Monday, March 15, 2010

The seventh paradox

Remember that control and mastery are key elements of happiness; and so are novelty and challenge.

This is not so much a paradox as it is a definition of the two banks of the river. Let me explain, if life is thought of as a river the good events, the actions that help us become better and be happy all happen between the banks. When life gets rough and stormy the river can and does overflow the banks, while this flooding does provide the impetus for change it is still a destructive force. Now the banks of the river are the ideas of being in control and being challenged.

When we feel that we are in control of a situation it reduces the stress we feel in association with that situation. Control comes from building skill, crafting habits and self-discipline. The greater mastery we have of a skill the more confident we will be in its use and the more easily it will flow from us. When we have truly mastered any skill it can transcended the mundane and become art in and of its self. This sort of commonplace art, or should is ay the art of doing every day things will bring joy in to our lives; this is the joy of satisfaction at a job well done.

The control of crafting habits is the trick of putting our own poor judgment aside and training ourselves to make better choices. This is a tool for guiding the river of our lives where we want to go. We often say we want to lose weight or eat healthy but until we craft the habit of a good diet this does not happen. Once the habit is in place the proper diet become our reflex and anything else is a deviation from that, and as such less likely to happen.

Self-discipline is the control the active control of our decision-making process. Were habits create a reflexive control over what we do our self-discipline is what keeps us in line in new situations or during the process of creating a new habit.

The other bank of the river is novelty and challenge. While doing what we are good at can be rewarding in its results it can also become boring from repetition. We seek challenges to test our skills and push ourselves to do better. By seeking out novelty, we learn more about who we are and what we can do. In seeking the new we stimulate our personnel growth and as we master new skills we gain self-confidence. A life that is filled with only that which we have already mastered leads to stagnation. Years ago I heard the owner of an art gallery talking with a customer about one artists work, she said "he once created something that had God in it and has been trying to recreate that ever since." When we create something that is great we should not try to recapture it again and again but strive to make something new and different that is just as great if not greater.

This has been part seven of a series based on Gretchen Rubin's Nine Paradoxes to Contemplate as You Consider Your Happiness Project. In case you have missed the others here they are: