1. How to find purpose in your life

    August 30, 2014

    How to find purpose in your life

    We all want to find meaning in our lives and live the life to its fullest. But the question remains: how do you find meaning and purpose in your life in the first place? What happens if you just don’t know or get lost along the way? Finding meaning and purpose in life is not as easy. It takes will power to look inside, face your own demons and faults and accept yourself as you are: a perfect-imperfect human being.

    Finding your own way

    In one of the previous posts we focused on your character strengths and talents. Have you already discovered what they are? What do people compliment you most for? Think about the activities and actions you perform that feel the most satisfying to you. My advice: start making a list and paying attention if nothing comes immediately to mind. You can also complete Dr. Martin Seligman’s online questionnaire (VIA Survey of Character Strengths) about personal strengths and talents and find out a little bit more how that can work in your favor.

    Frankly speaking, I had sort of an identity crisis when the time came to choose a major in college. First I decided to go to environmental engineering just to find out after a semester that despite my great love for nature and conservation, I hated it there. All of a sudden, all my certainties and the path I had outlined for myself made no sense! How could I get out of that crisis? After a few weeks of self-reflection and a little of sulking for quitting college (you probably have heard this a lot but I had never quit anything in my life before), I started remembering what it was I most enjoyed doing in life and what people praised me the most for. I’ve always heard people around me saying “It’s so nice to talk to you. After talking to you I feel so relieved.” Besides, I really liked being a volunteer and to do community intervention and teaching. I love reading, so first I thought about becoming an English teacher to inspire others but finally (and with a little help from close friends and family) I decided on psychology. This is how I became a clinical psychologist. This was 15 years ago. I absolutely love my job and my patients and clearly found meaning in my profession.

    Yet, your job doesn’t define you. The job is just my example. Many people find meaning in other areas of their lives: family life and raising kids, community work, preserving nature, political and social causes, etc.

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  2. A life’s legacy: the rippling effect

    July 31, 2014

    A life’s legacy: the rippling effect

    Author of great novels and psychotherapist Irvin Yalom talks frequently about the rippling effect we have on people’s lives. Imagine yourself as a rock sinking down a lake and causing a wave of emotions and impact on everyone around you. Did you truly believe you would come and go out of this world without influencing anyone? Without changing someone’s life? And that that effect wouldn’t be passed on?

    Even if we don’t realize it, we’re constantly touching and changing others people’s lives simply by existing and that wave of change keeps on going through time and space and generations. Simply put: think about the great heroes and characters of our history. How much influence has had Leonardo de Vinci or Jesus in our lives? And they’ve lived and died centuries ago! It’s actually a comforting idea: your body may die but the ripple effect you’ve caused will live on as long as your teachings or your actions do too.

    Apart from comfort it gives you a sense of responsibility. Your actions will be passed on and repeated even through generations. Doesn’t it give a new meaning to your job as a parent!

    Looking back: feeling a sense of purpose

    The Australian nurse Bronnie Ware published a book on the top five regrets of those who are reaching the end of their lives. It is a moving book that serves as a wake-up call and warning on how to face death with a sense of mission accomplished, as opposed to “I should have done better with my life”. In case you’re wondering the top 5 regrets of those facing imminent death are:

    1. Not having a courage to live the life you wanted and not the one that was expected of you
    2. Not having worked so hard and enjoying the simple pleasures of life more
    3. Not expressing one’s true feelings
    4. Not keeping in touch with friends
    5. Not letting yourself be happy (because happiness is also a choice)

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  3. The Search for Meaning: A Road Less Traveled.

    July 3, 2014

    The Search for Meaning: A Road Less Traveled.

    Isn’t life a bit like taking a trip to some unknown destination? Let’s call our destination Meaning. If your trip is well planned and organized you will want directions to where you are going. But, before you can get those directions you will need to know where you are starting from. This all seems simple  enough.

    It’s time for a truth test. Have you noticed how we all wear different hats. Sometimes we even wear different hats at the same time. In our haste to find our way to Meaning we often fall victim to the latest “in” terms. Adjectives that we unquestionably accept as true. Some of these adjectives include descriptors like:

    “Soccer mom”, “Easy”, “A loud mouth”, “Smart/stupid”, “Fat/skinny/Wow”, “Nerd”,  “Friend”, “Rich/poor”, “Lazy/on their way to the top”

    Is it any wonder that we get confused about who we are or what our role in life is?

    Added to this is a world of contradictions, or mixed messages. Such things as the generation you most identify with, your gender, your position in life, and your level of involvement in the world around you all influence how you filter these mixed messages. Here are just a few of these messages:

    “Stop and smell the roses”

    OR

    “I want the world and I want it now!”

    “Don’t sweat the small stuff”

    OR

    “The truth is in the details”

    “It is what it is”

    OR

    “You’re in charge.”

     

    The last factor holding many of us back from finding our own place called Meaning is our increased dependence on instant gratification. Gone for many is the patience needed to see things through to their logical outcome. It is difficult to have an attachment to things that are disposable.

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  4. What Causes People to Develop Anxiety – According to Frankl

    May 22, 2014

    What Causes People to Develop Anxiety – According to Frankl

    Frankl’s concepts are based on finding a meaning or purpose in life.  He has stated that all life circumstances have meaning, even the ones that are hard or make us miserable.  He goes on to state that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances”.  What does this all mean?  In basic terms, it means we may not have the power to control the circumstances into which we are thrust, but we do have the power to control the way in which we think about those circumstances.

    Frankl used his views to look at and discuss treatment options for several mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and neurosis.  He also used his views to help terminally ill patients.  His thoughts regarding mental illness were if we could simply recognize the purpose of our circumstances, we could (possibly) master our mental health issues.  Let’s explore this further.

     

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  5. An Author’s Experiences Give Her Life Greater Meaning

    April 24, 2014

    An Author’s Experiences Give Her Life Greater Meaning

    by Sue Chehrenegar

     

    As a children’s writer, Emily Lockhart can relate to the thinking of children. When interviewed by a reporter from the Los Angeles Times, she shared memories of her own childhood, of a time when she did not feel pushed to take life seriously. Later, like so many of the youth that pass-through the age of adolescence, Lockhart experienced an awareness of increased freedoms. For a time, she relished those new-found freedoms. Then, as she grew older, she began to take view life more seriously.

    Lockhart’s altered pattern of thinking copied that of many younger adults. It provoked thoughts that focused on the meaning of life. Her mind had become attuned to such thoughts by the age of 17, when she realized that people did not see her as someone who was capable of challenging their own thoughts and actions. Consequently, she felt decidedly underrated and wanted to add some meaningfulness to her existence.

    At that point, Lockhart began to lose interest in those things that had been providing her with intermittent periods of joy. Such actions included the application of make-up, while staring into a mirror, the refusal to abide by specific codes of conduct and the willingness to give-in to less-than-virtuous behavior. Lockhart realized that by choosing to pursue such actions, she allowed adults to view her as someone who is a tad silly, maybe even close to incompetent. Hence, she wanted to fill her life with greater substance/more meaning.

    At that point, the acquisition of added substance became her goal, one that she went-after while in college and graduate school. Eventually, she did get people to give serious consideration to what she had to say. Moreover, as that change took-place, she found that she was treated with a greater amount of respect. Still, she did not appreciate the degree to which she had to deal with on-going competition from others in academia, in order to retain the level of respect that she then enjoyed.

    Lockhart’s observations pushed re-think the wisdom of copying the pattern that had been adopted by her associates. She decided to have-a-try at the craft of writing for children. She even managed to get some of her writing published. However, it was not long before she discovered that within academia, a writer of children’s literature did not enjoy an appreciable amount of status.

    She found that within the highest echelons of academia, people tend to be serious on an almost continual basis. Their attention seldom turns to subjects that do not fall-in-line with the stated ideals of the most respected members of academia. Yet Lockhart did not view that approach to life as one that she could use, in order to make her existence more meaningful. That was why she chose to follow her own path, as opposed to the one that had been presented to her those with whom she had been interacting.

    She chose to retain what she viewed as the most meaningful aspect of her life, and she did that by seeking to excel in a discipline that gave her great pleasure. That was the craft that required development of writing skills, particularly the skills of a children’s author. Contrary to any advice she may have received from others, Lockhart’s choice did not deprive her life of meaning. She has authored books that young people read and loved.

    As a loved children’s writer, Lockhart did not allow herself to compose material that sounded a bit like a sermon. Still, she realized that she could get young minds thinking. Hence, she managed to write books that helped younger readers to begin to think more seriously about their own pathway into the future.

    Lockhart does not recommend that every child follow the pathway that she has chosen. Still, she realizes that, at some point, every child becomes a teenager and then a mature and thinking adult. She hopes to get younger readers thinking seriously about how each of them can go-about living a more meaningful life.

     

    Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/floringorgan/4694122800

     

     

     

     


  6. Reflections on a Search for Meaning

    April 9, 2014

    Reflections on a Search for Meaning

    by Sue Chehrenegar

     

    If you are searching for the meaning in your life, it can help to study the sunlight reflected in a mirror. Of course, a mirror does not really produce the sun’s rays; it simply reflects them. In the same way, a virtuous and goodly person has the ability to reflect the spiritual qualities that he or she has developed by relating to and sharing with others. In fact, those who strive to achieve that particular goal have managed to discover the meaning in life.

    Obviously, the human body does not possess a reflective surface. Still, that does not mean that those who search for the meaning in life would be foolish to consider the fact that mirrors prove most useful when they have been polished properly. In fact, those who are willing to view the heart as a mirror can best understand how to ensure their ability to create a clear reflection of their spiritual qualities.

    Polishing removes the dust from a mirror’s surface. It allows the reflected light to shine-threw more clearly. Sometimes the spiritual qualities of the human heart remain unrevealed, because those same qualities have been covered-up by the results of an effort that has failed to focus on life’s true meaning.

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  7. How NOT to Fear Death

    April 4, 2014

    How NOT to Fear Death

    by Audrey  Hollingshead

     

    Bought the farm. Kicked the bucket. Pushing up daises. Six feet under. Worm food. Lets face it. Death is a scary thing. We wouldn’t have coined these euphemisms otherwise. They allow us to talk about it without naming death outright. But why IS death so scary? What is it about the BIG sleep that makes us so afraid?

    Our ceasing to exist. We love life so much that we can’t imagine that it will end-even though we have been told it WILL end at some point. So how can we combat this fear and learn to live with the unavoidable? Simple: Just ask the son of Erik or, as we know him, Erik Erikson.

    Erik Erikson was a German-born American developmental psychologist. While he may not have earned a Ph.D. he certainly professed an interesting idea of human development. Unlike Freud who claimed our psyches were formed at the ripe age of five, Erikson believed we spend our whole lives developing. His theory of psychosocial development is made up of eight stages and by digging through them we can find an essential key to accepting death. So what are they?

     

    Stage 1: Hope: Trust vs. Mistrust. (Ages 0-2)

     

    Central Crisis: Can I trust the world?

    In this stage we learn whether or not we can trust the world by how regularly we are cared for. If our parents tend to us habitually and do everything they can to satisfy our basic needs we not only learn to trust our surroundings, but we also to trust the world at large and develop hope.

    On the flip side: If our parents fail to fulfill our basic needs we take that as a sign that the world at large CAN’T be trusted.

     

    Stage 2: Will: Autonomy Vs. Shame and Doubt. (Ages 2-4)

     

    Central Crisis: Is it OK to be me?

    This stage teaches us self-sufficiency. We also start to explore our interests and who we are as a person. If our parents let us complete tasks we can handle (such as using the toilet or pouring our own milk) we learn how to be autonomous and to how to express ourselves.

    On the flip side: If our parents expect too much from us or ridicule every attempt to complete tasks we can do on our own, we feel shame and doubt. Facing our own problems without help also becomes much harder.

     

    Stage 3: Purpose: Initiative Vs. Guilt. (Ages 4-5)

     

    Central Crisis: Is it OK to do, move, and act?

    In this crucial stage we move beyond simply acting to acting with a purpose. We take on leadership roles and prepare to meet goals set by others or ourselves. Guilt is a new emotion and can sometimes be felt when there is no logical reason. We also take risks, develop judgment, and basically try to gain more independence. Parents help us in this stage by showing how to set realistic goals for the things want to do.

    On the flip side: If we don’t complete an action on time OR if what we want to do interferes with other plans we can become frustrated and act out. If parents and teachers fail to encourage us to set goals OR belittle the interests we have we tend to feel guilty about them.

     

    Stage 4: Competence: Industry vs. Inferiority (Ages 5-12)

     

    Central Crisis: Can I make it in the wide world?

    We become more aware of whom we are and how time works. We try to do what is right. But most essentially, we build on the interests we started to develop in the earlier stages. If parents find activities that match our interests we become happy and more independent.

    On the flip side: If parents don’t nurture our interests we lose motivation to complete activities and can become both couch and mouse potatoes.

     

    Stage 5:Fidelity: Identity vs. Role Confusion (Ages, 13-19)

     

    Central Crisis: Who am I? What can I be?

    As with every stage you are forced through a crisis, this crisis being identity. To fully transition from childhood to adulthood you have to find an identity that fits you authentically. You did (or do) this by trying on different roles (such as being a jock, drama geek, or partner) to see which suited you best. Sometimes you may experience “Roles Confusion.” This happens when you don’t know exactly where you fit and will often try on extreme roles to find one that does. You also often ponder how you will act in the real adult world.

    On the flip side: One of the mixed blessings of this stage is that you will finally get in touch with how you feel about your life and possible career choices. But those might not match up with how your parents and society feel and could cause you to stop trying to find “yourself.”

     

    Stage 6: Love: Intimacy vs. Isolation (Ages, 20-24, or 20-39)

    Central Crisis: Can I love someone else?

    As we start to solidify who we are as a person we open ourselves up to long-term relationships. This means we are capable of making the necessary sacrifices to nourish close friendships and marriages.

    On the flip side: We may be so fearful of rejection that we’ll close ourselves off to people and relationships.

     

    Stage 7: Care: Generativity vs. Stagnation (Ages, 25-64, or 40-64)

     

    Central Crisis: Can I make my life count?

     

    Now we get to the T-bone of what holds together this steak called Prime Life.  By now we have learned to trust the world, to trust ourselves, who we are, and how to love. You have no doubt picked a career and have a family to call your own. So how do you make your life count? According to Erikson you must give yourself back to the world that made you to feel successful and happy.

    On the flip side: If you cannot contribute to society you will feel stagnate and unfulfilled. This feeling leads right into the last and final stage.

     

     Stage 8:Wisdom: Ego Integrity vs. Despair (Ages 65-death)

     

    Central Crisis: Was it OK to have been me?

     

    As we grow older we tend to look back on our lives. Did we do all that we wanted? Did we lead a successful life? If you have you’ll feel happy and ready to accept death because you know that you’ve contributed to something that will live longer then yourself.

    On the flip side: If you haven’t live how you wanted, or, if things got in the way of you getting what you wanted out of life you can feel depressed, hopeless, and fearful of death. With your bucket list knocked over and your life left unfinished the thought of not excising can seem scary. So how do you fix this? By doing exactly what Erikson suggests in stage seven. By contributing to something that will live longer then us we lessen our fears of death because we know that a part of us lives almost immortally.

    But what’s even more beautiful about this is that your contribution does not have to be a large one. It could be as small as volunteering at a no-kill animal shelter, getting involved with your kids or grand kids, or sharing your amazing life story. Everyone has the key to quenching the fear of death and we at Dream Positive know that with a little work, you can find yours.

     

    And remember,

    Dream Well! Dream Positive!

     

    Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/29468339@N02/3419565232

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


  8. Millennial Generation Wants Make the World a Better Place

    April 2, 2014

    Millennial Generation Wants Make the World a Better Place

    by Sue Chehrenegar

     

    According to a recent poll, one with some very interesting results, a large group of young men and women could be viewed as members of a party on a quest. The poll’s results, which were posted on the website for the Barna Group, indicated that up to 87% of the young people that had been surveyed wanted to have a meaningful life. In other words, each of them hoped to discover how to give true meaning to their lives.

    Most people would agree that a meaningful life is one that manages to better the world in some way. Yet that does not really explain what approach ought to be pursued by someone who wants to give-back to others, in order to improve the world in some fashion. What aspects of a lifestyle allow it to qualify as one that others would view as noteworthy and meaningful?

    Would a readiness to become a continuous source of commentary on how to behave demonstrate the type of qualities that one could expect to find in a noteworthy individual? Well, more than 50 years ago, children were encouraged to believe that such was the case. Those children had heard their parents say a phrase such as this: Do as I say, not as I do.

    Now, however, people have learned to be wary of those individuals who behave in ways that contrast sharply with the recommendations made in their comments. In other words, it is best to avoid those who have chosen to utter words that differ markedly from their deeds. The utterance (or the writing and publishing) of such words does not really add great meaning to any life.

    The deeds that do add meaning to a life are those that could be termed pure or goodly. A pure deed is one that has been done with the idea of providing the recipient with an added benefit. It has not been seen as a means for gaining greater recognition, or for collecting some quick cash.

    A goodly deed is one that would be viewed as virtuous. It might be an act of kindness. It could be a true demonstration of courage. It could be the type of behavior that encourages others to act in the correct manner. That was what Gandhi would do, when he would fast until a situation had improved to his satisfaction.

    Gandhi’s conduct, although unusual was certainly commendable. Young people who display commendable conduct have reason to feel that they have provided their lives with an added bit of meaning. They have behaved in a way that has highlighted their desired to make the world a better place.

    Of course, it is not always easy to follow a path such as the one taken by Gandhi. Indeed, those who try to go down such a path must expect to encounter some roadblocks. Those are the tests that help to make a life all the more meaningful.

    A meaningless life could be compared to a barren field. It might look perfectly smooth, but it cannot be used to produce any crops. It cannot be a place where trees bear fruit or where a sown field can yield a harvest. It has not been dug into or plowed; it has not been tested.

    When a young person on a quest for greater meaning faces a test, that same person shapes his or her spirit in the same way that a bit of barren ground could be dug-into and shaped. That testing allows the tested person to have a stronger spirit. That stronger spirit exists inside of an individual who has the ability to succeed, after choosing to launch a quest for a meaningful life.

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/71264537@N03/6443166521


  9. Psychological footprints: What are you leaving behind?

    March 20, 2014

    Psychological footprints: What are you leaving behind?

    by Daniela Aneis

     

    Dinosaurs have lived millions of years ago often leaving nothing but their fossilized footprints behind. What if you could also leave a psychological footprint behind? The term psychological footprint used by Whitbourne and Whitbourne (2014) refers to the positive or negative influence you have on others and how that affects their lives and the environment around you. We’ve all had the nature vs. nurture discussion in our lives at some point: is it nurture that defines me or is it nature? But what about your influence in nature and nurture? Your influence in what’s around you? How to measure that?

    Leaving something of yourself behind.

    You may not see it or even realize it, but you have an impact on your environment. Just by existing at this time and place, you’re changing what’s around you. Let’s try a difficult exercise. Can you imagine what it would be like for everyone you’ve ever met if you had never existed? What would they be missing out? Though one to think through? Don’t worry, that’s just our egocentrism at work. We just can’t imagine a world where we wouldn’t exist! Let’s try an easier one: have you ever asked a close friend what have they learned from you? What has meeting you made them different? Ask and be surprised with the answers. Usually in life it’s the little things that leave great impressions.

    What psychological footprints do you have on yourself?

    Think about all the people that have inspired and touched your life. Parents, grandparents, your first teacher, your neighbors, your minister, your childhood friends… Ever tried writing them a thank you letter for all the precious moments you’ve had with them? This a powerful exercise that Martin Seligman (the father of Positive Psychology) often does in his classes. At the end of each semester he promotes a little get together between students and the receivers of the letters, where the letters are read out loud and it’s not unusual for tears of joy to run. It’s a very powerful tool in therapy as well specially in grief counselling.

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  10. Yoga Helps you Discover Meaning in Life

    March 1, 2014

    Yoga Helps you Discover Meaning in Life

    by Melisa Marsett

    Have you ever thought why yoga gains popularity every day turning into one of the most popular spiritual practices? The person who is deeply in love with yoga will immediately answer this question. In addition to incredible health benefits, yoga gives at least general understanding of the meaning of human life. Yoga helps to find answers on the range of important questions that occur every day in the thoughts of people seeking for truth and the real purpose of our existence.

     

    Meaning in Feeling

     

    What’s the most important thing in life? Where and how we live our lives? According to yoga, we live in so-called “I”, we live our lives in our own feelings and everything else has no real relation to life. As strange as it may sound, but our life is our feelings, mood and emotions. When we have a good mood, we are inspired by everything – the world around us, people, atmosphere and even things. When we have a bad mood, nothing can force us to feel pleased and satisfied, even the most “valuable” and vital things which usually lead to happiness. When we are happy, the whole world is in harmony, everything brings joy to us, and vice versa.

    Therefore, generally speaking, the meaning of our life is to be happy. In other words, the meaning of life is to experience the feelings which give force, pleasure and joy. No matter how rich we are, money, power, houses, cars and sex mean nothing if all these do not please us. At the same time, if we live in harmony with the Spirit and experience the feeling of joy and life satisfaction, we will be happy even living, for example, in a cave and eating one spoon of rice per day. To improve the statement that the meaning of life is hidden in our feelings, we only should to look closely at our everyday life and feel the influence of our emotions.

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