Yin and Yang
People are crazy islands of consciousness, having characteristics both positive and negative. Our excellent characteristics are offset by problems, limitations, and plain old faults. It’s this equilibrium of the positive and negative aspects of our character that we have to understand because this is where happiness resides; it’s the inner balance between our emotions and our values. However, we must look deeper than our surface actions to genuinely understand the complicated foundation of our habits. We have to travel to the origin of our values.
There is more to our identity than a battlefield of good vs. evil. We’re not solely one, or the other but a mixture of both. At times we are good-looking and ghastly, loving and hateful, thoughtful, and irritating; we can like and we can loathe. As humans, we are complex creatures aspiring to lives exemplified by compassion, honesty, and honor. Yet, exactly how can we be sure that our ideals are ethical? If villains raised us, would cruelty become a virtue? Is it possible to know for certain that we are on the side of the angels?
Established by heredity as well as the ongoing interaction of our natural disposition, character, and environment, our personality forms in childhood. By our teen years, our individual personalities have fully developed. After this point, our character normally won’t change, except in the case of a significant life event. We learn how to function in life from the examples of our caretakers. Their beliefs end up being the basis for our principles, the ways in which we communicate, and, inevitably, our happiness. Environmental forces significantly influence morality. For instance, many Europeans believed Hitler’s propaganda and bought into the idea that Jewish people were the cause of all their problems. If we’re not aware of the influences around us, our moral principles can become twisted and warped into dark caricatures of themselves.
In addition to principles, our personality is affected by strong feelings and emotions spinning within our awareness. Emotions change our relationships and can also motivate or prevent good habits. Guilt and fear are strong motivators of our behavior. When we are experiencing guilt, for example, we can’t stop our minds from thinking about the things we have done that we regret or are ashamed of doing, and these emotions affect our decision-making. Surprisingly, we usually don’t even realize that guilt is what is motivating the decisions we make. We can bury our guilt or accept and learn from it, but it’s not an emotion we can avoid. If we choose to ruminate on our guilt our personality becomes slanted toward self-hatred, anger, and sorrow. We experience depression, paralysis, and agony.
As human beings, threatening forces confront us throughout our lives. We are, sometimes, targets of pretense as well as ruthlessness. Unexpected events like a job loss, losing our home, or the death of someone we love rock us. Our lives are precarious and the only certainty in them is change. However, mixed in with all this uncertainty, we also find love, compassion, and hope. Even at our most desperate, there is the potential for faith and acceptance; things that we seek. This is a manifestation of our spiritual self. It can shield us from despair, offering comfort and guidance. The path to happiness is a balancing act between our emotions and our values. And finding that balance is easier said than done.
Life is full of highs and lows. We can’t experience one without the other. Our hero’s journey through time is an opportunity for us to show kindness to others. Every single one of us can choose to be a positive influence in the lives of those around us. That is truly a goal to be proud of. Two highly valued human attributes among different cultures and religions are compassion and empathy. We can embody caring and tolerance so that our children and others to learn these traits from us. Becoming a beacon of kindness, compassion, and tolerance may not be the destiny we originally wanted, but these traits are desperately needed in our world, and we certainly have the capacity to attain them.
Our decisions are our only true freedom. We can always choose how we will respond in any situation. The consequences of our choices frame our character and form our legacy. We have the ability to think and act in practical and virtuous ways. But, we should constantly challenge the credibility of our inherited principles, ethics, and morality. Questioning our values like this is not easy and it’s not something we are naturally wired to do.
We must do what a lot of Europeans did not do during the Holocaust. Unfortunately, it’s easier to fear and hate than to find commonality with, show tolerance for, and find value in, others. It’s a good idea to limit the propaganda (news, ads, and social media) that we interact with and carefully consider what we do allow into our awareness in order to determine if it genuinely reflects the higher principles of compassion and empathy towards others. Our ability to filter our environment in this way is a gift we can cultivate through both our attention and intention.
Inner Balance + Action
Happiness has a lot to do with our morality and ethics. We have the ability to expand beyond our hedonistic tendencies. We can choose sufficiency over greed and excess. Fulfillment arises from knowing we’ve made a difference in the world somehow; that we’ve made somebody’s life better. The truth is that we don’t know how long we have here and that uncertainty makes each minute, each interaction, priceless. Time is the fire that burns us up. Our challenge is to act wisely in each fleeting moment. It is better and more efficient to act with compassion in the present than to repent in the future. Selflessness does away with egoism. Hatred and fear can’t exist where there is tolerance.
Our actions live forever through those that remember us. We find happiness in the inner balance between our emotions and our values. But the treasure of contentment isn’t found only in balance, it also requires action. The more love we give, the more love we get. I believe that is the closest thing to magic there is. The more closely we live to our principles, morality, and ethics the greater our contribution to society and the world. Contentment is within our control. It seems paradoxical, but we become content by making others happy. We each have this ability. It’s within reach at all times. We acquire it by recognizing why we behave as we do and then by choosing how we will transform our actions to magnify the happiness of others. This is how happiness becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Mindshift: The 7-Day Mental Diet is an eBook primer that you can use to practice thinking positive thoughts that can increase your happiness. You can receive a free copy of it by entering your information in the form at the upper right corner of this page. You can also receive the eBook by clicking on the image below this post, or right here. Controlling your thoughts is essential to your happiness, although it’s’ not easy to master! I wrote this is a post after I read Mindshift and was facing some challenges with my first mental diet.
The Master Key Experience (MKE) is coming again this fall. It’s an advanced course that supplies you with science-backed tools & methods to become a self-directed thinker and discover your purpose in life. MKE was an amazing journey that I’m so happy I went on. I especially love reading the blogs of other students who also enrolled in the Master Key Experience. Their different perspectives are refreshing and often inspiring. Be sure to read this excellent post by Laura Hitt, loaded with actionable tips: 6 Ways To Absolutely Unconditionally Love Yourself, And Everyone Else!
You can also be part of the Master Key Experience this fall, just as Laura and I were. There are a limited number of scholarships available to MKE each year. When you request a copy of Mindshift, I’ll also add you to my Earlybird Notification list to give you the best chance of receiving a $1 scholarship!
Please Comment Below
After you request your free copy of Mindshift, I’d love to hear your comments about this post. Here are a few things I’m curious about: Do you recall a situation where guilt/shame was a powerful motivator in your life? What did you think about the yin and yang of our personalities? Have you ever wondered if it’s possible to change some of the beliefs “inherited” from your caretakers, teachers, and environments that don’t serve you? Will you share a time when you focused on helping someone else and let us know whether you felt happier or not by doing that? I look forward to reading your comments!
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