Us bipedal naked apes like to think that we own the planet. After all, we build cities, conquer natural forces, and create music videos. But are we really the smartest? Here are few animals that might give us a run for our money:
- Octopi. Octopi are one of the coolest pets you can have. There are also among hardest to own and the most expensive. An octopus can escape just about any habitat. If you leave an opening large enough for it’s hard beak, it will find a way to get it’s entire body through. Octopi have the ability to mimic creatures like coral and flounders. They also are able to unscrew jars and complete human-like cognitive tasks. Some biologist pose that the only reason octopi haven’t “controlled” the Earth the way that humans have is because their lifespan is only two years. (Global domination is hard in just 24 months.)
- Dolphins. Dolphins possess incredibly high Emotional Quotients and can read emotion on humans better than many humans! They also are able to use despite not having opposable thumbs. Dolphins are known to teach each other how to use sponges to protect their snouts as they forage on the seafloor.
- Elephants. Elephants have incredible memories, being able to recognize and remember people from decades ago. Some elephants have been known to recognize themselves in the mirror. Even more astounding is that their ability to sense each others’ emotions are postulated by some to be even stronger than that of humans. Elephants communicate through vibrations in their feet and convey emotion very effectively this way. Elephants are quite altruistic too. They console fellow family members and even help other species in times of need!
Octopi, dolphins, and elephants might not build cities or speak English, but that doesn’t mean they are any less smart than we are!
“The squeaky wheel get’s the grease” may be one of the worst sayings in the English cliche box. It’s created a society based on complaining to get things. We learn from childhood that those with problems get special attention from teachers and parents. As we mature into adulthood we find that we can get our peers to give us attention, whether in the form of pity or recognition by talking about our personal challenges, past hardships, and “how tough our life is.”
Even to say that things are going well we tend to use phrases like “can’t complain,” “could be worse,” and “same stuff, different day.” Choice of words is more significant than many realize. Culture creates language and language creates culture. We live in a culture of complaining.
The “Self-Help” section in the bookstore is another example. There’s nothing wrong with improving yourself. In fact, personal development is one of the most exalted ways one can use one’s time. However, calling it “Self-Help” suggests that the person needs help. If you approach improvement from the “needs help” angle, you’ll always see yourself as broken.
You don’t need help. You aren’t broken. Your life isn’t bad. You are already perfect and you have everything you need. Don’t question whether or not life is good. Recognize that it’s good that you are alive! That’s the only way for you move up.
Most people don’t actually try to improve their situation, they just try to “fix problems.” When their problems are fixed, they get upset then create more problems. The worst part is our “squeaky wheel gets the grease” culture rewards people who have problems. We idolize those who go from terrible to good. Few recognize good to great because many are bothered. People hate being reminded that they can be doing better. You don’t have to be one of them. Stop squeaking. Make your own grease.
So you want to find your flow, huh? You want an autotelic personality? Here are the ways to start finding you bliss.
Curiosity is one of the markers of an autotelic person. To be interested is one of the markers of happiness and meaning in life. Autotelic people tend to find interest in everything. More than just superficial viewing, they want to learn, experience, and understand on a deep level. For instance, they don’t just watch a sporting event. They will watch figure skating and appreciate every nuanced movement. They will watch basketball and want to go try the same spin move. They don’t settle for just being spectators. Do you know who else is like that? Kids! Kids are naturally curious, naturally autotelic, and tend to find fun in many moments. That’s because kids are born experts on the next step…
Playing is doing something for it’s own intrinsic value. We don’t need to earn or win something to play. Play itself is worth it. We know this as children, but as we grow up, we transition from “Desire-oriented” to “Production-oriented.” We are taught that adults must “be productive.” To do something for the sake of production, some external value, is work. Yes, as an adult you must work. You must be productive. You also must remember that the reason you work to be productive is so that you have the means in life to play. That’s the meaning of life. Alas, you can’t play all the time. In times of necessary work, you must learn to…
This man loves his job
FIND HAPPINESS IN EVERY MOMENT
Autotelic people have chores too. Only they tend to not complain as much about it. Autotelics know how to turn work into play by finding what’s fun, interesting or challenging about a task. We’ve all seen people in mundane occupations who somehow are able to find pride in their work. Don’t they seem happier? The skill of finding happiness every moment allows a person the level head that lend itself to courage for the biggest piece…
MOVE TOWARDS AROUSAL (FEAR OR EXCITEMENT)
Fear and excitement are the same emotion packaged differently. As we mentioned in the Flow post, flow is when high challenge meets high competence. Autotelic people consistently take on challenges that bring them to the edge. Fear is the marker of what will bring you to your edge. If you want to find flow, you must move towards fear.
In our last post on the subject of flow, we mentioned the autotelic personality as something to be strived for. Flow is the most rewarding state to be in. Therefore, the more often you’re in flow, the more enjoyment you’ll get out of life.
She is not thinking about her tax return right now.
“Autotelic” means “having purpose in and not apart from itself.” To be autotelic is to do thing for the intrinsic value rather than to do something for a rewards. This is one of the requisites for being in flow. As mentioned in the last post, one should not mistake intrinsic value for pleasure. Flow does not have to be pleasurable. A good example would be a rock climber. A rock climber isn’t necessarily feeling pleasure by climbing rocks. Rockclimbing can actually be quite frightening. However, while climbing, the rockclimber is totally immersed in the rockclimbing activity. He or she can’t think about bills to pay, or stresses of life, or whether or not the stove was turned off. The high challenge of rockclimbing requires full attention, and therefore complete immersion. This immersion is flow. This flow is easily found by the autotelic person.
“An autotelic person needs few material possessions and little entertainment, comfort, power, or fame because so much of what he or she does is already rewarding. Because such persons experience flow in work, in family life, when interacting with people, when eating, even when alone with nothing to do, they are less dependent on the external rewards that keep others motivated to go on with a life composed of routines. They are more autonomous and independent because they cannot be as easily manipulated with threats or rewards from the outside. At the same time, they are more involved with everything around them because they are fully immersed in the current of life.” -Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
The “Flow” Chart
Flow, as defined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is the state of full immersion. It’s simultaneously blissful and exciting state of being where one is utilizing the most potent parts of the mind and body without anything extraneous.
This occurs when a high level of skill meets a high level of challenge. Without a challenge, we don’t get excited. Without the skills to conquer the challenge, we get anxious. The state of flow is the place to live for maximal enjoyment of life.
Enjoyment is not the same as pleasure. Flow is not necessarily pleasurable. Pleasure is simply positive stimulation. It doesn’t excite us. It doesn’t immerse us. Enjoyment does. Enjoyment is the feeling of fulfillment. Fulfillment, as in it fills us full. The effects of enjoyment are long lasting. Enjoyable activities are the ones that we look at years later with pride. We don’t look back and pat ourselves on the back for pleasure. It’s sugar high of empty calories. We can bask in pleasure in the moment, but it leaves us hungry after. No one has looked back on their lives and said “Gee, I’m so glad that I let myself sleep in so many times and eat so much ice cream.”
One must remember that important note in that flow doesn’t have to be pleasurable. In fact, when we’re not used to finding our flow, the most flowful activities may seem the opposite. Public speaking is a source for flow for many people. Most don’t realzie it because they perceive the potential for flow as fear. Fear and excitement are two sides of the same coin. The only difference between fear and excitement is whether or not we approve of the aroused feeling in our bodies. When first met with a high challenge, we often won’t know what our skill level is. We don’t know if we’ll fall into Anxiety, Arousal, or Flow. The only way to give ourselves a shot at Flow, is to meet every challenge whenever possible. As we train ourselves to move towards fear, rather than away from it, we can train our personalities to achieve flow faster and more often. A personality that finds flow easily, is known as an autotelic personality, and will be the subject of the next post.
autotelic personality to strive for.
Last night was the New Moon Solar Eclipse. If you believe in astrology, that means it’s a great time to start a lifestyle change. If you don’t believe in astrology, it’s still a great time for a lifestyle change. (Really, any day is a good day to improve yourself.) The way in which we improve our lives is habit. Habit is the most powerful factor in effecting our behavior. Even against our conscious thought or external factors, we most often revert to our habits. Therefore, it’s a good idea to make sure your habits are good ones.
“The victory of success is half won when one gains the habit of setting goals and achieving them. Even the most tedious chore will become endurable as you parade through each day convinced that every task, no matter how menial or boring, brings you closer to achieving your dreams.”
― Og Mandino
Habits build on momentum. Even adding a new habit, itself is a habit. Start small. Pick something that’s exciting, but doable. If you are bored by the idea of the habit, its probably too small. If you are stressed by the new habit, it’s too big. If you’re new to habit building, some good ones to start with are: flossing, getting up a a little earlier, stretching before bed, not swearing, doing a kind deed for someone.
The habit must have some sort of significance to you. Don’t do something for the sake of doing it. What’s the result that you desire? Better health? Better relationships? Being more productive? It really doesn’t matter what the habit is. What matters is why you want it. At those critical moments where you’re tempted to cheat, you’ll need a good reason to pull through.
Habits are an excellent way to improve your life. The results aren’t immediate, but when they become natural (that is, when they become a habit,) the benefits will be both awesome and long lasting. Go ahead. Make it better!
You won’t find the moon in the sky tonight. This is because today is the New Moon. The New Moon is the first phase of the moon cycle where the moon and the Sun are on the same side of the Earth. The moon “appears” black, rather, it’s invisible since none of the Sun’s light is reflecting on the side of the moon that we can see from Earth.
The New Moon carries more significance than being dark and the title of one of the “Twilight” book/movie trilogy. The New Moon is the beginning of the lunar calendar. The Chinese calendar, which is lunar-based, uses the New Moon as the first day of month. Chinese Buddhists typically do not eat meat on the New Moon as part of cleansing. In many traditions and beliefs this signifies a new beginning, rebirth. In the Hindu tradition, observers wait till the New Moon to start new projects. There’s fifteen new moons in a calendar year, so that’s fifteen projects per year if you believe in that.
Even if you don’t care for the astrological significance, it’s still a nice marker to start something new. We’re very focused on milestones to start things. How often do we wait for January 1st to apply a resolution? Instead of waiting 7 months for a big resolution, you can try starting something new this month. It’s much easier to apply a lifestyle change for a lunar cycle. Twenty-eight days is much less daunting. What habit would you like to pick up this month? What project would you like to start?
Adding a small improvement every cycle can lead to a significantly improved life over time. We improve best using incremental changes. Next post we’ll go over the power of habit. Decide to improve something this moon cycle. At the very least, you can let the moon cycle have a meaning for you.
Have you ever noticed a dog shudder? Almost all mammals, including us humans, will shudder from time to time. Shuddering is not just a random body movement. Actually, there are very few “random” body movements. Almost everything we do has an important purpose. Sneezing and coughing expel germs from our bodies, yawning helps bring oxygen to the brain when we’re tired, and shuddering prevents trauma.
Trauma occurs anytime that an action gets interrupted. For example, if a dog sets the intention to run after a ball, it’s neuromuscular system is activated to run till the ball is reached. If something were to startle the dog, the activation of it’s body would be unfulfilled and would sit as trauma in the dog’s joints. The dog must shudder in order to relieve the activation. If the dog doesn’t either eventually complete the action, or shudder the activation off, the activation will damage the dog’s neuromuscular system.
The same goes for us human beings. Humans are the only animal that won’t let itself shudder because of “pride” and “consciousness.” Yes, it’s not as often that we are derailed from chasing a ball, yet we still are susceptible to effects. The saddest part is that this kind of “ambition trauma” is that we can usually control it.
How often do we desire something then don’t let ourselves have it? The vacation? The ice cream? The attention? These desires we have, big and small are the same as the dog wanting to chase the ball. If we let these desires go unfulfilled the sit and fester in the backs of our minds and can reveal themselves at the most inopportune times. If you couldn’t confidently ask for a raise, it probably means you didn’t believe you deserved it. You didn’t believe you deserved it because you let yourself have the things you want. If you won’t give you what you want, why should your boss give it to you?
Yes there plenty of good reasons to deny a desire. Maybe you need to be frugal. Maybe you don’t have time. Just be aware of the trauma. There is of course a second way to deal with it…shuddering. We’ll go over that in the next post.
Yesterday was a huge holiday, I’m sure you missed it. It was The International Day of Idleness. Yes, that’s a real thing. In 1966 in Argentina, The World Tramps Congress (also a real thing) named May 2nd as the International Day of Idleness as a response to May 1st being Labor Day. Essentially, it’s a day to do nothing.
You probably didn’t do nothing yesterday, as it was a Thursday. Thursday being a normal work day for the rest of the world, and the Day of Idleness not commonly recognized, it was probably quite difficult to do nothing. You also probably didn’t know about the holiday. It’s ok. On behalf of the World Tramps Congress (which I don’t believe exists anymore,) I forgive you.
Taking a day to do nothing is more than lazy defiance to the working world; it’s extremely healthy for your mind, body, and spirit. In our current age of extensive technology and instant communication, you mind needs a break sometimes. Having a day to clear out can allow you to resharpen your mind. That’s why we have a weekend in our seven day week. Your body also needs rest and idleness. Exercising too much without adequate rest can actually destroy your muscles.
Finally, you need a rest for your spirit. Periodic idleness will rejuvenate your soul. Many religions have weekly Sabbath for this reason. The term “Sabbath” can actually refer to any cyclical period of rest and worship. There are Sabbath weeks, annual Sabbath days, and even seventh year Sabbatical years.
Rest is good for you on many levels. Today is Friday. It’s way easier to do nothing today. Allow your body, mind, and spirit to rest. Go out and do nothing!
The purpose of life is not to work. The purpose of life is to play. We forget that often. It will help to define what these words mean. Work is anything we do to acquire something else. We work for an extrinsic reward; something outside of the activity itself. At our occupations, we work for money. Money is the reward for working. At our home, we do housework for cleanliness. We workout for a better body. If it wasn’t for these rewards, we might not want to do the work.
However, its possible that we would do those work activities even without an extrinsic reward. We may do them because they are fun. That would make it play. Play is anything we do for it’s own sake. We play for an intrinsic reward; the reward is in doing it itself. We play the piano because we enjoy it. We play ping pong because we enjoy it. We play the lottery because we enjoy it. (C’mon, you don’t really expect to win, do you?) Anything you do without needed a payoff, is play. Play is the expression of creativity and life in abundance and safety. That’s why children play all day. They don’t need to feed themselves, or worry about their mortgage. Us adults do have to work of course. Work pays the bills. Work feeds us and the family. Work gets us all the fun things that won’t be simply delivered. Work pays for play.
If the purpose of life is play, and work is necessary, than the perfect activity would be one that is both work and play. Some of you may already have jobs that you love. Many lucky people get paid to play; athletes, poker players, entertainers, musicians, etc. If you’re in that category, awesome. For the rest of you who may not have a “play” job, there are two solutions:
- Learn to see your work as fun. Can you turn the most boring chore, or the most tedious work project into a game?
- Find fun activities that also give you things that you want. For example, if you want to get in better shape, but hate the gym, maybe you can join a volleyball league. That way you can play while getting “fitness work” done.
There’s a great way to get “money work” done, a.k.a. getting paid for something fun. If trying stuff is fun for you, then Get Paid to Try and join our site!