Saturday, October 27, 2018

True Happiness: Live Happily Ever After

Happiness is fairly elusive due to its difficulty to attain, especially since most people don't even know the difference between happy and happiness. Most people believe they are the same but they are not. Happy is a fleeting joyous feeling that comes and goes based on experiences, such as eating good food or hanging out with friends. It goes away soon after the experience ends. In order to obtain happiness, the experience must be significant and long lasting, such as being with family (i.e. human bonding), spending time with a hobby, working towards career goals, etc -- i.e. life goals. Even when we are not with our family, we would still feel contentment and inner peace. That's true happiness.


I believe there are three ways to attain true happiness (in order of difficulty and effectiveness):
  1. The easiest way is from the outside-in using positive lasting experiences, such as working towards meaningful life goals.
  2. Regardless of how things are in the world, it's possible to achieve happiness with acceptance, which changes how we see things by removing judgement and expectations.
  3. The most difficult and supposedly also most effective is from the inside-out using positive meditation, which prepares the mind for happiness and encourages happiness to grow. The key to happiness is having positive emotions and outlook that allows us to turn happy moments into long lasting happiness. Positive meditation calms the mind to minimize mental energy loss and then focus the energy on the positive things that provide lasting happiness. I will write a dedicated post for this later as meditation seems to take a while to realize the benefits, but the general approach is to do the following every day:
    • Relax your body using body scan meditation and bring your mind to the present with mindfulness meditation.
    • Focus on positive experiences from the day before or any time and vividly replay them in your mind to feel the emotions. Focus on the positive emotions (e.g. happy). This last part is also called happiness meditation that is recommended by the world's happiest man. 
True happiness doesn't just happen in fairy tales. Everyone can have it with just a sprinkle of happiness meditation with acceptance and a dash of positive experiences in life.

This is part of Living Life to the Fullest blog series.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Game of Life

I just finished watching a movie named Scott Pilgrim vs. the World on Netflix -- interesting movie -- and it reminded and inspired me that life is like a game. In a game, there are obstacles and bad guys, but we play to win.

There are definitely tough challenges or bosses, but as long as we keep trying, we become better and eventually would be able to beat them.

Sometimes we feel like giving up, why play the game when it's too hard or not so fun? If we do give up, then that kinda defeats the point of the game and we will never find out what treasure awaits us after the last boss. If it's too hard, just go back a level to do more training. Easy. Too boring? With a bit of imagination, anything can be fun.

If we do get tired of playing the game, we can definitely take a break to recuperate, but not too long as we may loose momentum.


After playing the game for awhile and we reach the next level where the game is not too easy, nor too hard, but it is just challenging enough to be still enjoyable, we get into "the zone" where we reach and push our capabilities continuously and effortlessly. Some call that "the flow".

While I was watching the movie, I did some yoga and felt a little bit of the flow, and it was great. It felt like I could do anything. Gotta do that more often.

In short, life is a game and we play to win no matter what...together! Don't forget to have fun, it's a game after all. Treasure awaits those that persevere.

This is part of the Essential Life Skills series.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Details: Regression of The Mind

This is a post about the implementation details behind and between ideas from other posts. It's a deeper look into my thoughts and feelings, so you have been warned.

In the past few days, I feel like my mind and body have regressed in functionality, despite a consistent and heavy investment in meditation and yoga. It's like one step forward, and then two steps back. I wasn't able to pay attention in normal conversations as my mind keeps on drifting to something else. Despite what I read, like having a purpose, interest, and curiosity during conversation, I didn't really remember those things during real life situations. I suppose some of that is more about lack of practice -- can't expect to be good at something without actually practice and using what I have learned. 

Today, it feels kinda ok. Guess the mind and body has its up and down regardless of what you do, or maybe I may still be doing something wrong unknowingly. It would be nice if we have a monitor that shows our stats -- cognitive abilities, mental energy, attention span, physical shape, etc, so we know how we are doing in order to better do things that improve our stats.

Emotionally feels apathetic as I keep trying to accept everything and everyone as perfect in their own way, so that I can better understand and then improve while remaining happy. And that doesn't really motivate me. It feels like motivation has a lot to do with our emotions (e.g. passion). So I am thinking of changing Step 5 of Master Check to be "Embrace positivity, such as having fun, love others, focusing on positive side / emotions, etc". 

Accepting everyone is perfect in their own way has been a bit difficult as there are really lots of not-so-good people out there that do crappy things that makes life not enjoyable. Like companies that use automated service to keep calling me every morning around 7am to sell insurance or what not using random numbers, despite being added to their 'do not call list' so many times. Even my own kids fighting all the time despite everything that I teach them (maybe they are too young?). Or many people tend to keep focusing on the negative side of things that makes thing worse and not better. It's interesting why people keep on doing the obviously wrong things, and refuse or just don't care to improve so they can be happier. Silently chanting "accept everyone without judgement / expectations"... 

Accepting everything is perfect may also have conflicts as there are certainly some unfortunately events, such as horrible accidents or crime, that "perfect" is just never the right word to describe it. Originally, I wanted to use "perfect" as a short way to remove the judgement/expectations as if there is only one "best" state, then there is nothing to compare against. Perhaps "accept everything as-is"? 

Guess I have much to learn. I am reading a book called "Flow" right now, it's interesting how it describes consciousness, intentions, attentions, and self in great detail -- hopefully, it will have some interesting bits of information to give me an "ah ha" moment at the end that makes some of my conflicts click and resolve. Otherwise, the hunt of abstracting and simplifying life continues. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Achieving Happiness with Acceptance

Previously, I posted about achieving happiness with meaningful life goals. While that gives us direction and meaning, and as long as we make progress, it would give us happiness. When there is no progress or worse, when things regress, then we are not very happy. That's where acceptance comes in.

That doesn't mean admit defeat and give up on life goals, but simply accept things as they are right now. It's to understand and realize that everything happens for a reason, the bad and the good. Regardless of how things are, if we expect them to be a certain way, we will always be unhappy at some point. So in order for us to be happy always, then we need to learn to accept not just the good things in life, but the bad as well. Accept the bad to fully understand and learn from them, and that will let us come up with choices to make things better.

My life goal is to continuously improve myself and help others do the same, so I have been doing a lot of that lately, but slowly everything just becomes exhausting and frustrated, and hence me no happy, which is counterproductive to what I am trying to achieve. I realized there is a continuous expectation for me to become better, and expecting others to do the same as well. When there is progress, it's great. But sometimes, or maybe often, there isn't progress or things just backfire -- I become mentally/physically exhausted, kids are fighting, others are not doing what they should be doing. There's a lot of expectation, hence I have created a gap between reality and expectation, which is the cause of unhappiness according to a wise wife of an ex-colleague.

I have been reading about meditation, and one of the books that I read, The Mindful Day, mentioned that Acceptance is a quality of meditation -- an attitude, principle, or even as a mindset of how you pay attention. It's the ability to see things as they really are without filter and expectation of being different. Maybe thanks to meditation, I have finally realized what that means and can truly start to embrace everything and everyone as they are. Everything and everyone is perfect in their own way. No one needs to be a certain way, or should be another way. But could be if they choose -- the choice is theirs alone and no one else's. That's a choice, not an expectation, which is a good thing. When we accept others or difficult situations, we can better understand them, and as there is no expectation to be different or better, hence there is no gap between reality and expectation, then we are happy.

Hence, I have come to realize there is another way to achieving happiness, and that's acceptance. Accept others as they are -- even the murderers, animal/viruses/bacteria/diseases that kill us, or just our kids fighting each other. Accept situations are they are -- being homeless, got cheated, not getting promoted, being rained on in the middle of a jungle. With acceptance, we gain better understanding of others and the situation without expectations of being different or better.

To be truly happy, we must truly accept everything and everyone as they are.

This is part of Living Life to the Fullest blog series.

Details: Self-Improvement is Hard

This is a post about the implementation details behind and between ideas from other posts. It's a deeper look into my thoughts and feelings, so you have been warned. 

I have been reading a lot recently and don't really have anything useful to share, and hence haven't posted in a while.

Reading a lot as in reading almost every waking moment outside of work and necessary stuff at home. Until I got sick of reading. Haha. Too much reading and learning where my brain is telling me it's enough and needs time to process them. 

In the past few weeks, I have been reading about reading fast using your right brain, LOL, and doing math with big numbers in your head, memory techniques, yoga, meditation, and several more books on leadership. It's amazing how much human knowledge there are -- everything that would have taken a lifetime to learn now could be transferred to another person in just a book in a matter of hours. Currently, I am in the process of reading about day to day duties of a manager and re-reading Search Inside Yourself since I don't remember much from the first time I read it at least a year ago. 

Aside from the amazing acknowledge of knowledge transfer from books, it's a lot of information to absorb and actually remember and make use of them. I did try to use some of the memory techniques that I learned, but they still take some practice to become skillful at them and at times still hard to come up with interesting motion pictures for abstract ideas. There is also a concept of a mind map, which I am still not sure how useful that is due to its structure. Once I realize their values and practical applications, I will post about them.

Many of the books also state similar ideas using different words and concepts. There are so many different ways, which makes things harder to fully comprehend. Hopefully, everything will click at some point and then that would make an interesting post -- yet another perspective, but hopefully more consolidated. 

Lastly, I have also been doing yoga and meditation lately -- not just reading about them. Interesting to know that yoga, in its original form from India, encompasses meditation and many other areas. Both takes time to see the benefits, and so while I have positive results so far, still waiting to see how long they last or how far do they extend before posting. At the same time, as this post's subject eludes, self-improvement is hard. Progress has been slow and each day feels like a struggle -- as apparently, that is what it takes to push the body and mind to the next level. For muscle to become stronger, you have to push them to the edge until they become exhausted, and then they grow stronger. The brain, on the other hand, it has a lot of habits and resists change. And even when there is a change, it's subtle and slow, and sometimes it could go backward. So it's all kinda hard -- no wonder most people just don't bother unless they are forced to. It's hard for me to do despite what I know and my life goals of continuous self-improvement, so I don't think it's possible to ask others to do the same. 

Hence, I have been a bit sad as well due to the struggle and that realization. I have also been a bit frustrated at people around me for not trying to be better. At least now, I kinda understand -- it's hard. 

Tonight, I think something did click from the things that I have read. That's acceptance and how that relates to happiness, which I will write a post about now. 

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Continuous Self-Improvement with Master Check

After telling my kids to do the right thing and explaining master vs slave behavior so many times, it eventually got tiresome and a bit annoying, and so I came up with a new idea of continuous self-improvement that doesn't require someone else to nag, which nobody likes anyway. I call it Master Check.

Master Check (MC) consists of five simple steps that's done continuously:
  1. Life is a game, so have fun! :D
  2. Set intentions based on your vision and life goals.
  3. Be mindful of the present with acceptance.
  4. Do the right thing for everything that you will be doing.
  5. Be rock solid for anything that was done.
Each step has a distinct purpose. First step sets the stage and that's to have fun in the game of life, so don't be too serious. Second step sets the direction on what we want to do and where we want to go. Third step is to become aware of everything inside of and around us to better understand without judgement and expectations in order to make better decisions. Being mindful trains our bodymind to efficiently use our mental/physical energies  and should be the default state. Fourth step is to do whatever it takes to accomplish our goals in the most productive way -- the right way. The last step is to protect ourselves by stand firmly behind our beliefs and never waver, like a rock. And remember, there is a balance between the last two steps and all steps must be done, otherwise it's a partial check and not master. :)

I have been doing this for a few weeks now. It has helped me understand myself better, and also fix some bad habits of mine, such as sitting in a slouched position. I will continue to do this as I believe it is a great way to continuously improve myself, which is the first part of my life goal.

As for my kids, it was pretty effective when I first introduced Master Check, but slowly resisted as doing the right thing doesn't necessarily feel good, and so it's harder for kids to do and be rock solid. While it isn't something that the kids can do continuously, it is still a pretty good process to walk thru with them when something is wrong. Whenever my daughter is upset for various reasons, I would go thru some of the steps together with her and it fixes the problem fairly quickly and she learns more about each step. I believe, someday, she will do it by herself. For the mean time and things that she can improve herself, I only have to say "MC" and she knows what needs to be done. :D

In order to reach my full potential, I will be doing Master Check to continuously improve myself and having fun along the way.

This is part of Essential Life Skills blog series.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Achieving Happiness with Meaningful Life Goals

Last week, we talked about guiding principles for achieving life goals, where I stated my life goal is to continuously improve myself to realize my full potential and help others to do the same, so together we can do great things. That took 36 years of my life to figure out, so let's talk about why it took so long and how I finally did it, and hopefully that will help others find theirs sooner. Once there is a life goal, I believe life becomes more meaningful, and therefore achieving happiness.

To understand why it took so long, that is basically telling you my life story, which isn't that interesting and too long, so I will just summarize. I didn't cared about my life for the first 30 years until my first born, so I was just living life one day at a time trying to be happy. Then I was busy for the next 5 years juggling between work and family, and never thought about life until a year ago. That is when I started ctl.life after learning/embracing compassion with the goal of pushing myself to my limits, learn more about leadership and life, and share what I learn.

I have learned a lot in the past year, and only realized the key to a productive life is simply by doing the right thing a month ago. And then a week ago, my world was falling apart while doing the right things because I was not rock solid. The next day, I concluded that there is a balance between the two guiding principles, and they are simply tools for achieving life goals. My initial life goal is to push myself to my limits and find out what's beyond them, but I was still not happy and my unconscious mind was giving me that tinkling sensation that something was missing or wrong. I realized my life goal was incomplete as it was still ephemeral. I asked myself what am I really trying to accomplish? I want to help others too and there is only so much that I can do by myself. Finally, on 8/1/18, my life goal was complete and that is to continuously improve myself to realize my full potential and help others to do the same, so together we can do great things. I was pleasantly surprised the last part is actually a famous quote by Mother Teresa.

Most people don't think about life goals -- just living life one day at time and mostly trying to stay happy, have fun, and live a normal life (go to school, get a job, get married, have kids), which I did for the first 35 years. Some thought about them, and just gave up after considering our mortality -- what's the point if we are just going to die anyway. Well, I do believe there are several:
  1. While our body will perish, our ideas and impacts live on. Albert Einstein's body is gone, but everyone still knows his name and his contributions are being used every day. Same for Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King Jr., George Washington, etc. Those people, while not living, have greater impact to everyone today than most people that are still alive! Think about that for a moment. 
  2. While we are still alive, we can live like a homeless guy, an average joe, a billionaire, a pioneer/inventor, etc. Each has different levels of accomplishment and comfort. Which do you choose? I choose to accomplish as much as I can so I can live in the most comfortable way.
  3. Don't like mortality? Well, maybe your life goal can be figuring out a way to achieve immortality. ;) Same for anything else that is impeding you from living your life to the fullest, change it.
Everyone actually have implicit life goals, such as staying alive and healthy, getting married and having kids, having a successful career, etc. So most people do live fairly good lives from those implicit goals. I do believe it is useful to make them explicit and ensure they are meaningful, so you get more out of life.

When you don't have explicit life goals, you are not really living your life, but just living for the sake of living. What's the point of living if there is nothing to accomplish? How do you accomplish something if you don't even know what it is? Without an explicit life goal, you are just doing what others tell you and living the minimal of your full potential. With the gift of intelligence, I think we can do better. So if you don't already have one, take some time to figure it out.

When you work, a job has many tasks/milestones/goals that need to be completed. And each goal provides motivation and direction, and satisfaction on completion. Those accomplishments provide meaning and happiness. Life goals have similar attributes but much more meaningful as they are more personal and last longer. Unlike jobs, since it's your own life, they can be whatever that you want that provides the most meaning and happiness. And the best ones are those that include other people.

It's ok to change life goals as we grow. I didn't set a goal until age 35, and changed it a year later after I learned new things, including what a life goal is. The important part is having life goals, so you know where you are going and can do the right things to get there.

The more meaningful the life goals are, the more happiness that you will get. Meaningful means goals that involve other people in a positive way. Since essentially anything we do involves other people, and likely in a positive way, therefore all life goals are meaningful, but they vary in degrees of meaningfulness. I believe there are three different levels of meaningfulness based on number of people involved: one, few, and everyone. The first one involves no one else, which may allow one to be happy temporarily and provides minimal happiness. The second one involves a few people, such as family and friends, which is quite meaningful and therefore allows one to have lasting happiness. The last one involves everyone, and therefore provides the highest level of happiness.

If you find this useful, please share with your friends and family so they can benefit too. Thank you! This is part of Living Life to the Fullest blog series.