When one hundred people are asked what they wish for their life, happiness is among the top answers, for sure.
As the Buddha already stated a while back, the human experience is often connected to suffering, so it is only natural for us all to want to end it.
“Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Suffering follows an evil thought as the wheels of a cart follow the oxen that draws it.”
Even though I am not the first person with this epiphany, I wanted to share it with you. I feel this can make a big difference in perceiving happiness and how we actually live a more fulfilled life. The illuminating idea is to change the focus from thinking more positive thoughts to having less negative ones. Rather than following the oxen in the metaphorical cart we can decide to reduce the amount of “evil” thoughts. This by itself is nothing that needs to be broadcast, printed, or proclaimed. Combined with a book by Anthony Robbins I read, the difference will become clear in a bit.
Tony Robbins sat with many contemporary financial masterminds compiling a financial guide. The aim of the book is to help as many people as possible to accumulate wealth. It’s called Unshakeable if you want to get it later on.
Contrary to the belief that the book’s first advice would be how to make a lot of money, it is not so.
Tony mentions Warren Buffet’s first rule of investing, which is “Never Lose.”
This resonated strongly with me because in the past I had been seeking to gain more rather than to lose less.
Over the last couple of weeks, this has been fermenting in the back of my mind. I realized this rule can also be adopted to feel good. We can argue that what works for financial riches could also be applied to other forms of abundance as well.
Looking at it from an accounting viewpoint, the beginning of financial wealth is when revenues exceed costs. So the less we lose, the more we get to keep or invest. In other terms, happiness begins at the junction where positive thoughts exceed negative ones. As simple as it sounds, we have to look at it a little closer. Why? We as people are very good at comprehending dynamics or connections in one field but can ignore that validity when it suits us in another.
Therefore, I would like to draw a graphic explanation.
Imagine we are carrying a bucket in our hands. It is raining and we would like to fill the bucket with rain water. The water in our metaphor is universal energy or life force. What is important to reiterate is this energy is flowing effortlessly and nothing needs to be undertaken to be worthy of the energy.
In our metaphor it is raining every day, all day.
The bucket we hold in our hands portrays the general capacity to store water. Strong emotions and especially negative thoughts and actions tend to let us disregard our bucket. The more negative thoughts and emotions we choose or “allow,” the more water we lose or spill. Ergo the less energy is available to us.
A full bucket means we have more energy, ergo the more alive we feel. In simple words, this means a full bucket is being happy and an empty one is being unhappy.
So it could be assumed we have a strong motivation that most of the water stays in the bucket. The truth is however that most of us only take action when discomfort or suffering exceeds the threshold of our inner resistance to change. Subconsciously we keep forgetting our bucket even exists. Wondering why we feel the way we do. The positive charged state never really lasts somehow. In addition, some of us come to dread positivity in general because it often precedes the beginning of the end. The downfall, so to speak, and a final destination being depression, anger or plain apathy.
Our thoughts behind this could be:
“If I keep an empty vessel, I don’t have to worry about spilling any water.”
“By the end of the day I will have lost it’s content like I always do.”
We lose water by being unmindful to the negative thinking process.
Like we already discussed, our happiness is the sum of all our negative and positive emotions and thoughts. This means if our day comprises mostly positive experiences, actions, and thoughts, people consider their life a happier one. If the opposite is the case and we encounter a lot of frustration, anger and friction in our relationships, at work, or in our spare time, we consider our life to be unhappy or miserable.
The question remains: “How can we become aware of how we are doing?” Most of these thoughts and actions are so normal for us they run in the background without us noticing. How can I become conscious of my unconsciousness then?
The answer is what all those wise masters call being in the present moment. Perceiving our current state on a moment to moment basis. Either by sitting down and meditating, observing what thoughts appear. Another much more practical method is to become the observer of our thoughts on regular day activities. This might be difficult at first because it is like learning to operate a new machine while also trying to focus on what the person next to us is saying.
I am not saying this is an easy task because sometimes, often that is for me, we simply want to be angry, annoyed, to feel superior, or to just be the one who is right. All I am saying is that for me this is the only valid approach to finding lasting happiness because even if we come up with endless positive actions and thoughts, we will likely lose those high vibrations when someone doesn’t pick up their dog’s poop or cuts in line in traffic. If we cannot stay in charge of our thoughts in those times our metaphorical bucket will flip, spilling all the positive energy we carried so far. The only problem is, it’s hard to prevent those thoughts when our emotions are in charge. And they often are the perceived root of the chain of events setting the stage. Many people are convinced that our emotions are responsible for the thoughts we keep experiencing. Others say it is the opposite way around. I believe our thoughts create our reality. Therefore, I would reason that thoughts create our emotions. Underlying trauma or belief systems can cause us to unconsciously choose from a limited number of thoughts, which in many situations will be of the negative kind. The negative thoughts cause our bodies to react or mirror that state of mind and to produce the accompanying feeling. This is why thinking about something positive while being upset can change our emotional state at once.
In the end, it doesn’t matter, what matters is the tightrope we have to learn to walk. To stay open to feel these so-called lower emotions. To suppress them is what many human beings do every day and is what causes most of the bodily pain we carry around with us. It is important to feel the emotion first, let it be whatever it is. Be angry at the person who did something that drives us through the roof. Take the time to breathe at least three to five deep breaths and allow ourselves to really feel the emotion. When this is done, we actively shift the focus to what is beneficial in this situation. If it is too hard to find a positive attribute right away, we can make ourselves see the situation through the eyes of our antagonist. I wrote a piece called “The Victim Quagmire” that goes along well with this.
Over time, we will notice that our thoughts will change and that things will seem to mellow out. There will be ups and downs, but the general trend will be an improvement for sure.
When we reduce the destructive thoughts and actions, we automatically begin to be mindful of our bucket. By shifting our focus to the positive aspects, we not only keep it from spilling but are kind of actively helping to fill it up. This is the true power of the insight I had.
We don’t have to get out of our way to reach this seemingly unattainable source of endless water to fill our bucket somewhere in the distance. There are hands-on everyday little steps that can be taken to stop losing water right here, right now. If we act in this manner enough, we will end up with a bucket filled to the brim. The beginning, as often is the case, is the toughest challenge but it will get easier with every step of the way.
The abundance of life energy will at some point be so much we pass it on to our left and right because we are simply overflowing with it.
This is what made my heart sing when I read about Warren Buffet’s number one rule in investing.
I hope you enjoyed this little metaphorical excursion and as always reach out if you have any questions, suggestions or feedback.