Constructive Purposes Are The Key To Good Moods

>> Saturday

"Morita therapists emphasize that it is important to find suitable constructive purposes and hold to them, thus guiding behavior in a positive direction. The other side of that coin is that all behavior, positive or negative, is purposeful. Whatever you do there is an aim to it, a goal toward which the behavior is directed. The goal may be destructive or constructive or mixed. For example, the shy person may avoid social gatherings in order to prevent the feelings of inadequacy and loneliness that he feels in such situations. In a sense Morita guidance asks the client to select constructive purposes and positive ways of achieving them instead of the already purposeful, but destructive behavior. Finding the purpose behind destructive behavior can be a useful undertaking because sometimes the original purpose can also be fulfilled in a positive way."

- David Reynolds
founder of Constructive Living
leading Western authority on Morita and
Naikan therapies, the two most popular
forms of therapy in Japan

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Success

>> Friday

"Frequently, success is what people settle for when they can't think of something noble enough to be worth failing at."

- Laurence Shames

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Our Deep Need For Purpose

>> Wednesday

"The need for meaning in life goes far beyond the mechanical techniques of selecting a goal to be achieved by positive thinking. If a person selects a goal just to satisfy the demands of others he will quickly revert back to self-defeating trap circuits. He will rapidly lose ambition, and though he may try to appear as if he is succeeding in what he is doing, he will feel miserable because he is not really committed to this objective. All the success seminars in the world will not make a potential Mozart or Monet content to be president of the Chase Manhattan Bank. Positive therapy strives to help people acquire a deeply positive orientation to living by enabling them to recover a long-buried dream or to implant firmly the roots of a new one. This need for deep personal meaning has been succinctly expressed by Friedrich Nietzsche: 'He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.' The phenomenon was directly observed by Viktor Frankl in Nazi concentration camps. Those prisoners who had a deeply rooted reason to survive — a meaningful project, a loving family — best withstood that prolonged torture without reverting to counterhuman patterns of behavior."

- Allen Wiesen, psychologist

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Simple Goals Improve Your Mood Best

>> Friday

WHEN A WAITER at a restaurant has one table, he usually isn't stressed at all. He can concentrate and do a good job, and it is no problem. Two tables, okay. Still no problem. Three tables, and he has to start paying attention, because it's like juggling — the more balls you have in the air, the easier it is to drop one. When he gets up to seven or eight tables, it can become very stressful. The juggling of tasks becomes too complex to handle well.

In the same way, the number of purposes you have is directly related to your stress hormone level. Depending on how you handle your goals, a strong sense of purpose can help you manage stress well, or it can make your general stress level much worse.

The problem is that the natural drift for people is toward complication. In other words, if you don't try to do anything about it, your life will get more and more complicated; you will collect more and more purposes. So you have to make a continuous effort to simplify your purposes. Your life will naturally and constantly drift toward complication, just as a rose bush will constantly try to sprawl. You must continually prune. You can't prune once and for all. You have to keep pruning.

For example, the waiter had several goals. He wanted his guests to be happy. He also wanted to get along well with his fellow waiters. And he wanted to please the cooks so interactions with them were pleasant. And, of course, he wanted the managers to be happy with him. And so on. Too many purposes. His attention is scattered in too many directions. If he knew about simplifying purposes, he would have trimmed his purposes down to something manageable: To make the guests pleased with his service. That's enough to concentrate on, and that would keep his tension level lower, because it is manageable.

Manage your purposes. Make a list: What are your most important purposes? Trim the list down to something manageable; something simple enough that you can manage it without stress. Get few enough purposes that it feels good.

Having strong purposes can improve your mood tremendously, but only if you keep your purposes trimmed down enough to feel good.

Be aware that after you trim your purposes, complexity will gradually creep back in. Simplifying your purposes is something you'll need to do once in awhile for the rest of your life.

Keep your purposes strong and clear, simple and heartfelt, and you will find the most powerful source of self-generated happiness that exists in this world. As George Bernard Shaw said, "the true joy in life is being used by a purpose recognized by yourself to be a mighty one." Experience the true joy in life. Be used by a mighty purpose. Find yourself a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment and get to work.

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How to Find the Love of Your Life

IN ORDER TO FIND a love for life, you’ll need to know what your strongest interest is. What really interests you? What do you love to talk about, read about, do, have, play with? If you don’t know the answer to those questions, or if the answers are a bunch of minor interests rather than one major interest, forget about finding a mate until you know what your “passion” is. But once you know that, finding a mate is easy: Pursue your interest and see who shows up.

Let’s say you love sailing. If you want to find someone you’ll love to talk to, you’ll need to find someone as interested in sailing as you are. Otherwise, although the two of you may have a functional relationship, you’ll be living in different worlds. Our deepest purposes and interests are at the heart of who we are.

So join a sailing club, go to sailing classes and races. Pursue your interest. The people you meet in a sailing club are much more likely to be interested in sailing than the people you’d meet in a bar, for example.

The rush of hormones at the beginning of a relationship wears off. Sorry to say it, but it’s true. No matter how attractive someone may be, that initial intense rush eventually dies down. But that’s okay, because there’s a deeper, more satisfying kind of love and attraction: the respect and affection between two people who share a common purpose or interest.

Raising children ends up being the common purpose between many married couples. But if child-raising doesn’t intensely interest both of you, it isn’t a good enough purpose to create and maintain the longtime happiness of a lifemate.

Two things need to be said. First, you’ll never find the “perfect” mate. She or he may seem perfect for a while, but no one can meet every one of your ideals. In fact, some of your ideals are probably mutually exclusive, so meeting all of them is literally impossible. You’ll eventually find faults in anyone because everyone has faults. When you find faults with your mate, remind yourself of that. Quit imagining that there is a perfect person out there somewhere. There isn’t.

Second, even when you’ve found your lifemate, you’ll sometimes be attracted to others. It’s human. It doesn’t mean anything except that you are a biological machine, built to breed. The human species (and every other species on the planet) has a built-in urge to multiply. Stick with your mate and don’t let it be important that others attract you. Your response to yourself can simply be “So what if I’m attracted to someone? It doesn’t mean anything.” Stay true to your mate even when an occasional attraction inclines you temporarily to do otherwise. You’ll be happier and healthier as a result.

You want to find a lifemate? Take up your strongest interest with enthusiasm and see who shows up. After you find the person you’re looking for and the rush of hormones has worn off, accept the fact that your mate isn’t perfect, that nobody is perfect, and remind yourself that it isn’t important that you are occasionally attracted to others. Do this and you can live (pretty darn) happily ever after.

Pursue your interest and remind yourself:
Nobody’s perfect and attraction to others is unimportant.

This is a chapter from the book, Self-Help Stuff That Works.

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Why Goals Peter Out

>> Saturday

PROBABLY THE biggest killer of purpose is all-or-nothing thinking. "I want to sail around the world," says a young man. But he is married and has a new baby. Obviously he can't go sailing around the world. Or can he? If he's thinking in all-or-nothing terms, he will, of course say "No, I can't go sailing around the world unless I want to be a jerk and leave my wife and child." But that's thinking in one extreme or the other, and life very rarely needs to be so black-or-white.

He wakes up one night with a realization. He has been blinding himself with all-or-nothing thinking! He comes up with a plan. He will set aside twenty dollars a week in a Sailing Fund. As he does better at work, he'll increase that amount. But for now, he uses the money for sailing lessons and boating safety classes and books on celestial navigation, always leaving aside a little to accumulate for the purchase of an actual boat. He learns about boat design.

It takes him three years before he learns enough to decide what design of boat he wants to get. It takes him another year to figure out what course he will chart, what places he will visit, etc. As his son gets older, they go sailing together on rented sailboats. His son learns how to sail. The father teaches him how to reef the sails, how to steer, how to navigate by the stars.

By the time the son is fourteen, the family decides to go for it. They sell their house, buy a sailboat, fill it with supplies, and what do you know? His purpose wasn't silly or impossible after all. It may be, in fact, the highlight of his life.

Another thing that kills dreams or prevents the development of a strong sense of purpose is that interest dies. But here you have to be careful. Did your interest die because you actually lost interest now that you know more about it, or did your interest die because of the way you're explaining setbacks to yourself?

There are certain ways to explain setbacks in your life that will kill your enthusiasm, destroy your interest, and prevent the development of a sense of purpose. If your interest has been killed by a feeling of defeat, you can revive that dormant interest and fill your life with purpose and meaning. (Read more about that here.)

It's important that the goals you seek give you a sense of meaning — that they aren't only about material gain. It's true that any goal is better than no goal, but it's also true that if you have a choice, you ought to choose high-quality goals, goals that will give you a great deal of satisfaction and even meaning.

Susan Krause Whitbourne did a long-term research project, starting in 1966. She saw a particular psychological measurement steadily decline over the years. It's called "ego integrity," which is a composite characteristic having to do with honesty, a sense of connection with others, a sense of wholeness, and a feeling that life has meaning.

Between 1977 and 1988, ego integrity took a universal dive. The life-satisfaction scores were as low as they could go on her measurements. "People got caught up in chasing the materialistic dream," says Whitbourne, "They got recognition for their achievements, yet don't feel that what they are doing matters in the larger scheme of things."

Your enthusiasm for your goals will peter out if you don't set goals with real meaning for you. And they can peter out if you explain setbacks poorly, making mistakes in your explanations like all-or-nothing thinking. You can check your own thinking with this exercise.

Goals can provide you with one of the most reliable sources of good moods. Making sure your enthusiasm doesn't peter out is worth the trouble.

Read more: Good Moods Require Good Goals.

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