How to Be Happy When Everything Goes Wrong
In the summer of 2010, Rachelle Friedman was preparing for one of the best periods of her life. She was recently engaged, surrounded by her best friends, and enjoying her bachelorette party. Friedman and her friends were spending the day at the pool when one of them playfully pushed her into the shallow end of the water. Friedman floated slowly to the top of the pool until her face emerged. It was immediately obvious that something was wrong. “This isn’t a joke,” she said. Her head had struck the bottom of the pool and shattered two vertebrae. In particular, the fracture of her C6 vertebra severed her spinal cord and left her permanently paralyzed from the chest down. She would never walk again. “We are just so happy…” One year later, Rachelle Friedman became Rachelle Chapman as she married her new husband. She decided to share some of her own thoughts on the whole experience during an online question-and-answer session in 2013. She started by discussing some of the challenges you might expect. It was hard to find a job that could accommodate her physical disabilities. It could be frustrating and uncomfortable to deal with the nerve pain. But she also shared a variety of surprisingly positive answers. For example, when asked if things changed for the worse she said, “Well things did change, but I can't say in a bad way at all.” Then, when asked about her relationship with her husband she said, “I think we are just so happy because my injury could have been worse.” How is it possible to be happy when everything in life seems to go wrong? As it turns out, Rachelle’s situation can reveal a lot about how our brains respond to traumatic events and what actually makes us happy. The Surprising Truth About Happiness There is a social psychologist at Harvard University by the name of Dan Gilbert. Gilbert's best-selling book, Stumbling on Happiness, discusses the many ways in which we miscalculate how situations will make us happy or sad, and reveals some counterintuitive insights about how to be happy. One of the primary discoveries from researchers like Gilbert is that extreme inescapable situations often trigger a response from our brain that increases positivity and happiness. For example, imagine your house is destroyed in an earthquake or you suffer a serious injury in a car accident and lose the use of your legs. When asked to describe the impact of such an event most people talk about how devastating it would be. Some people even say they would rather be dead than never be able to walk again. But what researchers find is that when people actually suffer a traumatic event like living through an earthquake or becoming a paraplegic their happiness levels are nearly identical six months after the event as they were the day before the event. How can this be? The Impact Bias Traumatic events tend to trigger what Gilbert refers to as our “psychological immune systems.” Our psychological immune systems promote our brain’s ability to deliver a positive outlook and happiness from an inescapable situation. This is the opposite of what we would expect when we imagine such an event. As Gilbert says, “People are not aware of the fact that their defenses are more likely to be triggered by intense rather than mild suffering. Thus, they mis-predict their own emotional reactions to misfortunes of different sizes.” This effect works in a similar way for extremely positive events. For example, consider how it would feel to win the lottery. Many people assume that winning the lottery would immediately deliver long-lasting happiness, but research has found the opposite. In a very famous study published by researchers at Northwestern University in 1978 it was discovered that the happiness levels of paraplegics and lottery winners were essentially the same within a year after the event occurred. You read that correctly. One person won a life-changing sum of money and another person lost the use of their limbs and within one year the two people were equally happy. It is important to note this particular study has not been replicated in the years since it came out, but the general trend has been supported again and again. We have a strong tendency to overestimate the impact that extreme events will have on our lives. Extreme positive and extreme negative events don’t actually influence our long-term levels of happiness nearly as much as we think they would. Researchers refer to this as The Impact Bias because we tend to overestimate the length or intensity of happiness that major events will create. The Impact Bias is one example of affective forecasting, which is a social psychology phenomenon that refers to our generally terrible ability as humans to predict our future emotional states. How to Be Happy: Where to Go From Here There are two primary takeaways from The Impact Bias about how to be happy. First, we have a tendency to focus on the thing that changes and forget about the things that don’t change. When thinking about winning the lottery, we imagine that event and all of the money that it will bring in. But we forget about the other 99 percent of life and how it will remain more or less the same. We’ll still feel grumpy if we don’t get enough sleep. We still have to wait in rush hour traffic. We still have to work out if we want to stay in shape. We still have to send in our taxes each year. It will still hurt when we lose a loved one. It will still feel nice to relax on the porch and watch the sunset. We imagine the change, but we forget the things that stay the same. Second, a challenge is an impediment to a particular thing, not to you as a person. In the words of Greek philosopher Epictetus, “Going lame is an impediment to your leg, but not to your will.” We overestimate how much negative events will harm our lives for precisely the same reason that we overvalue how much positive events will help our lives. We focus on the thing that occurs (like losing a leg), but forget about all of the other experiences of life. Writing thank you notes to friends, watching football games on the weekend, reading a good book, eating a tasty meal. These are all pieces of the good life you can enjoy with or without a leg. Mobility issues represent but a small fraction of the experiences available to you. Negative events can create task-specific challenges, but the human experience is broad and varied. There is plenty of room for happiness in a life that may seem very foreign or undesirable to your current imagination. For more on how to be happy and the fascinating ways in which our brain creates happiness, read Dan Gilbert's book Stumbling on Happiness
find your passion
some ways to find your passion: 1. Get Curious – Curiosity is the basis of passion. Shake off your current understandings and begin from the view that you are almost completely ignorant on the subject. Then look for novelty to boost your interest. 2. Make it a Game – Give yourself rules, objectives and strategic constraints. The more creative thinking required, the better. 3. Set a Goal – Create a specific goal along with a deadline. This can infuse mundane activities with a sense of direction and purpose. Writing a report goes from being just another task, to a creative challenge that pushes you. 4. Express Yourself – Find hidden opportunities for self-expression. This could mean inventing a style for folding clothes. Changing the format you write code in or altering the style of your presentation. View each activity as an act of expression and originality. 5. Focus – Cut distractions and eliminate noise. The more you focus on an activity the better you can notice interesting qualities about it. The only truly boring activity is the one you can’t pay attention to. 6. Jigsaw Piecing – A jigsaw puzzle has hundreds of uniquely shaped pieces of a picture. View your activities as pieces of a larger image. This can turn dull activities into individual snippets of a more fascinating whole. 7. Dial Down Cravings – Have you ever noticed how the hungrier you are, the less able you are to enjoy the taste of food? This works the same way with passion. The more you crave a goal (instead of the process containing the goal) the less likely you are to develop a passion for it. Goal-setting is good. Goal-obsession is not. 8. Connect with Talents – How can you apply your existing talents to an activity? Find ways to use skills you already have in a new endeavor. An artistic person could draw pictures to help himself study. An athletic person might be able to use her strength and endurance as a speaker. 9. Overcome the Frustration Barrier – If an activity is too difficult for you to become enthusiastic about it, slow down. Worry less about results and more about experimenting until you build up skill. Whenever I try a new hobby, I strive to just try things out before building skills. This keeps me from getting frustrated and ensures the process is fun. 10. Leech Enthusiasm – Energy is contagious. If you spend time with someone who exudes passion about a subject, some of it will rub off on you. Seek out people who have the energy you want and get them to describe their motivation. Often it will point you to key information you had no idea could be so interesting. 11. Remove the Chains – Feeling forced into an activity is a sure way to kill any passion. Instead of flowing with the task, you rebel against it, making you miserable. Be aware of the consequences for not acting, but remove the feeling that you don’t have a choice. You always have a choice. 12. Tune the Challenge – For boring tasks, make them more difficult. For frustrating tasks, make them easier. This can be done by varying the speed or constraints you need to complete a task. Boring chores can be made more interesting by setting a time-limit. Frustrating assignments can be made easier by allowing yourself an awful first-draft instead of perfection. 13. Get instruction – Finding a teacher can give you the basic level of understanding necessary to enjoy an activity. Sometimes passion can be drained just by not knowing the basics. 14. Humble confidence – Confidence is necessary for passion, but arrogance can destroy it. Build a humble confidence where you believe in your abilities to handle the unknown, but you also have a great respect for it. 15. Focus Immediately – Look at the next immediate step. Don’t concern yourself over what needs to be done next month or next year if it overwhelms you. Focus on each step of the marathon, not how many miles you have left. 16. Play – If the process confuses or bothers you, just play with it. Don’t have a purpose until you can define one. 17. Eliminate – This one might not apply, but it is always good to use. If you really can’t enjoy something, find a way to eliminate it from your life. Don’t waste your time doing things you don’t enjoy. Either cultivate a passion or get rid of it.
History of football
The contemporary history of the world's favourite game spans more than 100 years. It all began in 1863 in England, when rugby football and association football branched off on their different courses and the Football Association in England was formed - becoming the sport's first governing body. Both codes stemmed from a common root and both have a long and intricately branched ancestral tree. A search down the centuries reveals at least half a dozen different games, varying to different degrees, and to which the historical development of football has been traced back. Whether this can be justified in some instances is disputable. Nevertheless, the fact remains that people have enjoyed kicking a ball about for thousands of years and there is absolutely no reason to consider it an aberration of the more 'natural' form of playing a ball with the hands. On the contrary, apart from the need to employ the legs and feet in tough tussles for the ball, often without any laws for protection, it was recognised right at the outset that the art of controlling the ball with the feet was not easy and, as such, required no small measure of skill. The very earliest form of the game for which there is scientific evidence was an exercise from a military manual dating back to the second and third centuries BC in China. This Han Dynasty forebear of football was called Tsu' Chu and it consisted of kicking a leather ball filled with feathers and hair through an opening, measuring only 30-40cm in width, into a small net fixed onto long bamboo canes. According to one variation of this exercise, the player was not permitted to aim at his target unimpeded, but had to use his feet, chest, back and shoulders while trying to withstand the attacks of his opponents. Use of the hands was not permitted. Another form of the game, also originating from the Far East, was the Japanese Kemari, which began some 500-600 years later and is still played today. This is a sport lacking the competitive element of Tsu' Chu with no struggle for possession involved. Standing in a circle, the players had to pass the ball to each other, in a relatively small space, trying not to let it touch the ground. The Greek 'Episkyros' - of which few concrete details survive - was much livelier, as was the Roman 'Harpastum'. The latter was played out with a smaller ball by two teams on a rectangular field marked by boundary lines and a centre line. The objective was to get the ball over the opposition's boundary lines and as players passed it between themselves, trickery was the order of the day. The game remained popular for 700-800 years, but, although the Romans took it to Britain with them, the use of feet was so small as to scarcely be of consequence.
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