Tagged: values

Lessons from the last 7 days

With Marlene, one of the many new friends I made at #WorldEscapeDay.
With Marlene, one of many new friends I made at #WorldEscapeDay.

In a recent post, I made reference to the last few days forming the best week of my life so far. Quite a grand statement to make, and often the sort made in the sheer excitement of a ‘buzzy moment’ (what positive psychologists might call a ‘hedonic moment’).

For example, I might say – “Wow, that was the best pizza I’ve ever had!” This might be something I’d say having done a particularly intense gym workout, not having eaten in several hours, and not having eaten pizza in six months. The combined effect producing a euphoric moment, which would lead me to make such a profound statement. Also known as – getting carried away in the moment. We’re all guilty of that :)

However, reflecting on the ‘best week of my life’ statement (as, I assure you, I have done on each of the last few consecutive days) – I am in no doubt that this is, in fact, true. It really has been. Rather than a getting-carried-in-the-moment sort of feeling, this comes from a deeper sense of knowing. (That said, I would be lying if I said that there haven’t been a good few hedonic buzzes in these last few days too!).

So let me try to break down the key ingredients of this magical week, and draw upon some useful learnings:

1. Spending time with people
… can be a really good thing. As Dalai Lama keeps repeating, we are a social animal. Regardless of skin colour, height, weight, male, female – we are all human with human brains. This transcends everything else. We all need each other, full stop.

2. Spending time with the right people
…can be a really, really good thing. Someone once said you are the product of the 5 people you hang around with the most. I have spent a lot of time with likeminded people in this last week. The word ‘likeminded’ is key here. I may be in a small group of people who all are deeply passionate about football; this feels pretty good, there’s a common interest here. Common interests are great, and we do need them – they bring us together, and they help move our interactions along and help foster connection. All good stuff.

However, common beliefs and values…wow, way more powerful. I may have a particular friend who has many similar interests to me, but our beliefs and values might differ. Sharing common beliefs and values beats everything else and creates an incredibly powerful connection.

3. Doing more things of personal enjoyment
Seems like a no-brainer; doing more of what you enjoy will make you feel better. No sh*t sherlock. It seems so obvious. But then I think back to my days of Monday to Friday work in an office job, and I used to whittle large parts of my weekend away lounging about in front of the television. Get out, do stuff. It doesn’t even have to be stuff outside, you can stay inside and do stuff. The key word is do. And stuff. Just do it!

4. Using strengths
All of us have a unique and specific set of strengths. Quite often, the meaning of ‘a strength’ can seem obvious, but I have also found it’s been a little distorted and so needs clearing up. I consider a strength as something you are not only good at, but also enjoy doing (and vica versa). For example, communicating (e.g. presenting) may be something you’re really good at, perhaps due to lots of practise over some time. However, you may still despise doing it with a vengeance. In my view, this is not a strength. Love it + Good at it = Strength.

5. More instances of flow
Ah, my favourite word in the world at the moment. Experience more flow, and you’re onto a winner. Using your strengths helps a lot with this. As, I’ve found, does spending time with the right people. (In fact, all of these points tends to overlap in some way). The theory of flow says that when you are conducting an activity with just the right amount of challenge and using just the right amount of skills (neither too difficult nor too hard in either case), this creates the best conditions for flow. Whack on some form of meaning and purpose there (that is individual to you), and bam! Flow will come to you in leaps and bounds. You’ll lose yourself in the activity, time will fly by, and you’ll derive huge enjoyment from it.

6.’Authentic’ self
Arguably, this is the most key ingredient of my magical week of all. All of the above 5 points contribute towards this and, paradoxically, being your most authentic self contributes to those 5 points also. i.e. When being more of your authentic self, you will naturally be using your strengths, be doing what you love, be experiencing more flow, be spending your time with people (and with the right people!).

And there is no feeling better than being your most authentic self. Unfortunately, our lives and environments and patterns of thought beat this ‘authentic self’ out of us over time, so then we have to find it again. As such, we spend much of our lives (e.g. at work) being our ‘adaptive’ selves.

What could have gone better?
As magical as it was, no week will ever be perfect. Here are a couple of things which could have gone better:

1. Sleep
With my schedule particularly busy (or, rather, busier than I am used to) I had a lot to fit in. On top of that, I was enjoying my waking hours so much, and that was getting in the way somewhat. As such, my sleep hasn’t been ideal – in terms of sticking to a rigid patterns (i.e. sleeping and waking at set times) nor getting the right amount I need each night.

2. Meditation (mindfulness)
Equally, I didn’t do my mindfulness every day. With late nights and early rises (e.g. sleeping at midnight on Sunday morning and then being up at 5.30), going to the park was going to be tricky. I did do my mindfulness on the train a couple of times, which was a good thing – better than not at all – but my daily mindfulness routine was certainly disrupted overall.

In summary: overall, I had enough ‘filled pots’ contributing to my happiness that the net effect was pretty good. With a couple of extra pots filled (e.g. the ‘sleep’ and ‘mindfulness’ pots), this could have helped even more with my overall mental state.

My week in brief
18th: Induction Day at UEL (for MAPPCP course)
Saturday 19th: 2nd Day at UEL
Sunday 20th: 3rd Day at UEL
Monday 21st: “Creating a happier world” – ‘Action For Happiness’ event with Dalai Lama and others (Lyceum Theatre); Sir Alex Ferguson with Michael Moritz, for launch of SAF’s new book ‘Leading’ (Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre)
Tuesday 22nd: Weekly ‘Escape Tribe’ session (Escape The City HQ)
Wednesday 23rd: ‘The Happy Startup School’ online session (home!)
Thursday 24th: ‘World Escape Day: London’ with Escape The City (The Proud Archivist)

Fun times with new friends of the MAPPCP variety. (Photo credit: Lindsay Rutland)
Fun times with new friends of the MAPPCP variety. (Photo credit: Lindsay Rutland)

This post is dedicated to all of you who have made this week so awesome. You know who you are. xo

Why I’m Leaving the Booze Behind

Since I resigned from my corporate job back in June, strange things have been happening. Aside from having (a lot) more time on my hands, I felt freer and more contented. Those around me also noticed the difference – to recall 2 particular conversations I had in the couple of weeks following my ‘new life’:

  1. With my aunt at a family meal – “You seem really different, much better, like you’re finally doing what you want to be doing”.
  2. With one of my best friends from school – he had also recently resigned; one of those rare individuals who was academically phenomenal as well as good at every sport back at school, went on to gain a 1st in his Degree from Cambridge University (in one of the top courses there), and then started working for a law firm – before resigning from said firm. Our conversation was one of the most animated and memorable I’ve had. We both got it. (Admittedly, the Nando’s half-chicken play it’s part, too).

So what’s this all got to do with alcohol? With this newly found space and freedom, I have been given the headspace to really think about who I am, the values and beliefs I hold and – arising from those – the choices I make and actions I take.

One of things I have been thinking about is alcohol (though, paradoxically, I haven’t!). I often used to have a drink or two after work, or at the weekends. However there has since been a growing feeling that I just don’t need to drink anymore, for several reasons. I have to tried to summarise these, below:

1.  “I never really loved you anyway”
In the words of The Corrs, my relationship with alcohol started for one reason: I went to university and it’s what everybody else was doing. [Aside – doing something because everyone else is doing it is often easy, but very foolish indeed. With that mentality, I may well not have resigned and taken control, and I certainly wouldn’t currently be doing mindfulness most days in Bushy Park… two actions which have had a profound effect on me – and still are.]

2.   Much less of a ‘need’
With the lifestyle I had before – i.e. working several hours a day in a job I largely wasn’t passionate about – a Thursday/Friday evening drink often provide a temporary release, a pleasure spike. I no longer need that. My deeper-rooted joy/contentedness is more than making up for that, so I no longer feel the need to resort to such pleasure buzzes.

3.   The effects, both short-term (hangovers) and long-term (liver disease, depression, etc.)
Self-explanatory, really. With my 4-5 times per week exercise schedule, hangovers/tiredness brought on by alcohol really isn’t for me. It doesn’t sit well with my ‘waking up at a reasonable hour’ mantra either. And though I wasn’t often drinking excessive amounts, I really don’t like the look of the growing list of longer-term effects it can have.

4.   A waste of money
Just my humble opinion. This is one pleasure buzz that’s just not worth paying for. Especially not in London (£14 for a double-mixer, really?). And especially not when you’re taking it in turns to buy ‘rounds’. [Aside – positive psychology shows us that we’re better off spending our money on experiences rather than things, feeding our joy rather than pursuing short-lived pleasures]

[“But what about when it’s FREE?!” – I hear you cry. A slippery slope, my friend. Dabbling in a free Jack Daniels and coke here and there today, and before you know it you’ll be doing rounds of jagermeister and downing shots of tequila with some well-meaning strangers at a bar. No thanks!]
So there you have it. What started with a passing statement (“I’m giving up drinking!”) to one of my fellow Tribers at this Tuesday’s ‘Escape The City’ tribe session, has now led to a fully-fledged pledge (try saying that after a few beers – or rather, don’t! Sorry, couldn’t resist…) to you all.

Following the ‘habit-forming’ wisdom of Gretchen Ruben, Leo Babauta and others, I’ve decided to make myself accountable to you all. [See also – Resources for living better].

Crucially, I am becoming more mindful in the decisions I make and the actions I take.

I look forward to the undoubtable peer pressure and/or banter I’ll be subjected to next time I visit an establishment serving alcoholic beverages with some of my chums…

If the below is too much for you (I won’t be offended!), you can find a more succinct version, here.

Jas Hothi

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I spent the first 25 years of my life mostly just being carried along and following the path. I first realised that I was not in a job I was fulfilled in. Despite doing ‘well’, earning good money and being given a nice corporate title, I wasn’t doing my life’s work. Far from it, in fact. With the job taking up such a big portion of my waking hours, I knew there had to be a better answer.

I’d lost sight of who I was. I wasn’t living by my beliefs and values. I wasn’t in control. I had lost a part of me (thanks to my working life and, probably, the education system, too). I wasn’t living my own life the way I wanted to live it. In fact, it was for a large part being dictated by others and the ‘status quo’ I had become accustomed to. Conformity had well and truly taken over.

I decided to take the bull by the horns, and to start living life the way I wanted to live it. I began a journey of self-discovery, and came to realise that I am an introvert.

I also came across about positive psychology, which provided further fuel to the fire, and helped me to realise the science behind why I was so unhappy! In June 2015 I resigned from my job of 4.5 years; I commence a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology & Coaching Psychology in September 2015, alongside a part-time course with ‘Escape The City’ – a fantastic organisation aimed at helping individuals to find more meaningful work (whatever that means to them), and to empower/inspire them to take steps towards doing so. Escape was an amazing experience for me, and a pivotal part of this journey. I’d recommend you check them out.

I continue to learn and consume lots of material (books, blogs, podcasts and more). I have gotten wisdom and inspiration from a wide group of people – including scientists, philosophers, economists and entrepreneurs. From the Dalai Lama through to Denzel Washington (yes, the actor), and many, many others, I’ve learnt a lot from many whom I see as self-actualising and flourishing (or well on their way).

Only around 18% of the population is flourishing. Similarly, 70-80% of us don’t enjoy the jobs that we do. This is simply not good enough.

So, I decided to make some changes, write about my continuing journey, and about living well in general.

I hope you enjoy what you find here. To connect or get in touch, click here.

“Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” – Dalai Lama

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