Continuous Life Improvement

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sky
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Continuous Life Improvement

Post by sky » Thu Aug 04, 2016 9:59 am

The Pursuit of Happiness: 21 Steps to Continuous Life Improvement

Learning how to examine one's life and change it to maximize happiness is a very powerful skill. Increasing one's tranquility and happiness can lift the human spirit to a high level of grace and dignity.

In this text, we propose a process of examining one's life and carefully reconstructing it to maximize tranquility and happiness. We encourage each reader to examine his own life and make improvements based on his own judgment and free will.

This strategy is not for everyone: it requires a certain level of discipline to be able to choose behavior and action that benefits one's life over the long term, rather than selecting instant gratification. If one is able to make decisions with maturity, the process of Continuous Life Improvement can lift one to a high level of happiness and contentment.

1. Be Sensitive and Learn From Your Senses!

Listen to what your body is telling you about the world. Your senses are your most direct and real connection with the physical world, and should be trusted more than dreams, imagination, things that you have heard from others or what you have been taught by others. Be sensitive to how your mind/body processes and reacts to physical sensations, and learn to recognize and distinguish negative sensations (pain) from positive sensations (pleasure).

Our written language is somewhat limited in the meanings it can convey through a single word. The words "pain" and "pleasure" are not adequate to describe the positive and negative sensations which we receive from our environment. Some synonyms for pain that one may sense include distress, dismay, discomfort, worry, anxiety, disturbance, fear, bother, discontent, displeasure, stress, distastefulness and unpleasantness. Synonyms for pleasure that one may sense include joy, peace, relief, comfort, contentment, enjoyment and satisfaction.

Learn to recognize which of your own feelings are positive, and which are negative by "listening" to or being aware of your own senses. Try to connect events, behaviors and actions which trigger these positive and negative feelings to identify cause and effect for positive and negative feelings.

Many sensations are not strongly painful or pleasurable, but one can often recognize that the body prefers one behavior over another, for example, depending on the outdoor temperature, the body may prefer sunshine to shade, or vice versa. Be open to these types of subtle sensations, both positive and negative.

2. Respond to Negative Feedback!

Be conscious of negative sensations and identify the actions, behaviors and situations that cause them. Find ways to change those behaviors to reduce or eliminate the negative sensations. Negative sensations include pain, discomfort, distress, anxiety, stress and fear.

When you recognize a negative sensation, try to determine which behavior or action caused the negative sensation and change it. Continually be aware of your sensations and strategically make changes in your life that relieve negative sensations. Eliminating behavior and actions that are the cause of negative sensations is a very powerful way to improve one's life. Repeating this process over time will create enormous improvement in one's life.

3. Be Rational!

The senses occur in the present moment, so one must use the rational mind to evaluate the cause of that sensation, which may have happened in the past. For example, "after drinking that tea, I became somewhat nervous and agitated...", which might lead you to suspect that drinking that type of tea causes a certain level of distress. One can then eliminate this behavior to reduce one's level of distress.

It is not always clear which behavior caused which sensation. The rational process of identifying cause and effect is an important skill and requires one to recall one's actions over time and discover clues that indicate which behavior affected one's sense of well being. Use cause and effect analysis to choose how to modify your behavior to reduce negative sensations.

4. Develop a Strategy!

A behavior or action which causes a negative sensation should be modified or eliminated to reduce the negative sensation. There may be a number of behaviors and actions that work together to cause negative sensations. Because the world is complex, this may require a multilevel strategy in response as one improves one's life.

Changes in one area may have unintended consequences in other areas. A unified strategy that makes changes in many areas may be more effective than making a single change at a time. Learning from others and comparing strategies may be effective if others are following a similar philosophy.

5. Be Good to Yourself!

Choose behavior that maximizes positive sensations. Fill your day with pleasant places, people, activities and events. Listen to what your senses are telling you, and take action to move toward that which is pleasant. Seek out beauty, comfort, joy and contentment. Continually reassess a behavior or action to determine whether it continues to be pleasurable, or if it is becoming less positive over time. Improve your life every minute by constantly thinking about how you could increase your happiness and tranquility.

6. Use Long Term Cost/Benefit Analysis!

It is important to rationally choose behavior and actions which maximize positive sensations. Use a long term cost/benefit analysis to assess whether a short term pleasure is worthwhile over the long term. For example, a sexual relationship may cause emotional distress in the future if one is not selective about the type of person one has a relationship with. Avoid behavior that causes long term negative impacts on one's life.

Assess a short term negative sensation which may resolve a problem based on the long term positive effects which it might bring. A visit to the dentist is unpleasant, but it can relieve a toothache and promote long term dental health. When considered on a rational basis, one can endure the short term pain for the long term benefit.

There are many such compromises which one must make in life. By focusing on the long term benefit, one can remain aware of the reason one is accepting the short term negative sensation. When the long term benefit no longer exists, one should then end the short term negative sensation.

In some cases, the best strategy may be to select a behavior which minimizes the negative effects of an activity which has some benefits. Working to earn money is a neccessity in today's world. One can select a career with a minimum of negative impacts on one's life, and one can live frugally to minimize the amount of money needed. The negative aspects of one's time being controlled by others can be rationalized by the money which one can save for a future life unencumbered by work.

7. Control Desires!

Recognize that there are some desires which are needs that every human must satisfy, for example, the need for food, water, shelter and friendship. Respect these desires and focus on satisfying them with appropriate responses.

Desires which are not necessary for one's basic needs are often desires which can damage one's happiness if one pursues them. Pursuing desires for political power, sexuality, wealth, conspicuous consumption and fame might bring fleeting satisfaction, but over the long term cause distress and pain.

Learn to recognize the difference between desires which are necessary for one's happiness, and those desires which are unnecessary and often destructive to one's long term happiness. Use discipline to say no to unnecessary desires. Consciously reduce one's thoughts about unnecessary desires.

8. Be Loyal to Yourself!

It is important to be relentlessly and completely true to your own self-interest. Every other person who you are in contact with will try to influence your behavior toward their interests. Organizations and governments will try to impress your mind with the "duty" to put their interests first. Businesses will try to influence your behavior in a way that is likely to increase purchases from them and will increase their profits.

In order to find true happiness, it is important to put your interests in the primary position. Delegating decisions which serve the best interest of others can lead to bitterness, dismay, and the feeling of being cheated. By following your own best interest, you will be honest, true, predictable and reliable to yourself and to others.

9. Choose Wisely!

There will be many decisions made throughout your life. They are all important. It is crucial to rationally choose the path your life follows, and to have the discipline to follow through with those choices. Many choices are difficult, and only by carefully considering the potential outcomes can one choose the optimum path. The best method is to rationally consider long term outcomes of action in the present. Consider, decide and act to live your life.

10. Cultivate Friendship!

Friendship is a necessary human need. Your state of mental well-being is affected by the mental state of those around you, in particular family and friends with whom you have frequent contact over a long period of time. It is human nature to need association with friends.

Seek out people with positive thoughts and lifestyles and get to know them. Reach out to communicate with friends regularly. Invite others and meet with others as often as you can to build a group of friends. Eat with friends, share your food with friends. Help friends, and ask friends for help when you need it. Learn how to develop friendship and how to respond to the social dynamics within a group of friends.

Support your friends to help keep them in a positive state of mind. Work to maintain lifelong friendships. As friendship develops over time, one gains trust and the friendship strengthens to the point of one's friends being almost as important as one's self.

11. Add Behaviors Which Bring Happiness!

As you make decisions on behavior throughout your life, be sensitive to feelings of joy, kindness, love, beauty, grace and other positive emotions. Select behavior and seek out situations that promote and maximize these feelings.

12. Shut Down Negative Thoughts!

You are enjoying something, and suddenly a thought comes flying out from your deep subconcious that causes you doubt, guilt, fear or anxiety. For example, you are taking a nice hot shower and enjoying it. Suddenly a thought comes through telling you that you should not waste hot water. Consider that thought, assess whether it is valid, and if not, let that thought pass, and continue to enjoy the shower. Don't jump every time your subconcious mind comes up with an objection to something that you enjoy.

13. Recognize and Avoid Ascetisism!

Ancient ascetics believed that the spirit was good and the body evil, and by punishing the body one enhanced the spirit. Some ascetics pursue this philosophy to the point of causing pain through self-flagellation, self-starvation and purposefully living in pain or discomfort. Some ascetics use a display of their self-torture as a way to draw attention to themselves. Avoid this behavior and always seek to increase happiness and tranquility in your life.

Ascetisism includes simplifying or minimizing one's life to an extreme level. When simplifying one's life, do it to the extent that it increases happiness and tranquility. Don't punish one's self with pain or suffering for any reason other than cases where one gains a long term benefit through short term pain.

14. Ignore Negative Inputs!

Listening to negative news is debilitating. The information that enters your mind is what shapes your mind. Choose your incoming communication deliberately. Avoid media which push programming and choose media which allow you to select the information you wish to receive. Avoid people who are caught in negative thought patterns and who constantly speak about threats, dangers, crime and injustice.

Develop the state of your mind by choosing what enters your brain. Seek out a group of like-minded people to fill your day with thoughts of friendship and caring. Be kind and greet others with a smile to help others rise above the negativity. Doing so will benefit you as much as others.

15. Know that Happiness is Easy to Achieve!

It is easy to get the things necessary for basic human needs: food, water and shelter. A person who can obtain these basic things can be happy.

If your thoughts start to worry about how you are going to earn money to pay for something, ask yourself if you really need that item. Be calmed by the knowledge that basic human needs are easy to acquire, and anyone who has the basic human needs can be happy.

In addition to these items, by nature a human needs friendship, fascination (intellectual focus) and physical fitness. Friendship means social interaction and being part of a group of friends and family. Fascination and intellectual focus are the things one is passionate about. Often fascination is related to learning, building or creating. Physical fitness allows a person to be active and able to do a wide range of activities and it promotes health.

Note that the last three types of human needs can be satisfied without the need for money, if one chooses the right methods of obtaining these needs.

Comfort yourself with the knowledge that happiness is easy to achieve.

16. Preserve the Health of your Body

Your level of happiness over the long term depends on how you treat your body. Neglect and abuse can bring pain. Eat healthy foods, exercise and use your body to maintain your fitness level. Use appropriate hygiene and preventative medical care. Avoid alcohol and drugs in excess. Exercise is an example of a short term discomfort that has long term benefits. Strive to achieve a healthy mind in a healthy body.

17. Stay Frugal, But Enjoy!

Would you like to be able to decide how to spend your time each day? Frugality can give you this choice by reducing your expenses to an amount that you can fund with part time work or a small investment income. Reducing your desires to those things which you actually need will help you reduce your spending.

It is very important to spend less than you make. Spending more than you earn, buying on time, taking on credit, all of these bind you to servitude. When you spend money, think about the time that you will need to work to pay for that item.

It is good to save and invest. The purpose of savings are to allow you to live without work taking up your available time.

If you are fortunate to have a level of savings and are financially well off, feel free to do things with your money that bring you happiness. Be generous to others.

18. Use Rational Decisionmaking!

Rational decisionmaking means that one considers a number of criteria before making a decision on a behavior or action. For example, the choice of food that one eats is a complex prioritization that one makes every day.

Consider the following criteria used to select which food to eat:

Healthy
Low Cost
Tastes Good
Makes you feel good the next day
Easy to Cook

One might rate these criteria as to importance on a 1 to 10 scale. For example:

Importance Rating
10 Healthy
7 Low Cost
8 Tastes Good
5 Makes you feel good the next day
3 Easy to Cook

Then one might select a few food options and rate them according to the criteria:

Pizza Salad Fried Rice
2 8 7 Healthy
7 8 5 Low Cost
8 6 7 Tastes Good
2 10 8 Makes you feel good the next day
3 8 5 Easy to Cook

Multiply each rating by the importance rate for that row and sum:

Pizza Salad Fried Rice
20 80 70 Healthy
49 56 35 Low Cost
64 48 56 Tastes Good
10 20 16 Makes you feel good the next day
9 24 15 Easy to Cook
152 248 182 Total

The highest total amount indicates which choice would be most beneficial, based on the priority level given to each criteria.

This type of rational decision method for choosing food is an example of how one should approach many decisions, both mundane daily decisions such as what to eat, as well as long term life decisions. The criteria and rating system used in this example is a simplification of the process that people use to make decisions in real life.

The point here is not that you should use a spreadsheet to decide what to eat. The purpose of this example is to show how to make decisions based on consideration of the most important criteria, rather than based on immediate gratification. A certain level of discipline is needed to select the behavior or action that is most beneficial to one's life over the long term.

19. Avoid Politics

Politics and discussion of politics involves dispute, disagreement, suspicion, rumor, lies, deception and retribution. To avoid the negative emotions that these actions bring, avoid participation in politics.

You may wish to participate in democratic voting. It may be best to inform yourself by researching the candidates or proposals in a very focused way rather than relying on media to inform you. Elections cause the media to behave in damaging ways. Often the candidates and media will try to convince the audience that things are desparately bad and changes must be made or disaster will strike. This leads to distress among those who are convinced by the narrative. To avoid this negative impact on your well-being, avoid watching media, in particular television. Select your news source based on its rational qualities and balanced reporting. Text-based news sources are best.

In some cases, you may wish to engage in political activity to defend a cause which is important to you. Be selective about how you choose to be an activist on an issue. Working in a support role will be less damaging to your mental health than being a candidate for office. However, if there are no other potential candidates and you see a need to protect something important to you, you may wish to be a candidate for an elected position. Do your best and try not to get caught up in the negative side of politics.

20. Overcome Your Fears!

What if I become destitute?

Remember that even in the simplest shelter, with simple food and water, one can achieve happiness. The things that one really needs are easy to get. By accepting a simple life, spending less than one earns and saving money for emergencies, one can maintain a secure, if simple, standard of living and achieve happiness.

How will I find a suitable partner if I am not rich?

The way to find a partner is to be socially engaged, to have a circle of friends that includes a number of potential partners, and to have inner peace and tranquility that allows for good communication with potential partners. A flashy car, new clothes, jewelry and trendy haircut are not required.

I will miss something in life if I do not become rich!

You need some wealth to live. However, extreme wealth does not necessarily bring happiness. In fact, it is more difficult for an extremely wealthy person to achieve tranquility. Work toward a level of wealth that allows you a simple life.

21. Simplify Your Life!

Most people will benefit from reducing the complexity of their lives. Simplification frees up the most valuable commodity which a person can have: time. However, simplification and elimination of things is not a goal in itself. Simplification and minimalism have value to the extent that they improve one's life through reducing stress related to maintenance of things and by freeing up the time it takes to maintain them. It is also a frugal way to avoid unnecesary expenses. The goal of simplification and minimalism is to achieve a level of tranquility that is not disturbed by responsibilities and the maintenance of the things one owns.

Once a person reaches a minimalist state of tranquility and is enjoying the free time that simplification provides, one should seek to add behaviors and actions which increase happiness to one's life. One may choose actions and behaviors that maximize positive effects while minimizing responsibilities and negative effects.

As one learns which things truly add value and happiness to one's life, one can choose those beneficial behaviors which have a minimal impact on one's financial resources. One can focus one's time on a select group of friends that one knows are rational, kind, caring and without the overhead of drama, anger or deceit. One can spend time researching a subject which one is passionate about. One can create art, build furniture or perform music. One can express themselves through writing. Simplification of one's life can lead to a flowering of expression that is made possible by reducing one's responsibilities and maximizing free time.

Conclusion

In order to continuously improve one's life, one needs to eliminate negative behavior and select behavior and actions that promote positive emotions.

These are the things that one needs to be happy:

FOOD
WATER
SHELTER
FRIENDSHIP
FASCINATION
PHYSICAL FITNESS

All of these things are easy to get. Some require a small amount of money. All of them require one to make good decisions about how to live one's life.

August, 2016

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