In this short yet fascinating book, you will read about everything that is important or even critical to us turns out to be less and less important over time. We do not know what really matters in our lives.
One day, we are happy; by the next, we are sad or worried. When we are in a specific time, place, and condition, we think that certain issues are important and critical and assign them a “value.”
You alone have the right to choose the best path to a peaceful and enjoyable life. You can be in any kind of position or have any level of income and be happy regardless of what goes around you.
If you have never given yourself time to think about your life and what you are doing, this is the right time to do so. This is the particular time that you can ask yourself if you are on the path that leads you to where you want to be and whether you are enjoying your life. Ask yourself if you have a forgotten passion that is burning inside you, a love for anything in this world that can take you to a higher level of energy and eagerness. Find your passion today, and decide to live a meaningful life that is free of fear.
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Read an Excerpt
What Really Matters?
A Wake-Up Call for the Life Journey
By Anita Torabi
Balboa PressCopyright © 2016 Anita Torabi, PhD.
All rights reserved.
Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life. — Omar Khayyam
What does happiness mean to you?
Does it mean that you should always smile?
Does it mean that you are careless about your life?
Does it mean that you are having fun?
Does happiness have a physical meaning, or is it just an attitude toward life?
We can feel happy or sad; we laugh or smile when we are happy. The muscles in our face show if we are happy and excited.
What makes us truly happy?
Is happiness different from person to person?
I have always asked myself how I could be a happy person, satisfied with my life. When I was a child, I thought that a rich man was one who had everything in his life, so he must be a happy person. Since then, I have seen contradictory examples. Sometimes I have thought that if we gathered much knowledge about our lives and the world, we would feel happy, but that was incorrect. Then I thought that people who are successful in their work should be happy, but that was not true either; I met people with extensive educations and very good jobs who were not happy. In contrast to all these, I have met people with low incomes and no education — individuals who worked simple jobs and felt happy with their lives.
After so many years and so many examples from different social backgrounds, I concluded that happiness cannot simply depend on external reasons. Happiness begins within us. You can be in any position, at any level of income, and be happy — regardless of what goes on around you.
As human beings, we are mutable. We have different emotions and perceptions from day to day. One day we are happy; by the next, we are sad or scared or worried. When we are in a specific time, place, and condition, we think certain issues are critical and assign them a value. Once we get past these conditions, we realize that those values were false — or not as important as we thought. We still crave something else to complete our lives. If we accumulate money, we become thirsty for more, so we accumulate more and more without ever feeling that we have enough. The reason for this unhappiness is clear: Money cannot satisfy our spirits. There is no set amount of material wealth that will make us feel happy and successful.
Many people educate themselves in new fields, change jobs, or even seek a new spouse and family many times because they are never satisfied. Some just do not know what they want. Many die without finding their purpose, without understanding why they came into this world in the first place. These people always have a sense of unhappiness and incompleteness.
Have you experienced that same ambivalence?
Have you ever asked yourself why?
Every time we encounter similar events but bring different attitudes to them, we experience those events differently. We entertain thoughts and develop our ideas and attitudes toward our lives using those thoughts. Our thoughts could be influenced by external factors in our surroundings and in our society. What others suggest about different situations (based on their own experiences) may also affect our attitudes by affecting our thoughts. If we hear of a bad experience, our first thought is to avoid that outcome, and we may not think through the causations behind it. After a while, this connection deepens in our minds, dominates our thoughts, influences our thinking, and ultimately results in sad or hopeless thinking about events.
When we make our happiness dependent on external reasons, our happiness can vary from day to day or from circumstance to circumstance. We might feel happy now but unhappy in the next hour because something unpleasant might happen.
What makes me happy could differ from what makes you happy. There is no standard or recipe for happiness. You — not the conditions of your life — decide what makes you happy. Happiness may have different meanings to different people. What I mean by happiness is satisfaction in the mind and heart. I am sure most of you have experienced it in your personal lives. This satisfaction could be the result of a nice and memorable occurrence. For example, if you do someone a kindness, help poor people, or assist someone in need, you might be happy. After all, you have made both yourself and the people you helped satisfied and happy.
Now imagine how you might feel if you helped someone, but the result was not good. You somehow made the situation worse by your humanitarian act. How would you react to that outcome?
Would you still be satisfied with your actions?
Would your emotions be affected by the result of what you have done?
For instance, suppose that you try hard to make your children and spouse happy, but sometimes they are unhappy and unthankful.
What would your reaction or attitude be in such a situation?
Are you affected by the outcome of your helpful action, which did not turn out well that time, or are you independent of the outcome of your action?
Could you tell yourself that your goal was good?
Could you be happy despite what your family or others might think of you?
Many of us have been taught that what others think about us is important, so we do our best to please others. So busy pleasing others, we may forget about ourselves. The reactions of others may influence our emotional responses and make us unhappy.
There have been occasions in my own life where I let other people's reactions influence my feelings. One day I felt very miserable when I put my focus on something sad and unpleasant. I felt abandoned, and I felt that it was the worst day of my life. I could not imagine any worse event or feeling. However, the next day, something very pleasant happened, and I felt fulfilled and very satisfied with my life. I became so confused about my feelings and impressions. How could I feel happy and satisfied one day but not the next day? This experience taught me three lessons, as follows.
1. I should never trust what happens around me or make my feelings dependent on what is going on around me.
2. My happiness comes from within me and should not be affected by what is going on around me or what life brings to me. I choose to be happy.
3. I should play my role to my best ability, regardless of the quality of what happens or whether it seems to be a sad or a pleasant situation.
A correct choice could result in a peaceful life and personal success; a wrong choice could induce bad feelings and awful personal experiences. Fear and happiness (living at peace) seem as contradictory as fear and love. This means that if we make a choice out of fear, we will not feel good and peaceful. Our feelings are created by our thoughts. If we feel nervous and stressed, those negative feelings will lead to sadness and depression.
Those who think they can harm others without consequences are wrong. Every negative thought caused by fear (internal fear) will first damage the one who has the thought, and then it might affect others around him or her. When a person has bad thoughts about others (such as blame, hate, or low respect), that person first fills his or her own mind with negativity. Such negative thinking creates stress and depression within the thinker's mind. Think about it: If somebody turns you off, does anything you think about that person affect that person? It probably does not; your bad thoughts about another person affect only you, creating stress within you. An old Persian proverb says,
"You do not make a deep hole for others, but first for yourself and then for others."
The proverb underscores a very important realization because every thought, positive or negative, starts in your mind. If positive, it brings you peace; if negative, it results in anxiety and stress. If you choose to let go of fear and reach for a divine love, you encounter peace from the first manifestation of your thoughts and can feel satisfied. When you are going to begin a new endeavor, various thoughts will come to your mind, both positive and negative. Your mind's ability to choose between these thoughts will make a difference in your quality of life.
The ideal life is one that always makes you happy, and this means that you choose the thoughts and the way of thinking that lead you to happiness. As a human being, you have the power to go to a higher level, which is positive and optimistic thinking, simply by choosing an inverse scenario for negative thoughts or focusing on what you really want from your life. You can practice this mental discipline until your true desires and motivations dominate your mind.
Even if others reject you, your opinions, and your actions, you always have the right to choose personal happiness. Nobody else should be allowed to determine your internal peace. You alone have the right to choose the best path to a peaceful and enjoyable life and maintain personal happiness that is independent of temporal events. Remind yourself that your happiness and satisfaction do not depend on the opinions of others.
If you are a young girl whose appearance is important to you, think about what has been written here!
How many times have you felt hurt by unpleasant comments about your clothes, hair, or appearance?
Couldn't you just decide not to care about such comments, let go of them, trust your inner peace, and replace the bitterness of those comments with the sweetness of this trust?
Perhaps you are a student with fears about speaking before groups and about exams and grades. Maybe you are a young girl who fears critical comments from her parents or siblings. Think about what you should do in these circumstances. What would be your responsibility?
Wouldn't your responsibility end with making the right choice and doing your best to fulfill that agenda, letting go of what others think of you?
You should not let others' comments get you down. Stand firmly and practice appearing unaffected by what others think of you! Set yourself free from others' judgments, comments, and criticism. Let them know that you do not care about their comments and that you care about your inner peace, which shouldn't be affected by outer reactions and opinions.
When I was a child and was about to take an examination in school, I told myself:
"Anita, do your best before the exam and prepare well for it. Do not care about the grade, though, because the grade is not important."
Most of the time, I got excellent grades; I was always among the top students both at school and at the university. My grades were not important to me and came because of my efforts in advance. This attitude toward school made me a happy student. I enjoyed every minute and hour at school. I missed school during seasonal holidays and looked forward to returning.
Now that I think about those days, I realize that I was always successful and satisfied with myself because I was not focused on the results of tests and had a positive attitude toward school. This is a mindset that I now recommend to my children and my students at the university:
"Be independent of the good opinion of others,"
a wise remark by Abraham Maslow, later quoted by Dr. Wayne Dyer.
When my students have taken their final exams and must present their theses, they are nervous. I advise them to be patient and relaxed and enjoy their presentations. After focusing on their thesis topics for two or three years, they are more prepared and knowledgeable about their topics than anyone else in the room. Presentation day is that student's day. My students should enjoy the moment and celebrate the conclusion of their education, presenting the results of their studious efforts with joy.
As the most advanced creations, humans have been given the right to choose. We can choose to be happy or unhappy. There are not many people in the world who are satisfied with their lives. Those who are satisfied tend to understand the purposes of creation and life. Through their own choices, they have reached this point and taken their evolutionary paths, and that path depends solely on their personal attitudes toward life. After all, they have chosen their directions.CHAPTER 2
Knowledge is love and light and vision. — Helen Keller
I am not sure if there is a clear definition of fear. I do feel that fear is an emotion that prevents us from acting or taking risks. Human existence is accompanied by fear. We do not initiate many endeavors because we are afraid of their outputs or consequences. Some individuals wish to have particular jobs or to achieve status in their present jobs or in a sport, but they have never attempted the tasks required for those goals. Perhaps we want to love our friends or family members more than we do already, but we have never exerted ourselves to do so. Sometimes we even regret that we have not tried to accomplish these feats, but we are never brave enough to be as we wish to be. There are many untold stories in our hearts because we do not know how to tell them while avoiding external judgment.
Fear is also connected to both learning and lack of knowledge about things. Sometimes I think fear is not a natural reaction; rather, it may be a reaction that we have learned and processed all our lives.
Why isn't a baby or very small child afraid of anything, including heights, darkness, and water, though a somewhat older child or adult might fear them?
When we were growing up, we were taught to fear heights, sharp items, darkness, and many other potential dangers. Babies, who have not yet learned to fear them, feel safe. However, as they grow, they learn from others that there are many dangers. Depending on when they learn about those dangers and how they process it, they develop different reactions and attitudes.
You have probably seen siblings who have different attitudes. One sibling could be very brave and try dangerous activities; the other one might be scared of almost anything and always careful. One may perform very well at school and achieve very good grades on exams, while the other one does not perform well in school and finds exams among the most difficult tasks he confronts. One sibling could fear heights, and the other one could be brave enough to try skydiving.
Have you ever asked yourself why there should be such a difference in siblings' risk tolerance?
What is the difference between these two people who grew up in the same family?
One has learned that heights are scary and that he may break his legs or arms if he tries skydiving, but the other person has learned that he can do everything he puts his mind to, even if it is skydiving.
Clearly, what we learn about different phenomena and our individual, internal processing of that learning both affect our reactions. This is why siblings can be different. This response to learning shows our power to choose our way of life: a fearful life or a happy and relaxed one. Fear not only prevents us from taking actions — sometimes the right actions — it also induces frustration and stress. Uncertainty about the output or results of our actions triggers fear. We do not know what will happen if we try something new. We may fear an event because we lack proper knowledge about it.
For instance, if we fear darkness because we cannot see what is in a dark room, we lack knowledge about its contents. If we can turn the light on, our uncertainty about this room decreases, and our fear of entering or being in this room decreases with it. If we are able to investigate the room and make sure that there is no danger, soon there will be no fear. If we increase our knowledge about whatever we fear, we reduce the uncertainty and fearful thoughts related to it.
Fear is the result of negative thoughts. Fear is caused by our beliefs, both beliefs we have accepted and others that we have not welcomed. Have you ever realized that fear is the source of most of your worries and sadness?
Here are some examples of fear's impact. One is the mother who is obsessively concerned about her children's futures. Another mother might fear losing her children even if there is no logical reason for that fear. An innocent child who witnesses parental fighting every day might worry constantly that those parents might divorce. A woman might always be worried about her husband. Such fears can turn our lives bitter.
Most of the time, we do not realize that we are afraid of anything or identify what we fear. We do not know why we do not attempt our goals or why we are not successful in our endeavors. We would rather pretend that we do not like to try or to do specific things. However, when we are honest with ourselves, we find out that fear is the main reason for our inaction. If we allow ourselves to examine and face our fears and try to do what we fear, our fears will disappear because they will have no more meaning to us.
If you let yourself observe, examine, and investigate your fear, you will be surprised to see how much light will replace the darkness of fear in your mind. Fear is the result of lacking knowledge. In the same way that a lamp removes darkness from a room, knowledge and experience remove and replace fear. You will then feel safe.
Whenever you feel fearful, you can ask yourself why you are afraid of starting a particular task or whether you have a logical reason for being afraid. What would be the consequence if you do not succeed?
Excerpted from What Really Matters? by Anita Torabi. Copyright © 2016 Anita Torabi, PhD.. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Happiness, 1,
Chapter 2: Fear, 13,
Chapter 3: Uncertainty, 27,
Chapter 4: Critical Moments, 37,
Chapter 5: Kindness and Love, 51,
Chapter 6: Hope, 59,
Chapter 7: Passion, 69,
Chapter 8: Change, 77,