On making life’s biggest decisions

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When it comes to decision-making, first you decide, then you deduce. Of course, life's biggest decisions such as marriage or a career change are some of the hardest decisions to make because the fear is that they won't work out. The bigger the risk, the greater the hesitation.

‘This might not work.'

People like to play it safe. It's easier to adopt the status quo than playing the long game and facing the fear of uncertainty. Chance is risky. Change is scary.

We're so scared of making a change that we outsource our decisions to other people. In other words, we seek their permission. Not surprisingly, our family members and peers recommend circling the race track rather than pursuing the labyrinth of self-discovery. Warns financial advisor and essayist/sketcher Carl Richards for the New York Times:

“People expect you to stay how you are, to maintain the status quo, to stay the course. And if you get bogged down looking for that affirmation to make a change, you may never make it.”

All believing is betting

People that do risk change — on their volition or because of a coin toss — usually end up thinking the best of it. When we change, we grow.

“Based on the results of tossing over 20,000 virtual coins, the study found that people were happier after making a major change, whether they did it because the coin forced their hand or because they decided on their own.”

The only person we need permission from is ourselves. Indecision is a decision, albeit, the wrong one. Still unsure? Here's your permission slip.

“Whatever it is, you now have permission to do it.”

Read Hesitant to Make That Big Life Change, Permission Granted 


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Do we have to be sad to be creative?

According to a recent study, you are more likely to be creative when you are sad. The researcher examined the personal letters of three artists -- Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Liszt -- which revealed a link between their melancholy and peak creativity. Whether it was financial troubles or death of loved ones, these artists coped with their problems by producing more work to express themselves. #gif #happiness #creativity

According to a recent study, you are more likely to be creative when you are sad. The researcher examined the personal letters of three artists — Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Liszt — which revealed a link between their melancholy and peak creativity. Whether it was financial troubles or death of loved ones, these artists coped with their problems by producing more work to express themselves.

Using econometrics, he calculates that a 9.3 percent increase in negative emotions leads to a 6.3 percent increase in works created in the following year.

Is negativity a prerequisite to creativity? Not exactly, but it helps.

In Nancy Andreasen's book The Creating Brain: The Neuroscience of Genius (Amazon), she finds that the writers reported increased creativity from their ability to detach themselves from their negative states.

they could look back on their periods of depression or mania with considerable detachment. They were also able to describe how abnormalities in mood state affected their creativity. Consistently, they indicated that they were unable to be creative when either depressed or manic.

Mood does not dictate an artist's palette. Depressed people are not necessarily more creative, but they can use their pain to fuel new ways of thinking — the same way a happy person converts their cheerfulness into increased productivity. Perhaps both happiness and sadness result from deploying our human intelligence to act creatively.

Related: In another study, people that post bluer, greyer, and darker pictures on Instagram “reveal predictive markers of depression.”. However, what if that is just the way those Instagrammers see the world, especially if they are colorblind? Moreover, it could be the fame-seeking that's at the root of their unhappiness.


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Brain on fire

Lest we dump problems on tomorrow, we can change today. There’s no stopping the expectation for improvement. We have to demand progress, even if it means we have to fake it. #gif #amwriting

Like putty, we can be reshaped. We are not stagnant.

Lest we dump problems on tomorrow, we can change today. There’s no stopping the expectation for improvement. We have to demand progress, even if it means we have to fake it.

Positive psychology is a different mode of experiencing. It shall not be forced, but knowing it’s up to us to foster happiness compels us to act with just a little more hope.


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The happiness curve

Behavioral economists explain why the mid-life crisis is only temporary. Happiness increases with old age.

“Life satisfaction tends to decline gradually after early adulthood, bottom out in middle age [or 40s], then gradually rebound after.”

Study: Is well-being U-shaped over the life cycle?

In short, life gets better after 50.


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The 2-minute exercise that could make you more successful

According to Harvard psychologist Shawn Achor's book [easyazon_link identifier=”0307591557″ locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]The Happiness Advantage[/easyazon_link], it is happiness that begets success and not the other way around.

And one of the quickest ways to boost your mood is to start by sending someone a quick email every morning.

The simplest thing you can do is a two-minute email praising or thanking one person that you know. We’ve done this at Facebook, at US Foods, we’ve done this at Microsoft. We had them write a two-minute email praising or thanking one person they know, and a different person each day for 21 days in a row. That’s it. What we find is this dramatically increases their social connection which is the greatest predictor of happiness we have in organizations. It also improves teamwork. We’ve measured the collective IQ of teams and the collective years of experience of teams but both of those metrics are trumped by social cohesion.

For a longer-term impact on happiness, Achor advises checking your attitude, sociability, and how you choose to view challenges.

Read New Harvard Research Reveals How to Be More Successful and watch Shawn's TED Talk below


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Einstein’s theory of happiness

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Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

In 1922, short off his Nobel prize in physics, Einstein traveled to Tokyo to deliver a 4-hour lecture at the Imperial Palace. But he also left someone an important message on happiness.

Out of tip money at his hotel, Einstein instead gave his Japanese courier a nugget of wisdom:

“A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.”

In other words, be a little more tortoise-y and a little less harish. Nearly a century later, Einstein is still reminding us to enjoy life’s process.

Read Einstein’s Note On Happiness, Given To Bellboy In 1922, Fetches $1.6 Million


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The chemicals between us

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We all want to experience pleasure all the time. But it’s utility is temporary, the dopamine hit comes and goes. Addiction is the attempt to make it last forever. Spinning the social media wheel, again and again, is a prime example of its superficiality.

Happiness, on the other hand, “is long-term, additive and generous.” It's a state of mind built over time through sustained effort toward true connection and generosity. It's a deeper emotional investment with zero emphases on cash-value.

We have two choices: the taking of short-term dopamine or the giving of long-term serotonin. We become what we choose.


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