Sunday, August 29, 2010

Savoring your life

"We've been raised to compete, to want more! More! More! It's a way of life. It's about greed.”
Sandy Duncan

Greed, excessive materialism and hedonism are addictive behaviours that are definitely not life enhancing and can destroy inner peace and happiness. We are challenged daily by a world that encourages and supports these addictions. They’re insidious and deceptive. And once you’re on the treadmill of escalating desires, it’s not easy to get off.

By understanding the natural processes that lead to these destructive emotions and behaviours, you can learn to control your desires and re-balance your life. Happiness is created, not by satisfying greed, but by truly savoring and appreciating what you have and do in life. True wealth involves more than money and true joy needs more than the satisfying of desires.

Addiction to Greed

It’s becoming exceedingly obvious we live in a world filled with selfishness and greed. The evidence surrounds us. Take a look at the state of the world! The media is filled with stories and images that are testament to the greed that has stealthily overtaken society.

We are living well beyond our means. The planet cannot support so many humans living such rapacious lives. We are destroying our world and our future. Our economy is in massive disarray. Our ecosphere is in massive decline. We are raping our world in the name of greed, desire and avarice.

This has all come about due to the craziness and un-sanity of following an economic model of infinite growth in a finite system. Yes, an infinite growth model… For hundreds of years our society, politics and economics have been managed using a year on year growth imperative. Our businesses and financial systems have been measured and directed by expectations of year on year growth – that’s growth on previous growth.

This is an infinite growth model. It relies on exponential growth, of continuous and never ending expansion on top of previous growth. And as we are now experiencing, it is unsustainable. We live in a finite world. We cannot keep digging and siphoning up limited resources and expect that to continue forever. It’s unsane!

And I’m sure I don’t have to convince you of that… However, we may have more of a challenge getting you to see your own addictions to personal patterns of greed, desire and selfishness that are feeding this unsane system and are ultimately so life denying.

Why is that?

Because many of these patterns, the very patterns that have created our current world issues, are naturally evolved and inbuilt propensities. They are normal. And in controlled amounts they’re even useful and appropriate. They have largely driven the successes we all enjoy and are highly valued in society. But they’re also insidious, addictive and lead naturally ever onwards to more and more and more of the same.

So while en-masse and globally they are now evidenced as crazy and destructive, in your own life they’re often still accepted, overlooked or even applauded. Tracking and changing these insidious greed and selfishness patterns can be challenging.

The first step of course is awareness. You need to be aware of the patterns and processes of ‘greeding’ in your life. The next step is to interrupt the patterns. Then finally and continually you need to practice emotions and behaviours that oppose these negative greed patterns and inoculate yourself against them.

The biology of greed

The primitive emotion-driven biological circuits of your brain become intensely aroused when you anticipate greed behaviours.

Research at Stanford University has shown that anticipation and desire for money during behaviours such as financial investing and gambling cause the same areas of the brain to activate as those responsible for sexual desire. In one study, the brains of young adult men were scanned with magnetic resonance imaging while they viewed sexually arousing pictures and also when they made risky financial decisions. The study found the same areas of the brain light up during financial gambles as during sexual desire.

This is something to be aware of: Greed utilises many of the same biological circuits as hunger and sexual desire. Greed feels good. It’s quite an insidious trap.

The other important thing to note about the biology of greed is that satiating desire does NOT feel as good as the greed itself. One study found that the hot state of anticipation cools down as soon as you gain the financial reward, yielding lukewarm satisfaction.

As Jason Zweig, author of the book ‘Your Money and Your Brain’ describes it, "Making money feels good, all right; it just doesn't feel as good as expecting to make money. In a cruel irony that has enormous implications for financial behaviour, your investing brain comes equipped with a biological mechanism that is more aroused when you anticipate a profit than when you actually get one".

Contentment versus Greeding

According to the Dalai Lama, “The true antidote of greed is contentment” and a reliable method to achieve inner contentment is “not to have what we want but rather to want and appreciate what we have” (The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama and H. Cutler).

These deep and ancient insights from Buddhist philosophy have been recently supported by research in Positive Psychology. The studies show that savoring and appreciating what you currently have can significantly increase levels of joy and happiness.

Savoring involves relishing and paying special attention to the pleasurable and meaningful things and events in your life. It’s about truly appreciating and celebrating your experiences, including those occurring in the present, those that are now fond memories and those you are looking forward to with positive anticipation.

The studies also show that savoring positive experiences is correlated with a greater sense of well being, increased happiness and better physical health – All great life enhancing benefits and wonderful antidotes to greeding!

By shifting your attention to a focus on contentment, you’ll have broken the vicious spiral of wanting more and more. You’ll have allowed your multi-mind to experience and enjoy the life you have right now. You’ll overcome the enemy to happiness of greed and never-ending desiring.

Remember also that the mind/body is a patterning system, so the patterns you put into your mind and life create the patterns of results you get back from life. I liken the practice and focus on savoring and contentment to the Native American story about the wise grandfather talking to his grandson. He tells the young boy we all have two wolves inside of us struggling with each other. The first is the wolf of peace, love and kindness. The other wolf is fear, greed and hatred. "Which wolf will win, grandfather?" asks the young boy. "Whichever one you feed" is the thoughtful reply.

So make sure you feed the life enhancing patterns you want in your life, and stay tuned for more ideas and distinctions in up-coming blog posts on ‘Wealthing your life’.

"The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.”

Flora Whittemore

Want to learn more, get a copy of my book: Avoiding the Enemies to HAPPINESS!

life enhancing thoughts and wishes,

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wealthing your life

"The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it."
- Thoreau

True life enhancing wealth goes beyond money and assets. Wealth is an attitude, a skill and a way of living. It’s about peace of mind, flexibility and generosity of spirit.

Research shows that more money doesn’t buy happiness. Once you have enough money for the basic necessities of a good life, more money tends to bring little additional and meaningful happiness and can even bring its own hassles and additional risks and responsibilities. Nevertheless, wealth provides freedom, choice and the ability to purchase life enhancing experiences and adventures such as overseas travel, inspirational adventure activities and the time and resources for advanced education.

In this and upcoming blog posts, I want to share with you some ideas and life enhancing strategies about wealthing your life. I hope you enjoy them and find them useful.

About Wealthing

The key to wealthing your life is to bypass the greed for mere money and instead build skills and strategies into your life for creating true wealth. Of course, I could write a whole book on Wealth Creating and many people have already done so. I highly recommend you read some.

However, I must stress that what follows is general life advice and in no way constitutes financial advice. For specific financial advice, pertinent to your life, personal situation and requirements, you should always seek professional advice from a registered Financial Advisor. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s explore some tips, distinctions and thinking tools that support wealth creating.

Let me tell you a story...

Using Money

I was at a local produce market where I spied a flower stall filled with beautiful bouquets. “I know”, I thought “I’ll buy my beloved some beautiful flowers, she’ll love them”.

Now you see, since I teach and run workshops on negotiation I always like to practice my skills and techniques whenever I can. So I walked over to the vendor and started negotiating.

“How much discount will you give me now, for those two bunches of flowers, and make such a great customer like me, really happy?” I asked with a smile. With a cheeky glint in his eye, the vendor smoothly responded, “Ah, my friend, I can see you like a bargain. However, my prices are as low as I can go. So there’s no discount available. However, if you buy the flowers now, I can give you a bonus that is worth much more than a few dollars. How does that sound?”

We bartered back and forth for a few more rounds, as I attempted to determine how firm he was on not dropping his price and to find out what this ‘bonus’ was.

“I’ll give you some very powerful advice as the bonus” he said. “Advice that has such value it will make you much more money than you could ever get from the few dollars you could bargain on these flowers.” “And I’ll tell you what, if you don’t feel the advice is worth it, then I’ll give you the flowers for free. But I know you’ll see how powerful the idea I’ll share with you is.”

He had me very intrigued now. He’d done his negotiating job well. So I capitulated, and agreed to buy the flowers at the original price and waited anxiously for him to wrap the flowers and share with me his sage advice.

“Ok”, he said, handing me the flowers and taking my money. “When you first came over to my stall, I heard you say ‘I think I’ll spend a few dollars on these beautiful flowers for my beloved’, is that not true?”

“Yes”, I replied, “I do believe you are right.”

“Well”, he asked, “Once you have spent your money, what has happened to it?”

I pondered… what does he mean? What happens to money once you’ve spent it? I looked quizzically at him.

“It’s simple”, he smiled, “It’s gone! When you spend your money, it’s gone. You don’t have it any more.”

“However”, he continued, “if you ‘Use’ your money, rather than spending it, what happens?”

I looked at him, thinking… “I guess when you use money, you have created value with it and you still have the value”, I replied.

“Yes!”, he laughed, “you’ve got it! When you find yourself about to purchase something, ask yourself: will buying this use my hard earned money wisely or will it merely be spending it? Will this be the best use of my money? Do I really need to spend this money?”

“If you follow this powerful advice, you’ll find yourself generating true wealth. Your purchases will add value to your life and you won’t waste money spending it on frivolous purchases.” His face lit up with the biggest of smiles, as he asked, “Now tell me, isn’t that powerful advice, and isn’t it worth more than a couple of dollars saved on these beautiful flowers!”

Use money, don’t spend it!

He was right! It was fantastic advice: “Use money, don’t spend it!” What a powerful thinking tool. I thanked him profusely. He had added another useful distinction to my understanding of how to generate wealth in my life.

I truly suggest you commit this thinking tool to memory and use it and practice it every time you consider making a purchase. The tool orients you to questions of purpose, outcomes and value. Do you really need to make the purchase, will it be the best use of your money, will it add true wealth to your life? If not, then don’t make the purchase, save your money.

Use this life enhancing tool and you’ll find yourself growing and creating more wealth in your life. And stay tuned for some more life enhancing ideas, thoughts and distinctions on wealthing your life in upcoming blog posts.

Thinking Tool – Using Your Money Wisely
Use money, don’t spend it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Self Compassion and Mindfulness

Hi there, welcome to today's blog post :-) Take a moment before you start reading, to breath deeply, relax and become mindfully aware of your body, your posture, your feelings. Notice any tension in your shoulders, your chest, your gut, your heart, your pelvis, your legs. Acknowledge what's going on in your body and your life.

Now gently let any tension go and allow warm relaxing feelings to breath through your body, your heart and mind. Really enjoy a deep sense of loving self compassion in your heart and calm abiding in your gut right now. Take another deep easy flowing breath and smile, smile deeply, smile wonderfully. Smile from your head, down into your heart and on into your gut. It feels great and you deserve to experience it mindfully now :-)

Today's Blog: why it's so practical
I've blogged before about how life enhancing compassion and mindfulness can be, how they can add practical value to your life and how they are linked with your heart, head and gut brains... and so today I want to reinforce this knowledge by sharing a short youtube vid entitled 'Self Compassion: What it Really is and Why it's so Practical'

Do you remember the blog post I did on Transcending Pain? In it, I described how pain is a signal and the word 'pain' can be considered to be an acronym that describes the role of this signaling:
PAIN = Please Acknowledge Information Now
Once you have consciously acknowledged the experience of the paining -- the information -- you find the emotional valence of the experience is often massively decreased. Notice the links between this and what Dr. Germer described in the video. Suffering decreases when you mindfully acknowledge and accept pain, either physical pain or psychological pain.


Self  compassion, mindfulness, heart-felt acknowledging and openness, all lead to a change in the unconscious response to paining and decrease suffering. Every one of us has and will experience times in our lives in which pain is inevitable. The ability to control that paining, to transcend it and to overcome and transcend suffering is incredibly life enhancing.

You might want to increase your knowledge and skills in Self Compassion and Mindfulness by reading Dr. Germer's book:

The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions