Mar 192014

The bad stuff that happens to us (and others) is what is most interesting.

Boo for politics!

Boo for politics!

On the one hand this is nice: Something dreadful that happened to us turns into a wonderful adventure with the passing of time.

On the other hand this has a proclivity of confronting us with mostly negatives: War in the Krim, oil spills in Africa, corrupt politicians in our own back yard.

Getting confronted with the negatives, in the news and through our own personal stories, creates an availability bias; we are biased to believe that those things which are generally “available” are in fact common. Because every murder is big news, every war is shown on prime time, we come to believe that murder and war are all around us.

Statistically however this is far from true: The number of murders has been very steadily declining (at least here in the Netherlands) and the number of wars and other armed conflicts is at an all time low.

Today there are elections for the Dutch municipalities. I’m not voting: I don’t know what is going on and given that we live in a slow-moving democracy I don’t really need to. If big changes happen I believe that I can change right along (perhaps even benefit). I do feel that this precludes me from griping about the stupid things that politicians do, but as a) I don’t like to gripe anyway and b) I don’t actually know what they do (wrong) anyway, I can’t.
And yet we feel more and more unsafe…

The solution? Stop feeding the availability bias.

I haven’t watched the news for over 10 years now (due to not owning a television). When I read the news (either online or because I found a newspaper) I concentrate on the economic news (because that is handy for my work and actually does get reported when things are going better) and the comics. Death, war, pollution, politics: There is very little I can do about these anyway so why would I need to know about them? And if there is anything truly important or big, it will get to me through the collective consciousness (i.e. people talking about it).

They say you are what you eat. The same is true for mental food. So why not throw out all the negative and bad stuff and just consume that which is good for you (i.e. makes you happy)?

Boo for politics. Yay for comics!

Mar 172014

The number of cool, nice, interesting, funny, happiness inducing things that you can do on a given day is quite limited. There is only a set amount of hours and most of those are spent on keeping things running (like sleep, cooking and cleaning the toilet).

I feel so happy for the little Chinese doll! :-)

I feel so happy for the little Chinese doll! :-)

And this is something that bugs me. Because, well, more happiness is better.

There is however a loophole!

Sure, it’s not possible to feel happy for more things than you can fit in a given day. But it is possible to feel happy about more things than you can do in a given day!

It’s simple really. Ridiculously simple. And still, we have a tendency to do the exact opposite.

The secret? Feel happy for someone else.

Celebrate someone else’ successes. Enjoy your sister’s joy. Smile at your friend’s laughter, laugh when your colleague smiles. Genuinely appreciate the good fortune that comes on your acquaintance’s path.

The term for being happy for another’s happiness is “compersion”. Of course it’s been around for thousands of years, but only in the last century did the English language gain the word to describe the particular feeling. The words jealousy and envy have been around for way longer. What does that say about us as a species…?
Because there are so many people doing so many cool, interesting, fun, beautiful, wonderful, happy things. Imagine tapping into all of that, sharing it, making it grow; happiness is not a limited resource and doesn’t diminish by being spread.

As mentioned, this is the exact opposite of what so many people do. We frown upon another’s luck, have misgivings about another’s fortune. We feel jealousy and envy. We want all the good things for ourselves, even if that means that others can’t have any. Such a shame…

So please share your happiness and let me reflect it back on you.

Mar 132014

This week I’m spending in Austria with my parents and brother, snowboarding.

I wonder who was the crazy person who first decided it was a good idea to fall down a mountain with a few pieces of wood strapped to her feet...

I wonder who was the crazy person who first decided it was a good idea to fall down a mountain with a few pieces of wood strapped to her feet…

Snowboarding is quite easy: You take an elevator to get you to the top of a mountain, you strap a piece of wood (well, actually a plastic / metal / wood composite (I think)) underneath your feet and you fall down the mountain. Nothing to it, gravity does the work!

Of course there is a bit more to it than that. Yes, you’re falling down. But you’re trying to do it in a very specific way. Namely, trying to get your board and your legs and your body and your head to fall in the same direction, at the same time.

This is something you can’t plan. You can’t say: “At that curve I’ll push out my left leg out a bit while swinging my shoulder down just a bit and then at that small hump I’ll just twist my back slightly and everything will work out.”

Instead you feel the snow and the mountain, you see where the humps, the path and the other boarders (and skiers! Horrible skiers!) are, you’re constantly adjusting, shifting balance, moving your body, correcting, overcorrecting, back-correcting your over-correction…

Sure, there is a general idea: Get down this mountain without causing serious injury to myself or others. But the actual way of doing that is only (can only be!) made up in the moment.

This obviously is a metaphor for life. Because we might have some idea of where we want to go, but it’s the millions of small steps, the ones that you don’t plan out, that actually get you there. In life we are also constantly shifting, adjusting, correcting.

If you’re boarding and you find yourself heading towards the wrong side of the slope, it’s not a problem. You make your turn (gracefully of course!) and you’re back on track.

There is another way in which snowboarding is like life:The more you fall down, the better you get!
Similarly with life. If you’re not going in the direction that takes you to your goal, there are always possibilities to make a turn, to correct, to shift, to re-align yourself.

It’s impossible to plan the entire journey in any detail. You never get to your goal in a straight line. But even with a lot of curving and swerving, you can still get there.

And who knows, maybe you get to see an even more interesting side of the slope than you originally expected.

Mar 112014

My parents, my brother and me (and any serious girlfriends, if they happen to be around and have time) have a very nice tradition of going on snow vacation for a week every year.

Mountains and snow make a great combination!

Mountains and snow make a great combination!

That week is now.

It’s great to be out together, really having time to talk and discuss (which we do a lot!), have a good dinner with a drink (or two). All of this is in the evening.

What you do during the day on a snow vacation is (in my case) snowboard or (in many other cases) ski.

I’ve been snowboarding for quite a few years now. And I’ve gotten to be good at it. Which is not a blessing per-se. Because being good at it also means that there is far less possibility for improvement. And (as our discussion yesterday evening brought up), I love improving / growing.

So though I still very much enjoy our vacations, the actual day-time is getting just a little bit boring. And I don’t take boring very well…

This morning I really wasn’t feeling it. I wanted to relax, spend my time reading, writing, walking around. But how do you say that? How do you say to your parents that you want to do something else?

It’s not that my parents are difficult to talk to or stubborn. Quite the opposite, they are the most understanding and caring people in the world (feel free to feel the same about your parents, I don’t have a patent on this feeling… :-) ). Yet having known each other for so long (and having gone on these vacations for so long) it’s very difficult to get out of the long-established routines.

For the past two weeks people have been asking me “where are you going?” The thing was, I really didn’t know (and still don’t). Ok, I know the area is called Obertauern and that it’s somewhere in Austria, but other than that I haven’t the foggiest. One of my motto’s: “If you don’t care where you are, you are never lost!”
It’s one thing to care less about what people think of me. But what if I really do care about what these people think of me?!?

Long story short, I simply said that I wasn’t going snowboarding today and when asked, I explained my reasons for enjoying it less. This got a whole discussion started on that we might also do something different some time (the three weeks in South America with my parents and the week in Scotland with my brother and dad were great!). Not just did I enjoy my day doing what I wanted, it also opened up a whole plethora of new ideas.

Sometimes it really is very difficult to not care too much about what people might think. But so far I’ve only felt very positive when having done so. Even with those most difficult of people: Parents!

Mar 072014

We all do what we all do. Or perhaps it’s better to say: Everybody is doing it, thus so will I.

Dislike Facebook!

Dislike Facebook!

And most of the time this is a very good strategy. Because if everybody is doing it, there must be some value to it. Right?

Personally I’m getting less and less fond of this way of acting. It’s the path to the average and thus to mediocrity. Sure, it’s safe to be in the middle of the herd. But you’re never going to stand out (that’s the entire point of it of course…).

The subtitle of this blog is “In search of a life extraordinaire”. That means doing things differently (again, by definition). It means sticking my head out. It means thinking for myself.

Today I’m acting upon some thoughts that I had for myself a while ago. Today I’m leaving the herd. Today is my last day on Facebook (and the associated Whatsapp).

I’ve had a little back-lash, mostly from people who seem to use it as their sole means of communication. But I’ve also heard from people who “wished they could do that, but…”. And the people who would stick with their profile but removed everything that was on it (hint: Facebook still has your old data and will continue to gather which pages you look at and whom your friends are (of course it also holds true that they still have my old data, but at least I won’t be adding to it anymore…)).

I will still be posting this blog on Facebook: Simply like the Perpetual Wonder page and you’ll get an update when I have another piece of my brain I want to share with you. Or use the E-mail subscription, RSS feed or drop by the site some time.

Goodbye Facebook! It’s been fun!

Until it wasn’t…