Some Reddit Gold (Motivational, Life Advice)

What follows is something I came across on Reddit. Per one of the comments, I am taking the liberty to republish it here. It will only take you a few minutes to read and I’m positive everyone can glean something of value from it. Of particular interest to me are the ideas about Dopamine and it’s role in motivation, and how we can influence it and positively manage it. Also, Flow Activities. And lastly, what the author write about getting on a healthy sleep schedule is correct: wake and eat early, stay up, repeat. So much good stuff here. Without further ado, enjoy:

[METHOD] How I went from rock bottom to disciplined in 6 months.

Hi, I wish to share my journey of getting disciplined. I hope you will take something away from this :). I would like to mention that I’m not a native English speaker, so forgive me for any grammar and/or spelling mistakes.

TLDR; Build positive habits on a foundation of willpower, not motivation.

Start reading non-fiction and apply it in your life. Work on your physiology, it should be the foundation for productivity and discipline.

Lessen the amount of superstimuli in your life to get more dopamine (motivation).

Flow activities should be the goal in life, not mind numbing pleasure.

Start a bullet journal where you color code all activities you do each day positive or negative.

It all started when I realized I had hit rock bottom. I was getting up at 3pm everyday. Only ate junkfood, lay in bed watching YouTube and smoking a lot of weed. My room was always a complete mess. I completely disregarded my study while I was living of a study loan. Every night I would hang out with a friend who would do the same and we’d smoke weed and watch screens until about 5 am. It really was rock bottom. This went on for a long time until I saw I had to change my life.

HABIT BUILDING

I read a book called The Slight Edge. The idea of the book was that with consistent, incremental improvement, anyone could reach anything. It also debunked the idea of a ‘quantum leap’, which at first I believed in. I liked the idea and started implementing it to form positive habits in my life. I started with nofap, meditation, reading, cleaning and some more. I made a lot of mistakes when I first started out. So some advice on habit building I have accumulated is this:

DON’T TRUST MOTIVATION. Motivation is good if it’s there but it shouldn’t be the foundation of the habits you create. Why? because motivation isn’t always there, and when it’s gone you also lose the habits that you build on top of it. I experienced this a lot of times. I would have a streak of 100+ days meditation, miss 3 days and completely give up until I had the motivation again to start over.

So how can I build habits then? Do it based on willpower. The big difference is not to say to yourself “I’m gonna read 20 pages every day because I’m so motivated to gain knowledge.” But that you say “I’m going force myself to start reading everyday because I will have enough willpower to always do that.”

The key is that if you make the requirement so small that you can always do it, you will never fail. So doing for example 1 pushup everyday. You will never fail that requirement. But if you have very little motivation one day and think about doing 20 pushups, it just seems intimidating and you don’t do it.

Some people might say “only starting to read or doing 1 push up will never get me anywhere.” And I agree, but the thing is that you can do more. And you will usually do more. Once you forced yourself, with willpower, to get into push up position and do 1 push up, you’ll probably think “I can do one more, and one more” and so on. Same for reading, once you’ve forced yourself to sit in a chair with a book and started reading, you wont stop after just 1 word. You will do a lot more than the initial requirement more times then not. It will also give you a sense of “I did this”. Especially if your requirement is, say, 1 push up, and you do 10. You will have done 9 extra. As opposed to when you require yourself to do 20 and do 10. You will have done 10 too little.

Try it right now, force yourself on the ground to do one push up. I’m sure you have the willpower to do that.

The key is to make the requirement so small you will never fail it. Build the habit on a foundation of willpower, if motivation comes along, that’s great.

READING

The one habit that has done the most for my life is to read non-fiction. I bought an e-reader and started to read daily. I recommend buying an e-reader a lot. Here are some of the benefits:

– Very portable, whenever I’m in public transport I pull it out and read some pages.

– Buying books is instant and you can read anything you’d like

– If you have little money there are a lot of places where you can download ebooks for free

– It has a backlight, so you can read in your bed, lying on your side, in the dark. Most come with blue light filters as well.

Some of the benefits of reading non-fiction

– You can learn directly from great people

– There are books on anything that you find interesting (for me it’s psychology)

– There are a lot of self-help books on the market that will give you advice that you can practically apply in your life.

I’m sure there are a lot more, but for the sake of not writing a book as a post this will do.

I think the most important thing as a prerequisite for discipline is good physiology. If you aren’t feeling good it’s hard to do things that would count as disciplined behavior. So that’s why I would recommend reading some books about physiology.

Books that have had a profound impact on my life are; Mini habits, Meet Your Happy Chemicals, The HeartMath Solution, The Willpower Instinct, Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience and Awareness Through Movement.

If your read all these books you will learn; how to create healthy habits in your life without making it hard; how your brain chemicals work; how to instantly lower stress and deal with negative thought and emotion, how willpower works, why it matters and how to get more of it; how orgasm induces neurochemical brain changes for 2 weeks and how it’s evolutionary designed to break romantic relationships; what a flow experience is, and why it should be the goal for all activities in life to turn into one; that everyone stops progressing in the most basic things like breathing, posture etc. because only the minimal in life is needed to get on, it also provides lessons on how to improve these parts of life.

Gaining knowledge in this field will give you the ability to make the changes in your life that will benefit your overall feeling. Feeling good overall, in your body and mind, is required for doing productive things.

DOPAMINE

I’m a psychology student so when I got into self help I was naturally interested in the brain’s place in self improvement.

Dopamine is the key player here. Most people think dopamine is responsible for ‘pleasure’. This is a big misunderstanding. Dopamine is actually responsible for ‘wanting’ and motivation.

When the dopamine part of the brain was first discovered, it was discovered in rats. The researchers hooked up a lever to the rats’ dopamine circuit to shock the dopamine circuit (mimicking dopamine release) whenever the rats would pull the lever. The rats soon ignored anything else and only pulled the lever until they died of starvation and fatigue. Next the researchers (this one is a bit cruel) would have 2 levers on the opposite sides of a cage that would produce a ‘dopamine hit’ if pressed after the other. To make it interesting they put an electrically charged grid in between that would give the rats a painful shock if they walked over it. So now the rats would have to cross the grid every time they wanted another ‘dopamine hit’. Shockingly (lol) the rats would run across it until they burned of their legs and couldn’t walk anymore. The researchers concluded from these experiments that this dopamine circuit was responsible for creating pleasure. Nowadays this is proved to be wrong and the actual function of the dopamine circuit is believed to be wanting and motivation.

Most things people like to do give a lot of dopamine (much more than anything would have given in nature). Things like watching TV (or netflix), internet, drugs, processed foods, porn, gambling and videogames. Things that give us a lot of dopamine tend to be addicting. No wonder I was only smoking, watching screens and lying in bed when I hit rock bottom.

Now, why should you care? The reason is very simple. Exposure to high dopamine for longer periods of time REDUCES DOPAMINE RECEPTORS. Lower dopamine receptors give you lower motivation, lower concentration and less mental sharpness. With there being a lot of supernaturally high dopamine giving activities and substances available to us we should all be aware in what amount we should consume them. This is the reason why there are more college and university dropouts more than ever before. Why so many people are unhappy at work. And why there are more cases of depression than ever before (depression is linked to lower dopamine).

Big companies know about this and use it to sell us as much as possible and keep them on their platforms for longer. They put the exact amount of sugar in all foods so that we like it the most, they design their platforms so you stay on them a lot (Facebook and Instagram), they implement gambling into games so that we play them more (Fortnite).

So what to take away from all this? Lessen the amount of activities you do each day that give you a lot of dopamine and don’t add anything to your life. This will give you a natural amount of dopamine receptors again and will make it a lot easier to stay concentrated while reading or learning an instrument for example.

FLOW ACTIVITIES

1 book that has made a profound impact on my life is the book Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience. The idea of the book is that there are certain activities that for which your brain needs 100% of it’s power to be focused on the activity. This is when you reach a ‘Flow state’. In this state you lose the idea of the self, you lose track of time and are only focused on the task at hand. For example when you drive somewhere and you get there and don’t remember how you got there.

Flow occurs when your skill matches the challenge of the activity. When your skill is too high, you will be bored, when the challenge is too high you will be anxious.

The key idea from this book, for me, was the difference between pleasure and enjoyment. Pleasure activities are ones that give the high amount of dopamine. Whereas enjoyable activities also give dopamine, but also make you better at the task and will often produce a state of Flow. Enjoyment produces growth, pleasure does not.

I think that any activity in life that is not a pure pleasure activity can be made into a flow activity. It’s one of my goals in life to fill my day with enjoyable activities. It made me realize I wanted to fill my day with making music and reading, not with smoking and watching TV.

JOURNALING

One of the best habits I have build is journaling. More specifically bullet journaling. I’m not sure if this is the official way to do it but this is what I do and what works for me.

People pay coaches a lot of money to do something they can do themselves as well; give feedback. All a coach does is tell you what you’ve done, and where you can improve. This is something you can do yourself easily by bullet journaling.

My method: I have a simple notebook where I use the left and right page for 1 day. In the morning I write down some things I want to do that day on the left page. If there are things I wanted to do yesterday I write them down for today. I also write a bit about how I feel. Recently I’ve been doing some affirmations as well on that page. You can skip this entire left page, I personally like it, but I can understand how it’s a bit much for some people. You could also experiment with it and change it up how you like it.

The real magic (and the reason I made the coach analogy) is on the right page. Here is where I write down every influential activity I do. I won’t write down things like ‘have breakfast’ or ‘short chat with roommate’. I write down everything that has a positive or a negative meaning (some things are neutral like doing groceries). Then at the end of the day I will use a marker to color code every activity either green (positive) or red (negative). So for example:

(green) get up at 6am

(green) take a cold shower

(green) meditate

(red) smoke a joint

(red) waste an hour on Netflix

(green) go to school

(red) hangout with X toxic friend and drink beer

I hope you see what I meant with the coach analogy now. You will get a lot of feedback on what you do each day. When I first started doing this I was shocked by how much red activities I had and made it a mission to get more green activities in there. It was slow progress but steadily it got better.

If you don’t like the left part of the journaling (which is how most people recommend it), I would advice you to try the right page. If you’re gonna do one, it should be the right page. See it as a free life coach.

SLEEP SCHEDULE

When I was at rock bottom my schedule was the furthest away from perfect that it could possibly be. One of the first things I changed that lasted was my sleeping schedule. I was done waking when it’s almost dark already and still being tired. Also I noticed that everything I did in the late evening wasn’t productive (or even counterproductive) like watching screens and doing drugs

There are good reasons to wake up early (5-6-7 AM). The best sleep you can get is the sleep between 10 and 12. If you’re still awake at 00:00 you will produce cortisol and adrenaline to keep you awake. This isn’t healthy. Good sleep improves cognitive function, vitality and motivation by a lot. There are many more benefits to a good sleeping schedule, and I think it’s well known that it’s a lot better. However most people think it’s hard to change their schedule.

It’s not. This is how you do it;

– Set your alarm at your goal wake up time (EG 6 am)

– When it goes, get out of bed, immediately eat breakfast

– Don’t sleep the rest of the day

– Make sure you stop all screens by 9:30 and are in bed before 10:00

– Set the alarm again, you will most likely wake up before it goes.

It’s as easy as this, now all you have to do is to stick with it. Start enjoying the vast amount if time you have available in the morning.

This post has gotten a lot longer than I anticipated. I really appreciate you reading it all the way through. If you have any questions feel free to post a comment or shoot me a message. I hope some of this has been helpful and I hope you will find success and happiness in life! Peace!

 

Source link.

TBD

A person asks who they are,
Who might they become…
And years are lost this way,
Spent in abstact thought rather than concrete action

To declare ourselves
As hero and author of our story,
In deed rather than word,
Is to know we are not who we think we are
But what we are, as we have made ourselves.

Happiness Demystified: Synthetic Happiness and Your Blueprint

Yesterday, I read the transcript for a Ted talk from 2004, titled, “The surprising Science of Happiness“, and in this talk, Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, basically says that we have two ways of producing happiness: getting what we want, which he calls “Natural happiness”, and changing our minds, creating what Gilbert calls “Synthetic happiness”.

An example of synthetic happiness Gilbert gives is Sir Thomas Brown, who wrote in 1642, “I am the happiest man alive. I have that in me that can convert poverty to riches, adversity to prosperity. I am more invulnerable than Achilles; fortune hath not one place to hit me.”

The speaker calls this happiness synthetic rather than natural, because it is decided – not by events or circumstances, but by a kind of Stoic force of Will.

Now, most people do not posses this degree of omnipotence over their own programming, their own “reality”, and I think Gilbert provides the reasoning for this, here:

“…in our society, we have a strong belief that synthetic happiness is of an inferior kind.

Why do we have that belief? Well, it’s very simple. What kind of economic engine would keep churning if we believed that not getting what we want could make us just as happy as getting it?”

This matrix we live in is complex; there are a lot of forces at play from within and without, and society is, no doubt, the mirror we look in. This informs our scripts, our stories, which brings me to the second piece of the puzzle.

We think we are unhappy because of what we don’t have, but we’re really unhappy because life isn’t how we think it should be.

Today I was watching an inspirational Tony Robbins talk, and while there were a lot of great ideas in it from the start, there was something that really stood out to me, which was really well articulated. And while I’ve listened to Tony Robbins since I was a teenager, this idea struck me as a newer concept within his paradigmatic mode of teaching.

Here’s the core of it:

“If you and I want to know what it takes to be happy, then we have to understand what our current blueprint is. And what do I mean by blueprint; well, we have a story in our head of how life’s supposed to be. Some people’s story is you work hard in school, you become really great, you’re a nice person, you’re a good person, and you grow up and you take care of yourself, and you find the ideal man, and you fall in love, and you have a white picket fence, and you have three children, and you live happily ever after.

Somebody else’s story was – the old story was – you work really hard in school, you excel in college, you go to work for a big corporation, and you move up through the ranks until you’re the president or chairman of the company and you become successful and respected throughout life. These are old stories, old archetypes, and many don’t exist anymore. 

But there’s still one archetype that’s really prevalent, and that’s the idea that to be happy, you really have to achieve a lot in life.”

“I’m now going to show you what the formula for happiness is. And it’s real simple. I’m going to reveal it to you, so you don’t ever forget it. And it’s real simple. And what it is, is, whenever you’re happy with an area of your life, it’s because, right now, your current life experience, – I call it your LC, your Life Conditions, the conditions of your life, in that area, match or are equal to your blueprint or story, your belief about how life should be in that area.”

“Let’s see if we can find the formula for unhappiness. If the formula for happiness is be able to meet your expectations or exceed them – that really makes you excited – but to be happy you have to got to at least meet it, doesn’t have to be perfect but if you generally are meeting what you expect you want from your life in that area, you feel good: life conditions match blueprint, feel good.”

“Here’s the formula for unhappiness,

When your life conditions, the way you’re living your life today, does not match – it doesn’t equal – your blueprint meet your blueprint, your story of how it’s supposed to be, then you’re going to have disappointment, frustration, or pain.

If you’re life is way different than you think it’s supposed to be, you can have enormous pain. If it’s a little different, you might feel stressed.”

“You can not have your economic needs met and still be okay, but when you have an idea, this IS what my need is, and I did the wrong thing; my life doesn’t match how I’m supposed to be: that’s when people get a little crazy.” 

“You might find yourself really angry and frustrated because you have a different story about how life’s supposed to be than how it is.”

“You only have two choices in life. If life doesn’t match your blueprint, you either have to change your life or change or, in order for you to be happy – if you can’t change your life – you’re going to have to change your blueprint. And usually in life it requires a little of each. And if you change your life and your blueprint, you can have an extraordinary life.”

This is powerful knowledge. Happiness from getting what we want isn’t the only way.

We each have a wellspring of synthetic happiness available to us – the happiness from changing our minds, from adjusting our blueprints.

English writer and wordsmith Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) once wrote:

“It seems to be the fate of all man to seek all his consolations in futurity.”

And we all do this.

We think, I’ll be happy when.

This is no way to live. The time for consolation, for solace, for peace, is now.

Remember, the ego is the part of you that wants things to be or not to be a certain way. We think we are unhappy because of what we don’t have, but we’re really unhappy because life isn’t how we think it should be.

The old adage rings true, happiness if reality minus expectations, but so few of us actually take ownership of our expectations or even really examine their effect on us.

Your life is too short to suffer unnecessarily – even for a moment.

Examine your expectations, your blueprint, your story for how life should be and make today the day you stop letting these scripts in your mind limit your happiness.

Happiness, and Two Kinds of Selfishness: Having The Courage to Be Happy

If we could take our days, from today out, and write a fairy tale of our lives, what course might we chart? What destiny might we find to occupy our time before our days run out?

My heart beats in me, ticking, reminding me that one day, it will give up the ghost. My shortness of breath, a symptom of what seems to be walking pneumonia, too reminds me that I am but mortal.

And so, at thirty, I am conducting myself like one who knows he will die.

This, of course, means that I today am regarding myself and my time with an appropriate degree of reverence – particularly when it comes to others who do not.

There are, in fact – and unfortunately so – few who possess the shining disposition, joie de vivre, and omnipotent idealism I have so fiercely fought to cultivate within myself. Qualities that lead me towards happy solitude rather than resigned contentment; for happiness is everything.

Happiness is everything.

Happiness is the key to success, the cornerstone of love, and the linchpin of inner peace. Only, we chase our tails, placing the cart before the horse, pushing an impossible stone up a hill with no summit in sight; in short: we make life a very hard battle in our fight to be happy – in our belief that success, love, and inner peace will bring us happiness.

What we forget, what people who are old and dying remember, is that happiness is a choice.

What they don’t tell you, however, is that while happiness is a choice, it can very often be a hard choice. And, as I have long said, the easy thing and the right thing are seldom the same. Our happiness is no different; we must choose between making the hard choice or facing the toughest of consequences. When viewed in this light, some of the hardest choices you will ever have to make become very easy.

Yes, happiness sometimes means leaving that person who says they love you (But won’t stop communicating with other people behind your back and lying to you about it). Happiness also sometimes means going against what other people think you ought do and become. Happiness can also sometimes mean not listening to others, who often have their very own selfish motives for trying to chart your life course to suit their aims. But all of these choices have one commonality, and that’s the thread that each is a decision between what others want and what you want; for happiness always means listening to your own heart and intuition, which, in borrowing the words of Steve Jobs, somehow already know what you want to become.

courageHappiness requires courage.

Happiness requires that you be the hero of your story – not the victim. Happiness requires you to exercise the latent traits that exist in each of us: courage, faith in ourselves, a belief in our desires, and the ability to face our fears. We can all do these things. Only, most of us are too afraid to let others down. We are too afraid to exercise the healthy selfishness that happiness demands of us.

I spent my entire life living this way. And not only did my happiness suffer as I made myself a martyr of other’s happiness, but I also made myself incredibly easy to manipulate. In essence: I was walked on like a doormat time and time again, because some people are savages. Some people take advantage of others. Some people lack the things that most make us human, things like empathy and compassion.

There are two kinds of selfishness: the first is wielded by those who let others down and never take responsibility for it, instead, often blaming the very people they hurt. Whereas the latter, is a kind of selfishness exercised only as a means to preserve happiness, rather than selfishness that serves as a tool for happiness at the expense of others, as the former does.

The first results from lacking empathy and compassion for others, which is, in effect, a kind of ignorant malice. The second kind of selfishness, that which preserves happiness, is simply when you put your own happiness and inner peace before those who would do repeated harm to it.

Unfortunately, the very people who would exercise their own ignorant selfishness at your expense will have you believe that you are doing the same to them, when you are simply saying, I’m sorry, but the sanctity of my self-respect, the security of my inner-child, and the inner peace of my being – the very things my happiness requires – are more important to me than any relationship.

Because if you spend your life afraid to speak up for your inner voice, too scared to stand up for your values, and too concerned with pleasing those who do not have the depth of empathy and compassion to care for you in the manner you do them, then you will suffer. And the acid of your suffering will eat away at your soul, often until you find a greater pain with which to bury it. Addictions, self-harm, destructive behavior – these things are often all manifestations of a soul in pain. And what a soul in pain needs, what your inner child needs, is a hero. Someone to stand up for you, someone who will speak up for the sanctity of your self-respect and the security of your inner peace. And the only person who can do this is You.

You are either the hero of your story or the victim. Any victim can be miserable. But it takes a hero to be happy.

And yes, you will have to let others down. But there are always two people to let down: yourself or others. And you have to choose whom, in a given situation, you will let down. You have to ask yourself, which choice will let you sleep better at night. Because betraying yourself is the worst kind of betrayal there is. And it will eat away at your soul. It will eat at your soul until you are a shell of the person you once were. And then, after you have tried to fill that shell with whatever hurts more than the pain or your own self-betrayal, and that pain becomes too much for you, then and only then will you learn. And maybe this time, you will let down those who deserve it, by virtue of – or lack of it in – their own actions.

So, from here, where do I go? Well, I begin to reward myself; for the hard choices I must make, I decide that I will make a fairy tale of my life. And no one will stop me.

Completely Uncommon Advice on Happiness from Robina Courtin

Robina Courtin Quote

30-year Tibetan Buddhist Nun (and total bad ass) Robina Courtin delivered a talk at Google in 2008 that’s chock-full of immensely refreshing, yet completely uncommon advice on happiness, neurosis, and “being your own therapist”.

Powerful, powerful stuff.

Uncommon Advice on Happiness from Rebina Courtin’s 2008 Talk at Google: Be Your Own Therapist

Overview from Youtube:

We spend our lives being seduced by the outside world, believing without question that happiness and suffering come from “out there.” In reality, Buddhist teachings explain that they come from the way we perceive and interpret things, not the things themselves.

This deeply held misconception is at the root of our dissatisfaction, self-doubt, anger, depression, anxiety, and the rest. But our minds can change. By becoming deeply familiar with the workings of our own cognitive processes through introspection and learning to deconstruct them – truly, being our own therapists – we can loosen the grip of these neuroses and grow our marvelous potential for contentment, clarity, and courage, which are at the core of our being.


Note: Typically when I watch a talk, or read a book, I am thrilled if I can walk away with one really good idea to put into my toolkit; however, at 29 years old, the following quote is perhaps the best single piece of advice I’ve heard on happiness in the last five years. It’s the psychology of happiness in a single sentence.

“Happiness is – it’s really simple, it’s what you get when you give up the neurosis.” Robina Courtin

The rest of the entry contains a WEALTH of additional wisdom from the same talk, expanding on this idea.

Giving up Neurosis to Find Happiness

“The extent of which we are caught up in any given moment in low self-esteem, depression, anger, jealousy, you name it… The extent to which we’re caught up in those is the extent of which we suffer.

The extent of which we are not caught up in those and therefore the extent which we’re involved in kind of, you know, connecting with others, empathy, being harmonious, forgiving…T he extent of which they’re prevalent in our minds at any given moment is the extent to which we are happy.

It’s an incredibly simple little recipe in Buddhist terms. We (most people) think it [happiness] is what you get when you get what you want. He [The Buddah] says it’s what you get when you give up the neurosis – so the technique is learning to know your mind, being your own therapist.”

Don’t Think About Calming Your Mind, Think About Steadying it’s Focus

“A calm mind can be a busy mind. And if you think about it, what causes the problems isn’t a busy mind, it’s when the–the busy mind is caught up in fear about yourself and worry of what people think about you, am I good enough, am I too fat, am I too thin and depression and jealous and anxiety and all the rest. That’s the stuff that causes the misery. If you’re full of thoughts about being useful to others all day and being content with yourself, well, please go for it, you know. You don’t have a problem, believe me.”

On Using the Full Brilliant Power of Your Mind to Your Advantage

“Don’t try to hold yourself back. Love the fact that you’ve got a brilliant mind, that you’re a real thinker – this is the technique, this is the tool that you can use to be your own therapist, to use this cognitive process to deconstruct your own stuff. Okay, alongside that intelligence, you need some, you know integrity, you need humility, you need the wish to look at yourself, you need the will to want to, the ability–and the wish to want to go beyond blame and hurt that alongside this intelligence, that’s a marvelous packaging I tell you. That’s the stuff that we need. Intelligence on its own is a disaster. You can still be in an infantile at the age of 90 even if you’re a genius, you know?”

On Anger, Jealousy, Fear, and Attachment

“Lack of emotional intelligence is what we have when we have anger, and jealousy and fear, and attachment because these are totally self-centered, unhappy, miserable states of mind.”

Facing Self-Knowledge With Courage and Self-Compassion Rather Than Low Self-Esteem and Self-Loathing

“It’s a question of knowing yourself well – taking responsibility, but on the basis of the fact that you can change – not, “Oh, I’m so guilty, I’m so bad”. Not that at all, which is a knee-jerk reaction we tend to have when we point out problems in ourselves. That’s not the attitude here. It’s a courageous attitude. It’s just, “Okay, I am jealous, I get depressed, I am this, I am that, what a drag, it’s breaking my heart.” You’ve got to have compassion for yourself really, which is a brand new idea for us. We love to hate ourselves.”

The Importance of Identifying with Your Positive Potential

“The more strongly you can kind of identify with your positive potential, the more you have the courage, don’t you, to see the things that are holding you back. But the crucial one for me is we take one thing from this room: I can change. It sounds so simple, it’s almost embarrassing but you check the major level at which we suffer when things are going bad, we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. This is why we despair.”

Mindfulness as Kind of Cognitive Behavioral Tool

“We can mold our minds, our thoughts and feelings into any shape we like, you know and this is the thing here. The level of which I’m discussing here, the level of practice based upon these really marvelous techniques where you can learn to focus your mind, you then use the skill of–of this–really a process of cognitive therapy and I’m really not kidding. Buddha is a master of cognitive therapies. You learn more and more clearly, literally to hear the millions of voices inside there that now are racing like I said out of control all day everyday.”

The Neurotic “I” – Neuroticism as a Product of our Sense of Self and Self-Centeredness

“The basis of the neurotic voices, the fearful ones, the angry ones, the jealous, the depression is a neurotic sense of self of”I.” You think about it, even if Monica and I are sitting, having a very friendly conversation, I’m listening to her and she is listening to me and I crack [her jokes]–you know I laugh at her jokes and she laughs at mine. You think about this carefully when it’s very easygoing, there’s no real vivid sense of “I” this, “I am listening to Monica” – you’re kind of connected to her. There’s a sense of interdependence, isn’t there? There’s a sense of “we.” Now you watch what happens when you start to argue, that “we” is cut in half right there. The unhappy “I” is kind of quiet like a sleeping lion, and there’s a sense of connected to otherness. But then when that’s cut, you kind of revert back into yourself and the “I” rises loudly and you’re panicking and your heart’s beating and the blood’s racing and ‘she did this’ and ‘I said that’, ‘it’s not fair’, ‘poor me’ this – that’s the voice – the “I”, the neurotic “I,” behind all the unhappy states of mind – that’s their character.”

The Neurotic Voices are Not at The Core of Your Being, They Can be Changed

“So even to think ‘wow, that’s interesting, maybe it’s possible, maybe what Buddha says is possible, that they’re not at the core of my being [the neurotic voices], that I can learn to look into these and deconstruct them and hear the voices and unpack them and slowly, cognitively change myself.’ This is the process I’m talking about here. “

A Question About Materialism and Happiness: The Distinction Between The Thing and Your Interpretation of It

Note: This might be the magnum opus of the lessons here. An attendee asks an assumptive question about the best way to live in order to be happy and the reply is just not at all what you would assume.

Question: “So since it’s pretty pointless to pursue a job and the girlfriend and the dollars and the car, would the most practical thing for us to be, is to just take care of a little bit of shelter and food and spend all the rest of the time in contemplation?”

Answer: “How revolting. I couldn’t stand a life like that. No, you’ve gone ridiculous. There’s nothing wrong with millions of dollars and jobs and girlfriends and gorgeous things, no, no you’re chucking the baby out of the bath water. You went too far, you became kind of nihilistic. No, that’s not the point. You can have your cake and eat it too sweetheart, and I’m really serious here. The Buddha makes this enormous distinction between the thing itself and your interpretation of it, and what he is describing here–the problem is our interpretation of the girlfriend, of the money – if you put all your eggs in those baskets, believing primordially that having them equals happiness, he says that’s when you will be disappointed, because you just got the wrong recipe. So he doesn’t say give them up, he says change your way of interpreting them.

Happiness is dependent upon you changing, getting rid of your neurotic attachment, getting rid of all your craving for people to love you, getting –I mean I am talking of the neurotic side here–rid of the craving for people to approve of you, to think you’re fantastic, for the dollars in the bank – the neurotic dependence on that stuff is what I am talking about, not the stuff itself. …So that’s not the answer, we’re in this world of abundance and money and things and color and shapes and music and sounds, it’s kind of a sophisticated view. The first level is maybe you back away for a while, while you go into retreat mode, you know. But eventually with skill, you’re going to have your cake and eat it too. It’s giving up the neurotic attitude towards the things, not the things themselves. That’s a major, major point. Makes sense, doesn’t it?”

Watch the full Talk Below

Note: I really enjoyed Robina Courtin’s demeanor – she seems like a definite non-people pleaser, which I mean as a compliment; although I did cringe at a few of the things she said, but watching this was a reminder that spirituality does not have to strip you of your confidence nor your personality and that decreasing your suffering can empower you to live the highest manifestation of both.

Follow Robina Courtin on Facebook.

Update: 11/8/2014

The following was a comment I posted on a thread in the Stoicism group I am in on facebook. I wanted to add it here as it relates to my own personal ethos on life, from an increasingly Buddhist perspective.

In my very limited (but growing) understanding of Buddhist teachings, I feel that The Buddha was a master of perspective. I feel like Buddhism compliments Stoicism very well; through Stoicism I gain understanding, through Buddhism I gain perspective. Definitely something I would love to see a dedicated thread on in the future. And regarding positive thought, I am inclined to agree with you, especially when examining the Stoic practice of negative visualization (imagining loss, ex: preparing for bad traffic in LA). The older I get the less I subscribe to new age positive thinking, instead favoring wisdom. There’s certainly a point at which mere positivity becomes an almost weakness, disconnecting you from the true reality of things. If there’s a lesson to be learned from positivity, I think it’s “don’t be neurotic”.

 

 

Happiness, YOLO Culture, and The Chinese Bamboo Tree

edit 11/16/15: I think if you look at the infographic on Sonnet 9 here, you will see right through the fallacy of YOLO, simply in the actual regrets of the dying.


For World Happiness Day, I have this to remind you: “How you spend your days is how you spend your life”.

Meaning, that while you’re waiting or dreaming for the life you want, it’s passing you by; you’re living life right now. As John Lennon famously said: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.

And as I enter the dawn of my 29th year, let me tell you, three and four years can pass and leave you bewildered at how fast the time goes by. I’m reminded of a great quote that I recently read, which really encapsulated my feelings about life as of late: “..Think of life as a terminal illness, because, if you do, you will live it with joy and passion, as it ought to be lived.” – Anna Quindlen

What a great paradigm; life most certainly ought to be lived with joy and passion. But I look around and I feel that modern culture has effectively debased the concept of embracing our mortality and diluted it into something vapid and hollow. I say this not because I think people are ignorant to the finite nature of life, but because I think adherence to modern ideas of what it means to live once are essentially causing people to squander their time in an attempt not to. YOLO culture, or whatever you want to call it, has watered down the objectives in life for many into two basic principles: A short-term objective of: the pursuit of fun, and a long-term objective of: the avoidance of regret. The combination of these nearsighted objectives can aptly be summarized in the oft heard rally cry of: ‘You only live once’ or perhaps more crassly in Jeffrey Lebowski’s (The Dude’s) mantra of ‘fuck it’.

Existential psychologists, such as Viktor Frankl and Rollo May held the view that an individual’s personality was constantly being governed by the choices and decisions they made in relation to the realities of life and death. Perhaps these modern ideas about pursuing fun while avoiding regret have become widespread paradigms because they provide people with a decisioning model that both excuses and validates a person’s actions in relation to both life and death.

The major fallacy with the paradigm of: ‘You only live once, have fun, you don’t ever want to be full of regret when you’re older or dying‘ is that it fails to apply any weighted logic to the integrity and intelligence of the decision itself, instead relying on the sole question of ‘Will this bring satisfaction to my life at the present day, whilst decreasing my dissatisfaction with life at some arbitrary point in the future?‘. That kind of question is akin to the logic that guides the behavior of children. The only difference being that a child is not aware of the concept of avoiding future regret.

As evidenced by the previous few paragraphs I hardly find this to be a healthy model for finding happiness in life while reconciling the truth of my mortality. When the pursuit of fun and the avoidance of regret become the chief metrics by which you assess your decisions, you essentially reduce your ability to direct your life to that of a child, and while children are often happy, as adults we have vastly different responsibilities; however, its possible that the root of the problem itself is not in this ‘YOLO logic’ but in the unevolved adolescent priorities which allow such an immature model to exist. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provides an interesting model with which this might be assessed.

But digressing from my existential thoughts on the un-actualized potential of the masses, I want to return to what I am doing to find happiness.

You know, life is long. And despite the fact that we are all very likely going to die eventually (pending there is no singularity which transcends the human lifespan), we have to live in a manner which allows us to reconcile this fact. For me, that’s something I accomplish by loving as if each day were my last. For me, that brings peace to my heart. Do I believe in living each day as if it were my last? I don’t know if that’s realistic. Maybe for someone at sea, sailing the world. Maybe on your honeymoon. Maybe we get moments where we are able to live as if they are our last.

The second century Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius said that: “You will find rest from vain fancies if you perform every act in life as though it were your last.” I think he meant that we should do things with the knowledge that we may never get to do them again, not that we should do things because we may never get the chance to do them again. That’s a very slight but massively important distinction that says something about the quality of the things we should do.

As adults, we have adult responsibilities, and hopefully we have adult goals (internal goals: growth and development). Because that’s what life is about. It’s about transcending who you are and growing, and reaching your full potential as a self-actualized individual.

True happiness, like true love, is work, not leisure. It can be more amazing than you could ever imagine, but you have to invest in it. If you’re not willing to do the work, and to sacrifice for it, you cannot expect to break through those plateaus and reach your goals and dreams.

But I didn’t write this to talk about true happiness or to talk about living once or even to harp on the fallacies of conforming to dogma (the last part comes easiest for me). No, the real reason I wrote this is to talk about something bigger within the context of happiness, living once, and thinking for yourself. I wrote this to talk about sacrifice. And not sacrifice in a self-pitying way, but the type of sacrifice you have to choose to make if you really want an exceptional life.

The recipe for an unexceptional life is to think YOLO, and just never grow. And I’ve seen the outcomes that school of shortsighted and immature thought produces. It produces people who are complacent. It produces people who have immature needs and goals and who neither cultivate themselves nor create anything which lives up to their potential.

I’m reminded of the story of the Chinese Bamboo tree. The Chinese Bamboo tree must be watered every single day for nearly five years before it begins to grow beyond a small sprout. At about the fifth year, it explodes in growth, reaching up to 90 feet tall in a single season. That’s kind of how your dreams work. You have to be willing to water them and cultivate them every single day – focusing on the future with belief that it will be worth it.

The true point of my writing today is to outline a mental foundation for you for the following picture, and hopefully everything I’ve written here today helps to connect those dots for you in ways that allow you to adapt to life so that you can change the way you see life, change the way you see other people, and change the way you see success / your dreams.

farmblog

So do today what others won’t so you can have tomorrow what others can’t.

An Essay on Love

For over three decades, George Vaillant directed a study out of Harvard, one of the longest running longitudinal studies about human development and happiness ever.

Recently, in summarizing the trends and findings from the study, he had this to say in conclusion:

“The seventy-five years and twenty million dollars expended on the Grant Study points to a straightforward five-word conclusion: ‘Happiness is love. Full stop.’ ”

 ‘The seventy-five years and twenty million dollars expended on the Grant Study points to a straightforward five-word conclusion: ‘Happiness is love. Full stop.’

Take that as you may – but if you are living without true love in your life, or if you’ve given up on the notion that you will ever find it again, you may find it interesting to note that Dr. Valiant also stated that the study showed that it was “never too late.”

See, you can chase things, be addicted to food, and remain stuck on that never ending cycle of doing things because you want need to change the way you feel (eat, sleep, sex, drink, TV, etc, repeat); or you can heed the findings of the Grant Study, and commit to finding TRUE happiness.

Now, I’m not saying you can’t be happy without love in your life, but in my 29 years, I’ve never seen a happiness that matches the happiness of love.

I look around, and I see so few people who are truly happy. I’m not saying I don’t see people smiling, or people who are friendly, and people who appear happy; I’m saying I see few people who are truly fucking happy. And if you’ve ever been in love then you know what I’m talking about when I say truly fucking happy.

The happiness that love brings is like ‘the invincible summer within’ that Albert Camus wrote of. It’s not the generic, fair weather, watered down version of happiness that society resigns you to aspire to. Love happy requires no faux positive mental attitude, it can survive bad days with relative ease, and there’s no big house or fancy car required.

Love happy is happiness simply for love’s sake.

Love happy is happiness simply for love’s sake.

Right about now you probably think I am a Pollyanna. Another naive person with the kind of unfounded optimism that causes people to overlook the unfortunate nature of reality.

And I don’t blame you. We don’t live in a utopia of love. Real life looks very little like the movie Valentine’s Day.

The reality of love is tough. The divorce rate is above 50%. Hell, it’s 75% in California and it’s even higher for second marriages. And as any adult knows, marriage does not imply harmony or bliss, or even true love at all – if I may be so inclined to assert.

I’m going to indulge in a bit of amateur sociology.

As a society, our hope at love is bleak because our outlook on love is cynically glum. Even the people who’ve felt the kind of love strong enough to stop the earth get older and become practical, taking a more sensible and pragmatic approach to love.

Part of the reason we are cynical on love is the fact that it’s not uncommon for people to believe in the idea of a soul-mate. This concept that there is only one true love for you in life.

This is one of the biggest limiting beliefs in the world.

There are seven billion people on the planet. Your odds of hitting the powerball are 1 in 175 million. This means that if there were only one soul-mate for you, your chances of finding them would be one in 7,000,000,000 and you would be 4 times more likely to win the lottery than to find your soul-mate.

To believe TRUE love can only happen once is a dangerous cop out. You’re much better off realizing that the idea of one true love is a product of human nature, and not nature itself.

To believe TRUE love can only happen once is a dangerous cop out. You’re much better off realizing that the idea of one true love is a product of human nature, and not nature itself.

It’s human nature to believe in the love of your life concept, it’s human to alter our beliefs and behaviors to protect ourselves from being hurt again, and it’s human to let negative events assail our hopes; and in this fashion, we have a society of people who settle, but we do not have a society of people who are happy.

To believe that there is just one true love is to do our chances at happiness a grave disservice.

The one true love idea is romantic, and it often fuels many a hormone filled love – but as soon as the relationship comes to a crashing end and life has wiped the floor with your heart, then bam. You’re fucked. The one true love will then haunt you forever – and it often does.

A recent study of 2,000 participants found that one in seven had ‘settled’ with their current partner, and of those one in seven, 73% felt they ‘were not with the love of their life’.

People tend to believe in this idea of ‘the love of their life’ and people tend to settle in part because of it; they accept that love is one thing when you are young and your hormones are in full bloom and that it’s another when you are nearing 30. People simply put away the hope of true love, pack up their baggage and wisen up before settling down. There’s a reason it’s called settling down.

There’s a reason it’s called settling down.

The unfortunate truth of love for many is that simply finding someone who treats them well and has their figurative shit together is reason enough to settle down.  Frankly, I am baffled as to why anyone would ever marry someone they weren’t madly head over heels crazy in love with. “He’ll be a good father.” Good luck with that.

As a society this tendency to settle down rather than pursue love as if it were the key to happiness is almost medievally feudalistic. Marriage should not be for the procurement and protection of property and the social milestone of settling down and raising a family.

To add to the complexity of the situation, it’s human to want to find someone who will be a good provider because no one wants to be insolvent. Money is often cited as one of the number one reasons couples fight. So, in this sense, the individual who is committed to true love and desires a financially secure partner truly is looking to eat their cake and have it too. But, you know what, I say go for it. If you don’t believe you deserve something someone else will end up with it that does (believes).

Look, this blog is eventually for my kinds and grankids. I may not convince the world of this, but love is not a matter in which you should settle on. As the Grant Study concluded, love is happiness, so unless you want to take your chances on settling when it comes to your happiness, then don’t fucking do it.

As I’ve written, people settle, people give up on love and I’m not meaning to project an air of superiority over them because of it – by all means, this is an opinion piece, but I cannot strongly enough state that we should not base our lives on the patterns of our society. Just because a way of thinking or a behavior is the de facto choice for many, does not mean it is the self-actualized choice, or the right choice for your life.

I cannot strongly enough state that we should not base our lives on the patterns of our society. Just because a way of thinking or a behavior is the de facto choice for many, does not mean it is the self-actualized choice, or the right choice for your life.

The fact of the matter is, our society is almost atheistic to the pursuit and the belief in love. We think there is one true love, we don’t find it, we settle, then we give up.

What the Grant Study revealed is that happiness is love.

Is there no more genuine a pursuit in life? I think not.

To this end, I want you to love. Be love. Find Love. Fall in Love. Make the pursuit of love your paramount goal in life. Love yourself. Love your family. Experience happiness, experience the love the world has to offer.

I’ve never found anything closer to a spiritual experience than love, and as such, the Grant Study’s premier conclusion is of absolutely no surprise to me.

There is a season for everything in life. My grandmother found love again in her eighties, decades after her husband of over twenty years had passed away.

This may seem purely anecdotal, but I like to believe that this drive for love is what helped her stay active and to take care of herself all those years. It has always been the driving force in my life, because I have always believed in it. A belief that has been extremely rewarding.

Believe in love. Be one of those rare believers in the spiritual and sacred truth that love exists and it will find you and you will find it. Like all gifts in the universe, you first have to be open to receive it.

And though the world may be full of atheists when it comes to love, you must believe in the invincible summer of love within you. You will meet people who don’t truly believe in high fidelity, true and lasting love, and that’s okay. But in believing, you will keep your heart open to the precious few you meet who do.

But if you close your heart to everything that love truly is then you will not be on the pursuit of happiness.  To live your life according to the gospel of love is simply to be love.

I will close with a note about luck. Some say luck happens when preparation meets opportunity, and I think that’s a fine poster for a low-rent office. But luck really happens when probability moves from unlikely to likely. It’s not luck that the people who were happy had found love.

As Vaillant puts it, there are two pillars of happiness. “One is love,” he writes. “The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.”

Money Does Not Equal Happiness

Three years and exactly 99 posts ago I went to wordpress.com and started this blog.

I’ve been waiting for something worthy enough for my 100th post.

Today the impetus for my centennial post arrived.

I was reading about how Crispin Glover of Back to The Future Stardom recently came out and stated that he didn’t participate in the second installment of the Back To The Future franchise because:

…he was upset with the materialistic happy ending of the first film. He didn’t like that the McFlys were happier people because they were more prosperous financially. And he felt the idea that money = happiness is BS.

He noted that he wasn’t the only person asking questions about the original ending “It had to do with money, and what the characters were doing with money … I said to Robert Zemeckis (the film’s producer) I thought it was not a good idea for our characters to have a monetary reward, because it basically makes the moral of the movie that money equals happiness”. Glover argued “the love should be the reward”, and “Zemeckis got really mad” over Glover’s questioning.

To which I completely remembered the ending and the truck that Marty Mcfly had lusted after and how happy he was finally possessing it as well as how content the family was with their outwardly prosperous life.

And I realized how much I liked that ending as a child. I wanted that truck.

I wanted my family to be happy like that, because, I believed that if we had money, we truly would be.

But now, I’m 28 and I realize that the outwardly prosperous life = happiness equation equals bullshit as much as Crispin Glover’s reasoning for not participating in the second Back To The Future is bullshit.

Anyone remember a movie Crispin Glover was in called Hot Tub Time Machine?

Well, if you have seen that movie, the irony is that it has the exact same ending as Back To The Future: they end up in an alternate timeline where everyone has money and is happy as a result.

Both of those movies have happy endings, and both endings send the same message and once again, the disempowering belief of money = happiness is sold.

The truth is that Crispin Glover wasn’t in the second Back To The Future film because as the film’s screenwriter stated, “His salary demands were unreasonable”.

Hipster armchair observations about Crispin Glover aside, you need to know that as long as you believe that prosperity equals happiness, you will be unhappy without it.

The truth is that people are about as happy as they make their minds up to be. (Thank you Abraham Lincoln for that quote).

And your beliefs are the only real barrier to your happiness.

Because the truth about money is that all too many people spend their lives chasing it, and then they end up dying and realizing that it wasn’t money that mattered.

The truth about money is that it is as important to your happiness as you let it be.

And trust me and everyone who has ever lay dying when I tell you that there are much more important stops on your pursuit of real and true happiness than the pursuit of things.

Money doesn’t buy your time back. It won’t bring your family back. And it sure as hell won’t bring you true happiness.

I’m not making a case for a spartan life. I enjoy money. I’ve had the luxury of being rich and poor. And trust me, as it is said, rich is better.

But I stopped trading things that truly matter to me in exchange for the pursuit of money. And to me, that was the lesson that has made my life what it is today.

Unfortunately, it’s a lesson I can’t teach. You have to figure it out for yourself.

But the beautiful thing is that you know what matters to you; as with all matters of the heart, you already have the right answers.

But alas, so many of us are caught in the trap of judging ourselves and others based on the standards that society has programmed us to keep score with – money being the chief metric among these.

My advice on money is to figure out the real worth that money actually brings to your life.

How much comfort do you need? How much freedom do you need? How much choice and control do you need?

I’m not saying you have to stop there, but the truth is, the real return of money stops at a certain point – and the danger begins when you start sacrificing the things that really matter in order to acquire an arbitrary and intangible sense of worth that you have bestowed onto money.

And maybe you have no liquidity and your bank ledger is constantly dipping into the red – then the real question in this case is, have you sacrificed your sense of self-worth and inner peace as a result?

Because the truth about money is that it comes and goes, and like love, it comes a lot easier when you don’t attach your self-worth to it.

That’s a big gamble to make. Don’t attach who you are to what you have.

Einstein said that all he needed to be happy was ‘chair, a desk, and an apple’.

I think we all need to determine what our chair, desk, and apple are.

My personal and semi satirical-twist on this is that all I need to be happy is a pizza and a box of wine.

Now, I am not a wino, but if I had a pizza and a box of wine, I’m pretty sure I could manage to have a great afternoon.

If I truly was to equate how much money I needed to experience inner peace and lasting happiness, I would probably take a good look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in relation to how much money effects meeting my basic physiological and safety needs.

Beyond that, I would use Maslow’s model to examine my personal beliefs about money in relation to my sense of Love/Belonging, Esteem, and Self-Actualization and use this as a guide to determine how much money I need in order to reach my peak potential in life.

My goals in life involve having a large family and providing them with the things that money affords that I did not have access to.

However, in my personal journey, I have been extremely fortunate to have come from my unique background and in the course of my 28 years to have discovered on my own what money and happiness really means to me.

The intangibles, the things I write about that have so much more worth than money ever could.

Because the intangible truth is that happiness is independent from circumstance.

If you do not understand this, I implore you to read the Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, and Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning.

Seriously, invest in yourself and your future generations. These works are the real deal.

If you are unhappy because of a lack of prosperity I’d advise you to stop comparing yourself to other people and to reexamine your heroes.

If you are still hellbent on pursuing prosperity as a means to happiness, by all means, go ahead. I’ve been down that road. It’s like being a mouse in a cage, running on that wheel. It leads to the same place you are now.

Money is just a means – to what end is your choice.

You can use it to help yourself and others, or you can use it to separate yourself from others by judging those with it or without it – yourself included.

It’s just money.

Figure out what it means to you and you’ll figure out your relationship with it.

Figure out what you will use it for and don’t be used for it.

Figure out how money relates to your personal happiness, and whether it’s real needs that are the limiting factor to your well-being, or whether it’s just your beliefs about money that are holding you down mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Figure out what matters to you. You only have so much time.

Figure out how you are keeping score in life.

Money is just security, and if you are fortunate – a bit of freedom and autonomy as well – but real freedom and autonomy arises from your beliefs, and real security comes from who you are.

Don’t believe the lie that money equals happiness.

Meaning equals happiness.

Find meaning in your experiences, in your beliefs, in your relationships, and in the present moment.

The life of money-making is one undertaken under compulsion, and wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else. – Aristotle