Happiness is a State of Mind Not a State of Being

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In a 2005 study at the University of California in Riverside, in which 275,000 subjects from 225 other studies were examined, researchers found that happy individuals experienced greater success in life than unhappy people.

Happy people, in their findings, had a way of attracting other upbeat, happy people. They also found that happy people were more likely to pursue long-term goals and dreams.

Happiness is not a state of being. It is a state of mind. Or, a habit of mind.

How do you create the Happiness Habit?

The happiness state of mind is a habit that you forge. You forge that habit in a number of ways:

  • Maintaining an upbeat, optimistic mindset, as opposed to being down and negative.
  • Being grateful for what you have, as opposed to being envious for things you don’t have.
  • Seeing the good or upside in everything, as opposed to seeing the bad or downside in everything.
  • Reading or exposing yourself to positive, upbeat material.
  • Exercising daily.
  • Eating healthy.
  • Forging and maintaining relationships with other upbeat, happy people and avoiding down, negative people.
  • Taking action and not procrastinating. Procrastination creates stress, which toggles on the amygdala (brain region where negative emotions are born).

Success has many moving parts. Happiness is one of those parts.

Emotional Stability is a Rich Habit

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We are all hardwired for negativity.

Psychologist Rick Hanson, Senior Fellow of The Greater Good Science Center in Univ. of Caliornia Berkely, found that our old brain (Limbic System and Brain Stem) are predisposed for negativity. This negativity bias is a relic of millions of years of human evolution.

The amygdala, part of the limbic system, is a major player in emotions. It is one of the oldest, most evolved parts of the brain. Worry, fear and doubt are all negative emotions that emanate from the amygdala.

Because of its advanced evolution, the amygdala is extremely powerful and can be hard to control. When out of control, concentration, focus and decision-making are impaired.

But the amygdala can be controlled. The ventromedial prefrontal cortex, part of the new brain known as the neocortex, has the power to overrule the amygdala, and thus control emotions.

The job of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex is to process risk and fear and thus, plays a major role in controlling emotions and decision-making.

This ability to control the amygdala, however, requires practice. Or, more specifically, it requires that you forge the Rich Habit of exercising control over your emotions.

Ninety-three percent of the self-made millionaires in my Rich Habits study agreed that controlling emotions was a major factor to their success. Their ability to moderate good and bad emotions was seen as one of the main reasons people liked doing business with them.

The rich employ certain techniques to tamper down the overactive amygdala and keep the ventromedial prefrontal cortex in control of their emotions:

  • Daily aerobic exercise – Aerobic exercise releases certain neuro-chemicals that have a calming effect on the amygdala.
  • Healthy Eating – A study by the University of Warwick in London and University of Queensland, in Australia, asked 12,000 Australians to eat 8 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. The study found a measurable increase in happiness due in large part to their altered diet. Further studies had isolated the reason – fruits and vegetables produce healthy probiotics and pre-biotics, improving the health of the gut (large intestine). Your gut sends information directly to the brain via the vagus nerve. When the gut is out of balance, it sends a distress signal to the limbic system, amping up the amygdala.
  • Meditation – A study from Emory University found that 20 minutes of daily meditation had a calming effect on the brain and helped improve focus and concentration.
  • Music – Listening to calming music tampers down the amygdala, allowing the ventromedial prefrontal cortex’s job easier.
  • Pleasant Conversation – The mere act of engaging in pleasant conversation calms the emotional center of the brain. This is one of the reasons you want to surround yourself with upbeat, enthusiastic, positive individuals.

No one likes doing business with people who are volatile. Individuals who allow their emotions to control their decisions and reactions to events, make others feel ill at ease – essentially, pushing away those who could have a positive influence over your life.

Anxiety-Reducing Habits

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Tom Corley boats - cropAnxiety impairs focus, concentration and dampens creativity.

Brain researchers are learning that the brain works best when it is in a relaxed state. By relaxed state, they mean when your prefrontal cortex is not as active.

When the prefrontal cortex is in a relaxed state, focus, concentration and creativity increase significantly.

This is precisely why Thomas Edison took frequent naps during the day – it boosted his creativity, and ability to concentrate and focus. In a relaxed state, Edison was able to see solutions to his problems, which led to many of his groundbreaking inventions.

Habits that reduce anxiety:

  • Positivity – Researchers at Oxford University found that by looking away from negative, unpleasant people in a crowd and instead, focusing your attention of positive, upbeat people, reduced anxiety. The conclusion: positivity lowers anxiety and calms the brain.
  • Daydream – Daydreaming is a state of mind in which the prefrontal lobe is less active. It is most associated with the alpha stage of brainwave function. The prefrontal lobe drives most of the negative thinking associated with anxiety. When it is relaxed, anxiety dissipates.
  • Meditate – Like daydreaming, meditation slows down and relaxes the prefrontal lobe, reducing anxiety.
  • Exercise Aerobically – Aerobic exercise dampens the prefrontal lobe, and thus, anxiety.
  • Take a Break – Nap, meditate, relax. These periodic breaks calm the prefrontal cortex, reducing anxiety.

If you want to excel in life, forge the above habits in order to optimize brain performance. A calm brain improves focus, concentration and creativity.

Finding Your Flow

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It is well-known and widely accepted that forcing yourself to perform a task you do not like or that does not interest you much (i.e. work), creates decision fatigue. Decision fatigue occurs when your willpower reserves become depleted.

According to a famous Parol Board study by Jonathan Levav of Columbia University and Shai Danzinger of Ben-Gurian University, decision fatigue begins to set in after 90-120 minutes of “work”. After this time period, the body experiences a shortage of glucose, the fuel that powers just about every cell in you body.

But individuals who experience “flow” do not suffer from decision fatigue. When you are in a state of “flow” you can focus for hours at a time on a task, without any noticeable fatigue.

Why is this?

“Work” causes decision fatigue because “work” typically involves performing mundane tasks. Mundane tasks are tasks you must perform and this forced labor requires the use of willpower, or more specifically, requires that you use your newer, upper brain, the neocortex.

The neocortex is the most recent edition to our triune brain system. Some neuroscientists peg the existence of our new brain at just 75,000 years.

The problem is that the neocortex is an energy hog; an energy hog that eventually tires.

When you are in the flow, however, you are typically performing a task that interests you. When you perform such tasks, you are tapping into another area of the brain; the emotional center of brain known as the limbic system.

The limbic system is one of the oldest, most evolved parts of the brain. This evolution has given the limbic system unusual powers. One of those powers is the ability to engage in emotion-based activities for long periods of time. The key here is emotion-based activities.

Emotion-based activities bypass the neocortex and marshall the more evolved and more powerful limbic area of the brain. This part of the brain does not fatigue. It is literally a limitless supplier of emotion-based mental energy.

When you engage in activities you enjoy, you are able to enter the flow – a state of mental activity that taps into the oldest, most evolved parts of the brain. This is why those who pursue activities they enjoy, as a means of earning an income, are far more successful – they are using the more evolved parts of their brain.

And what an advantage that is!

True Wealth

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What does it mean to be rich?

Some would say you are rich when you have $5 million or more.

Others might argue that you are rich when you have no debt.

A few might say you are rich when you can buy whatever you want.

There are those who believe you are rich when you can afford a vacation home and still others who would argue you are rich when you no longer need to work.

Everyone has their opinion.

I have one too.

To me, you are truly rich when you cease worrying about money; when, given your lifestyle, the money you’ve saved can sustain that lifestyle for the rest of your life.

Elton John reportedly spends $1,000 a day on decorating his home with flowers. He still needs to work to sustain his lifestyle. Elton John, I would argue, is not rich

I have about 100 clients who are rich. At least according to my definition of true wealth. They have no debt and enough money saved to support their lifestyle for the rest of their lives. They don’t have opulent lifestyles but they are comfortable and they can live in that comfort until they die.

What does being rich mean to you?

Your definition of true wealth may be subconsciously dictating how you live your life.

Rockefeller Habits

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Between the mid 1800’s and early 1900’s there were a number of Americans who amassed great wealth: John Astor, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller.

The Astor, Vanderbilt and Carnegie wealth evaporated within two generations. Yet, the Rockefeller wealth continues to grow.

Inscribed in stone at Rockefeller Center is the mantra of the Rockefeller family:

“For every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty.”

Certainly, John Rockefeller’s wise creation of trusts has kept future generations from squandering that wealth (they are now entering their 7th generation, with 170 heirs and an $11 billion fortune). But, there is much more to the Rockefeller story than trusts.

Those trusts are passing along more than mere wealth. They have institutionalized many of the values and habits of John Rockefeller, which are passed along to every heir.

The family meets twice a year to share the values and habits passed down to them by John Rockefeller. Additionally, at age 21, every heir is invited to these family education sessions to learn the values and the habits of John Rockefeller.

One of the foundational habits passed along is charity – the importance of giving back to the community.

Another foundational value or habit is teaching heirs good money values – essentially how to live within your means. The means being provided by the trusts.

As I’ve articulated often in my writing, parents are the primary source of good and bad habits. When parents inculcate good habits in their children, their children thrive as adults.

However, when parents pass along bad habits to their children, their children struggle in life, financially and otherwise.

The Rockefeller trusts exemplify the enormous importance of parents passing along to their children habits that will help them to excel in life.

Success is All About Mastering the Basics

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One of the common themes I unearthed in my five year Rich Habits Study was that the vast majority of the successful, wealthy, self-made millionaires in my study master the basics.

They master the basics by disciplining themselves in three areas: fundamentals, needs and moderation.

Fundamentals

Those who become expert in what they do, perfect the fundamentals. They consistently practice the fundamentals until those fundamentals become so ingrained in them they can perform them in their sleep.

Needs

  • Value Spending – Those who accumulate enormous amounts of wealth spend their money on things that are important to them – their needs: A home in a safe neighborhood, a good education, well-made cars, etc.
  • Avoid Want Spending, Save and Invest – They delay gratification by eschewing want spending for value spending, save the excess and then invest that excess. They engage in want spending only after they have accumulated enough wealth, enabling them to spend the earnings from their wealth on things they want.

Moderation

They are masters at moderation. They moderate everything about their life.

  • They Moderate Their Emotions – They are even tempered. They don’t become overly excited or excessively melancholy. This enables them to build strong, powerful relationships with others. People like doing business with them because they feel comfortable around them. They feel comfortable around them because they are consistent in their emotions – no wild emotional swings which only tends to make people feel uncomfortable.
  • They Moderate Their Behavior – They don’t overeat, drink in excess, spend money in excess, or engage in activities, in excess. They don’t waste their time. They don’t spend hours every day watching TV, reading Facebook, reading books of fiction or engaging in activities that are unproductive.
  • They Moderate Their Thinking – They shoot for the moon but are grounded in reality. They understand that life is a marathon, not a sprint. They manage their expectations about life. They expect adversity, obstacles, problems and are therefore mentally prepared to deal with them.
  • They Moderate Their Work-Life – They make the time to spend with family and friends. This enables them to maintain and grow the relationships that matter to them.

If you want to succeed in life you must master the basics.

Improve Your Aim

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When an archer misses the bull’s eye, it is never the fault of the target. To improve your aim, you must improve yourself.

——- Gilbert Arland

Do you get frustrated when you fail to make a sale, fail to land that big customer/client, flop an important presentation or speech, blow an assignment or project, lose at some competition?

It’s easy to blame. Blame the customer/client. Blame the prospect. Blame the room or equipment for a bad speech, etc. It’s much harder to self-reflect, to look inward and acknowledge that you are to blame when something doesn’t go your way.

The reality is that when things don’t go as planned, you are ultimately to blame.

Lack of preparation, failure to acquire more information/facts or a failure to practice your craft over and over again until you are a virtuoso at what you – these are the real reasons you miss your target; the real reasons you fail.

Being great requires growth. And growth comes from relentless, daily study or daily deliberate practice.

You have to work at improving yourself every day. You must get better at what you do on a daily basis.

Daily self-improvement is a habit forged by every successful individual. It is a prerequisite for success.

When you become a virtuoso at what you do, you hit your target every time.

Turn Up Your Genius

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Genius, by definition, is the possession of exceptional intelligence, creativity and curiosity.

Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs all possessed these traits in abundance and all three changed the world in which we live.

In fact, these qualities, this genius, is what separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom.

Genius is also what separates exceptional human beings from ordinary human beings. And that’s too bad because all human beings are born with these genius traits hardwired into their DNA. We are all inherently intelligent, creative and curious, thanks to our genes. We just have to know how to turn up our genius.

Research shows that intelligence, creativity and curiosity dramatically increases in the presence of positive emotions and decreases just as dramatically in the presence of negativity. Positivity, through a process called methylation, turns on certain genes that increase intelligence, creativity and curiosity. Studies also show that negativity, through a process called demethylation, turns off those same genius genes.

Positivity lights the fuse and negativity snuffs it out.

Intelligence, creativity and curiosity push us to learn, solve problems and explore. These traits, when put to use, make us feel happy and alive.

Happy, upbeat people are able to tap into their inner genius and are more productive than unhappy, negative people. Positive people are the beneficiaries of those flashes of genius that are commonly associated with creative genius-types.

So, if you want to turn up your inner genius, get positive. Positivity lights the fuse to inner genius; a genius innate to every human being.

Who Will Be There When the Lights Dim?

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When life is good, when things are going well, it’s hard to tell the difference between those relationships that matter and those that don’t.

But life isn’t linear. Everyone, even successful people, experience downturns in their lives.

It is when things go off the rails that Rich Relationships come to the rescue.

Rich Relationships are those relationships you’ve built over the years with other upbeat, success-minded individuals. Rich Relationships do not abandon you in your time of need. If fact, they do the opposite – they help pull you out of the abyss, financially, emotionally and through their contacts.

The relationships you should be building today should be with those individuals who have displayed courage and commitment to their relationship with you when things were not going as planned.

How many of your relationships could you honestly count on in a time of need? Make a list. Study that list. Those are the individuals you should be devoting your time to in forging strong relationships. Those who do not make the list, should be the ones you devote the least amount of your time to.

The foundation of your success is built upon the relationships you forge with other success-minded individuals who are committed to helping you achieve your goals and dreams; who are committed to your success.

Surround yourself with Rich Relationships and invest your time in those relationships.