Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Why do people who get everything become the most unhappy?

A young lady asked a great question recently:

“Why do people who get everything become the most unhappy?”

She went on to explain,

“My friend is spoiled. She's not a brat and doesn’t have a bad attitude and I wouldn’t call it depression or anything as she's usually super happy but then when she does get sad she says she's missing something. And she's not the only friend like that. Why do spoiled people think they're missing something that'll make them happy?”

Here is my response:

This is an excellent question, Jessica!

It appears that in Western society we're led to believe that if we have more material possessions it will somehow make us feel more fulfilled inside. If we have a bigger TV, a better car, more jewellery, fancy clothes, etc., we will somehow miraculously feel happy - and that's not true at all!

Of course having "some" money and possessions can make our lives a lot easier and less of a struggle but possessions themselves do NOT make us happy inside. Fact.

Sadly, a lot of people spend their lives trying to obtain more and better material possessions in the hope that it'll make them feel happy and fulfilled (like the TV adverts tell us they will) and they then neglect the things in life which will genuinely help them with their happiness.

There is much research and discussion about what makes us feel "complete" (i.e. like we're not missing something) but generally having a sense of purpose and belonging are key to this. A few years ago I read a great book called Dare to Connect by Susan Jeffers (Piatkus Books, 1995) which helped to get me on the right track to start to understand this.

Please do feel free to talk to me about this if you want to discuss it further.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

"We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

ALAN! Who the f**k is Alan?!

You know what a Mexican wave is, right? Where the crowd in a stadium creates a wave effect by standing up and raising their arms then sitting down again, in turn? Well, I found a different version of this at The Big Chill festival this weekend.

I can only imagine it all started when someone wandered off from his group of friends and they were trying to get his attention to rejoin them. It probably began with one friend shouting, “Alan!” and when Alan didn’t hear the others joined in. Passers by, thinking it would be either helpful or amusing joined in too and for some reason this caught on and, in no time, people throughout the entire festival were shouting, “Alan!” just once each which created a wave of sound rippling through the crowds, even reaching the far corners of the campsite.

But it didn’t just happen once. Every now and again somebody would start the Alan game again and within a minute or two it had rippled around the festival grounds, each of us yelling, “Alan!” at the top our of voices and then collapsing into laughter and, like a baby playing peek-a-boo or a dog chasing a stick, we didn’t tire of it and it was fun every single time, even at 3am, tucked up in our sleeping bags, trying to sleep; we’d hear the Alan wave approach, yell, “Alan!” then there’d be giggling from all the surrounding tents. Genius.

But it begs the question: Why did we join in?

Because it allowed us to be silly and childish and playful without the fear of being frowned upon
Because each of us aches to belong and feel connected and this daft game connected us almost instantly to 30,000 people
Because sitting in the countryside and yelling at the top of our lungs is brilliant stress relief

How often are we allowed to shout? Not often really if at all and it’s only a sidestep from singing (loudly!) which we can sometimes get away with.

So, what have we got here?

Silliness – by letting go of our inhibitions
Connectedness – by joining in with others
Stress relief – by letting go of our voices

This reminds me of the famous quote (which I happen to have on my Facebook page):

“Dance as though no-one is watching
Love like you’ve never been hurt
g as though no-one can hear you
Live as though heaven is on earth.”

Thanks, Alan. (Whoever you are!)

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Words of wisdom

"When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom: Let it be."

Well, not exactly; I'm not a religious sort and although my mother *is* called Mary, it's not about her either, but I think there's a lot to be said for these wise words.

Life can be stressful and difficult and I wonder, wouldn't we be bored if it wasn't? But it's necessary to evaluate a situation and decide: Does it matter?

Small case in point, recently a colleague missed the check-in for her flight by only two minutes and called me in some distress from the airport. She was clearly very upset firstly because she feared she'd miss her meeting with her client and, secondly I imagine, because she knew it would cost the company a fair amount of money to rebook her non-flexible flight. I can fully understand her frustration; she had given herself plenty of time but the public transport had been unreliable resulting in her narrowly missing check-in. I've done this before, missed a train to see my family in Yorkshire by three minutes due to unreliable public transport, even though I'd given myself what should have been more than enough time. I was going through a difficult period of my life and I remember the sinking feeling as I saw the empty platform, the worry I felt that I wouldn't get to see my family and the annoyance at having to pay a small fortune for a replacement ticket for a later train. I stood in the station and cried with frustration and helplessness and imagine that's pretty much how my colleague felt standing on her own in the airport.

My train experience was five years ago and I drew on it to assist my distressed colleague. Within 15 minutes I had booked her onto a new flight leaving in a couple of hours and I also emailed her to say, "C'est la vie. Don't sweat it, nobody died. In five years you probably won't even remember. ;o)" I hope that helped her to relax about a situation that, in the grand scheme of things, doesn't really matter. Yes, some money was wasted which is not ideal but it's a mere irritation and can be written off as "one of those things".

There are quite a few books telling us the same thing ("Don't sweat the small stuff" by Richard Carlson, and "F**k It: the Ultimate Spiritual Way" by John Parkin to name two) which for all intents and purposes teach us: When things seem a bit sh*t and out of your control, step back, put it into perspective and, where possible, just let it be.