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.

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

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

The chemicals between us

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via giphy

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.

Thin Slices of Joy

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Image via Alvin Baleness

If you can find joy in the ordinary and not just the extraordinary moments, you'll live a much happier life.

When you're young, it's the big moments like our first car or getting our first kiss that shapes our lives. As we age, the small things matter — a sip of warm coffee or lunch with a friend.

Joy all comes down to the art of noticing. Says Google's former mindfulness guru Chade-Meng Tan:

“Noticing sounds trivial, but it is an important meditative practice in its own right. Noticing is the prerequisite of seeing. What we do not notice, we cannot see.”

The practice of noticing everyday moments leads to Meng Tan calls “thin slices of joy,” quite the opposite of “thin slices of anxiety.” Life happens in the moments in between, the dull moments that people usually take for granted.

What is more important: money or time?

What is more important: money or time?, what is more important time or money

At some point, you'll need to decide which is more important to you: time or money.

Everybody has the same amount of time. However, few people can enjoy it because they have to go to work. But we can be deliberate with time when it comes, using it pursue a hobby or hang out with friends and family. It's proven that people who choose time over money spend it wisely and are happier for it.

Some rich folks feel like they never have enough money, so they buy things they never have time to use. They're unhappy because they confuse time with money, but materialism rarely equates to happiness.

There is no doubt that money makes life easier. Who wants to wait in line, eat Ramen every night, and feel left out because they can't afford to travel or upgrade their computer? Being poor sucks. But focusing on money fails to create the deeper meaning you seek.

In today's age, software accelerates time. People feel like they're playing catch-up, trying to stay on top of the news and their friends' activities until they realize that the fear of missing out. Comparison is the root their of unhappiness.

“I wanted to pursue my star further,” Jack Kerouac once wrote. What he longed for is more time. The gas tank is starving for fuel so the individual can go out and find meaning. But that same person can always choose to slow down and walk for free.

What Should You Choose: Time or Money? 

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 

Do we have to be sad to be creative?

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.

“More time is better than money” 💸

Time is money

Time is the most valuable asset we have, especially when it comes to vacation. Money just makes things easier. Instead of walking up the mountain, we pay to take the lift. Instead of using the local train, we hop in a more expensive cab ride. Yet, convenience is often a shortcut to experience.

The most memorable trips are the ones that slow us down and allow us to notice the minutiae: the smells, the way people move, communicate, and dress. Flying over a mountain makes an enviable Instagram photo but taking a picture of the man reading the newspaper or even his shoes, recreates a cultural moment that's not Googleable.

“Of the two modes, it is far better to have more time than money.

When you have abundant time you can get closer to core of a place. You can hang around and see what really happens. You can meet a wider variety of people. You can slow down until the hour that the secret vault is opened. You have enough time to learn some new words, to understand what the real prices are, to wait out the weather, to get to that place that takes a week in a jeep.” – Kevin Kelly, More time is better than money

Money cheats time by replacing experiences with immediate gratification. The challenges along the way are the richest experiences in disguise. “So if you have a choice,” Kelley writes, “travel with more time than money. You’ll be richer.”

7 articles to read this weekend

The Internet is my favorite library, an endless sea of discovery. Below are 7 articles that interested me this this week. You can also subscribe to these stories via email.

1. Finding Happiness

Fame, money, sex: the thirst for all three make you unhappy in the long term. Arthur Brooks reminds us that one key to happiness may be to “Love people, use things” instead of vice versa. This 75 year-long study also confirms that love is the answer, at least for men.

+ HBR Podcast: You can succeed quietly if you just focus on doing good work. As I wrote a while back, creativity thrives on anonymity. Your best work may be because you're invisible.

2. Hidden Mantras

Humans are forgetful. So what better way to keep our life's objectives on track than by using our goals or mantras as passwords. Just remember to turn off automatic log-in so you can get the practice.

3. I Love Lucy

Your brain is more plastic when it's younger. However, the drug Valproate can make your brain as sponge-like as a child's, giving you the ability to store up to 36 languages. According to the new movie Lucy, we only use 10% our brain right now.

4. Silence is Golden

Music can make you more productive not just because it silences office noise but because it improves your mood.. And happy people work better. I personally can't listen to any music while I work, read, or blog, especially if there's lyrics. But I can work well in coffee shops, which provide just enough ambient noise to life creativity.

+ HBR Podcast: Despite the ambient music, apparently we're all too busy working anyway. Author Greg McKeown discusses the busyness bubble.

5. Recycled Software

No one likes email. But people do like the newest email and to-do list apps. Paul Ford argues that while these productivity tools may help us work more efficiently they all pretty much do the same thing. Maybe the only reason we're obsessed with having the latest software is to combat bureaucratic demands of work culture.

+ James Altucher Podcast: Seth Godin explains why the success of a product relies heavily on its marketing. For example, if the scientists just called global warming “atmospheric cancer” instead if would be taken more seriously.

6. Traveling Abroad

Those lucky enough to travel the world are often more tolerant of different cultures and habits. They realize that the world is much bigger than their home and that home is parochial itself too. Simon Kuper outlines his rules for traveling abroad.

7. Social N(o)tworking

Nick Bilton recounts his obsession with social media and the recent changes he's made to prevent it from consuming every hour of his day. Instead of “chasing digital carrots,” he reads more books instead.