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.

 

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21 Ways to Be Soft

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Find what works for you. Here’s your guide.

1. Don’t put in the necessary work in order to separate yourself from the crowd. Not seeing immediate results? Just quit.

2. Be easily influenced and stick with those beliefs. Don’t question the status quo.

3. Be scared of the darkness and unknown. Turn on your nightlight. Stay inside. It’s too scary out there.

4. Lose perspective and forget how much better you have it than your ancestors…even your parents. Life is so hard! There is just too much to worry about.

5. Allow fear to have control over you. I can’t go and talk to her. What if she says no? What if she makes fun of me? What if I get embarrassed in front of my friends? We don’t want you to risk that. That may hurt your ego.

6. Doubt and negativity fills your mind. Just distract yourself. It will go away for a little. No need to pay attention to your Movie Screen.

7. Expect handouts. The world owes you something.

8. Avoid seeking help. You’ve got this! Why would you trust anyone else’s advice? Do it all yourself.

9. Have little patience with things. Immediate gratification is so much better. You need that dopamine.

10. Settle for mediocrity. Paving your own path sounds dangerous.

11. Constantly give in to distractions. What’s new on Facebook? – last login 2 minutes ago

12. Never fail. Don’t even think about that word. Avoid any situation where this may result.

13. No need to exercise now. You can do that tomorrow…

14. Debt becomes a significant part of your life. You need more things! More schooling. A better house. Some extra clothes. You need to impress some people.

15. Let others choose your path. This makes things easy. You don’t have to make any decisions for yourself.

16. Don’t use your pain and failures as fuel. Just let it brew inside. It will never get out.

17. Always be moving fast. You smell one rose, you’ve smelled them all.

18. Follow your mind over your heart at all times. I once heard this quote “the first principle is to not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” Really? You’re too smart for that to apply to you, right. Don’t listen to them.

19. Complain about your current circumstances. There’s nothing you can do. Tell everyone how bad you have it and at least get some sympathy.

20. Move away from creating change. That’s too risky. Only deal with it when it’s forced upon you.

21. Don’t take the last shot. Always avoid putting your ass on the line. This way you never face the consequences. If something goes wrong, it’s on them.

All of this comes down to choice. Join the majority and be soft.

Or…

Note to 20-Year-Old Self

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So things are going well, right. You’re in college. You’re meeting new lifelong friends. You don’t have many responsibilities. You’re free.

But with this freedom and free time comes a lot of decision-making.

You’re off to a good start in few areas. You began reading books, which will come in handy in many future situations, as well as put you on a good course to discover your creativity. But this is not the end-all be-all. It’s nice to have some confidence from reading a few psychology, success, and business books. But there are many people currently around you that instinctively have this knowledge without having to read this material. Continue reading books and articles that interest you. That challenges your existing opinions on issues. That leads to self-improvement. That opens your mind. By doing so, you will head in the right direction.

Your exercising habits are improving as well. It’s great you love to play basketball and hit the gym quite often. These will continue to put you on a course of discipline and being healthy. You’re still considered obese by health standards, but this will continue to improve if you keep this up and continue your education about healthy eating. Oh, quick tip. You have to really question modern advice. There is a lot of bad advice out there. Find trustworthy sources and test their ideas on yourself. Only then will you know what works for you personally.

I’m glad you’re having a good time with your friends. Some of these relationships you started will last for years, if not the rest of your life. Don’t take this time for granted. I would also say to be careful who you choose to spend your time with. Remember: You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.

I have to warn you about something though. You need a little help in this area. You’ve been taking the safe route a little too often. I notice you wait around for things to come to you. It’s almost as if think the universe owes you something. Now don’t get me wrong, you are a nice kid and you’ve starting improving yourself in some aspects of your life, but the world demands more than that. If there is one thing the universe requires in order for it to give something back, that would be you putting positive energy into the world. Focus on overcoming the habit you have developed of being passive in situations when you know you should take action. Do whatever it takes to pound this into your head. This is crucial.

In a similar topic, let’s talk about fear. I know you have found yourself in many situations that make you nervous. But you have to realize…this is normal. It’s better to attack this by paying attention to what type of situations cause this response, along with how you usually handle yourself. Energy can be transformed. Work on transforming your fear and inexperience into a positive by creating challenges for yourself and taking things less seriously. You have a long way to go. Take more calculated risks than what makes you feel comfortable.

You still have a lot to learn, Greg. Your path will not be how you anticipate it now. But that’s okay. Enjoy the highs and lows. There will be a lot of them. But don’t get too high or too low, as the opposite will find its way into your life quicker than you expect. Life is a journey that no one will be able to truly explain to you, even though many will say they have found the answer. Decide to learn on your own through your experiences. So make sure to have fun, spend a lot of time discovering yourself, and spread positivity around as much as possible.

In closing, all I have to say is:

Enjoy the ride my friend

1/24 Good Reads

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Seen vs Unseen

“We are most often held back by obstacles we aren’t even aware of–bad habits, flaws, ego, neuroses, self-destructiveness, aversions and fears we hardly know we have.” Also see Soft .

Tucker Max Testosterone Ebook

If you are on the ball, you can grab this ebook for free. I just signed up for it. I’ve read his other posts on naturally boosting your testosterone and find a lot of value in it. He’s an extremely smart guy despite being perceived as the party-animal. I’d recommend starting with a few of his articles about testosterone – including the hilarious story of how he got into the mess of having low levels. Story, Intro, Eating, Exercising, Sleeping

Plants Don’t Grow Near Wi-Fi

So we needed 9th graders to figure this one out for us. The more I hear about this, the more i’m scared of technology’s effects on our long-term health. If plants aren’t growing properly with this radiation, how do you think this is affecting our bodies. I definitely make an effort to keep my phone off my body whenever I can, but who knows what else is going through the air. Medicine better catch up.

The Primate Awards

I just found this to be funny. I could look at these dudes all day. Who wants to go to the zoo?

Work Less, Play More

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You know when you look at a little kid without a care in the world? I want that.

You know why?

Because I had it. All of us did.

Growing up is a tricky thing. We graduate grade school, which is the end of the period where we had really no responsibility. Sure we had to do an hour or two of homework a week to pass our classes. But we chose the additional activities in our lives, whether it be sports, music, or dance. We then moved onto high school. Things got a little more serious. We had to pay a little more attention to our grades because they will affect which college we would get into. The sports and extracurricular activities became a little more important to us. We possibly had to get a side job to make a little extra money, since we were now driving and spending a little more. Once high school ended and college began, we noticed things became even more complicated.  We didn’t necessarily treat it this way, as this was probably one of the best periods of our lives. We met a ton of friends. We partied. We slept in till 12. But still, those grades mattered at the time. Our work on the side became more important to get by. We had more responsibility.

Now, being in the “real world”, things continue to move in that direction. More responsibility. Less social life.  More work.

I’ve noticed in myself that I have a very addictive personality. I tend to really fixate on different aspects of my life, which often consumes my attention much more than I would like it to. Many of these issues are not important in grand scheme of things. But still, they may affect my mood – sometimes for the whole day – without me understanding what’s going on. This fixation on things has led me to take things more seriously and try to fix them in a systematic way. I became more serious and calculated. I focused on these problems with more intensity than ever. My schooling conditioned me to do this. My personal life soon became a job in itself, beyond 9-5.

I’ve recently discovered that the more you focus on something, the more power that specific problem/issue has over you. It’s a very odd dynamic. I was noticing that many of the problems I was trying to overcome couldn’t be solved the way I was attacking it. The solution wasn’t more focus and problem solving. Instead, it was changing my attitude. 

As I mentioned, I find myself thinking too much about certain problems – and this has haunted me in the past. I don’t know if I will ever be able to simplify my wandering mind. But one thing I can change is how I approach the problem. My goal going forward is to treat the experience in front of me less like a job and more like an adventure. I can begin to treat going to the gym as a personal challenge instead of something I have to do to stay healthy. I can be compassionate and even laugh at my failures. Instead of attacking my fears and worries with more thinking (which compounds the effect), I can face them head on with a positive energy and loose, playful attitude. This will have no effect on the pride of my work or my work ethic. This is only a shift in attitude.

This will be a challenge it itself for me. But there’s no going back…I just made my decision.

Time to play.