It seems almost impossible that it is late summer already. Whatever your end of summer activities are, I hope you are spending some time planning ahead for a successful fall. It’s the perfect time of year to look at how you want to be spending your time, what will make you feel productive and how you want to prioritize your activities.
This month’s Life Adventure Notes is focused on the subject of Satisfaction. As I have been working on it over the past week, I can’t get the Rolling Stones song out of my mind. I was very tempted to include the lyrics as the monthly meditation, but I decided to give you something a little less frivolous. Besides, I know if you are old enough to remember the song, it’s now playing in your head too!
According to psychologist Martin Seligman, Satisfaction is one of the three kinds of happiness. Last month we looked at the first type of happiness – Pleasure – and next month I’ll talk about the final one – Meaning. As you walk with me through these pieces of happiness, I would like to remind you that no one piece makes up the whole. While it’s obvious when I state it that way, many people get lost when it comes to happiness. A focus on one of the 3 pieces will not make you happy: it’s the mix of all of them, in the right proportions for you, that will lead you to happiness that is deep and sustainable over time.
Enjoy this month’s article about Satisfaction. I know it will give you some ideas for getting the most out of the months ahead AND increasing your happiness.
SATISFACTION AND HAPPINESS
There are many routes to happiness. Many of them lead to satisfaction which is an often overlooked form of happiness. When you think of happiness, you may most quickly think of those big sensations that occur, but one of the most important sources of happiness is in the ordinary and the everyday. This is the happiness from satisfaction.
The good news here is that satisfaction is so readily accessible to you. It merely takes a new outlook, perhaps a little change in plans and some attentiveness and your happiness level goes up.
Satisfaction comes from the feeling of a job well done. It comes from what is termed “engagement”. You know what engagement is… it’s when you spend longer than you intended playing on Pinterest because you love it or it’s when you lose yourself working in your garden and wonder where the time went or it’s when you spend hours catching up with an old friend. Maybe yours is “falling into” the Sunday crossword puzzle, but whatever the activity, these are elements of happiness in your life because of the satisfaction that comes from the level of engagement you achieved with the activity. Notice how it’s those ordinary things that lead to satisfaction.
The idea of engagement is also called “flow” and can best be described as being totally in the moment with a happy feeling of being so engaged with what you are doing that you “lose yourself”. You are likely to be very focused and absorbed physically, mentally and emotionally. The satisfaction occurs both in the moment as you are carried away from all but the present activity and in the aftermath when you look back at the engagement with life that you achieved. The feelings during flow are pleasant and there is always an outcome produced from the activity.
You have a natural desire for flow as a human being. It feels wonderful to be fully engaged in your activities. Cares fall away and your mind is fully engaged (this is not the empty mindlessness of television). In the process of flow or engagement, you experience yourself as both competent and efficient. We all want that!
Flow has been studied extensively by Hungarian psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who describes the requirements for flow. In order to achieve flow, you want to have goals that are clear, be challenged in the activity but be solidly within your skill level, and get immediate feedback about your actions so that you can make adjustments as you go. And of course, you have to desire to be engaged in the activity in the first place.
Let’s take our previous example of gardening. You set out to work in the garden with specific goals in mind. You have gardening skills, but there is continuous change in the environment that you respond to as you are working. You are completely wrapped up in your work and your plans for improving the garden that you have. That’s flow. You can even see the elements of flow in the example of your conversation with your old friend. Your goal may be to catch up and see how he or she is really doing now. You are skilled in relating to this familiar person and you find yourself constantly shifting gears based on what he or she is saying. Again, that can be flow.
One of the keys to achieving flow and increasing the satisfaction in your life is using your strengths. Psychology identifies 24 strengths of character that you and everyone else has to some degree. You have certain of these strengths that you are best at and are naturally drawn to use. If you actively use those strengths in everyday life and find ways to incorporate them in more of your tasks, you will be moving in the direction of more engagement and satisfaction.
For example, one of my top strengths is called “Curiosity and Interest in the World”. And recently I took on a new project of refinishing an old kitchen table that we have even though I really didn’t know how to do it. True to my nature, I’ve been all over the internet learning the finer points of sanding furniture, the secrets of black stain and whether or not to use polyurethane. And all this curiosity carries over to when I am in the garage sanding away on the table: I am so excited about the project and can’t wait to get rid of every little speck of the ugly old stain. An hour can pass in a flash!
If you’re curious about your own top strengths, you can visit this website and take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths. You’ll find it by scrolling down the center column in the Engagement Questionnaires section. Don’t be dismayed that some traits end up at the bottom of the list – this doesn’t mean you don’t have them. It means they come less naturally to you. I always have to laugh to see self-control near the bottom of my list!
In addition to increasing your happiness, being engaged in your life while using your strengths will also increase your self esteem. The key to feeling good about who you are is really understanding the value you have within yourself. If you are living a full, engaged life and using your strengths, you are producing outcomes, creating new things and continuously enhancing your own life. It doesn’t take long in that kind of scenario to start feeling good about yourself for making all that happen.
Have you ever noticed that when you are feeling down you want to disengage from everyone? Maybe even hide in bed? This is the last thing you need to do when you have a little case of the blues. Despite that normal reaction, the more that you can stay engaged in your life, the quicker your route back to happiness.
Creating moments of flow in your life and upping your satisfaction is such a powerful way to bring yourself happiness.
How satisfied are you in the various areas of your life? (Rate them from 1-10)
What experiences have you had lately with flow?
List your accomplishments of the past 6 months. What would you like to add to the list before the end of the year?
What are some of your character strengths? How can you creatively use them more in your life?
Letter to a Young Poet
~ by Rainer Maria Rilke
You are so young, so before all beginning, and I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. Perhaps you do carry within yourself the possibility of shaping and forming as a particularly happy and pure way of living; train yourself to it – but take whatever comes with great trust, and if only it comes out of your own will, out of some need of your inmost being, take it upon yourself and hate nothing.
INDIVIDUAL COACHING BY PHONE
Want to stop that feeling that life is passing you by?
Would you like to able to experience your life as an exciting series of adventures?
Would you like to feel more joy and achieve more success?
That is what I help my clients develop in their own lives. Working with a coach helps you overcome the challenges that can keep you from a successful life. Coaching gives you a companion on the journey; someone with whom to discuss events as they unfold and to help you move toward joy in the adventure. Developing clear goals, focusing intently and staying committed become possible.
If you aren’t sure and would like to explore whether coaching is right for you, please send an email to Janet@lifeadventurecoaching.com or call me at 828-691-4655 for a complimentary consultation.