak state.
When you’re in the flow, you’re fully focused in the present moment. You lose the notion of time, space, and consciousness. You feel in control and confident that you can succeed. The activity becomes the reward as you gain the intrinsic motivation to perform the task.
According to Steven Kotler’s talk, when you get in the flow, your prefrontal cortex shuts off. So you no longer process time or make complex decisions. As a result, you get tremendous liberation. Your risk-taking, self-confidence, creativity, and productivity goes through the roof as you feel a sense of freedom.
2. The Feeling Of Awe
Awe is a magical phenomenon when you feel a mix of emotions such as curiosity, wonder, amazement, beauty, surprise or insignificance. It’s when you experience something beyond your understanding so you simply surrender to the feeling.
The feeling of awe doesn’t necessarily make you smile. You feel its presence when you feel something greater than yourself. In that moment, you lose yourself and your silly worries about your life.
Humans evolved to feel awe to help us transcend and live for a greater purpose than just surviving. In the past, we could not understand the science behind natural phenomenon so the concept of religion and god was invented.
Now, we have understood a lot more. But the side effect is that we are losing touch with awe. We stay stuck in our digital devices and the stress that comes with the corporate jobs.
You can get the benefits of spirituality without following any religion by bringing back awe in your life.
According to a research at UC Berkeley, awe even has anti-inflammatory effects on your body. Researchers found that feeling the beauty of nature, art, and spirituality lower the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
“Awe, wonder and beauty promote healthier levels of cytokines suggests that the things we do to experience these emotions — a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art — has a direct influence upon health and life expectancy,” — Dacher Keltner (Psychologist)
Elevated levels of cytokines are associated with poor health and conditions like type-2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, alzheimer’s disease and clinical depression. Awe can help you prevent such conditions.
Children are masters at experiencing awe. For them, everything is new, surprising, amazing, and beyond their understanding. But we get used to what we see and experience every day. So we travel to new locations in the hunt of the same feeling.
Awe is one of the biggest reason we go on vacations or trips. We want to see monuments, natural environments, museums, and culture that are novel and leave us awestruck.
Besides traveling, you can also experience awe in your day-to-day life. Watching something great is not the only way to experience awe. You can also feel it when you think something and feel profound.
Take An Awe Walk
Get in nature and look around. You will find awe in every direction. Zoom in and notice the small details happening which you might not have noticed before.
The small buds coming out of the soil.
The tall trees which older than you.
The birds singing the songs.
The animals or insects working hard to find food.
Butterflies roaming around the flowers.
The sunshine touching your skin.
For once, forget all your worries and get lost in the moment.
There is nothing new about these sights. They happen all the time. The beauty is in the eyes of the watcher.
Watch Nature Documentary
A Research conducted by the scientists at Coventry University found that watching nature documentaries may be as good as meditation or mindfulness for wellbeing.
Nature documentaries are a shortcut to explore nature or animals on our planet. We used to have a deep connection with them before we built our own habitat — cities.
Feel your body. Notice your breath, heartbeat and other bodily sensations. Think about how hard your body is working to keep you alive.
Notice your thoughts and emotions. You are breathing. You are alive as a human. You can think. You can move your body at your own will.
Just like you can zoom in, you can also zoom out and see things from a higher perspective. Look at the sky. Notice the stillness and the shapes of the clouds. Think about your size compared to the size of the universe.
Feel Your Food
Notice the texture, color, shape, and smell of your food. Think about how the food will provide you energy and nourishment. Think how hard the farmer worked to grow the food for you. Then, somebody packed it and brought it to your nearest store. You had the convenience to get it whenever you wanted. And now, you or someone else cooked it for you before it landed on your plate.
Read or watch engaging stories.
Watch awe-inspiring photographs or paintings in a museum or on the internet.
Listen to beautiful pieces of music. Close your eyes and lose yourself in music you find inspiring or euphoric.
Flow and awe are the two ways you can experience life beyond yourself. They will help you make the switch from the complaints and boredom that comes with the daily life to a life full of appreciation and excitement.
It doesn’t mean it’s made of plastic. What I mean is that it can change throughout your entire life.
Neuroplasticity is how we learn new things and train our brain to think or act in a way. Whenever you learn something new, the brain forms new connections between neurons (the brain cells).
Each time you practice or revisit your learnings, the connection becomes stronger as it becomes part of your thought process. The information then transfers into your subconscious mind which works even when you’re sleeping.
“Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality.” — Earl Nightingale
Like we practice skills and train our muscles, we must constantly train our brain to perform at an optimal level.
1. Stress Tolerance
Keeping calm under pressure is a skill which can be developed. Most people can’t handle stress and when they face high-stress situations, they burn out and make poor decisions.
If you develop stress tolerance, you not only stay relaxed under such situations, you can use the stress for high performance.
Not all stress is bad. The good stress, called as eustress is often acute. It helps you grow and achieve life satisfaction. Distress, on the other hand, makes you worry or anxious. Chronic distress can lead to a wide range of health problems.
Another difference between eustress and distress is how we perceive the stressor. With eustress, we associate the cause of stress to be helpful. Distress makes us feel terrible, and it leads to burn out.
Yerkes and Dodson created a curve and stated that we need the right amount of arousal for optimal performance.
The amount of arousal depends on an individual so you must find your own balance. Try to stay within your range and if you have to go outside your comfort zone, use your superpower of stress tolerance followed by a period of recovery. Don’t fear stress. Visit the discomfort zone and face stress when it can help you grow.
To increase your stress tolerance, perform High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), take cold showers, speak in front of public or take challenges outside your comfort zone.
2. Mental Stability
We are emotional creatures. One nasty comment from a stranger can easily ruin our day. This is where mental stability comes into place.
Everyone has a threshold after which their mood turns down. But, like any other mental skill, mental stability can also be trained.
To increase your mental stability, notice how you react to negative events or thoughts. Keep a mood log if you have to and notice how you allow outside events to ruin your mood.
I know it is hard to stay sane especially when people who are closest to us upset us. It is normal to have a few expectations from close relationships. But, each time you get upset, remember it is your problem that you set the expectations in the first place.
Besides, people are too busy to think about the consequences of what they do or say to you. They often don’t even realize how some actions or words can harm us. In an ideal world, everyone should behave in the best way with each other but we are not perfect. We all make mistakes. Some people realize it and some don’t and it’s okay if they don’t. There is no need to hold grudges.
Maybe someone was going through tough times when they misbehaved with you. Give people the benefit of doubt for your own peace of mind. Be empathetic and look things from their perspective. Most things won’t matter in the long term. You always forgive yourself in the end, so why not forgive others? We all are humans, after all. Be kind, forgive, and move on.
Stop blaming other people and take full responsibility for your expectations. If they don’t meet your expectations, lower them down. And if they do better than expected, be grateful.
The same goes for life. When life is good, be grateful and when it throws unexpected challenges at you, respond with kindness and take it as an opportunity to train your mind. All your life, you’re either at peace or you’re training your mind. Both are necessary and good for you.
There are plenty of reasons why our mood worsens, but the principle remains the same. Identify the cause, adjust your reaction, and choose to look at the brighter side.
Stop judging yourself, other people or your life situation. Choose love and kindness. Love life as it is. Love yourself as you are. Love others as they are.
Don’t put the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket.
3. Passionate Work
Life’s drama steals many people’s vision from them. But the drama is not the enemy, it’s rather your friend. It’s a test you must pass to prove how strongly committed you are. If it were easy, everyone would get what they visualize — like magic.
Law of attraction says you get what you focus on. While it can be true, I don’t agree with it 100%. It’s not a law. We hear the law of attraction success stories only from the people who succeed. Nobody knows how many failed while using the law of attraction.
So, instead of thinking of it as a law, think of it as a principle. It’s a tool. It can be true if you work hard enough to reach your vision. Focus on your number one goal and give your 100% to it.
Practice excellence. Give 10x efforts. Keep commitments. Be on time. Do what you said you’re going to do. Focus.
Remind yourself what success means to you. Set daily intentions and take regular actions even if the steps are small. And most importantly, enjoy your journey by celebrating small wins.
Don’t chase vision as a means to happiness. Escape the rat race. Happiness is now. Reaching your vision will only amplify your sense of fulfilment. Make your journey the reward and you will never waste a day of your life.
Trust that everything is happening for you.
Trust that everything will be okay.
Trust in your ability to figure things out.
Trust in the higher version of yourself. You’re much more capable than you think you are. You can develop any skill you want. You can improve no matter where you are in life.
Trust alone is not enough though. In his book, Good To Great, Jim Collins explains the Stockdale paradox, and it goes like this:
“You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties. And at the same time… You must confront the brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Be brutally honest with yourself and do whatever it takes to turn your dreams into reality. Work on your strengths, fix your weakness (if you need to), and make the sacrifices you need to make.
Take bold steps and keep moving forward to build self-efficacy. Silence the naysayers (including your stupid mind). Learn skills and get feedback. Never stop growing.
Fear is the enemy of trust. Fear keeps you in a prison and stops you from following your heart. Don’t let that happen. Trust.
The beautiful thing about following your heart is that whether you succeed or you fail, you always become someone you never expected to become in your comfort zone.
By visiting the discomfort zone and failing a million times, you become a different person. Your character transforms. You gain clarity on what you want to do in the future.
Patience is the ability to persevere even when things take longer than expected.
Life has its own way. Sometimes, you’re surprised by your performance and other times, you get disappointed due to unexpected obstacles in your way.
If you stay patient, you can achieve anything you wish because you’ve made a pre-commitment and you can’t back off no matter if it gets dirty, boring, or harder than expected. You’ve burned the bridges and now the only option you have is to stay patient and keep taking action.
You can practice being patient by fasting, performing endurance activity or meditating.
Be resilient, be relentless, be determined, be stubborn, and never give up.
Your purpose in life is to create yourself, become better, and have the courage to be yourself. But, your life mission is different from your purpose.
Your mission is how you serve the humanity. It does not matter how small or big your mission is. It’s your duty to serve to the best of your ability as you can.
So often we make everything about ourselves. We focus on our goals, our growth, and our happiness. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But, if you never take out the time to help, support, and serve others; you will feel disconnected from the world.
Even after reaching big accomplishments and titles, you will remain unfulfilled. So be part of a mission and contribute. Give, give, give and when you’ve nothing else left to give, give more.
Giving involves donating your time, money, attention or energy. And when you’re giving, don’t keep a score of how much or how many times you’ve served.
Practice being in giving mode. When you give, give with all your heart with zero expectations of getting anything in return (not even praise, love, attention or affirmation).
Self-awareness is one of the top skills you need to live a complete life and mindfulness is the essence of awareness.
Being aware requires practice. Take notice of what you’re thinking. Observe how you think, feel, and act in response to different circumstances.
What biases do you hold?
What logical fallacies do you fall for?
When do you misbehave?
What triggers negative thinking in you?
Mindfulness not only helps you to become aware, it also builds your focus. You get better at concentrating on the task at hand. As you get better, you identify when you get lost in thoughts and you direct your attention back to the task.
The best way to practice mindfulness is meditation. You can also practice it during short periods of mundane tasks such as washing dishes, cleaning, cooking, eating, drinking or walking.
With mindfulness, you’ll feel, think and see what most people never experience in their lives. It’s easy to get lost in the busyness of life. But, it requires wisdom and a child-like perspective to switch to the beauty filter of life.
Always do the right thing. The ‘right’ thing depends on your principles and values. To develop integrity, the first step is to define your guiding principles and values in life.
Once you’ve done so, act accordingly even when no one’s watching. You can fool other people but you can never trick yourself. Be a hero in your own eyes.
Integrity makes you an authentic man or a woman. Being authentic doesn’t mean you never lie to people. Sometimes, you have to lie for the welfare of others and yourself. But you must never lie to yourself.
Practice integrity every day when you get the opportunity to make a reasoned choice. Examine your actions and ask yourself if you did the right thing. Are you acting on impulses? Or are you acting in alignment with your principles and values?
Who doesn’t hate rejection? We are wired to avoid rejections because we used to live in small tribes and getting rejected from a tribe could be the difference between life and death.
Today, the situation is different. There are plenty of people on Earth and through the internet, we can reach more people than ever before. If we were to seek approval from everyone, we’d end up miserable.
Remind yourself that there are many people just like you. Find your community and stick with them. You don’t need the opinion of people who don’t matter to you.
Besides, every rejection is not about you. Even you can’t accept every request from everyone, right? So, expect to get rejected and be okay with it. With rejection, comes feedback or a lesson. Take it and trust that there are better things waiting for you.
Practice rejection by using your negotiation skills every once in a while. Difficult conversations have high chances of you getting rejected.
People talk about minimalism a lot. Most people associate minimalism with owning less stuff, which is true. But, there’s more to it than that. It also means letting go of emotional attachments.
Letting go is hard. But it’s part of life. The sooner we learn it, the better off our life will be. Things, people, happiness, sadness, pain, love — all come and go. Life gives what we need at the right time. Accept the gifts from life and learn to let them go.
Start by letting go of small physical and digital stuff. As you practice the skill, you’ll be able to let go during the hard times in life. Let go of the people or stuff that no longer serves you. Let go of distractions that stand in the way of your vision.
When you get good at letting go, you don’t rely on things to be happy. You stop dwelling on the past. You become less anxious about the things you can’t control. You’re able to release the toxic thoughts and emotions from your mind. You become independent. You become free.
If you want to work hard, you must learn to relax and recover. If you don’t recover, you will burn out, perform poorly at work, become a workaholic, and cause serious damage to your wellbeing or your relationships.
I see relaxation as an art. It takes skill to quite down and truly enjoy the time without being ‘productive’ for a while.
On the other hand, some people overindulge and lose track of the purpose of relaxation. Then, they crave even more rest because they start getting addicted to it.
You must find the right balance and take the right recovery dosage you need. Find out what relaxing means to you and make sure your method recharges your batteries.
Another important skill to practice for recovery is your humor skill. Don’t take things personally, find silly reasons to laugh, and make others laugh without insulting anyone.
Lastly, some of the best ideas come up when you’re not working. Allow your mind to wander. Take inspiration from different sources. Train your mind to think divergently. Let your mind wander by setting it free.
“Busy your mind with the concepts of harmony, health, peace, and good will, and wonders will happen in your life.” — Joseph Murphy, The Power of Your Subconscious Mind
The school never taught us how to train the mind for optimal living. But, now you know what skills you can teach your brain if you keep practicing the skills in your day-to-day life. These skills are:
Be honest with where you are at right now and start making progress. Save this post, set a reminder and revisit it to reflect on your progress. Keep reminding yourself of the skills and live your legendary life.
If you’ve lost a relationship in the past, write about the beautiful time you spent with each other.
If you stress about work, write how your work is serving other people.
If you don’t like your coworker’s behavior, write about one positive thing about that person.
Shifting perspective sounds easy. But it’s not.
It takes practice.
This is why I want you to do this exercise right now. Once you do this exercise, your mind will remember it.
It will become part of your thinking process. Whenever you think of a negative thought, counter it with a positive one
Nervous about giving a speech in public? Think of the positive impact you will make.
Lost money? Think of one thing you have remain.
Feeling jealous? Appreciate one thing about yourself.
Make it a habit. Give yourself a one day challenge to balance your thoughts.
The aim is to make this habit part of your subconscious. Once it has become part of your thinking process, you will shift your perspective like Tony Robbins does.
Tony says we live in either of the two mental states — A beautiful state or a suffering state.
A beautiful state is when you feel love, joy, gratitude, awe, playfulness, ease, creativity, drive, caring, growth, curiosity or appreciation.
A suffering state is when you feel stressed out, worried, frustrated, angry, depressed, irritable, overwhelmed, resentful or fearful.
“A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.” — Mahatma Gandhi
Tony was not born optimistic. He practiced it. He put in the effort.
You can do the same.
Your thoughts are the roots of your destiny. Your next action results from your next thought. You owe it to yourself to improve the quality of your thoughts.
“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” — Lao Tzu
Do the exercise and give yourself a one day challenge to get started.
It takes a cue, routine and a reward to form a habit. The cue here is an automatic negative thought (ANT), the routine is a positive thought to balance it out, and the reward is how you feel.
Repeat until it becomes part of your thought process.
Comment below and let me know how it goes.
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When we were kids, we needed permission from parents, teachers and other elders.
When we grow up, we seek permission from our bosses and authorities.
Our mind is conditioned to ask for permission. But to unlock your full potential, you must learn to give yourself permission and become the owner of your life.
When you take complete ownership of your life, you are in charge of your life experiences. There is no space for blame or excuses.
Many people give keys to their life in the hands of other people or they themselves become the prison guard. They forget that they have the key to unlock the full potential of their life.
I’m here to remind you the permissions you must give yourself.
Give yourself permission to succeed
You are capable of accomplishing great things. But first, you must allow yourself to be successful.
Some people are afraid of success. Some people think that being successful means making a lot of money or being greedy. Such mental programming has to leave your mind.
Success is subjective. You have the power to define your own criteria for success. It could be being a good husband or wife, having a smile at the end of the day, having the freedom to travel the world or taking small steps towards your goal.
No matter what success means to you, you must own it and live up to it. Forget about what society’s definition of success is. Write your own definition and move in its direction.
To make success a habit, set more behavior-based goals instead of outcome-based goals. For example, if you want to lose weight, define success by making the right food choice instead of the number on the weight scale. If you keep succeeding at the behavior-based goals and move in the right direction, the outcome will follow.
Start now. No matter how small the first step is. No matter how slow the progress is.
By default, life has no meaning. But if you strive for greatness, you can give your life a purpose.
Give yourself permission to fail
A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.― George Bernard Shaw
Failure is a form of learning.
I don’t know why schools punish failure.
Failure is not a prerequisite for success but it amplifies the success. By making mistakes, you not only learn, but you build a character that transforms every other area of your life. Your mindset changes. You embrace success more because of the effort you put in.
If you let go of the fear of failure, you will not be afraid to explore the possibilities of your life. You will become limitless because you know that making mistakes speeds up your learning and results in growth.
Allow yourself to be imperfect. Put your product or craft in public. Embrace feedback.
All the newsflash, magazines, social media feeds show us the faces of successful people. It seems like they are the perfect people living a perfect life with zero flaws. But in reality, they are like you and me. They just keep on learning from failures.
In the world where success is preached, don’t be afraid to look like a fool. Failure is not a scar on your self-esteem. It’s a battle scar you can be proud of.
Give yourself permission to be yourself
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
When we fake our identity, we try to live up to the fake version we show to the world.
It’s stressful to live up to people’s expectation of who they think you are. On the other hand, if you be yourself, the right people will attract in your life and you won’t have to put energy into showing a fake version of you.
The first step to being yourself is to accept yourself. It means not only accepting the good parts but also accepting the flaws in you.
The reason why we put on a mask is that it is our instinct to get accepted in communities. We could only survive if we were part of a group. The outcasts were rejected and they could not live long.
But today, when you have access to so many people, you don’t have to fear people’s rejection. You will always find like-minded people if you express yourself as you are.
Let go of all the emotional baggage. Forgive yourself and move on. All you have is today. You get to define your future and it can only be great if you stop hurting yourself with the pain of the past.
From today, you can control who you want to be. Define your values, set goals, follow your passion and stay true to yourself.
Don’t be afraid to change. Raise your standards and if you have to, let go of your past identity and change the people around you.
Learn to say no to the people or experiences that do not to appeal you. Life is too short to be inauthentic.
I can’t give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time. ― Herbert Bayard Swope
Give yourself permission to be happy
You deserve to be happy now.
You don’t need to wait for the next paycheck, vacation or a soulmate to be happy. So often, we spend our lives thinking about the time in future when we will be happy.
Even after getting what we want, we get hedonically adapted to the gifts in our life. It’s okay to desire more success but first, you must learn to be happy with what you have.
Happiness is a skill. If you can’t be happy today, you won’t be happy tomorrow. To develop the happiness skill you can practice gratitude and mindfulness.
Take a break and do things that you find fun or relaxing. You don’t have to pretend to enjoy the activities that other people might like.
Create a bucket list of the life experiences you want to have and live those experiences. Nobody else will give you the permission to live your life the way you want.
Another way to be happy is to help others. Kindness not only makes the world a better place, it lets you see past the problems you have in life.
Give yourself permission to feel crappy sometimes
The acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience. ― Mark Manson
No matter how much you try to avoid the negative emotions like anger, frustration, sadness, jealousy, etc., you will feel them sometimes in your life.
You don’t have to feel bad about feeling bad. It’s okay to feel that way.
It’s in nature of humans to feel emotions. Instead of resisting such emotions, just observe when they arrive. When you acknowledge them and treat them as a guest, they will leave sooner than you expect them to stay in your mind.
Emotions are beautiful. They help us to deal with hard situations. Become aware of your emotions and soon you will return to your default positive state if you practice the skill of being a happy person.
Don’t let negative emotions define you. Identify yourself as a happy person and treat negative emotions as something you feel temporarily.
The key to your best life is in your hand. Unlock the life you deserve to live because your life matters.
Give yourself permission to succeed, fail, be yourself, be happy and feel crappy to achieve your full potential and live a fulfilled life.
When I was a kid, I used to get angry all the time. I had no control over my emotions and I let my emotions rule my actions and thoughts. Everything I did was based on an impulsive emotional reaction. As I grew up, I learned to control my emotions and now I try not to let anger control me.
We are emotional creatures.
Our actions are not only determined by our thinking, but we transition between different moods and emotions.
Most of the time we let our emotions guide or control us. Sometimes, it leads to a good outcome but at times, it can also lead to an undesired outcome. We then regret our actions which were based on short lived negative emotions.
We all know the power our emotions have on us. But what if we switch it the other way around? What if we use emotions to empower us in the way we want?
Most of us develop a constant personality. Some people are perceived to be funny, some are serious and some seem to be always smiling.
Every emotion has its place and time. Preserve your feelings and channel them when you need them. An overdose of any emotion can result in undesired outcomes.
If you stay happy all the time, you’ll hide and suppress all your negative emotions which are unhealthy for your mental and spiritual health.
If you stay funny all the time, you might not take some things in life seriously and not take actions that you need to be taking.
If you stay angry all the time, well, you know the consequences.
Every emotion has its use and all of them are natural. So instead of masking our emotions or keeping our emotion same, we can start to channel our emotions according to our needs and situation.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, bring positivity to life and smile.
If you’re taking life too seriously, bring humor to life.
If you’re working out at the gym, bring anger to life and switch to the beast mode.
If you’re about to do something outside of your comfort zone, bring courage.
If you’re feeling uncertain, turn it into positive anticipation and embrace the current situation.
If you’re feeling hatred, bring love and kindness.
So I invite you to try this technique out. Don’t let your hidden emotions poison you. Channel them and take them out when the right time comes.
Instead of letting your emotions guide you, guide your emotions as you need them. A simple hack you can use to make it easier for yourself is using music. Have different types of go-to music for different situations that will help you shift your emotions when you need or don’t need one.
Emotions are your friend. Use them wisely and your life will be much better.