When we convert from looking at the objectives as listed in The Eight-Fold Path to putting things into action, we then see that what is needed is to spend our time in life developing the skills that create ever greater happiness. And, of course,
__ Skillful Understanding
__ Skillful Thinking
__ Skillful Speech
__ Skillful Action
__ Skillful Livelihood
__ Skillful Effort
__ Skillful Mindfulness
__ Skillful Concentration
Rate yourself (or check these off as having already achieve excellence in them) on a skill of 1-10, with 10 being great mastery and 8 being excellent enough understanding to produce excellent results in life. (If the results are not excellent, then obviously the skill cannot be rated as excellent.)
Understanding cause and effect and what reality is and isn't is vital to life, but few do it, so they live in a made up world where they create unnecessary suffering. Although life must have some pain, as a result of being human, the total pain and suffering in life only need be 1% or less of what most people are experiencing. Few people seem to be able to see that, so they need to learn, so that they will have the skill of understanding life and how it [body, mind, world] all works.
If one can't think well, one can't navigate this life well, obviously. But we fail to notice how badly we are thinking, because we are like fish in the ocean not seeing the water (bad thinking) around us. But the proof of unskillful thinking lies in our choices in life and the results we are feeling in life. (The proof is always in the results in the real world, though, somehow, many people don't seem to realize this!)
We allow unintelligent, erroneous thoughts to govern our lives. How unskillful is that!!!!?
So learning how to (and that we must) use logic and reasoning based on facts is essential to being skillful enough to create excellent thoughts to base our lives on and to be able to solve any problems that occur in life - in an easy, effective, efficient way where we do not feel threatened, operating in a game where we control the chess pieces and adjust to our metaphorical adversary's (life's) moves - and where we are essential fearless.
Once you learn to be skillful at thinking, you then practice (use) the thinking to manifest compassion and loving-kindness for others - and for yourself - completely. With right thinking, there is no other reasonable path, after all! Skillful thinking must, of course, be applied, to gain results. It is most important to apply skillful thinking to one's thoughts, meaning the basic constructs we call beliefs, since those are what causes one's emotions. Disturbing (agitating) emotions, especially fear, disrupt life. You will not have finished the skillful thinking step until you have totally eradicated the false beliefs and totally replaced them with healthy, true beliefs!!! (See Beliefs.)
Language conveys messages to others and to one's own brain-recorder. Empowering language empowers, but we often fail to realize how negatives should not even be uttered (unless it is to nail them down and correct them, so that they no longer persist). It is common for people to use words as weapons - which is totally unwise and harmful to others and to oneself. This also means you do not engage in useless conversations (chit chat, gossip, etc.). In skillful speech we are seeking, of course, to benefit ourselves and others. However, we tend to leave ourselves out as the objective to benefit. Our most important imperative is to speak (and be) very, very kindly and very, very compassionately with oneself and to speak as if a wise, caring higher self looking down to see him/herself as if it were a child needing nurturance and empowerment. (See Loving Oneself.)
We can do things we think we can get away with or that we think are effective but aren't, but what works best in life is to operate from "ethics" and only from "what works". That is skillful action. And there is no "right/wrong" game wasting one's energy. (See Good/Bad, Right/Wrong Vs. Workable.)
It is essential that the way you make your livelihood is something that fits you, as in "do what you love" and don't allow a lower standard. Matching what you do with your skills and talents and interests causes much greater effectiveness with much less effort and more satisfaction.
And the livelihood must be "ethical", contributing some good to the world or don't bother to start. How you feel about what you do is an essential piece to feeling good about yourself and your life.
Obviously, it will pay off immensely for you to become very, very skilled and to become a master at your livelihood, not just be a "get by" person.
And realize that it is not about being able to make lots of money, though we want to be smart about being in something with decent pay. Part of right thinking is knowing you can live on just a decent income. And one of the advantages of being able to produce and be paid for producing high value is that it allows you the freedom and the time to invest in personally fulfilling activities!
Living a "wholesome" life is what I see as a life I can feel good about. So what I do (action is "effort") is that which is wholesome. That is what I am committed to.
If we are aware (mindful) of our feelings, thoughts, and have right understanding, then we stop ourselves from unskillful behavior - and our world is not repeatedly shaken! We see erroneous messages for what they are and know we don't have to act on them to produce the toxic results. With the skills pointed out initially, we realize that we are not compelled to follow up on improper programming so we don't engage in unskillful, reactive behaviors, such as anger, rage, jealousy, lust, or vengefulness. (To not be compelled and to properly understand our impulses, we need to understand how the brain works. Without that understanding, life is difficult.) We only do loving-kindness, which is the only choice when living a wholesome life.
Given right understanding, we would not engage in greed, doubt, worry (one of the most unskillful practices with vast ineffectiveness and harm), hatred and such, because we know it produces harmful effects on ourselves and others.
Your efforts are to be directed, based on greater and greater levels of skill toward
1. Preventing and overcoming negative states of mind (and using skillful thinking to reply and replace false beliefs toward creating a positive state of mind). Link into the Beliefs section.
This requires zero tolerance and "unremitting mindfulness" (paying attention, being watchful). It also requires returning the mind to the present (using the simple process of simply noticing what is going on, via a practice called "naming and noticing" what you are feeling in your body and what is going on around you, including noting that there is nothing actually happening [in most cases] in any concrete way outside of your mind, that you are still intact, only imagining things in your mind.) This, of course, requires you also to "label" thoughts as just brain recordings firing off with no intelligence while matching some association.
And not accepting anything less or being lazy (unskillful or wishy-washy) about it!!!!!
Note that "skillful effort" means that we apply our efforts to that which is most valuable in life. One cannot get to the point of doing that without being a master of time management who runs his life based on Life Value Productivity principles.
SKILLFUL MINDFULNESS (Paying attention to what is going on!)
For godsakes, we should be aware of what is going on in our bodies (breathing, tensions, pains, posture, etc.), feelings (valence?) and minds (harmful thoughts, "mental constructs" believed as real), so that we can manage them toward a point of balance and harmony, where we do not let things get too far out of whack, where we can avoid virtually any stress throughout the day. This means that we will go without "feeling bad" the entire day.
Although this is also a function of skillful thinking, we should constantly be returning ourself to a position of higher perspective, which we must insist on as the preferred operating mode. In this, we simply ask: "from a higher perspective, what would I do now?" and this returns us to the higher thinking brain that is the real "I am". This will not be done without practices and cues that cause it to come to mind. All wise men use a version, frequently during the day, of The Pause. Highly successful people in life use some written means to cause greater reflection and clarity and implementation of more of what works in life, similar to the essentials that are used by a life champion (as in Living Life As A Life Champion). They will often use some form of journaling, though I think that "deliberate" journaling is the most effective, such as in The Life Improvement Journal.
SKILLFUL CONCENTRATION (Keeping the mind on something long enough to learn and/or get a desired result)
This is, essentially, the skill (ability) of directing the mind to where you want it to be and then maintaining that attention there. It is being "one-pointed" (single focused) but in an easy way, with gentle but firm attention directing and intervention to redirect as needed.
Although many people "make up" that it is difficult to concentrate, the truth is that it can be relatively effortless if it is done in the right way and if it is developed into a habit, where it happens automatically and without effort.
When we direct our mind away from the unhappiness-causers, it leaves us with happiness. Getting good at this is the first level of the skill. Happiness is left when we disappear hatred, when we stop worry, when we focus only on wholesome things (goals, compassion, kindness, self-care, etc.). As you perfect this ability, the effort of it begins to disappear and it becomes a natural, automatic (habitual) way of focusing - and mindfulness itself is enhanced since the mind is freed of distractions occupying its attention.
Since learning is essential to skill building, we cannot learn well without being able to keep our mind on what we are learning! (Duh! Of course!)
And note that we cannot keep our mind on something if we have worrisome or anxious thoughts. Those thoughts arise from unskillful thinking (and ignorance). In skillful thinking one looks at and corrects all mental constructs, especially misbeliefs.
Misbeliefs are the source of the fear emotions, which steal our attention away in a crude attempt for trying to "solve" the "made up", unreal threats. These fear thoughts are a powerful magnet of one's attention and must be thoroughly replaced with true beliefs.
THE ULTIMATE SKILL
The ultimate skill, which is the combination of these skills, is skillful living, where you are a master of managing yourself such that it is easy to acquire whatever skills and knowledge are required to manage the outside world skillfully to produce whatever verifiable effects (results) you want in life. Even a skill level of 80% will transform your life to a very high level of happiness (most of us are in the 20% range, being run by life, emotions, false beliefs, etc., giving in to avoidance, escape, and addictions).
The increased life happiness you will experience will start when you first work on the skills and will then compound in a faster rising upward spiral in happiness over time. This means that you will experience short term results that are better and long term results that are beyond priceless.
NOTE OF CAUTION: NO SHORTCUTS
I hope this helps you see that:
1. you cannot skip the steps to acquiring these skills and
2. hope that circumstances will create you being happier
(If you hope that somehow circumstance will make you happier, that is a sure indication of a poor level of the skill of understanding life.)
You cannot go around it, you cannot find effective shortcuts (though you can find efficiencies with good thinking), you cannot rely on hope - you must go "through" - and then you'll arrive, because this road definitely will get you there!
Don't waste your time in peripheral things, in "getting" stuff, in trying to be approved of, in eating to feel better, etc. and etc. - just focus on this.
Look at what has little value and dump all of it that you can - you'll know you've dropped enough when you notice progress that is faster than you've ever experienced and a sort of peace of mind, where you know you are creating progress yourself, and getting better and better at mastering the components of creating a great life and a pervasive, permanent deep happiness as a natural way of being.
NOW READ AND DO THIS