As if managing our busy lives isn't enough, we're now increasingly asked to manage ourselves. The words 'happiness', 'self-awareness' and 'mindfulness' have become so popular that people throw them around without thinking. Lunchtime yoga has become a norm in corporate offices. I once worked at an insurance company that encouraged staff to take 'mindfulness walks' in nature to build resilience and self-awareness.
I actually believe this is a very positive development and it shows a tremendous shift in human consciousness. A shift that has happened quite rapidly, I must say, if we compare this with other shifts that happened in the history of humankind.
However, I can see that many people - especially those who don't naturally live and breath the concept of mindfulness - how these people are confused and annoyed.
What are we supposed to do? Yoga during lunchtime? Sit down and self-reflect before bedtime? Experience strong emotions? Or not experience any strong emotions?
What is good for us? Being assertive or surrendering to life? Vulnerability? Resilience? How are these connected?
One thing that we all know for sure is that we all want to achieve some happiness in life. We want to be happier. Full stop. And mind you, this is not an ultimate goal of some ultimate happiness that happens to us and we then stop longing for more. The happier we become, the more we want. This is natural I guess.
‘True happiness’ means different things to different people. For some people true happiness is all about strong emotions. Strong positive emotions of course.
The trouble is that strong positive emotions are always coupled with strong negative emotions. It’s like seesaw - ups and downs all the time. Yet, if we never experienced the seesaw, how do we know that being balanced is good?
For me, true happiness is all about balance. Balanced emotions, balanced mindset, balanced actions. No emotional drama please, I’ve had enough. Is balance reachable? Absolutely. Is it easily reachable? Not quite, but that’s a different story. And no, balance isn’t about suppressing emotions and negative thoughts.
Part of being balanced, for me, is removing our internal ‘hooks’ that other people and circumstances use to cause emotional reaction from us. The more ‘hooks’ we remove from our mindset, the more unaffected we feel. Balanced = unaffected. We can still tell toxic people from nice people, yet we don’t feel affected by toxic people. Therefore we can act with balance around toxic people.
Who am I?
So before even trying to manage ourselves and our lives, it'd be good to understand - who am I? What do I feel like right now? Becoming more balanced because I'm sick and tired of experiencing emotional drama all the time? Or perhaps I've been too logical and reasonable all my life and I genuinely want to know what passion feels like, what danger and risk feel like, what insane joy feels like?
Internal hooks, negative thoughts, strong emotions and unbalanced actions - all too confusing. Add to the mix other people and situations when life just 'happens' to us, and it all becomes too much to manage. Now, how can we make all these work together?
All good things in life work in collaboration
Collaboration is about working together to produce something. It’s simple: two people working separately can produce something good. Chances are that the same two people working together will produce something much better. Because they will put their different ideas, approaches, energies, skills and backgrounds together, and therefore the quality of the final ‘something’ should be better.
Logic and emotions
Our logical rational mind and our emotions work in different ways and are there for different purposes. We are responsible for making them work together, in collaboration. Not suppressing one at the expense of the other. I don’t know who is worse off - the cold rational person who suppresses their feelings, or the purely emotional person who never uses logic.
Adding intuition to the mix
I’ll be brave and suggest that we could also use our intuition, in addition to listening to our logic and our emotions. Intuition is the tiny quiet soft trustworthy voice deep inside us that many people either can’t hear or choose to disregard. Some people also call it the voice of our conscience that often tells us the uncomfortable truth.
I’ll be even braver and suggest that if we have become sufficiently self-aware and balanced so that our intuition’s voice has become stronger and louder, we can often rely mostly on intuition when making important decisions. Yes, surely there’s a place for logic and emotions, but mind you they start playing more of a support role (the mind supplying facts about the situation, much like Google, and emotions telling us how we feel about it). Yet, the intuition, if it’s developed and with a strong voice, provides clear immediate and trustworthy indication of where to go and what to do.
Choosing suitable actions
Yes, suitable. Not too reasonable or logical, not impulsive or too emotional. Suitable is key. Suitable in this particular situation at that particular time, suitable for me and suitable for others. Actions that are taken to achieve a specific result that would be best for all, if at all possible. Actions tailored to provide maximum effect with minimal effort. By effort I mean my own emotional drama and emotional drama for others involved. Less moral damage, more kindness, but not so much kindness that we take away other people's free will.
How are suitable actions selected? Only based on logic, emotions and intuition working in collaboration. Logic or emotions on their own can't produce actions that are perfectly suitable in that sense. They simply don't have enough facts or sufficient experience to be able to do so. Our intuition probably could produce suitable actions, but how many of us can boast having an intuition that powerful?
Yet actions that are balanced and suitable for a particular situation and achieve maximum positive effect for all involved - these are the actions that start re-shaping our life and bring us more positive experience. We bring less pain into this world and the world smiles back at us. If we do that continuously, the world will continuously smile back - more and more.
So making our logic, emotions and intuition work in unison is the best thing we can do to ourselves to start achieving a happier life.