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There’s good and bad news when it comes to happiness. Photographer and author Matthieu Ricard, who left a career as a molecular biologist to become a Buddhist monk, has devoted his life to the question of how we can train our minds. His answer is influenced by his faith as well as by his scientific turn of mind: We can train our minds in habits of happiness.

He doesn’t ask that you just take his word for it, either. He participated in a 12-year brain study on meditation and compassion led by a neuroscientist from the University of Wisconsin, Richard…


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If you’ve only just begun the self-knowledge journey, you may be surprised to learn that it is incredibly difficult to know yourself. Lao Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher, who lived in the 6th century BCE, wrote: “He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.” Similarly, Carl Jung said: “Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

The sum total of philosophic inquiry is said to have been summarized by Socrates who said, “Know thyself.” Plato similarly phrased it, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Why would these revolutionary thinkers give so much status to achieving…


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A funny thing happened on the way to the Enlightenment. More access to published material led, over a few brief centuries, to a revolution of social and cultural forces. All of which contributed to the vocation myth: You should know what you’re going to do for the rest of your life early in life.

When it comes to individual freedom this is great news. For the first time in human history, you could follow “who you truly are” and pursue fulfillment. Who wants to be a baker or a cobbler or a farmer just because it’s what your ancestors have…


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We have things we love to do. Are they the things we’ll love to do once we start doing them every day? We want to attract good things into our life, but we work within the limits of our finances, opportunities, and the prescribed roles others often put on us.

This is why pursuing your desire is so powerful.

On the road to fulfillment, we are faced with choice after choice and not all the choices are well-marked. People talk about listing goals, but get overwhelming fast, and you don’t connect with lists on an emotional level. Goals are only…


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For years now the media has thoroughly covered how Millennials are driven more by purpose than money. Ninety-four percent want to use their skills to benefit a cause. Half value a career aligned with their values enough to take a pay cut.

But many of us — regardless of our generation — wouldn’t know our purpose if it slapped us on the back and said hello. How do we know how to live this value-filled life if we don’t know what our purpose is in the first place?

Many in their 20s, 30s, and even 40s, feel a keen desire…


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We often talk about how the school of hard knocks can be a great teacher. Maybe the greatest teacher, if we really take good notes through the challenging experiences — especially when we need to own up what we can and cannot control.

Our nonprofiteer, Evan Wildstein has seen a thing or two. Through his two decades of experience, he has a wellspring of experience to draw from. These are but a few highlights from his contributions this year.

How Servant-Leadership Got Me Out of My Own Way


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Our Big Self writers have realized the shallow limits of self-help from the beginning. Columnist Alexander M. Combstrong is certainly no exception. His balance between making real-life mistakes and the paradox between happiness and suffering are themes he continues returning to.

Here’s to the kind of growth that rises up through the struggle! May this letter find you in choppy waters. Why? The only way to really know is to read on.

You Were Learning When You Messed Up Your Life


Photo by Milan Popovic

Have you ever heard the neverending car horn from somewhere vague out your door? The way it just goes on and on and invites you to jump up and ask the nearest human who is going to shut it off?

Me neither. Just totally making that up.

But if you do think an afternoon car alarm is bad, or your flight being delayed, or your air conditioner running out of Freon, or your National Park closed due to people still not getting vaccinated, think again. You could be under aerial bombardment with no end in sight, as Maria details below.


You consulting your handwriting. Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

I recently wrote about why handwriting lights up your brain more than composing on a keyboard. Now there is even more research to show that handwriting improves thinking. Brain scans show that forming words by hand as opposed to on a keyboard leads to increased cognitive activity.

But so what? What does this mean for you?

We are only just beginning to understand the brain-writing connection in empirical terms, but brilliant authors have known this their entire lives. The following are brilliant in ways that transcend merely how they compose. It’s not enough to say they are “old school.” Maybe…


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For decades we heard about how critical it was to “find your passion” and “follow your bliss” if you were to hope for anything like a fulfilled life. More recently, many researchers and popular writers have critiqued the idea of needing to tap into your passion, especially when it comes to turning it into your vocation.

You may be unaware of your callings, but it should be mission-critical to tune in. Why? Well, when it comes to why you get up in the morning, your callings are kind of a big deal.

Your callings guide your life decisions. They shape…

Chad Prevost

Big Self Podcast host. Creative Writing Ph.D. I write on Self-Improvement, Mental Health, and Psychology. Join us at bigselfschool.com. @bigselfschool

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