Scarcity

This is a Chinese book that was recommended by my sister. Luckily I found the original English book “Scarcity: why having too little means so much” written by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir in our library.

I immediately enjoyed reading it as there are so many examples I can link to easily. I kind of see why I have made decisions in certain circumstance, and why I feel busy and can’t finish things I planned to do on the day. Although I have applied some good methods to make life smooth and simple, this book explains why sometimes I still go into the trap.

This is a talk from the authors.

On page 174-175, it mentioned a “financial education” class designed by economist Antoinette Schoar and her coauthors. This is a video that presents their work.

What are your rules of life?

It took me 4 months to finish reading the book The Rules of Life. This is because firstly I don’t like to be ruled by the book or the author’s suggestions. I wanted to discover if I have already applied some rules. Secondly, I’d like to see how much I remember if I don’t touch the book for a while.

There are many of the rules in the book that I would call habits or attitudes. They are in the person’s personality and beliefs that present who they are. We all more or less have them but we may be not aware of them.

The rules I like in particular are:

  • 2. You’ll get older but not necessarily wiser
  • 7. Be flexible in your thinking
  • 10. Only dead fish swim with the stream
  • 13. No fear, no surprise, no hesitation, no doubt
  • 49. Only the good feel guilty
  • 58. Know when to listen and when to act
  • 61. Keep talking
  • 69. Let your kids mess up for themselves – they don’t need any help from you
  • 73. There are no bad children
  • 95. Be part of the solution, not the problem

A few quotes I like:

Plans have to be realistic; dreams don’t. (p.38)

Live here, live now, live in this moment. (p.41)

If it’s dead, don’t go digging it up every five minutes to check if there’s a pulse. It’s dead; walk away. (p.74)

Work on my 40% intentional activities

I am happy to find the book The How of Happiness from our library. A very powerful science book. Using the author Sonja Lyubomirsky’s words,

… the first ‘how-to-become-happier’ book authored by someone who has actually conducted research revealing how people can achieve a greater sense of happiness in their lives.

The following quote is from an article by the same author. It confirms that we can change our intentional activities towards become happier. See Layous, K., & Lyubomirsky, S. (in press). The how, who, what, when, and why of happiness: Mechanisms underlying the success of positive interventions. In J. Gruber & J. Moscowitz (Eds.), The light and dark side of positive emotions. New York: Oxford University Press.

The last decade of research has not only established that happiness can be increased through intentional activity, but has begun to parse the details of the how, who, what, when, and why of this important process.

Also, a lecture given by Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky is on YouTube.

What affect happiness?

This is a note from my reading – The Life Book, Nina Grunfeld. p.164.

Happiness is when you feel pleasure, contentment, satisfaction or joy. Researchers have found that 50 per cent of happiness is genetic, 10-15 per cent is due to measurable life circumstances, such as money, marital status, income, health etc. The remaining 35-40 per cent is to do with the actions individuals take to become happier.

The Hamburger Model by Dr Tal Ben-Shahar

I started to read Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar’s Book Can you learn to be happy? Happier.

It’s very interesting to see Tal’s Hamburger Model, which is a metric that represents four distinct archetypes of attitudes and behaviours to life.

(image from https://j5minsbreak.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/39ed7-hamburger.jpg)

The tasteless vegetarian burgers made with the most healthful ingredients, which would afford future benefit and present detriment. It is the Rat Race archetype. The rat racers suffers subordinate the present to the future. It has a ground that benefits in anticipation of some future reward. No pain, no gain. (p.14)

The tasty junk-food burger yields present benefit and future detriment. It is the Hedonism archetype.

Hedonists live by the maxim “seek pleasure and avoid pain”; they focus on enjoying the present while ignoring the potential negative consequence of their actions. It  has the ground that live for the moment, and give little or no thought to future consequences and plans. (p.14)

The worst of all possible burgers is both tasteless and unhealthy. It is the Nihilism archetype. The Nihilist has lost the lust for life, neither enjoys the moment nor has a sense of future purpose. It has the ground that hopelessness. (p.15)

The burgers are tasty and healthy, which constitute a complete experience with both present and future benefit. It is the Happiness archetype. Happy people live secure in the knowledge that the activities that bring them enjoyment in the present will also lead to a fulfilling future. It has the ground that true happiness is achieved when there is a perfect balance between present pleasure and future benefits. (p.15)

The Rat Racer’s illusion is that reaching some future destination will bring him lasting happiness; he does not recognize the significance of the journey. The hedonist’s illusion is that only the journey is important. The Nihilist, having given up on both the destination and the journey, is disillusioned with life. The rat racer becomes a slave to the future; the hedonist, a slave to the moment; the nihilist, a slave to the past. (pp.26-27)

To varying degrees, and in different combinations, we all have characteristics of the rat racer, the hedonist, the nihilist, and the one who is happy. Tal suggested readers to do exercises, to write done our own experience of each. One day one archetype. Think about what it feels like and what we have paid for it. Do this exercise regularly like every three months, yearly or the timespan that you like.

I am a Rat Racer without doubt. This is mostly relevant to my education (home, school and social culture) since a young age. Normally if I felt very unpleasant from my heart when I was on the way toward my goal, I sought a change. It’s the ”what/where to change to” that bothered me the most. I couldn’t really think good examples of my experience of being Hedonist or Nihilist. The experience was temporary and soon I came back to the Rat Race domain. I misunderstood ‘Hedonism’ and thought they are the happiest people as they enjoy the present all the time. I suppose it’s why I started to question myself more after I came to the UK. Do I really feel happier? Life is too short, so am I doing the meaningful things I real want to?

I think the answer to my questions about myself to some extent is in Tal’s explanation below. It has shed light on my understanding what attitudes and behaviours to life are and what are the differences.

“Once we arrive at our destination, once we attain our goal, we mistake the relief that we feel for happiness. The weightier the burden we carried on our journey, the more powerful and pleasant is our experience of relief. When we mistake these moments of relief for happiness, we reinforce the illusion that simply reaching goals will make us happy. While these certainly is value in relief – it is a pleasant experience and it is real – it should not be mistaken for happiness.” (p.19)

What can I do about it if I’m a rat racer and want to become happier, or say not sacrifice current pleasure? Here some things I can do:

  1. Identify what you really really want to do from the list of what you can do and establish meaningful goals. Ensure what you are aiming for in life will be fulfilling.
  2. Enjoy the journey.
  3. If now, you are doing something that you don’t enjoy or are working towards a goal that you don’t think is fulfilling, find a way to change this.
  4. Understand that it is impossible for you to feel happy and fulfilled all the time.The point, however, is to spend as much time as possible engaged in activities that give us both present and future benefits.

How to get rid of worries

Read Norman Vincent Peale’s book The Positive Way to Change Your Life on the train to Coventry. I particularly liked the ideas about “worry”.

What does ‘worry’ mean?

The word worry itself comes from an old Anglo-Saxon term meaning to choke, or strangle, and that is exactly what worry does – it chokes the joy of living right out its victim. And it chokes off creative power to improve one’s condition. (p.59)

What happens when we worry?

When we worry we are using imaging, all right, but we are point it in the wrong direction. When we worry about our health, or our children, or our jobs, or our future, we are giving these fears a degree of reality by allowing them to pervade and color our thinking. And if they dominate our minds, they may also affect our actions. Just as affirmative imaging tends to actualize desirable events sooner or later, so negative imaging, or worry, tends to create conditions in which the unpleasant thing that is worried about has a better change of coming to pass. (pp.57-58)

Is worry a bad thing?

A little worry is probably a good thing, if it impels a person to take prudent action. It’s chronic worry that is dangerous, the constant imaging of undesirable events. The occasional worrier takes affirmative action. The chronic worrier becomes exhausted and confused, like a desert traveler in a swirling sandstorm. … And as a matter of fact, that last phrase is dangerously misleading because worry does change things – mainly the capacity of the worrier to cope successfully with the thing is worrying them. (p.58)

What can we do about worry?

1. Believe worry can be overcome.
2. Approaches to helping you to get rid of worry:

  • Push aside negative emotions and use your mind positively. 

“…worry, which is an irrational reaction, can be controlled by thinking rationally. Take a worry apart, lay it out, dissect it, analyze it. If you will do this with clear, cool, rational thinking, you’ll find that nine times out of ten there won’t be much left.” (p.60)

  • Use symbolism. 

“…She had been a chronic worrier until she hit upon the device of writing her worries down on a slips of paper and putting them in an old teapot that she kept on a high shelf in her kitchen. Every time she put a problem in the pot she said a little prayer, releasing the problem to the Lord. At the end of the year she would take the pot down, read all the slips, and then throw them away.” (p.62)

I have a jar that contains some lucky paper stars that I made. Each star has a wish inside that I made when I had Birthday, Christmas, New Year or a good time. I haven’t decided when to look at them again, maybe after 10 years or 20 years. Actually, I never thought about to have a jar for my worries. If something bothers me a lot, normally I know I will cope with it well as I am working on it and always there is a solution. However, after reading this chapter, I decide to prepare a jar for containing my worries like the wise people did in the book. I will put it next to my old jar and probably will check it yearly. See how it goes.

  • Turn away from worry and simply to do something that you enjoying doing. Anything to get your mind off yourself.
  • Image Jesus Christ as actually your personal friend. This is hard for me as I’m not a Christian, but I will try to image it’s the Buddha or the one will help me go through any worries.

“…And anyone, including you, can be free of worry if you will fill your mind with the factual idea that God is with you and is giving you normal, steady, intelligent attitude toward the problems of life. When you image yourself as living close to God, you will have the ability to get your mind above the confusion and heat of worry into a place of clarity and clam.” (p.64)

(Image from http://www.andertoons.com/christmas/cartoon/4324/santa-sees-therapist-people-not-believing-in-him)

A book about English behaviour

I should say thanks to my bad cold that allowed me to finish reading the book <<Watching the English: The hidden rules of English behaviour>>, written by Kate Fox (2004). As I remember five years ago, my bad cold helped me prepare for the viva well.

Although I live in Wales, I don’t think I understand the British very much. Many people I know are English and most time I took people’s behaviour as culture differences. However, this book helps me to understand English a bit more.

Some statements are impressed me:

The identification of England as a predominantly ‘negative-politeness’ culture – concerned mainly with the avoidance of imposition and intrusion – seems to me quite helpful. The important point here is that politeness and courtesy, as practised by the English, have very little to do with friendliness or good nature.(p.173)

What I noticing is that there is rarely anything straightforward or direct or transparent about English social interaction.We seems to be congenitally incapable of being frank, clear or assertive. We are always oblique, always playing some complex, convoluted game. When we are not doing things backwards… we are doing them sideways… We seem perversely determined to make everything as difficult as possible for ourselves. (p.173)

The English, on the whole, do not ‘work hard and play hard’: we do both, and most other things, in moderation. Of course, ‘work moderately, play moderately’ does not have quite the same ring to it, but I’m afraid it is a far more accurate description of typical English work and leisure habits.(p.193)

The rather less admirable English habit of constant moaning is another distinguishing feature of our workplace behaviour, and of our attitude to work. The principal rule in this context is that work is, almost by definition, something to be moaned about. This is a connection here with the Importance of Not Being Earnest rule, in that if you do not indulge in the customary convivial moaning about work, there is a danger that you will be seen as too keen and earnest, and labelled a ‘sad geek’, a sycophantic ‘suck’ or self-important ‘pompous git’. (p.197) [This rule is very helpful for me as I rarely moaned about work. I may complained something such as a delivery service that happened on me unfairly, but I don’t moan about things so often in workplace. I do take work very seriously and work hard. I don’t quite understand why people spend time on moaning but not doing, now I see I probably look like an alien.]

The  sensual pleasure of eating, it seems to me, are in the same category – not exactly a taboo subject, but one that should only be talked about in a light-hearted, unserious, jokey manner. (p.298)

Our reluctance to complain in restaurants is, however, only partly due to congenital social dis-sea. There is also a wider issue of low expectations. I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter Paul Richardson’s observation that the English regard good food as a privilege, not as a right. Unlike other cultures with a tradition of caring about food and culinary expertise, the English on the whole do not have very high expectations when we go to a restaurant, or indeed of the food we prepare at home. With the expectation of a handful of foodies, we don’t really expect the meals we are served to be particularly good: we are pleased when the food is good, but we do not feel as deeply offended or indignant as other nations when it is mediocre. We may feel a bit annoyed about a overcooked steak or flabby chips, but it is not as though some fundamental human right has been infringed. Mediocre food in the norm. … English people mostly don’t expect particularly good service or products, and when their pessimistic assumptions are confirmed they say, “Huh! Typical!” (p.303) [These two statements are helpful too as I always wonder why people don’t keen on talking about food. Also, it tells me what is English people’s view of services, a kind of strange view for me.]

The central ‘core’ of Englishness. Social dis-ease is a shorthand term for all our chronic inhibitions and handicaps. The English social dis-ease is a congenital disorder, bordering on a sort of sub-clinical combination of autism and agoraphobia (the politically correct euphemism would be ‘social challenged’). It is our lack of ease, discomfort and incompetence in the filed (minefield) of social interaction; our  embarrassment, insularity, awkwardness, perverse obliqueness, emotional constipation, fear of intimacy and general inability to engage in a normal and straightforward fashion with other human being. When we feel uncomfortable in social situations (that is, most of the time) we either become over-polite, buttoned up and awkwardly restrained or load, loutish, crude, violent and generally obnoxious. (p.401)

Virtually all English conversations and social interactions involve at least some degree of banter, teasing, irony, wit, mockery, wordplay, satire, understatement, humorous self-deprecation, sarcasm, pomposity-pricking or just silliness. Humour is not a special, separate kind of talk: it is our ‘default mode’; it is like breathing; we cannot function without it. English humour is a reflex, a knee-jerk response, particularly when we are feeling uncomfortable or awkward: when in doubt, joke. (p.402)

We are no more naturally modest, courteous or fair than any other culture, but we have more unwritten rules prescribing the appearance of these qualities, which are clearly very important to us.(p.404)

Moaning is also highly enjoyable (there is nothing the English love so much as a good moan – it really is a pleasure to watch) and an opportunity for displays of wit. Almost all ‘social’ moaning is humorous mock-moaning. Real, tearful despair is not allowed, except among intimates. Even if you are feeling truly desperate, you must pretend to be only pretending to feel desperate (the unbearable lightness of being English). (p.405)

The diagram in page 410 displays Englishess at-a-glance, very easy to understand what the author means. I quite like this book, it covers many rules (or things) that I never notice. For example, the invisible-queue rule in the pub, DIY, money-talk rules, queuing rules, fair-play rule, not being earnest rule, pets, dress, table manner, forks and pea-eating rules, panto and so on. Some points my friends had told me to some extent in our conversations, some are completely new for me. I encourage people who are from different culture background to read this book and see how much they understand English’s behaviours. Somehow, I feel some of my friends are patient enough to help me understand them. But largely it’s hard to really understand them completely as individual is different and it’s relevant to special context too. I prefer spontaneous to hypocrisy.

The diary of a young girl

It took me three months to finish the book <<The diary of a young girl – Anne Frank>>. I never thought it would take me so long. With very complex feelings, it’s difficult to read quickly and easily. At a quiet night, 5-10 pages were far too enough, otherwise I felt sad and depressed. The girl was so sensitive, intelligent, strong and deep thinking.

“Sometimes I think God is trying to test me, both now and in the future. I’ll have to become a good person on my own, without anyone to serve as a model or advise me, but it’ll make me stronger in the end.” (p.141; Saturday, 30 October 1943)

“We have many reasons to hope for great happiness, but… we have to earn it. And that’s something you can’t achieve by taking the easy way out. Earning happiness means doing good and working, not speculating and being lazy. Laziness may look inviting, but only work gives you true satisfaction.” (p. 324; Thursday, 6 July 1944)

“… the house was intended ‘neither as a museum nor a place of pilgrimage. It is an earnest warning from the past and a mission of hope for the future’.” (p.347; Otto Frank)

A few years ago, I visited the 263 Prinsengracht, Amsterdam without reading the whole book. A photo of Anne Frank’s statue.

The 8th Habit

Read the book <<The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness>> and like it very much. It’s Stephen R. Covey’s serial book after <<The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People>>.

The explanation and discussion about leadership and management is very helpful.

I also like those stories and many shared experiences/examples, e.g., The Goose with the Golden Eggs; The Talking Stick and the Q&As.

14 Tuesdays

睡觉前, 我是不应该看这么感人的小说的, 特别是关于死亡.
I know it’s not a good idea to read such a touching book before go to sleep, especially it’s about death and life.

很多时候,好人善良的人,总是要早早逝去;而恶人无情的人都苟活着.
A lot of time, we see nice people left us in a young age, but those bad souls live well.

几年前无意看到了Professor Randy Pausch 的一系列讲座.他得了胰腺癌,还很年轻.当看到一个人面对死亡,从鲜活到远去,很长时间心情都不能平静.
A few years ago, I watched Professor Randy Pausch‘s presentations and read his book. I felt sorry for his loss though I don’t know him at all.

最近又无意看到了Mitch Albom 的书«Tuesdays with Morrie»,讲述Professor Morrie Schwartz得知自己得了肌萎缩侧索硬化症后的故事(Profeesor Stephen William Hawking 就是得了这种病) .
Recently, I came across Mitch Albom’s book Tuesdays with Morries. It tells a story of Professor Morrie Schwartz’s last 14 weeks.

Mitch就像我们,而Morrie就像我们身边的某个人一样,很亲切.
Mitch is like us, and Morrie is like someone close to us.

我其实很害怕读下去,但又被那平实震撼的语言所吸引.无法抗拒.流着泪读其中的哲理.
It’s an inspiration book. I put some nice quotes below.

14个星期二,14节课.
14 Tuesdays, 14 lessons about life.

第一个星期二,关于我们生活的世界.学会关爱,学会奉献爱,接受爱.
Learn how to give out love, and to let it come in. Love is the only rational act.

第二个星期二,关于自己.不要过多的自怜.如果难过,就痛哭一场,然后专注在积极的事情上.
I give myself a good cry if I need it. But then I concentrate on all the good things still in my life.

第三个星期二,关于遗憾.我们在离开前才有时间停下来想想,这就是我们想要的一切吗?
The culture doesn’t encourage you to think about such things until you’re about to die.

第四个星期二,关于死亡.准备死亡,认真生活好每一天.
Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.

第五个星期二,关于家庭. 有家庭有子女是人生不应该缺少的经历.
This is part of what a family is about, not just love, but letting others know there’s someone who is watching out from them.

第六个星期二,关于情感.不要害怕经历各种情绪感受,深深体会它们,了解它们,然后离开它们.
Detaching yourself from the experience.

第七个星期二,关于衰老.有意义的生活使你能积极正面的接受年龄和衰老.
If you’ve found meaning in your life, you don’t want to go back. You want to go forward. You want to see more, do more.

第八个星期二,关于金钱.金钱和地位不能给你真正的生活真谛. 奉献和给予爱心能让你更快乐.
Only an open heart will allow you to float equally between people… Giving to other people is what makes me feel alive. Not my car or my house.

第九个星期二,关于爱.爱体现在关注关心倾听.
Love is when you are as concerned about someone else’s situation as you are about your own.

第十个星期二,关于婚姻.婚姻没有一个简单的规则. 婚姻中需要尊重, 折衷, 敞开心菲交流和类似的价值观.
They don’t know what they want in partner. They don’t know who they are themselves – so how can they know who they’re marrying?

第十一个星期二,关于文化.看待他人如同看待自己, 我们会发现文化中的互帮互助必不可少.
We need others as well.

第十二个星期二,关于原谅.近早地原谅别人.也近早地摆脱憎恨等情绪.
Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Don’t wait.

第十三个星期二,关于完美的一天.简单而充实就是我们渴望的完美.
How could he find perfection in such an average day?

第十四个星期二,告别.
Death ends a life, not a relationship.

再摘抄几段吧 (More wonderful quotes):

The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it.

So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.

Everyone knows they’re going to die… but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently… To know you’re going to die, and to be prepared for it at any time. That’s better. That way you can actually be more involved in your life while you’re living.

If you want the experience of having complete responsibility for another human being, and to learn how to love and bond in the deepest way, then you should have children.

There are a few rules I know to be true about love and marriage: If you don’t respect the other person, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. If you don’t know how to compromise, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. If you can’t talk openly about what goes on between you, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. And if you don’t have a common set of values in life, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. Your values must be alike.

When you get threatened, you start looking out only for yourself. You start making money a god. It is all part of this culture.

The little thing, what we value – those you must choose yourself. You can’t let anyone – or any society – determine those for you.

Look, no matter where you live, the biggest defect we human beings have is our shortsightedness. We don’t see what we could be. We should be looking at our potential, stretching ourselves into everything we can become. There is no such thing as “too late” in life.