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Happiness: Why Are Most People Not Happy?

We live in a world that is beautiful beyond description, yet most of us only glimpse this beauty occasionally.  Why?  What if the puzzle of life was that we are surrounded by, and a living part of, what the Taoist called "The Flow of Heaven," yet we are not conscious of it because we became fascinated with the ability to conceive and create.  What if the gift of thought was a blessing and a curse?  I believe it is.

A Mixed Blessing

I am using thought right now to communicate with you.  The Egyptians tamed the Nile and created great temples and cities that exist today.  The beauty we have created from our imaginations and thought is marvelous.  Yet a schizophrenic cannot tell the difference between reality and their thoughts.  While this is an extreme example, many of us cannot always tell the difference between thoughts and reality.  Wars have been fought over thoughts and ideologies.

In fact, any thought, or system of thought is at best an approximation of the reality it is trying to describe.  Thoughts about things can never match the complex and beautiful reality of the world all around us, and taking our thoughts too seriously can drive us crazy. So you might ask, what does this have to do with happiness?

We Can Lose Touch With Life

If the world we live in is beautiful beyond description, but our consciousness is only focused on thoughts that describe reality, or worse, is focused on our thoughts about thoughts.  Each level of thought takes us level after level away from the living reality of life.  As we lose touch with the living reality of life that is all around us, we begin to feel bad.  Overtime our mood plummets into depression, anger or other low moods. By our focus on these thoughts, we lessen our connection to life.

Ground Breaking Study

In a ground breaking book, Sanity, Insanity, and Common Sense, a team of psychologists discovered that low moods, or "states of mind," are conditioned states caused by thoughts that repeat themselves in our minds, and that higher states such as love, gratitude, focus, contentment, and happiness in general, are natural unconditioned states of mind. What they are saying is, all we have to do is let go of repetitive thoughts that form patterns in our mind and we will feel happy naturally.

Happiness Is A Natural State if Mind

This is why babies tend to be naturally happy and curious. They are not worrying about what might happen tomorrow.  We worry about tomorrow for them, and take action to keep them safe. The challenge is, how to plan for tomorrow without getting totally captured by our thoughts.  This is the key to happiness.

But how? Understanding the use of and dangers of thought, is the key.  If you believe that thoughts are real, instead of approximations, then it will be hard to let go of your thoughts.  If you understand that thought is used to create, and realize it's dangers, you will be able to let go of thoughts that are not working for you.

Our moods, both low and high. are feedback from our psyche's.  If we put our hand in a flame, we feel the pain and pull back.  This is the bodies feedback system.  Likewise a low mood is feedback that our thoughts are repeating themselves in our minds, and drawing us away from "The Life Force" or the "Flow of Heaven," causing all forms of unhappiness.

Six Steps That Invent The Future

Using the Applied Science of Leadership

While helping CEOs and executive teams at Mid-Sized and Fortune 500 companies, throughout the years to align strategy, structure and organizational culture, I have observed both great and unfit leaders, and realized that leaders can literally invent the future of their company and life. Here are six important steps to cultivating greater happiness and well-being in themselves and their teams, and truly inventing the future of their companies:

Companies who succeed in today’s volatile business economy must learn to conquer obstacles like a championship basketball team in a “FastBreak” overcoming the insecurities that hold them back and responding instantly to the flow of the game.

Before leaders can accomplish anything, they must first understand themselves and present reality, challenge their own thinking, communicate a well thought out and concise strategic direction and define a clear and actionable plan for execution. A leader must make the final call.  To make that call with confidence a leader must know the answer and/or know how to find the answer, and must communicate in a compelling manner that is clear, simple and concrete. Only then, will his team have the faith to follow and achieve the company’s objectives.

The following six guidelines provide a roadmap for surpassing common business hurdles to achieve success and invent a well-designed future for your business or life.  These steps work for everything from building a porch of the front of your house, to creating a great company, or nation.

Knowing When You Know:

Communicating Clear Compelling Picture of The Future State:  You cannot create something you cannot conceive. Once a leader knows knows, that leader must be able to conceive and communicate the opportunity, and how the team can capture that opportunity. Until this team can see, feel and hear the calling of the opportunity that the reality represents, they cannot truly follow.  Without this clear picture, each team member will create his or her own picture of the future, causing friction and slowing the overall progress of the team. The leader’s presence and authentic commitment to the mission draws followers within the company and in the market place.  The more clearly the picture of the future state is, the easier it is to create. Without a clear picture of the future in the minds of each leader, chaos will ensue.

Creating Total Commitment:

After the team can see and feel the possibility of the future, their commitment grows.

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness concerning all acts of initiative and creation.” -Goethe

First the leader must themselves be fully committed to the mission, and then develop the same level of commitment in those that follow. Part of being a leader is to challenge teams to face their fears and change their habits. What prevents them from committing is one or the greatest fears of mankind: the fear of the unknown. No one likes to walk into a dark room. As leader, you have to light the future with your vision. To move forward, you must paint a picture of a new reality to give your team confidence, and keep them totally engaged.  The clearer and more compelling this picture of the future state becomes, the more committed the team becomes.  The same is true for the marketplace and your customers.

Acknowledging Present Reality:

Leaders who fall short of their goals have often skipped or distorted this step. No matter how committed a team is to a mission, having the wrong starting point can make plans useless. Knowing the good, bad, and the ugly about any situation being faced allows team to build plans that are targeted and effective. The challenge here is that people hate to be wrong, and find ways to make reality comport with their beliefs. This is the problem with the belief in “positive thinking.”  It often skips this step and moves too quickly to planning and action.  Pessimists’, because of their negative beliefs about life, give-up at this step feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. A plan that is not grounded in reality, no matter how clear and committed the team, will lead you over a cliff.  If someone were to give you directions to Chicago, thinking you were in Los Angles when in fact you were in Miami, you would become lost no matter how good the directions. A leader and the team must honestly face its weaknesses and misconceptions to invent the future.

Developing Targeted Action Plans:

Having passed through the first four steps, it becomes easier to create targeted plans, which provide a roadmap that enables teams to deliver focused execution. However, the problem here often is, that when things are not going well, leaders change the mission instead of adjusting the action plans. This means that they did not do the work in the first four steps. If you know and are committed to the mission, you will know to change the plan, not the mission. With the right plan, a team will surpass competitors while learning about themselves.  Even at the final step, there may be obstacles, doubts and fears to overcome. Be on guard for hesitation.  A leader must not falter due the team’s fears.

Having the Courage to Act Fast:

When you have all of the above steps in place your fears are less likely to interfere, but may still prevent you from implementing the plan. Courage to confront your fears and the fears of the team is the difference between someone who knows the answer, but lacks the courage to act and lead.  Once a leader knows the answer that leader never gives up. With shortening product cycles and limited capital, leaders must first define the markets, enter them, and create excitement in the market.  With targeted actions that everyone believes in, the leader forms “FastBreak Action Teams” that are infused with clarity and confidence to reach the new reality.  With good marketing and branding, the market place will have the same courage.

Of course this is all easier said than done, but if a leader can take the time to follow through each of these steps, they can take full control of their future. Fears and doubts arise during each step, a leader must work to mitigate this fears with the possibility and a compelling picture of the future state with his or her role model. During WWII Winston Churchill, after the Nazi’s had rolled over Europe destroying great armies, killing millions of innocent people and destroying cities, with his army defeated at Dunkirk, his air force in tatters and U-boats sinking his navy and blocking supply lanes, he had the courage to say, “We will never surrender.” He did this with the full knowledge that he and his family would be tortured and killed should Hitler win.

Addressing his divided government and the nation in 1940, two years before the USA joined the fight, he painted a clear and compelling picture of the mission while acknowledging reality.

“… I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."

“We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realized; no survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal. But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, "Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength."

Worthwhile business missions are not this dramatic or important, but the courage and clarity represented in this moment in history, is a great model for any leader. Practicing the steps above will make teams stronger, more confident and more effective to enhance their company’s performance in the marketplace. Each leader who creates opportunities grows the wealth of the company, the people within it, and the communities they touch.  Look back on the successes in your life and you will see these steps.

Heartbeat of Life

The first organ that develops in the womb is the heart.  With all our science we still do not understand exactly what animates its beat.  But we do know there is a mysterious force that animates life itself.  If you sit quietly in nature you can feel that force.  Call it what you will, but it is the life force that animates your heart, which in turn animates your body by flowing oxygenated blood through your veins.

When we are unhappy it seems to me that we are out of rhythm with the flow and beat of life itself.  While this force continues to animate us, we put our attention on our thoughts about what has happened and what might happen.  Placing our consciousness on these thoughts for too long begins to disconnect us from the life force, and often leads to high levels of stress causing heart attacks, sudden unnatural death, and all manner of illness.  We stop dancing to the rhythm of life, which is always there, and our entire system starts to fall apart, as we unplug from our power source.  It is a natural warning to get back to the dance of life.

So when you are feeling stressed, remember the life force is always present, bringing you and everything around you to life.  It is creating a beautiful diverse array of creation.  Do whatever helps you let go of the thinking that is creating your stress, and use your heart to tune yourself with the rhythm and flow of life itself.  Let your heart become a tuning fork for the heart beat of life, and like a runner whose breathing and heartbeat synchronizes with the body, you will feel a surge of natural energy.


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Unleashing Genius

As well as being a poet Paul David Walker has been coaching the leaders of Fortune 500 and mid-size companies for over twenty-five years. In this uniquely poetic book about the secrets of great leaders, Paul reveals some of the deeper principles behind creating new realities, which Paul believes is the job of a leader. He takes you on a journey into the heart and mystery of leadership forming a foundation for any leader to become truly great.

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