Solve for Happy by Mo Gawdat

PART ONE

Chapter 1 – Setting Up the Equation

  • Happiness is the absence of unhappiness
  • Happiness your default state
  • Success is not an essential prerequisite to happiness
  • While success doesn’t lead to happiness, happiness does contribute to success.
  • Keep a diary, document every instance when you feel happy, using the following prompt, “I feel happy when _____________.” …When you’re done, at least for the first pass go back and highlight a few items that, if you were forced to set priorities, would be at the top of list of things that make you happiest. Those make for a valuable short list…Work on your list at least once a week, adding things.
  • Happiness happens when life seems to be going your way. You feel happy when life behaves the way you want it to… Not surprisingly, the opposite is also true: unhappiness happens when your reality does not match your hopes and expectations…Which means that if you perceive the events as equal to or greater than your expectations, you’re happy – or at least not unhappy.
  • Once the (negative) thought goes, the suffering disappears.
  • Is the thought, not the actual event, that’s making you unhappy.
  • If events remain as they are, but changing the way we think about them changes our experience of them, could we become happy simply by changing our thoughts?
  • … Most of the everyday discomforts of adult life are not only transient but also useful. The pangs of hunger prompt you to eat. The crankiness of inadequate sleep pushes you to go to bed. The prick of a thorn makes you pull back your finger, and the pain of a sprained ankle prompts you to give it a rest so it can heal… Without pain to help us navigate dangers, we would inadvertently do all sorts of things to hurt ourselves …
  • As much as we hate pain, pain in the discomforts of life are useful!
  • When you experience emotional discomfort, you feel a little bruised for a few minutes, hours, or days, depending upon the intensity of the experience. But once you stop thinking about it, the feeling of hurt goes away. Once time passes and memory fades, you can acknowledge and accept what you’ve experienced, extract whatever lesson you can from it, and move on.
  • When we let it, emotional pain, even the most trivial kind, has the capacity to linger or resurface again and again, while our imaginations endlessly replay the reason for the pain. When we choose to let that happen, that’s when we overwrite our default for happiness, and we set the preference for needless suffering.
  • Suffering offers no benefit whatsoever. None!
  • Happiness starts with a conscious choice.
  • Life doesn’t play tricks; It’s just hard sometimes. But even then, we’re always given two choices: either do the best we can, take the pain, and drop the suffering, or suffer. Either way, life will still be hard.

 

Chapter 2 – 6-7-5

  • Happiness depends entirely on how we control every thought
  • Allow your thoughts to be affected by illusions and you’ll be stuck in the state of confusion.
  • Think negative thoughts in your end up in the state of suffering (unhappiness).
  • Suspend your thoughts by having fun and you’ll find yourself in a state of escape.
  • Think positive thoughts and agree with the events of life and you’ll reach the state of happiness.
  • Rise above the clutter of thought, grasped life what it truly is, and you’ll perpetually live in a state of joy.
  • Our confusion is caused by allusions that we all learn to accept in early childhood. We learn to navigate the world believing the illusions are real. When you allow those illusions to inform your interpretation of the world around you, your judgment will lack objectivity, your attempts to solve for happiness will always yield incorrect results , and the resulting confusion will lead to deep suffering.
  • In the hostile environments our ancestors inhabited, they needed fight-or-flight responses to survive. The basic rules were these: it’s safer to mark something as a threat when it isn’t than to mark something as safe when it’s a threat. And it’s best to do that fast. As a result, their brains handled the information the real world presented to them in a way that was sufficient survival, though it was not an accurate reflection of the truth.
  • We tend to consider the worst-case scenario so that we prepare for it, and we tend to morph the truth so that our limited brainpower can process it swiftly and efficiently.
  • We can miss the distinction between happiness and fun. We swap our true happiness for weapons of mass distraction: partying, drinking, eating, excessive shopping, or compulsive sex.
  • Fun is an effective painkiller because it mimics happiness by switching off the incessant thinking that overwhelms our brains – for a while.
  • With no thoughts, we returned to our default, childlike, state: happiness!
  • As soon as the immediate pleasure fades, however, the negative thoughts rush back in and reestablish the suffering. So, we keep coming back for more.
  • The more intense the high, the quicker the effects will fade and the deeper we will plunge back into suffering.
  • A wise use for fun is as an emergency off switch to allow for momentary intervals of peace so that you can get the voice in your head to chill, Meanwhile interjecting some reason into the endless stream of chatter. Whenever you feel the thoughts in your head getting negative, enjoy a healthy pleasure – say a workout, music, or massage- and that will always flick off the switch… And even wiser use for fun is when you actively schedule regular doses of healthy pleasures …
  • When you see the truth of your unfolding life and compare it to realistic expectations of how life actually unfolds, you remove the reasons to be unhappy and realize, more often than not, that everything’s fine, so you will feel happy.
  • Those who reach joy are not only accepting of life as it actually is, but are utterly immersed in it.
  • And that’s the case with joy. It emerges, first and foremost, from a deep understanding of the exact topology of life. It comes as a result of having analyzed the happiness equation from a 20,000 feet view and completely grasped that life, with its mighty wheels of motion, always behaves as it always has and always As a result, you set realistic expectations; Then, even when life is harsh, it no longer takes you by surprise because you realistically expect a bit of harshness along the path.
  • if fun suspend your thoughts, and happiness arises when your brain agrees with the events of your life, then joy is when thoughts are no longer even needed because the analysis has ended, and the equation has permanently been solved.
  • True joy is to be in harmony with life exactly as it is.
  • You should never settle for anything less than joy.
  • There are six grand illusions that keep you in confusion when you use these illusions to try and make sense of life, nothing seemed to compute. The suffering runs deep and lasts long. Next, seven blind spots delude your judgment of the reality of life. The resulting distorted picture makes you unhappy.

 

PART TWO – GRAND ILLUSIONS

Chapter 3 – That Little Voice in Your Head

  • While having a voice in your head is pretty normal, that doesn’t make it a good thing. You shouldn’t ignore the unhappiness, pain, and sorrow it’s causing us. Should we?
  • If there is one thing that will change your life forever, it is recognizing that the voice talking to you is not you!
  • When you believe that you are your thoughts, you identify with them… What you do with those thoughts is up to you. You don’t have to obey.
  • At its most basic, the brains core task is to ensure the safety and survival of your body.
  • Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, explains this process brilliantly in his best-selling book Thinking, Fast and Slow. He discusses the dichotomy between two modes of thought: “System 1” is a fast, instinctive, an emotional mode of thought; “System 2” is a slower more deliberative, and more logical mode. The presence of these two systems is what leads to you sometimes having two voices in your head. They’re are simply two modes of thought looking at the issue at hand from different perspectives and with varying skill sets, discussing it on the center stage of your head.
  • The more something matters, the more incessant shot will be left out of it very
  • Except your brain as the undisputed leader when it comes to mechanical operations, don’t want it comes to thought, you should be in full control. Your brain’s job is to produce logic for you to consider. When the thoughts are presented, you should never lose sight of the question, Who is working for whom?
  • To function well in the modern world, you need to differentiate what’s working for you from what’s working against you.
  • There are three types of thought that our brains produce: insightful (used for problem solving), experiential (focused on the task at hand), and narratives (chatter).
  • Your brain produces thoughts, as a biological function, to serve you. And discovering that each of those types of thoughts happens in completely separate brain regions means that we can be trained to use one type more than the other period
  • In the absence of a satisfactory response, our brains tend to bring the unresolved threat back over and over in a constant stream of incessant thought.
  • Once an action is taken, our minds focus on the executional elements of what needs to be done, the different part of our brains is engaged, and our thoughts shift to monitor the result of the action rather than incessantly focusing on the same thought.
  • Don’t resist the thoughts that’ll pop up. instead, keep watching them as they roll on through. Observer thought- then let it go and remind yourself that this thought isn’t you.
  • …as soon as you mastered the art of observing an idea and letting it go, your mind will quickly run out of topics to bring up. It can keep going only when you cling to an idea. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your brain becomes domesticated. It’ll slow down it’s wild, aggressive, incessant stream.
  • Start by acknowledging how you feel, the emotion triggered by the thought. Don’t resist it. Let it be. You may want to dig deeper, not an attempt to solve the problem but to try and understand it better period
  • Re-framing the thought reframed the emotion.
  • Start observing the drama. The simple act of trying to trace the emotion to the thought that caused it gives you the breather you need in order to cool down. Focusing on connection uses the problem-solving side of your brain, and so it helps you stop the incessant chatter as it helps you to pinpoint that originating thought. When you clearly observe it, you realize that it’s often not accurate, and certainly isn’t worth the price you’re paying to keep it simmering.
  • If you could prime your brain with any thought you wanted to, why would you prime it with anything else (happy thoughts)?
  • We believe we need a solution for unhappiness to go away, but often the reason we’re unhappy isn’t justified, and therefore there is no real solution for it, just as there wouldn’t be for a false premise. So, the easiest way to become happy is to just be happy. Remove the unhappy thought, replace it with a happy one, and let the rest take care of itself.
  • Your unconscious brain can’t process a negative. In your mind you can simply negate a concept, as in “no suffering.” But your unconscious mind would take that concept and think only of the word it understands – the very word you want to negate: suffering. Instead of negating a concept, you have to replace it with the opposite of that concept.
  • The next time you notice a negative thought in your brain, simply respond with. That’s really all you need to say. As usual, your brain will try to evade the task at first, but if you insist, it will comply, and from then on all you’ll ever need to do is repeat the statement Go get me a happier thought until you get one.
  • Meditation isn’t a lifestyle, though. It’s a practice that prepares you for a lifestyle.
  • The brain is what’s known in computer science as a serial processor, which means it can focus only on one thought at a time. Even though it may sometimes feel like you have a million thoughts in your head, what your brain is really doing is shuffling between them quickly.
  • For the brain, multitasking is a myth!
  • Direct your attention outside yourself.
  • Alternatively, you can borrow from meditation techniques and turn your attention within.
  • Each filter you remove gives your brain something to process and reduce its ability to engage in useless thoughts.
  • So much of your happiness depends not on the conditions of the world around you but on the thoughts you create about them. When you learn to calmly observe the dialogue and the drama, you begin to see the ones and zeros. You can watch your thoughts, knowing that the only power they can gain over you is the power you grant them.

 

Chapter 4 – Who Are You?

  • The Illusion of Self is one of the deepest multilayered illusions humankind has ever needed to decipher.
  • The illusion starts with the belief that you are your physical form. A layer deeper, you identify with a persona that is nothing like you (your ego), and then, at the deepest layer, you get deluded about your place in the world.
  • Your body is the physical avatar that takes you through the physical world, a vehicle, a container. Nothing more. That vehicle, however, is not nothing. It’s important period if you were allowed to own only one vehicle your entire life, you obviously would take care of it, keep it healthy, in perfect working condition, and then you’d make sure it didn’t break or cause you troubles on your long journey.
  • Anything you’ve ever observed isn’t you, and everything that has ever changed in your constant presence isn’t she either.
  • All of our human instruments are tuned to observe the physical world, and you – the real you – is not a physical object.
  • Like the depth of the ocean, the real you is something you’ve never seen. Like radio waves, you don’t have the instrument to receive it. More importantly, because of its non-physical nature, it is not to be seen. Being seen is a characteristic only of the physical world.
  • The real you is unaffected by that physical layer and all that it contains. A sudden loss of status, for example, wouldn’t bother you as much; you would be identifying with the real you and not the temporary illusion of you. With No Fear of loss, then, and with no worries about the future, you would understand that nothing could really hurt you.
  • To reach the state of uninterrupted joy, you need to accept that everything in the physical world will eventually vanish in decay, but the real self will remain calm and unaffected. Connecting to that real self to see through the illusions of the physical world delivers the ultimate experience of peace and happiness.
  • Ego is not used here to mean arrogance but rather to mean a sense of identity, a persona- the way you see yourself and believe (or wish) that others see you.
  • What would happen if we all took off the masks and did the best work we could without pretending to be something we’re not? Would we close fewer deals or invest last? I don’t think so. The work we do, not the mask we wear, is what pushes us forward. In an egoless world where it doesn’t matter how we’re perceived, we would dedicate ourselves to doing our very best and aiming for the best results regardless of how others perceive us. While the ego of a professional is built on making the job hard, often the best results are achieved by doing very little. The best managers, for example, hire talented people and manage sparingly. As the need to pretend is removed, the best professionals often turn out to be those who don’t play that role at all.
  • The egoless child is still calmly sitting inside each of us. Buried in layers over layers of lies, egos, and personas. Happy nonetheless. Waiting to be found.
  • Trying to constantly get approval for your chosen image is a losing battle because the real you isn’t what the ego pretends to be. This makes us unhappy since we’re always searching for the next thing to make the image complete in the hope that people will believe that’s who we are. This will never work for two reasons. First others will rarely ever approve of your ego because they are more concerned with their own ego than with yours. The survival of their ego depends on comparing it with yours. For them to be right you should be seen as wrong; When you’re less, they become more. The second reason trying to get others approval will always fail is because they won’t be approving of you. They’ll be approving of your persona.
  • You’ll never please everyone. Find those who like the real you and invite them closer. All others don’t matter to you.
  • More important, love who you are. The real you is wonderful and calm. The versions of you that you don’t like are actually those personas created by your ego. You are all you’ll ever need – and all you will ever have.
  • You live in a complex web of connections. Every single day, every step you take and every move you make impacts – even if in small ways – the life of everyone around you and perhaps occasionally the live of everything on this planet. This happens while every step any of them takes might affect you.
  • Good and bad are just labels we apply when our minds felt grasped the comprehensive, never- ending movies spanning across the billions of lives and extending all of time. If we could grasp the complexity of the web of perspectives that compose our experiences, we would realize that everything is just what it is, just another event in the endless flow of the big movie that features all of us.
  • Our ego makes us go through life feeling that life is all about “me.” Life gives me or takes away from me.
  • Get real. You are not the star of the movie. Most of what happens around you isn’t about you at all. There are infinite numbers of other movies. In those, if you featured all, you’re just a supporting actor. It would really help your happiness if you started to look at your life that way. Look at the night sky and remember that its beauty resides in its billions of sparkling stars. Of those billions, you are but one.

 

Chapter 5 – What You Know

  • Knowledge is the fuel of civilization. But at the same time, our conviction that we truly know causes us to suffer.
  • What matters most isn’t what you know, but how accurate your knowledge is. To know the wrong thing is worse than not to know it all.
  • Comfort with our knowledge inevitably leads to periods of arrogance. We think that our knowledge is confirmed beyond any doubt and argue fiercely with those who contradict it, only to realize – in the next wave of discovery – that will what we know is not complete and sometimes not even correct.
  • It’s not just arrogance. Sometimes our knowledge is restricted at the most fundamental level, at the level of our senses and by the basic building blocks we use to form thoughts and concepts.
  • Another fundamental limitation on our knowledge is to be found in the very building blocks we use to think and communicate. We use words to define concepts, but there’s no way words can encompass them fully.
  • Once we have a word to describe a concept, we assume that we know that concept regardless of how superficial our knowledge really is.
  • It took me years to learn to acknowledge that regardless of how passionately I believed what I know to be true, I still might be wrong. There is always a chance that I missed out on an important detail, and there is always something more that I don’t know. I’m not always right – that I know to be true.
  • Knowledge is in no way a prerequisite to happiness. Your default state before you had any knowledge was happiness. As a matter of fact, false knowledge is the underlying reason for most unhappiness.
  • If you examine the thought forms that cause you to be unhappy, you’ll realize that they mostly stem from attachments to illusions and false beliefs. The concepts that have the deepest impact on us are the ones we believe most strongly to be true – when they’re usually not.
  • The Illusion of Knowledge is strongly supported by the Illusion of Self, particularly the ego. We identify ourselves with our knowledge. We defend what we know and get offended when it’s attacked. Since what we think is true is often different for different people, the attacks become frequent. It becomes a constant struggle to try to defend an ego.
  • Life, however, sometimes needs to give you a nudge in order to alter your path. It uses a bit of hardship to lead you to do something good.
  • Life isn’t selective when it comes to nudges. While it can nudge harder when there is greater good further down the path, it takes everyone on detours every now and then.
  • When you realize that every seemingly bad event nudged you onto the path of many good events, you’ll reset your definitions of good and bad. The new definitions will help you make amends with the Happiness Equation.

 

Chapter 6 – Does Anybody Know What Time It Is?

  • … We need to ask not “What time is it?” But rather “What is time itself?”
  • …mechanical time is purely a human construct.
  • The math indicates that in space – time, past, present, and future are all part of an integrated four-dimensional structure in which all of space and all of time exist perpetually.
  • According to Einstein, the speed at which you moved affects your experience of time.
  • Time as we generally accept it is an immersive illusion that has very little to do with what it really is or how it behaves.
  • Even within our own species, human cultures differ widely in their views of time. I, for example, grew up in a culture that was more events-based than clock-based. So, I find it odd that countries in the West place such a premium on meetings that begin and end on time. I’ve been in meetings in the United States where everyone starts to put away their papers and get ready to leave as the schedule conclusion approaches, even if a few more minutes might lead to a big breakthrough. By contrast, in the Middle East and Latin America events tend to have a loosely defined start time and continue for as long as they seem worthwhile. If a meeting is going well, it’ll get as much time as it needs.
  • … events-based cultures are more common globally than clock-based cultures. While they may seem laid back in comparison to their efficiency-focused western counterparts, businesspeople in many parts of Latin America, the Middle East, southern Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and Africa are extremely adept establishing social connections and working together. They’re solving for their own definition of success. But as they do, they’re also solving for happy
  • When you scrutinize the thoughts themselves, you’ll notice that very few of them have anything to do with the present moment. They are almost always entangled in the past or busy predicting the future. That’s particularly true of unhappy thoughts. Almost all emotions anchored in the present moment, though, are happy (note that physical pain is not an emotion).
  • The past that we consider such an important aspect of ourselves is really nothing more than a record for moments we call memories. It’s just a collection of thoughts in your brain, and a famously unreliable collection at that. Despite the temptation to see the past as real, it is not. The only time that ever really exists is the moment you experience as now, and once that moment is replaced by the next, we call it the past.
  • Nothing ever happens in the future either. How could it? The future hasn’t occurred yet, and it will only ever will if all its infinite possibilities collapse into a moment that takes place in an instant of now. We can absolutely say, then, that when your thoughts and feelings are caught up in the future, you’re just imagining things!
  • Unfortunately for happiness, your brain is sold on the idea that the next moment is more important than the one we’re in. On the other hand, the moment that had already passed by is more familiar – and therefore perhaps more comfortable – than this one right now.
  • The act of observation requires only simple awareness, but describing it introduces much lengthier thought processes. Still, because you’re limiting those thoughts to describing what you’ve just seen, they’re always in the present tense. They have no past or future timestamps, and as a result they’re smoother and calmer than they would otherwise be.
  • It calms me and reminds me of two important features of awareness: we don’t need thoughts to be aware, just presence; And even when we do introduce thoughts, by focusing them on the present moment we become much less stressed.
  • When you tune into the present moment you accept it as it is. You don’t compare it or judge it, and you don’t wonder how it could be different in the future or better or worse than it was in the past.
  • To make a judgment you need to compare a current observation to one you’ve made in the past. To be anxious you need to think about the future and anticipate that it will be worse than the present. To be bored you need to long for a state other than what’s happening in the present. To be ashamed you need to re-create a moment that no longer exists. To be happy you need to focus on what you want that you don’t yet have. With the exception of pain, no one ever suffered from what was going on in the present moment.
  • When you remove the timestamps from your thoughts, there will be nothing unhappy left to think about.
  • Planning to be on time for a date or to pick up your kids in school and setting aside time for the things that are important to you or examples of clock time. They’re logistical and they’re benign. They help us meet our obligations. They keep us on time.
  • Thoughts in brain time tend to jump from one to the next. They don’t lead to a specific action, and like dreams they’re formless. When you get hung up in brain time you might look up to discover that, according to clock time, the hourglass of your life is much closer to empty than you ever imagined… As long as your thoughts are describing events in the present moment or oriented toward clock time as a way of meeting your practical needs, you’re fine.
  • As far as the future goes, be optimistic, but live now. Take away that thought of what might happen in the future, and it won’t make you suffer.

 

Chapter 7 – Houston, We Have a Problem

  • Our need for security and control is instinctive. In other species, survival is a matter of running when the tiger shows up, but we humans carry the burden of being a lot more sophisticated. We can forecast risk and plan and plan our escape route long before that tiger is even born. We can scan the terrain and identify every possible threat, including those that are widely hypothetical. We can take preventative measures, erect fences, and add surveillance cameras. Furthermore, we can extend our plans to include those we love because we care for them – and because their safety is part of our emotional safety. This very human set of survival skills is partly why we’re still here while so many other species are not. We’re able to take control – or at least believe that we’re in control – while the best other beings can do is react appropriately when the trouble starts.
  • Nassim Nicholas Taleb argues that our blindness with respect to randomness, particularly to large deviations, extends much further than our conscious awareness can even comprehend.
  • Between Black Swans and Butterfly Effects, nothing is under your control.
  • As any successful businessman will tell you, success (which in our case is happiness) doesn’t come from ignoring unpleasant realities. It comes from realism and objectivity and understanding life with all its imperfections. Happiness comes from our ability to navigate such reality based on facts, not illusions.
  • …is there anything ever under our total control? Yes, two things are: your actions and your attitude.
  • … The Hindu concept of detachment, when you strive to achieve your goals knowing that the results are impossible to predict. When something unexpected happens, the detachment concept tells us to accept the new direction and try again. There is no sadness or regret, and no grief over the loss of control.
  • Take the responsible action first, then release the need to control.
  • The quality of your actions should not vary, and neither should your persistence in the face of challenges
  • It is all going to be fine in the end. If it is not yet fine, then it is not yet the end.
  • There is nothing wrong with planning and trying to assume control. The way we react when something unexpected happens is where we go off track. When things change, we react by trying to exert more control in an attempt to get back on track. What we should do instead is look at the current situation with an open, fresh perspective and attempt to use the new events in our favor, despite they’re having taken place beyond our control.
  • When life gets tough, some of us feel that we’ve lost the game and life has won. But life isn’t trying to defeat you. Life isn’t even a participant – the game is yours. Were each handed a set of cards – some good, and some not so good. Keep focused on the bad ones, and you’ll get stuck blaming the game. Use the good ones, and things become better: your hand changes and you move forward.

 

Chapter 8 – Might as Well Jump

  • Many people don’t realize the true extent of their fears, how deep and how wide they are. No problem can ever be solved until it is precisely identified, so the first step to dealing with your fear is to admit that you’re afraid.
  • It’s normal to be afraid. What’s wrong is to behave as if you’re not, because that leads to wrong decisions.
  • Fear isn’t always so obvious. It comes in many different forms. Anxiety is a direct derivative of the fears we let linger. It results from thoughts in our head or from projections of imaginary events. Frustration is driven by the fear that further attempts will not achieve your goal and not achieving it will result in a worse future than simple failure. Disgust is the fear of interaction with something that represents a perspective displeasure or harm. Grief is partially driven by the fear of how life will be after the loss, fear for the safety of the loved one in light of the mystery of death, and fear one’s own death. Embarrassment is the fear of rejection due to one’s past actions. Envy and jealousy are driven by the fear of being less than another. Pessimism is the fear that life is always out to get you, that future moments will be worse than the present. Every negative emotion you will ever feel will have traces of fear all over it.
  • When you find it difficult to admit your fears, ask yourself a different question: Are you free?
  • … Your brain attempts to build a logical construct that hides the real source of your fear, which you’ll find originates from another, well-hidden, deeply buried pain. Our fears are tricky to uncover because they hide and morph… In its purest form, fear is a defense mechanism that is triggered to warn you of proximity to harm. Fear alerts you so you can take the actions necessary to avoid the potential of suffering pain, physical or psychological.
  • So why is it that we don’t usually suppress emotional pain? Because just as is the case with physical pain, our brain uses emotional pain to keep us away from harm. The difference is that physical pain can’t be generated by our brain on demand, but it can regenerate emotional pain by using incessant thoughts. And that leads to suffering.
  • Every new fear causes more insecurity more often. Instead of one fear to deal with, you now have many. The compounded effect is significantly intensified. With more to fear, your brain tries harder to keep you safe. As a result, the vicious cycle continues: more fear calls for more layers of protection.
  • There is no safe model. The harder you try, the more you will fail.
  • Yoda, the wise Jedi master Star Wars, sums it all up in one statement: “Fear is the path the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering.”
  • What keeps us alive and propels us forward is our actions, not our fears. Fear if anything, paralyzes us. It blurs our judgment and blocks us from making the best possible decisions.
  • There are no positive aspects to fear. It’s your actions and not your fears that keep you safe.
  • The thoughts that lead to fear are always anchored in the future.
  • As we get locked in cycles of distress about the future, we forget that fear itself is proof that we’re okay. Think about it, if you can afford the brain cycles to worry about the future, then by definition, you have nothing to worry about right now.
  • The easiest way to short circuit all your brains fear games is this: once you know what your fear is, commit yourself to facing it.
  • Fear Interrogation Questions: What’s the worst that can happen? So what (repeat)? How likely is it? Is there anything else I can do now to prevent this scenario? Can I recover? What will happen if I do nothing? What is the best-case scenario?
  • The cost of doing nothing is often higher than the cost of facing your fear. And when things work out, the upside is absolutely worth the risk.
  • Once you conquer a fear, the test goes away, and you never have to face it again. But if you hide, the test – the fear – keeps popping up to haunt you along your path.

 

PART THREE – BLIND SPOTS

Chapter 9 – Is It True?

  • For millennia, our brains have been equipped with the seven incredible features I’ve just highlighted: filters, assumptions, predictions, memories, labels, emotions, and exaggeration. Yes, these tendencies may have ensured the survival of our species long ago. And our ancestors didn’t begrudge the discomfort those features caused them because they navigated an extremely hostile environment. For them, it made sense to assume the worst because the worst frequently happened…As we developed civilization and drove the tigers away from our cities, swapped our hunting grounds for the jungles of the workplace, clubs, and malls, we have continued to rely on these seven features. Yet we seldom stop to ask how effectively they’ve become in this “alien” environment.
  • In any situation you notice that your brain has a tendency to spot what’s wrong and what can represent a threat. Only a lot less frequently will your brain pick up on what’s right or what’s mundane.
  • Ample research has shown that we tend to think negative – self-critical, pessimistic, and fearful – thoughts more often than positive thoughts. Psychologist Mihaly Csikentmihalyi uses the term “psychic entropy” to indicate that worrying is the brain’s default position.
  • But our biased negativity isn’t limited to the sheer number of thoughts. We also tend to give greater weight to negative thoughts when we make decisions. The work of Roy F. Baumeister, Ellen Bratslavsky, Catrin Finkenauer, and Kathleen D. Vohs shows that people are more likely to make choices based on the need to avoid a negative experience rather than the desire to attain positive outcomes, a phenomenon known as “prospect theory.”
  • We also dedicate more of our brain resources to negative information.
  • … We tend to remember negative traits more easily. As a result, we tend to recall negatives more often.
  • Socially, we tend to offer more respect to those who are negative than to positive folk.
  • We even have more negative words in our vocabulary.
  • Your brain isn’t there to encourage you; It’s trying to protect you.
  • With your brain’s blind obsession to keep you alive, it conveniently ignores what’s blatantly obvious: that the negatives we face are the exception that interrupts the norm of constantly flowing positives.
  • This picture we see of the world is always incomplete because our brain omits part of the truth in order to focus on what it deems a priority.
  • … Your brain optimizes its resources carefully by filtering out details that are irrelevant for the situation at hand. This enables it to focus on the essential data that is critical to the decision it needs to make.
  • Filters are used to reduce our pain or most reactions when what we’re facing goes beyond ability to cope.
  • We sometimes obsess about one thing that makes us unhappy, and we filter out any positive signals that could change our frame of mind. As we do, we let in more and more signals that match our filter and confirm our reasons for being miserable.
  • To make its decisions the brain needs a coherent comprehensible set of information. After filtering out the majority of the truth, the brand then goes on to assume any information that seems to be missing.
  • Our brain makes assumptions to fill in the gaps and what’s the biggest gap? The future. We know nothing about what’s coming. The future may swing a million different ways. Nothing about it is certain, but this won’t stop our brains. They shamelessly fill the gap… Our brain can connect two or more points of data from the past and present to establish some kind of a trend, and then project fictional future scenarios based only on extrapolation. We extrapolate, forecast, and predict all the time, and as our forecasts change our behavior, it frequently delivers what we predicted. The more this happens, the more we start to believe that our predictions are the truth.
  • Our brains then look back to intermix our perceptions of current events with memories from our past… Blinding the current preposition with memories of a previous struggle leads to decisions that are not entirely based on the reality of the current situation.
  • We view memories is archives of past events – of what actually happened. But in reality, our memories are nothing more than descriptions of what we think And because what we think is always distorted by our brain’s blind spots, it’s often not true. We augment those stories from the past, inaccurate as they may be, with the pure reality of the current events, producing a dangerous mix and consider that to be the truth.
  • Your memories are nothing more than a record of what you think happened. They are often not the truth!
  • Memories augmented truth with a series of events from the past. Labels also come from the past but are more potent. They take the form of a simple tag without the memory of a specific event attached. Our brains judge and label everything, then turn the results of such analysis into short codes by removing context and details. They use those labels to enable prompt decisions, but in doing so they sacrifice accuracy.
  • And we miss out on so much reality because the context of labels varies across cultural backgrounds, agents, and to million other variables.
  • While most of our decisions are (ideally) driven by logic, most of our actions are actually driven by emotions.
  • Today, despite the absence of physical threats, our modern brain still won’t allow themselves to sit idle. They keep busy by engaging emotions around imaginary threats. Events that wouldn’t have crossed the mind of our ancestor cavemen now seem to be central to our emotional well-being.
  • We’re often engaged in some kind of emotion and, frequently, several – sometimes contradictory ones – at the same time. Many of those emotions keep us in a state of unhappiness. Yet we keep them active – sometimes for a lifetime – though we don’t always admit to their influence.
  • If the truth isn’t enough to convince us to take action and run for cover, our brains will exaggerate perception to grab our attention.
  • Exaggeration in all its forms inflates our expectations and destroys our satisfaction with life, regardless of how pleasant life may actually be. An exaggerated view is bound to make you unhappy. More important, it’s not even accurate. Exaggeration adds layers of fiction to the reality, and that’s a lie.
  • Shawn Anchor, a professor of positive psychology at Harvard, says, “What we’re finding is that it’s not necessarily the reality that shapes us but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. If I know everything about your external world, I can only predict 10 percent of your long-term happiness. 90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world but by the way your brain processes the world.
  • Seeing the bare truth without assumption starts with parsing out but you can verify with sensory perception. If you haven’t sensed it, then you’re making it up. An easy way to spot the assumptions is to understand the true events in our life are described with verbs as I saw, I heard, I was informed, and I noticed, while stories that we make up use verbs such as I guess, I feel, I assume, I think, and even I’m sure.
  • Keep asking the question “Is it true?” As many times as you need until you realize how ridiculous the statements our brain offers us really are. Keep questioning until you end up with the description of the event that’s a factual narrative, a story that attaches nothing more to it than the truth.

 

PART FOUR – ULTIMATE TRUTH

  • We dwell on the past and worry about the future, while we can influence nothing but the present because now is real. We try to stay in control to make our life predictable, but eventually we get taken over by the black Swans and butterflies because change is real. We resist and disbelieve to no avail because: Every truth happens exactly as expected, even when you least expect it.
  • The truth will set you free, but first it will **** you off.
  • The truth – always – is just a single dot on a long line of infinite possibilities, of which every other point is an illusion. That’s why the truth is hard to find.
  • When you’re searching, some concepts will be easy to pinpoint as an illusion, while others will shine as obvious truths. There are, however, points on the perimeter of the truth where it’s hard to prove either way. This is when you need to make a crucial choice and follow the Golden Rule for Happiness: choose to believe in the side that makes you happy. That side is more likely closer to the truth.

 

Chapter 10 – Right, Right Now

  • Awareness – the sense of knowledge or perception of a situation – is our ability to grasp the world at any given moment. Presence – the state of existing, occurring, or being attentive – is what enables this awareness.
  • Without the intent to be aware, there’s only reception without awareness- a state all too familiar in our modern world.
  • The more emphasis you put on your intention to be aware of, the more you pay attention and the more you perceive.
  • Awareness isn’t a non/off switch. It’s a dimmer switch. When you choose to crank it up, you become more aware.
  • Doing removes your intention to pay attention. If you just stop doing, you will default to being. And being is the only state in which you’re fully aware.
  • All that doing and thinking of modern life leaves no space to let awareness in. By removing the clutter, we become present, pay attention, and start to receive. You cannot fill a glass that is already full. You have to throw away the stale water to let fresh water in.
  • You don’t do aware. You be aware.
  • The four corners of meditation: The world outside. Through sensory input you can grasp the world around you. Perceive the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings of touch. Inside your body. By directing your attention inward, you can become aware of your own body. Become aware of your pains, sensations, breasts, heart be, and so on. You can direct your attention to different parts of your body and feel the life in them.
  • Your thoughts and emotions. When you’re aware enough you can start to observe the dialogue and observe the drama. You can watch your thoughts and emotions as they flow through you and then free to let them go. Your connection to the rest of being. At the highest level of pure awareness, you invite the connection you have with the rest of being: the love you have for the waves of the ocean, the admiration you have for butterflies, and the sympathy you have for your fellow human beings who suffer around the world. Those connections aren’t sensory perceptions of the external world; They aren’t feelings of your own body, and they aren’t thoughts or emotions. They are pure connections that make you feel part of a bigger community that extends way beyond your individual experience of the world.
  • It all starts with making awareness your priority. Be crazy about finding out everything happening around you and inside you. Be curious. Be an Explorer. Be a fanatic.
  • Start a “positive events Journal.” Stay alert all day looking for the good parts. Write them down. As soon as you make them your target, they’ll start popping up all over your day, making it a positive, happy day.
  • The black belt of presence is notice when you’re not aware.
  • Remove the distractions period make it a point to keep your phone in your pocket when you have some quiet time period switch off the radio on your drive back home and spend time doing absolutely nothing instead of sitting in front of the TV… Add “me time” appointments to your calendar, short breaks that give you time to be alone with you
  • Always carry something with you that reminds you that it’s time to be aware…Every time you see it, you’ll remember that it’s time to be still for a short while.
  • Give yourself the luxury of a timeless experience at least once a week.
  • You will be fully present once you remove the connection with time period
  • You can remain aware by focusing your attention on the process of doing, not the end results… The trick is in trying to do everything to the best of your ability. Give every little step all you’ve got and perform it as if it’s the very first time you’ve ever done it. Do it better than you did the last time, and take pride that you do it, whatever it is, really well.
  • Be aware of the journey. This is where all of life happens.
  • Do only one thing at a time. Don’t watch TV while you eat dinner. Don’t spend time with your daughter while “quickly checking your email.” Multitasking is a myth. Be fully present.
  • Whatever you do, give it your undivided attention.
  • Live your life in the here and now, not inside your head.

 

Chapter 11 – The Pendulum Swing

  • Every subtle change reshapes every instance of our unfolding lives. No change is insignificant.
  • … Control is not to be gained at the micro level of every detail. It is not to be found in what I need to do, but rather and how I need to do every little thing I do.
  • Spiritual teachings provide a path that offers a peaceful life. In ancient Chinese teachings, finding a balanced path through the changing faces of life is referred to as the way of the Tao. Buddhists refer to it as that path, and Islam calls it the straight path. Instead of trying to control a million little variables, those teachings recommend that one should simply let most of the events of one’s life seek their own equilibrium… Every factor that affects your life behaves like a swing of a pendulum. As a physical system, a pendulum seeks its point of equilibrium – the point of balance where the pendulum is effortlessly still. You need to exert an effort, apply a force, to take a pendulum out of equilibrium. Once the force is removed, the pendulum will rush back to its natural state, swinging back and forth until it finally settles at the zero point.
  • Extremes exhaust us.
  • In Chinese philosophy, the duo of yin and yang describes how apparently opposite forces are actually complementary, interconnected, and interdependent. Everything has both the yin, the feminine or negative principle (characterized by darkness, wetness, cold, activity, disintegration, etc.), and a yang, the masculine or positive principle (characterized by light, warm, dryness, activity, etc.)…To find a balanced life one should embrace both sides and avoid the extremes of either.
  • In Greek philosophy, this approach to balance was described as the “golden mean,” The desirable middle between one extreme of excess and another of deficiency. Even the most desirable traits should be balanced. Courage, for example, though a virtue, would manifest as recklessness if taken to excess, and as cowardice when deficient.
  • Life can be easy. It’s the path we choose that’s tough.
  • Comparing yourself to others who seem to be doing better is a behavior I call “looking up”, as we look up, we focus on the parts where we fall short period
  • There’s nothing wrong with wanting to advance in life, but looking up, to compare, will end in vain. There will always be a reason to feel that what you may have achieved is not good enough.
  • Try reframing ambitions so the focus is on the goal of becoming a better person regardless of how you compare to others. Even better, Look down. Work hard, grow, and make a difference in the world, but please feel good about yourself. Please stop looking at what you don’t have. What you don’t have is infinite.
  • Looking down helps you appreciate the good things in your life. And it’s not a secret that the feeling of gratitude makes us happy.

 

Chapter 12 – Love is All Your Need

  • Liking, admiring, appreciating, and respecting all different feelings, and they are all different from love. I like and I admire for particular reasons. Love, on the other hand, is just there: unexplained, unsupported by any reason, and unchanging… Love – true love – is real. All other emotions are temporary, they appear when a reason triggers them, and they disappear when the reason goes away.
  • Conditional love is driven by the thought “I love because…,” …In contrast, unconditional love is felt but not understood. It’s generally built on “I love” and nothing more – no reasons or preconditions, no expectations and no demands, and consequently no disappointments. No thoughts! This is the only form of true love. It’s rare to find, but it’s real.
  • This is the reason relationships suffer: they are built on conditional love in an ever-changing world. Expectations of beauty, entertainment value, physical pleasure, and other forms of expectation have become preconditions for love. When the lover changes, the expectations are missed and the fairy tale turns into a nightmare… Unconditional love, on the other hand, withstands every change. It cuts through the Illusion of Time.
  • There is no happiness without love. And while conditional love often causes suffering, true love delivers lasting joy. There is no taking and true love. With nothing to take, there’s nothing to expect and none of the suffering that results from the missed expectations we all know from conditional love. Wanting a reward, gratification, and even just to be loved back are all conditional. I deserve to be loved as a precondition for my happiness is an ego-driven thought just another attempt to prove that we’re “good enough” and so worthy of being loved.
  • “No expectation” never turns into a missed expectation.
  • Love never goes to waste. The more you give it away, the more loved you will feel.
  • Gently remove the mask of ego and love what you see underneath.
  • Nothing causes more unhappiness in the Western world today than the widespread deprivation of self-love.
  • As a success- obsessed society we’ve grown to believe that being average – being like most other people – is not “good enough.” When you think about it, this speaks to a tremendous arrogance in its suggestion that most people are not good enough!
  • Being average feels threatening because it means those who are above average will deprive us of the opportunity to succeed in a competitive world.
  • Pushing oneself unrealistically is a sure way to rack up missed expectations, disappointments, and suffering.
  • … We tend to remember what we don’t like about ourselves and how others criticize us more than what we do like.
  • …surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself. Never let bullies or destructive critics into your life, not even for a minute. Be open to constructive feedback that’s given with love, compassion, and care, but shut out the flatly negative.
  • …remember that no reasons are necessary to love yourself unconditionally. You are not your ego. You’re not your achievements or possessions. You’re not the success status or anything that you demand from yourself as a precondition for self-love. The real you … desires to always be loved.
  • What do you do when you truly love? You willingly give. Giving something to the one you love feels as good as keeping it for yourself. It often feels even better.
  • But do give more than just material gifts. I invite you to give a smile, a word of appreciation, a good conversation, or a compliment. Give love, acceptance, and understanding with no judgment. Acknowledge those who cross your path … Respect your elders … Call those going through a tough time and just listen. Help if you can. Make them feel that someone cares. Treat everyone as you would like to be treated.
  • A life of giving is like a river, fresh, flowing, and full of life, beautiful and happy. Water kept motionless is just a swamp, stale and sad. Which would you like to be?
  • Furthermore, the wider circle in which you spread your gifts, the more your returns will multiply.
  • When we give selflessly, life itself assumes the debt and pays back generously with its unlimited resources. Take it a step further and give someone you don’t even like the gift of a kind word or the gift of withholding judgment, and the virtuous cycle continues.
  • Last but not least, the ultimate form of giving is forgiving those whose behavior doesn’t seem to warrant it.
  • Choose to be kind instead of right!

 

Chapter 13- – L.I.P.

  • Most of us in western- influenced cultures avoid discussing that. As a result, there are many things that we don’t know about it, and that, in turn, scares us more.
  • If we allow ourselves to look closely at death instead of looking away, we might find a meaningful place for it within our lives rather than view it as an enemy at the gates.
  • The uncertainty principle suggests that the physical world – the world all around us – is observer-dependent. Without an observer, in other words, everything would remain a wave of endless probabilities. You and I and every other life-form are not a product of the physical world; It is a product of us, because by observing it, we make the physical world what it is.
  • Einstein’s theory of relativity delivers another mind- bending scientific conclusion: that all of time already exists in a four-dimensional structure called space-time. As discussed previously, the relativity of time means that you and I can have a very different concept of time depending upon our speed, location, vantage point, and various other parameters. Accordingly, the absence of absolute time makes each of our perceptions of the beginning and end of any specific event different.
  • Our mortality, ironically, is a life coach. Before you die, you might as well live a happy life.
  • My whole life and all that I ever called mine is, essentially, a rental. I enjoy it fully while I’m the tenant, but sooner or later, I’ll happily hand it over to another. I find freedom in that. If nothing is mine, then nothing can be lost. So, I let things come and go, and I experience them while they last. I love them wholeheartedly, enjoy them, and make them feel how much I appreciate them until it’s time to move on and let them get on with their own life.
  • Now please consider the following: how different is your life on this earth from a video game? If your physical form – the avatar you used to navigate the physical world – is not the real you, then what difference does it make if you face new few challenges on the way? If the world deprives you every now and then, what impact does that have on the real you, the you in the sofa holding the controller? Regardless of how immersed we get in the game of life, we get through it. We live through ups and downs, some gifts and some losses, but none of it matters because when we focus on the gameplay, every experience feels new, and it’s all fun.
  • When games are too easy, there’s no challenge. It’s slow and boring, and there is no fun in that. Only when the game gets harder do we engage, learn, and develop new skills.

 

Chapter 14 – Who Made Who?

  • When we eliminate the self-referential stories, our brains create about why events happen, we realize that everything happens as part of a highly synchronized universe where specific equations (though not always known to us) always apply.
  • If we don’t know what we’re solving for, then whatever answer we may find will be irrelevant.
  • From a scientific method viewpoint, it’s not possible to prove a negative. This might sound simpler than it actually is…
  • The debate around the question of grand design lies firmly within the Illusion of Knowledge. One side of the debate strongly believes in a divine entity capable of intelligent design, and the other equally strongly believes in randomness. They both “know” their right… Unfortunately, both are wrong! No one can prove conclusively for or against either view. And in math, the absence of conclusive answers, the main premise of our conversation, should turn into a simple matter of probability, a question of which side is more likely to be true.
  • Design is not the opposite of evolution. Evolution can very well be a method of deliberate design.
  • When it comes to understanding evolution, it is mathematically correct assume that a stroke of luck could have created everything, but to say that it did is not a wholly accurate statement – unless, as science would claim, the universe had infinite time to try. And that, unfortunately, is another mega myth… We did not have infinite time! The age of our universe since The Big Bang is approximately 13.7 billion years, and the age of earth approaches 4.5 billion. We know that life – in its most primitive form – started 3.7 billion years ago.
  • Saying that randomness went through every possible configuration until it eventually found a working model to keep, then build upon, is not a plausible story.
  • Now forget about all the evolutionary cycles needed to create your ancestors, and let’s focus on just one of the 20,000 proteins that make up our body. For that single building block to have existed it would have needed to be accurately strong in the exact sequence of amino acids that form its composition, and then it would have needed to fold correctly to find its functioning stable structure. How likely is that to happen due to randomness?
  • I am now convinced that there is designer and that designer sent several messages in the core of several religions. I seek the wisdom in those messages and ignore the parts that got augmented with human interpretations, greed, and tradition.
  • Beyond formal religion, many of what we perceive to be the designer’s actions are hard to explain… Well, I actually believe the designer isn’t running the show at all! The equations he created do. Within that lies the beauty of the grand design and the ultimate truth – and happiness.
  • The results of our own acts should not be blamed on the design.
  • And like a game, life too imposes some rules. Learning to master the game within them, instead of wishing they were different, can indeed take you where you need to be.
  • Focus on your happiness equation. It’s the only one you can fully control. When you compare the events of your life to the expectations you set, please remember that what happens is what’s supposed to happen. Instead of dreading the event, perhaps you should start by doubting the expectations you set because, harsh as that is sometimes: life always meets realistic expectations.
  • Our universe is far too complex to predict. Surrendering oneself to a design that is beyond our ability to grasp is freeing. That freedom is joy. Try to shape your destiny and aspire to change the world for the better. Know, however that your input into the equation of the grand design is limited. Arm with committed acceptance in the instances when a billion other parameters tilt the result away from your expectation. Surrender and marvel at the brilliance of the design and you have the right of your life.
  • … Take what fits you and drop the rest, but know that one thing will always work: to find your peace and joy, reject every illusion and always seek what’s real.
  • Live the truth. Finding joy is truly that simple!
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