WEEK 7 - The Philanthropist
Create, Contribute,Thrive and Flourish
Positive Health Principle #43
Commit to Something Larger than Yourself
In today's class you will learn:
1. Why contribution is essential to living a fulfilling life
2. How to contribute in a meaningful way
3. What is the link between happiness and meaning
When you finish today's class, click the golden button below and take another extra small action!
REFLECT: What is your definition of a meaningful life?
“Each of us is a unique strand in the intricate web
of life and here to make a contribution.”
TODAY'S DOSE OF POSITIVE HEALTH
What makes things memorable is that they are meaningful, significant, colorful. Joshua Foer
On the internet and in bookstores, a thousand gurus tout different remedies for human misery. How can we find out which remedies work? We need to consult one of our greatest gurus, the scientific method.
Recently we have seen a dramatic upsurge in scientific studies on Positive Psychology and the science of happiness or to put it simply, discovering what makes happy people happy. Fortunately, many of these studies point to specific ways of thinking and acting that can strongly impact our sense of well-being and happiness. The discoveries are enriching the lives of millions of people around the world.
For more than 60 years, psychology just like healthcare worked within the disease model. Psychology was about finding what's wrong with us. What was interesting about working in the disease model, is that, 60 years ago, none of the disorders were treatable - it was entirely smoke and mirrors. And now, 14 of the disorders are treatable, two of them actually curable.
The other thing that happened is that a science developed, a science of mental illness. We found out that we could take fuzzy concepts -- like depression or alcoholism and measure them with rigor. We could create a classification of the mental illnesses and understand the causality of these diseases. We could look across time at the same people, for example, those who were genetically vulnerable to schizophrenia and ask what the contribution of mothering, of genetics, are, and we could isolate third variables by doing experiments on the mental illnesses.
And best of all, we were able, in the last 50 years, to invent drug treatments and psychological treatments. And then we were able to test them rigorously, in a random assignment, placebo-controlled trials, throw out the things that didn't work, and keep the things that actively did.
And the conclusion of that is that psychology and psychiatry, over the last 60 years, can actually claim that we can make miserable people less miserable. That's terrific. But there were three things, not so good.
The first issue was moral - psychologists and psychiatrists became victimologists, pathologisers, convincing us that if we were in trouble, bricks fell on us. And we forgot that people made choices and decisions. We forgot personal responsibility.
The second cost was that we forgot about improving normal lives. We forgot about a mission to make relatively untroubled people happier, more fulfilled, more productive. And "genius," "high-talent," became a forbidden word. No one wanted work on that.
And the third problem about the disease model is the rush to do something about people in trouble, the rush to repair the damage. Interestingly, it never occurred to psychologists to develop interventions that make people happier - positive interventions.
After many years of rigorous research, we now know that positive interventions are not only possible but also effective. Here are three lessons we have learned:
The first is that psychology should be just as concerned with human strength as it is with weakness. It should be just as concerned with building strength as with repairing the damage. It should be interested in the best things in life, and it should be just as concerned with making the lives of normal people more fulfilling and meaningful.
So in the last ten years and the hope for the future, we've seen the beginnings of a science of what makes our life worth living.
It turns out that we can measure different forms of happiness like positive emotions, meaning, flow, and other positive factors that are the opposite of the diagnostic manual of the insanities. We have a proper classification of the strengths and virtues that looks at the sex ratio, how they're defined, how to diagnose them, what builds them and what gets in their way.
Moreover, we can find the causation of the positive states, the relationship between left hemispheric activity and right hemispheric activity as a cause of happiness.
So how do extremely miserable people differ from the rest of us? And how extremely happy people differ from the rest of us? It turns out there's one scientific way. These people are not more religious, they're not in better shape, they don't have more money, they're not better looking, they don't have more good events and fewer traumas. The one way in which they differ: they are extremely social. They don't spend time alone, they are in romantic relationships and have a rich circle of friends.
But there is a catch here - this data is merely correlational; it doesn't show causation, and it reflects a "celebrity" kind of happiness, based having a good time, and that's not nearly enough.
Researchers studied more than 120 interventions from Buddha to contemporary spiritual teachers and motivational speakers to find what actually makes people lastingly happier and what is a happy life in the first instance. The results are fascinating and profound.
There are three different happy lives. The first happy life is a pleasant life. This is life in which we have as much positive emotion as we possibly can, and the skills to amplify it. The second is a life of engagement - a life in work, the way we love, parent, enjoy leisure time. And third, is the meaningful life.
The first life is a pleasant life, and it's simply about having as many of the pleasures as we can, as much positive emotion as we can, and learning the skills like savoring or mindfulness that amplify them, that stretch them over time and space. But the pleasant life has three drawbacks.
The first drawback is that the pleasant life, the experience of positive emotion, is about 50% heritable, and, in fact, not very modifiable.
Second is that positive emotion habituates. It habituates rapidly, indeed. It's like vanilla ice cream; the first taste is a 100%; by the time we're down to the sixth taste, it's gone. It's not particularly malleable.
This leads to the second life which is more than positive emotion and more than building pleasure. This is what Mike Csikszentmihalyi described as a flow state or so-called eudaimonia. It's distinct from pleasure in a very important way. Pleasure has raw feels: we know it's happening. It's thought and feeling, but during flow, we can't feel anything. We're one with the music. Time stops. We have intense concentration. And this is the characteristic of what scientists call the good life.
The third life is meaning. This is the most venerable of the happinesses, traditionally. Meaning, in this view, consists of knowing what our highest strengths are and using them in the service of something larger than ourselves are.
Researchers at Pensylvania University were looking to answer if there are things that lastingly change those lives. The answer seems to be yes. The research has been done in the same way that we test drugs to see what really works, in a random assignment, placebo-controlled, long-term studies of different interventions.
One group, for example, was asked to set a day aside, design a beautiful day, and use savoring and mindfulness to enhance those pleasures, another group was asked to practice gratitude on a regular basis and the third group was asked to do something altruistic. After four weeks all three groups were happier, less depressed and more satisfied with life.
The next questions scientists asked was: to what extent does the pursuit of pleasure, the pursuit of positive emotion, the pleasant life, and the pursuit of meaning contribute to life satisfaction?
The results were surprising. It turned out that the pursuit of pleasure has almost no contribution to life satisfaction. The pursuit of meaning is the strongest. The pursuit of engagement is also very strong. Pleasure matters when both engagement and meaning are in place, then pleasure is the cherry on top. In other words, in the full life, the sum is greater than the parts. Conversely, if none of the three are present, the empty life, the sum is less than the parts.
Is health a function of positive engagement, of pleasure, and of meaning in life? We don't have enough data yet to answer it, but there is a reason to think that the answer to both of those may well be yes.
The skills of happiness, the skills of the pleasant life, engagement, and meaning, are different from the skills of relieving misery the way the skills of positive health are different from relieving the symptoms of physical illness.
The life of true happiness
How to live a joyful life
TODAY'S INSPIRED ACTION
Think about 1 thing you are grateful for right now
YOUR WEEKLY SESSION
Get ready for your weekly session.
In your sixth session you will explore how to express yourself in service to others and set the following intentions:
1. Trust Your Self
2. Use your personality and self-expression in service to the world
Answer the questions in the Self-Trust Worksheet (download No1), and go through the exercises (download No2) before your next session. Evaluate your session in the Self-Evaluation Worksheet (download No3).
1. Please make sure that you choose a convenient time and a quiet place for your Skype conversations.
2. Let the members of your household know when you need time for yourself, so you are not being interrupted.
3. Check your wifi connection and show up on time.
4. If you are unable to attend, you can still reschedule within the next few days before the Monday of the following week, if your guide has a free time slot.
5. Your one-to-one sessions are an integral part of the Grace School curriculum. It is, therefore, fundamental that each session is in synchrony with the weekly Grace School module.
YOUR WEEKLY DOWNLOADS
All files attached below have been created to support and enhance your learning experience.
These are available for download for the next 7 days. Please make sure that you create your account to answer the questions in the Self-Trust Worksheet (No1), and do the exercises (No2) before your next session.
Use the Self-Evaluation Worksheet (No3) after your session. At the end of the week reflect on your experiences and challenges. Summarise your week with the Self-Reflection Worksheet (No4).
Your WEEK 7 Downloads:
1. Self-Trust Worksheet - identify how much you can trust yourself (approx. time 10 minutes)
2. Exercise Worksheet - do the exercises before your next session (approx time 10 minutes)
3. Self-Evaluation Worksheet - evaluate your session and learn from your experience (approx time 10-15 minutes)
4. Self-Reflection Worksheet - at the end of the week reflect on your experiences and challenges (approx time 10-20 minutes)
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