ON BEING ONE … AND OF TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR HAPPINESS (PART III)

happiness

In Part I, we reviewed how feeling in control has a direct correlation to both emotional and physical health. We also reviewed how being over-controlling lowers both your happiness level and the happiness level of those around you. In Part II, we explored why taking personal responsibility for your happiness mitigates the tendency to be over-controlling and, hence, increases your level of happiness. In Part III, we explore why trusting others is important to your happiness level.

In world-wide surveys, the US ranks 17th in people trusting others, with 41% of the population saying they trust other people.[1] These studies show that there is an almost direct correlation between trust levels and happiness. Of course, economies work best where there is trust. Trust that your suppliers won’t cheat you. Trust that the buyers will pay you. Trust that the legal system provides a just solution to mercantile disputes. But then there is the interpersonal trust. The trust between people in a “tribe.” Imagine that you couldn’t trust your “best friend” to, say, keep a secret. Or you couldn’t trust your next door neighbor from not stealing your mail. Or you couldn’t trust your partner not to cheat on you.

trust_action

From an evolution stand-point, trust was vital to our survival. For example, if your hunting partner didn’t have your back, or ran away when the prey turned predator, you would be doomed. Similarly, if your cave or village “friend” could not be depended upon to protect your children while you were out gathering firewood, your lineage would be doomed. But if you could trust your “tribe”, you knew you could survive. So how do you build trust and get into trusting relationships?

It turns out that most of the time, when you trust someone that trust is returned. There is actually an evolutionary reason for this bias and it is due to the hormone oxytocin.[2] This molecule is better known as the “love molecule” since it is released when two people are in love with each other. Interestingly, it is also released when a mother feeds her baby, perhaps thereby associating it with a feeling of trust.

However, despite the fact that experiments indicate that we could create a community of trustworthiness by being proactively trustworthy, evolution has also hardwired us to be distrusting of others, particularly of strangers. This is logical since, in an example we’ve used before, you were more likely to survive by assuming that there was a tiger behind a bush than not. Similarly, you were more likely to survive by assuming that a stranger walking into your village was dangerous and being prepared to fight or flee, rather than the opposite (see, On Being One … And Of The Negativity Bias). To paraphrase Jonathan Haidt in his book The Happiness Hypothesis: “The cost of missing a cue that signals [safety] is low. The cost of missing the sign of [danger], however, can be catastrophic.” This may also explain why, in the vast percentage of movies, we assume extra-terrestrial aliens will mean us harm. So how do we overcome this build-in program?

Well, every once in a while we encounter someone who is pro-actively trusting and who trusts us thereby providing us with the opportunity to experience what it would be like to be able to trust others. Of course, the best way to live in world of trustworthy people is to be proactively trustworthy. Risky? Yes. You may get hurt. But you need to think whether the potential rewards are worth the risks. After all, we constantly analyze the risk-reward ratio in every decision we make. However, because we do so mostly unconsciously, we may fail to realize the hidden benefits of being proactively trustworthy. Probably the greatest benefit being that you tend to create a circle of trustworthy people… a trustworthy community. That’s because generally (but not always) trust is reciprocated. Remember, a recent study revealed that 95% of people are trustworthy when trusted.[3]

Of course, from a spiritual standpoint, as you expect so shall you receive. Remember also that this is about how to increase your level of happiness. You don’t want to be delusional and trust others when you know you shouldn’t. However, by the same token, you don’t want to distrust others more than you should because that would lower your happiness level. So what is the “smart” thing to do to raise your happiness level? To trust others more than the average person does.

Can you recall one or more instances in your life when you were pro-actively trusting with someone and the results? What about when some had been pro-actively trusting with you? How did that make you feel and what did you do afterward?

In Part IV (the last part in this series), we’ll explore the concept of “Smart Trust” which will increase the odds that you will trust trustworthy individuals.

[1]       First was Denmark where 68% of the population trust others, followed by Norway where 65% of the population trust others. Correlation between countries and happiness levels: Algan, Y., & Cahuc, P. (2013). Trust, Growth and Well-being: New Evidence and Policy Implications. North Holland, Elsevier, and World Happiness Report; http://unsdsn.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/WorldHappinessReport2013_online.pdf

[2]       Kosfeld, Michael, Markus Heinrichs, Paul J. Zak, Urs Fischbacher, and Ernst Fehr (2005), “Oxytocin increases trust in humans,” Nature, 435: 673 – 676.

[3]       http://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/jul/15/interview-dr-love-paul-zak; Zak, P. J. (2013). The Moral Molecule: new science of what makes us good or evil. Random House; c. For Paul Zak’s TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/paul_zak_trust_morality_and_oxytocin?language=en

On Being One … And The Power Of The Word “No”

Everyone has experienced being told “no”.

A lot of times, someone saying “no” can be a good thing. Especially if we just proposed a dangerous or foolhardy idea (like jumping off the roof of our house with a towel cape tied onto our back).

These “no”s are well-intentioned and come from the other person wanting to look out for us.

But other times, a “no” can feel insulting, limiting, and negative:

  • “There’s no way you’ll ever be able to succeed at…”
  • You can’t do ____. Only <insert the blank here> can do that…”
  • You aren’t good enough to…”

These type of “no”s are limiting, self-defeating, and try to make your world a smaller place.

They can shape our minds and our beliefs about our capability (or lack thereof).

But instead of letting these statements define us (negatively), what if we could use them to our advantage and even change the system? We want to show you how to do that.

In this week’s blog post, David Ngo, a Stanford University graduate ’12 who has been admitted to both the Harvard Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Business, shares his experience overcoming the negativity that has always lurked around the edge of his success.

David. No.

I’ve heard the word “No” said after my first name so many times. “David, no you can’t do this” — or “‘David, no’ people just don’t do that.”

Or just — “David. No.”

I’ve heard the word “No” after my name so many times in part because I push the boundaries of what’s conventional, and in part because that’s how you pronounce my last name (Ngo) — “No.”

***Flashback to 2008***

My mom picked up the phone and started talking to a distant relative; we weren’t very close. And it was clear that they was not calling to see how we were doing, but to compare their son with me during high school graduation season.

“So, where’s David applying to college?” this relative innocuously asked.

“Oh, UVA (University of Virginia), William & Mary, and also trying for Stanford. But we’ll see. Who knows what will happen?” my mom replied.

“STANFORD? You need a 2400 to get into Stanford. David, no he can’t do it. That’s impossible.”

My mom relayed that statement to me after the phone conversation; she wasn’t upset — she was even calm when she told me.

But, hearing what my relative had said made me livid. I was pissed.

This is a recap of what went on in my mind for a couple of minutes:

“Who is this distant relative to say that I CAN’T DO IT?

Distant relative don’t know me. Relative called just to *compare*.

Ugh, I hate when that’s their intention of asking.

Wait a minute… If this is their mindset — this limited negative mindset — isn’t that contagious?  Isn’t that the limited lens that their spreading in their family? Their community?  Hm…”

***End flashback***

During college application season, I had procrastinated on writing my Stanford essays.  During that procrastination period, the events above unfolded.  And I realized that it was meant to be shared in my Stanford essays.  Here it is copied below (edited to provide anonymity to my relative’s gender):

Question: Virtually all of Stanford’s undergraduates live on campus. What would you want your freshman year roommate to know about you? Tell us something about you that will help your roommate — and us — know you better.

“STANFORD!? It’s REALLY hard to get in. You need a 2400. It’s impossible. David can’t do it.” When Mom told me a relative said this to her, I was furious. Adding oil to the fire, Relative called not to genuinely ask how we were doing. Instead, Relative only called to know about my academics, such as my grades and SAT score, prospective universities, and bragging about Relative’s own child. Then, Relative blatantly told my mom that I could not achieve something!? How negative, pessimistic, and selfish can a person be!?

I have been raised to believe smart-hard work will bring success, and limitations are temporary. This was the first time I have been doubted. Immediately, my anger shadowed my positive reasons of applying to Stanford: I wanted to prove this relative wrong! When my anger disappeared, I started thinking normally–positively.

If Relative is so close-minded, will Relative’s children be strongly influenced as well? Will said children limit their possibilities of colleges and begin a cycle of limited thinking and shrunken dreams? Attending Stanford will feel great to prove this relative wrong, but it will feel even greater to know that I have cracked open a slight hole in this large sphere of limited thinking.

Gratitude is what I have for that relative now.  Gratitude, punctured with spikes of frustration and anger, is what meets my “No”s.  That “No” happened in 2008.

And it didn’t stop there.

I met it again during my time at Stanford from a handful of staff/professors.  I met it again with my own mother during college.  And I meet “No” within myself, almost every single day.

Optimism and positivity has been integrated throughout my being.  But it hasn’t helped me transcend the “No”s from the world, from loved ones, or from myself.

I love my life, myself, and those around me in the past, present, & future.  But, I have yet to consistently meet a “David, no” with full gratitude and love.

And that’s okay.  Because I’m on my way one moment at a time.

 

The bigger the no, the bigger the YES!

It can be scary to say no and yet at the same time so worth it in the end.

After you’ve watched this week’s episode, leave a comment on the blog and declare to me, our community and the Universe who or what you are going to say no to and what bigger yes will come because of your new bold and courageous action!

AND – if you’ve set boundaries, said no, and it’s worked out, leave a comment on the blog and share with us your success story. Your story may be the one thing that someone needs to find the courage to do the same.

Together we can grow into who we’re meant to be.

You can do this. You have the power to change.

Claim your power, today!

Big love from London,

Mastin

P.S. I’m hiring a community manager. If you love social media and Daily Love, click here to apply.

[Begin Transcription]

Hey there, I’m Mastin Kipp, founder of TheDailyLove.com, and author of the book, Daily Love: Growing into Grace. Welcome to this week’s episode of Daily Love TV.

Today, I want to talk to you about one of my favorite words to say, which is the word, “no.” Generally around the age of two or three, we got really good at saying this word, right? Moms and dads out there know what I’m talking about. We got really good at saying the word, “no,” and then somehow, when we got on our spiritual path, we got really bad at saying the word, “no.” Today, I want to talk to you about why it’s important to say “no.” What I’ve noticed is that a lot of people in our community – they’re loving, they’re caring, they’re spiritual, and they equate all of those heart-centered qualities of empathy and compassion and love with being a doormat. It’s like, I just have to say yes. I have no boundaries. It’s not for me.

What we have to realize is that “no” is a complete sentence. “No” can be a very powerful word to say, and the reality is, if there’s an area of your life where you’re stuck, financially, romantically, spiritually, in your business, family, wherever you feel like there’s growth, chances are you’re saying too many “yes’s” and not enough “no’s.”

The thing you got to remember is that, the bigger the no, the bigger the yes. Here’s the thing. There’s a moment when we want to say “no,” right? Can you do this thing this weekend, or will you watch my friend or child, or will you do this for me again? There’s a moment where we don’t want to let someone down. There’s a moment where there’s that awkward moment of setting a boundary that we tend to avoid. What I’d like to encourage you to do is, instead of trying to avoid that awkward moment or worry about letting other people down, listen to your heart, and listen to what’s an authentic “no” for you, and have the courage to say it. The reality is, if you say “no,” and it’s a real, heart-felt “no,” that’s self-care. That’s self-love. What’s interesting is that if you say “yes” to someone else, and you’re scared to let them down, but on the inside you’re feeling a “no,” you’re not letting them down. You’re letting yourself down.

What starts to happen is that over time, if we don’t have that boundary set in place, resentment starts to build up inside of us, and we start to resent and hate people that we love the most. Quite frankly, it’s not their fault. We suck at setting boundaries. If you look at your schedule. If you look at your time that you spend out there serving other people, helping other people, if you want to serve your spiritual mission at the highest level, self-care is necessary. When you take care of yourself, when you set boundaries, when you find time to exercise and eat right, take care of yourself and get sleep, and get water, and meditate, and pray, and do yoga, and work out, whatever it might be for you to take care of yourself, you show up with more passion, more presence, and more energy for life and for those that you need to serve.

The thing is, it can be scary to do that, because we don’t want to let people down, we’re looking for their approval, whatever it might be. The truth is, if you want to learn to live a spiritual life, to live on purpose, when your heart says “no,” that’s the divine, that’s God, that’s the universe saying “no.” Learn to trust it so that you can create that space for what you’re meant to do. It can be scary, because sometimes we fill our calendar and fill our lives up with so much stuff to avoid feeling. We don’t want to feel the feelings of guilt, or shame, or powerlessness, or feel like we’re out of control. We get so busy, but we never do the internal work.

The reality is, life is asking you to slow down. Life is asking you to clear space for the book, for the project, for the launch, for the blog, for the business, for your relationship, for your family, for your kids, whatever it might be, you need to create space for that.

What I do is, I go to my calendar, and I look two, three, four weeks out, and I put in the necessary, mandatory things: exercise, food times, times with my girlfriend, times for my business, times for writing my book. That creates the majority of my schedule, and guess what? It doesn’t leave a heck of a lot of time for anything else, and I’ve gotten really good at saying “no,” to protect my time because I need to stay mission focused on the Daily Love mission, relationship focused on my relationship with my girlfriend, Jenna, and it has to be able to create time.

It’s very easy to have your time and your schedule just wiped away with other people and commitments. This is not about not serving others. This is not about being selfish. It’s about filling yourself up, and having the courage to go by that awkward moment or two where it’s weird to say “no,” and you’ll create more space, and people will respect you. The other thing is, resentment will decrease. You’ll be able to keep your commitments when you really want to do that, and, on top of that, other people are going to respect you more for taking care of yourself.

My question for you is, “Where do you need to say ‘no’ in your life?” As you’ve been watching this video, chances are you’ve already been thinking about the people, the situations that you need to say “no” to. What do you got to say “yes” to? Because “no” is a complete sentence. Remember, I’ve already said this, I’m going to say it again. The bigger the “no,” the bigger the “yes.” When you say “no,” and you set that boundary, you’re saying “yes” to the purpose of your life. You’re saying “yes” to your heart, “yes” to spirituality, “yes” to self-care. Life will respond differently when you do so.

On Being One … And Of Being In Control Of Your Happiness (Part II)

Stay+in+Control (1)In Part I, we reviewed how feeling in control has a direct correlation to both emotional and physical health. This explains why we generally seek to be in control our life, our partner, our friends and our environment. This is referred to as “external control.” We also reviewed how being over-controlling lowers happiness level and the happiness level of those around us. We then began to examine how taking responsibility for our own happiness was an antidote to being over-controlling and ended with two “tests” to determine how over-controlling you are. In Part II, we explore why taking personal responsibility for our happiness mitigates the tendency to be over-controlling and, hence, increases our level of happiness.

In simple terms, when you take personal responsibility for your own happiness, you take what is referred to as “internal control.” That is, control over your thoughts and feelings. Once you control your thoughts and feelings, you’ll discover that you don’t need to exercise much external control. In other words, controlling your thoughts and feelings lowers your desire and/or need to control other people and circumstances. But how do you gain that internal control?

Internal-Control-Key

There are two main ways you can gain internal control. Specifically, emotional regulation and leading a healthy lifestyle.

The term “emotional regulation” includes 4 tactics. The first is learning simple emotional regulation tactics. This includes avoiding situation likely to evoke unwanted or negative emotions. For example, if you know a particular co-worker gets on your nerves, then avoid running into this person as much as possible while at the office. Obviously this is an avoidance tactic. Of course, sometimes we can’t avoid these types of situations like, for example, spending time with family members we don’t particularly like during the holidays. In this case, you can label your emotions. This is self-explanatory. That is, just tell yourself what emotion you are experiencing. Studies show that merely labeling your emotions lowers their intensity. This is different from, and should not be confusing with, discussing or analyzing your emotions which raise their intensity. For example, if you and friend are stuck in a traffic jam and getting increasingly frustrated, tell yourself that you are frustrated but do not discuss it with your friend nor analyze why you are feeling frustrated. The third tactic is called attention deployment. That is, turning your attention to things that evoke positive thoughts or away from negative thoughts. This seems similar to situational avoidance. The difference is that you use attention deployment when you haven’t been able to avoid the situation or person and the emotion has already been triggered. In this case, it is important not to engage in self-serving biases in order to make yourself feel good. Self-serving biases involves taking credit for successes and blaming others or bad luck for failures. For example, if you win a tennis match, you tell yourself that you did so because you are such a good player, but if you lose the game you blame it on bad line calls, uncomfortable shoes or improperly stringed racket. While this can make you feel good in the moment, studies show that it will work against you in the long run. Nor is it advisable to suppress your emotions. Finally, you can practice cognitive reappraisal which means putting things in perspective. For example, if your relationship just ended, tell yourself that you have family and friends who love you and will support you; that there are other women/men who will find you attractive and will want to date you; etc. In other words, if you don’t like what you see, change the way you’re looking at it.

suppressed-emotions-and-your-health

It is also important not to suppress your emotions. Merely suppressing the emotion doesn’t make it go away. In fact, your limbic system gets and stays activated even if you suppress your emotions. Suppressing emotions also takes effort and brain capacity that would be better used focusing on the task at hand. Finally, people around you will sense that you are suppressing your emotions and their blood pressure actually increases as a result. Of course, this does not give you the liberty to express your feelings at any time to anyone. But it is important to know that suppressing your emotions will not make you feel happier. From a spiritual point of view, what we resist persists.

The second main way one can gain internal control is by leading a healthy lifestyle, a main topic of discussion at the beginning of every new year as we make a number of promises to ourselves to get in shape by working out and eating better. There are 3 aspects to a healthy lifestyle. Not surprisingly, they are: 1) eating right; 2) moving more; and 3) sleeping better. There are an almost infinite number of studies, scientific and otherwise, that show how important each of these aspects is to keeping our emotional and physical stress levels as low as possible. For an excellent overview, I recommend Tom Rath’s Eat,Move, Sleep.

self-compassion

Furthermore, you multiply the positive effects of the two main ways to gain internal control by exercising self-compassion. Listen to that little voice in your head constantly berating you. Become aware of it and replace it with what you would tell your best friend or, if you have a pet, how you talk to your pet. There is a world of difference between these two voices. Be kind and gentle with and to yourself, particularly when the going gets tough. Remember that every one, no matter how famous or “successful” they are or appear to be, struggles, has self-doubts and experiences frustration.

So why does the ability to regulate emotions enhance happiness levels? First, retaining control over your feelings means that you retain the keys to your happiness rather than abdicating them to external circumstances or other people. It also fulfills the desire for personal mastery since, by taking internal control, you are developing mastery over your own mind. Finally, it allows you to react in a more mature way to other people such that they are more likely to like and cooperate with you.

In Part III, we’ll discuss how distrusting others lowers your happiness levels and we’ll conclude this series with Part IV where we’ll discuss how distrusting life also lowers your happiness levels. Of course, we’ll discuss antidotes to both.

I look forward to your comments and, as always, I remain in love,

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