Monday, January 28, 2008

Doing Good as a Habit.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

So here we are: the last week of January already, the month that holds so much promise with our resolutions for self-improvement, the hope to change less-than-perfect habits. Often, those resolutions are made with the hope that self-improvement will make us happier, which in many cases may be very true. Exercise=good health=happiness. Better nutrition=good health=happiness. Behavior awareness=better insight=happiness. Quality time=stronger relationships=happiness. Saving money=stewardship=happiness.

And what if those good intentions don't stick? Well, that's the beauty of Lent, which conveniently schedules itself as the Great Second Chance for those wayward resolutions. In fact, perhaps during the next week or so as we prepare for the 40 days that lead up to Easter, perhaps we should think less about keeping a resolution and more about being a solution. What can we do? How can we help others? How can we help ourselves?

And if happiness is the salve-like residue left from our habits of good, you might find this interesting: a couple of secrets to happiness written by Leo Babauta.

1. Good relationships. We have a human need to be close, to be intimate, with other human beings. Having good, supportive friendships, a strong marriage or close and loving relationships with our family members will make us much more likely to be happy. Action steps: Take time, today, to spend time with your loved ones, to tell them what they mean to you, to listen to them, and develop your relationship with them.

2. Positive thinking. I’m obviously a big proponent of positive thinking as the best way to achieve your goals, but it turns out that it can lead to happiness too. Optimism and self-esteem are some of the best indicators of people who lead happy lives. Happy people feel empowered, in control of their lives, and have a positive outlook on life. Action steps: Make positive thinking a habit. In fact, this should be one of the first habits you develop. Get into the habit of squashing all negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones. Instead of “I can’t” think “I can”. It may sound corny, but it has worked for me, every time.

3. Flow. This is a popular concept on the Internet these days — the state we enter when we are completely focused on the work or task before us. We are so immersed in our task that we lose track of time. Having work and leisure that gets you in this state of flow will almost undoubtedly lead to happiness. People find greatest enjoyment not when they’re passively mindless, but when they’re absorbed in a mindful challenge. Action steps: Find work that you’re passionate about. Seriously — this is an extremely important step. Find hobbies that you’re passionate about. Turn off the TV — this is the opposite of flow — and get outside and do something that truly engages you.

No comments: