This is how to take control of you own happiness. The principles that you can apply any time, any place.
Rules suck. You have to memorise a new rule for every single situation. I’m a big fan of principles. If you understand the principle then you can make it work in your life.
Think about driving your car. Nobody actually remembers the “rules of the road” (there’s just too many of them and some are really obscure). And yet most people get where they’re going just fine. So what gives? Simple, they drive by the principle of “get there safely”.
1 principle covers all those stupid “laws”. So principles rock.
The principles for happiness?
Principles are powerful things once you figure them out. But has anybody told you the principles for happiness? What? You mean you didn’t get a manual about how to live a happy life when you were born?
That’s ok, I lost my copy too.
So this is going to be about the 2 principles that control your happiness (or unhappiness). It won’t necessarily be an easy journey to happiness, but anybody selling you a life-changing idea that is easy is bullshitting you and taking advantage of you.
The good news is that even if you battle with these ideas, just knowing them and recognising them as they happen will improve your life. Even if you start out and get them wrong all the time, you’ll still be happier – because you at least know what the fuck is going on!
Principle 1: Your emotional state is controlled by how you describe things to yourself
Your thoughts lead to your emotional state. Let’s prove it shall we?
Let’s say that you were going to move into this house (after fixing it up of course). No really, just take a few seconds and put yourself there and pretend this is going to be your house:
How do you feel looking at the picture? Happy? Sad? Angry? Depressed? Excited?
Now examine how you’re describing things in your head. What words are you using in your internal dialogue?
Are you saying that it’s going to be so much work to get that fixed! It’s going to take forever. You’re never going to finish it. It’s such a mess!
Or are you saying how super frickin cool it looks! It’s like an adventure in a box. Check how incredible it’s going to look when you’re finished.
If you describe it to yourself in negative terms then you WILL feel unhappy about the house/the situation/something, whatever, but you’ll find something to blame. If you describe it to yourself in positive terms, then you’ll be happy about it/the house/this next step in your life/whatever, you’ll feel positive.
Now letting go may not be as easy as he suggests in the video, but by monitoring your internal dialogue and cutting off negative thoughts as they appear, and then replacing them with something positive, then you can let go of your unhappiness.
A deep breath and picturing the coolest thing in your life can go a long way to stomping unhappiness flat at the door. Your kids. Your spouse. The patch of forest you love to go picnic at. A river that flows into the ocean that just puts you at peace. The thought of being in the X-Games and how exciting that would be.
As a hint, material possessions don’t work nearly as well as people, nature or experiences.
Suffering is caused by Loss, Less, Never
Ok, so it’s all well and good knowing that describing things in a negative way makes you unhappy. But what exactly is “negative”.
Let’s borrow from Tony Robbins here.
More specifically than “negative descriptions cause unhappiness”, there are 3 specific types of descriptions that cause unhappiness: Less, Loss, Never.
Any time you describe things in terms of having “less”, of “losing” something, or of “never”, then you will experience suffering.
If we look at the house again, tell yourself that you’ll “never” get finished. Or that it’s not as good as your old house (loss). Or that you’re going to have no time for other things (less). This is how you suffer and become unhappy.
But if you can catch yourself early and kill those thoughts, then you’re on the path to being happy.
It’d be great if you can tell yourself how cool it’ll be when you’re finished (gain). Or that you’re going to get to spend lots of time with your family while fixing the place up (more). Then you’re on the path to happiness.
But as a baby step I want you to focus on just killing the negative thoughts. Don’t worry about replacing them with positive thoughts just yet. Don’t worry about “flipping” your descriptions around so that the negative thing is reframed as a positive thing – it keeps you focused on the thing that bothers you (while you pretend to be happy about it) and to me it always feels hollow trying to force a pretend smile and pretend that I’m happy about this particular point. Much easier to start by not looking at the shitty part and focus on something different.
This leads us to …
Bonus tip: Why diets don’t work
In a word. You.
So you’re on a diet, and you’re doing your shopping for the week. You go past the ice-cream section (on the way to something healthier). What script is running in your mind? How nice the ice cream would taste. You describe in minute detail the flavour that this ice cream will have.
So why are you negative? Because you’re thinking you have less ice cream than you’d like. You’re never going to lose weight. You’ve lost out on all the yummy foods.
What’s not on your mind?
How good you’ll look after seeing this diet through. How much you enjoy a picnic with family. How much you love your wife. Nothing positive is on your mind. Merely loss, less and never.
So why does everyone fall off their diets? They don’t monitor their internal dialogue. Focus on how much you’ve already accomplished on this diet. Focus on how you feel better about yourself for doing this. Focus on what you stand to gain.
And the ice cream? For resisting temptation I suggest the following – don’t think about it. Don’t even let it cross your mind. When you walk past the chocolate section in the store, don’t let yourself become obsessed with the chocolate and try fight it. That way lies defeat. As soon as the thought enters your head, kill it quick. Stomp in flat, and immediately. Run through that Facebook argument you had the other night. Or preferably something positive, like that amazing play in the game the other day.
Count tiles on the floor; figure out where the next thing on your shopping list is located; engage your most annoying OCD. Do what you need to do to not let the thought enter your head.
You can’t win by fighting against temptation – there’s a reason WHY it’s a temptation. You win by not playing the game. Sidestep the fight by distracting yourself and stop the fight before it enters your head.
“Progress over perfection” is just changing your expectation to be about improvement, not perfection. That way instead of always being miserable because you’re this many steps away from perfection, you can be happy with even the tiniest step in the right direction.
Take responsibility for your own happiness. Give yourself permission to be happy with progress.