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Old 11-18-2016, 08:51 PM   #1
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Considering the Flip Side: Strategies for an Optimistic Mindset

What is good or bad?

What would I do if I won millions of dollars in the lottery? Hard to say. But my first reaction? To think it would be good to win that much money. Yet not all lottery winners are happy. In 1999 Billie Bob Harrell committed suicide two years after winning $31 million dollars, and before he died, he even lamented he was better off broke. He is not alone. Adam Jackson, the author of The Flipside, says “one-third of lottery winners end of bankrupt” (26). Their examples illustrate the good life can’t be bought with money. People who win the lottery can certainly live a better life than before and spend their money wisely. Perhaps they attain a greater good. However, winning the lottery doesn’t guarantee the good life. This so-called good fortune could make me the target of more potential robberies or people trying to use me. As a result I could become more suspicious of others. It’s easy to see how paranoia could develop. Another person could kill me and steal my money. All thanks to the lottery. As a lottery winner, I could try to think of all the preventative actions I could take to shield me from the future’s unforeseen calamities. I could isolate myself from society on an uninhabited island, but there’s always an unknown beyond my horizon. What if moving to the island were the cause of a deadly illness?




Ultimately what is good or bad? Jackson reflects on this question in The FlipSide. The parable of the Taoist farmer illustrates the problem with how we perceive life’s good and bad events. Despite this story’s popularity on Youtube, this book introduced me to it.

The optimists

How we see bad circumstances is as important as the circumstances themselves. Jackson maneuvers through a host of different circumstances in the lives of people from all walks of life: pilots, entrepreneurs, inventors, the disabled, the blind, the deaf, prisoners of war, and more. There is one major thread that all of them share. A similar mindset. Developing strong relationships is also important, but for this post I want to focus on our mindset. Here are three strategies for developing an optimistic mindset.

Growth mindset

Positive thinking is good for our well-being. Jackson cites the placebo effect as evidence. It’s when you give people fake medicine, but they think it is real. Studies show our brains have chemical releases (such as the release of endorphins that help relieve pain) when the placebo is received, revealing thoughts can have physical effects. Positive thinking is what optimists do. Jackson knocks down assumptions about optimism being something we either have or don’t have because we’re born that way. We can change our thinking habits. When optimists fail, they don’t say, “I’m stupid, so I’ll never be able to do this.” This is called a fixed mindset, a trait we want to avoid since it attributes the failure to our “lack of ability” or a character flaw that remains fixed (65). Optimists have a growth mindset. They focus on the action — what they did wrong. They say, “Okay. I didn’t do it right. What did I do wrong? What new strategy do I need to learn?” With a growth mindset they are better equipped to handle life’s hardships. This is one of the strategies optimists use. They persist in the face of failure (95).

Modeling

Another strategy is modeling. Act optimistic even if you’re not. The depressed adopt certain behaviors. “Their back slumps, their shoulders drop, their head looks down, their breathing becomes shallow and they talk in a tired, monotone voice” (99). This reminds me of something I read once: it’s like depressed people are physically trying to shield their hearts from hurt. We can focus on how we sit or walk to help counter depression. Deep breathing, smiling, and sitting up straight are some techniques we can use. They have been ingrained in Buddhist psychology for centuries.

Controlling the environment

The environment we surround ourselves with influences our behavior. The idea is summed up perfectly in a Native American quote on page 99:

“He said that he felt as if there were two dogs inside of him, one a pessimist and the other an optimist. ‘The pessimist is always fighting the optimist,’ he said. When asked which dog wins, he thought for a moment and then replied, ‘The one I decide to feed.’”

In the 21st century we feed our minds a lot of stuff through social networks, movies, music, books, and so on. What kind of effect is this having? I found Professor Dan Ariely’s study about the influence of words on our behavior interesting. He gave two groups of students a wordsearch to complete. One group received negative words (aggressive, rude, annoying) and the other group received positive words (considerate, polite, sensitive). After they completed the task, the students were told to go see a clinician who was talking with a colleague when they entered. The group that received the negative words interrupted the clinician’s conversation quicker than the other group. The environment influences us in subtle ways we may not at first notice. Take a moment to evaluate which inner dog you feed.

Conclusion

Questioning how we see good and bad events will help us develop an optimistic outlook about life, so we must change our belief system if we hope to see the flip side. Optimists have a growth mindset, they model positive behavior, and they control their environment. These are some strategies for self-improvement.

Works Cited

Jackson, Adam. The Flipside: Finding the Hidden Opportunities in Life. Headline Publishing Group, 2009.

Last edited by ahanu; 11-18-2016 at 09:56 PM.
 
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Old 11-18-2016, 09:07 PM   #2
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Hoarded money is worthless, compared to a good and steady income, earned through one's competence.


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Old 11-21-2016, 08:01 AM   #3
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Ah, quoting the Taoists!! An excellent way to make me love your post!!

"What is good or bad??" is a powerful question and is, I would agree, the key to getting rid of a "pessimistic" mindset.

And in a Baha'i context, the explanation for how to accomplish this mindset is found in the form of a step-by-step guide written by Baha'u'llah, the Seven Valleys. The Valleys describe spiritual progression, from Seek to Love to Knowledge to Unity to Contentment to Wonderment to the inner most mysteries of God.

For purposes of this thread, and the related Taoist parable, the key steps are Valleys 3-5, Knowledge, Unity, and Contentment. The fact that Contentment comes after Unity is, in fact, a very important fact in the Valleys.

The roots of eliminating pessimism are planted in the the Valley of Knowledge, most obviously so in this story:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seven Valleys
There was once a lover who had sighed for long years in separation from his beloved, and wasted in the fire of remoteness. From the rule of love, his heart was empty of patience, and his body weary of his spirit; he reckoned life without her as a mockery, and time consumed him away. How many a day he found no rest in longing for her; how many a night the pain of her kept him from sleep; his body was worn to a sigh, his heart’s wound had turned him to a cry of sorrow. He had given a thousand lives for one taste of the cup of her presence, but it availed him not. The doctors knew no cure for him, and companions avoided his company; yea, physicians have no medicine for one sick of love, unless the favor of the beloved one deliver him.

At last, the tree of his longing yielded the fruit of despair, and the fire of his hope fell to ashes. Then one night he could live no more, and he went out of his house and made for the marketplace. On a sudden, a watchman followed after him. He broke into a run, with the watchman following; then other watchmen came together, and barred every passage to the weary one. And the wretched one cried from his heart, and ran here and there, and moaned to himself: “Surely this watchman is Izrá’íl, my angel of death, following so fast upon me; or he is a tyrant of men, seeking to harm me.” His feet carried him on, the one bleeding with the arrow of love, and his heart lamented. Then he came to a garden wall, and with untold pain he scaled it, for it proved very high; and forgetting his life, he threw himself down to the garden.

And there he beheld his beloved with a lamp in her hand, searching for a ring she had lost. When the heart-surrendered lover looked on his ravishing love, he drew a great breath and raised up his hands in prayer, crying: “O God! Give Thou glory to the watchman, and riches and long life. For the watchman was Gabriel, guiding this poor one; or he was Isráfíl, bringing life to this wretched one!”
This is, much like the parable of the Farmer, something the lover thought was bad turned out good. "What is good or bad??"

Furthermore, the Seven Valleys proposes a verse from the Koran to be repeated "at every moment" by those of the Valley of Knowledge "No defect canst thou see in the creation of the God of Mercy: Repeat the gaze: Seest thou a single flaw?"(67:3), not at all dissimilar to the "Who's to say what is good or bad??" Asked by the farmer in the parable.

The Knowledge gained from this valley is the beginnings of Unity. Those of this valley begin to see one thing in another. "He beholdeth justice in injustice, and in justice, grace. In ignorance he findeth many a knowledge hidden, and in knowledge a myriad wisdoms manifest. He breaketh the cage of the body and the passions, and consorteth with the people of the immortal realm. He mounteth on the ladders of inner truth and hasteneth to the heaven of inner significance."

This Valley, Knowledge, is the last "plane of limitation". For them, "they see the end in the beginning, see peace in war and friendliness in anger." Once this understanding is truly mastered, the next Valley is attained.

Now why does the Valley of Unity lead to the Valley of Contentment?? Of course, this Unity means things like the Unity of Man or the Unity of Religion, but the Seven Valleys also indicates that this is an even deeper understanding of Unity.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seven Valleys
but the people of the Valleys above [Knowledge] see the end and the beginning as one; nay, they see neither beginning nor end, and witness neither “first” nor “last.” Nay rather, the denizens of the undying city, who dwell in the green garden land, see not even “neither first nor last”; they fly from all that is first, and repulse all that is last. For these have passed over the worlds of names, and fled beyond the worlds of attributes as swift as lightning. Thus is it said: “Absolute Unity excludeth all attributes.” And they have made their dwelling-place in the shadow of the Essence.
They recognize the Unity of even attributes, like "First" and "Last", "Anger" and "Peace", "Justice" and "Injustice".

The most important Unity to this thread, though, is the Unity of "Good" and "Bad".

Which brings us to the Valley of Contentment. For if you recognize a true Unity between the concept of "Good" and the concept of "Bad", you stop seeing the world in terms of "Good" and "Bad". And if you stop seeing everything in the world as either "Good" or "Bad", then you no longer see any "Bad" in the world ("Seest thou a single flaw?"). And if you don't see any "Bad" or flaw in the world itself, how can one be anything other than "Content"??

So the short version, Baha'u'llah's guide to eliminating a pessimistic mindset is the following:
1) Try to first see good in bad.
2) From that, eventually develop the understanding that there is no such thing as "good" or "bad".
3) From that, understanding the world has no flaw, become free from pessimism and enter into Contentment, knowing all is well and the world is perfect as is.

And, of course, given the two Valleys I didn't cover before this post, it's also important that the following steps be taken before attempting step 1 of the above:

1) Search for God
2) Develop a Love of God

So in total: Baha'u'llah's Five Step Guide to Unify Optimism and Pessimism.
 
Old 11-21-2016, 09:41 AM   #4
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thank you so much for the thread Ahanu and thank you so much for the comment Walrus. I REALLY needed to read these things at this moment! thank you two....
 
Old 11-21-2016, 11:45 AM   #5
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I decided quite a few years ago that it would not be an issue I would have to face

Thus do not purchased a lottery ticket in the $ prizes and no worries about having to deal with that chance.

Good posts Ahanu & Walrus.

Regards Tony
 
Old 11-21-2016, 12:47 PM   #6
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((Just as an aside, it seems no matter how many times I have read the Seven Valleys, every single time I go to find quotes for it for reference, or re-read a part, I discover something new. I absolutely love this book!!))
 
Old 11-21-2016, 01:10 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Walrus View Post
((Just as an aside, it seems no matter how many times I have read the Seven Valleys, every single time I go to find quotes for it for reference, or re-read a part, I discover something new. I absolutely love this book!!))
100% Agree, and the Kitabi-iqan.

My current Favorite is Abdul'baha "Tablet of the Universe" (Procisional Translation) it is wow. A complete understanding of the message of His Father.

Regards Tony

Last edited by tonyfish58; 11-21-2016 at 04:05 PM.
 
Old 11-21-2016, 04:02 PM   #8
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The Paris Talks are simply wonderful and are a magnificent example of optimism
 
Old 11-26-2016, 06:00 PM   #9
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Krishna consciousness

As a young hippie seeker in the seventies, I ran across the Hare Krishna movement while hitch-hiking here and there, ending up in California, New York, Europe, and was in the Denver Ashram the day that A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada died in November, 1977. (Boy! Were they stressed!!)

Trying to find Krishna consciousness, I studied the Bhagavad-Gita and faithfully chanted:

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
. . . (108 times was the prescription)

Its much easier being a Baha'i. You only have to chant Allah'u'Abha 95 times!!

As to playing the lottery? Baha'u'llah says: No gambling. Period. move on
There is no collective gain in the lottery, or gambling, etc. Just a few crooks scamming the participants. Convincing people that by donating to the racket, they have a chance at everybody else's lost money. Huh?

However!! If everybody paid Huququ'llah, not only would society benefit, but the giving soul will assuredly benefit. Everybody wins!! Yayyyy!!!
 
Old 11-26-2016, 06:26 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dale ramsdell View Post
As a young hippie seeker in the seventies, I ran across the Hare Krishna movement while hitch-hiking here and there, ending up in California, New York, Europe, and was in the Denver Ashram the day that A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada died in November, 1977. (Boy! Were they stressed!!)

Trying to find Krishna consciousness, I studied the Bhagavad-Gita and faithfully chanted:

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
. . . (108 times was the prescription)
Oh, I'm in a silly mood, so I'd rather join the alternative movement: Bunny Krishna.

gnat
 
Old 11-26-2016, 06:51 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dale ramsdell View Post
As to playing the lottery? Baha'u'llah says: No gambling. Period. move on
There is no collective gain in the lottery, or gambling, etc. Just a few crooks scamming the participants. Convincing people that by donating to the racket, they have a chance at everybody else's lost money. Huh?

However!! If everybody paid Huququ'llah, not only would society benefit, but the giving soul will assuredly benefit. Everybody wins!! Yayyyy!!!
Yayyyyy....Yes 😊😉

Good to see you back and post. Love it!

Regards Tony
 
Old 11-27-2016, 03:09 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gnat View Post
Oh, I'm in a silly mood, so I'd rather join the alternative movement: Bunny Krishna.

gnat
You must be hopping mad?
 
Old 11-27-2016, 03:20 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AidanK View Post
You must be hopping mad?
Oh, you guessed my secret.

gnat

P. S. "hopping mad" - it took me a minute.

Last edited by gnat; 11-27-2016 at 04:56 PM.
 
Old 11-28-2016, 11:35 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyfish58 View Post
I decided quite a few years ago that it would not be an issue I would have to face

Thus do not purchased a lottery ticket in the $ prizes and no worries about having to deal with that chance.
Quote:
Originally Posted by dale ramsdell View Post
As to playing the lottery? Baha'u'llah says: No gambling. Period. move on
There is no collective gain in the lottery, or gambling, etc. Just a few crooks scamming the participants. Convincing people that by donating to the racket, they have a chance at everybody else's lost money. Huh?
I sort of feel like people are getting hung-up about the analogy used at the beginning and trying to take it literally, rather than looking at the point for which the analogy is used. No one's saying the lottery or gambling is good, lol, it's just a metaphor for "people think getting a lot of money suddenly would be a good thing".

It doesn't have to be a lottery, the source of money could be an unknown uncle dying with a large inheritance or some other source. This thread's not about gambling, it just used a lottery as an example of something people typically think would be good: the sudden acquisition of riches.
 
Old 11-28-2016, 12:25 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Walrus View Post
I sort of feel like people are getting hung-up about the analogy used at the beginning and trying to take it literally, rather than looking at the point for which the analogy is used. No one's saying the lottery or gambling is good, lol, it's just a metaphor for "people think getting a lot of money suddenly would be a good thing".

It doesn't have to be a lottery, the source of money could be an unknown uncle dying with a large inheritance or some other source. This thread's not about gambling, it just used a lottery as an example of something people typically think would be good: the sudden acquisition of riches.
Not at all dear friend :-)

"The sudden acquisition of riches" is what we are after.

The greatest riches being service to this great Cause, our friends in the Cause and thus all Humanity.

Maybe to Optomistic....he he!

God bless and regards Tony

Last edited by tonyfish58; 11-28-2016 at 12:29 PM.
 
Old 11-30-2016, 12:06 PM   #16
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corn and wheat

Quote:
Originally Posted by Walrus View Post
I sort of feel like people are getting hung-up about the analogy used at the beginning and trying to take it literally, rather than looking at the point for which the analogy is used. No one's saying the lottery or gambling is good, lol, it's just a metaphor for "people think getting a lot of money suddenly would be a good thing".

It doesn't have to be a lottery, the source of money could be an unknown uncle dying with a large inheritance or some other source. This thread's not about gambling, it just used a lottery as an example of something people typically think would be good: the sudden acquisition of riches.
. . Let's change it a little. Suppose one has won the farm lottery. One Million Bushels of Corn, or One Million Bushels of Wheat.
. . And to make matters more obvious, you live in Bangladesh 40 some years ago, or any other place of extreme drought and starvation.
. . Is it all about "Me, look at me... I'm rich!!"

. . or is it about Abdul Baha prior to WWI gathering grain before the coming of the Great War, not just for His personal use and well-being, but rather, stockpiling grain for humanity.

. . In traditional Lakota culture, as on the Standing Rock, distinction came by giving to the tribe, to the Oyate, not amassing personal fortune. Western UnCivilization has taken personal fortune as an Idol with countless millions worshipping it.

. The Quran also condemns hoarding fortune, and exalts giving to the poor, the orphan, etc. How corrupt society has become.
 
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