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Dismissing Sadness Will End up Making You Sadder

Dismissing Sadness Will End up Making You Sadder

No one wants to be unhappy. We can mostly accept this as an universal truth. We often actively seek to avoid unhappiness even though it does come for all of us: breakups, school failings, disappointments in personal relationships, frustrations at work.

In the last 5-10 years especially, there’s been an increasing amount of discussion about happiness, the importance of happiness, how to seek happiness, where to locate happiness, and anything else you can think of. The self-help industry is massive — about $11 billion in the U.S. alone.[1] When Disney modernized their theme parks a few years ago, they even called the project “reinventing happiness.”[2] It’s on many minds, and you can find the topic in dozens of TED Talks.

This approach is problematic.

As writer Emily Esfahani Smith has pointed out in a TED Talk, the focus should be less on happiness and more on finding some degree of meaning in your life. Meaning is a mix of purpose and behaviors with intent; it’s akin to finding your passion and yourself.

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One of the problems with this whole discussion is the interplay between sadness and happiness. In a world without sadness, there can’t be happiness either. It’s just a straight line of emotion. How would you even know you’re happy if you’ve never experienced being sad?

Happiness is relative. Think about it in terms of peaks:

    Why is this a peak? Only because of a difference in height between this and everything around. Flat ground isn’t a peak, correct?

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    Happiness and sadness work the same way. Without one, the other can’t be defined.

    When you avoid sadness, then, you reduce happiness in your life too. Life is ultimately about experiencing different aspects and locations. Avoiding sadness often means avoiding experiences. As you avoid sadness, you paradoxically also avoid happiness — and you drown your thinking in things that may not actually happen.

    A better approach is to think about life this way…

      Perfection is essentially unattainable, as is any form of “truly perfect happiness.”

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      This entire concept is called “The Progress Principle“. Celebrating small wins helps you create your own system of instant gratification. Your brain needs to feel happy. And it needs to feel happy often. By looking at life as a journey instead of a short-term goal, you start to see the bigger picture and see the ups and downs as part of the progress.

      Ups and downs are part of the journey

      No one has a perfect life. Everyone has their own challenges and problems.

      When you feel negative, you’re focusing on the current level while the peak level is yet to come. You need to keep your sights on the extended curve.

      Monitor your emotions and rack up small wins along the way

      When you reach a disappointment in life, it’s likely you only see it as a big fluctuation. But in the long-run, it’s a small dip on an upward-trending pathway.

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      Be aware of your everyday emotions, you will realize that you’re happier on some days and sadder on others. A bad day happens only occasionally. Instead of focusing on the unpleasant moment right now, flash back your memory to when you feel happier. This memory keeps you going during your down times.

      Getting started with the Progress Principle

      You can start by tracking your emotions. This will increase self-awareness. Find out more about how to do it here: The Magic of Marking down Your Mood Every Day

      You can also write down your achievements every day, or do a “3-1” model where you write down 3 positive things and 1 constructively negative thing. At the end of a week, you have 21 positives and 7 things to work on. It gives you a good baseline for next week’s progress.

      If you want to stay motivated despite occasional down times, read How to Stay Motivated Even Though You Can’t See Yourself Moving Forward

      Featured photo credit: Alphacolor 13 on Unsplash via decaf.kouhi.me

      Reference

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      Brian Lee

      Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

      100 Incredible Life Hacks That Make Life So Much Easier 10 Best New Products That People Don’t Know About Book Summary: The Power of Habit in 2 Minutes 1 Minute Book Summary: How To Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less 2 Minutes Book Summary: Thinking Fast and Slow

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      Last Updated on July 17, 2019

      How to Make Changes in Life To Be The Best Version of You

      How to Make Changes in Life To Be The Best Version of You

      Let’s start with the problem:

      You get back from work. You’re tired. It was a long day. You know there’s things you could do, to get out of the rut you’re in.

      But, let’s be honest. You really would rather relax, sit down and chill for a bit. Grab a snack. Watch your favourite show.

      By the time you’ve done that, the day’s over. There’s just not enough time. To make this worse – you don’t have the energy or willpower to make changes in your life today.

      So where do you go from there?

      What you need are some easy to apply actions that are proven to work.

      This article is going to give you 4 steps on how to make changes in life so you can follow today and get closer to success – even when you are feeling tired and lazy.

      These steps have proven to work for me, and many of the coaching clients I work with privately.

      1. Squash Inconsistency by Giving up Motivation

      Now most people, when they want to make changes to their lives, focus on making lengthy to-do lists and plans. They think over and over again about what is going wrong, what is going well and what they want, etc.

      All in a bid to push themselves to getting more motivated.

      Guess what? This isn’t going to work.

      Willpower and motivation are feelings. Feelings are vague and unreliable.

      Instead, what you should do is focus on putting your flawed unpredictable self in the best possible environments.

      If you do one thing first from this list, it’s THIS:

      Find and go to the best possible environment for the area of your life you want to change.

      For example:

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      • If you want to get fit, make your first goal to show up at the gym three times a week.
      • If you want to find a new relationship, show up to a meet up in your city for single people.
      • If you want to be productive and make your business idea work, don’t work at home, go to a co working space nearby.

      The reason people fail to become the best version of themselves is because they underestimate the power of environments to influence behavior.

      Accept that you are flawed, prone to distractions and your motivation and willpower will fail you.

      The best hack at your disposal? Show up to “change inducing” environments and get out of your comfort zone (physically)!

      OK. Next step.

      2. Recruit an Elite Team to Help You (For Free)

      Open up any social media platform you’re active on that contains some positive connections you have.

      Send this message to one person you already know and trust ton help you make changes to your life:

      “Hey [first name]. Can I be really frank and honest with you? I’m having one of those – ‘OMG I NEED TO MAKE CHANGES TO MY LIFE!’ moments.

      And I was browsing the internet, looking for tips and this article I came across suggested accountability. So here I am, messaging you to be part of my accountability system.

      My ask is simple.

      Can we sit together once a week at [x place] but do absolutely no socializing? I’ll buy the [coffee/food] and it will be a space to force me to do [x thing]. You literally have to do nothing other than eat the free coffee/food I pay for lol. But it will keep my accountability high, which is what I need.

      What you reckon? Can you help? Thanks!”

      Now obviously, change the language to suit you but you get the idea.

      Not only are you going to environments that will help you make changes, but by bringing a friend (or two), you make it even likelier that you will succeed. It doesn’t even have to be in person, it could be a video call.

      People fail to make changes to their lives because they try to do it all themselves.

      It doesn’t really work in long term, and it doesn’t have to be this way.

      You can recruit and “enlist” people to help you. By doing this, you’re taking care of the up and down motivation you have.

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      Not only are people happy to help, when they see this type of behavior, they’re also inspired and motivated to change their lives. Pretty soon, you end up creating change in not just your life, but other people’s too.

      So when the next dip in willpower comes?

      You have a friend sitting right next to you, watching your every move, making sure you get things done anyway.

      3. Build Good Habits Effortlessly

      Changing your life means changing your day to day habits.

      Habits are automated behaviors you do everyday, like how a clock works, without thinking or motivating yourself to do them.

      Some habits help you to change, others can stop you. One of the best ways to replace your ‘bad’ habits with good ones is to treat them like old clothes. What happens when your t-shirt gets old, faded and out of fashion? You replace it with something new and improved.

      Do the same thing with your habits – upgrade and replace them with something better. Start small, then slowly graduate to higher levels of difficulty.

      Let me give you a clear example of what I mean:

      A few years ago (before it became mainstream), I was trying to start my own habit of meditating every single day to help boost my productivity and mindfulness. I’d done a mind blowing course called Vipassana. It involved 10 days of deeply powerful meditation combined with noble silence in a remote part of the UK.

      Now it was easy to do when I was there (#1 – environment!) with all those other meditators (#2 – people helping me). All I could do was meditate. There were ZERO distractions. I had NO CHOICE.

      When I got home however, after a few days of sticking with it, I quickly caved.

      Those extra 30 minutes of sleep were just so much easier than waking up everyday at 4am for a long one hour meditation.

      So what did I do to build this really important habit?

      Like with most things, I wanted to make changes to my life. I wanted to become my best self.

      I knew how important it was. I just couldn’t follow through consistently and kept failing over and over.

      Then, it hit me.

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      I needed to start small. I made a tiny change, that made all the difference.

      I made a tiny change, that I could stick to – without fail – that has me meditating daily every single day now.

      What was it?

      Instead of trying to do something BIG inconsistently (1 hour of 4am morning meditation) and failing again and again. I decided to do something small consistently.

      Building any good habit really just comes down to repetition. The way the brain is built works in favour of this.

      My new habit became:

      When I wake up, I will fold my bedding neatly. Then I will sit cross legged for 30 seconds with my eyes closed.

      Eventually, once I did this consistently for a few months. I increased difficulty.

      When I wake up, I will fold my bedding neatly. Then I will meditate for 10 minutes.

      Why does this work?

      What’s important here is that the behavior you want (meditating) is tied to another consistent habit (folding your bedding).

      I attached my new habit to one that already is consistent.

      Making it more likely to happen.

      Secondly, I aimed for consistency, not perfection. This is where a lot of people fail. They have an idea of the change they want, but things become all or nothing.

      When you do this, you fail to realize the power of consistency. The brain you have loves patterns. In this case, I trained my brain to repeat a set pattern every morning when I fold my bed.

      There was no motivation or willpower required.

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      This training has gone so far now that if I miss a day of meditating, I really feel uncomfortable. I’m just as conditioned to meditate as most people are to checking their phones in the morning.

      If you want to learn more about quitting bad habits, Lifehack’s CEO also has a guide on it: How to Break Bad Habits: I Broke 3 Bad Habits in Less Than 2 Months

      4. Create More Time by Quitting Social Media

      You know the best thing I’ve ever done for my productivity and it took me 30 seconds to do?

      I deleted all social media apps from my phone and blocked them on my laptop.

      Then, to reinforce it, I told all my friends and followers on Facebook (my most used platform) I wasn’t using it for a while.

      Now, there’s nothing wrong with my social media. Social media is a tool. Tools are neutral. It’s how we use them that is “productive” or “distracting”.

      We each have to judge how healthy our usage is, especially when weighed against unlocking our best self. That said, for most people reading this, including me, I think limiting our usage is a very favorable advantage.

      One of the best ways to make changes in our lives is not to add new tools or tricks. But simply remove things that distract us.

      Social media is something I use heavily for my businesses. Technically I’m a “social media influencer” and “YouTuber”. I need to be posting constantly, right?

      Our situations are unique, so I came up with a unique solution for this. After deleting and blocking these apps from my devices, I installed a social media management software that still allows me to post my updates.

      The big difference, however, is I cannot spend any time scrolling and being distracted.

      Final Thoughts

      Change is not always about more. Sometimes it’s about doing less and getting rid of what distracts or blocks you.

      Trying to do things by yourself is a good way to fail. Share your goals and pitfalls with people, no one helps until you ask.

      Start with small changes consistently instead of big changes failed at consistently. The momentum will give you results over time.

      So what to do next to make changes in your life?

      1. Write down where you are going to GO to create the changes you want.
      2. Message 3 to 4 people on social media and ask them to help you using the message template I gave you.
      3. Choose one small habit to get started with immediately and upgrade it over time.
      4. Delete all, or at least most social media apps on your devices, and notify people you are leaving to make it stick.

      More About Making Changes in Life

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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