7 Steps using Eastern and Western Philosophies to Find Sustained Happiness

I’ve found that though the cultural philosophies of the Eastern and Western cultures are vastly different, they can coexist. If we take steps to bring these two philosophies together, we can find sustainable happiness. 

Because the two cultures are so different, we need to take steps to help them coexist in our life. 

Today I’m going to share about each culture’s values and how we can take the gold from each and apply principles into our life.

What does the Western culture value?

Western ideals can be summarized in three terms: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

Some of the central characteristics of Western culture include democracy, rational thinking, individualism, Christianity, capitalism, modern technology, human rights, and scientific thinking.

Western ideals lead to rugged individualism and the endless pursuit of happiness and success. We all know people who have climbed to the top of the career ladder, obtained massive success and wealth, but are still unhappy. 

What does the Eastern culture value?

Eastern cultures, specifically Chinese Philosophy,  draw from the teachings of several philosophical movements, including but not limited to Confucianism, Taoism, Legalism, Mohism, and Buddhism.

Buddhism, the most prevalent of the above schools of thought, is a religion, a practical philosophy, and arguably a psychology. Buddhism focuses on the teachings of Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, who lived in India from the mid-6th to the early 5th Century B.C. Buddhism was then introduced to China sometime during the 1st Century B.C. 

The ultimate goal of Buddhist philosophies is Nirvana, which is a state of enlightenment one attains by coming to understand the Four Noble Truths: the inevitability of Suffering, the Cause of Suffering, the Relief of Suffering, and the way to end Suffering.

Another important value of Buddhism is mindfulness. Mindfulness derives from Sati, a significant element of Buddhist traditions, and is based on Zen, Vipassanā, and Tibetan meditation techniques.

Mindfulness is the process of bringing your attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment. Mindfulness is developed through the practice of meditation and other training. 

Meditation is a fundamental technique in understanding the 4 noble truths and achieving greater mindfulness. The most important meditation practices taught by the Buddha are the Four Sathipattana Meditations. These meditations guide your mind to understand the reality of the mind and body connection.

How can the philosophies work together?

The Western ideals of dreaming big, working hard, achieving greatness, and individual success all have merit. But what happens when you don’t achieve your goals right away or when setbacks happen? 

What do we do then? Work harder? Manage our time more? 

All of these are good, but how do we account for so much suffering amidst the Western philosophies? Depression suicide rates are at record highs in many Western countries.

The Buddhist philosophies of mindfulness, staying present, and letting go all sound well. Who wouldn’t want to stop fretting about the future and losing sleep over the past?

How do we practically practice mindfulness and meditation in our busy world?  

Not many people have the time to attend a 30-day meditation camp, or become a monk.

What if we were able to add the teaching of mindfulness to our Western ideals of working hard and striving? 

What if we could have big dreams, live with purpose, manage our time effectively, and accept everything that happens, rather than judge or label everything a success or failure?

In my blog about Sustainable Performance Excellence, I share how these practices fit together. I recommend setting big goals, having big dreams, and planning for success every day. Then take time to sit back, observe, and accept everything that happens. Be grateful for the small blessings, and maintain a grateful heart, even before your goals are achieved. When we have setbacks, we can accept them, observe them, and learn from them.

Here is Noah Rasheta, a lay Buddhist teacher's explanation of acceptance. He compares acceptance to a game of Tetris.

I want to be completely clear about the concept of acceptance and again clarify that the Buddhist understanding of acceptance does not encourage or condone in any way resignation or disengagement. If you’re in an abusive relationship, acceptance is NOT in any way an attitude of saying, “Oh well, I’m not going to do anything about this.” Or, “It is what it is.” Acceptance is simply recognizing, “Ok, this is the situation I’m in. Now what am I going to do with it?” It’s seeing the new Tetris piece and immediately recognizing, “OK, this is the shape I have, now what do I do with it?” If you don’t want to go through life in a state of constant reactivity (you know, yelling at the game “I don’t want this shape.”) then you need to learn to accept what is and then you have the freedom to respond. So acceptance is the key to having the freedom to respond. 

Noah Rasheta

Meditation is a great way to be mindful and full of acceptance. So many times, our mind gets worked up after a busy day with work and family. A simple 10-minute meditation in the morning and the evening is a great way to connect to your consciousness. 

This gives you time to ask yourself how you’re feeling, where you’re holding tension, and what you’re grateful for.  

I recently compared the top 3 meditation apps. I found the Calm app to be the best. I’ve been using it myself and give it a 10/10. The 10-minute meditations are fantastic to breathe, relax, and get grounded into how you are feeling. 

The other morning, my ten-minute check-in began with deep breathing and had a very timely devotional about acceptance. Tamera Leavitt is the primary meditation specialist, and I find her meditations to be very useful in helping you with a relaxed check-in.

You can order the Calm app here and get started for free.  

We don’t often don’t realize how easily we get spun up when something goes wrong. A short meditation can help you accept and recommit to your goals. After you accept the current circumstances and you connect with your emotions, you keep trying. 

You choose to learn from your mistakes and missteps. You are not a failure. You might have failed to hit your goal, but you’re not a failure. This is an opportunity to learn and move on. Get back up and try again. Stay fully committed to your goals and dreams.

Russ Harris, from The Happiness Trap, says it this way:

“You can accept your thoughts and feelings, be psychologically present, and connect with your values all you like, but without the commitment to take effective action, you won’t create a rich and meaningful life. This, then, is the final piece of the puzzle—the piece that completes the whole picture. “Commitment,” like “acceptance,” is a frequently misunderstood term. Commitment isn’t about being perfect, always following through, or never going astray. “Commitment” means that when you do (inevitably) stumble or get off track, you pick yourself up, find your bearings, and carry on in the direction you want to go.” 

Russ Harris

You can order The Happiness Trap here.

Eastern and Western philosophies can coexist. And we can learn from both teachings. 

Here are seven keys to achieving sustained happiness and success based on teachings from the far East and the West:

  1. Have big dreams associated with your values
  2. Live with purpose
  3. Manage your time effectively to accomplish your dreams and values
  4. Be grateful for small steps towards your goals and dreams
  5. Have emotional check-ins with meditation
  6. Accept what is and have the freedom to respond and move on and learn.
  7. Adopt a practice and training mindset. Stay committed to the process of getting better

If you want to learn more about this topic, schedule a free coaching session to talk about how to live using this formula.

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