Finding Happiness; The Balancing Act

written by John Toomey

Finding the Happiness Balance in a Big Picture View of Life

Perhaps the secret to happiness lies in learning to view your life and roles differently as a means to create better balance between all of life’s demands including work, family, community and self.
Some Inspiration for you…
If I have seen farther than other men, it is because I stood on the shoulders of giants ~ Sir Isaac Newton
The sun, with all the planets revolving around it and depending on it can still ripen a bunch of grapes as though it had nothing else in the universe to do ~ Galileo Galilei
Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people ~ E Joseph Cossman
If you want to test your memory, try to remember what you were worrying about one year ago today ~ E Joseph Cossman
There's so much comedy on television. Does that cause comedy in the streets? ~ Dick Cavett
One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears – by listening to them ~ Dean Rusk
The nicest thing about the rain is that it always stops. Eventually ~ Eeyore
The most terrible thing in life is to have no one know who you are ~ Anonymous
Confession without repentance is just bragging ~ Rev Eugene Bolton
The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances ~ Martha Washington
Behold the turtle. He makes progress when he sticks his neck out ~ James Bryant
Better bend than break ~ Scottish Proverb
In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on ~ Robert Frost
You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus ~ Mark Twain
There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in ~ Graham Greene
The majority of businessmen are not capable of an original thought, simply because they cannot escape the tyranny of reason ~ David Ogilvy
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them ~ Henry David Thoreau
If you bite off more than you can chew, then you better chew like hell ~ Peter Brock
Pray to God…but keep rowing toward the shore ~ Russian Proverb

Who is in Control of Happiness For Your Life?

For too long, we have been in automatic pilot. Waking in time to get to work, often eating breakfast on the run and arriving at work in a rushed state. We work all day, drink too much coffee and tea, fail to eat enough nutritious food, and then head for home again, often after dark.
At home, we face a television set, a tired and often stressed family or partner, quite often too much food and a late night.
That is not how it is meant to be. We should be waking refreshed, getting some exercise and eating a nutritious breakfast. Then, leaving for work at a reasonable time, arriving relaxed and working efficiently, with happiness, with energy, throughout the day. At the end of the day we should be leaving at a reasonable time so that we arrive home reasonably fresh and relaxed. We can then prepare a nutritious meal, spend time with the family or friends and retire at a reasonable time to ensure a restful sleep.
What has happened to us? We have lost control and we are not taking responsibility for that loss of control. We have forgotten what real life, happiness and real survival is. Instead, we have become all consuming hedonists, worried only about what we think is owed to us and what we deserve to receive.
Would You Survive?
If I were to take you out into the middle of the Simpson Desert and leave you, all alone, would you be able to make it back to civilization, to water and to the things that will ensure your survival?
This is a question designed to make you think about yourself and your personal resources. Have you still got that “hard edge” that human beings need to survive when times are tough? Or, have you become so domesticated and soft that losing simple luxuries like television can be enough to ruin your life.
When we look around at the levels of obesity, ill health and over-indulgence, we see a population of people who do not have a basic fitness level that would allow them to run for a bus. Where are we headed as a nation and as individuals?
The cold hard facts of the matter tell us that people are no longer hardened to the task of fighting for their survival. People’s physical survival is not challenged every day, so they are not trained to deal with a situation where their survival is compromised. The skills required to survive include:
  • The fitness and strength to walk for many hours, perhaps for days
  • The capacity to endure thirst and hunger and the strength to self ration food and water supplies
  • The capacity to calculate direction, recognize and monitor land marks and to stay on a path toward a destination
  • To find food and water in the wilderness
  • To overcome the fear and loneliness associated with the isolation of being separated from civilization
  • The capacity to remain positive and to keep working toward solving the problem
The Necessity of Struggle
It is the fight for survival that keeps us lean, hungry and able. Imagine living a life where you had to work hard physically to get food each day; where shelter was something that required physical work daily and where your very safety was not guaranteed simply due to exposure to the elements and the presence of possible assailants.
When we do not have to fight or struggle for our survival, we lose that hard edge. When we lose that edge, we become soft and weak. Small hindrances become big hindrances. Small problems become big problems. We lose perspective. We forget what it took to win our peace, security and tranquility.
A History Lesson
What happened to the Roman Empire, or the Egyptians or Incas? These once great, powerful and wealthy nations have perished. Why? Shouldn’t their power, wealth and resourcefulness have carried them through to today? Somewhere along the line they lost their way.
There is much evidence to suggest that these people became consumed by their wealth and easeful life. Degenerative disease consumed them and they lost that “hard edge” I spoke of. Challenges that would have been insignificant to them previously, became too much for them to endure.
An inscription taken off a wall in an Egyptian archeological dig read, “People live off one third of what they eat. Off the other two thirds lives their physician.”
Cast Away
Like many great films, the theme behind Cast Away is a powerful message designed to teach us something. Here was a man, the ultimate ego, with no regard for the really important things in life like love, family, community and self.
Defined by his title, his pager and his watch, Hank’s character was loud, obnoxious and “Federal Express” to the core. When he landed on the island, he had no food or water and no resources to help him get both. He did have some FedEx parcels but he was not going to open those. No matter how desperate his situation, he could not abandon his identity. His identity defined him.
As desperation grew, he looked at the alter he had subconsciously built (FedEx parcels with watch and pager on top) and realised that perhaps his survival may depend on what was inside those parcels. So began the process of “tearing back the layers”. This symbolises a person tearing away the layers of themselves to find their core, their soul, and their true self.
As he tore through the layers, he came across “Wilson” the soccer ball. With his bloody handprint, Hanks’ character inadvertently makes a face on the ball. As he sits it up on a pile of boxes, it stares at him. The fight between the ego (Hanks) and his true self (symbolised by the ball) begins in earnest, with the ego kicking and screaming to maintain its failing status. As time passes, the ego quiets and the character assumes a role of survival and quiet contemplation. The final transition occurs when he is forced to knock out his own tooth.
In the end, he has assumed his own true identity. His is a hero’s journey and he is returning home. He loses Wilson because he no longer needs him. He comes back, a man of wisdom and integrity.
In this modern life, ego has taken over. We are encouraged to build an ego and live through it. But the ego has no integrity or moral values. It is important for each of us to face our egos, to look into ourselves and to discover our true nature, our true identity.
Even the name of the movie tells us. It is not “Castaway” but “Cast Away” – meaning to cast away the ego.
What is Life all about?
For centuries, people have used their religion as a strong guiding force in their lives. Throughout the last 40 years of the 20th century, people have been abandoning religion in droves, seeking to break out from what was perceived to be patriarchal dominance and a lack of personal freedom and expression of free will.
Religious practice gave people a “code” of behavior. Many religions used liberal doses of fear to motivate their followers to ‘remain on the straight and narrow path’. But, a study of the pure essences of the teachings of the great masters like Buddha, Jesus Christ, Mohammad, Krishna and others reveals something much deeper and yet something quite simple.
Life is a Journey, a quest of discovery. It is a journey of learning about the self and seeking to live out ones potential and to maximize the learning this life provides. Along the path we face a variety of challenges, some small and others quite large. These challenges are perhaps designed to provide us the impetus for growth as people. Without growth, we wither and die.
Certainly with challenges and hardship, we learn about ourselves. We learn our strengths and weaknesses and we learn about our capacity to endure. It is interesting to note that we all start out at school at the age of five or six, on a fairly level playing field. We all do the same educational lessons daily for years. Yet some of us turn out to be doctors and others concreters. Some become amazing athletes and others talented artists. Some have many difficulties in relationships while others find a soul mate for life and become loving parents. We all respond to life’s challenges differently. We all learn different lessons and we all progress at different rates with varying degrees of resistance and/or happiness and enthusiasm.
As these challenges face us, the ego will often scream and shout about how unfair it all is. It may take on a victim mentality. The true self will see the challenge for what it is, realise the importance of standing up to the challenge and be prepared to endure whatever pain and suffering the challenge holds.
Many of these challenges are really difficult. Consider some of them.

  • Starting a Training Program when you are really unfit
  • Leaving a bad relationship
  • Starting a new job
  • Moving to a new city
  • The loss of a loved one
  • Financial failure
  • Illness or injury
  • There are many others
With a difficult challenge comes a degree of pain and suffering. But pain is nothing more than fertilizer. It is fuel for growth. When you are feeling pain, you are growing. These challenges provide the impetus for growth as people. Without growth, we wither and die.

Finding Happiness; Love versus Fear

Human beings are born out of love. Apart from a very small number of seemingly accidental births, human life is created from an act of love. A baby engenders a strong feeling of love in all of us. When we were born, all of us, we were an example of pure love.
Some of us have been lucky enough to have extremely wise, patient and caring parents and grand parents to nurture us and never allow us to lose this sense of love.
For many however, fear crept into the equation and never really left. Consider a small child becoming lost in a large crowd, perhaps in a shopping mall. The child is stricken with terror. The child experiences fear for the first time. The child experiences emotional hurt for the first time.
The events that follow this experience are critical. The child will feel insecure and will not want to experience a reoccurrence of the hurt. Next time the parent declares that another trip to the mall is about to take place, the fear may return, resulting in perhaps a tantrum or some other sort of “bad behavior”. If the parent is aware of the reason for the behavior, reassurance and a promise that the child will be carried the entire time may relieve the anxiety.
However, if the parent, rushed and stressed, decides to “put the behavior down”, they are simply forcing the child into a state of anxiety. At this point, the child feels anger and resentment. Unable to communicate this clearly to the parent, the child begins to behave in rebellious and somewhat objectionable ways.
Again, the aware parent will move to correct the problem through understanding and reassurance. The unaware parent may then become angry at the child. When the parent becomes angry, the child then becomes confused and then may perhaps begin to think that they are in fact the problem. When this occurs, the child begins to recognize the behaviors they demonstrate that bring a positive response from the parents. The child learns to “tap dance” to get the positive reaction from the parent.
Soon, the child builds a “personality” that is acceptable. It is important to understand the needs of a human being. Simply, we need:
  • Clean Air, Fresh Water and Nutritious Food
  • Shelter (including clothing)
  • Love (which means to be able to give and receive love and to be included in a community)
  • Purpose (to feel that one is making a valid contribution to that community)

These needs are the foundations upon which our life is built. If you imagine your persona as a house, these are the stumps.
When we take this fairly typical journey through our growing years, we often build a persona that is very different to the one we started out with. The damage caused by emotional hurt has forced us to construct a façade that tells the world we are okay, that it is alright to like us, to love us and to include us in the community. This façade is created out of fear

When we construct this façade we call our ego, we need a few more stumps to hold it up. We develop a few more needs. These needs can take all sorts of forms. Some may include:
  • The latest mobile phone
  • A new outfit every week
  • A house that we cannot afford in an “impressive suburb”
  • Perhaps it is a car or similar asset that we cannot afford
  • For some, it is a new relationship with a younger partner when we hit our middle age
When these things are challenged or perhaps taken away, we can react with a similar stress response to the one we might feel when we lose love or cannot get enough air. This is the source of a great deal of modern stress.
Once we arrive at the point in our lives where the ego is fully developed, we struggle through and then eventually turn and start, through our challenges, to break down the false façade we have built to find our true self that was born into the world so many years ago.
There are only two basic human emotions. All emotions grow from these. They are love and fear. Ask yourself. Are you motivated by Love or Fear?
Fear is the emotion that makes you tap dance. It makes you seek approval and it makes us keep on placing ourselves in positions of high stress simply to feel loved or accepted, to feel secure. It is a bizarre twist.
A relationship cannot be healthy if one partner lives in fear of losing the other. Soon, their insecurity will destroy the relationship. A team leader cannot survive if his/her team is in fear of him/her. If they are fearful, they will not speak their mind. Hence, the leader will never have his/her views challenged and will not grow as a leader.
The true self acts out of love. Love comes in many forms from romantic love to nurturing love to tough love. Sometimes, we need a bit more tough love, to stop the ego taking over with its victim mentality.
The ego acts out of fear. It does not want to be challenged at all, so it will always be watching for a challenge and will make its judgments based on the fear of being challenged. Try not to act out of fear
As challenges confront us, the ego will scream and shout about how unfair it all is. It will take on a victim mentality. The true self will see the challenge for what it is, realize the importance of standing up to the challenge and be prepared to endure whatever pain and suffering the challenge holds.
Are you a victim? Are you blaming others for making your life difficult? Where you are in your life now is a product of the decisions you have made on the way to arriving here. You are here for a reason. So what do you do? Do you continue to play victim, or do you get on with the business of living?
You have a choice
So Warrior or Victim
Are you going to learn your Lessons in life or are you going to be a victim and blame others for your misery? It is up to you. You can be a modern warrior, forging a path through life, taking your challenges like a mature adult and setting an example for the people around you.
Or, you can just go and have another beer, fold your arms and wait for someone else to take the lead.
What is Intellect? The ability to watch your thoughts come and go. Exercise your mind control to build your intellect. That way, you will be able to more clearly watch your thoughts and you will be able to distinguish the good and useful from the bad and wasteful.
Meditation or quiet contemplation is great tools for this.
The Happiness Challenge
So, are you being challenged enough in your life? Are you growing at a rate conducive to happiness and self satisfaction?
An old mentor of mine used to say, “When you are green you grow, and when you are ripe you rot!” Keeping yourself in a situation where you are not quite sure to do keeps an element of struggle in your life which in turn forces you to grow and adapt.
So, where are your challenges? If you do not feel you have adequate challenges right now, then perhaps you should go and find one, before one that you might not like comes looking for you.
The areas that you need to keep challenging so that you remain strong and vibrant in those areas are:

  • Work
  • Relationship
  • Parenting
  • Friendships
  • Fitness and Health
  • Emotions
  • Spiritual Growth
  • Mental Development
  • Personal Adventure

Throwing all of your energy into just one or two of these areas is fool hardy and limiting. You know that if your relationship goes off the rails, your work performance will plummet. So, what is your next challenge?
A Strong Organisation
How do you view your employer? Do you see it as a great luxury bus that you ride in, all comfortable and air conditioned, with all the trappings, taking you where you need to go in life?
Or do you see it like a comfortable bus with no engine; a bus that must be pushed up the hills by its passengers so that it can be ridden down the next hill.

A truly great company is more like the latter. With everyone putting their shoulder to the wheel, the bus travels up the hills with great efficiency. Then, when the bus does reach the top, the passengers climb on board and enjoy the ride down the hill on the other side with much greater appreciation and satisfaction.
One person cannot push a bus up a hill. But, that person is a crucial part of a team of people pushing the bus. It is not the role of your leaders to push the bus for you. It is their role to choose the correct road and to steer the bus around the obstacles.
Teams at Work
So, what about teams at work? What can they do to get the job done? If there is something that needs to be done, and no-one is sure if they should do it or not, but someone knows it must be done, then they should do it.
If someone has a go at them later, it doesn’t matter. They were operating out of integrity. They will know that. See, fearing the possibility of getting into trouble, or not being appreciated, means team members will not extend themselves and do the things that have to be done. When this is the case, a team never excels.
Forget the past. Forge ahead and do the job. That way, you will receive more satisfaction in your work. And, if you make a mistake, you will surely learn something and those around you will receive an opportunity to learn as well.
And the team, because it is a team, requires each member to help each other out. If there is slack time in one area and someone else is flat out, those who have little to do should be helping them. That is what a team of good people, good citizens, does.
Once when I was working in an AFL club, I noticed that the marketing department was snowed under with a mail-out of some 30,000 envelopes. They were up to their ears in letters, brochures, envelopes and sticky labels. I quickly asked some players if they could spare a couple of hours to assist. Their response was a very disappointing “No Way!” And to this day, that club has been unsuccessful for over 20 years. Need anyone really ask why?
One of the great secrets of being part of a community is this. It is not what you receive that makes a community rewarding, but the opportunity to contribute and serve for the common good of the community. Whenever there are bush fires and suburbs are under threat, or in fact being burned, people are filmed and interviewed. Some of these people, working hard to save theirs and their neighbor’s property, appear really happy. Why, because they’re getting the opportunity to do something really meaningful for someone else.
Delaying Gratification
An important life skill is the capacity to delay gratification. If you want to treat yourself to something, make yourself wait. When you do get to enjoy it, you will have earned it and you will appreciate it more.
Your Life is in Your Hands – Who is in Control
Life is hard. In fact, life is tough. Get used to it and then you can get on with living. If we look for an easy way, we will create a new challenge.
If you are watching too much television, turn it off or get rid of it for a while. It is a wasteful habit that has never yet served as a tool of personal development. And, with the garbage we are being presented with today, there is even more reason to turn off the TV.
So, in the evenings, try talking more, reading, drawing, painting, doing craft or playing board games with your loved ones. Then, get to bed early and take advantage of the pre-midnight hours.
Ponder the following from W.N. Murray of the 1951 Scottish Himalayan Expedition
Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all facts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans; that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would otherwise never have occurred. A whole stream of events issue from that decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would come his way. I have learned a deep respect for Goethe’s couplets:

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can … begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it”.
Further Reflections on Your Life
We are ready for any unforeseen event that may or may not occur ~ Dan Quayle
How do you know you are there? When you don't have to ask the question any more ~ Neils Bohr
Never express yourself more clearly than you think ~ Neils Bohr
When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity ~ John F Kennedy
God gives every bird its food, but He does not throw it into its nest ~ Buddhist Proverb.
I don't want the cheese, I just want out of the trap ~ Spanish Proverb
Some people say that I must be a horrible person, but that's not true. I have the heart of a young boy. In a jar. On my desk ~ Steven King
The only limits are, as always, those of vision ~ James Broughton
Start living now. Stop saving the good china for that special occasion. Stop withholding your love until that special person materializes. Every day you are alive is a special occasion. Every minute, every breath, is a gift from God ~ Mary Manin Morrissey
John Toomey is one of Australia’s leading Health Educators. Holding a Degree in Physical Education, John has worked in a number of diverse areas including extensive work in the middle and upper levels of Australia’s corporate community as a Health Presenter to companies like BHP, Telstra, Lend Lease and Esso.
He has presented over 1500 seminars in Australian companies on Health, Wellbeing, Life Balance, Emotional Intelligence and Leadership
With his wide Media Experience, John has served as an expert commentator on Wellbeing topics. He has also been published on a number of occasions in the Melbourne Herald Sun and the Melbourne Age
Further, John is a licensed Avatar Master and serves on a number of courses each year guiding students through an exploration of their own consciousness. Find out more at his website

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