Here are 7 life lessons from my favourite blogger Maria Popova of Brain Pickings that arrived on Sunday… a very fitting end to the financial year for us to reflect on our own lives, and certainly timely for me after just returning to the office after a 5 week jaunt around France with Liz celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary.
Here are Maria’s 7 life lessons… and under each, I’ve commented on what we know from Positive Psychology that supports the value of the lesson as a positive way to help you live a more happy, flourishing and prosperous life.
1. Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind.
This is certainly supported by the research from Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, Carol Dweck. Do you have a ‘fixed’ mindset or a ‘growth’ mindset? The more aspects of your life where you are open to growth and learning and not fixed in your way as being ‘the way’, the more open to opportunities you will be – which science validates will help you live a more happy, flourishing, meaningful and prosperous life.
2. Do nothing out of guilt, or for prestige, status, money or approval alone.
Science validates the negative impact that social comparison can have… the hedonic treadmill that many people find themselves on… making decisions just to ensure they are keeping up with the Joneses… often leads to lower levels of life satisfaction.
3. Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words.
Science validates the power of giving… whether it’s a giving attitude of positive praise, thanks, gratitude, or volunteering, or giving to friends, family or charity… without advocating we give it all away, the power of giving has significantly positive impacts on our overall life satisfaction.
4. Build pockets of stillness into your life.
There is a long history and growing body of research of the power of stillness, of meditation in its various forms, and of being able to tune out from the ‘noise in your world’ and tune in more to the relaxing and releasing power of following your breath to bring you more into more moments more often. This helps us to live life, rather than just habitually ‘existing’ our way through life.
5. Maya Angelou famously said, ‘When people tell you who they are, believe them’. But even more importantly, when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them.
The research around ‘The Self’ (including self-belief, self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-efficacy to name just a few) validates the importance of intrinsic motivation… when our life is driven from within… from a congruence between our values, beliefs and actions… and not from decisions and choices made based on what we think others will want us to do or be. I personally really like the three B’s of Renwick & Brown (Being, Belonging and Becoming).
6. Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity. As Annie Dillard memorably put it, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
For most of us mere mortals, it certainly isn’t possible to be present in every moment of day, however, aiming to intentionally be more mindfully present in more moments more often through our lives, we get to savour more moments. Science validates the more we savour more of the ‘everyday’ elements of our lives, the more gratitude we have for what we have, and not just to be striving for more, the more happier we will be in who we are, and the life we live.
7. Debbie Millman captures our modern predicament beautifully: “Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.”
There is a lot of research emerging about the problems that the latest of our Generation categories (Gen Z) are experiencing because of the always on, 24/7, FOMO (fear of missing out), and expectations of having it all and having it now… because they are ‘special’ (or so they’ve been told by their parents and their teachers). Vast research into ‘realistic optimism’ supports the value of positivity, goal setting, and the power of experiencing more moments in ‘flow’ in our lives. To expect great things to happen instantly just isn’t practical. While it can happen, as Maria Popova has reminded us in this 7th of her life lessons, while many things in our life may be possible and worthwhile, most of the time, it takes a combination of effort, action and time for the most worthwhile things in our lives to be achieved.