Is lowering our expectations the answer?

The Daily Telegraph reported a year ago* that keeping expectations low may be the key to happiness – according to researchers at University College London.

“It is often said that you will be happier if your expectations are lower,” said lead author, Dr Robb Rutledge. “We find that there is some truth to this: lower expectations make it more likely that an outcome will exceed those expectations and have a positive impact on happiness.”

But the team also found that positive expectations can influence happiness before the outcome.

“If you have plans to meet a friend at your favourite restaurant, those positive expectations may increase your happiness as soon as you make the plan,” said Dr Rutledge. But the team found that visiting a favourite restaurant could actually make people unhappy because their expectations are so high that it would not take much for them to be disappointed.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

They researched that! Nothing new here surely?

Are they saying you’re happier having your low expectations proven wrong or when you enjoy the anticipation of a looked-forward-to event? Surely all they ‘discovered’ is that both are true.

eeyoreThe problem with low expectations is that all sounds a bit like scarcity thinking to me. Remember Eeyore from the Winnie the Poo stories? His is not a joyful life! If your predilection is to ‘thinking the worst’ then you’re wasting valuable moments of your life sitting under a rain cloud when the odds are equally stacked that the outcome will be a good one.

In a 50-50 chance of good or bad outcome surely the enjoyment of the anticipation of something far outweighs any temporary disappointment that might occur?

AND ANYWAY…..remember Law of Attraction? What you pay attention to grows.

Think something will go wrong? It probably will!

Enjoy the anticipation of a great result? Bottom dollar you’ll get that too.

What do you choose?

 

* http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/11010871/Lowering-expectations-is-key-to-happiness.html

 

“Fake it til you make it”

The mainstay of my program, Future Self Now, and indeed all Law of Attraction thinking is the idea of feeling yourself in your Now as the best self that you fundamentally know you are.

Some know this as ‘Fake it til you make it’. Although this is still good advice it needs to be clear that this confident person who you are ‘faking’ is still very much you. In your essence you ARE confident. You ARE lighthearted and courageous, beautiful and powerful. It’s just you’ve allowed other people’s stuff to cloud your knowledge of your greatness (we all do it). So it’s not faking it so much as transcending the rubbish that clouds the truth about ourselves.

Future Self by TreeA really good question I ask myself always is “What would my Future Self (or Best Self) do now?”

I loved this article from The Guardian’s Mariella Frostrup where she shares her strategy for attracting what she desires for the year by speaking as if she already has those desires. In other words she talks from the point of view of her Future Self.

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/dec/28/im-33-and-not-in-a-relationship-is-it-too-late

 

The difference between Gratitude and Appreciation

I’ve just got back from a fabulous time at the Quest Festival in Devon. I had the absolute pleasure of running 4 workshops on Happiness, The Artist’s Way and ‘Future Self Now‘. Everyone who came to my sessions was really up for all the games and exercises that I love to throw at people. We had a fun time together!

Thinking about these past few days and how perfectly everything worked out, I’ve been feeling very moved today. I’m remembering, however, to make sure that I’m in a state of appreciation and not gratitude.

What’s the difference?

Well it’s this:

Gratitude is often a state of being pleased that something has worked out despite possible negative outcomes. E.g. “I’m grateful that my workshops worked out” (because they could have been a disaster!) or “I’m grateful that I had a smooth journey down to Devon” (because I could have got stuck in the normal jam around the M5). Gratitude, in other words, looks backwards and more often than not promotes the overcoming of something. It is has a sense of relief about it: –  “Phew I’m glad that that didn’t happen!”

Appreciation, on the other hand, is more a state of savouring a current reality. It is more firmly rooted in celebration and delight for the thing itself. Its about highlighting the positive and dwelling on the deliciousness of it.

So, what we’re talking about here is a difference in the emotional quality of the two words – not the words themselves.

Remember: What you pay attention to grows. So even though this talk of the difference between two words may seem like splitting hairs, it really does matter because Gratitude can trigger a focus on overcoming a negative in the past, whilst Appreciation lives very firmly in the savouring of the NOW.

So, new friends from Quest and old blog-buddies, I very definitely do not feel gratitude towards you (“thanks for liking me!”) – I APPRECIATE you in all your glory for who you are now and into the future!

Rampages of Appreciation

It’s impossible to be grateful and upset at the same time. In the moment of appreciation – even if it is just a fleeting moment – we are free. When it comes to raising our energy, this is what makes gratitudes, in my opinion, even more powerful than meditation. Gratitude allows us to connect with abundance, wonder, love, generosity, joy. Meditation is quieter – more about stillness, contemplation and awareness – all extremely beneficial of course, but not as effective at having us climb what I call the energy ladder.

.
A reader of this blog  – www.iamlivinginthemoment.wordpress.com – recently asked me after reading my post about the importance of putting our loved ones on a pedestal how that’s done. The short answer is with lots of appreciations! Abraham-Hicks call this practice of super-appreciating, a ‘rampage of appreciation’. This is where you just start on a subject and find every which way to be grateful for it. Here’s an example of a ‘rampage’:

The thing is that once you get going and become really conscious of what it is you’re appreciating, you find you come up with more and more to be grateful for – it kind of spirals and spirals, grows and grows. You’ve just got to get the ball rolling and when you do everything else seems to shut off as you just bathe in this delicious and abundant energy.

What can you rampage in gratitude about today?

 

 

Drawing meditation

As I explore the art of paying attention I have just become  aware of Mandalas. I tried one today for the first time and here’s my very modest result.

 

Mandalas are rooted in the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism and Native American spirituality. Modern psychologists also use mandalas to have patients explore their inner sense of self.

 Why not give it a go? It’s very soothing and your inner child will have a ball at the same time!

Here’s a step-by-step guide to how to do it.

 

 

How to be creative

Just came across this from Neale Donald Walsch about creativity and consciousness – very apropos at the moment!

Creation is the highest form of Divinity, and your birthright. Truth is, you are creating all the time. The central question in your life is whether you are doing this consciously or unconsciously.
I’m enjoying my new Artist’s Way workshop immensely. Just by being on the course we are all paying more attention to how creative we are allowing ourselves to be.
.
Here’s another wonderful piece on creativity this time by Sark. I’ll be handing out copies of this to my participants tomorrow.
.

HOW TO BE CREATIVE

 Stay loose.

Learn to watch snails.

Plant impossible gardens.

Invite someone dangerous to tea.

Make little signs that say YES and post them all over your house.

 Make friends with freedom and uncertainty.

Dare to dream. Cry during movies.

Swing as high as you can on a swing.

Cultivate moods.

Refuse to be responsible for a day.

Do something for love.

Take a nap in the sun. Give money away.

Believe in magic.

Laugh. Celebrate every gorgeous moment.

Take moonbaths. Have wild imaginings.

Draw on the walls.

Giggle.

Open up.

Bless yourself.

 Get wet.

Hug a tree.

Write a love letter: to yourself.

-Sark-

www.planetsark.com

Keep your loved-one on a pedestal

Now that I’ve started running my Artist’s Way workshops again I’m going to be much more conscious about doing Artist’s Dates. These are basically about taking yourself off for about an hour a week just to have fun with you and you. They are meant to be playful, nurturing and fun – as if you were taking a child out on an outing.

My Artist’s Date today is probably no surprise for many of you – I took myself to the cinema – my favourite ‘me’ thing to do! The movie was “Hope Springs” and it struck me how well my new consciousness theme is embodied in it. The story basically follows a couple going through hard times and having therapy. (It’s a real testament to the screenwriter and the actors that they could make such a potentially agonising situation so poignant and funny). But the point is it highlights that the trouble with this older couple, who have been married for 31 years is that they have become UNCONSCIOUS of each other. Here’s a clip:

 

Long ago I realised something in my marriage: I must always do my damndest to keep Guy on a pedestal. What I mean by this is that I must do what it takes to take my gaze off the strange bathroom habits, the forgetfulness of conversations held only an hour ago, the constant losing of keys etc. etc. and focus resolutely on what makes him special – his handsome face, his humour, his love of his family, all the hard work he does on our behalf and so on. I know his faults (as he knows mine) so it’s not about ignoring them so much as saying: “that’s part of the package but I choose to make a conscious effort to keep my line of vision on the pedestal – because if I don’t, then smelly socks can take on way more significance than they should!

 

How conscious do I dare to be?

So, it’s now Year Two of this Happiness blog and, as I mentioned in my last post, I’ve taken on the fresh challenge (hence my new tagline) of daring to be more conscious. This is why….

Reality – the ‘what’s-so’ of things has always appeared to me as a bit of an inconvenience – something to be tolerated whilst I get on with the more serious business of dreaming my life into existence. I’ve shied away from anything that smacks of that ghastly word ‘discipline’ because I have a rebellious-child’s resistance to it. Why should I do anything that feels like a ‘should’  – surely I’m the one in charge of my own life?

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of Julia Cameron’s work ‘The Artist’s Way(and in fact I run workshops on it). Well now she has a new book out called ‘The Prosperous Heart‘ and in it she asks you to count evey penny you spend and receive in a little book. “What? No way! I don’t want to be wading around in the mud of my finances. And surely that’s all rather anal and sad?” I’ve also thought that in Law of Attraction terms this kind of attention to the minutae of things is misdirected – keeping your life small.

I’m realising now that I may have been missing a trick or two.

  • My weight and health have always been best when I’ve been counting what I eat and how I exercise.
  • I am very disciplined around organising my children’s school life, feeding the family, running my workshops, working with my clients etc. – it’s just I dont see it as discipline.

Abraham-Hicks talk about the importance of “loving what-is whilst reaching for more”. I’ve always read this as being OK with things not going the way I want whilst dreaming big. Not quite. I see now it’s about really meeting my reality honestly – i.e. not avoiding it – interacting with it, whilst maintaining a full expectation of growing into my desired future.

By avoiding the tricky subject of money and body weight in the name of attracting better things I was in fact only keeping resistance in place.

So now I am resolved to spend a year exploring this new concept of consciousness – being with what-is – even though I sometimes want to fight it in the name of positive thinking.

The name of the game is to ENJOY being with how things really are. I’m not embarking on this exercise of counting everything I eat and every penny I spend as a way of wallowing in lack and self-loathing – on the contrary I’m doing it to say: “This is worth paying attention to. This matters to me and I value my relationship with it.”

My very wise friend and coach Karen Hood-Caddy said to me this week: “It’s all about understanding how things work and then working inside of that.”

Yes! I think I’m starting to get it. Money, body weight etc. operate in a certain way. When I pay attention to that and work inside the parameters of that I, paradoxically, experience much greater control and therefore greater freedom.

I’m reminded of Stephen Fry’s great descripton of poetry. It is not, he argues, a restrictive form. When you write a novel you have so much choice about how you structure and shape it, it can be utterly overwhelming to begin; but with a poem the rules (mostly) are laid out and, now that you don’t have to worry about the structure of it, you can enjoy the freedom of playing with it as you will.

So constriction, discipline – whatever you want to call it – can be freeing. Yet more evidence of the Universe’s love of Paradox – (my favourite being: in order to have something you have to let it go). Paradox is everywhere and that makes being a human being so fascinating and wondrous.

I embark on this year’s challenge with excitement!

Happy Birthday, Happy New Year!

So the school holidays are over, we’re back from our wonderful holiday in Italy and I’m back in blogging-action. Horrah! I missed you all.

This blog is now officially 1 years old! Sing along now:

Happy birthday to you

Squashed tomatoes and stew

You look like a bunch-of-words

And you really are that too.

(You might have to be of Bristish descent to get that!)

I love this time of year because, for me, it’s my New Year – complete with resolutions and fresh new starts. Last year I created this blog out of a commitment to turning around my relationship with happiness and abundance. I feel I’ve come a long way on that journey and by way of completion with my year here’s a list of the top 5 things I’d say I’ve learnt:

1) Writing blogs is fun

2) There’s a whole world of wonderful bloggers out there.

3) Writing about happiness is a great way of staying alert for it

4) Lists in blogs are de-rigueur

5) Summarising a whole years-worth of posts is impossible!

I love to spice things up for myself at this time of year, so from today I’m going to change my tagline from “How happy do I dare to be?” to “How concious do I dare to be?” I’ll talk about this more in my next post – it deserves it’s own platform, megaphone and green room, I feel – but basically my commitment and challenge this year is to have my dream world and my “real” world meet. Being with reality has never been a strong point of mine – in fact I’ve deliberately shied away from it but as I get longer in the tooth I’m realising lasting change and transformation can only happen when I use my dreams to fuel a concious interaction with the “what’s so” of things.

Intrigued? I hope so! As I say, I’ll tell you more in my next blog. In the meantime may I just say how lovely it is to be back.

Now, time for virtual birthday cake – (much fewer calories).