I find it befitting to start off with a very powerful poem by Kahlil Gibran the author of The Prophet, which did not find its place in this list Powerful Life Poetry For Hard Times but another one of his did.
Love not a half lover, nor befriend a half friend
Indulge not in the work of the half-talented
Live not a half life, nor die a half death
Choose not a half solution, nor stand in the middle of a truth
Dream not a half dream, nor cling to a half hope
If you choose to be silent, be silent to the end
And if you choose to speak, speak to the end
Let not your silence speak for you, nor your speech silence you
If you agree, express your agreement, do not feign your acceptance
A half life is a life you have not lived, a word you have not said, a smile you have not expressed,
A love you have not felt, and a friendship you have not known
A half life makes you a stranger to intimates, and your intimates strangers
A half life is what you reach but never attain and where you strive but never succeed
It is where you are both absent and present
It is where you are not yourself, for you have never known yourself
And thus whom you love is not your true soul mate
A half life is where you are present in different places at the same time
A half drink does not satisfy your thirst, nor a half meal your hunger
A half path leads you nowhere, and a half thought yields no result
A half life is a moment of weakness, but you are not weak, for you are not a half person
You are a person! You exist to live a full life, not a half life.
A quick run down of what to expect:
- Misconceptions about happiness
- why our expectations are so bad
- what really increases happiness
- strategies to reset our expectations
- putting strategies into practice
The G.I. Joe Fallacy
It goes like this; a cartoon show in the 80’s ends with public announcements like, wash your hand’s after using the toilet, look both ways when you cross the road and so on. A kid, because it was a show for kids, says, “Thank you G. I. Joe. Now, I know.” And then, G.I. Joe repeats the canonical phrase, “Knowing is half the battle.” The G.I. Joe Fallacy was hence named after the G.I. Joe cartoon show. by Dr. Laurie Santos and her colleague while working at YALE.
A fallacy is the use of invalid or otherwise faulty reasoning, or “wrong moves” in the construction of an argument. Hence, the G.I.Joe fallacy is the idea that knowing is half the battle.
Dr.Laurie says that merely knowing something is not enough to put it into practice or actually change your behavior. However, seeing our own though patters is not as easy as we think it to be. I’ll give an example with the Muller -Lyer illusion. Look at the diagram below and, in your own head, note which line is longer.
The bottom line is obviously shorter than the top line, right? In truth, both lines are actually the same length. When you deconstruct the image and remove the outer wings on the first line and inward wings on the second, you are left with two identical lines.
Here is the interesting fact: even though you now know that they are both the same length, you can’t teach your eyes not to see the bottom one as shorter. Merely knowing it does not make the situation better. The brain still perceives these two as one long and short line. By looking at how we perceive illusions, we can learn more about how the brain and perceptual process work.
Here is a different example that highlights the same concept from the Shepard’s Tables illusion named after the vision scientist, Roger Shepard. Take a piece of paper, pen, chain or whatever you can measure this with but before that, identify the longer and shorter table. Come on, We all know the answer to this. It can’t be anything else. This example is clearer. We’re right this time.
Have you measure it? Isn’t that amazing? You see the table on the left as being longer than the one on the right yet they are the same exact length. Even if you learn the vision science behind these illusions, you will still see these things in the same way. The point this puts across is that just knowing something isn’t going to actually make something change, or in our case, make someone change their behavior. We all know we should eat healthy, right? So why don’t most people? You know that if you went for a daily walk it would significantly alleviate your mood. You know you are in a toxic relationship, you know that cigarettes are going to kill you. But so far, has the knowing actually helped change your habits? No? That’s the G.I. Joe fallacy.
For more on this topic, you can refer to Santos & Gendler (2014). Knowing is half the battle? Edge.
If we really want to change our behavior we have to change our habits but how can we do that when our whole baseline of things that make us happy is wrong -at least for the most part? It starts with analyzing our misconceptions of these things and then using tools available at our disposal to self-correct and redirect our streams of priorities towards the actual things that actually bring about genuine and longer-lasting happiness.
You can’t just read about how to change. You have to practically apply what you learn so that you can see the results as time progresses.
Imagine you are a house and this house is dark inside because the lights don’t work. And it’s not because the bulbs aren’t working, those are perfectly fine and have the ability to work as required. The issue is the wiring in this house which has been done all wrong, with wires placed where they should not be and others like a tangled up yarn dipped in glue. Now, for you to get this house working again, you know you have to do a re-wiring. But knowing isn’t enough, and because your house is so big, it is going to take some time to work on these wires. Every day you will pick a room, and focus on the wires present there. You will detangle the cords and use your pliers and needed tools to work on them until finally, the light in that room begins to shine again. Picture it as a dim light of consciousness that grows even brighter the more you harness what you have learnt. Then, you will move on to the next room and the next. The darkness in the rooms are your misconceived perceptions about life and the wires are the cords of truth. The bulb is your mind/brain and the light is your essence/spirit/soul.
Imagine if it has taken you twenty years to learn and practice a bad habit. Could you muster some patience to see yourself through a few more years of unlearning these habits? Could you be kind to yourself and get back up when you fall? Could you celebrate progress, no matter how small? H.W.Longfellow said in his poem, A Psalm of life;
Let us, then, be up and doing,H.W.Longfellow
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
This process will essentially involve tearing down the ego and if you are not aware, the ego does not like to be touched. But if Buddhist teachings, the bible, Quran, books like Ego Is The Enemy or basically human nature can teach you anything, it is that before we can advance our civilization, before we ourselves can become better and feel better, we have to gorge the ego out of us because it stands as the roadblock between our genuine desire for meaningful happiness and actual meaningful happiness.
I wrote a short story told from two perspectives by one mother-in-law that shows how we play to the tunes of our own egos, sometimes without even realizing it. Read it here if you’d like: The Mother-In-Law
I’ll deviate a little on this paragraph and say that I especially like how Sigmund Freud, neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, described consciousness. As I was coining the above example of the house, I remembered watching FREUD on Netflix. These were his words in the film:
I am a house. It is dark in me. My consciousness is a lonely light. A candle in the wind. It’s flickering. Sometimes here, sometimes there. Everything else is in the shade. Everything else is in the unconscious. But they are there. the other rooms. Niches, hallways, staircases and doors. At any time. And anything that lives within you and wanders within you… It is there. It Works and lives. Within the house is me. Instinct, eros and taboos. Forbidden thoughts. Forbidden desires. Memories we don’t want to see in the light. That we displaced from the light. They dance around us in the darkness. They torment and poke us. They haunt and whisper. They scare us. They make us sick. They make us hysteric.
By the time we are on our eighth week of the subject The Science of Well-Being, we will hopefully be more in touch with ourselves and slowly begin to restructure these ideas that have seen the world go from good to wtf. We’ll begin by looking at the things we think make/will make us happy but don’t and then get into what actually makes us happy. We’ll call this process the rewirement.
The fun part, yes? As we move along these posts over the next eight weeks, track your progress either using your planner, phone, the work book below or the ReWi app by YALE University which you can find here: ReWi on iOS & ReWi on Android . If you choose to print the below, free to download, worksheet out, each sheet will have 7 empty circles for you to mark your progress over the week. You can print out the sheets each week or you can get ahead and download a workbook of all the Rewirement Handouts. Both are available below thanks to Coursera, Dr.Laurie Santos and YALE University.
It’s important to measure your current baseline happiness before you begin tracking your patterns . If you download the app, the option to measure your current baseline will be available to you there. By collecting this data, you will be able to evaluate your own progress over time and evaluate whether what you are learning and practicing is helping you. You will be able to properly asses whether, after eight weeks of this, you will have witnessed a change in your happiness scale when you take the baseline test again. That is why it is important that you take it now. You can also join me on coursera in taking the Course The Science of Well-Being or follow along with the blog posts if you don’t want that option. (Turn on notifications) To get a better sense of what these eight posts will consist of, read the science of well-being and the meaning of life introduction.
To first learn where most you need to finesse, I’d recommend taking the big five personality test. It is the most scientifically validated and reliable psychological model to test personality to date. It tells you more about what your strengths and weaknesses are, hence, you will know what it is you are working towards changing and where you are excelling. I will share with you the data I received from mine. (please be kind)
The data most sites gives is usually more in depth than this but from what I have shared, we can see that though I am open to new ideas, I am also draw a lot to negative emotions. For me that would have to be self-doubt and negative self-talk. I am aware that I should not ignite my own fire but somehow it still happens. That missing link of connection is what we will be trying to unearth. Conscientiousness on the scale is also considerably low which can explain my problems with organized institutions, structures, laziness and a couple of other things.
The PERMA test (an acronym for Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment— the basic dimensions of psychological flourishing) can be taken here: PERMA and the YALE Authentic Happiness Inventory for testing your current happiness baseline can be taken here: Authentic Happiness Inventory They comprise of 23 and 24 questions respectively. I feel like I should light a torch here in case you’ve gotten that voice in your head that went, “too many questions,” or “that’s a lot”. What is more here is your desire for happiness and meaning.
Merge your desire with an unyielding will and rage against the dying of the light. If you are going to do something, do it all the way. Set that blue bird free from it’s cage and live not half a life.
Here is what we are touching on next: good job, awesome stuff, perfect grades, true love, money, perfect body, genes and life circumstances. Which of these do you think brings genuine happiness? Do any? Do all? Let’s find out next week.
Ways to Learn More
- 10 Most Recommended Autobiographies of All Time
- Should Governments Nudge Us to Make Good Choices?
- The Power of Nudges, for Good and Bad
- His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Dr. Howard Cutler: The Art of Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Handbook for Living (Based on 2,500 years of Buddhist meditations mixed with a healthy dose of common sense)
- Ed Diener, Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth (a nice introduction to the science of well-being from one of its pioneer
- Gretchen Rubin: The Happiness Project, Tenth Anniversary Edition: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More fun (Packed with fascinating facts about the science of happiness and rich examples of how she improves her life through changes small and big )
- Sadhguru: Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy (a dimensional shift in the way you perceive and experience life)
- Daniel Lerner & Alan Schlechter, U Thrive: How to Succeed in College (and Life) (a book aimed towards undergraduates which covers many of the rewirements taught in this course)
- Dr David Lewis: Impulse: Why We Do What We Do Without Knowing Why We Do It (Delving into the mysteries of the ‘zombie brain’ that each of us possesses, he demonstrates how unconscious neurological processes underpin every aspect of our lives)
- Martin Seligman, Flourish: A New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being – and how to Achieve Them (a fantastic overview of positive psychology from the father of this discipline)
- Ryan Niemiec & Robert McGrath, Power of Character Strengths: Activate and Ignite Your Positive Personality (an official guide on Character Strengths)
Free Online Talks
- Martin Seligman’s TED Talk – The new era of positive psychology