My Theme For 2015

Man, it is so easy to get comfortable in our safe ways.

We are creatures of habit. A big part of our life is routine and staying sheltered.

And at times it is needed.

When we were young, our parents, teachers, and coaches made sure we were safe. We were not prepared to protect ourselves, so others helped us through that stage. The environment we were put in was often not chosen by us.

Growing up, we are taught to get safe jobs through school. If you’re like me, you were easily influenced during these years and listened to this advice. We then find ourselves in those steady, corporate jobs and become scared of other options. I almost hear “Hey, it’s not as always greener on the other side” more now than the alternative. That is Fear poking it’s head.

But if there is one thing I know, it’s that change will happen whether we like it or not. It’s the basic principle of nature.

Your environment will change – sometimes it’s a new school, a new jobs, a new house, a new city…

Those you spend time with will change. People will come into your life. Others will leave…at times unexpectedly.

The way I look at it is we only have control of our response to change if it occurs externally. We must look out for ourselves and those we care about. We have to overcome change at times, while other times it comes as a pleasant surprise.

But often, the problem is our resistance to this inevitable change that occurs. We think we’re the center of the universe during these times. We try to fight this force because it is disturbing our safe environment that we are finally comfortable in.

But here’s the thing – Mother Nature doesn’t care about your plans. She has plans of her own.

So taking all of this into consideration, I was trying to decide on a new approach, and at first I thought – Embrace Change

This isn’t too far off from where my theme ended up. Embrace Change is definitely part of my theme. I really like the idea of being open to change because a part of me is often scared of what is to come. But that lead me to the issue that is even more at the heart of what I want to accomplish – Fighting My Resistance to Change

It’s a slight frame shift. I felt this to be more empowering because it puts more of the accountability on me to do the work.

Resistance is a big part of this personal battle. Embracing change is more of a passive concept. To me, it implies staying open to the external change that will occur in my life. I want to focus more on the self-created change. Noticing my natural defenses to this change and fighting/rewiring those faulty impulses is more of what I’m after.

So that is my 2015 Theme – Fight My Resistance to Change so I can eventually embrace both change that is forced on me, as well as create the necessary change I desire.

Change isn’t good. Change isn’t bad. Change just is.

Questioning The Gatekeepers

I was reading the late Seth Robert’s blog today and he made a really interesting point about many healthcare professionals. Seth wrote a post that claimed ADHD Experts have a bad case of Gatekeeper Syndrome. He explained that people with Gatekeeper Syndrome dismiss or ignore any solution that does not involve them (or someone like them) being a gatekeeper and making money or controlling the situation in some fashion.

This hit home with me.

I had this skin condition a few years back that I couldn’t get rid of for the life of me. I tend to exhaust alternative options before going to the doctor if the condition isn’t too serious. I remember trying garlic pills, tea tree oil, new body wash, new deodorants, new lotions…nothing was doing the trick. So I went to the Dermatologist and took some prescription pills. No success. So I bounced around to a few different doctors hoping to find an answer.

I remember having an appointment one day and reading an article about Turmeric earlier regarding the benefits it may have with my skin condition, among other things. So during the visit, I asked the Dermatologist her opinion about trying this out. Not only was she clueless what Turmeric was, she totally dismissed it and told me not to touch it. Not exactly what I was hoping to hear. No curiosity. No open-mindedness.

I took the pills she prescribed and again they didn’t work. Long story short, I went through 3-4 different cycles of pills with little success. I ended up fixing it myself with some combination of a better diet (minimize sugar and carbs), probiotics, organic hemp body wash, and turmeric. An educated trial-and-error strategy at it’s finest.

Looking back on that experience, not one of the doctors mentioned anything about alternative treatments or additional options I can try. The best advice I got was to drink a soda with this pill they are giving me and then exercise afterwards. (I was actually just happy to hear how to make this pill I was about to take most effectively)

I think people are often better going with Google’s advice on certain minor conditions, as doctors are way too much by the book. And don’t get me wrong, that can be a good and bad thing. Healthcare professionals definitely have more knowledge, but that also comes with close-mindedness to other, often healthier, options. Second, doctors are trained to fix your problems immediately. I remember when my psychology teacher in college explained to our class the exact symptoms to tell your doctor to be prescribed Adderall. How crazy is that? Well, I guess not that crazy…as sales of Adderall XR and its generic equivalents totaled $1.99 billion in 12 months during 2012!

All of this comes back to what Seth mentioned with Gatekeeper Syndrome. Healthcare professionals will help fix your problem, as long as they (or their colleagues) are the ones doing it. There are no alternative options in Western doctor’s offices anymore. There is little-to-no prevention. Only short-term solutions.

Our society has tried to take control and standardize our processes (in the healthcare industry, schools, etc), and more problems continue to arise. The deeper we go, the more we stunt our creative problem solving and openness to alternative measures. That is why our society’s medicine advancement is so behind our technology advancement.

I just want to note – in no way is this an attack on doctors. I have had a few great doctors who continued their education and are relatively up-to-date with new studies and relevant information. But we must still identify the incentives the healthcare industry has when they treat us. I’ll let John Oliver help explain my point.

We get sick. They get paid.

We pay the consequences – money, health – if things go wrong. They have little downside if things don’t go as planned and we stay sick. Actually, that only means more upside for them.

That, in itself, is why we should at least question the Gatekeepers.

My 1st 24-Hour Fast

So I recently completed my first 24-hour fast.

Here’s how it went down –

I finished my last meal at 6:45 p.m. on 2/11/15. It was a large dinner, so I decided not to eat anything the rest of the night. I was planning on fasting in the morning until lunch, which is part of an Intermittent Fasting plan that I do every once and a while.

The day before this I listened to a Tim Ferriss podcast at work, where he mentioned doing a 7-Day Distilled Water Fast. I found that to be pretty incredible. So he planted a seed in my mind for me to try something to test my discipline and improve myself.

At about 10 a.m., I realized that I still wasn’t very hungry. I had my daily checklist next to me – which is a new habit I’ve been working on – and I wrote down “Fast until Dinner”. It was settled then.

I got off work at 4:30 pm. and went to the gym on a pretty empty stomach for a light workout and some time in the Sauna.

By 6:30 p.m., I was finally cooking up some Bacon and Eggs, with Sweet Potatoes and a Salad. That’s how you “break a fast”.

Success!

Some notes:
  • I didn’t stick to a total fast. I created my own version. When I do Intermittent Fasting, I usually have a Bulletproof Coffee (Grass Fed Butter and Coconut Oil), which can help put your body in fat-burning mode. On this day I had a coffee with about a tablespoon of Coconut Oil in it. I also ate 1 serving of vegetables (a few carrots and broccoli) with Olive Oil over it. Again, went with good fats. I also allowed myself to have 5 Almonds in the afternoon. I had a Green Tea as well.
  • In the afternoon, I felt amazing. My energy levels never went down. The only time it affected me was my workout, which was obviously much more of a struggle. I had incredible focus throughout the day and my mind was extremely clear. I felt pure…and at times, euphoric. I couldn’t have been happier with those results.
  • I’m not going to say I wasn’t tempted. Going down to my work lobby where everyone was eating may not have been the best move. However, breaking away from my normal routine was probably the most difficult part. But honestly, I had very little food cravings. The afternoon was also not too difficult.
  • I’d attribute the lack of food cravings throughout the day to having no sugar or carbohydrates. This process once again re-affirmed my stance that having sugar or bad carbs in the morning will lead to unhealthy cravings. I try to stick to slow-carbs, protein, or good fats. This process helps differentiate food cravings and the feelings of actual hunger.
  • I lost ~4 lbs during the 24 hours.
  • A note from a week later – I am still down about 3 lbs without adjusting my diet. Also, the sugar cravings – and food cravings in general – are noticeably lacking. I’d guess this is related to the fast cleaning out my gut, which is my best guess to being the culprit of the cravings.

If you’re interested in trying this, I’d check out Mark’s Daily Apple for more info on Fasting. There is a lot of good stuff from him.

I will definitely be doing this again.

Time Is Killing Me

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There are times when I allow my visions and plans for the future determine my emotional state. This leads to anxiety when my current state is at odds with my plans. When I am in these states, relationships and work are often on my mind…one of the two usually dominating my attention – and eventually emotions.

Too much of this is not healthy.

This is probably what Buddha continuously felt that led to this revelation:

Do not dwell in the past, Do not dream of the future, Concentrate the mind on the present moment.

The best way to dig myself out of these destructive states is to be consciously aware of them. That means having the understanding of how my mind works, and breaking the negative cycle early on. Do not let your emotions control you. You have power over them if you choose. Often, it just takes finding an approach that works for you.

Like most things, easier said than done…

After a lot of trial and error, I have found a few tactics that have worked for me:

  1. Writing – I am so glad I have developed this habit. Writing down whatever is on my mind onto a piece of paper can be so relieving. Just let it come out. You’ll then notice a couple of things. (1) That whatever is going on in your head is often very trivial (2) That the emotional intensity you were feeling from this anxiety is greatly weakened.
  2. Sleep/Nap – Often these problems occur when you’re deficient of sleep.
  3. Meditation – There are so many forms of meditation you could practice. One that I just learned that works well anywhere is Box Breathing – 4 seconds in – hold for 4 – 4 seconds out – hold for 4 – Repeat.

You may notice that time is at the heart of these anxieties. It is often not the actual person or job that is causing the issues, but straying away from your internal plans or experiencing the feelings of losing precious time.

I’ll take a quote from Nietzsche:

Glance into the world just as though time were gone and everything crooked will become straight to you.

This simple – yet powerful – thought exercise can work extremely well too.

We must focus on what we can do now. Ask yourself if you can take immediate action on your current anxieties. If the answer is NO – then you must let it go at that moment. It is serving no purpose.

Many times I have resistance towards this process. But only a couple of minutes of this can do wonders by removing the thought(s) that are consuming my attention.

I encourage you to try this next time you’re stressed or feeling anxious. Write down you problems. See things differently. Rest. See what works for you.

We all have our problems…

But there is beauty in the ability to mitigate and eventually overcome them.

2/13 Note To Self – On External Events, Adapting, and Making Time

2/13 – A personal note written quickly on Friday afternoon 

Don’t let external events or other people determine your view of the world. Don’t let them distract you. Or let them set limits on you. Don’t let them decide where you’re going. Don’t let them determine your impact in this world.

We humans are great at adapting. It is the reason we are still alive and kickin. We would be the prey of a predator or the victims of famine. Adapting is a great advantage. But with that, there is also a downside. We adapt to what others have done before us because it works. We adapt to similar behaviors that are often destructive. We adapt to what our friends and acquaintances see as a right. It’s ying and yang.

The problem is there is no time-out in our society to take time and evaluate what is really going on. We are chess pieces on a board that is often already deciding our next move. That is, unless we step back. Unless we see things from a different angle. A different point of view. Some quit their jobs, travel, and find themselves. Others can’t because of the dependencies in their life, whether those be self-induced or forced upon them.

Some may argue they don’t have time. But there is time. Eliminate the unnecessary and find the time because it is essential for you. Gather your energy and create your own version of this life. You have the power to do that. You can choose where to focus your attention. You can choose who to surround yourself with. You can adapt in the best way you see fit. Make the time to see through all of the mess and your mind and vision will become clearer. Then comes action.

Accomplished at 26

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So this week I turned 26. To gain a little perspective, I decided to look up what others have accomplished during their 26th year in this world. It is humbling to say the least.

  • Steve Jobs is fresh off of Apple becoming a public company. Job’s net worth grows from a few million to over $200 million.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte is named Commander-in-Chief of French Army. Napoleon wins a few major battles, the Battle of Lodi and the Battle of Arcole, that eventually leads to a victory over Italy.
  • Ken Kesey publishes his first novel, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
  • Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin, revolutionizing the economies of the United States and Britain.
  • Mark Zuckerberg gets a movie made about him and his creation of Facebook – The Social Network.
  • Eminem releases his breakthrough album, The Slim Shady LP.
  • Albert Einstein has his best year of his life, that he will later describe as his “Annus Mirabilis” – his miraculous year – Albert Einstein publishes four major theoretical papers in the prestigious German academic journal Annalen Der Physik. These four papers include a groundbreaking new interpretation of the photoelectric effect (for which Einstein will eventually win the Nobel Prize) as well as the first published exploration of the theory of Special Relativity and the first formulation of the famous equation e=mc2.
  • Soviet cosmonaut, Valentina Chereshkova, became the first woman to travel in space.
  • Jay Z releases his debut album, Reasonable Doubt, which was included in the Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest albums of all time.
  • John D. Rockefeller buys out his partners and becomes majority owner of Rockefeller and Andrews, Cleveland’s largest refinery.

It’s easy to look at these examples and think to yourself – well not everyone is Steve Jobs or Jay Z. Yes, that’s true. But it is important to remember these people were all just getting started on their own personal journey. At one point in time, they were the same age as I am right now. We know we have some time ahead of us, but just how long is a mystery. So the most important step to make towards a fulfilled, accomplished life is to focus on what is in front of you right now. It is easy to fall into the trap of wanting to be successful, seeking happiness, or striving to be famous. But we need to be smarter than that. Take the words of Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor,

“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.

Success and happiness must ensue. It cannot be pursued.

So you must stay on your grind. Keep your head down. Remove distractions. Push forward a little bit daily. Fight your way through the obstacles. Think bigger than yourself.

Only then will you come closer to the life you seek. Maybe it will start to show its face at 26. Maybe in a few years. Maybe never.

But you must try.

New Year’s Resolutions and Breaking Chains

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It’s a little over a week into the New Year. Many have just begun working towards their resolutions, while at the same time, many have already given up on theirs.

A few years ago I decided not to go down this route and strayed away from setting any more New Year’s Resolutions.

I would often decide on something that I assumed would make me feel better – going to the gym 4 times a week, quit drinking soda, etc. I then realized that I, like many, can be disciplined for a while, but then get off course and move on the next thing allowing that resolution drift off to no-man’s land.

So, I decided to set my own rules and began finding what works best for me.

If you’re in your 20’s, like me, this is a great time to begin to form healthy habits. These habits you develop end up controlling you. Decide now which habits you want those to be…

For the past year and a half, I have been using a system (borrowed from Buster Benson) that I may break down in another post. Very simply, I set certain themes/goals at the beginning of each month and I will then check back at the end of the month and see if I was satisfied with my efforts/results. If I missed my mark, I then find what, if anything, was tied to my failure. This allows me to adjust themes/goals throughout the year based on my circumstances. I find myself sticking to this system much more than any New Year’s Resolution in past years. **Feel free to ask me about my system anytime

At the end of the year, I had a little time to think about what areas I would like to focus my themes/goals on. So I started to do a personal inventory on different dynamics of my life that has some sort of control over me. These can be thoughts/substances/emotions tied to past events among other things. My goal with this exercise was to give myself an idea of various themes and goals I can set for myself in the next year.

This simple exercise was rewarding, so I wanted to share.

1 – Pay close attention to what controls you in your life. What is constantly on your mind? What is holding you back? Are you addicted to anything? List everything you can.

2 – Determine if they are healthy or unhealthy.

  • If healthy, you can choose to do nothing with them.
  • If unhealthy, you can evaluate if it is worth the time to improve on.

3 – Choose the top 3.

These can be used to shape your goals going forward.

I know this may sound pretty general, so I will give you some common examples I found for myself and noticed in others:

  • Unhealthy Relationships
  • Sugar (leading to more cravings)
  • Consumerism and Materialism
  • Money
  • Social Media
  • Past Traumas
  • Video Games
  • TV
  • Resistance to Change (and resistance to taking action)
  • Other various forms of fear

I have chosen my 3 for this year. I plan on keeping these in mind when setting my monthly goals and themes for the upcoming year. This will allow me to remember the important dynamics that are holding me back in various ways and work on gaining control of them instead of allowing them to control me.

There are obstacles we must overcome to improve our well-being. Some are obvious. Some need to be discovered.

And some of the chains need to be broken.

Lessons Learned in 2014

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I wrote about my lessons learned last year around this time, so I figured I would reflect back on this year as well.

  • Knowledge vs. Understanding – Finally recognizing the difference between these two. I used to think I was smart because I’ve learned a lot of things on my own. But it was not until this year that I finally understood this vital difference. Knowledge is something you can acquire and accumulate, but true understanding only comes through experience. Only then can can you connect the dots between knowledge and your environment. Wisdom may soon follow.
  • Exhaustion is real, and while I like to push myself, I have also seen its limitations. Rest and fun are necessary for well-being when working hard towards something, but there must be a balance. Also, it’s okay to take a break to recover and come back stronger.
  • The significance of getting enough quality sleep and designing a personal sleep routine
  • Not-To-Do Lists can be effective. I plan to continue experimenting with these next year. Some things I’ve previously added to mine:
    • No long, hot showers in the winter.
    • No sugar or caffeine before bed.
    • No soda (except for an occasional mixed drink on the weekend)
    • Limiting Distractions (more than 1 hour of TV a day, limiting social media)
  • That I feel more alive when I get out in nature on a daily basis. Not only do we get the benefits of more sun, but we also can learn to connect with nature as humans are intended to do. When’s the last time you ran on the grass barefoot?
  • Which brings me to – The benefits of a daily walk. Every day I attempt to at least take one walk (a little tougher in the winter, so I may substitute with the gym). I prefer to do this for the mental benefits – clarity, brainstorming – even more than the physical benefits. It’s also a great way to connect with friends and take meetings (learned this one from Steve Jobs).
  • Laughter is a powerful healer.
  • The power of constructing your reality and deciding what is played on your Movie Screen. I want to build myself from the inside out – not search my external world for temporary fillers.
  • The importance of energy, environment, and the people you associate yourself with. These are extremely interrelated, such as noticing energy levels when in different settings or around different people. Understanding each of these within the scope of my immediate environment has been eye-opening and self-empowering.

I hope 2015 has more quality lessons in store for me.

My Sleep Cycle Experiment and What to Limit Before Bed

These modern-day alarm clocks can really be a pain sometimes…rudely waking me up when my dream finally starts to get exciting. Then I’ll usually hit the snooze – probably multiple times – but the damage is done. I’d wake up feeling a little off for a while and the tone was then set for the rest of my morning.

So as you may know, I’ve been working on improving my Night-Time Routine. I came across this Sleep Cycle app in a couple different articles from blogs I follow in the health field. I was interested in the topic of how our sleep cycles affect our quality of sleep, so I went on to buy the $2.99 iPhone app and gave it a shot. I started using this app in September 2013 and just reached the 150 day mark. I figured this was a good samples size for showing my results.

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I figured this would be just an alarm clock that wakes you up when you have completed a sleep cycle. But surprisingly, there was another feature that really caught my interest. You can add different variables to track every night and see how they affect your sleep. This is purely correlation, but still adds an interesting dynamic.

Sleep Cycle Portion

Sleep cycles are usually ~90 minute periods, so you may have 4-6 in a night. Ideally, you want to wake up at the end of the cycle. So how this app works is you choose a range of when you want to wake up. Mine is set on a 30 minute range – so for example wake up between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m. The alarm will sound when you are in your lightest sleep in that period. I hoped that this new alarm would help with some common morning symptoms of grogginess and cloudy-headedness.

The Sleep Cycle app determines how well you slept that night based on a percentage. Your sleep quality percentage is calculated based on movements and vibrations throughout the night when you are in different states of sleep.

Testing Variables

As for the variable testing, I could track the relationship between the variables I’m testing to my overall quality of sleep. I decided to remove all of the standard variables on this app and create my own. These are based on either advice I’ve heard or some personal hunches. There are probably many factors I am missing, but here are the variables I decided to track:

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  • Worked Out – If I worked out at all that day
  • Stressful Day – This was a judgement call
  • Drank Alcohol – Usually more than 3 drinks
  • Complex Carbohydrates Before Bed – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.
  • 1 Glass of Whiskey – If I had one drink before bed
  • Melatonin – If I took a melatonin pill before bed
  • Late Caffeine
  • Prayed/Read/Meditated – any form of relaxation before bed that extended over ~10 minutes
  • Nap – If I took a nap that day
  • Glass of Water Before Bed – Only if I had a full glass, not just a few sips
  • Light meal – This was a judgement call – usually light meal and light snacking
  • Shower Before Bed
  • 8 Hours of Computer or TV
  • Computer or TV and Hour Before Bed – testing the lighting factor before sleeping
  • Honey – about a tablespoon usually in tea
  • Tea
  • Magnesium Pill – only if before bed
  • Nootropic – this is a pill to help brain function. I only checked this if it was taken within 6 hours before sleeping

 My Results

Lets start by looking at my best night sleep.

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This was on the night of Sunday Feb 23. I reached deep sleep on 3 different occasions and woke up a few times throughout the night. Also, my time in bed – 7:56 hours – was above my average over the 150 days – 7:34 hours. As you will see, many of these variables in the sleep notes are linked to a more favorable night sleep.

Now, here shows the variables and their individual effect on my quality of sleep. This is over the course of the 150 days, with some variables being added in later. Graph 2 has a little overlap in the wording.

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As you can see, about a handful of these variables are correlated with a good/bad night sleep. The highlights are:

  • Drinking alcohol was linked to a 6% decrease in quality of sleep.
  • Shower before bed was linked to a 4% increase in quality of sleep.
  • Relaxing before bed via reading/praying/meditation was linked to a 4% increase in quality of sleep.
  • Taking a melatonin pill before bed was linked to a 6% increase in quality of sleep.
  • Late caffeine was linked to a 5% decrease in quality of sleep

I pretty much agree with all of these. I anticipated that melatonin and quality relaxation would positively affect my sleep. I also figured alcohol and caffeine would have negative effects.

Here are a few results that I question the legitimacy of:

  • Computer an hour before bed having a positive impact on quality of sleep
  • 8 hour of computer and TV having a positive impact on quality of sleep
  • A Nootropic pill having a negative impact on quality of sleep

These don’t seem to make sense to me. But then again, these variables are not isolated so not much weight can be put on these findings.

Lastly, see below for my quality sleep per day of the week. Friday and Saturday are the days I am most prone to having more than one cocktail. This shows the significance of some lack of sleep and alcohol.

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According to these results of the individual testing, my ideal night sleep would include computer/tv an hour prior to bed, tea, a magnesium pill, a light meal, a shower before bed, read/prayed/meditated, complex carbohydrates before bed, 1 glass of whiskey, a melatonin pill, honey, 8+ hours of comptuter/tv, and a glass of water before bed.

What can be improved with this app

There are a few issues I have with this app. First, there is no way to track variables when you wake up – only before you set your alarm. I would like to track a few variables such as temperature, lighting (sun through windows), initial energy, and mood upon waking. Also, the only way to record your quality of sleep (besides the sleep quality % calculated by the app) is to choose between the 3 smiley faces (good/moderate/poor). I didn’t find this to be useful at all. Ideally, this app would allow you to take notes when you wake up.

Some take-aways from this 150 day experiment is confirmation of what I anticipated going in. Late alcohol and caffeine should be avoided if you need a good night sleep. It is often easier – and more effective – to remove or limit factors than to add them in. Also, occasionally take a melatonin pill before you sleep (I often take one if I am exposed to a lot of light prior to bed). Also, try to find a way to get into a relaxed state before bed. You can find many ways to accomplish this. Ideally, TV would not be in the mix however because the artificial light may throw off your body’s natural melatonin response.

I just recently discovered a new free alarm clock app called Dream:On that claims to help influence your dreams. It plays light music during the night to influence your subconscious mind and ultimately play a factor in your dreaming. Sounds interesting enough to give it a shot.

I’m also moving on to improving my morning routine.

I’m often in a rush in the morning so this many be a little more difficult…

A Fresh Perspective on Happiness

We live in a time and place where people still strive for the American dream and living a happy life. Our society is continuously pushing for more happiness, and we seek it in different forms – more clothes, bigger houses, more experiences, more money. We think these things will improve our lives…and they very well may.

There’s only one problem – we, as a society, love immediate gratification more than anything. Everything you see is promoting some sort of temporary benefit. Take for instance this ad:

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We see these ads all the time. Buy this car, guys, because you will get the girl of your dreams. As obvious as this is, and as much as we believe we can see through it, we are still prone to these persuasive ads. Many times we believe buying something will add to this internal view of yourself – I own a Cadillac so I am of higher class and will attract higher class potential partners.

Now, I just used this example because it is so common. Happiness, as we perceive it, can be found in many different forms.

I’m not a big advocate of pursuing happiness as an end. I don’t see pursuing happiness as a useful way to live a well-balanced, quality life…unless you define it properly. But even this may not be the most effective approach. This way of thinking leads you to always wanting more because we continue to only see temporary results. Remember, happiness is an emotion and it comes and goes. Unless you have created a strong personal system of emotional intelligence, you will find yourself in the happy-sad cycle too often for your own liking.

I recently watched a TED talk from Daniel Kahneman relating to this topic. He won a Nobel Prize and is known as the founder of behavioral economics. In this talk, Kahneman broke down happiness as being perceived by our 2 Selves. He also said that we pretty much have no idea how to understand our own happiness based on cognitive traps.

Kahneman breaks down the 2 selves as follows:

Experiencing Selves – your moment-to-moment happiness as you experience it.

Remembering Selves – how you think about your happiness based on your memories.

This was eye-opening for me to say the least. I really like the micro and macro way of how we view our experiences.

The key aspect to this is that the Experiencing Self and Remembering Self often have very different ways of perceiving happiness.

This conflict is one of the reasons why the continuous pursuit of happiness is not an effective approach.

Let’s use the example by Kahneman:

A man went to a symphony with wonderful music that he really enjoyed. However, at the very end there was a dreadful screeching sound. The man claimed it ruined the whole experience. But it hadn’t. The screeching sound only ruined the memory of the experience, not the experience in itself.

This is a great lesson and shows how the 2 Selves may differ in perceptions.

What can we take away from this?

First off, let’s acknowledge we are not good at determining what makes us happy.

Many of our everyday decisions are to make us happier in some way. When we buy that nice shirt, we are often doing so because it improves the view we have of our self and hopefully how others view us. 

So should we focus on pleasing the Experiencing Self or the Remembering Self when making decisions?

I would say both. It is all about a certain balance. The purpose would be to make decisions to make you happier on a random Tuesday at 8:00 – moment-to-moment happiness. I think this is a reason a lot of people have pets. You also want to make decisions that will make you happiest looking back. The example Kahneman used was comparing and equally satisfying 1 week vacation and 2 week vacation. The second week doesn’t provide much additional value in the big picture, so it does not add much to the Remembering Self. The Experiencing Self may have had additional benefits though. Considering these factors going into a decision can be helpful – if you’re after more day-to-day happiness and positive memories.

This is all food for thought. We now know these 2 Selves may not always agree. Hopefully we can make an effort to create a quality balance between our two views of happiness.