4 Things Worth Cultivating in Life

What makes life meaningful and worthwhile is not about what we have.  It is about what we do and how we do it.  Here are four things I think contribute to a good life.

1.   Flow

Flow is the state of being totally absorbed in a challenging activity.  It is the state of being present in the moment.  Named by Hungarian psychologist Csikszentmihalyi, Flow is the opposite of stress.  And contributes significantly to well-being. 

In flow, we feel energised and lacking in self-consciousness.   And we feel peaceful.  It is when someone could be calling our name and we don’t even hear it.  It is when we are hungry and exhausted but don’t even realise it.  It is when an activity feels effortless. I get it from drawing.

Here are the conditions necessary for Flow: 

·      The goal of the task must be clear

·      We need to be confident in our ability to perform the task (but interestingly there has be some element of challenge)

·      The task needs to have immediate feedback 

Life can be a challenge: full of stress, worry, frustration and disappointment. Find what it is that gives you Flow and abandon yourself to it as often as you can. 

2.   Courage

Everyone is afraid of something.  I feel nervous every time I write one of these blogs, but I still do it.  It's a small act of courage.  Courage is not the absence of fear.  It is action in the face of fear.  And it keeps us engaged, empowered and vital. 

And it is not just about putting ourselves out there to be scrutinised.  It is also about doing the right thing, even when...especially when, no-one is there to witness it.  It is going against the grain for something we believe in, or standing up for someone when we think they are being treated unfairly.  It is the act of getting out of bed when the chips are down, when hope is fast draining away or when fear has us in its icy grip. 

It may help to think of someone you know who is courageous, and when next faced with fear, think what they would do in your shoes.

3.   Generosity

When we’re feeling fed up or gloomy, we ruminate on our misfortunes and our mistakes.  We focus on ourselves, often with very little positive gain. 

On the other hand, doing something generous for someone else releases endorphins and activates the parts of our brains associated with trust and social connection.  It can be a generous act, or a generous word.  Research shows that being generous with our time, gives us a feeling of having more of it.  And being generous with money makes us feel wealthier.  And as well as the personal gains of generosity, it will also leave the other person feeling connected, supported, even loved.   It's a win-win situation.

4.   Gratitude

Gratitude is the act of noticing and counting our blessings.  Being thankful for what we have, not longing for what we don’t.  And going one step further it is the expression of that gratitude, to another person.  Like generosity it promotes social connection and feelings of happiness in both parties.  

Take a moment at the start or end of each day to notice what has gone well, what small acts of kindness or serendipity have there been.  And resolve to be thankful, either in your mind, or to the person who deserves your appreciation.  Research has shown that it increases happiness levels by up to 25%.

So what do these four things add up to?  Put it like this…your possessions will come and go.  Battles will be won and lost.  But when it comes to our final moments in life, we will never regret the times we were present, courageous, generous and grateful.





Image credit: NFMAphotos