Happiness Is In The Seeking

 What we are seeking so frantically elsewhere may turn out to be the horse we have been riding all along.  Harvey Cox

What we are seeking so frantically seems to be happiness. The purpose of our existence is to seek happiness, The Dalai Lama. Happiness has been studied and written about forever. Lately it seems to be reaching a peak. What Is happiness? Which country is the happiest? What makes us happy? Is a meaningful life happiness? And many strategies are proposed for reaching happiness. If reading about happiness is helpful, we should all be happy by now.

Life is a journey, not a destination, we have often been told. A journey is a process likened to traveling; a passage.So I think we can say that life is a process (a series of actions, changes or functions bringing about a result). This blog is suggesting that we move from seeking happiness to finding happiness in the seeking, finding pleasure in the process. Evaluating a good life is like evaluating a good decision: based on the process, not the outcome. A good life is the result of a life well lived. A good decision is the result of a decision well made, not on a good outcome. Happiness is what happens while living a life well lived.

“Be focused and flexible about what you want” was one of my four paradoxica principles of decision making in 1991. Being focused on your objective (goals, destination, what you want) keeps you from getting sidetracked easily. But it also prevents you from getting sidetracked to other potentially desirable goals/destinations. So, know what you want, but don’t be sure. Be open to outcome, not attached, Angeles Arrien. Use your goals to guide you, not govern you,

Frantically seeking happiness in our destination or seeking happiness in our journey, is our choice. Instead of seeking happiness, finding happiness in the seeking may make life’s journey more enjoyable. Enjoy the ride. It is well-known that money doesn’t seem to buy happiness. In fact, you don’t buy happiness, you live for it. And the pleasure of getting what you want doesn’t always satisfy. “Be careful what you wish for.”

Finding pleasure in the process is like enjoying the present. It means pleasure is on-going, happening along the way. Happiness is what you do, not what you get. Try it; you might like it.

The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise  grows it under his feet. — James Openheim

There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. — Thich Nhat Hanh


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Sharing Human Nature’s Trait Of Subjectivity

 The word human is often used as a synonym for mortal, fallible, faulty.

                                                                        Matthew Hutson

When someone is wrong or makes a mistake, others say, “Oh he/she is just being human. To err is human, (preverbal phrase). To be human means to share these common traits.Human nature is defined as: the general psychological characteristics, feelings, and behavioral traits of humankind, regarded as shared by all humans.

This blog is about subjectivity, a fallible, faulty tendency of humans. Subjectivity is: the quality of being influenced by or based on personal beliefs or feelings rather than based on facts, Dictionary.To be human is to have subjective (non rational) beliefs. This is a problem in human decision making that is well known. It is impossible for the behavior of a single, isolated individual to reach a high degree of rationality (“bounded rationality”).  Herbert Simon won the Nobel Prize for this discovery.

To be human means it is almost impossible to always be totally rational or objective. This is because to be human is to be subjective. And subjective beliefs are subject to cognitive biases.  A cognitive bias is a mistake in reasoning, evaluating, remembering, or other cognitive processes, often occurring as a result of holding onto one’s preferences and beliefs regardless of contrary information. Biases are a companion of subjectivity.

A Few Of The Most Popular 71 Identified Cognitive Biases

  • Confirmation Bias:To emphasize information that supports our beliefs, ignoring or rejecting information that contradict them.
  • Self-Serving Bias: We tend to maintain beliefs that benefit our interests and goals.
  • Bandwagon Bias: Our tendency to go along with belief systems of groups we are involved with.
  • Uncertainty Bias: Our brain does not like uncertainty and ambiguity; thus we prefer either to believe or disbelieve rather remain uncertain.
  • Blind-Spot Bias; Most people fail to recognize how many cognitive biases they actually have, or how often they fall prey to these biases.

My point is that we know to be human is to be fallible, and that we have subjective, biased beliefs. (Or we should know this). I suggest we each review the 5 above cognitive biases above and ask: Do I sometimes ignore or reject information that contradicts my beliefs?  Do I maintain my beliefs that benefit my interests and goals? Do my beliefs systems tend to be the same as the group I belong to?  Do I prefer either to believe or disbelieve rather than remain uncertain? Am I aware of my personal subjective cognitive biases?  When do you believe you are being objective?

True objectivity would mean standing outside the human body, off the earth even, observing both without bias and without a human brain, Diane Ackerman. To be human is to be subjective, fallible, to err — and it is part of the human learning process.

 To err is human, but it feels divine.Mae West


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                                           That You Fail To Notice

The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds. R. D. Laing

What we pay attention to is what we notice. We don’t see what we don’t pay attention to, which is what we don’t notice. What we don’t see/notice is significant. It is 90 % of the iceberg. The 10% we see/notice shapes what we think and do. We don’t notice the forest because we are paying attention to the trees. I believe most of you would agree that all of this is true. But have you ever asked yourself: “What am I failing to notice?”

Out of necessity we learn to run on auto pilot, paying attention mechanically and passively most of the time. This underscores the need to pay attention deliberately and voluntarily, thereby liberating our awareness from robotic activity. Daniel Goleman. To me, this tendency to run on auto-pilot, is one of the biggest problems in the world today — a lack of mindfulness; a way of seeing things that lacks awareness, and lacks paying attention to what one is not paying attention to. Maye we all should develop a mind of a sleuth. A story about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson on a camping trip demonstrates the importance of deliberately paying attention. As they lay down one night…

Holmes: “Watson, look up into the sky and tell me what you see.”                          Watson: “I see millions of stars.”                                                                               Holmes: “And what does that tell you?”                                                                       Watson: “Astronomically it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Theologically it tells me that God is great and we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically it tells me that we have a beautiful day tomorrow.             What does it tell you?”                                                                       Holmes: “It tells me that somebody stole our tent.”

We don’t pay attention to something obvious because we are so interested in something else, like Dr. Watson. You might want to try to pay attention like a detective. Here’s why: “The eye sees in things what it looks for and it looks forwhat is already in the mind.”  Scientific School of Police, Paris. If you learned to see like Sherlock Holmes, you would pay attention to what you don’t pay attention to. Of course it is easier to see what someone else is not seeing.

Do you ever ask yourself, “What am I not seeing because I’m not paying attention to?”  “Am I seeing the trees and not the forest?’ Am I paying attention to just the tip of the iceberg?  “Am I on auto pilot?” If this seems like too much paying attention, too much self-awareness, consider the risks of auto pilot: What you actually see is not all there is. You are only seeing part of the whole. The missing parts may be significant. You are looking at the world as a partially blind person. What you are missing is the hidden wholeness. There is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds. Maybe what I am promoting is mindfulness, a way of seeing things that involves self- awareness, paying attention to what you notice and don’t notice — on purpose.

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose,in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”  Jon Kabat-Zinn





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Again And Again

 We are living in a world of make believe, that is, we make what we believe.

To make something different, we must believe something different.

                                                                                        Steve Bhaerman

To make is to cause to exist; to create; to form in the mind. We create our beliefs in our minds. Because we make our beliefs, we can make new beliefs. We can change our beliefs, but we have to want to. When “we make what we believe”, what we make is what we want to be true. And we don’t want to change what we want to be true. Herein lies a human problem.

“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”  John Kenneth Galbraith

Since frequently many people make conflicting beliefs, all conflicting beliefs cannot be true.  Which ones are true? Which ones do we want to be true? Truth varies and beliefs vary. Sometimes what was once true is no longer true. Beliefs can also become out of date. Humans are good at updating their computer software (the computer operating system that programs their computer. Humans are not good at updating the software of the mind, which directs its operation. Beliefs are the software that programs the human mind. To update is to change; this means to change the mind. Another human problem.

Human self-deception is one of the most impressive software programs                              ever devised. David Nyberg

The key words of this blog are beliefs and change. In a world of constant change, many beliefs need to change (some truths also). Changing beliefs means creating new beliefs. Creativity and change are two sides of the same coin. Creativity is needed to respond successfully to change and creativity, in turn, results in change. James Adams.

I know there is no delete button for biased, exclusive, closed-minded dogmatic beliefs, and no software program to provide a default position for open-minded, inclusive human beliefs. Beliefs are the search engine of the mind. So pay attention to what you believe.

A lot of us in America don’t like the way the world is going. If we want to make the world something different, we must believe something different.  What we believe is a powerful weapon of mass construction/creation. If make believe is making what we believe, we will need to make believe again and again. Which beliefs are true? Which ones do we want to be true? Which ones are weapons of mass destruction or mass construction?  Our future will depend on how we make our future. How we make our future will depend on how we make our beliefs. And if we can change them.

How many counselors does it take to change a lightbulb? It only takes one, but the lightbulb has to want to change.  (One of many changing light bulb jokes)



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Where Have You Gone?

 Information is not knowledge. Albert Einstein

In 1993 I identified “infomania” as one of four future neuroses that becomes a disability and inhibits creative decision making. *  Info-maniacs worship facts. My point was that info-mania was a disability in the Information Society because craving more information when you are already drowning in it makes the desire dysfunctional.

Twenty-five years later I wonder where the info-maniacs have gone. Maybe we need more people craving information. Today there are a lot of people, even many politicians, who ignore facts and invent alternative facts. And they worship their inventions. Their inventions are usually misinformation (false or inaccurate information, especially that which is deliberately intended to deceive,dictionary).

This blog is a call to action to people who seek “real facts”. We know they are there because they are beginning to make noise and act. There will always be people who create misinformation and who are devoted to it. But we have never had such a president. Therefore, those of us who aren’t the president, or fact adverse politicians, or closed-minded voters devoted to misinformation, need to act.

But there is a caveat. Be aware that maybe worshiping information is going too far. Sometimes facts become out of date, obsolete. Information does not guarantee knowledge. Appreciating facts with an open mind (rather than worshiping them) is a requirement in today’s world of constant change, new information glut, political disorder and technological overload. You have a world where closed-minded, unyielding attachment to facts, information and truth is a disability.

What is needed now is seeing information with an open-mind, which makes one receptive to new and different information, and to change. Facts become fiction, truth becomes extinct, rules become passé. Changing one’s mind (beliefs, opinions, convictions) will be a required skill in the future. A worship ofcertainty (closed-mindedness)is today’s disability. It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble; its what you know for sure that ain’t so, Mark Twain. Enter positive uncertainty!

“Reverse Paranoia” another of my four future neurosis, was posted as a blog June, 24, 2015. Paranoia is the belief someone is following you and is out to get you. Reverse Paranoia is the belief that you are following someone who is out to lead them. Today the question of leadership is a big issue, which I don’t need to describe. What the world needs now is not someone to lead us, but for all of us to become leaders. My call for action is aimed at open-minded, active change agents.

You must be the change you wish to see in the world, Mahatma Gandhi.

*Future Sense, THE FURUTIST, Sept – Oct – 1993, (Future Phobia, Paradigm Paralysis, Info-mania, Reverse Paranoia.)


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Decision Making Is A Process, Not An Outcome

 The Wu Li Master does not teach; he “dances” with his student                                                    as he knows the universe dances with itself.  Gary Zukav

I like dancing as a metaphor for decision making. This blog is a result of my recently reading Designing Your Future, 2016, by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. And not so recently The Dancing Wu Li Masters, 1979, by Gary Zukav. My sub-title comes from the first book. And the idea for my title comes from the second book.

The image that the universe dances with itself makes me imagine that life dances with itself. The universe and life are too big and too complex to understand precisely and to control. Seeing them metaphorically as dancing helps understanding. And that leads me to see decision making as a dancing process. As Bill Burnett and Dave Evans point out:Life is a journey, not a destination and decision making is a process, not an outcome. Life is not an outcome; it’s more like a dance.

 A dancing metaphor appeals to me; and to many others. Dancing is the world’s favorite metaphor.Kristy Nilsson. One reason I like metaphor is because it enhances understanding the way we see things — and do things. And decision making is about the way we see things and do things. Choreography is the art of creating and arranging dances. Decision making is the art of creating and arranging choices. It is pretty well agreed today that decision making, like dancing, is an art. Science can assist us in becoming more skilled choosers, but at its care, choice remains an art, Sheena Iyengar.

My writing has always described decision making as a creative process. A process is a series of actions or steps. Decision making and dancing are both a series of actions and steps. Successful decision making and successful dancing have to avoid rigid rules, prescriptions, scientific formulas. In 1989 I wrote, in the Journal of Counseling Psychology: Decision making is a nonsequential, nonsystematic, nonscientific process. And in 1991 I published: Creative Decision Making, Using Positive Uncertainty.

In his book, Gary Zukav leads us by the hand into the dance, introducing us to the new amazing “Wu Li quantum physics”. Still more amazingly, we find that we are able to dance too — that we have always been part of the dance. Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, in their book: Dysfunctional belief: We judge our life by the outcome. Life is not an outcome. Life design is just a really good set of dance moves.

 A good decision is not a decision with a good outcome. A good decision is a decision made with a good process. The decision maker is in control of the process, not the outcome. Decision making has always been like dancing.  This just gives me a chance to reinforce it. Wayne Dyer points out that dancing is also a process, not an outcome.

                     When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor.                                                  It is to enjoy each step along the way

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Open-Mindedness Is The Best Teacher        

 If you see in any given situation only what everybody else can see, you can be said to be so much a representative of your culture that you are a victim of it.  S. I. Hayakawa

Hayakawa’s quote has always caused me to think: “I would be a different person if I had been born at a different time and in a different place.” I have lived in California all of my life. I didn’t travel outside of the United States until I was married with teen-aged sons. My many years of formal education have also had a selective imprint. My knowledge, beliefs and learning are the result of my limited, personal experience. Limited, personal and learningare the key phrases. As a result, unrestricted learning becomes a need. This makes me unique, just like everyone else. Learningnow becomes the major personal goal for continued growth.

Our unique learning has cultivated our personal mindsets (a fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person’s responses to and interpretations of certain situations). Think about this: If everyone is unique, then everyone has had different learning experiences and probably a different mind set. Personal learning experience can bea benefit or a handicap; it is is a powerful teacher. The best way to learn from experience is to have a lot of different experiences. The best way to have a lot of different experiences is to have an open mind. An open mind is receptive to new ideas and new learningexperiences.

My blog writing has often been to encourage others to pause and think about their own limited learning experience. And to be aware of the personal and limited cultural experiences of others; especially others who have a different point of view. This is particularly important today because in America we have such diversity of point of view (sometimes called tribalism). “We” don’t think like “they” think because we and they have had different life learning experiences.

So, what do we do about that? We can be careful not to have a fixed mindset (closed-mindedness) and focus only on what we know, but to focus on learning, because knowing can become the antithesis of learning. It is better to KNOW HOW TO LEARN than to know. Dr. Seuss. One way to learn is to expand your personal experience. Tyr it, you might like it. New ideas, thoughts and beliefs come from new learning experiences, which requires open-mindedness. Of course, this is a recipe for the ability to change. The measure of intelligence is the ability to change, Albert Einstein.

The ability to change is related to one’s personal experience and capacity to learn. Learning requires change and causes change. Therefore, the best teacher is a malleable mind, open to new experiences and able to change, which means the ability to learn and unlearn. The following quote I believe by R. D. Laing says it best.

 We must continually unlearn much of what we have learned,                                                             and learn to learn what we have not been taught.



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