8 Questions About Life's Hard Questions with Lori Deschene from Tiny Buddha

Updated: December 8, 2011

Corbett Barr

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Expert Enough is honored to be the first stop of the Tiny Buddha book tour for the launch of Simple Wisdom for Life Hard Questions.

What Lori Deschene originally started as just a twitter account sharing mindful quotes and phrases has quickly grown to over 300,000 social media followers. She later founded Tiny Buddha, where she writes about simple wisdom for complex lives.

We had a chance to interview Lori about happiness, life's hard questions, and living a more meaningful life. Read on for Lori's answers and for tips on how you can find more happiness today.

1. What's the basic premise of your site Tiny Buddha?

Tiny Buddha is a community blog based on the idea that we all have something to teach and something to learn. It’s a place where anyone can share a story about what they’ve gone through or what they’re going through, and offer insights to help someone else who may be dealing with the same thing.

2. Why did you decide to start the site?

When I started the site, the @tinybuddha Twitter account was a little over a year old. I’d been tweeting inspirational quotes, and I knew they resonated with people, because they regularly retweeted them, but I started wondering how well we all apply these ideas when we shut down our computers or put down our phones.

I know from experience that it’s a lot easier to consume information than it is to consistently utilize it. And sometimes, learning can even be counterproductive if you spend more time reading and sharing ideas than doing and creating positive change.

I wanted the site to be a place that reminds us that every new moment is an opportunity to be who we want to be—and encourages us to seize that opportunity in as many moments as possible.

3. How does religion play a role in the site and the content you share?

It doesn’t. The site is called Tiny Buddha, and a lot of it revolves around practical Buddhist principles, such as non-attachment and mindfulness.  But really it’s a site about wisdom—from different people of all ages from different backgrounds all over the world.

Contributing writers have ranged in age from 16 to 70; and they’ve come from all types of religious traditions, including Catholicism, Judaism, and Hinduism.

Underneath all our labels, we’re very similar. We all deal with the same universal challenges. My goal with Tiny Buddha was to bring us together based on our shared humanity and uncertainty, as opposed to drawing lines in the sand based on our differing roles and beliefs.

4. What have you learned about finding peace and happiness since starting the site?

The main thing I’ve learned is that I will never find peace or happiness, because implicit in that idea is that it’s something I need to search for outside myself. I have caused myself a lot of pain my lifetime, and it’s mostly because I fought everything so hard.

I fought things I thought weren’t fair; I fought people who I thought were wrong; I fought situations that I felt I couldn’t control; and through it all, I kept wondering when I’d finally create the ideal situation happiness—as if it was a permanent state I could arrive at someday down the road.

I now know that no feeling is permanent, and that I will never know in tomorrow what I’m not willing to create today.

I can’t say that things are always easy these days. I still feel the full range of emotions and deal with difficult circumstances, like everyone else. But now when I’m dwelling on the past or obsessing about the future, I’m aware that I’m choosing to cause myself pain.

I’m also aware that I can choose in any moment where I place my attention and what I tell myself about the things that happen.

5. Do you think technology and the Internet make us happier on the whole?

I think it’s different for everyone. Our gadgets and the Internet—they’re just tools, and like most tools, their function and effect has everything to do with our intention.

If you’re using technology to escape the world, distract yourself, or generally disconnect from the present moment (I know what this is like) then technology will likely not contribute to your happiness.

But if you’re using technology to embrace the world, discover yourself, and more deeply experience the present moment (I also know what this is like) then technology can very well be a fundamental part of your happiness.

6. Tell us about your new book Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Life’s Hard Questions. What did you hope to achieve with it?

I started by asking @tinybuddha Twitter followers a number of the most challenging questions in life, including: What’s the meaning of life? Why is there suffering in the world? What does it take to be happy? Can people change—and how? Nearly 1,000 people responded; ultimately, I chose 200 tweets to weave throughout the book.

I realized that there really aren’t concrete right and wrong answers to these questions, and I wanted to shape the book around this idea: that there are many possible ways to look at the big issues in life. We all need to find the answers that make sense to us individually, and then utilize those answers well for our individual and collective peace and happiness.

My hope is that readers finish the book with a sense of empowerment, knowing that even in a highly uncertain world we have a lot of power to be the people we want to be and live the lives we want to lead.

I actually created a contest that’s running in conjunction with the book. It’s called the “Life’s Hard Questions” contest and anyone can enter through January 15,2012 by submitting a photo of themselves displaying the hardest question in their life at lifeshardquestions.com.

The winners will be chosen at random, though there will be a special prize for the most creative. The prizes include a Canon DSLR camera, two Kindles, and 10 free copies of my book. It’s just another opportunity for people to get involved and share a little of themselves.

7. What advice do you have for people who feel overwhelmed and unhappy with their careers and lives?

Start with what and why. What don’t you like about your career and your life? Why did you choose this path initially? What is it you’d rather do? Why haven’t you done anything to pursue it? This was the most helpful exercise for me, as I realized I was doing something I didn’t want to do  because I thought I should, and I was afraid I couldn’t find something that was more fulfilling.

If you ask these questions—and if you’re honest with yourself—you may be able to identify beliefs and fears that are holding you back, which is the first step to challenging them.

Of course you may not have a clear idea of what you want to do; I didn’t when I asked these questions. But if you know what matters to you in life, you can start taking tiny steps in a new direction.

You might not have it all figured out, but if you’re willing to try and follow your instincts, you will slowly but surely create something that’s more likely to feel satisfying.

8. Can you share a few tips that will help most people live happier, more meaningful lives?

Know your values and priorities, and build your life around them. If the most important things in your world are family, friends, and fun, you will likely never be happy working a 60-hour work week, no matter how much money you earn.

Make purpose a daily practice. I used to think meaning was something I’d create in the future—when I achieved something specific or got a certain job. The first day I felt like I was living a meaningful life was the day I started exploring the big issues in life, one tweet at a time.

Know that we are all only human, and we won’t always be happy in life. But we have immense power to shape how we experience and respond to the world. If we don’t make wise choices in one moment, as long as we’re still breathing, there is always another opportunity to choose.

Thanks Lori for sharing your journey with us! Be sure to check out Lori's new book that launches today: Simple Wisdom for Life Hard Questions.

What about you?

What have you learned about finding peace and happiness in your own life? What keeps you grounded? What advice do you have for unhappy people?

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