A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment

7 07 2015

Having taken a couple of MOOCs recently on the subject of “happiness”, and having read a lot of material on the topic, my first thought when I came across yet another happiness course, this time offered by an Indian institute, was – I already know about all the cutting-edge research and material on the subject, and listened to the great pioneers in the field; what’s more to know? what new can this course offer?

I know! I sound like a true fool. Because the adage goes – “A wise man never knows all, only fools know everything.” 😛

This changed a little, when I was taken in by the intro video, which basically promoted the course as something that offers the knowledge and wisdom in the form of immensely helpful and practical nuggets like the “seven habits of the highly happy”, the “seven deadly sins of happiness” etc. The course is offered by a business school. What else can we expect. 😛 My curiosity piqued and I decided to give it a try.

I quickly realized my earlier folly and was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of new and engaging material (even though I’m familiar with many of the main ideas from my earlier courses). The presentation too is new and more engaging.  And I soon found myself impressed and looking forward to more from the course.

It wasn’t far along into the course that I started to feel like this is the ultimate practical guide you can get on happiness. What a quick transformation! 😉

Devaluing happiness is the first deadly sin of happiness. At the risk of being dramatic, I admit that it is at this point that I let my defenses down and let myself completely carried away by the bounty of knowledge in front of me. Because I readily realized that we actually don’t give happiness the priority it deserves, in many situations.

Another mind-blowing useful piece of nugget I got from the first week of the course, is about the medium maximization. It’s a common phenomenon that we confuse means with goal and pursue the medium and lose sight of the goal. The most common medium is money. Other similar ones include status, fame etc.

But in some cases, it’s not easy to distinguish between the medium and the goal. For example, I like to travel. But is it a medium or a goal? What am I really after? Do I think that I achieve happiness by travelling? If so, am I doing it wrong by pursuing travel? Same with “reading”. What is my goal in reading? Is it the means or the goal?

If they are mediums, what if I can be happy even without doing those things? Why do I think that only doing those things will bring happiness to me? Questions, questions!!!

But, really, all mediums can’t be the same in their effect. Can they? It makes sense to think that materialistic pursuits are always meaningless and lead to unsustainable pleasure, unlike the experiential pursuits. Tom Gilovich and others have proved through research that people are happier when they gain experiences rather than material things. But this implies that even experiences are means to the ultimate goal – happiness. Albeit a more reliable and sustainable means, but means nonetheless.

But what if I get carried away by these experiences – that is  what if I pursue them with as much vigor as some people pursue money or status, do they lose their significance and become as empty and meaningless as material pursuits?

The first exercise itself, which involves coming up with my own definition of happiness and identifying the things/activities that make me happy’ had been so rewarding. I realized that I have never consciously thought about what makes me happy or what I actually consider as happiness. I hope to work on my perception of happiness, refine it, and procure a more sustainable form of understanding about the concept.

I was awestruck by the second deadly sin too – Chasing superiority. It hit the nail right on the head. The instructor not only offers the reasons why we chase superiority in the first place, but also addresses the common perception that it’s necessary for being successful and motivated, by letting us know that it’s only a misconception and unravels the hidden folds of this seemingly simple attitude. He also offers antidotes to all the sins in the form of practices and habits that mitigates the sins and  reinforce happiness.

The second week exercise is about Gratitude. writing a gratitude letter to someone you are grateful to and reading it to them. I kind of cheated on this exercise in my previous course :P. Expressing gratitude to someone whom you have taken for granted all your life isn’t easy. Even though I consciously feel it many times, the idea of putting the sentiment into actual words and delivering them in person makes me uncomfortable. Nevertheless, I would like to give it a honest try, this time. (This instructor says, “email” is fine too. 😛 )

I found the way how the instructor not only provides just enough science and research behind each concept, but also how he actually addresses the prevalent misconceptions about various deadly sins we indulge in on a regular basis, throws light on how they are damaging our happiness and offers practical tips about how to get rid of them, completely useful.

This is the biggest advantage of this course. I’m delighted to take this course and hope to get as much as possible out if it, given my hectic schedule these days. The fact that it’s converted to On-Demand format is really helpful.
I’m also pleasantly surprised by the depth of the content. There are lot of references to books and research articles. If only I can ever read them all.. 😛

For other happiness related posts, click here.

Secret Intelligence Service

4 02 2010

It’s been really hectic for me lately. I’m so much overloaded. My to-do list doesn’t seem to shrink at all. On the contrary, it’s growing longer with each day.  What with two courses I’m taking this quarter and busy work schedule, I’m overwhelmed. All in all, it is crazy.

Amidst all this, we suddenly had to move to a new abode last weekend(Actually the process is still going on). I also got sick for one week. I know these things happen at times but this time I have a feeling that I’ve a little too much on my plate. 😦

Forget about time for hobbies, I am not even able to sometimes accommodate basic things like cooking. It doesn’t mean that I’m making much progress with my academics either. I can only say that I’m trying anyway.  I can see myself falling way short of the general expectations and the coursework piling up into a mountain, hollering for attention.

As much as the courses are interesting, the assignments and the amount of effort and time that goes into them seem enormous. I realized pretty early that it’s a mistake to have been overambitious and take two courses simultaneously. But it’s too late to rectify it. I’m not really sure how much I’m learning and at times I wonder whether my money was destined to go down the drain the moment I signed up for the second course. 😛

Well, may be I just need to persevere a little longer, plan a little more shrewedly and work a little harder. I know I’m just ranting away and am sure no one finds it least fascinating but I just had to put my restlessness and frustration into words.

If you are still wondering about the post title, I don’t blame you and I shall make you await the explanation no more. Secret Intelligence Service is my team name in one of the courses. It sounds cool, isn’t it? Here’s the swell logo:

I know I don’t do justice to you without giving some context to all this. The business case we are working on in the class is Battle of Britain. All teams should work and come up with a reporting solution that will enable the war team to track and win the war. We, a group of 5 women, got together to form the Secret Intelligence Service to provide BI (Business Intelligence) to Winston Churchill and his subordinates.

Though SIS was actually responsible for providing foreign intelligence to British Government and we are only gathering intelligence within the country, we adopted it as it seemed super cool. By the way, I’m not the one who discovered it. The credit goes to one of the other four team members. Kudos to her! I love the sound of it!

My first class in US

12 10 2009

I’ve registered myself for a certification program at the local University and last Thursday, I attended my first academic class in US. It was with much anticipation and a hint of hesitation that I entered the classroom. The first thing I noticed was the presence of sleek monitors in front of the occupied seats. I also spotted a few laptops here and there. As I was just wondering why other seats have no such arrangements, it dawned on me that the screens were merely propped down for the unoccupied ones. I took a seat beside a lady and gazed at the propped down monitor before my desk with a perplexed expression and I was convinced that bringing that thing face to face with me would involve complex manipulation of the stand that was holding it. As I looked around for help, I saw a person in action.  A smile appeared on my face as I realized that all I needed to do was just to hold and lift it upwards. J Meanwhile, I took in the keyboard and CPU under the desk. I was fascinated by the whole set up of the class. 

Next I observed the instructor in the front talking to a few students and preparing for the lecture – setting up his machine etc. I recognized him from the thumbnail pic on the program brochure and I was very impressed by his appearance and his cheerful demeanor. I feel it’s important to get a good feel about the instructor in order to gain most from him.

And then the class slowly filled up and the instructor started his lecture. I was more than a bit amused by the way he had to struggle with the microphone and hands-free transmitter as he couldn’t quite get to clip it on him to render quality output. I couldn’t help remembering my MBA days in India where I witnessed a similar scene countless times. At that time I thought that it’s because of a defective equipment and/or lack of sophistication in India. But to witness the same here in US made me realize that it’s a universal problem, which can be attributed to the poor design of the device, and has nothing to do with sophistication whatsoever. 

Now, coming to the actual lecture, I found the style very similar to the way my most favorite professor at business school back in India used to teach. (He had taught in Singapore and London before). The most striking thing about the session was of course, the degree of students’ involvement. It’s highly participative and I daresay that in this first class more time was spent on discussions and student inputs than on the instructor’s discourse. It was a very rejuvenating experience for me. 

I was immensely intimidated by the profile of the student body. There were people with vast experience and knowledge in the field, some with over 10 years of work experience. It seemed like I was the only one with zero exposure to the practicalities of the field. I must confess that I was a bit overwhelmed by the nature of the project work expected and the amount of reading that has to be done. 

All weekend I was brooding over this, searching for information resources, going through online articles, buying books, requesting holds on some items in the local libraries, working on the assignment and mostly trying to brace myself for the challenge ahead. 

I guess I feel better today than before the weekend.