Thursday, May 23, 2013

How Monty Python can help You find More Meaning in life

"Oh look, Howard's being eaten".
 "Is he?"
 "Makes you think doesn't it"
 "I mean, What's it all about?"
 "Beats me"
What is life all about? If you are a fish in the Monty Python sketch, then one day you are swimming around,  enjoying your day, wondering what it's all about, the next day you are lunch. If you are a reader if this blog, you are unlikely to end up like Howard, but does it really amount the same thing? You get up, go to work, read articles, have lunch (possibly one of Howard's friends!) -  but then a time comes -maybe in the distant future, maybe not -  when, to borrow euphemisms from another famous Monty Python sketch, you are pushing up the daisies and joining the choir invisible.

The fish tank sketch doesn't tell us "what it's all about", but a moments reflection helps us  recognise what life isn't about. Life isn't just about having a purpose, if that purpose is one that we don't own. Howard the dead fish had a purpose from the restaurant's point of view - but that didn't help Howard. We all serve a number of purposes From society and the government's point of view,  your purpose is to  pay taxes and to be  law-abiding. From your boss's point of view, your purpose is to do your job competently. None of these purposes are necessarily bad. The point is that they are not enough to make your life meaningful from our own perspective. Having a purpose is not sufficient to provide personal meaning in life.

What we need are projects and goals that inspire us, things that make us want to get out of bed in the morning.  We want our life as a whole to add up to something.

Two things that can help is to  identify and follow both our values and our strengths.Values Clarification exercises can help identify your key personal values.. My RSVP procedure is a good place to start. Identifying your strengths and talents is also helpful. Positive Psychology has provided a number of measures to help you identify these, such as the VIA and the Realise2 Strengths measures.
Wisdom can help you understand what you need to do to identify how to put strengths and values into practice effectively. Wisdom has a strong moral element. Tony Soprano had a talent for leadership, making money and killing people but  we would hardly judge him wise or his life positively meaningful.

So can Monty Python help you find more meaning in life? Perhaps it does, in a surprising way.  One notable Python, Michael Palin, provides us with a  good role model of a meaningful life.The world would be a poorer place without Michael Palin. His  talents include humour, wit, friendliness, adventure and creativity which he has used to the full. He has had the wisdom to extend his professional activities to include making  travel programmes, which allows him to develop and use his talents. I still remember seeing him give a speech to the Oxford Union back in 1980 - a genuinely funny, modest and inspiring man.

So where do your talents lie? What inspires you? What do you do that makes your life most worth living? What do you do that makes the world a better place, even if only slightly?  If you can find answers to these questions, and then put suitable  environment and practices in place,  then you will have the best chance  finding and creating more meaning in your life.

Friday, May 03, 2013

How to create more flow in your life (with link to free download)

Yesterday was the first class of a new Positive Psychology course I teach at City University.
We looked at flow, the experience of enjoyable and performance-enhancing absorption in whatever you are doing.  If you can identify where you get flow in your daily life, then you can prioritise and schedule more of these activities. You can also try to create new flowful activities. Here is a guided discovery I used to help people find more flow. You might like to  try it yourself. 

Think about times when you have been fully absorbed in your life. Occasions when you have lost track of time, when you have felt completely up to the challenge faced, when you have forgotten everything else but what you were doing.
Children are very good at finding flow, so think back to when you were a young child. What games did you play? What did you do with friends? On your own? Bring back to your mind the memories of things you used to enjoy as a child, and relive those memories as if you were back there doing them. Spend a few moments replaying yourself being totally lost in your play when a child.
We also often get flow in our hobbies and games. What  hobbies and pastimes did you used to enjoy? Maybe things that you loved doing, but don't do so much now? This might be a sport, or a game, or an activity like cooking or dancing or walking or yoga. Bring back to your mind the memories of  these activities and replay in your mind doing these flowful activities. Really feel in your body what it is like to engage in that absorbing activity.
Now think about your current life. Its a fact that people get more flow in work than leisure. So recall right now the last time you were really absorbed at work. What were you doing? Where were you? Who were you with? How did that feel?  Once more, replay that experience in your minds eye.
Now think about the next few days and how you might do these or similar activities. Sometimes they require effort to set up - for example travelling somewhere, or  to arrange an activity with other people. What are the obstacles to your finding flow, and how can you overcome the obstacles? What is the first step you can do so that you can find more flow in your life?

This guided discovery is available as a free download  to  help you get the feelings of flow and also, in your mind, a range of flow activities.
The next step is to schedule some of these flow activities in your daily routine. How can reading this post lead to you gaining more flow today and tomorrow.  I hope it can make a positive difference

To listen to the free finding flow download, click here