Real Experience

“It’s one thing to see it on the page of a book, or a TV screen, but it’s another thing entirely to see Saturn’s Rings live in the night sky through a telescope.” Me

The above quote was after an experience I had in my early college years after a professor had a whole bunch of us students over his house for a “Saturn Viewing.” Truthfully the view of Saturn was not as glorious as it is in the books and one the screen, But the rings were obvious and very pronounced and that was more than enough to make me giddy.

There is no substitute for real life. Real connection and real experience can not be found through a speakerphone, a screen, or via any digital means. Or, more precisely, there are elements, subtleties that are missed when experiences and connections are made digitally. While all of these wonderful technological advances increase the potential for real connection and experience, if not used responsibly and in moderation they will inevitably replace real connection and experience.

Technology can be an great resource to start a connection, but in the end you gotta be there in person. 

The Happiness Equation

Looking into this equation a little deeper though to see it’s application in our culture however, seems necessary. Western culture seems to have us striving to increase the numerator in an effort to increase our happiness. The trouble with this is that human nature gets in the way. It is in our nature that the more we have, the more we want. As per the equation, this will do nothing to increase our happiness.

Example: In an effort to live the good life we move out of the apartment, and purchase a beautiful home on a full acre of property. Our “What we have” value goes from 5 to 10. Now that we have the home however, we desire a nice fancy sports car to compliment the new life and fill the new garage. Our “What we want” value goes from 4 to 8. (10/8)=1.25=(5/4). Happiness has not changed one bit. And if we think now getting the car will settle our desire, …… c’mon …… do we really want to go down that rabbit hole?

(Note: The example above is a generous one)

Many eastern philosophies instead focus on the denominator of the equation. They make real mental efforts to decrease the want. How do they do this? They do this through Mindfulness, and Gratitude.

Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

I do not believe gratitude needs to be defined, but from what I have seen in our western culture it DOES need to be cultivated. I am sure there are many ways to cultivate gratitude, but the technique I have found to be most effective is culture shock. A change of perspective.

You see ….. most people only understand life though the narrow lens of the only lifestyle they have ever lived. And lets face it, if we are reading this post, we live a life of abundance. We have:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Shelter
  • Family
  • Job
  • Internet access

(And more than enough of the above to survive)

The good news is, our “what we have” value is already great. HUGE actually considering 90% of the planet hasn’t as much as we do. And a large portion of that 90% is perfectly happy with their life. How’s that for perspective?

If we want to cultivate gratitude, I suggest we step outside our small box of abundance from time to time. See how other cultures, other demographics live. It is equally as helpful to see how those of greater abundance than ourselves live, as they no doubt have their own gilded cage (mental and otherwise).

In the end, becoming a more cultured person will cultivate gratitude.

I am not going to go into a description on how to become more Mindful (It’s easy enough to look up on your own). But I do want to mention that being mindful permits us the ability to enjoy what we already have. Brings clarity so we are aware of how great our “What we have” value is, and forces us to self analyze to determine what we REALLY want. Once we determine that, we will find that the “what we want” value is much smaller than we instinctually thought.

New Year, New Goals

Here we go again. It is time to start the year with the most important task. The task that is the jumping off point for the year. The catalyst for things to come. And the task is to sit down, consider, and list our goals for the year.

I can’t stress enough the importance of this task. And I really mean it when I say we have to clear our surroundings of any distraction, clear our minds of any current stresses and distractions, sit down, do not feel hurried, and consider our goals for the year. However long it takes.

It’s important that we write these goals down. On a pad, a tablet, a white board, whatever. Important that we keep this list and refer to it often as a constant reminder. You see ……. our goals are not real to us until we write them down. Simply remembering them makes them somehow fictitious, and easier to ignore.

During this same “sit down” it is also wise to outline a plan for attaining these goals, or at the very least, write down some initial steps.

These goals don’t have to be grand. They can range anywhere from “Visit my sick aunt once a month”, to “Learn how to roller skate”, to “Lose 50 pounds.”

Completing this task is best way to go into (or start) the new year, acting as a springboard to get us started off right. Once this task is complete, we immediately feel rejuvenated and enthusiastic going into the new year.