Is happiness a zero-sum game?

Why do we often treat happiness as a scarce resource?

Why do we approach our capacity for happiness as if it’s constrained, instead of wildly abundant?

Why do we frequently behave as if someone’s else’s success, joy or good fortune has anything to do whatsoever with our ability to experience contentment or equanimity?

Why do we let someone’s social media exploits ever make us feel bad about ourselves?

Your happiness doesn’t undermine mine. Nor does it limit it.

It’s never useful to compete on happiness.

The fact is there’s more than enough to go around.

Happiness compounds and expands. And we all rise with the tide.

Conversely, I should never derive happiness from another’s misery. There is no joy to be found in knowing the hole is on your side of the boat.

We’re all in this together.

It’s time to act like it.

What better time than now?

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h/t to Sharon Salzberg for inspiring this post.

That which we worship

“What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or for restoration.” – Greg Beale

The word “worship” most often has a religious connotation. But we can revere, adore, exalt, venerate and glorify many things beyond whatever concept of a Higher Power we have–or don’t.

We can worship money.

We can worship being right.

We can worship a bigger house filled with more and sexier stuff.

We can worship the demonization of people different from us.

We can worship busyness.

We can worship expanding and protecting our ego.

And on and on.

Of course we can also worship compassion.

Or generosity.

Or acceptance.

Or forgiveness.

Or love.

The thing to remember is that which we worship is a choice, each and every day, in the present moment.

The other thing to remember is that, ultimately, we become what we worship.

 

I’ll see it when I believe it

If we start with the premise that we are a failure, it’s easy enough to notice all the supporting evidence.

If we reflexively lean toward the narrative that a group of people is to be feared, than everyone who resembles them–or who has a “funny name”– starts to look like the enemy.

If we begin with the fundamental notion that we live in an world of scarcity, than we can only see that our gain comes at someone else’s expense.

And, to paraphrase the old saying, if we believe that we have the right hammer–and it’s our only tool–than all we see are an awful lot of nails that need pounding.

Of course we can choose to believe that we are enough, that we have enough, that we do enough. And then we start to see someone who makes mistakes, not is a mistake.

We can decide to believe that all human beings are born good and inherently worthy of dignity and respect. And then we bear witness to our common humanity and find ourselves standing on the side of love and forgiveness more often than the side of hate and judgment.

We can believe in a world of abundance. And slowly, but surely, potential reveals itself and a veritable banquet of possibilities emerge–none of which require us to beat out anyone else.

The stories we tell ourselves matter.

Believing is seeing, not always the other way around.

What we believe, we become.

 

H/T to Brene Brown and the late Forrest Church

A version of this post originally appeared at http://www.stevenpdennis.com

Wabi-sabi

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetic concept that finds beauty in imperfection and the universe’s natural cycle of growth, decay, and death.

Embracing wabi-sabi means eschewing the unnecessary, getting rid of the clutter and valuing authenticity above all else.

Wabi-sabi requires us to accept the reality that nothing lasts, nothing is ever truly finished, and nothing is perfect. It requires us to not only believe that this is okay, but to see that there is great power and serenity in the practice. It points us to the notion that imperfection is an incredible gift.

For me, it is precisely my wrong-headed attachment to the concept of perfection that keeps me spinning and stuck and caught in my fear of shipping.

For me, I can easily get distracted, adding needless complexity to a project or adorning an idea with superficiality, when it’s more than good enough just as it is.

For me, it’s so easy to see the risk in being wrong, without seeing the greater risk inherent in my inaction and the uselessness of endless worry.

When I inject wabi-sabi into my creative process, I produce more and stress less.

When I embrace wabi-sabi I am unleashed from the shackles of thinking for thinking’s sake.

When I practice wabi-sabi I am able to fail better.

And that’s perfect enough for me.

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A version of this post originally appeared on my business blog.

When we live in fear

When we live in fear we spin endlessly in worry about the future, rather than seeing the beauty and potential available to us right here, right now.

When we live in fear we assume the immigrant is coming to take our job–or even to kill us–rather than appreciating that they might be the next Einstein or Hamilton. Or that they are simply deserving of compassion and safe refuge.

When we live in fear we cling to the false idolatry of perfection, rather than celebrate our inevitable mistakes, our rough edges, the cracks that let the light in.

When we live in fear we seek validation from others, rather than accept our inherent worthiness and warmly embrace our differences.

When we live in fear we only see the worst case scenario, rather than have faith that we can handle just about anything that might come our way.

When we live in fear we are alone, disconnected, detached, instead of being held safe in the knowledge that we are all in this together.

When we live in fear so much of our energy is wasted trying to control the uncontrollable.

When we live in fear our starting point tilts toward hate, not love and toward revenge, instead of forgiveness.

When we live in fear we see change as the enemy, the dragon to be slain, when dropping our sword, taking off our armor and letting down our guard might just allow us to tap into a world of abundance and unleash a little bit of magic.

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Holy stuckosity Batman!

“Stuckosity” isn’t a real word. It can’t even be found at Urban Dictionary. Well, at least not yet.

But certainly most of us are familiar with the quality of being stuck. Perhaps you’re feeling it right now.

We get stuck telling the same old stories about ourselves that are familiar, but serve no useful purpose.

We get stuck trying to solve problems with the same level of thinking that got us into trouble in the first place.

We get stuck defending the status quo, even when we know it’s not working.

We get stuck in self-righteousness, which almost never changes the other person’s mind or behavior, but frustrates us to no end.

We get stuck fighting reality, re-litigating the past, trying vainly to predict the future.

We get stuck striving for perfection, when perfect is both impossible and, ultimately, only a recipe for suffering.

We get stuck waiting for precisely the right time and to be fully ready, failing to see that those exact conditions will never ever come.

We get stuck in relationships because we fail to speak our truth and ask for what we want and need.

We get stuck unleashing our full potential because we wonder how other folks will judge us if we were to go out on a limb.

And on and on and on.

The key to getting unstuck is to first see it for what it is. And most of the time our stuckness is merely our habitual reaction to an irrational fear; to a fundamental misunderstanding of risk.

Once we become aware that staying in our fear–and being unwilling to let go of our story, our need for control and our desire to be right–is actually the most risky thing we can do, the door is cracked open to change.

Once we we accept that our behavior is simply habit, the debilitating result of a lifetime of bad conditioning, we can work to establish new, more healthy and useful ones.

Once we are committed to take action, we are finally free. Free to start before we are ready. Free to embrace failure as a natural outcome of growth. Free to be okay with our imperfection.

And that’s good thinking Robin.

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This post also appeared on my business blog at http://www.stevenpdennis.com

Alternative facts and the reality distortion field

“I dream of a world where the truth is what shapes people’s politics, rather than politics shaping what people think is true.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

Waking up to a life of purpose, passion and love requires the ability to separate the truth from the lies and to discern the underlying essence of deep meaning from a false narrative merely perpetuated by ego. The moment we begin to cling too strongly to a story, particularly a story shaped (marred?) by our personal attachment, is the moment we risk veering down the rathole.

Steve Jobs was famous for what was both affectionately and derisively known as his “reality distortion field.” The RDF was a term first coined by one of Jobs’ colleagues to describe the Apple leader’s uncanny ability to, as Wikipedia describes it, “convince himself and others to believe almost anything through a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, appeasement and persistence.” Whether highly calculated or borne out of subconscious habit, the effect was to manipulate his teams to accomplish things they did not think possible. Of course the RDF can be a force for good or evil.

Today we see another leader trying to push an agenda of “alternative facts” and to create his own RDF. People of integrity and substance are rightly seeing through the veil of deceit and calling bullshit.

Of course, more common, but just as pernicious, are the lies, distortions and manipulations we foist upon ourselves and those with whom we are in relationship.

We may try to impose an alternative reality upon a loved one out of fear or simply to advance our own selfish agenda; unaware of how that ultimately serves neither of us.

We may fail to confront the authenticity of our own pain, thinking we can go around it, rather than through it. Spoiler alert: we can’t.

We may tell ourselves we are unworthy of love, when nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s important to recognize the distinction among facts, perceptions, beliefs and interpretations. They are all valid and they each serve their own unique purpose. And context matters.

Yet neither our own personal growth nor the good that needs to be done in the world is served through a failure to confront reality, the perpetuation of delusion or the encouragement of false narratives. Depending upon the circumstances, ignoring this can create minor annoyance or have outcomes of great consequence. As Voltaire once opined: “those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we can do this to ourselves as well.

The best time to stop the nonsense was before it even started.

The second best time is right here, right now.