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Posts Tagged ‘pleasure’

Who is a visionary person? It could be “someone guided more by ideals than by practical considerations”; or “a person with unusual powers of foresight”; or “a person given to fanciful speculations and enthusiasms with little regard for what is actually possible”, according to the Thesaurus dictionary.Little would be achieved in this world if it wasn’t for people who believe in their dreams, who have an extraordinary ambition and great capacities that lead them to incredible discoveries.

While we do all have a great potential for achievements- the long-term ones that would change our lives and other people’s- we can also use the technique of “vision” to help us with more immediate goals. Coaches sometimes suggest a simple thing to do, and even if it might seem childish to some of you, it is also extremely useful. A notebook with dreams and goals. Or a collage that you prepare yourself, made of pictures that represent what you want to have and then put on the wall so you can see it and remind yourself of what is important or why you are working so hard. It can have the form that is more convenient to you.

What kind of things do people put in their dream notebook? A house, something they associate with health, the photo of the country you want to travel to, the picture of the women whose body you admire and looking at this image will help you to stick with your diet. It can be literally everything!

A similar technique can be used to “anchor” your dreams. Close your eyes and think of something important that you want to achieve. Now, make it precise. Let’s say that you imagine your dream travel to Paris. Imagine the city. Is it day or night time? Where are you? What do you see? What can you smell? Isn’t the weather just perfect? Take a walk. Go to the hotel where you’re staying. Is it a big hotel or a small one? How is your room? Are you alone? Where do you go for lunch? etc. Just get the perfect picture and as if you were a photographer get the images from this travel, make photos, anchor your dream and goal. Since now, every time you will have doubts concerning this travel, every time it will be hard to save some money for this dream, go back to your mental pictures. Remember that you have the freedom to change them, adapt them to new circumstances, but try not forget them- after all, it’s your dream. Go and get it.

picture your dream

picture your dream

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I am well aware of the consequences of writing a post which is meant to make people thinking by criticising all (or almost) that the wealthy and hedonistic societies represent.

I have been confronted this week with the death of my beloved aunt, a 92 years old lady whose life was full of pain, disappointment and difficulties. She was the strongest person I knew.  The generation of my grand-parents, people who participated in the World War II, who fought for their countries, for the freedom for the upcoming generations- these are the strongest, most brave, courageous and kind people I have seen. I tend to think about them as the “lost” generation. They sacrificed their lives, their youth, all they had for what they believed in and for us. If you ask most of them whether they feel like they are a “lost” generation, they wouldn’t understand. You ask them if they can say that they were happy and most of them will answer “yes”. Do they think of themselves as martyrs? Neither.

Now, for me, today’s teenagers and people in their twenties seem like the “lost” generation. No values, thoughtless, interested in getting easy pleasures and fast, we (and this is a generalisation, because I still believe some of us are not “lost” at all) are weak and have what  our grand-parents might have called a meaningless lives. We have no purpose and we don’t look for it. We are less aware of what is and what is not important in life, what we really want, why and what will make us happy. Because we often don’t even know what happiness means.

Our grand-parents gave us safety, comfortable lives, a better world (in the wealthy countries). And still, here we are, wasting all their sacrifices, unable to be happy, even though we have the tools to feel so.

Some of the wealthy societies and life style lead us to:

Low Frustration Tolerance:

Basically, it means that we can’t tolerate, we can’t stand when things don’t go the way we expect them to go, when life doesn’t run smoothly, when we have to do hard instead of easy. This is something that children feel very often and in the process of growing up they are supposed to learn that they just can’t have all they want or that they have to put some effort in order to achieve what they want. Children don’t learn that anymore and, in consequence, when they become adults, they experience the Low Frustration Tolerance.
In practice, it means that whatever obstacle we encounter, we just don’t know how to find a solution and keep in mind the goal we want to achieve. We get angry, anxious, and experience all kind of feelings that impede us to feel good and to concentrate on really important things.

Low Frustration Tolerance often creates procrastination and self- defeating behaviours. We are frustrated with our jobs, with our relationships, with our lives in general and still, we do nothing to overcome LFT. We prefer to stay in what is called the comfort zone. Someone unhappy in his marriage doesn’t do anything to change his or her situation because this would mean stepping out of the comfort zone. This person is used to feel unhappy and what seems worse to him or her is to confront himself with the fear of being alone, of never meeting a true love, of making a huge mistake, etc. Another person can successfully procrastinate any attempt to get fit- just because the idea of exercise is something he can’t stand, makes him feel frustrated. So even though he commits to exercise, he never sticks to his own commitment “because I will fail anyway, because I hate sports”.

A world where superficial actions and immediate pleasures are more valuable than a meaningful life:

People stopped reading true literature. Most of us didn’t have a classic literature book in our hands for years. Instead, we just pick an easy bestseller and call the author a genius. Kids watch on DVDs the adaptations of the books they are supposed to read. All this assuming some of us read more than 2 books per year. All that’s easier, faster and seems like more pleasure is what we prefer.

We use computers all the time, so many of us are forgetting handwriting. If the computer crashes, it seems like the end of the world- we can’t work, we don’t know our agenda, we can’t function properly.

We eat junk food and fool ourselves that we’re cooking. Because we don’t care that the sauce we use for the spaghetti is all ready and has more of E-something inside than natural products. We “bake” cakes and cookies- from a box: just mix everything together, add some milk and one egg, put it in the oven and you “baked” a delicious cake! But does it really has the taste of your grandma’s cake? Is it even close to the taste from your childhood???

We “go green” in so many hypocritical ways- separating some plastic from paper from time to time, using special bags instead of the plastic ones, turning off the light, etc. All of this would be great if in countries such as USA, Canada and Australia it would be possible to live without a car. Not only because of the big distances, but also because of the costs of public transport, its availability (come on, Warsaw’s suburbs have better public transport availability than Sydney’s suburbs!) and the fact that everybody has to have a car. And not just A car, but a big one which polluates 10 times more than most of cars that people buy in Europe. Please, call yourself an ecologist.

Healthy life style? When? How? Going by car to work, from work, to pick the kids from the school and, of course, the shopping centre.

Our superficiality is also reflected in our relationships. When we have problems in our marriage, we can consult some specialist, we are taught to communicate and, still, more than 50% of marriages finish with a divorce. We just give up so easily when the problems that any normal couple experience show up. We don’t know how to deal with difficulties, with misunderstandings, we don’t think about what our values are and don’t know the values of our partner. I am not saying that we don’t try. But are we really trying hard enough?

We don’t recognise happiness:

We want things. Our society is a materialistic one, so it’s natural that we want this or that and that we automatically associate having something with being happy. And then comes the disappointment, because what we dreamed of is not enough. So we want more and more and more… Without ever feeling truly happy for more than a week or two. Our grand-parents couldn’t have all those things. They were more preoccupied about a good health care, getting enough food and a good education for their children. They were more satisfied than we are. Why? Because often our lives, sadly, totally lack of meaning and deeper purpose.

We are not grateful:

We don’t think about being grateful for the things we have. We often don’t even know what we could be grateful for. Those things can be so simple, but we don’t pay attention; the sun is shining for the first time this year, someone unexpectedly smiled to us, the morning coffee we shared with the one we love…

I could keep going on and on… I am not saying that my life is not superficial, that it’s not easy for me to be grateful for what I have, I do have LFT but will try to do something about it. This post is not to point others with my finger, while I think I am different. These are just some reflections that you can agree with or not. And the generalisation is huge, I know.

My questions is: how proud of us would our grand-parents be if they could see what we are doing and how, the poor choices we make and all the great things we have or could have and that we don’t even notice?

recognise happiness

recognise happiness

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Pleasures: i.e. sex without love, eat chocolate, watch your favorite TV show, take a hot bath on a cold day, spend money on new clothes, go to the hairdresser, see a football match, first gulp of a beer when you go out or the first gulp of your coffee in the morning, hung out with friends, etc.

Gratifications: i.e. reading a book, riding a horse, help people in need, spend time doing what’s your passion, to feel the “flow” when working on a new project, play tennis, to have a conversation that leads you to express your ideas and maybe have new ones, etc.

We live in a fast world, the mass consumer society offers us an enormous amount of fast pleasures- fast food, fast sex, fast everything… Is there real pleasure in those fast pleasures? They are immediate, effortless, meaningless. Still, it is pleasure and in some way it does contribute to our general happiness. “We don’t have the time for psychological romance” sings Korn, expressing this very idea of easily accessible pleasure. There is nothing bad in pleasure itself, but according to different psychological studies, it does not influence how happy or sad in life we are.

“These delights are immediate, come through the senses, and are momentary. They need little or no interpretation. The sense organs, for evolutionary reasons, are hooked quite directly to positive emotion; touching, tasting, smelling, moving the body, seeing, and hearing can directly evoke pleasure. (…) The higher pleasures have a lot in common with the bodily pleasures. Like the latter, they have positive “raw feels,” are momentary, melt easily, and habituate readily.”

There is nothing wrong with having fun, experiencing pleasant moments. The problem with them is that their effect is not long-lasting. In order to feel more fulfilled in life, satisfied and happy, we need to experience “gratifications”. I have mentioned some examples above- you know better what is fun for you and you know better what would be a gratification.

According to Martin E.P. Seligman (also quoted above) these are the components of the gratifications:

  • the task is challenging and requires skill
  • we concentrate
  • there are clear goals
  • we get immediate feedback
  • we have deep, effortless involvement
  • there is a sense of control
  • our sense of self vanishes
  • time stops

One does not feel positive emotion during an activity/gratification. “When what you are doing is seamlessly perfect, you don’t need [emotions].” Seligman quotes then Csikszentmihalyi: “pleasure is a powerful source of motivation, but it does not produce change; it is a conservative force that makes us want to satisfy existing needs, achieve comfort and relaxation… Enjoyment [gratification] on the other hand is not always pleasant, and it can be utterly stressful at times. A mountain climber may be close to freezing, utterly exhausted, in danger of falling into a bottomless crevasse, yet he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Sipping a cocktail under a palm tree at the edge of the turquoise ocean is nice, but it just doesn’t compare to the exhilaration he feels on that freezing ridge.”

To have passions, something you are loosing yourself in, enables you to have a happier life. The problem is that wealthy societies do not encourage the individuals to find their passions and experience the “flow” (an activity that makes the time stop). Why? Because it is not the way they will make you spend more money, they need you to consume goods, each day more, if possible. So the mass consumer society “delivers” you almost any imaginable pleasure, immediately, effortlessly.

The key to a happier life would be, according to this theory:

1. achieve consciousness concerning the bad effects of having a life with pleasure and without gratification

2. get the capacity of choosing an action that will bring gratification, therefore, challenge, difficulty, and the great feeling of achieving something (or failing!), instead of choosing an activity that does not even require thinking

The point is to find an equilibrium between the amount of “pleasure” activities and “gratifications.” It is so easy not to have anything that would belong to the second category and, unfortunately, many people spend their lives… fast. And then they don’t understand why there are not happy and what more would they need to make them happy. And they consume even more, possessions and easy pleasures being the only way they know to have a more satisfactory life.

I believe that even an adult can start to look for what his passion might be, if he didn’t have the opportunity to find any until now. It’s never too late, although Seligman points out that “to start the process of eschewing easy pleasures and engaging in more gratifications is hard. The gratifications produce flow, but they require skill and effort; even more deterring is the fact that because they meet challenges, they offer the possibility of failing.”

It’s hard to start, I know- mostly because I never had many gratifications in my life. But I start to see how powerful they are and just want more… The difficulty in searching gratifications might be in how to look for them, the “know how”- where to look, how to know that this is IT- it is a good thing to work on with a life coach. If you are lucky and know what produces “flow” in your life, be so kind an share with us. We are supposed to learn our whole life, aren’t we?

the flow (while bushwalking)

* All quotes come from “Authentic happiness” by Martin E.P. Seliman, Ph.D., Free Press, 2002

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