The 7 pillars of life are drawn from the book Choose your life by Tal Ben-Shahar
The 7 pillars of life that lead to happiness
- Adopt a positive attitude
- Be yourself
- Master the art of living
- Manage your relationships with others intelligently
- Listen to your emotions and develop your spirituality
- Be kind to yourself
- Be pro-active
- The book Choose Your Life on Amazon.
English transcript of the video “The 7 pillars of life”
“7 pillars to choose the life you deserve” taken from the book Choose your life by Professor Tal Ben-Shahar, nicknamed Professor of Happiness at Harvard.
Recent studies in psychology prove that happiness is 40% determined by our choices.
We immediately think of the major decisions in life, such as described by Robert Frost in his poem “The road not taken”, that lead us in a definite direction.
But, Tal Ben-Shahar reminds us that the big decisions – career, marriage, etc., are by definition rare. On the other hand, we make minor choices that shape the course of our lives all the time. The ones we make at any moment: to smile, to take a deep breath, or the ones that happen at a specific moment, such as our reaction in the face of failure, how we take a compliment…
The goal of this book is to give you all the tools you need to live your life, to choose how to really choose your life instead of merely living it.
Choosing to choose means going off the beaten path rather than taking the well-trodden ones. Looking for the path leads to change.
7 pillars for the life you deserve
1. First of the 7 pillars to live the life you deserve: Adopt a positive attitude
When something annoys you, you can choose to get angry or choose to take a step back. Tell yourself that you can be a slave to your emotions and act in the heat of the moment, or you can get some perspective and act with a cool head.
One tip to be less of a slave to your emotions and get some perspective is simply to classify the emotions you are feeling into hot or cold categories. This will help you to face things in a more rational manner.
For example, if someone says something that makes you angry, you can take a moment to examine that emotion, to recognise it as anger and say to yourself: “Is this hot or cold anger? It’s hot. Ok, I’m just going to wait for it to pass so that I can react more rationally. ”
In the same way, you have the choice between reliving the same scenario obsessively or thinking and acting intentionally.
We all tend to dwell on our problems.
In fact, this only makes matters worse because it is a part of the problem and not the solution.
Intentional thought, the fact of speaking your thoughts out loud, of keeping a journal, is one of the best ways to face psychological difficulties. Once again, we have a scientist who mentions the research into the benefits of keeping a diary.
Also, to have a positive attitude, you can choose to neglect your appearance or to have a proud and self-assured appearance.
Walking with a confident step is one way to gain confidence. I have also made a video on this topic on the channel. There are scientific studies that show that simply having confident body language gives you confidence and this can be seen in the physiological results of a blood test for example.
Closed fists and a tall, proud stance exude a message of strength and confidence. You will not only communicate this to others, but also to yourself.
You can choose to resign yourself to the status quo or to be someone who counts.
The things we do provoke a domino effect in time and space. You can effectively change things once you choose to commit yourself body and soul and take action.
You can decide to give way to procrastination or to take the leap.
The most effective method is known as the first 5 minutes. It consists of simply starting to do what you keep putting off until tomorrow. It is the first step towards shaking up the entire process. And it is similar to what Richard Wiseman says in his book “59 seconds: change your life in under a minute” which was the subject of a video on this channel last week.
You can choose to do your work without investing yourself or to experience your job like a vocation.
Clearly, we cannot all have the perfect job, but we can choose to live this experience in different ways. Experience it in the most intense, the most positive way possible.
When things get tough, we can choose to close our eyes to the lessons we can learn or we can learn to react positively.
When something negative happens to you, you can use it as a tool to evolve and improve.
You can choose to disguise yourself or you can show yourself with no pretence.
If you hide behind a façade, it is often because you have a low opinion of yourself. By choosing to expose who you are, you allow your inner light to shine.
You can choose to allow opportunity to pass you by or to turn situations to your advantage.
When opportunity knocks, you have to know when to seize it.
Events that may appear random, yet relevant, can be turned to your advantage. You just have to recognise them. This is what Jung called “synchronicity”.
You can choose to look for flaws or choose to look for benefits.
We can choose to adopt one vision or another and this decision will have major consequences on our physical and mental health, our experience and that of those around us. It goes without saying that you will have a better life, better health, and more happiness if you look for the benefits instead of looking for the flaws.
You can choose to refuse to look squarely at reality or accept the obvious and act consequently.
Suffering is an integral part of life. There are no short cuts, no way to get around sincere work, efforts and the daily struggle. The key to success is above all to know how to look reality in the face.
“The quality of your life matches your state of mind” – Tony Robbins, Unleash your inner strength
You can choose not to bother thinking or you can go to the trouble of thinking.
To write the story of your own life, you acts must be the product of your own thoughts and not those of somebody else. You need to know how to think for yourself.
You can choose to over-think or you can choose to move forward.
Each time you find yourself worrying, ask yourself whether it is worthwhile. If yes, then it’s simple. Just take action. If it is not worthwhile, it is in your best interest to move on to more fruitful occupations. In any case, there is no point in worrying over it for weeks, months or years.
You can choose to focus on your weaknesses or shortcomings or focus on your aptitudes and strengths.
People who invest in their strengths are happier than others and succeed better in life.
You can choose to remain inactive or to get moving.
If you want to enjoy good physical and mental health for a long time to come, you have to move your body, do physical exercise.
You can choose to act like you know everything or learn with a good heart and an open mind.
Knowledge is success. Asking questions is like setting off on a quest. People whose lives are shaped like a question mark and not like a full stop are generally happier and more creative.
You can choose to operate on auto-pilot or make decisions with full knowledge.
By basing your current conduct on your past reactions, you are denying yourself more enriching experiences. By taking back control, by acting in complete consciousness, your experience of a situation will be better and you will make things easier on those around you.
You can choose not to try anything new and therefore not make any mistakes or you can draw lessons from your failures.
People who achieve great things know that failure is not an obstacle, but a springboard onto the path to success. There is no success without risk taking. You have to learn how to fail and fail in order to learn.
Finally, you can choose to smile or to frown.
Facial feedback hypothesis shows that you your facial expression can have an effect on your state of mind. A smile elicits positive feelings, while a frown can aggravate a bad mood.
2. Second of the 7 pillars to live the life you deserve: Be yourself
In this pillar, you can choose to put yourself down or choose not to forget who you really are.
Instead of allowing negative messages to stream through your head and live with them every day, take back control of the messages that guide your life.
You can choose to lose sight of what matters or connect to your values.
You can lead your life without really feeling alive.
To find the desire to live again, you should remember what really counts, what makes life worth living.
You can choose to do what you believe you have to do or do what you want to do.
Move from “I have to” to “I want to”. Do not submit to activities that are ordained for you. Give yourself freely to what you choose to do and it can change your life completely.
You can choose to follow the opinions of others or cultivate the force of independence.
By following your inner compass, your guiding star, you will affirm your independence and attract approval that has the most value – your own approval.
You can choose to act out of a sense of duty and feelings of guilt or devote yourself to your passion.
When you act according to your passions, not only do you come back to life, you are more likely to communicate this positive energy to those around you.
You can choose to renounce your values and convictions or remain faithful to yourself.
Once you understand who you are and what you are facing, a difficult task will appear – be true to yourself.
You can choose to be cynical or be frank and sincere.
It takes courage to be frank and sincere. When you let down your defences you become vulnerable. But this is the price to pay for creating conditions of intimacy and joy.
You can choose to act in haste or to slow down.
Despite the face pace of modern life, take some time to reflect. Make choices that are in accordance with your core values.
You can accept the idea that you have of yourself or become the person you want to be.
Choose to plant a new message inside you and repeat and regulate your behaviour in tune with it. At the cost of a certain amount of perseverance, you can change your perception of yourself.
You can choose to run away from challenges or commit to overcoming obstacles.
You create your future by expressing in words or deeds the commitment that you make to yourself. Words create the world. Words create your reality.
“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken” – Oscar Wilde
You can choose to be proud or you can choose to be humble.
Being humble does not mean hiding your skills or your strengths. It means knowing your aptitudes as well as your limitations.
You can choose to let difficulties intimidate you or rise to a challenge.
The words you use do not just describe reality – they create it. You are the co-creator of your experience, of your life.
3. Third of the 7 pillars to live the life you deserve: Master the art of living
And to develop it, you can choose to close your eyes to the treasures that life holds or be open to wonder.
You can take time every day to really look at things, their beauty and mystery. When your thoughts are elsewhere while you eat, do the dishes, drive your car…. You can bring your thoughts back to the here and now and take advantage of all the treasures life has to offer.
You can choose to live at 100 miles per hour or to enjoy life.
To become a connoisseur of life and enjoy its riches, you sometimes have to learn to slow down.
You can chase after something new or invest in the experience.
Sustainable happiness does not come from owning material goods, but from the search for positive experiences. Their value cannot be measured. They have no price tag.
You can choose to take life seriously or to show humour and light-heartedness.
All too often, we take life too seriously. By finding the spark of laughter that you may have lost since your childhood, you will maintain good psychological and physical health.
You can choose to take part in the rat race or to focus on what really counts.
More does not always mean better. The path to emotional fulfilment and long-term happiness involves identifying what is really important to you.
You can choose to see life as dark or to be optimistic and hopeful.
To a large extent, your expectations about yourself, others and life will determine your reality. The future is much more likely to be dark if you are a pessimist.
On the other hand, if you are optimistic, this will probably bring you well-being and success.
You can choose to cling to things, whatever it takes, or to let go.
Letting go, turning down your attention, is often the opportunity to reduce anxiety.
You can choose to only focus on the finish line or enjoy the journey.
While we can control the nature of the goals we set for ourselves and the efforts we deploy to achieve them, the final success does not entirely depend on us. That is why it is crucial to give up control over the consequences and to favour the process for itself.
You can choose to be fatalistic or tell yourself that this will not last.
When you choose to see suffering for what it truly is, in other words a passing phenomenon, you allow it to follow its normal path. It will move on naturally, just as it arrived.
You can choose to see the glass as half-empty or half-full.
We are so focused on the empty half that we miss out on treasures, big and small, that are part of everyday life. We often need a wake-up call to become aware of this.
You can choose to live in the past, or in the future, or in the here and now.
Instead of being a slave to the past or the future, you can choose a life of abundance, spent enjoying the present moment.
You can choose to put off your reward, or enjoy the present moment.
It is very important to learn to put off your reward, but if you put gratification off indefinitely, you will never reach it. So, throughout the day, offer yourself some little moments of joy to fill your energy store.
You can choose to remain indifferent or to offer your help and contribution.
Very often, helping others is the best way to help yourself. Know how to give and receive with the same generosity and you create win-win relationships.
You can choose to take good things for granted or appreciate the good side of life.
You may find it interesting to keep a gratitude journal. Before you go to bed at night, write down five things that you are grateful for in life.
Or you can simply follow the “five minutes journal” method. Every morning when you wake up, write down three things that you are grateful for, three little things that you truly appreciate in your life.
You can choose to seek to be busy all the time or enjoy the silence.
When you fill every moment of life with noise, you miss out on its true potential. We need to take ourselves out of the general din for a while, as well as take away words, our words and those of others.
You can choose to demand perfection or accept the acceptable.
Barry Schwartz makes a distinction between maximisers and satisfiers. The former are always disappointed, frustrated and ultimately unhappy because reality does not live up to their ideals. The latter, on the other hand, are content with what appears to be good enough. They are more willing to accept reality as it is. Therefore, they are happier overall.
“The life you have left is a gift. Cherish it. Enjoy it now, to the fullest. Do what counts, now.” Leo Babauta, The Power of Less
You can choose to resign yourself to your routine or find something to get enthusiastic about.
If you remember that every moment in life is unique – it did not exist before and will never exist again – then you become capable of finding value and meaning in your life.
You can choose to battle against the hurricane or simply observe the storm.
We all go through difficult phases in life. During these times, we can choose to fight or to become an observer and let the river flow by.
You can be in a hurry all the time or be patient.
Expecting your life to change without any effort is a sure way to feel thwarted and disappointed. Patience and constancy are the essential conditions for any change. You have to take that path in your personal life, your relationships and your organisation.
You can give in to boredom or find singularity in the everyday.
Everywhere you look, you can see the miracle that lies in the simple fact that you can look around you.
You can choose to want more than you can handle or to make your life simpler.
Quantity has consequences on quality. Once you reach a certain point, any activity that you add, as attractive as it may seem, only introduces more distress than joy to your life.
You can choose to break down when you get something wrong or learn from your mistakes.
Errors and missteps are inevitable as you move along the path of life. By falling down, you learn to walk. By learning from your mistakes, you move forward. Let go of perfection and you will feel lightness of being.
You can lack generosity or you can be lavish.
Too many people, whether consciously or not, consider themselves to be losing out when they give without immediately receiving something concrete in return. In fact, generous people are those who succeed the best at the end of the day. Being generous makes the world a better place.
4. Fourth of the 7 pillars to live the life you deserve: Manage your relationships with others intelligently
To do this, you can choose to feed off your resentments or choose to forgive.
In the sense that a single word can mean forgive and untangle. When you forgive, you untangle an emotional knot and the entire system becomes unclogged.
You can choose to feel unsettled by others or appreciate those around you and what you can learn from them.
When you learn to appreciate people who make you uncomfortable, this will help to grow your capacity for compassion and you will also learn from the experience. Often what bothers you about other people is precisely what you don’t like about yourself.
You can choose to try to beat other people all the time or opt for win-win solutions.
The pleasure of beating someone does not last long. The joy of reaching a compromise that satisfies both parties is more sustainable. It often creates a solid basis on which to begin a new series of positive experiences.
You can choose to be blind to qualities in other people or know how to congratulate and compliment them.
Offer positive feedback to the people around you and you will protect your relationships from tough times. The benefits in the currency of happiness cannot be counted.
You can choose to be hasty in offering your opinion or lend a compassionate ear.
To offer moral and emotional support to someone who needs this, you have to know how to listen to what they are saying.
You can choose to be on the defensive or open to all propositions.
Perfectionists get defensive as soon as anyone makes a comment about them. They deny themselves fruitful development and cut themselves off from becoming genuinely close.
You can choose to be afraid to say yes or no, but only to serve your own vision.
You have to learn how to say no to people more often when certain situations present themselves. Establish priorities, choose activities that you genuinely want to do and give up the others.
You can feel superior or value other people.
Your self-esteem cannot be built to the detriment of another person. On the contrary, it will only grow if you make other people feel valued.
You can pant all the time, or breathe slowly and deeply.
Shortness of breath is a reaction to the stress of modern life. You need to learn how to breathe deeply to create a more serene and well-oxygenated space. Deep breathing has therapeutic virtues.
You can harass people around you or treat them with respect.
Do not treat people close to you in a way that you would not treat others. We often save our friendly faces for strangers and take more liberties with members of our inner circle.
You can choose to ignore other people or to see those around you.
We miss out on the people around us by because we only see what is useful to us in them. Make sincere efforts to know other people. Grow your network of relationships and discover the beauty that lies in other people.
“Talk to people about themselves and they will listen for hours” Dale Carnegie (How to win friends)
We can ignore other people or be unfriendly towards them.
Our behaviour towards others gives rise to ripples that, just like throwing a stone into water, touch the people we meet and go beyond them.
We can choose not to care about human potential or detect the seed of greatness in everyone.
By recognising potential in other people, by opening our eyes to the vast possibilities that lie within them, we help to grow the seed of greatness. We nourish it with the food it needs to thrive.
We can choose to use empty words and make empty promises or prefer integrity. By honouring your word, you honour yourself.
You can choose to seek the approval of others or choose to make yourself known.
When the focal point of a relationship moves from the desire for approval to the desire to be understood, an authentic and meaningful connection is made.
5. Fifth of the 7 pillars to live the life you deserve: Listen to your emotions and develop your spirituality
To do this, you can choose to wallow in mediocrity or add spirituality to your life.
We are simultaneously material and immaterial beings. We are made of flesh and spirit and everything we do reflects this duality.
Introduce some spirituality to your work by writing a list of your fundamental values. Then do your best to live in accordance with your values and transform your life into a spiritual odyssey.
You can choose to feel overwhelmed or think globally and act locally.
The butterfly effect is the proof that it is possible to take individual initiatives. They do make a difference.
You can give in to pessimism or carry positive energy with you wherever you go.
Emotions are contagious. Our mood has an influence on others and vice versa.
You can choose to wear a muzzle or to express yourself.
Life is so much richer, lighter and more dynamic when you dare to say what you are feeling.
You can choose to run on empty or to fill up on life.
Throughout our lives, we tire ourselves out and then replenish our stores of energy. The empty-full cycle also exists in our emotional and spiritual lives.
In a world where technology draws us away from natural cycles, we have to be very watchful when it comes to finding a balance between what drains us and what replenishes us.
You can choose to turn a deaf ear or to sing, dance and listen to music.
According to psychologist Abraham Maslow, dance, rhythm and music are excellent means of advancing towards discovering our identity.
6. Sixth of the 7 pillars to live the life you deserve: Be kind to yourself
To do this, you can choose to eat inconsiderately or to respect your body.
In what are known as blue zones, the regions of the world where people live longer, better lives (also with the greatest number of centenarians), people eat good quality food in moderation.
You can choose not to allow yourself anything, not to forgive yourself anything, or to be good and generous to yourself.
It is time to revive that legitimate natural law – love yourself.
You can choose to let yourself be carried away by emotions or to actively accept your emotions.
Active acceptance consists of allowing the emotion to exist without rejecting it. Then, instead of acting impulsively, choose the most appropriate conduct.
You can choose to bury your fears and tears or allow yourself to be human.
All feelings arrive through the same emotional channel. If you repress one, then you are indirectly blocking them all. To live life to the full, you have to allow yourself to experience the full range of human emotions.
7. Seventh of the 7 pillars to live the life you deserve: Be pro-active
To do this, you can choose to lock yourself in introspection or to look outwards. Your introspection of happiness my lead to unhappiness. A life that is over-analysed is fastidious and ultimately depressing. If you over-analyse everything you do, you should turn your attention outwards.
You can choose to remain a passive victim or to take control of your own destiny.
You can live your entire life as a victim, blaming others for your unhappiness and feeling bitter. Or you can choose to take the lead role in your own destiny and do everything possible to bring positive change to your life.
You can choose to wallow or change your point of view.
Sometimes, a slight change in perspective, looking at what appears to be a dead-end from a different angle, can help to overcome feelings of powerlessness.
You can choose to give in to fear and to lack self-confidence or you can be scared but do things anything. Courage is not about not feeling fear, it’s about being afraid but going ahead nonetheless.
You can choose to be sombre and serious or to be light and playful.
Play is our fuel, it gives us energy and impetus. So add some play to your work, your relations with others, your entire life.
You can choose to look no further than the end of your nose or to take a step back.
You can live more fully if you are able to deliberately see things from a different point of view, take a step back, get some perspective. And, you can choose to follow the well-trodden paths or to write your own story.
Do I feel brave enough to give up my safety net to explore a path that no-one has taken before? Listen to the little voice inside you and you can start your own journey.
You can choose to see life as dark or to see the silver lining.
Seeing the good side of things does not mean being blind to problems. On the contrary, it’s about being realistic. Reality is just as much about the positive as the negative. At every moment, you can choose where you want to focus your attention.
You can choose to talk or you can choose to act.
Cultivate the qualities inside yourself that you would like to see in others.
You can choose to resign yourself to boredom or find something new inside your routines.
Every day, simply look around you and observe with a fresh pair of eyes. You will discover new sides to your partner and your children and you will feel both mentally and physically better.
You can choose to prefer the cerebral or to have a “positive heart”.
Apart from the capacity to think and examine, we were also given the gift of feeling. We neglect that side of ourselves at our own peril.
We can choose to throw in the towel in the face of difficulty or we can choose to make every effort to achieve our dreams.
Anyone who has done something amazing has had moments when it was hard. Instead of listening to the sirens of discouragement, they carried on, worked hard and rose to the challenge.
You can choose to be happy with nothing or show yourself in your best light.
To make use of the best you have to give, you can ask yourself: what would the person or people I love do in this situation?
The 7 pillars of life are drawn from the book Choose your life by Tal Ben-Shahar, a former professor of psychology at Harvard University. He now focuses on coaching and giving conferences.