Enjoy Life

(getting to, the meaning of)






Foreword

Mary Oliver once said: "There is only one question: How to love this world." (enjoy life). And John F. Kennedy stated "No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings." (1963). It's hard to give a better summary of the text below than these two phrases together do.

--
April 2010


Your life

Each (human) life is just a very small journey in the long existence of our immense universe [ref. 5].






According to the "philosophy of the Absurd", the Absurd arises out of the fundamental disharmony between the individual's search for meaning and the apparent meaninglessness of the universe. But, although meaningless, we do enjoy all things which help us surviving, propagating (e.g. raising children) and improving. We (mankind) enjoy it because otherwise we simply wouldn't exist.


The meaning of...

Evolution brought us nature and all living objects within it including ourselves. Nature strives for harmony on every scale. The DNA and associated cell provide the stem element which divides so as to surround itself with something harmonious to itself (more of itself at first). The eventual body seeks shelter and more mass and energy so as to continue the harmonizing effort. A mate is chosen so as to create more entire bodies (propagation). The family produces a community. The communities produce cities. The cities produce nations, The nations produce the Man – the species. Anywhere along that path, any interference is met with resistance and an effort to expel the disharmonious and increase the strength of the harmony within. 


How does an individual know how to sustain/evolve mankind in the most efficient way? There has to be a unified measuring device for all the kinds of human activities to avoid chaos or low efficiency. Because that would eventually lead to the extinction of human being. This measuring device obviously is the feeling of joy, which directs all activities towards the right way. So, we enjoy everything which supports or improves the harmony around and within us. That in turn, leads to propagation and evolution.


Unfortunately mankind developed too fast for evolution to adapt to it. Therefore our measuring device (the feeling of joy) sometimes leads us to wrong decisions. And maybe just as often, our measuring device is right but we neglect it. Human beings are arguably lucky to have their conscious mind to supervise their internal measuring device (joy) while making decisions. If we want to make decisions which result in enjoying life more often, we should make decisions which support or improve harmony. Although meaningless for man, it is the meaning or purpose of mankind.

How to improve harmony in the most efficient way?


Enjoy the present

What would you do if you won the lottery? And what would you do if you only had a few days left to live?

Why would you do things different than you do now? The one thing that limits you most in enjoying life as much as possible, is time. Your time. And nobody knows how much longer his live is going to last. So although you can find many reasons not to 'love this world' it won't help you or anybody else. Every second of being unhappy is one too many, so start enjoying life now:
  1. Become aware of yourself 
    1. relax each and every muscle in your body
    2. empty your mind 
    3. observe yourself, located in our immense universe, as if you watched someone else
  2. Take a slow and deep breath while you look up 
  3. Smile, even if you have to pretend and force it
  4. Hold it for two seconds and breath out slowly while looking around
  5. While you keep smiling, remember something that made you happy
  6. Describe it in detail (say nothing of any pre or post negative concern)
  7. Realize that you are beginning to feel happier
  8. Realize that you feel it now only because your mind chose to do something
  9. Realize that nothing outside of you had any participation in causing the joy

Hopefully you enjoyed the moment. But don't worry if it didn't, it may require a few other steps first.


Allow learning

Albert Einstein said: "We can't solve today's problems with yesterday's ideas." and Chris Argyris extended and clearly described that thought and named it "second loop learning" [ref. 12].

It might feel threatening or embarrassing to change yourself. Especially smart people have a tendency for defensive reasoning, which prevents them to learn from their mistakes [ref. 12]. They learned to win discussions and forgot how to learn from their mistakes. In the same way, many people are successful because of doing a lot of things right and they are successful in spite of some behavior that defies common sense [ref. 20].

If you want to learn, to improve and to enjoy life more often, you will have to break this barrier and start questioning your assumptions, your behavior, your belief and even your instinct.


Focus

Money, power and status are all things for which you depend on others (to give it to you). Thus by striving for these things, you put your luck in the hands of someone else. This often leads to frustrations or if you're very lucky, to a single moment of joy.
Striving for harmony (balance) in everything, including money, power and status is a necessity. The focus however, should be supporting or improving harmony.

Focus on what you, your family, your community or even the world really needs, not on what we want. What do we need? What do we really need? Think of the things you can live without, while preserving evolution, harmony and joy. That's quite a lot, isn't it? Isn't that a relaxing thought? And isn't that thought a huge time-saver? As you don't have to focus on all those things you want, you can put your effort in all those things your family, your community and our world really need in order to support or improve harmony.

Well, that seems to be a simple goal. How can you advance towards it?


Remove obstacles

Joy is what we call the sensation of detecting that we are actually on track and making progress. If we cannot sense that we are making progress, we cannot, except by chemical means, sense any joy at all. Perception of (future) progress valid or not, is absolutely essential. Otherwise, living life would have no use. So we 'just' have to imagine a better future and plan for it. 

But we do not want to just prevent making some error twice, we want to change our behavior, belief or maybe even instinct which led to the error in the first place. For example, our genetic instinct to compete with others and be unsatisfied with our lot, seems to be at odds with being happy. Changing such basic instinct might help enjoying life more often.

As long as you can think, you can improve the way you think. And as long as you can improve the way you think, you can enjoy life more often. It really is this simple:
  1. Awareness
    What negative emotion do you have or did you have recently?

  2. Understand
    Is what we consider true, really true?
    1. Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler (Albert Einstein).
      What assumption, behavior, belief or instinct lead to those emotions? Ask yourself several (approx. 5) times "why?" to get to the root cause. Note that the root cause is often caused by (irrational) fear.
    2. There's always a good reason for your (partly) incorrect assumption. So question yourself for which situation(s) was or is the root assumption, behavior, belief or instinct appropiate?

  3. Influence
    Strive for harmony. Pursue complimentary states. Create win-win situations. What would be your desired assumption, behavior, belief or instinct in this kind of situations? Imagine yourself in a few recent situations where you have had the negative emotion, while keeping the correct assumption/behavior/belief/instinct in mind.

  4. Attend
    Check whether the improvement works out in practice as expected. If not, there's a new opportunity to improve.
When you removed the obstacles which prevent enjoying life more often, there's no reason not to enjoy your life. But how can we improve harmony even more?


Accept the inevitable

Everybody needs some luck. And everybody has some luck. For example the luck to be born, to be born in the right country, to be healthy, to be willing to improve and so on. But unless you're a complete lunatic, you will experience some bad luck as well.

We can't control  everything and we can't solve every problem. Some things just happen. But when bad luck happens, it might help to connect a meaningful purpose to it. Or as Victor Frankl [ref. 18] put it:

"It doesn't matter that much what you expect from life but much more what life expects from you."



Help

Forgetting about yourself helps in getting to enjoy life more often. People are happiest when they are in flow, absorbed, with other people, active, focused on loved one, discovering, learning or having sex. So ask yourself...

What kind of person am I?

What do I like to do?
Where am I good at?

You can always find people to help enjoy life more often (improving harmony). Look for them first within your own family, then within your relatives, your friends, your colleagues and the rest of our nature. You can help no matter what you're good at. Why help? Because you enjoy life more often by doing so.

While doing so you can teach other people (by example) what it takes to enjoy life more often. So you can focus on making others and thus yourself enjoy life more often by advancing towards harmony.

Mind that people can only be helped if they want to be helped. Otherwise, just love them for who they are. If people ask for help, help them by providing the right questions so they can find solutions (often better ones than you had in mind) themselves. Help them imagining a better future.



References

1. Goldratt, E.M. Theory of constraints. 1999.
2. Collins, J. Good to great. 2001.
3. Krishnamurti, F. Think on these things. 1964.
4. Fisher, R., Ury, W. and Patton, B. Getting to yes. 1991.
5. Bellinger, Gene. Systems Thinking:
Mental model musings. [Online] 2004.
6. Bolles, R.N. What color is your parachute? 1998.
7. Rath, T. Strengthsfinder 2.0. 2007.
8. Zubizarreta, R., Lynn, J. and Atlee, T. Tao of democracy. 2003.
9. Goldratt, E.M. and Cox, J. The Goal. 1986.
10. Liekens, P. Gevangen in de taal. 2005.
11. Safranski, R. Nietzsche, een biografie van zijn denken. 2005. Pg. 333.
12. Argyris, C. Teaching smart people how to learn (HBR). 1991. See also "Good communication that blocks learning"
13. Agyris, C. Overcoming Organizational Defenses. 1990.
14. Carroll, L. Alice's adventures in Wonderland. 1865. Chapter 6 (Alice and the Cheshire cat).
15. O'Connor, J. and Seymour, J. NLP Introducing Neuro-Linguistic Programming. 1990.
16. Weinberg, G.M. An Introduction to General Systems Thinking. 1975.
17. Covey, S.R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People . 1990.
18. Frankl, V.E. Man’s search for meaning. 1984.
19. Dalai Lama and Cutler, H.C. The art of happiness. 1998.

20. Goldsmith, M. What got you here won't get you there. 2007.

21. Zaleznik, A. Managers and leaders: Are they different? 1977.
22. Goleman, D. What makes a leader? 1998.
23. 英文 著,《吃、喝、穿、住、其他:康乐简则》, 2005, Jerry&Harry /He Co. ISBN 978-0-9771-8610-5. (To be published in English ( W. Ying, “Eat, Drink, Wear, Dwell, etc.: An Easy Rule for Happy Health” ))
24. Dawkins, R. The selfish gene, 1976.


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