How to End Every Day at Your Favorite Place.

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Lately I’ve tried to turn it into a habit, to end my day by mentally going to a favorite place. I have always believed that it’s not a good thing to go to sleep feeling worried, angry or stressed. That feeling will affect your whole night and the quality of your sleep and dreams.

But if you can use a trigger associated with a good feeling that can help you change your mood very quickly. The thing about a trigger is that you make a strong connection between a thing, a gesture, an image or a sound/song and the wished for feeling. To make the connection with a thing is not that preferable though, because if you lose the thing or forgot to bring it, you can’t connect to the desired feeling. But a gesture, like rubbing your ear, crossing your fingers or gently holding your elbow is good, as well as a vivid image in your head. For this particular “good night feeling” I have taken a memory from a recent vacation: I see this little bird on the ground looking at me. I look beyond the bird and I see the beautiful beach in sunset. I go to the beach and sit down in the warm sand. I can feel the wind and the sun on my skin and I strongly experience a feeling of inner harmony and lack of stress.

It’s important to make the image and the feeling connected to the trigger as real as possible. What do you hear? What do you see? Where in your body is that nice feeling? When you have done this connection a couple of times you only have to use the trigger gesture, see the picture (the bird with the beach in the background, in my case) or sing a bit on the chosen song.

So eventually I only have to picture the bird in my mind, and my body automatically makes the connection to that nice feeling connected to that picture. That’s a quick thing to do just before you go to sleep!

Now I like that feeling of harmony so much that I actually think about that bird when I’m sitting in a taxi, waiting in line at the grocery shop or waiting for my old computer to get up and running. Once you start using triggers you will find it very convenient. I have another trigger (casually holding my left thumb) that I always use before coaching someone (to make me incorporate all the good values of a wonderful coach that I have put into that trigger), and yet another that I use when I want to feel in full control of a project and at the same time full of joy, harmony and exhilaration (I see myself in a red dress at such a perfect occasion many years ago).

Do you have any recurrent situation in your life that would benefit from a quick mood upgrading?

As Long as You are Happy.

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Often we tell our children, our friends or ourselves that it doesn’t really matter if you don’t end up being a successful lawyer, have the perfect job, find a man or achieve different high set goals – the most important is that you are happy! That’s a relief, isn’t it? Or? Maybe it’s a curse!

Do you know how to be happy all the time? It’s pretty hard and if the goal is to be constantly happy you are most probably going to fail. If “being happy” it said to be your main goal in life, a sense of failing might be a big risk throughout your life. How come that we say this to our children and friends all the time then? I think our intention is to say that your inner emotions are much more important in life than outer conditions like job, title, fancy apartment et cetera. But we are comparing two very different things here, and that’s what makes it confusing.

Let’s say that your child has no ambitions to go on to university after high school. To show your child that you are not a pushy parent, but one that firstly cares about his or her wellbeing, you say; “It’s okay that you don’t continue your education, because what’s most important is that you’re happy.” But your child is not happy. Most young adults aren’t so sure about what they want, who they are and what makes them happy. So not only will they not continue their education, they will also feel like a failure for not being happy, now when they got the opportunity to choose. What I mean is that we shouldn’t put Education vs. Happiness. Those are two different things. You can go to university and be happy or unhappy, or you can work at the local store some years and be just as happy or unhappy. So those outer things has very little to do with the happiness we wish for our children or friends.

If we take a closer look at this “as long as you are happy”, I think that we mostly mean that you should do what you find inspiring and interesting to do. We know that people who do things (job, education, hobbies) that they like are more prone to have a positive feeling than those doing something they dislike. That’s not so strange. The complication is that we have not taught our children how to know what they like! So we tell them about the most important task in life without telling them how to do it. As a life coach I often meet people in their middle age who still don’t know how to figure out what they want, just because nobody ever taught them what questions to ask themselves. On the contrary – they have been taught NOT to think so much about what they want for themselves!

The second complication is that even if we have a job we like, we won’t be happy every single minute of the day, year in and year out. Of course not! So we also have to figure out how to go for a better feeling when we are not feeling so good. Nobody taught us that either! If you hate someone or something in your life you are far from happy. And even if you want to be happy, you might not know how to reach that feeling. One way of doing it is to reach for a less negative feeling, frustration for example. When you have been able to feel frustration instead of hate for a while, you can go on to irritation. That way you can slowly, slowly lift yourself towards contentment, and maybe even happiness. But this is something we have not been trained for, so it’s not that easy to figure out by yourself.

So in the example with your child going or not going to university, I think this would be better to say: “A good education might make it easier for you to choose better what profession you want and maybe you can earn more money which might be convenient in your life. No matter what you do when it comes to working or going to university, what I really want you to start training how to feel as good as possible when life’s ups and downs hit you. I wish that you will be able to choose a somewhat better thought when you are down and help yourself feeling better, and enjoy your random days of happiness wherever you are, whatever you do.”

Do you think I’m being too pessimistic today? Or is constant happiness achievable?

The Goodbye Season is here.

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Okay! So here we are again – the end of the school year and some of our best friends leave. That is the most dominant and hard part of the expat life. From the moment we start nourishing a new friendship, we know that sooner or later it will end. And we might never meet again.

I remember how absurd and unreal it was when I did this for the first time some years ago. That last hug at the last lunch together with that friend you have experienced so many new and unfamiliar things together with. You have helped each other through days when the idea of living in a completely different culture, not knowing how to communicate or living far from your family, doesn’t seem that good any longer. But you have also enjoyed amazing adventures while exploring the city, strange food and the international community. You share memories and emotions that you might never be able to share with anyone else. So you hug, say goodbye and walk away. You know that you will keep in touch for a while, but if you’ve lived this kind of life for some years, you also know that keeping up a friendship only on Facebook comments is hard.

Yesterday evening it was time for one of those hugs. To me it’s a little bit easier if my friend, who is leaving, is going to Sweden, since I come from Sweden and know that I will be there every now and then. The probability of us meeting again is much bigger, I keep telling myself. Saying goodbye to someone from another country, going to yet another distant part of the world, makes it worse.

No matter how sad it is when people are leaving my life, the benefit of meeting people from all over the world is bigger. Every day I enjoy seeing what my friends all over the globe are showing me on Facebook and a couple of times I’ve been able to visit old friends in the country where they live now. The lessons I’ve learned about myself, my values and my culture, by getting to know people that I probably would never had met otherwise, is amazing! It’s the best course in personal development you could ever do! But it’s a tough course. You have to invest a big part of yourself, your time and your emotions and it will take a while before you know if it was worth it. Maybe you have to realize that this person is not quite a match for you and start all over with someone else. If you’re lucky you will meet someone you really like and a friendship is growing. That part of your heart and how you enjoy being with that person will be gone when she or he leaves. I allow myself to grieve. But I also, as a mantra, keep telling myself: The sadness I feel when she’s leaving, is a proof of the love and friendship I’ve experienced with her. That makes sense doesn’t it? If I had no friends, I wouldn’t be sad at all at this time of the year. And that would be very sad!

So I know that most of my expat friends out there are experiencing this right now. I hope you are doing well in balancing the sadness and the joy!

How to be Successful Instantly. Every day.

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Do you consider yourself successful?

Most people don’t. On the contrary! We think about famous people who are very successful and rich and realize that we will probably never be that in this lifetime. At least not if we continue with our lives in the same was as today. But I’ve been thinking a lot about this and today I think of myself as pretty successful actually! This is how I did:
Almost all of us think of someone being successful if she or he has earned a lot of money and have bought nice houses, cars and other expensive things. But I don’t think there is a certain income level that makes someone successful. You can probably earn what I would consider an awful lot of money and you might compare yourself to someone who is earning more and still don’t think of yourself as successful.

On the other hand though, we can easily say “That party was truly a success!” Why was it a success? Probably because it turned out just the way we had wished for – or maybe even better! And the success didn’t have to do with any money. A meeting, a talk or a demonstration could be a success.

But how can a party be a success when there are no money involved? Because you can get other things than money as proof of your success! You can get a lot of hugs, laughs, people dancing and singing and being happy at your party, or messages afterward from people telling you what a success it was. You have to admit that those things are sometimes even better than money!

So events can be successful just because they turned out in a good way. Then we should be able to use the same definition for our own deeds, shouldn’t we? Everything that you do could then be a success, as long as it turns out as you wanted it to turn out – or better. That means that you actually have to think about what you do and what kind of outcome you want. How do you want your meeting with your friend at the café this afternoon to turn out? Do you want it to be funny, relaxing, private, or deep? Then afterwards you can ask yourself if it turned out that way. If it did – it was a success! Here you might have to think of your own feelings as the thing you get instead of money. Do you get a feeling of happiness, warmth, or maybe contentment? That’s good, isn’t it?

Now you can go even one step further and think about all the things you do in your life. Think about the small, everyday things, like going to work, cooking dinner, cleaning the house – did you do it in a successful way? Then be happy and allow yourself to feel successful about that! But also the more major things in your life, like your relationship with your partner or your mother, choice of job, or how you are treating yourself. First: How do you want it to be? Then: Are you being successful in doing it that way? If not: What can you change to make it more successful?

I promise, that this feeling of actually being successful at some things in your life every day will make you feel more content and happy!

(So I managed to write a blog post about success. I won’t get any money! Maybe a few positive comments?! But I am happy that I wrote more or less what I had set out to write. This might be a successful day!)

How I Would Build My Own Country From Other Cultures.

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I grew up and lived 45 years in Sweden, then moved to Istanbul, Turkey and now I live in Shanghai, China. Three very different cultures. I can see a lot of pros and cons in each culture. If I were to create a country of my own I would like to take some characteristics from each country. I wouldn’t be the first one trying to build a new country or society like that. When Atatürk founded the new Turkey he looked around the world to find the best bank system, the best school system, a good alphabet, women’s rights etc. Just when you start up a new country, group or organization everyone is open minded and enthusiastic. You remember where you come from and clearly see the necessity of a change. But after a generation or two, there are no firsthand memories of the old days and the wish to invite change is not that great any longer. Culture sets in!

I read a good definition of culture a while ago: Culture is the way we do things around here.

“Here” could be in this family, in this school, in this neighborhood, in this country, in this organization. That gives us comfort and predictability. We know how to behave and what to expect here. But it deprives us of the openness and readiness to evaluate if there might be even better ways of doing some things. And eventually we might even think that the way we do things around here is the absolutely best, truest and only way for everyone …

But how can we make room for that openness? Firstly I think we have to feel secure. Fear is always the threat to any change! The problem is that “security” means so very different things to different people. For some it’s to know that there’s an armed force outside the door, for others it’s to have friends and family around, for some to know what every day will look like. If we could feel a bit more secure in ourselves, knowing that we are all humans and there is a wish to be happy in everyone, that might open up for new ideas. I know that might sound very difficult, but if you have ever lived in a culture different from your own (in another country or another family) you might have realized that you have to trust in yourself and relax in knowing who you are and what you want, because you can’t rely on understanding what the people around you are going to do next!

Secondly, we have to be curious. Why on earth are they doing like that? First try to understand how it can be that they have such a different way of doing things here? What are the pros and cons? Are there any aspects of this that would actually be more beneficial to me than the ones I’m doing?

Thirdly, remind yourself of your core values. Do you really know what is truly important to you? Sometimes we get so focused on all the little everyday things and get irritated and discuss it endlessly (and media is doing a good job helping us here!), instead of putting it in perspective and see that it actually doesn’t matter at all.

So in my imaginary country I would take the warmth and hospitality of the people of Istanbul, the good sides of their honor culture, where you take care of each other in society, the flexible driving in Istanbul (you could always make a U-turn anywhere, using some smiles and hand waving), the food, the writing (you spell everything exactly the way it sounds – or vice versa). From Shanghai I would choose the ever present focus on your own health for a long and energetic life, the creativity and eagerness to make business, the readiness for change every day and adults’ enthusiasm in what we in West would think of as childish amusements. And I would love for women in my country to feel that it’s absolutely okay to be a director of a big company and dress in a Hello Kitty dress, with a Peppa Pig dangling from her cell phone! From Sweden I would bring equality; both parents engaging in their children, household and each other’s career. I like that the whole society structure, as well as in organizations, is pretty flat and that we respect people for their contribution instead of their authority. I would bring the care for nature and animals and the pretty well functioning justice. I’ll take the fresh air, midsummer celebration and tasty BUTTER!

That would be a great country! But if the inhabitants would also think that this is great that would be the end of it. “This is great, but let’s look around and see how we can be constantly influenced by others to make it evolving and developing forever”. That would be my motto!

Such an Amazing Way to Meet yourself in Others!

My inspiration:

The book “No Chance Encounter”, by Kay Pollak.

 

What I think about you,
Says much more about me
Than it says about you.

This was sort of a revelation to me when I read it in a thin, little book some 20 years ago.

Such a wonderful and simple way to personal growth! Not easy though …

So every time you feel annoyed, irritated, and contemptuous or in any other way dislike someone’s behavior, attitude or looks you have a unique possibility to do some training;

What is it I dislike about X?
Why don’t I like that?
What kind of feeling does it evoke in me?
What do I think about such behavior/attitude/looks?

So if it says more about myself:

Am I afraid of being like X?
Have I always tried to hide that side of myself?
Am I jealous?
Did my mom tell me that people doing like that are no good?
Am I ashamed of some part of myself?
Or am I disappointed that I never dared to do such a thing?

The answer might be a revelation to you! This is also a reason why you might be very irritated with someone, whom others seem to like. This could be one reason; You get much more irritated than others because what you see is more about something hidden in you!

I don’t say that this is easy. It’s actually quite deep and requires you to be honest, courageous and open to meet yourself. It’s a bit scary, I admit that, but more often I laugh when I realize how stupid it is to be annoyed by that person, and accept a new piece of me out in the light. If you’re interested in such things you will find yourself surrounded with possibilities to new lessons! Just look around and you will most certainly find someone to look down on.

In my Facebook group “Expressions on Personal Development” I share interesting documentaries, sites and ideas that I find here and there. Now I would like to share some of the books, influencers, interviews and ideas that has inspired me since I was a teenager.

The little, thin book I talk about above is a book by the Swedish film director, lecturer and author Kay Pollak:

“No Chance Encounter: Meeting Yourself in Others”

“Att växa genom möten” 
(in Swedish)

The book will give you much more examples and techniques to use then working on your personal growth through your thoughts about others. I highly recommend it! Do you think you will give it a try?

 

PS: Talking about Kay Pollak I also have to recommend his amazing movie “As it is in Heaven”. Here you can see a short interview with Kay Pollak and glimpses from the movie. 

My Wish for Trust was Fulfilled in an Unexpected Way.

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I have a belief that we can create and influence our future by the way we choose to focus our thoughts and enhance our feelings today. I don’t know how it works though! If it’s my brain finding new connections and solution, God, Angels, guardians, the Universe, the law of attraction, my soul or something else. And I try not to care, as long as I see that it works. And I can see that over and over again. Yet I don’t trust it to work!

Ironically I also believe that if I focus on what I do NOT want and my lack of things going my way, I will get more of that (which I do not want). So that’s been my biggest mental issue the last year. How can I let go of focusing on the problem and trust that the solution will come?

Last week I was on vacation and had time to sit on the beach pondering these thoughts, asking for help to trust. Just enjoying the warm sand under my feet I lazily walked down to the ocean. The waves close to the beach were high and hard this day and I felt that I should not go swimming today (particularly not wearing my new, cut sunglasses), since I’m scared of being under water. But there were a bunch of French people further out, beyond the breaking point of the waves, and they seemed to have a great time. So I quickly swam out to them and enjoyed the movement of the warm ocean for a while. Suddenly I see a huge wave coming against me and I realize I will not be able to escape it. I take a deep breath and tell myself not to panic but swim upwards and let the wave pass before I try to put my feet down again. I tumble helplessly under the wave crushing down on me, but I am proud when I come up without any panic. Then I see the next wave coming and I have to do the same thing over again. Standing up once again, I realize that my glasses of course are gone, but there is no time to look around because a third huge wave is on its way! I use my last strength to fight the strong current and manage to reach the shore.

To my surprise, and contentment, I feel mostly positive: I’m happy that I escaped the third wave, I’m not angry with myself for losing my glasses, since it’s already too late and I’m a bit fascinated to think that my inner me told me not to go into the waves!

Another 5-6 huge waves come and go and I can imagine my glasses being anywhere in the ocean by now. But I have experienced miracles before, I remind myself. So I ask two French ladies on the beach if they can tell their friends out there in the waves that I’ve lost my glasses. Just when I’m about to leave I hear a lady shouting. I look up and far out there she is, waving, with my glasses in her hand!

I just had to laugh! I could just imagine a somewhat fed up guardian angel standing by my side saying: “So now – do you trust that I’m here!?”

I do. For a while at least …

I Just Can’t Get Rid of My Ego!

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Since I was very young I’ve been passionately interested in personal development – my own and others. Recent years that curiosity has also turned into spiritual development.

To change your behavior or your thoughts and believes are not that easy, as you might have noticed. To give us a clue on how to easier reach the realms of harmony and an open mind almost every respectable author and modern guru, like Eckhart Tolle, Wayne D. Dyer or Deepak Chopra, tells us that we have to fight and get rid of our Ego.

How can you get rid of your Ego?! It’s there all the time, telling me who I am in comparison and relation to all the other people and their egos. Sometimes my Ego tells me that I am great and sometimes I feel lousy and the Ego tells me that it’s somebody else’s fault. No matter what it says, it’s always there. And I get all stressed and confused about how I should do to let it go. I can’t meditate all day! And intuitively it doesn’t feel good to fight against a part of myself. I always prefer to work towards something instead of against something else. Like working for peace instead of fighting against war. Much more positive!

But then I read Anita Moorjani’s last book “What if This is Heaven?” and she has a completely different view on the Ego. She says that if we could really love ourselves without worrying about what others might think that can’t be a bad thing. On the contrary – it would be very good if everybody loved themselves! The problem is that our awareness of us being a part of and connected to everything and everyone else is not big enough. She gives us a metaphor: Pretend that every child is born with two volume knobs – one for Ego and one for Awareness. In the beginning they are both set to level 10. So the baby loves him- or herself completely (strong Ego) and is at the same time not aware of any separation from mom and dad, the butterfly or the soft Teddybear (high Awareness). But as time goes, the child is taught to be more actively part of this reality and to separate him- or herself from others and learning what is mine and what is yours. So the Awareness knob is constantly being turned down to a lower and lower level. But the Ego knob is still on 10!

This results in selfish, worried Egos.

What’s new in this perspective is that you don’t have to focus on your Ego and getting rid of that anymore! Instead you can focus so much more on being aware of how everything is connected. Think of yourself and your fellow humans as water drops in a big ocean. We are all with an Ego each, but being connected is what makes us an ocean. Both religions and modern science try to tell us this, in different versions. I don’t say that it’s much easier than getting rid of the Ego, but to me it feels much more progressive, fascinating and positive!

Who is Allowed to Criticize You and Make You Feel Bad?

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It’s almost impossible not to get hurt when someone criticizes you. Even if you don’t agree with their words, they might stick and eventually you might even think that there’re right about you. You feel sad, bad or even ashamed.

During the past months I’ve noticed that I’ve several times come back to a helping idea regarding this. I read the popular book “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown a couple of months ago, and she gives us a great advice concerning criticism. After that initial hurt, you might be able to gather yourself and think (cited from her book):

  1. I only accept and pay attention to feedback from people who are also in the arena.

  2. I carry a small sheet of paper in my wallet that has written on it the names of people whose opinions of me matter.

“People in the arena” are people who might know and understand what you are doing and how different aspects of your life are effecting you right now. Does the person criticizing you about how you’re parenting your teenage daughter have a similar teenage daughter herself? Does the person criticizing you about your last results at job know about all the things you managed to do, thanks to your knowledge and experience, that made the result not worse? Does the person looking at your garden with a raised eyebrow know about your life and all the things you are prioritizing right now? If not – they are simply not in your arena! They don’t know what they are talking about! So why should you let their comments about you and how you handle your life make you feel bad? From now on – if you feel attacked or shamed – stop your ruminating, lift your head and decide that their comments have no true value.

Of course it might be good to listen to feedback from your teacher or boss about facts or events that you are working on together. Or even from another parent whom you know is also struggling with ups and downs in the teenage world, because then you feel that he or she is actually in the same arena too.

The second advice is to write down which people in your life who really love you and want you to grow and develop in your own way. People whom you have known and grown together with for a longer period of your life. You will probably only have just one or two people on this list. If the person who just made you feel bad or ashamed is on this list, you should pay a bit more attention and talk it through with him or her, to fully understand how this opinion might be of some value to you and your development. If the person is not on the list – tell yourself that their opinion is not of much value to you and nothing that you will put any more effort into.

The truth is that these two recommendations have also helped me when it comes to criticizing others (even if it’s mostly in my head). I might think something negative about how someone is handling things or relations, and then suddenly I remember bullet point number one above – Am I in their arena? No! I’m not! Even if we might have some similarities we don’t share the same life with all its complications, relations and decisions. Which means that I actually have no idea about why they are doing the way they are and weather I might have done exactly the same thing, had I been in their arena/living their life.

Can I choose a nicer feeling?

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If I was not worried about this situation, but felt calm and positive about it – would that change anything for me?

This last week I have been trying a little bit extra to focus on my everyday fear. I always say that all emotions come from either fear or love. As if irritation, worry, anger, anxiety or frustration have their roots in a place of fear, while harmony, happiness, contentment and hope have their roots in a place of love. Like a “fear mode” and a “love mode”.

It’s natural for us to look for dangers all the time, since that’s more crucial for our survival than signs of kindness or love. We have done that for so many years that it has become the first hand choice for our subconscious – to choose an emotion coming from fear rather than considering one from love.

I therefore have to make a conscious effort to first realize that what I’m feeling is coming from fear.
“I’m worried.”
Then I have to ask myself what it would feel like if I picked a feeling coming from love, calmness for example.
“That would be much nicer and I would be much more relaxed”.
So I continue and ask myself if something in reality would change if I choose to focus more on being calm than worried.
“Maybe I would make decision that are better for everyone involved. I would probably be more creative. And perhaps more fun to be around!”
Do I have anything to earn from continuing being worried?
“No, I just don’t want to be naïve, but I can’t actually see that things could change for the worse if I changed the roots of this emotion from fear to love.”

Piece of cake? Not exactly. But interesting and a good way of growing and developing.

If you want to try you don’t have to start with the big fears in your life. Start with a little useless negativity that you have in your mind or body right now.

 Are you irritated, frustrated, bitter or low about something or someone particular today?
 What if you were not?
 What positive emotion could you choose instead?
 Would that be nicer? Want to give it a try?

Write a little note or place something symbolic on your desk (I have my symbolic bracelet that reminds me of today’s challenge!) or set the alarm and think about the situation and your feelings from the “love place” as many times as possible today.

Everybody just wants to be happy.

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When I read the news about all the horrible things people do to each other, I often thing about Dalai Lama talking about happiness. “Everybody just wants to be happy”, he says. The problem is that we don’t know what makes us happy.

Isn’t that weird!? We learn so much in school, at college and at work; math, grammar, history, science etcetera, but we never really learn how to be happy.

A man who kills hundreds of people in the name of a god or an organization – did he do that to be happier? Well, maybe he was not in a good, harmonious and balanced mood, feeling loved and prosperous. Maybe he felt that if he did something that counted, others would praise him and see him as a hero. Unconsciously, being seen as a hero, might be something that feels closer to happiness than anything else in his life? The girl who makes up rumors about another girl in class. Isn’t she mean and evil? Well, maybe she is afraid that nobody likes her as she really is, and – once again unconsciously – if she can make her friends dislike another girl, they might not dislike her as much. Not really happiness, but a step away from the frightening unhappiness.

I don’t say that Dalai Lama is right about this, but I often think about it and it gives me a kind of explanation to the seemingly irrational behaviors of some people. So we come back to the weirdness of not knowing what makes us happy. Do you know what makes you happy?

Part of the answer might be easy, like; being with my friends and family, sunshine, a cinnamon roll and a cup of tea, a job that I like, good health. But if we dig a little bit deeper? When you are being bullied at you job, your best friend doesn’t invite you to a party or you get sick? When you are angry, sad or humiliated? Then what makes you happy? Maybe just to ask yourself what will make you happy implies that you are not happy right now, and that thought (the acceptance of being miserable) might be worse than pretending that all is fine. And maybe all will be much better if those horrible people over there were to blame?

I don’t have a quick fix solution to instant happiness, but I once in a while try to sit down and seriously ask myself what I really want, what really would make me happier in the present situation.

But my key point today, is not so much about my or your happiness, but to consider how everyone else is fighting for happiness, even when it looks just the opposite to us. In what way is that person trying to be happier? That is an interesting and valuable way of personal development I think.

Stop. Breathe. Notice.

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This is one of my favorite exercises to make myself more mindful in my everyday life.

I might sit in my office about to write a blog post, when I simply stop what I’m doing for a moment, I look outside the window and take a breath. Then I just notice whatever I see. Today the sun falls nicely on the leaves of the green bush outside, while the leaves of the tree behind gently play in the wind. It’s surprisingly beautiful!

But I’m always surprised by the beauty of what I see when I just suddenly focus on something ordinary surrounding me. I think it’s the breathing that makes me notice what I actually see. So often I look out the window but I don’t really see anything in particular. To stop, breathe and then just notice what you see, not judging or starting a long chain of associations, but just noticing makes your pulse slow down and the stress hormones in your body decrease instantly. I also feel that it makes me happier. Most of my thoughts are about memories from the past or worries or planning for the future. Very little of my time I actually spend in reality – here and now. To just be and enjoy the very simple thinks in front of my eyes makes me appreciate my life more.

And it’s such a good thing to do when you’re waiting; in the line at the grocery store, in the street waiting for green light, on the doorstep waiting for your teenage daughter to finish her make-up or in front of the wakening computer. Waiting is usually boring and useless, but if you train your mind to notice the things around you – “she has a green hat”, “the shadow is very long”, “all but one person here are wearing sneakers” etcetera – the waiting will suddenly be a little pleasant reality check. Try not to go on about how ugly the green hat is or how cold it is in the shadow – simply notice what it looks like. I promise you that you will like this exercise!

Do you know the teenager language?

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(The teenager on this picture is not my child)

The other day a mother in my daughter’s school asked me in what grade she is. When I answered that she’s in grade 9, she looked at me full of empathy and said: “So you’re a 9-grader. That’s hard.” At first I didn’t understand what she meant, but then I realized that having children in different ages also means that you have to adjust your parenting to their level. Having a teenager means that a part of you is also going through that stage. Grade 9 was not one of my favorite grades …

In his book Almost Cool, Tim Smith writes that we should think about teenagers as foreigners. They have a different language, different culture and different habits. Of course! Why have I not thought about it that way before!? When moving to Turkey I understood even before I went there that I had to learn some basic Turkish and I struggled with the peculiar words and grammar. Once there I had to cope, understand and adopt to different ways of doing things the Turkish way. Gradually it went better and better and the more I was able to communicate the more I could enjoy meeting people, finding out how to solve everyday problems and make myself a good life in this new country. Then I moved to China. All over again! But it’s obvious to everyone that we have to learn the basic language and culture if we want to communicate and understand those who are foreign to us. Why aren’t there language courses in Teenagerish?

Below are some “translations” from Tim Smith’s book Almost Cool.

The way many adults tend to communicate The way most teenagers tend to communicate
By using reason, logic, one topic at a time. Stream of conciousness, easily switching between topics.
To solve problems, get results, change behaviour. By talking at length without looking for solutions.
By lecturing or moralising, at times getting heavy and intense. Like to leave things open-ended; don’t need to have a ‘point’; enjoy talking for its own sake.
Interrogation style: Have you …? Are you …? Aren’t you …? Open up when we least expect it and usually not to order.
Often drawing on much experience to support arguments; holding a firm viewpoint. Often drawing on limited experience to make their point; exploring options.
Pushing to know the whole situation, to learn all the details. Less focused; more easily distracted; shorter attention-span.
Generally in a hurry. Have high expectations of what can be achieved in a short amount of time. Can’t rush them. They are on their own timetable – often it’s very slow.

I can clearly see that it’s much tougher than learning Mandarin! But if I’m a 9-grader mom I better start learning, because in a couple of months I’ll have to transform to a 10-grader!

 

The Expat Dilemma of Friends Coming and Going

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This time of the year is often filled with complicated emotions for expats. Spring is on its way and there are several holidays to look forward to, but at the same time the end of the school year is coming closer and a lot of families and friends will move.

To move abroad as an expat is fantastic and somewhat stressing when it comes to friends. To me it has been unusual to get that many good, new friends as an adult. Usually it takes many years in my home country before a person I just met become a close friend. When I moved to Istanbul, five years ago, I didn’t understand that I had to be much quicker! By the time I asked a nice lady out for lunch she told me that she was packing to move. And that happened again and again. My best friends in Istanbul I got the last year, when I had understood the unwritten rules.

Some of the rules are
“She seems nice.” Ask her if she wants to join you for a lunch or coffee immediately. If you still find her nice after the coffee, ask her for her number, WeChat, WhatsApp information or whatever app is the primary in your country.
“How nice that I was invited to a coffee by that lady”. Now you have to act! Don’t think that you are the newcomer after more than one month, or expect anyone else to pamper you more than once. Call her and ask her to check out a place you want to visit.
“I want to visit this place with someone, but how shall I choose one of the five ladies I just met?” Don’t! Invite them all even if they don’t know each other. That will broaden the network for everyone.
“It would be nice to join a group (book club, sightseeing, discussion etc), but I can’t find one” Start one!
“I don’t like to fix my nails or go to lunches all the time, I want something else.” You can be absolutely sure that you are not alone – just tell people what you want and the ones interested will join you. And praise you for your intitiative!

(Not so many men out there, but of course this goes for accompanying men as well!)

There are of course many more rules, but those are the ones that were hardest for me to catch up with. The common thread is ACTION – now!

So you follow the rules and get wonderful friends from all over the world. Then what happens, just when you started to enjoy life in this new country? They move! Usually at the same time. Now you might encounter even tougher emotions than the ones of loneliness and lack of friends you experienced when you arrived. To most accompanying spouses friends are an important part of everyday life. The worries about how life will be when you are alone again might disturb you. And you might not look forward to starting all over, inviting newly arrived ladies for coffee and find out which ones might be good friends next year.

I myself, try to first of all enjoy my friends all the way until they move. It’s very common that friends (especially children and teenagers) part before they actually have to part, in an unconscious way of trying to avoid the pain. Then I try not to envision what next year will look like. Some days it work, some days not … I try to stay open minded and believe in my own ability to develop my friend finding skills and trust that there are a lot of nice people out there also open minded and eager for a coffee!

What is your experience and how do you cope with it? Are you about to move or are you the one staying?

Can Technical Development Cause De-Civilization?

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What is actually development? When you look around the world you will probably think that some countries are developing in the wrong direction. But how do we know what is wrong and what is right? And what is right anyhow? Is it BNP, life length, happiness, or technical implementation?

Is technical development necessarily something that leads to a civilization’s development? Clever brains have the possibility to invent new machines and solutions, but is it for the happiness, health and wealth of the people in the world or mostly for the wealth of that particular company producing it? Well, we all know the answer to that I think.

But if we believe that some inventions actually make more people stressed and unhappy and don’t add to their health or wealth, is it right to forbid it, to stop a kind of de-civilization in the country? I find it an interesting question, but of course almost impossible to answer, since it all comes down to guessing. How would anyone know if a new thing is for better or for worse in the long run?

I see an interview with the old king of Bhutan, who started to put the measures of the people’s happiness over the BNP in the 1970s. This is still their primary goal in the country and to keep the happiness of the people on a high and growing level, they forbid a lot of technology and inventions from outside, which they don’t see is to their benefit. Is this wonderful or just a way to control the people?

If you look at your life – are all the technology surrounding you adding to your happiness or would it even be less stressful without it? What in your life is truly adding to your happiness?

I myself realize how detached my mobile make me. Instead of looking at the people, trees or everyday life surrounding me, I keep reading useless articles or look at little kittens on Facebook! As if it’s better to do an activity (scrolling down on Facebook) instead of enjoying the moment in real life!

 

Does Beauty Make You Happy or Sad?

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Today I wanted to think about how it comes that beauty makes us happy. Why does a golden sunset or a delicate flower or a puppy make us happy?

But the more I sat thinking about it, the more I started to doubt whether that is always true. If I’m unhappy, will a sunset make me happy again? Or do I have to be happy first to be able to be happier by the sight of a beautiful sunset? Might it even be so that a beautiful sunset can cause me more unhappiness if I for example have unhappy emotions of loneliness, low self-esteem or quilt? Maybe that beauty will make me feel excluded from the happiness I know I’m supposed to feel.

That makes sense if the saying “The beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is true. How I interpret something depends on my mood, and the interpretation then adds to my mood. If I see a beautiful woman, will I smile and be inspired or will I feel ugly and inferior? Well it all depends on my attitude. That attitude can of course be one of very deep good or bad self-esteem, but it can also vary from day to day, depending on my mood that actual day (or if I have a bad hair day!) If I’m happy I will get happier, if I’m sad I will get sadder. That’s unfair, isn’t it!?

But I still enjoy beauty around me. I can’t really understand people who have aggressive, sad or cruel art on their walls. But once again that’s my interpretation! When I was a poor student I bought a beautiful, quite expensive picture. The first thing you saw was the head of a man in total peace, with a light smile on his lips. If you continued to look you could see that his head was on a plate. It was a picture of John the Baptist’s head. When I looked at it I was filled with the peace of his face at that moment, but all my friends found it horrible and only saw the cruelty behind it!

Still I think we have an urge to make our surroundings pleasant and nice and that we like to enjoy beauty. If we’re not too unhappy, but just a bit exhausted or low, I believe the sight of a sunset or a puppy can’t keep us from feeling a bit better. Or what do you say?

The Observer Effect indicates a consciousness behind matter

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When I first heard about the Observer Effect, some 25 years ago, I could not believe it. But during the years I’ve come across a documentary every now and then and just the other day I saw one again. The Observer Effect refers to the phenomenon that might happen when a person just by observing an experiment changes the way the particles are behaving. Within quantum mechanics there is a classic example where electrons are being projected towards a wall. On their way to the wall the electrons have to go through two rectangular holes, thus making the same pattern on the wall. As if you were spraying color through a template to make a decoration on your wall. Nothing strange about that. Waves, which is not any kind of particles, makes a completely different pattern on the wall, since they are not moving, before and after the template, in the same way as particles.

Now comes the interesting part! When the researchers were looking at the difference between how particles and waves are behaving, they could suddenly see on their recordings that when nobody was observing the experiment, the particles were behaving as if they were waves. That never happened when someone was observing them. Nobody could explain what was happening. Some years later other researchers did the same experiment, with a person present but with his eyes closed. Just before the electrons were to hit the wall he opened his eyes. On the recordings you could see how the particles started out, behaving as waves, but in the same moment that the person opened his eyes they turned into behaving as particles again. And they even changed their history, so looking back it looked as if they had behaved as particles from the start.

Still there is no explanation for this that scientists within all disciplines are accepting, but I don’t care so much about that. I’m mostly fascinating by the thought that there might be a consciousness behind the matter. That would mean that our reality is not built by particles, but by a consciousness deciding who, when and where the particles should act. That opens up a lot of new possibilities! Doesn’t it?

 

If you’re interested you can look at this fascinating documentary (the Observer Effect comes towards the end): The Simulation Hypothesis
And here you can read about the first experiment: ScienceDaily; Quantum Theory Demonstrated: Observation Affects Reality

“It’s a fact. That’s true!”

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These days we hear a lot about “alternative facts” and jokes about “the truth”, coming from the circus in the US. We laugh because we know that there can only be one true fact about something. You can’t have alternative facts. A fact is a fact. And a truth is a truth. Based on the facts most of the time.

At the same time we know how facts and statistics can be used in any possible way, depending on your purpose. Which facts you choose to report and which ones you omit. I’m a little bit troubled when I see how the different news channels, without even trying to hide it, clearly choose the facts that they think make the best “news”. How will the audience be able to see the big picture and be able to make their own opinion about what’s going on if they never get “alternative facts”?

And who decides what the truth is? Is it the conclusion someone at the news desk draws from the chosen facts? Is it something we have been told for generations or always done in our culture without questioning it? Can you make a reference to a god and immediately everyone has to believe that it’s a truth? Is it true because it’s the latest scientific proof?

I think that most of us want to live in a truthful way. So how come that we have so different ways of looking at the truth? It bothers me to use the word “truth” since that immediately implies that the opposite, or even the slightest deviation, has to be untrue or false. As if there only exist one good, true side of each opinion or action.

In honest, deep discussions I find that most people agree that everyone wants to be good and truthful, but how come that we too often completely forget that and look at actions and beliefs of people on “the other side” as if they were stupid, less intelligent than we? If I believe that my opinion is the truth, how can I accept that their opposing opinion is just as true? Not just true to them (no wondering since they are stupid?!), but actually as true as my truth.

I don’t say that we should be passive and just accept actions and speech that we find wrong, but I think it’s of great value to the overall development of societies, if we start by trying to figure out how it can be true in different ways to different people. Only then can we grow and continue the discussion on a higher, more developed level.

Is it true? How to change your negative feelings about someone in a few questions.

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Many years ago I and some colleagues were discussing another person at the office, whom we disliked because we found him lying about so many things and acting nice, but being mean behind our backs at the same time.

He’s such a false person, one of my colleagues said in anger.
Are you really sure about that?, I asked this particular day. She looked at me in confusion:
Of course I am!
But can you be 100% sure that he is false?,
I persisted.
Well, of course he’s not false all the time, she admitted.
How would we feel about him if we didn’t think this way about him?, I dared to ask.

Both my colleagues probably thought I was crazy, but we agreed that it would improve the atmosphere at the office and make co-operation much easier.

By now they wondered why I was asking these strange questions, instead of just participate in the daily nagging on our colleague. So I had to tell them that I was just reading about The Work by Byron Katie (“Loving What Is”) and that I had one last – reverted – question:

What if it’s WE who are false?

That was just too much! No, they could not even ponder that question! But I persisted: Here we are sitting, talking angrily about this man, but we never tell him how we feel about him. Instead we are smiling and carrying on with our jobs. So you could actually say that we are just as false as he is!

Well, they didn’t really accept that, but to me it made a difference – I was not as hard in my judgement and attitude any longer, because I could see that I had my part in the play as well – and since that day I have often come back to Byron Katie’s questions, if I’m having negative thoughts or feelings about someone.

It’s so easy to pick a negative thought and then hang on to it, as if it’s a truth, just because we have been thinking it over and over. Nothing good will come from that. Since I can’t change anyone but myself, scrutinizing my own thoughts about others, is a good start to improve relationships. And to grow as a person!

Is it true?
Can I be absolutely sure that it’s true?
What do I feel when I think like that?
How would I feel if I didn’t have that thought?
What if I revert the thought: He is NOT …/ I am …./ I am not ….

 

What is a good life?

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Today I got inspired by a talk by Arianna Huffington. She said that when we say we want a good life, we usually mean a successful life. And by successful we usually mean a life were we have gathered a good amount of money and power. This is quite a modern way to look at life. In ancient time, the Greeks used to talk about the four pillars to a good life: giving, wellbeing, wisdom and wonder. What a completely different way of looking at it!

What I find fascinating and sad is that most of us probably know that to be able to earn a lot of money and gain power, we have to be creative, make good decisions and see new solutions. But that is almost impossible to do if you are tired, stressed and out of balance. We know that too. But still we admire people who seem never to sleep, have hundreds of projects going at the same time and never being lazy, relaxing in the sofa the whole Sunday.

Arianna Huffington talks about an experiment where people got two choices: Either they should sit all alone, without any devices or anything else, in an empty room for a long time, or they should sit in the same room getting electric shocks. 47 % of the men preferred to have electric shocks instead of sitting alone with nothing to do! Isn’t that tragic! (Only 25 % of the women choose electric shocks, which is somewhat reassuring though!).

But how can this be!? How can it be hard to do the nice things we know we have to do, to be in balance? Is it cultural? It seems like more and more top leaders are confessing that they have been meditation for years, but never told anybody. If it would turn out that meditation or sleeping a lot or taking 30 minutes time for reflection in the middle of the day is what cool leaders do, will that change our view of how to look upon our work?

After more than four years of not working the way I used to do, I still feel a bit ashamed if I have not been “productive” enough every day! But I am getting better and better at thinking about my meditation or breathing in mindfulness as a productive thing to do. I can see how important the balance in my life is, not only for my harmony but also for my relations with my family and friends. Being more balanced also makes it easier to make decisions or find out what we truly want, because we have a better access to both logic and emotions when we aren’t constantly involved in something non-real happening in our minds or our cellphones! It will even prevent you from accidents – if you are in balance, you will see that stone or hole in the road and you will not fall. You will not fall, because you are totally in the present, alert about what you are doing, using all your senses here and now.

Just one last thing that Arianna Huffington also said that made me think; She commented on the fantastic technique we have today, that brings us this enormous amount of knowledge – how will we now gather that into wisdom? So much knowledge and so little wisdom …

I have read and heard about Arianna Huffington and her Huffington Post for years, but never actually heard her speak or understood what she is doing. Here you can see the 30 minute speech that I was inspired by today: Arianna Huffington – Reimagine. Everything.