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Joie De Vivre, Living With A Ravenous Thirst For Life: “ Identify which of the ‘Ten Worlds’ you spend the most time in” With Dr. Marina Kostina, Dr. Alex Lickerman, and Dr. Ash Eldifrawi

To live “on purpose” means to live with a conscious awareness of what we believe we need to be happy. Most of us remain unconscious of these beliefs despite the fact that they’re the beliefs that, at the core, determine everything we think, feel, and do. To become fully mindful of these beliefs, to be […]


To live “on purpose” means to live with a conscious awareness of what we believe we need to be happy. Most of us remain unconscious of these beliefs despite the fact that they’re the beliefs that, at the core, determine everything we think, feel, and do. To become fully mindful of these beliefs, to be able to recognize how they motivate us, is to be able to assume more control of our lives. As most of the beliefs we have about what will make us permanently happy are, in fact, delusions, to wake up to the particular delusions about what we believe we need to be happy represents the first step toward freeing ourselves from them. And when we embrace more accurate beliefs about what will make us happy, we begin to manifest our most authentic, wisest, happiest self.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Alex Lickerman, MD and Ash Eldifrawi, PsyD. Alex Lickerman, MDis a former assistant professor of medicine and director of primary care at the University of Chicago. He has been quoted in NPR, Crain’s Chicago Business, The Chicago Tribune, Men’s Health, the New York Times and TIME, and has written for Psychology Today, Crain’s Chicago Business, USA Today, Slate, The Huffington Post and more. He’s the founder and CEO of a direct primary care medical practice called ImagineMD. Ash Eldifrawi, MA, Psy.Dbegan his career as a clinical psychologist as an inaugural fellow at the renowned Center for Family Health at the University of Chicago. Dr. ElDifrawi is also trained as a forensic examiner, drug abuse counselor, and certified marriage and family therapist. After transitioning to a career in marketing, Dr. ElDifrawi has held senior positions at companies including Google, McKinsey, Wrigley, Gogo, and currently Redbox. Dr. ElDifrawi is still a licensed clinical psychologist in Illinois.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Alex began practicing Buddhism in his first year of medical school and soon after told Ash about a Buddhist paradigm called the Ten Worlds. The Ten Worlds describes ten inner life states through which human beings constantly cycle, a categorization that Buddhist philosophers came to after centuries of observation. The highest of the Ten Worlds, the world of Enlightenment, had always intrigued Alex, who wondered if it were a real thing and not some made-up, mystical fairytale. As Ash progressed in his training as a clinical psychologist, he became interested in why so many of his patients were so bad at making themselves happy. He suggested that the Ten Worlds paradigm might represent a new way — a better way — of explaining why people have such a hard time establishing and maintaining happiness. After more than twenty years of research, reflection, and investigation, Alex and Ash have translated the Ten Worlds paradigm into a modern-day psychological model that they contend explains the basic causes of happiness and how to attain it.

What does it mean for you to live “on purpose”? Can you explain? How can one achieve that?

To live “on purpose” means to live with a conscious awareness of what we believe we need to be happy. Most of us remain unconscious of these beliefs despite the fact that they’re the beliefs that, at the core, determine everything we think, feel, and do. To become fully mindful of these beliefs, to be able to recognize how they motivate us, is to be able to assume more control of our lives. As most of the beliefs we have about what will make us permanently happy are, in fact, delusions, to wake up to the particular delusions about what we believe we need to be happy represents the first step toward freeing ourselves from them. And when we embrace more accurate beliefs about what will make us happy, we begin to manifest our most authentic, wisest, happiest self.

Do you have an example or story in your own life of how your pain helped to guide you to finding your life’s purpose?

When Ash realized that he was living in the world of Tranquility because at his core he believed a happy life was a life free from pain, he realized every decision he made was driven by his desire to avoid pain. This belief had made him both incredibly indecisive (a wrong choice risked pain and loss) and fearful. Once he realized how controlled he was by this belief — and even more importantly, that this belief was wrong, that enduring happiness couldn’t be gained by seeking to minimize pain — he freed himself from it and began to make more courageous decisions, decisions that risked more but that rewarded more as well. This freed him to make decisions that better reflected his values and goals, that enabled him, in other words, to more fully live a purposeful life.

The United States is currently rated at #18 in the World Happiness Report. Can you share a few reasons why you think the ranking is so low?

Our great material successes in the U.S. have helped stir up one of the core delusions in particular in many of us, namely that getting what we want will make us happy. Expecting the fulfillment of our desires to lead to lasting happiness is a delusion, but one many of us in the U. S. remain trapped by. Because acquiring our desires does make us happy temporarily, however, we keep going back to the trough, thinking we’ve only failed to desire the one right thing that will make us permanently happy. So we chase after material possessions, relationships, money, power, anything about which we think: “If only I could attain this thing, then I’ll be happy,” never realizing that there’s nothing we can attain that will turn us into happier people. So we keep trying to attain new things and live in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We believe all the work we’ve done in developing the Ten Worlds model can greatly help others to awaken to the fundamental reasons they aren’t happier — or happy at all — and point the way to a happiness that can’t be destroyed by anything, the happiness found in the tenth world, the world of Enlightenment, which turns out not to be a fairytale at all, but rather a state attainable, we argue, by us all.

What are your 6 strategies to help you face your day with exuberance, “Joie De Vivre” and a “ravenous thirst for life”? Can you please give a story or example for each?

1. Identify which of the Ten Worlds you spend the most time in — your basic life tendency.

2. Learn to recognize when the core delusion that creates that world is stirred up in you.

3. Practice distancing yourself from your incorrect beliefs about what will make you happy to minimize their control over you.

4. Seek to see everything in the world like a child, as sublime, to induce a feeling of awe.

5. Induce awe by discovering what best triggers it: nature, beautiful works of art or music.

6. Seek to quiet your sense of self by inducing awe at the world around you. It’s by quieting your sense of self that you can best experience the transcendent joy of the world of Enlightenment.

ALTERNATIVE APPROACH:

Practice gratitude. Story: We have a tradition in our families called “Three good things.” Each night at dinner, each of us lists three good things that happened to us that day. This not only allows us to focus on all the good rather than the bad, but during the day it’s a reminder to observe, in the moment, all the good that happens around us.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that most inspired you to live with a thirst for life?

Oprah — Super Soul Sunday

Simple Soul

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that relates to having a Joie De Vivre? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

We like the one from the last chapter, “Enlightenment,” by Albert Einstein:

“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We’re working on conducting more quantitative research on the Ten Worlds model, which we believe will help people use it in more of a prescriptive, rather than just descriptive, manner. For example, we hypothesize that some basic life tendencies are less compatible with others and might be a useful tool with which to predict the success of relationships.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We’d love to see the Ten Worlds paradigm become widely disseminated and for its terminology to become part of our everyday dialogue. Ideally, we’d become a society in which people first asked themselves, “What incorrect belief has me in its grip?” whenever they felt themselves becoming unhappy.

We also think this excerpt from the last chapter of our book captures the spirit of another movement we would love to ignite:

When we’re in the life-condition of Enlightenment, we love the world and everything and everyone in it so much that we find ourselves compelled to try to solve the problem of human conflict, the problem of human suffering, in the most fundamental way. We feel compelled, in other words, to help all people become indestructibly happy. For not only would that solve the problem of human suffering, it would also result in the greatest accomplishment of all: world peace.

Many argue that human nature itself precludes the possibility of world peace, that even the idea of world peace is a childish fantasy. Certainly, the human race will never lose its capacity to be led astray by the core delusions in its collective pursuit of happiness and will therefore always create conflict and misery for itself. But this only explains why the path to world peace won’t ever be found in the passing of more laws or in diplomacy: we simply can’t legislate or negotiate wisdom. But if wisdom is the key to happiness, world peace might yet be found in the life-condition of Enlightenment.

Because just imagine what the world would be like if enough people felt that the single most important thing they could do — that their most urgent personal need — was to help everyone around them achieve the same kind of happiness they themselves had found in the life-condition of Enlightenment.

World peace would indeed be within reach.

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