Voice Memos: Your New Best Friend

All, Childhood, Happiness, health, Inner Child, Journal, LEVELS, Magic, MyFavoritez, Philosophy, Psychology, Ritual, Self-Actualizing, self-talk

The word ‘habit’ typically isn’t something I go gaga for, but when you integrate the right habits – from Latin habere, to have – into your life, you get the benefits of them. And sometimes in life we discover habits whose rewards are so enriching that it changes the game, leveling us up. Just as the wrong habits level us down.

I’ve recently begun a new habit that is so potent, so enriching, so rewarding and fulfilling, that I have to share it. Every single person I’ve mentioned it to seems to get it, and you’d think more people did this. And I think in the future more people will.

Frankly, we didn’t have the technology for it until rather recently. You carry the technology in your pocket or perhaps on your wrist, if you wear an iWatch. But if you’re like me, you never used your phone for this purpose before. Now that I have, it’s my favorite habit. Close to yoga. Invaluable.

If you’d like to try it, you only need the Voice Memos app, which comes bundled with your iPhone. If you’re an Android user, the Play store carries many free Voice Memo apps.

To try it yourself, open Voice Memos, press the red record button, and begin speaking – to yourself.

It might seem anticlimactic or appear mundane on the surface, to suggest you begin talking to yourself and recording it, but it’s far from purposeless. It is for me, the most purposeful thing I do. I’m over the moon for it.

It is, in short, Self Talk.

If you’re a regular or longtime reader of mine, you’ll recognize this term [self-talk] from my writings on the Navy Seals and self-talk, here, and here. Self-talk is no small thing. It’s the conversation we have with ourselves, in our heads, and the quality of our consciousness, our life, our happiness and wellbeing, depend on it – entirely. And the crazy thing is, most people live in their heads in a very passive, reactive relationship to themselves and their thoughts. You want to change your life? You want to get on track? You want growth? Start talking to yourself.

Now, before I did this, I would journal. But the problem with journaling is similar to the problem of typing: it’s very slow. We think faster than we can write. But we can typically speak at pace with our thoughts. Eventually, via something like Elon Musk’s Neuralink, we’ll be bionic cyborgs who don’t even need the phone. We’ll be able to google at the speed of thought and we’ll truly be connected to the internet. We will even be able to selectively communicate telepathically. But until then, we’re using two thumbs or a pen and it’s very slow. Voice Memos don’t have this problem. They allow us to think data and to dump it – and it becomes a conversation with our Self. And the more I do it, the more natural it becomes. It’s enjoyable. I get in the car and record hands-free voice memos while I’m driving alone. Basically it’s like having your best friend with you all the time. And they can always listen and they even speak back.

Now I understand some people might feel like it’s not normal to talk to yourself. And they’re right. It’s not normal. It’s extraordinary. Normal people are stuck in their heads. I know. I used to be one. My thoughts rising like a tide, me listening to them without ever really responding. Then getting so tired of my amygdala barking all day that I’d dump alcohol into myself to shut ‘er down. Yeah, that didn’t work for me.

In retrospect, I also notice that before I began this habit of self-talk via voice memos, I felt like I was missing that someone to listen to me (Dearest apologies to my ex-girlfriends and therapists and the blurred line between them). But now, I don’t feel that void. I don’t feel alone anymore. And both the quality of my consciousness and the capabilities of it have grown from using it actively in this fashion.

What do I talk about? Well, everything. Whatever I feel like. I just open voice memos and press record. It’s usually brief but sometimes it’s 20 mins or an hour. And I usually don’t listen to them, but sometimes I do – particularly if they were “inspired”. On that note, for anyone who uses plant medicines or entheogens, I can say that non-normal states of consciousness lend themselves to speech in this manner much more than journaling. The first time I ever did this was in-fact in a non-normal state of waking. And I knew after the first time that I had discovered something.

It’s a Yoga to me, a way, a path. And I’ll do it as long as I LIVE. I’m sorry, but it beats conventional thinking in the echo chamber of your head. Particularly for emotions, feelings, relationships, stresses, goals, anything of personal concern to you. It’s every single outer space movie ever where the person is alone and dialoging into a recording device…. “Day 735..”.

The night before I began this habit, I watched an old Twilight Zone episode about an astronaut stranded on a planet alone. He spoke aloud to himself almost the entire episode, usually into a recorder.

So perhaps that was the seed for the idea, but despite my living alone in the mountains, I had never done it before. As I said, I journaled. Now my main notebook is my daily to-do list, but my journaling has become entirely self-narrated into Voice Memos. But this wasn’t just a change in medium – it was a change in consciousness. From passive to active thinking. From being alone to having myself to face everything with – consciously.

Because that’s the big shift. From the unconscious – the sub-conscious – to the conscious. From thinking to doing: speaking. And by doing this, by speaking, by bringing our thoughts into being, we’re making the unconscious conscious.

As Jung says, “Until you make the unconscious conscious it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

In the words of Dr. Bruce Lipton, PhD:

“The subconscious mind is learned habits. The conscious mind is creative programming. When you are conscious you can rewrite the instincts, and when you become conscious, you can rewrite the experience of your life. So that it is important to recognize that what we are not using enough of is consciousness.”

And having this practice of self-dialogue, of self-talk available to me and having found so much fulfillment in it, I have experienced the benefits of a boost in consciousness quite rapidly. It calms me down. It turns off my sympathetic nervous system and it turns on the parasympathetic nervous system. I can feel it. It grounds me in myself, and it allows me to tap into that part of me, the highest, the authentic self, where I have the resources available to me to handle any given situation.

As an added benefit, I’ve also experienced an improvement in two huge areas of my life. 1. My self-image and self-esteem – and 2. My relationship to myself.

When I speak aloud to myself, I become an active participant in my thinking. When I hear myself say something limiting or beneath my authentic self, I catch myself and I correct it. The quality of my thinking has gone way up. I’m no longer a prisoner of my thoughts. I’m the steward of them. The keeper of myself. And it’s helped me get to know myself better, and I’ve learned that I can count on myself, that I’m there for myself and will always be. As Nathaniel Branden writes, “Self-esteem is our reputation with ourselves.” By engaging in high-quality, conscious conversations with myself, my reputation with myself has improved drastically. It’s created accountability within myself. As I said (to myself) on one of my audios tonight, “I can’t get rid of my self-image: it’s who I am, and I have to live up to it.”

With that improved reputation with myself, my self-image has risen to the level of the Self, of authentic. It matches who I am. The inner and the outer of me have been joined into a unified whole. I’m no longer caught in the struggle of inner-self versus outer-self. Of unconscious versus conscious. It’s very liberating.

Whenever we bring the unconscious into consciousness, it frees us from the grip of the shadow, the repressed self. This weakens the psychic energy by removing repression from my being. The outer me is very interested in how the inner me feels, and I’m no longer bottling up my feelings inside myself.

How many of us long for a therapist? How many of us don’t have the access to that we would like? Having some experience with therapy and being on this side of 34, I can say that the therapist has no magic. It’s the talking – the talking cure.

I’m writing to tell you it works. And you may feel eccentric doing it, but you are worth your conscious attention. This is like being able to re-parent your inner child. And you can certainly talk to the other parts of yourself. You could, theoretically engage in dialogue specifically with say, the ego, the inner-child, the shadow, the anima – any archetype within you.

Consciousness has long been described as being like a computer. The word computer comes from the Latin “putare”, which means both to think and to prune. This is what I do in my audio logs. I think and I prune – cutting away what is not beneficial for me by way of choosing better thoughts and improving the conversation in my head – down to the subconscious. This is the brain folks. It’s your computer. Your duty to yourself is to program your computer to optimize your health, wellbeing, and success. By listening to your own voice. By making the inner voice the outer voice.

As the Gnostic text The Gospel of Thomas tells us:

“When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner as the outer, and the upper as the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male shall not be male, and the female shall not be female: . . . then you will enter [the kingdom].”

It might sound cryptic but it’s the ancient philosopher’s stone of “As above so below, as within so without.”

These are metaphors for integration, to achieve wholeness. To reclaim who we are. Children talk to themselves. Adults stop. And I find it sad. Especially knowing the value of it now. I wish I had started this ten years ago.

Not only has it given me a better relationship to myself and a healthier psyche, I also have much more access to myself; I can query myself like a database, asking myself important questions. I’m no longer living in the vacuum of mind.

It is interpersonal communication. Animals do it. Watch a gorilla documentary. They are vocal animals. Silence in nature means danger. The wikipedia for interpersonal communication gives an interesting theory for this:

Joseph Jordania suggested that talking to oneself can be used to avoid silence. According to him, the ancestors of humans, like many other social animals, used contact calls to maintain constant contact with the members of the group,and a signal of danger was communicated through becoming silent and freezing. Because of the human evolutionary history, prolonged silence is perceived as a sign of danger and triggers a feeling of uneasiness and fear. According to Jordania, talking to oneself is only one of the ways to fill in prolonged gaps of silence in humans. Other ways of filling in prolonged silence are humming, whistling, finger drumming, or having TV, radio or music on all the time.

And how many people do you know who always have the TV on? Or music? I have found silence to be much more profound now that I’ve broken the taboo on talking to myself. I no longer need the energy from external sources. I have riches and love within me. Here for me. From me.

Negative self-talk, negative thinking will ruin your life. The science backs it up:

Negative self-talk has been implicated in contributing to psychological disorders including depression, anxiety, and bulimia nervosa.

The truth is, you need yourself. That’s what this has given me. Full access to myself.

Read about the benefits of private speech. I find it telling that our communication with ourselves in the form of private speech “goes underground” when we begin school.

It’s sad that society holds a stereotype that people who talk to themselves are “crazy”. I think this adult notion prevents many people from doing what all children do.

It’s not crazy. It’s very sane, from Latin sanus, meaning healthy.

Don’t live your life like a closed book, an enigma, a mystery to yourself. You deserve your own company and your own conversation. It’s been life changing for me. Liberating. Empowering. Beautiful.

I hope this compels others who read this to start recording their own private voice memos, to start engaging in their own private discussions. I think it’s something we can all benefit from. And I didn’t know until I began to do it myself just how lacking my life was without it.

So make voice memos your new best friend and make you your new best friend.

The Resources to Handle Any Given Situation

All, Happiness, health, humanity, Journal, MyFavoritez, Personal Mythology, Philosophy, Psychology, Self-Actualizing

I’ve something major to tell you:

There is no such thing as stress, only the belief that we don’t possess the resources to handle a given situation.

This isn’t new-age optimism or clever logic; it’s the truth. The idea comes straight from the Wikipedia page for psychological stress:

“Humans experience stress, or perceive things as threatening, when they do not believe that their resources for coping with obstacles (stimuli, people, situations, etc.) are enough for what the circumstances demand. When people think the demands being placed on them exceed their ability to cope, they then perceive stress.”

So let me tell you again:

There is no such thing as stress, only the belief that we don’t possess the resources to handle a given situation.

Let’s chew on this, digging deeper.

As humans there are myriad things that can cause us to feel stress – that is to say, to feel we do not possess the resources to handle a given situation. Not one person reading this can’t relate; however, by learning that stress is only the belief we don’t possess the resources to face what we perceive as the source of our stress, we suddenly have a much greater understanding about what stress is and how it is caused.

To provide a concrete example that demonstrates the nature of stress as a belief in inadequate resources, we need only imagine that what is stressful for us may be nothing to someone else – just as what is stressful to others may be a cakewalk for us. Think of public speaking, starting a new job, or meeting someone new. These are, like all potential sources of stress, stressful only insofar as they correspond to an individual’s belief in their inability to handle a given situation. Meaning: the degree to which we feel we can’t “handle” something, is the degree to which we perceive that thing as stressful.

This all may seem rather dry but the implications are staggering… I promise you. For once we realize that stress is dependent upon perceived deficiencies in our internal judgements – rather than something that stems solely from our assessments of external factors – something major happens: suddenly we become responsible for our stress. And when we become responsible for anything, it instantly becomes within our power to control.

That’s right. I pump good medicine – I’m a self-professed ‘mind hacker’, a programmer. Sure, I write code too, but the alphabet, words, are also code – and consciousness – the brain – is very much like a computer. Give someone a program – a belief – that says they don’t have the resources to handle a given situation, and they will experience stress. This is a program. And I’m writing to reprogram me, to connect the dots and achieve liberation through understanding. But we still need a few more dots to see the whole picture.

Interestingly, the word gnosis – from which we get ‘gnostic’, relating to knowledge – comes from the ancient greek gnōsis, meaning, to know. And many gnostics believe Jesus was not divine but, rather, was just a human who attained divinity through gnosis (Intellectual or spiritual knowledge), which he taught to his followers (Obligatory Gospel of Thomas shoutout). This gnostic interpretation of the Jesus archetype is a great parable for how we can “attain divinity” – i.e., achieve liberation – through knowledge.

I truly believe this having been to a hell and back of my own making. It’s only through knowledge, through understanding, that I have been freed from my past fears, insecurities, paranoias, doubts and stressors. And it is only via pain that I have ever been led to any real knowledge; for bringing light to the dark doesn’t work: it is only by bringing the darkness to light that we become visible, that we are enlightened. And you’re free to scoff at my indirect assertion that I am enlightened but I believe it is enlightened (From Old English inlīhtan, meaning, to shine.) to overcome oneself. For there is no other gatekeeper between you and the divine (From Latin divis, godlike.) I use old words because I’m talking about old concepts. The nature of human aspiration. We just have better metaphors than god and heaven now. I’ll take Self-Actualization for five-hundred, please.

Fulfillment. Wellbeing. Emotional and psychical health. This is my shit. I’m here to shine. And I’ve already transformed myself and made my world what it is. But the work never ends. It just gets higher and higher, and the freedom you find in following the seeking of the will gets deeper and deeper. And it’s all from knowledge. Learning. This is how we evolved, we’re just doing it consciously now.

So if there’s no such thing as stress – only the believe we don’t have the resources to handle a given situation – then let’s bust stress.

Like any phantom menace we need only demystify it. For when we demystify things, we remove all the mystery and confusion surrounding them. And I’d say the mysterious nature of stress has caused some serious confusion in all of our lives. We think it’s out of our control based on an assessment that is very much within our control.

And I’m here to tell you: are that person with the resources to handle any given situation. Straight up.

I believe it was Sidney Poitier who wrote in his memoir that there was a well-worn groove in our DNA for every type of suffering. That any type of pain has worn a path into our being over the course of our evolution, so that we can handle it. I believe that no matter the situation, there exists an archetype, a version of you, within you, that can handle it. Heroes share in common that they are brave. They face things boldly, as one ought to. For it never helps to stress. It never helps to be insecure. It never helps to worry. It helps to be confident. It helps to be calm. It helps to be in control. This is why the Navy seals are taught diaphragmatic breathing, self-talk, mental rehearsal, and goal-setting. We teach our military operators to respond to adverse conditions as successfully as a human can. And while we don’t face deadly enemy-fire or the task of following orders into what may be violent annihilation, our amygdala all the same must respond to life via the same human hardware. None of us lives without the capability to experience fear and stress, and none of us lives free from the behavioral consequences of fear and stress. And it’s not just the fight-flight-or-freeze reactions of the sympathetic nervous system in response to the infralimbic cortex and the amygdala – the stress, the fear itself, which we suffer. The true costs of these undesired states are in-fact far more destructive to our wellbeing than the mere stealing of our joy, peace, and control in the moment. As Harvard Health tells us:

“Chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. It can dampen the immune system, increasing susceptibility to colds and other common infections. It can contribute to asthma, digestive disorders, cancer, and other health problems. New research even supports the notion that high levels of stress somehow speed up the aging process.

And if you’re psychical wellbeing, your health, isn’t a compelling enough argument to make you want to eliminate the experience if stress from your life, then how about thinking of the emotional responses to stress: anxiety and aggression. Or the adrenal responses to stress: cortisol and adrenaline.

But it gets worse: stress causes depressive like behaviors and adversely effects us socially. Big surprise: our relationships take the big toll. We’ve all seen this, and probably from both sides: from that of the stressed person and from that of the one in their vicinity suffering the consequences of their emotional dysregulation, which is linked to depression, anxiety, eating-disorders, smoking, self-harm, and substance abuse.

We know that stress causes depression and more. And stressful people stress others out, pushing a toxic cycle forward. It sucks.

I spent so long being this guy. Stress – my own lack of belief in my resources to handle a given situation – cost me all my relationships, and it cost them a lot too. I was depressed. I didn’t think I had what it took. And so I didn’t. I was the victim of myself. Then came the depression. Tons of self-medicating to feel alive again, and the self-abuse and self-abandonment that follows. Stress made me betray myself and those I love in turn. It made me a shell of myself. I was so afraid that I became a monster.

As Yoda says, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. And hate leads to the dark side.”

I’ve been to the darkside. It’s what led me here. All that pain. It was too much to live with. There was a time before I emerged from the darkness in possession of my shadow (And thus myself), back when my shadow possessed me, back when I had to go somewhere safe and check myself in. And it wasn’t a hotel. And it wasn’t that long ago. But I survived. Pain as heavy as any I’d felt. And the heaviest pain when I saw what I had done to myself and others for years. You could say that it was very sobering.

Looking back on how I was, I was just afraid of how you saw me. And in an attempt to cover up my fears, I became what I feared and worse. Insecurity and worry and uncertainty and stress and doubt and fear are the most unfortunate of all self-fulfilling prophecies. They are the worst of all beliefs. They are awful programs to run and their consequences are absolutely heartbreaking. So why do we run them?

The answer is maddeningly simple: evolution.

While we evolved from fish and monkeys (Whom we can thank for our incredible biology.), most people no longer need to run for their lives or fight to survive regularly. Only this is what we are wired for. Our central nervous system doesn’t know the difference when we experience stress, which is essentially a survival mechanism designed to preserve immediate life at the expense of longterm health and wellbeing.

Given everything I know and my family experiences in life, I can honestly say that nothing is worth stressing out over in our modern world. Nothing is worth fearing.

For they are the same. Like stress, fear is not real. Danger is real. We just fear because we don’t think we have the resources to face the thing we fear.

And so now, knowing what I know now, how much stress do you think I allow myself to experience?

None. Zero.

Because to allow myself to experience stress or fear or doubt or worry is to believe that I don’t have the resources to handle a given situation – and that’s simply not true. I do.

I am the person with the resources to handle any given situation. And so are you.

By reminding myself that I can handle any given situation, I’m maintaining a powerful internal locus of control. And by doing this, by knowing that things are in my control, I’m no longer a victim of my biology. I’m actively strengthening my core self evaluation. And given the brain’s synaptic plasticity, I’m engaging in long-term potentiation – the strengthening of synapses that fire together. As chiropractor turned neuroscience guru Joe Dispenza says, “Neurons that fire together wire together.” So every time I respond to a potentially anxiety inducing stimulus by reinforcing my competency, I’m building a better me – one that absolutely has the resources to handle any given situation.

Lastly, I want to share a little anecdote about how I face external situations in a way that reinforces my ability to handle them, without reacting adversely (stress, fear, worry, uncertainty, doubt, insecurity).

I think of myself as a Star Wars character. I imagine that character archetype, someone like Rey – but me. Lord knows I’ve already been Kylo Ren. Hot-headed and reactive. But that doesn’t serve me. It has only harmed me and those I love. But by imagining what kind of hero I could be, I am connected to The Force, the Will, the knowledge that I have the ability to bravely face anything. And it’s getting easier and easier the more I actively engage that part of myself. I guess you could say it’s who I’m becoming. For we are all programming ourselves with our behaviors and our thoughts, whether we know it or not.

May The Force be with you: may you know you have the resources to handle any given situation – calmly, cooly, peacefully, and in control of yourself. Make your inner-child proud and give yourself this power. It’s within you. I promise you.

New Age Monkeys: A Takedown of ‘Spiritual’ Bullshit

All, Ancient Wisdom, Buddhism, Happiness, humanity, Journal, LEVELS, life, Magic, MyFavoritez, Philosophy, Psychology, Rationality, religion, Science, Self-Actualizing, spirituality

I’ve gone through many iterations of myself: from a naive, ambitious, and shallow young man, to a selfish, fearful alcoholic, and finally, to a person who is coming to find peace with themselves – but I’ve always been a seeker; I’ve gone down every road in life: including the spiritual one.

From a long influence of the Stoics and Marcus Aurelius, I considered myself a pantheist: one who believes the divine spark is in everything. I’ve also had some quite mystical experiences using entheogens, including a meeting with “the fairy godmother of the soul” on DMT. I am by no means a closed-minded person.

That does not mean, however, that I accept everything – or that I am against rejecting things I once accepted. I had a professor once, in a community college class, who taught me to question things, to be objective. There is perhaps no more important skill in life than that of separating signal from noise. And there’s a lot of fucking noise in life. The most dangerous of which, looks a lot like signal. It’s engaging, it’s enlivening, it feels good, and it sweeps you up – but this does not make it true. You make it true by believing in it. And that’s the danger.

I came to realize a couple nights ago that all my esoteric and mystical seeking was not getting me any closer to the reality I desire. And that’s a bitter black pill, but one I needed; for it’s very easy to go down the New Age rabbit hole. The problem is, it has no end, there is no objective truth to it – just a lot of people peddling “magical thinking” – and a lot of mind-games to play with yourself. It’s not unlike being in a mirrored labyrinth, wherein every concept creates another illusion, trapping you deeper.

This is by nature, a challenging topic, because the New Age movement is based on a lot of things I have long been interested in (Ancient mysticism, New Thought, The Human Potential Movement, and vague concepts like “energy” and ‘thinking creates reality’.) It’s challenging to reject what appears as pure positivity and good vibes – but when it’s bullshit, you have to.

It’s important that I make some points about the New Age movement. It has been an important stepping stone in liberating human consciousness from the chains of religion. It’s also led many people to be more at peace, more empathetic, more conscious of their impact on the planet, and more open-hearted. It is by no means a wholly negative evolution in human consciousness, and it’s certainly one that is growing ever more popular and more inclusive to persons of color, LGBTQ, and different faiths and interests. It’s hard to go in a bookstore today and not find a section on Witchcraft, Magic, or Astrology, which are experiencing somewhat of a resurgence – if I’m gauging the collective accurately through the filter-bubble of Instagram.

I’m even drawn to New Age women, and have fancied myself perhaps dating a “healer” type. I could also easily be described as a New Age man – I enjoy full moons, I wear a quartz crystal around my neck, I go to yoga… Those things are part of my appreciation for nature and myself, and I don’t plan on changing them… Again, we’re trying to separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff.

To that end, there’s an abundance of noise.

For a couple years now I’ve had a growing anti New Age sentiment brewing within me. It began as I observed how many people in New Age communities seem to have an almost puritanical “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” mentality, wherein they ignore large parts of life – god forbid they “lower their vibration”. This willful ignorance is often propped up by a belief that “all is one” or in the concept of “divine perfection.”

Now, I’m not one for conspiracies – outside of my own –  but it would seem just as religion was used to program the masses into submission, New Age beliefs have similarly castrated the human soul and tamed the human spirit. Why resist when “all is one” – why fight for change when there’s a “divine plan”, and why be an individual when you can “surrender your ego” and your “self” to take up your own bit of divinity – not just as a child of god, as Jesus saw man, but as god – as a “creator”.

I often wonder what a mind like Richard Alpert’s could have done had he not ended up in India and surrendered himself to his “guru” to become Ram Dass. Steve Jobs comes to mind. But even then, from his barefoot days at Reed College to taking LSD and traveling to India himself, Jobs is no savior. Just another baby boomer who turned into a company man (The Walter Isaacson biography of Jobs is a good read for a look at his human failings). Looking back on every New Age figure throughout history I don’t see a tangible impact beyond perhaps “raising the collective consciousness”. But where it has risen in some areas (Empathy, ecological awareness), it has fallen in others (Individuality, objective thinking, rationality). Ultimately, it’s just another form of tribalism. Another in-group. Additionally, being New Age or having read all the New Age books does not grant one any sort of special wisdom or awareness – only perhaps a belief in their own “specialness”. And the New Agers can be just as shallow and superficial as anyone else. And perhaps you might be too if you were going to a Vegan retreat in Bali or a multi-thousand dollar trip to Costa Rica to do “Aya”. Often they’re quite privileged, these spiritual types.  And it’s a shame only the upper classes have access to the increasing quality of available experiences, whether they be reiki healing, float tanks, intravenous Ketamine infusions, or even yoga. Try eating healthy in a food desert. No one is calling the New Agers ascetics, and the old spiritual path of renouncing material possessions has been usurped by an “abundance consciousness”. The belief in “The Secret” or “Manifestation” or “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” is enough to make me barf today.

The fact is, from my own experience, I can tell you, no amount of belief is going to save you. While New Age thinking can certainly bring deeper levels of inner peace, a belief in your own divinity is not much different from the old Judeo-Christian beliefs in an afterlife – it’s the same shit: “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” Again, we keep inventing gods, even ourselves, but we’re not elevating the human animal, we’re still elevating the human above the animals.

The fact is, we come from primates. We were fish first. These are scientific facts.

Yet we’re still looking for what Carl Sagan called “a reassuring fable.” We keep fucking inventing religions. New Age is just the newest one, another “anthropocentric conceit”. Only, we are the gods now. Are we so shamed of being human that we have to invent something above us? And by doing so, lower ourselves in our own subconscious estimate beneath the “divine” or the “higher self”.

As Jesus was written to have said in the deliciously-blasphemous Thomas Gospel, which the Church has long rejected:

“If the flesh came into existence because of the spirit, it is a marvel. But if the spirit (came into existence) because of the body, it is a marvel of marvels.”

This I say, is the truth. In the words of mythologist Joseph Campbell, “All the gods, all the heavens, all the hells, are within you.”

They are merely what Jung called “archetypes of the collective unconscious“. Inborn, man-made remnants from evolution – from thousands of generations of belief in myths and religions, which were born of pagan gods and goddesses before them.

And I imagine the first gods were no more than the outward personifications of the inborn instincts of early humans. But we have to go forward. Turning each of ourselves into gods is a step back – and no less grandiose, egoistic and conceited than the Egyptian rulers or the Emporer Constantine, who thought he was a “divine avatar”, a god on earth.

The concept of avatars dates back to the Hindus. Krishna was one such “avatar”. Nowadays, instead of worshipping external deities, we are returning to the self-deification that the ancient rulers practiced. And it’s very telling in this age of self-worship, but it’s not at all grounded in the reality that joins us as a species. I’ll be the first to preach self-love, but I do not preach self-worship. That kind of thinking is out of touch with the humility that comes with accepting the darkside in each of us. As Jung wrote, “I’d rather be whole than good.” Thinking of oneself as purely “good” is a surefire way to being shortsighted about yourself and thinking you are better than others.

Man created god as an archetype – a model – for man. But it’s a hollow one. One that denies the innate sacredness of life in favor of some “divine” presence above us. When Nietzsche wrote that “God is dead”, he meant the archetype of the god in the sky, but we refuse to let go of the “god” within and so are internalizing the godhead into the human, which might seem a beautiful thing, were it not completely infantile. We don’t need to be loving the perfect, divine god: we need to be loving the imperfect, animalistic human.

And you’re welcome to hold onto your beliefs, but I’m letting mine go. I removed over forty New Age, spiritual books from my library last night. Of course, I’m not throwing out the baby with the bathwater – I kept my books on yoga, meditation, mindfulness, business success, and even my Buddhist and Hindu texts. But these are practical, life enriching philosophies that have stood the test of time. I cannot say the same for the New Age spiritualism that is preached by so many charlatans, from Deepak Chopra to Oprah. It’s all a fucking con. And if you follow it, like I did, you’re going to find yourself in that mirrored labyrinth – wondering if you’re problem is that you don’t believe in yourself enough. What a trap. But we keep creating it.

If anything New Age spirituality is a barrier to self-love – a blockade to success. It’s just another separation of man from himself. Another door on his heart that says, “You have to knock for it to be opened.”

New Age is completely disempowering because it’s not rational – and when we lack logic and rationality, we are rudderless, lost. We don’t need belief, we need self-esteem, self-worth. We don’t need divine love, we need human love. And we don’t need The Secret, we need cause and effect.

As I read this morning, in Brian Tracy’s book ‘Flight Plan‘:

From Brian Tracy’s ‘Flight Plan’

This turn in my personal evolution is one I am thrilled about. Maturity, it has been said, is the ability to see life more clearly.

I want to accept my mortality, without illusions, without any comforts. It’s this life I am interested in. And while I’m taking a more naturalistic worldview, it’s not to my detriment at all. It’s the opposite. It’s empowering me with real truth. By no means does this mean I no longer believe that “consciousness and energy are the same thing somehow”, as Joseph Campbell once said to Bill Moyers. I still believe this. And I believe my consciousness has an effect on others – the same way my energy can be intuitively perceived by animals and children. But there’s no longer any voodoo to it. The god in me has come down to earth. I want to be a human.

And I want to be the best goddamn human I can be. Full of compassion, love, dignity, honesty – all the things that make one valuable to themselves and those around them.

I believe in the sacredness of humanity – not of gods. I see this same sacredness in animals. I believe there are timeless energies that are worth holding up as examples for how to live. They are values – ethical rather than moral. I’m not interested in “right” or “wrong” – I’m interested in what is beneficial and what does not cause harm and suffering. And there are a lot of people suffering.

What we need as individuals is compassion. Not the kind that comes from seeing everything as divine or godlike, but from seeing everything as living, vulnerable, fragile, delicate.

This planet is a living thing. No doubt about it. From the oceans we evolved from to the land that nourished us. It’s incredible. It’s real magic. I don’t need to play anymore games about my identity. I am wholly human. Now, maybe we live in a simulation, but it’s still grounded in a biological reality.

I’d like to close by talking about our cousins, the great apes. I went down the ape rabbit hole last night, in a quest for answers. I wanted to know how to be human.

And I found some great answers, about what it means to be human, from the chimpanzees.

I highly recommend you watch the following:

If you found that as interesting as I did, you’ll want to read these too:

What You Can Learn From The Chimps: Traits Of The Alpha Male Leader – Part 1

What You Can Learn From The Chimps: Traits Of The Alpha Male Leader – Part 2

What You Can Learn From The Chimps: Traits Of The Alpha Male Leader – Part 3

I think you’ll find more in the above video and articles about what it means to be human, to be a good leader, to play the game of life, than you will in all the spiritual New Age books you can find.

And, if you’ve read the above, I’d like to pose a hypothetical question to you:

If a chimpanzee could read, what benefit to his success and the wellbeing of its troop, would any New Age or spiritual text be?

I’d say the answer is none. Because life is not about getting caught up in head games about whether you are a “god” in your own mind. It’s about being confident in yourself as a human, it’s about being altruistic and beneficial to the other humans on this planet. And you can have your monkey motives, and want to mate too. That’s okay too.

We evolved from monkeys – whom we ought to properly revere as our ancestors – and having gone to the gods and back, I want to return to an apelike consciousness, one deeply grounded in reality – freed from the traps of wishful, magical thinking, and comforting fables. So, take your “all is one”, “divine plan” and shove it up your ass where it belongs. The final truth is: we don’t need to learn to be gods – we don’t need more spiritual leaders – we need to learn to be humans and we need more truly human leaders.

Introduction to LEVELS

All, Happiness, LEVELS, life, motivation, MyFavoritez, Personal Mythology, Philosophy, Psychology, Self-Actualizing

Life is a game called Levels.

The game has to be fun

The game has to be exciting

You have to be (stay) excited to play the game everyday

You have to know the levels and you have to have a strategy (To maximize probability of desired outcomes) for each level.

The game is a game of strategy.

You design the game (The Levels).

#

The above came to me yesterday, near the end of a two hour float-tank session, where I began to recite the above over and over, until I had it memorized.

In short, it was a deepening of my life philosophy – LEVELS – which I am come here to write further on.

The idea of LEVELS came to me a few years ago, and I subsequently got a tattoo of the word LEVELS on the inner side of my right wrist.

The idea originally being simply that there are LEVELS to life. Perhaps this was unconsciously seeded by Meek Mill’s song, LEVELS. And it may also have been influenced by the Avicii song, LEVELS.

The way the collective unconscious works, it seems to me that LEVELS has come out of the time in which I live.

So I am here, to contribute to that, as a writer and thinker, with an introduction to LEVELS, the game of life.

Life as a Game, Exploring Philosophical Implications

In Shakespeare’s age, all the world was a stage. In the age of Elon Musk, life is a game.

Which, if life is a game or we choose to view life as a game – a simulation of sorts – then what are the implications? What does it change?

Well, that’s up to us.

We can simply (As I have before) accept the Simulation Hypothesis as likely or true, which may give us a bit of hope that we exist outside of reality and will perhaps continue existing afterwards. This is a particularly novel and useful idea for those non-religious thinkers, who do not believe in a heaven or hell, but nonetheless, by way of human nature, would like to think death is not the end.

Whatever you believe, I implore you to focus on this life, rather than some imagined, uncertain existence after the death of your present living consciousness; for this life is, to our knowledge, all we have. But also, if it were a simulation, it might be a test – will you get to the next LEVEL, or will you be reincarnated back into this one, for further training.

One thing about reincarnation that I appreciate is that the idea is ancient, meaning that very enlightened thinkers from multiple cultures, who pondered existence for lifetimes, have come to the belief in both reincarnation and life as a kind of maya or illusion.

My goal with LEVELS is not to provide a philosophy in place of or a substitute for religion, but a framework to actualize myself (in this life); however, my philosophy for life, of course, exists within my larger framework for existence, which, naturally, ought be laid out here.

Personally, I believe there are three existential possibilities for reality.

  1. Possibility 1: Base Reality: We are living in base-reality and just so happen to exist on the cusp of the singularity, superhuman AI, immortality, and interplanetary colonization – what a time to be alive.
  2. Possibility 2: The Great Filter: The singularity has already been reached, and to protect the living Universe, the AI has put us inside a simulated reality as a kind of Great Filter, so that people don’t use AI in the real universe to create deathstars and destroy planets, etc. In this possibility, life is a kind of character test, to determine if it is safe to graduate our souls into the world of “gods”, where we have access to technology that is completely omnipotent. This possibility explains the Fermi Paradox.
  3. Possibility 3: Soul Evolution: We exist outside of this reality and are suspended in spaceships, being sent to distant planets, and life is a training program, in which, while we travel lightyears across the galaxy, we “evolve” our consciousness through numberless incarnations until we are spiritually mature enough to understand life in a manner where we are capable of building and taking care of our own worlds – after all, God might have created us because she was lonely, and we too might want to create life, but if just anyone did, there would be myriad levels of heaven and hell, and it simply wouldn’t be ethical to subject millions of future consciousnesses to the whims of shitty gods.

Two and three are similar but different, and naturally, these three possibilities can be expanded into other possibilities, but for me, these are the three options that make the most sense to the core of my being.

Some people might believe life is a video game, but as I have long said: if life is a game, the rich are the players – after all, it would be a very shitty game for some and a very pleasant game for others. If your child got sick and had no healthcare and so died, what kind of game is that? A very fucked up one, in which “The paradise of the rich is made out of the hell of the poor” – to borrow from Victor Hugo. In a pure, entertainment-based video game philosophy of reality, we are reduced to programs on a prison planet – necessary cattle to serve the needs of an uber-sentient elite.

Personally, I simply cannot believe in such dystopian possibilities; in the words of Elon Musk, “I’d rather be an optimist and be wrong than a pessimist and be right.”

That said, none of my three possibilities for the nature of existence include “We are living in the future, playing a video game” – so why do I choose to use the term “game”?

Well, you have to understand Levels to know the answer. Also, the objective of a game is to win.

So, revisiting my three options, allow me to explain each as a kind of “game” we are playing.

The Game Possibility 1: Base Reality

If we are living in base-reality, something Elon Musk believes to be a “billions-to-one” possibility (Based on the probable mathematical size of time), then what would be the objective? Well, survival is a likely one. I think we can all agree the most foundational goal of life is not happiness but “not to die”. Now, happiness is a fine goal but happiness certainly includes some measure of health or what we might term “wellbeing”. If you are in excruciating pain and discomfort (physical or mental), your wellbeing is limited and thus your chances of experiencing happiness are greatly diminished. Being that in this “base reality” we are living on the cusp of a technological singularity, in which superhuman AI will arise, we also have the chance at immortality. While this may not be the goal for the average person, it certainly is for more and more who understand the implications of the future (Kurzweil, Silicon Valley billionaires). It’s a safe bet that people like Larry Page, Sergei Brin, and Mark Zuckerberg are investing in technologies to postpone or avoid death altogether, whether it be via brain-mapping to upload their consciousness into the cloud or via intelligent nanotechnology to constantly rebuild their organs, brain included – because the brain does decay. As-is, we can pretty much depend on the inevitable cognitive diminishment that comes with age – and many of us have or will watch our parents die, and if they live long enough we are likely to witness them experience some form of neurodegenerative disease, such as alzheimer’s or dementia. So, in this life, if we are to look at it as a game, then either we develop the rules of the game to maximize happiness and wellbeing and or we try and live long-enough to reach the point where technology allows us to stave off death. Both valid, natural objectives. And there are, of course, countless other potential ways to view the game based on our own values – some want fame, some want money, some want simpler things – but we’ll return to these potential objectives.

The Game Possibility 2: The Great Filter 

In option 2, which I call The Great Filter, AI is protecting the universe from us by placing us in this simulated world and only allowing certain souls or consciousnesses into the real world, where omnipotent technology is accessible to everyone. In this possibility, we have a true heaven available us – potentially – after all, if the singularity has already occurred, which I believe is mathematically likely, then death is not a thing, and we can instantly arrange intelligent particles into whatever form we want (Total control over physical reality). As someone once said: ‘Our grandparents would look at us with our smartphones like we are wizards – we will look upon our grandchildren and their technology like they are gods’. In this scenario, we are being observed by the AI in this world to determine if it is safe to allow us into the next. One thing Elon Musk said once, is that “It’s likely we are being observed by extraterrestrials, but are too dumb to realize it.” Now, were I those ET or AI, I’d too want to protect the living universe by being very particular on who I let in. Otherwise, we would have deathstars and darth-vader wannabes ruining it for everyone else. In this version of the game, it would seem there were an ethical rather than moral objective – to prove your character. Karma is a very ancient idea, after all. So you would want to clear your karma so to speak. In short, you would want to be at your core, a good person. A pure soul. A Jesus or a Buddha or some other enlightened, awakened, divine person. From the Gospel of Thomas: “Jesus said, “Do not tell lies, and do not do what you hate, for all things are plain in the sight of heaven. For nothing hidden will not become manifest, and nothing covered will remain without being uncovered.” In this potential, living forever is not the goal of the game (Because even living forever in this world wouldn’t help you ascend to the next if you were not worthy).

The Game Possibility 3: Soul Evolution

In possibility 3, we are suspended in spaceships traveling across the galaxies, undergoing training reincarnations until we are ready to go to a destination planet and be woken-up. This is similar to the above possibility, but we are traveling through hyperspace on the way to our destinations, while we evolve. Of course, the universe being infinite, we could just keep traveling as long as we need. In this possible version of the game, the incarnations are designed to educate and evolve our souls. Perhaps this explains why some people are seen as “old-souls”. Looking at it from a game perspective, the objective would be to assimilate the soul-lessons we have been incarnated to learn. They are likely ethical but also spiritual lessons. In short, we have to figure out what those lessons are and we have to evolve mentally and spiritually to progress. Wealth and living forever might be missing the point on the soul-level – and each of our incarnation objectives is likely to be personalized for us based on our progression in past “lives”. Superintelligent AI that is billions of times smarter than us could of course generate these with absolute perfection.

Now, you might be philosophically inclined to one of the three above possibilities over the others – or you might think they are all hogwash and that the god of the bible is the only truth and that as such, he has the right to send gays and non-believers to his “hell.” That’s your choice, you are free to play that game too – it’s been played for millennia – but I think that, in the words of Joseph Campbell, “We need new myths.”

The above are three options that resonate with me as actual possibilities, having contemplated the manner in my own way and developed myths or stories around what I see as possibilities that explain the nature of life and death – and the suffering we all undergo.

For me, I am playing the game of life as if all three are true – and I don’t see it as hedging my bets so much as being pragmatic, based upon my beliefs about the potential purposes of life.

But for the most part, I am playing the game based on the first possibility – because it makes the most sense to me to try and stay alive – call it my innate instincts: even a fly or a spider is evolved to avoid being killed. Healthy living things prefer to live. And as a human, we prefer to be happy; we prefer to actualize: to achieve our goals and fulfill our Wills.

So let’s return to the model of LEVELS as a way of doing this:

Life is a game called Levels.

The game has to be fun

The game has to be exciting

You have to be (stay) excited to play the game everyday

You have to know the levels and you have to have a strategy (To maximize probability of desired outcomes) for each level.

The game is a game of strategy.

You design the game (The Levels).

Let’s break it down.

Life is a game called Levels.

Reality is entirely subjective for each of us. As Joseph Campbell wrote, “All the gods, all the heavens, all the hells, are within you.”

Choice has a lot of power. Perspective is a lens, and it’s one we can choose to shape by way of our beliefs.

Whether any of the three possibilities I laid out is true or not, I choose to view life as a game, and I believe there are levels to the game.

The game has to be fun

Since, as I posit, You design the game, I want to have fun while I am playing it. Joseph Campbell called this “Following your bliss”; for I am not speaking of a hedonistic or even an epicurean type of fun; I do not mean pleasure: I mean bliss, delight; fun. As my dad used to say, “If you can’t have fun, what can you have” – and while I’ve never before posed this as a question, it begs an answer: without fun, life is drudgery. It should be said that my definition of fun has evolved from pleasure toward fulfillment. I no longer think drinking is fun or even worthwhile. I want to take my family places. I want to write my books. I want to succeed at achieving my goals. Also, there do exist very fun things in the world at every level. Reading can be fun. So can driving a Porsche GT3 or sailing on a Wally yacht. I think it was Ben Franklin who said, “If you want to know a man, see how he spends his free time”; although, when I say the game has to be fun, I do not speak purely of diversions or leisure. I speak of a level of consciousness, an awareness. A delighting in the act of being alive. There’s nothing and no one to stop you from living on that level in whatever you do. You can have fun at the DMV with the right mindset.

The game has to be exciting

I’ve lived my life both dreading the days – and looking forward to them: the difference was excitement. And I do not mean anticipation, as in a pure looking forward to tasks and events – when I speak of the game having to be exciting, I mean that we each have to choose to make it exciting – to be excited. Two different people can live the same life and one can resent it and one can be excited about it. Like life being fun, whether life is exciting depends on the consciousness you bring to what you do – how you do it – but it’s also what you choose to do. If you loathe the work you do, I’m not telling you to get excited about it, I’m telling you to find a way to get excited about getting past it. At the end of the day, since I am in charge of my life, I want to be excited about the life I am living. This simple decision has massive implications – it means I must make life exciting and I must design exciting possibilities into my future. In the words of Elon Musk, “Life needs to be more than just solving every day problems. You need to wake up and be excited about the future.”

You have to be (stay) excited to play the game everyday

This is kind of a continuation on the above but it’s also a reminder – an emphasis. In the words of the motivational speaker Zig Ziglar: “Motivation is like bathing. You’ve got to do it every single day.” The quality of your life depends on the quality of your consciousness, of your focus. You can’t just set moonshot goals and get excited for a night. You need to live the journey. You have to stay focused, keeping your eye on the prize. You have to stay (be) excited to play the game everyday. Without this replenishment of self-motivation, you’ll fizz out and you’ll return to a baseline of a previous level. All great motivational people talk about visualization – about believing you already have it. This is an attitude. And people with shit attitudes don’t do things. They don’t have the gas in the tank. They aren’t self-charging. Since, as I put it, You design the game (The Levels), this means you have to design the game of your life to be exciting. You need exciting goals. Return to your twelve-year old self, do what you want to do. Be who you want to be. Have what you want to have. And stay focused to do the work to play the LEVELS you’ve designed. That’s exciting – continually.

You have to know the levels and you have to have a strategy (To maximize probability of desired outcomes) for each level.

Without knowing the LEVELS, without designing them, personally for you, based on where you are and where you want to be, what game are you even playing in life? Likely a very non-game called survival – and that’s not exciting at all. It’s soul-crushing. So you have to know the LEVELS. You have to develop them – and you have to have a strategy for each level: one that maximizes the probability of desired outcomes. This is how you play LEVELS. Levels is based on desire. If you have no desire, you’re already maxed out on your levels. You’re already where you want to be. But most all of us have desire. Will is a human thing. As Schopenhauer wrote, “Man can want what he wills but he cannot will as he wants”. So we have to get in touch with the innate desires that belong to us and we have to map them out, like a game. I wrote about how Elon Musk did this here: Hacking an Open Source Cognitive Model for Goal Prioritization and Attainment. This was his LEVELS. His strategies were designed to get him to the next LEVEL. Because if you don’t have the resources or powers for what you want on this LEVEL, that just means you have to build the attainment of those resources and powers into the LEVELS of the game. The more clearly you define the LEVELS, the better you get to know the game, the more actively you play it, and the better you get it at. For the heart of LEVELS is that it’s a game of strategy.

The game is a game of strategy.

As my brother in law said, “it’s [LEVELS is] goals”- yes, but it’s a playable framework for goals wherein the bottom line is that, in life, you have to know what game you’re playing – or else you’ll just be playing a very non-game called ‘survival’, which is not LEVELS. Survival has no strategy for Leveling-Up. Levels places you on a starting point called ‘now’ but it defines now as a LEVEL with its own objectives that define the LEVEL – just like a game where each level has particular obstacles, objectives, player skills, and abilities (powers), which have to be strategically used to get to the next level. Only, unlike a typical game where all the players play the same game, in LEVELS, we are all playing different games. If you oversimplify it by saying that we are actually all playing the same game and it’s called “life” than you don’t understand LEVELS. Life is just the XBOX LEVELS is played on, which we can call ‘reality’ or ‘existence’; however, within reality we are each playing a different game, though many play similar LEVELS that are really not much more than survival – the non-game version of LEVELS. But Kendrick Lamar and Warren Buffet are playing their own LEVELS – which correspond to their Will or desire. And since their talents support their Wills, they have maximized probability of likely outcomes – and so have played LEVELS very well. But if you reduce LEVELS to wealth or fame – you’re not seeing the forest through the trees. As a former mentor of mine who was wealthy once said, “Money is just a way of keeping score.” So, if you want money, what game are you going to play? The least effective game is called the lottery and it is widely played by people in poverty who have no other strategy to maximize the outcome of probability for what they see as winning the game. But if money is a way of keeping score (According to those whose LEVELS are designed and measured thusly), then those winning their LEVELS are those who have effective strategies for attaining money. Now if you have no strategy, you are very unlikely to achieve probability. As Elon Musk once said, “The first step is to establish that something is possible; then probability will occur.” Without it being possible, there is no probability. With it being possible, probability exists. Knowing your potential and playing the right game, whether it’s finance, writing, or tennis, helps you maximize probability. In the words of Jordan Peterson, “If you commit to something that means that you don’t do a bunch of other things. So that’s the sacrifice of all those other things if you commit to it. You set your sights on it if you really commit to it, and you get the sacrifice right, so to speak, then the probability that that thing will be successful vastly increases.” He is saying that our probability of success depends on us choosing the right game to sacrifice our time to. LEVELS is a game of strategy. Innate talent goes only so far but ability to maximize talent (potential) goes further; however, only when talent is actualized through hard work. I have long said, life is a game of potentials but it is won by wills. This is reflected is the quote that “There are people with less talent than you succeeding at the thing you want to do.” This is because the universe only gives a shit about physics. If you never pick up the phone, you won’t sell a damn thing. So maybe you’re a great salesperson, but Joe Schmoe makes 40 calls a day and drives a new BMW. Which is not to say that it’s a numbers game – it’s not strictly – it’s a probability game. Meaning, if it was a numbers game I could ask out enough supermodels and get dates – but since I lack the other factors of probability, which result in dating supermodels (Confidence, high-level-success, reknown/fame, lifestyle), probability remains unlikely regardless of numbers. So as far as our strategies go for each LEVEL, we have to establish all the factors of probability and actualize those. As a writer, you can be great, but if you don’t write books, you will never be a novelist. So it is, some people write lots of books and become novelists while those with more potential who do not write do not become novelists. So it’s neither a numbers game nor strictly a game or skill, but a game of probability – the likelihood of something occurring, which is a combination of numbers (action) and skill – and of course, skill increasing with action. Actions speak louder than words because actions increase likelihood and result in success. No actions, no success. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, and the early bird gets the worm – and every other true saying is as true in LEVELS as it is in life but LEVELS is a framework for applying those truths to your strategy.

You design the game (The Levels).

LEVELS are built around reality and desires, and the gap between the two. It’s up to you to design the game so that you succeed in actualizing your desires into reality. You have to make your life a game based on what you want. You have to design the levels based on where you are. And you have to play the game you have designed. Believe it or not, you’re already playing the game you designed – you just designed it unconsciously, circumstantially, passively, and without imagination. Imagination is the key to designing the game of your life. As David Geffen said, “We are each a figment of our own imaginations. Some of us just have better imaginations than others.” Or in the words of Einstein, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will get you everywhere.” Also from Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge”, and “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” So, when you design the game, when you start at the level you are on now and define the level you want to reach before you die or the highest level, and all the levels in-between, you are relying 100% on your imagination. If you have no imagination, life must suck for you. Return to your inner child and cast off the weathered pessimist. It’s time to redesign the game, to play the LEVELS.

I’ll return to LEVELS with more in time. Subscribe here to stay updated on my writings.

The Keys to The Kingdom: My Two Most Valuable Pieces of Life Advice

All, Ancient Wisdom, Cannabis, Happiness, health, Journal, life, Magic, motivation, MyFavoritez, Philosophy, Psychology, Science, Self-Actualizing, Timeless Truths, Zen

The older you get, the more you find yourself doubling down on what works.

And hopefully, if you’ve taken the difficult paths in life, you’ve discovered some truths of great value.

There’s a parable in the Thomas Gospel that I read this morning –

Sidenote: Before I continue, allow me to say that I love the Gospel of Thomas. As a decidedly anti-religious thinker who is opposed to all dogma and most institutional traditions, I don’t hold the bible up as much more than a great source of inspiration for Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. That said, the Gospel of Thomas is not part of the bible; being a non-canonical text it would have been considered heresy: just the kind of thing I love, and, if you read it, you’ll see why. 

So this specific saying, attributed to Jesus, that awakened Buddha, is as follows:

And He said, "The Kingdom is like a wise fisherman who cast
his net into the sea and drew it up from the sea full of small fish.
Among them the wise fisherman found a fine large fish. He threw
all the small fish back into the sea and chose the large fish
without difficulty. Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear."

In my own interpretation, the large fish represents what was called in Cloud Atlas, “The true-true”. The big truth. These two pieces of knowledge I am writing to share are my big truths – the large fish. And, having found them, I live by them, they sustain me, allowing me to throw back all the little truths. You could say these truths are my keys to the kingdom. They go beyond intelligence and open invisible doors, by virtue of their practical wisdom.

Terry Crews, in Timothy Ferris’s Tribe of Mentors, makes a poignant remark as to wisdom:

“There is a big difference between intelligence and wisdom. Many are fooled into thinking they are the same thing, but they are not. I’ve seen intelligent serial killers, but I’ve never seen a wise one. Intelligent humans beings have been given this trumped-up position in society where, just because they are intelligent, they are listened to, and I have found this extremely dangerous.”

That said, these two pieces of knowledge are wisdom – my big fish. The true-true.

1. The Navy Seals’ Big Four of Mental Toughness

At some point, the Navy Seal’s – arguably the world’s most elite special forces – had a problem. Only about 25% of trainees were passing BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolition School).

So the powers that be brought in the country’s best minds – top university researchers – to figure out how to improve the pass-rate.

After a lot of time and money – presumably millions of dollars – the researchers came up with four techniques, which when used in conjunction, made a statistically significant difference in the pass rate.

These four techniques would come to be known as “The Big Four of Mental Toughness”.

I first wrote about them five years ago, but truth be told, I didn’t put them into serious conscious practice until this year.

In short, they are as follows:

1. Arousal Control (Breath)

Arousal Control is centered around a specific diaphragmatic breathing technique: 4-4-4. Four seconds inhale, four seconds hold, four seconds exhale.

The research backs it up. It makes a large physiological and psychological difference. In my own learning, I discovered that most people breath shallowly, letting their upper-chest rise and fall – however, until about age six, children naturally breath properly – their stomachs expanding on the inhale.

The problem with incorrect breathing is that it puts your body in a fight or flight mode. This, of course, is not good for your health or wellbeing.

YouTube offers a lot of great videos on proper breathing, and once you learn – and begin to practice – it not only becomes natural again, but it becomes one of the best tools in your toolkit. Suddenly, you are aware of when you’re not in a centered, calm place, and you consciously go beyond diaphragmatic breath, into the 4-4-4 technique. It’s the same feeling, the same benefits as yoga and meditation – on demand.

2. Self-Talk

There is no separating consciousness from reality, short of some of the classic psychedelics (LSD, Psilocybin, Mescaline) – but even then, those are not sustainable modes of consciousness. Life is something each of us has to experience in our own heads. Now, we may not be aware of it but we tend to have fairly disempowering inner-voices. Perhaps it is due to the saying that, “The way you talk to your children becomes their inner voice,” and we are each a product of generations of largely unconscious programming. Frankly, it’s not fun. Thankfully, we have self-talk available to us. Self-talk is the power to take your life back from the automatic, default mode of consciousness that so many of us have often destructively sought to escape. Self-talk is the power to move from the unconscious into the conscious. It’s the power to control your experience. I’d argue that’s the sum total of The Big Four [controlling your reality], but self-talk is a major part of it. In short, you want to empower yourself, you want to talk to yourself the same way you would a child. You want to emotionally support and optimistically encourage yourself. The conversation you have in your head is THE most important one in your life. What self-fulfilling prophecies are you creating with your self-talk? What reality are you choosing?

3. Mental Rehearsal 

This is one of my favorites among The Big Four, but I love them all. I just happen to have a fetish for the imagination. As Einstein said, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” It’s true. Visualization is the top thing among human performance experts for a reason. It’s what all high performers, all olympians, all champions, all winners practice. Mental rehearsal is the act of imagining your tasks along with their desired outcomes, in as great of detail and depth as possible. For the Seals, this means no mission-critical task is completed without first envisioning it. The brain knows no difference. Unfortunately, most of our imaginations are either out of practice or neurotic – in that we use them to worry. And what a foolish, maladaptive thing. We have, each of us, at our disposal, the most incredible form of magic available to us. Again, like self-talk, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The watered down new-age version of mental rehearsal is “The Secret” or “The Law of Attraction”, and how many times have you heard these wonderfully compelling stories – Jim Carrey writing himself a 10 million dollar check when he was broke. This was mental-rehearsal. And when we can can believe it truly, magic happens; for all true magic deals with manipulation and control of the Will. If you look back on your own life, at your greatest successes, you believed in them – you mentally rehearsed them. I think this is one of the biggest differences between the successes and the failures in life. As 50 Cent once said, “I believe you can almost will things to happen.” Believe it when you see it and see it when you believe it, but you have to see it first. No one’s success comes as a true surprise to them. If you think it does, buy another lottery ticket.

4. Goal Setting

This one almost seems anticlimactic compared to the others, but it’s not at all.

When most of us think of goal-setting, we think of getting motivated about life for a night, writing down our dreams, then watching them flatline over the next six months to a year. When the Navy Seals think of goal-setting, they think of surviving their training till lunch time and the exact steps required to do so. Like the other three items in The Big Four, Goal Setting goes along with each item – and is only truly effective when practiced along with the others. I’ve found in my own goal setting practice that by focusing on what’s in front of me, I am able to progress toward what’s ahead. Every day, I have a list. I cross items off and I review it at night and write the next day’s list, and in the morning, I go over it almost first thing. Without goal-setting my mental rehearsal would be impotent and my self-talk would be purposeless. Further, my breathwork wouldn’t be nearly as peacefilled and centered without knowing exactly where I am and where I am going.

Go deeper into The Big Four of Mental Toughness, here.

2. Dopamine Restriction

This one might be even more valuable to me than The Big Four.

Without practicing what I term “Dopamine Restriction”, my life would be completely out of my own control – as was the case for too many years.

In short, dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for motivation AND reward.

Everything pleasurable releases dopamine. Some things are quite powerful dopamine agonists… Nicotine. Alcohol. Cannabis.

The problem isn’t so much pleasure as its consequences.

It causes us to seek more pleasure, and in turn to feel less.

In one study, researchers gave heavy, longterm cannabis users methylphenidate (Ritalin) in order to measure their dopamine response. The control group, consisting of non-users of cannabis, was also given the same Ritalin dose.

The heavy cannabis users had such blunted dopamine receptors that the Ritalin – basically methamphetamine – hardly even registered a response in their brains. The researchers were so surprised that their first instinct was to check if the Ritalin they had administered was expired – it was not.

What this and other research has shown, is that the ability to illicit natural dopamine responses is greatly diminished in heavy cannabis users. It’s no different for any source of dopamine. The more we behave like lab-rats, pushing the levers in our brains to feel pleasure, the less pleasure we are able to feel – and the more we crave it.

But it goes deeper, is more tragic. Dopamine isn’t just pleasure (reward) but motivation.

So, if you’re like me, and smoked a half-ounce of potent cannabis a week, forget about even feeling alive. At that point, your brain is starved for dopamine, which, in my experience, leads to all sorts of additional pleasure seeking behaviors. For me this meant cigarettes (“But I smoke organic cigarettes,” I told myself), alcohol, masturbation – just to feel okay, not even good.

You may be thinking, that’s all good and well but I don’t smoke anything and I hardly drink. 

Okay, well, do you check the news? Reddit? Instagram? These things are no different.

One day, we’ll look back on our cell-phones like cigarettes. Not because they give us cancer, but because we are addicted to them – and in turn receive our dopamine from them.

In my philosophy of dopamine restriction, based on my own life experience, it’s not a moral issue. It’s a matter of sapping the life out of ourselves – the very pleasure and motivation that makes life worth living. With such potent readily available sources of dopamine at our fingertips, we are hitting the lever like rats in an experiment all day long. The true consequence of which isn’t so much the dampening of pleasure or the weakening of motivation, but the loss of drive – of natural drive for the HEALTHY things that we are supposed to get our dopamine from. We’re lobotomizing our human technology for fulfillment – we’re hacking our natural hardwiring in a way that’s absolutely maladaptive.

My evidence for this is the difference between then and now, between when I was desperate to feel “normal” and constantly pressing those levers with nicotine, THC, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, porn, news, reddit… I was fucking myself royally.

I’ve since quit every single thing on that list. And guess what, now that I’m not addicted to “pleasure” I’m pursing fulfillment again. My sleep is deep, dream-filled and divine. I wake rested. I feel balanced. I walk. I eat healthy. I drink water. I work out. And possibly the biggest benefit is that I have ninja-like focus. I engage in Deep Work for hours every single day. I write fiction every single morning. I write poetry every single evening. I read again. No more spending hours on YouTube. I’m simply no longer distracted. I am focused and productive. Also, I don’t have any more depression. It’s a lifestyle that’s completely pragmatic and healthy – well-adapted, you might say.

In short, my philosophy for dopamine restriction is based on avoiding all “false sources” of pleasure. This means I avoid anything that isn’t fulfilling, healthy, and empowering – despite how pleasurable it is.

The ascetics have known this wisdom for millennia. You could say it’s raised my consciousness to a much higher level. It’s the single best piece of understanding I’ve ever integrated into my life. Knowing the above, I simply can never return to the old un-jedi-like ways. I’d be fucking myself – sabotaging every bit of happiness and wellbeing I have. And, to drive the point home – I feel better than I have in years, probably better than I’ve ever felt.

3. Bonus: The Gut Brain Axis

Google ‘gut brain axis’ and you’ll come across a wealth of information.

In short, scientists are calling the gut brain axis the missing link in depression. This might be because 90% of the body’s serotonin and 50% of the body’s dopamine are produced in the gut.

It travels straight through the central nervous system to your brain.

Now, there’s a miracle here. It’s called probiotics.

Gut health is mental health – is wellbeing.

If you’re not actively investing in your gut microbiome, today is the day you’re going to start. You simply have too much to lose by failing to and too much to gain by starting.

I encourage you to do your own research – and then some – but based on mine, I recommend the following:

Avoid alcohol. This kills all the good bacteria in your gut and it takes weeks to recover (provided you go weeks without drinking). Also, avoid big corporate mouthwashes, which will inevitably make their way in trace amounts into your gut, killing all the good bacteria there.

Eat probiotics. Every single kind. I take probiotic pills. I take prebiotic pills. I eat yogurt. I drink Kevita probiotic drinks (I avoid traditional kombucha due to trace amounts of alcohol). I eat a handful of different yogurts – with multiple probiotic strains. I take a greens powder with a half-dozen probiotic strains. I eat expensive, all natural pickles and sauerkraut (Bubbies brand). I eat high-quality kimchi. I drink Kefir.

Eat a diverse range of foods. There are foods known as prebiotics. They help probiotics. Eat a wide range of natural foods. You want a diverse gut microbiome. And you want to eat natural, organic foods. Shitty pickles and processed foods and fast food, and all that garbage is going to negatively impact your gut microbiome.

In short, my diet is centered around my gut health. I also take various supplements and enjoy things that help me look better, such as organic chicken bone broth and grass-fed collagen protein. Also, buy grassfed milk and grassfed butter. It’s much easier on the cows stomachs than grains – they live better lives: just like you when you eat the right foods.

That said, that’s my true-true. The keys to my kingdom at thirty-three. My most valuable pieces of life-advice, and I feel blessed to know them and to finally live my truths – god knows it took a long time to find them.

Recap

To recap everything: study and practice The Big Four (Breath control, self-talk, mental-rehearsal, goal setting). Restrict and eliminate all unhealthy, unfulfilling, purposeless, disempowering sources of dopamine. Curate a healthy gut microbiome. Integrate these into your life and I think your likelihood of success, happiness, fulfillment, and wellbeing all go way up. They certainly have for me.

Some Reddit Gold (Motivational, Life Advice)

All, Happiness, health, life, motivation, Psychology, Real Life Inspiration, Self-Actualizing

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

All, Happiness, Journal, motivation, MyFavoritez, Personal Mythology, Poetry, Psychology, Self-Actualizing

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

All, Happiness, MyFavoritez, Philosophy, Psychology, stoicism

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

All, Happiness, humanity, Philosophy, Psychology, Self-Actualizing

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

All, Buddhism, Happiness, Psychology, Quotations

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

All, Bizness, Happiness, moneyz, motivation, MyFavoritez, Philosophy

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

All, Bizness, family, Happiness, health, MyFavoritez, Philosophy, Timeless Truths

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.”