When I was thinking about the title to this blog, I actually had a huge problem with using the word “happiness.” Happiness is a subjective state of being, and I don’t believe that anyone could or should be happy all of the time. In all honesty, the only reason the word is there is to get more people to read the blog. Slightly dishonest, yes, but I also believe that this blog will help a lot of people, and especially a lot of veterans. So as you read this piece, switch the word “happiness” to the word “positivity” in your mind.
Why is it important to be positive? Positivity is vital because it is what keeps us moving forward. It’s what will give you the confidence to change your life for the better. You can’t take the risks you need to take to be successful unless you have some expectation for a positive outcome.
I’m also of the belief that you can’t do extraordinary things without some sense of positivity. This is because the most extraordinary things done in this world are done by people with the intent of helping others in some way. Call this hippy, woo woo, or whatever, but it’s been scientifically demonstrated that when we perform acts of kindness for others, it sets off chemical reactions in our brains that are similar to those of cocaine and caffeine. Being awesome to other people can actually make us high and improve our own state of “happiness.”
In this way, when you live your life with positivity and you throw good things out to the world, you increase your chances of having good things happen to you.
If none of that makes sense, then I’ll break it down even more simply for you: no one wants to be around an asshole, and if you are an asshole, then no one will want to help you become successful either.
A lot of other authors have written about things like “The Five Pillars of Happiness” and “Five Things You Can Do to Make Yourself Happy.” While these are all valuable, I think we also have address the sources of negativity in our lives before we can move toward actually making ourselves “happier.”
Unless we do that, then we’ll eventually fall right back into the habits that made us miserable in the first place.
I’m calling these the five pillars of unhappiness because they create a foundation for a miserable life. These are things we should stop doing if we want to live a fuller, more complete, and happier life.
Number 5: Self Pity
There’s a lot of “tortured souls” out there, and I put myself in this category. The hallmark of the tortured soul is found in statements like “The world just doesn’t understand me,” “I have the worse luck,” “fuck my life,” and “I hate myself.”
I want you to understand that, if you use statements like these, it doesn’t mean that you’re an awful person and I’m not criticizing you. Hell, I’m one of you and I’m writing this to myself as much as you.
These types of thoughts are futile because they take you out of the equation – even the “I hate myself” statement.
When you say you hate yourself, in your own mind, you are simply joining the crowd of people whom you perceive to be creating all of your problems. It means that you see the problems within yourself, but rather than taking the necessary action to fix what’s wrong, you’re removing yourself from the equation to avoid fixing it. So rather than doing the necessary work you need to do, you try to protect yourself from negative outside criticism by doing all of the criticism yourself in hopes that the people around you will either feel sorry for your situation or leave you alone. It also justifies anything you do wrong in your mind because you are essentially saying “I have no control over my own actions, and I hate myself for it, but it’s going to happen anyway”
The word “control” here is key. To move forward, you have to understand what you can control and what you cannot. The world is a huge place with millions of people. Each of them has their own sets of problems and each of us is just a fart in the wind when compared to the size of the world population.
With that knowledge we begin to understand that the world is not going to change. It is always going to pose challenges to us and any living being that exists within it. The only thing that we can control is our response to what happens to us in this world. We can complain and feel sorry for ourselves, which will do nothing for us in the long run, or we can adapt.
How do we stop feeling sorry for ourselves? Well, it’s not easy, and the negative thoughts will not automatically disappear. But there is something we can do every time we have a negative thought. Rather than dwelling on the negative aspect of what happened, turn it into a positive. Jocko Willink, former Commander of Seal Team 3 Task Unit Bruiser, has a good method for this. He calls it “good.”
I’m stuck in traffic – good, it gives me time to think, listen to music, or turn on an audio book that I can learn from.
My girlfriend left me for someone else – good, that gives me more time to work on myself and to eventually find someone better.
A loved one died – (this is difficult, but we can find a good) This reminder for me not to waste any minute of this life feeling sorry for myself.
All of us are going to die some day, and life is incredibly short. This is the reason to seek positivity. The more time we spend feeling sorry for ourselves or being negative, the less time we spend actually living as we are meant to.
Number 4: Toxic People: Seeking company for our misery.
There is something out there worse than global terrorism, economic decline, and disease. That is the plague of toxic people throughout this world.
These are people who add nothing to your life except to bring you down, discourage you from improving yourself, and hassle you with their problems.
Keep in mind, I’m not talking about friends who are in a bad place that need help. There is a distinction.
A friend who is in a bad place will still be there to support you in good times and bad. They’ll contribute to your growth, and be there for you when things fall short.
A toxic person will cast doubt on your accomplishments, only contact you when they need help, or they will try to bing you down to their level in some way by encouraging poor and unproductive habits.
This is true of both romantic relationships and friendships.
If there is a toxic person in your life, my advice is to do whatever you can to get them out of your life now. The longer they are in your space the more damage they will do.
It might be painful, but this is a must if you want to move your own life forward.
But it’s also not enough just to get rid of them. You have to ask yourself this question:
What was it about me that brought this person into my life in the first place?
Many of us actually seek toxic people like they are an addiction. It could be because you think you can fix them, or it could be because you get a rush out of it, but it is important to figure this out or more toxic people will be headed your way.
As I said at the beginning of this blog, we only worry about what we can control. We can’t prevent toxic people from existing, but we can control the impact we let them have on our lives.
Number 3: You begin letting your body go.
In day to day life, training and eating right might not seem like a priority. You might let “urgent” tasks take precedent. But remember that there is a difference between what is urgent and what is important.
Most urgent tasks are really not urgent at all, and they can wait a few minutes. But neglect something that is important, and everything starts to crumble.
If you do not take care of your body and your health, everything else will crumble. This is a fact.
If you don’t think you have time to train, make the time. You don’t need to go to a gym, but you do need to move. That’s why God created squats, burpees, and pushups.
You also don’t need to live off of rabbit food, but you should watch what you eat. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Just limit your refined sugar intake, avoid processed foods, and keep the calorie intake down.
You don’t need a million dollars to live. You don’t need a fancy car, or a giant house. But you do need a properly functioning body. This should always be a priority.
Number 2: When you stop seeking self-improvement.
You might not have a college education, and you might not be a genius. But if you’re reading this, it means you have the tools to make yourself smarter and more adaptable to this world. You can read and you have a device that can get you any information you want to learn about in seconds.
This is actually the greatest time in the history of man to be alive. Information is everywhere. Books are abundant and in different formats that you can either listen to or read.
One of the most valuable things I’ve ever done for myself is to read biographies. Biographies and autobiographies give you an opportunity to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
Feeling bad about your life? Pick up a copy of The Forgotten Highlander. This is the story of a British soldier who survived in a Japanese prison camp during World War II. It will make you feel really grateful about your life no matter where you’re at.
I’ve also found great perspective on reading stoic philosophy. Epictitus’s Manual and Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic have both had a huge impact on my life and even the perspectives you read in my blogs.
A lot of times, it is difficult to sort out our own thoughts. Reading is a way of giving your mind more fuel so that it can create new thoughts and new perspectives that might get you to see your life in a very different and more positive way.
Try to make it a practice to read a half hour each day and try to do this for thirty days straight. Your life will change for the better. I guarantee it. The best part, apart from the cost of the book, it’s free.
Number 1: Seeing your problems as handicaps.
Another way that we self-sabotage, and again, I include myself here, is that we see our problems as limiting factors in our lives.
If we see our problems as limiting factors, we will always have limiting factors.
As I said at the beginning, all of us are just farts in the wind on this planet. There are millions of people here and all of them have a problem of some sort. Many of them have problems you could not imagine.
But this is all part of the human experience. The world was never an easy place, and if we were never exposed to pain, hardship, and challenges, we would be a much weaker race of beings.
None of your problems are actually limiting you. It is your thoughts about them that limit you.
At the end of the day, it’s your choice. You can choose to let whatever is bugging you to hold you down for the rest of your life, or you can choose to overcome it. That is as simple as changing your perspective. See your problems as opportunities to make your life better. See the positive in anything that happens. As Jocko Willink says, find the good in everything.
This is something I really learned from when I was homeless. When you are put into a position where you have nothing, it puts you in a position to appreciate everything you do have. I realized that I was still young and that I still had days left on this earth. I realized that I had two eyes to read with and two ears to listen, and I began taking all the information in that I could.
You don’t have to build a million dollar empire, but if you’re unhappy, you do need to open your eyes and your ears to the resources you have available to you right now that could make everything better. No one else is going to swoop in and save you. You need to save yourself.
To end this blog . . .
These are just some things that I’ve learned over the years. I am not some happiness guru. Just someone who’s lived a lot of life. I could be wrong, but the information I’ve put out here has never failed me through some very tough situations.
Wherever you are, and whatever you do, remember this if nothing else – just don’t give up. You were not born to be unhappy or to lose. You were born to live. So living is what you should be doing.