Do you sometimes confuse pleasure and happiness?

We all confuse pleasure and happiness. Are you doing anything about it?Let’s be honest here: We’re all confusing pleasure and happiness sometimes.

We’ve all found ourselves dicking around on the internet instead of studying.
We’ve all tried ruining our appetite by snacking on junk food instead of at least something healthy.
And maybe we’ve all been in a relationship that we knew was going bad but couldn’t get ourselves to end. Because the comfort, safety, kisses and caressing touches seemed far more appealing than the uncertainties and stigmatizations of being single.

Sure, some are prone to this more than others. But none of us are able to flawlessly distinguish between where one ends and the other takes over.

(Indeed, there probably is no such fine distinction.)

Just to make sure we’re on the same page here, pleasure is an immediate sensation of enjoyment. Often brought on by sensory stimulus, whether eating an entire bag of chips, watching Netflix all day, abusing alcohol, having sex, or gambling. In other words, an externally triggered instant gratification.

Happiness, on the other hand, is purely internal, and cultivated more slowly and meticulously. Happiness stems from a sense of confidence and purpose. — Two things that I’ve found to be related in quite a few ways.

Paradoxically, happiness comes from feeling good about continually doing the things that might not bring you immediate pleasure, but which you know will bring you… Well, happiness!

With happiness being less attainable, it’s no wonder why so many people seem to be virtually chasing one high of pleasure after another.

By the way, in my opinion, there’s nothing necessarily bad about taking one night of decadent partying, comprising alcohol and sex galore, followed by a day of restitution, comprising chips and Netflix galore.

In fact, I deliberately do this every month. Because I’m only human; because I wanna live my one life to the max every once in a while; and because acute pleasure does not in itself rule out long-term happiness.

However, there’s something wrong about chasing instant gratification to an extent where it substitutes any happiness you might’ve had otherwise. And it seems most of us are far too prone to chase pleasure rather than happiness.

It’s not that it’s any surprise. In the words of Tony Schwartz, “enduring happiness often requires delaying gratification”. In other words, choosing happiness over pleasure IS harder for us.

But one thing is that it’s hard for us to deny ourselves pleasure; another is that it’s treacherously easy to get pleasure and happiness mixed up.

In fact, neuroscientists have even mapped out the hedonic brain circuitry — the part of our brain responsible for rewarding pleasure-seeking — speculating on the “potential interaction of hedonics with eudaimonic networks“.

… Meaning, in other words, that the two areas are difficult to distinguish even from a neuroanatomical standpoint.

(So don’t worry!)

Like with the above example of choosing to stay in a stillborn relationship because it feels better, it can also seem better. Of course we know that eating a burger meal instead of salad isn’t exactly healthy. But that’s not the only way we might confuse pleasure and happiness. Far from it.

And what I’ve found is that the lower one’s confidence, the lower one’s level of awareness. And the lower one’s level of awareness, the harder it is to make the crucial distinction between pleasure and happiness. — Necessarily!

It’s true that certain pivotal factors determining our happiness is beyond our control. For example, the global economy might impact certain local conditions adversely. And, by the way, anything else imaginable from civil war to our internet connection going down.

Other factors, we might be able to influence. Some people seem to be genetically more prone to depression than others. For certain ones, it’s probably out of their hands. But for most people by far, the ability to influence one’s attitude towards the world is far greater than one thinks. It’s all a matter of continually improving thereupon.

And then, continuing in this vein, there is a vastness of factors which we THINK should affect our happiness, but really don’t matter. For example, if you’re letting your happiness depend on whether you have holes in your socks, or whether the other supermarket queue is faster, you seriously need to take your idea of happiness into reevaluation.

(And I’m telling myself this just as much as I’m telling you.)

So, then, how do we get better at making a distinction that probably isn’t even there in the first place?

Good question. Like I said, it has much to do with the aforementioned awareness. And awareness, like any other state of mind, can be trained and nurtured.

You might wanna start by doing the following:

Should you find yourself unable to make a choice because you can’t seem to distinguish between pleasure and happiness, ask yourself: Will this bring me short-term pleasure? Or, will this rather bring me long-term happiness?

Keep this in mind from now on. It will get easier over time.
ACTION ITEM:

Cut off as many external sources of pleasure — and, indeed, distraction — as possible. For as long as possible.

Which sources of pleasure and distraction do you have in your life?

Internet? Television? Smartphone? Social media? Junkfood and/or candy? Alcohol? Regular sex?

How many of these do you rely upon for comfort on a daily basis? Are you able to cut them all off? If not, then how many? And which ones?

The only way to find out just how truly happy and stable we are is to abstain. The longer we’re able to feel genuine happiness without the use of external stimulants, the stronger we are.

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Overcoming analysis paralysis in 6 simple steps

Analysis paralysis should be dealt with like any other problem: Calmly, systematically and meticulously.Analysis paralysis is a term that seems to be increasing in popularity. And it’s a term with which many non-fidents, whether they’ve come across it or not, will be all too familiar.

Basically, analysis paralysis means over-thinking and over-analyzing one’s options until they all seem equally good, bad, or anywhere in-between. And so one is left unable to make a choice and move on.

The expression allegedly stems from ‘paralysis by analysis’, which should be seen as the opposite of ‘extinct by instinct’. The latter, of course, meaning a disastrous choice based on reflexes or one’s immediate gut feeling.

Making choices can be hard when we’re low on confidence and self-esteem. It should come as no surprise that confident people tend to have a can-do mentality. They’re effective, energetic, and they take firm, consistent action.

And, of course, non-fident people tend to be the exact opposite: Timid, apprehensive, and reticent.

Certain studies could be said to point towards non-fident people generally having higher brain activity.* However, others point towards the exact opposite.**

The basis for analysis paralysis, then, must be found in the one emotion by which non-fident people tend to let themselves be guided…

Fear.

Fear is one of the most common human motivators. And it doesn’t only apply to non-fident people. We’re all afraid of something, and only the fewest of us dare defy our instincts and seek out the source of our fear. Because instincts are exactly what’s at play here. In other words: We can’t really help it.

… But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn to get around it. And in the case of analysis paralysis, here’s 6 simple steps not only taking that damn decision, but standing by it and making sure you keep moving forward.

#1 Get outside perspective

When we’ve been stuck with a problem for a certain amount of time, we tend to reach a point of saturation. It’s not funny or interesting anymore, and we just wanna move on. Enough is enough already.

In one such forest-for-the-trees situation, as it were, outside perspective often does the trick. Different people have different perspectives and ideas, and we can only analyze so deep on our own.

Consulting someone who has a certain amount of experience regarding the matter may be preferable. But if you’re stuck, any input is better than nothing. And in certain cases, a total outside stranger to the topic might actually provide a less biased, less predisposed angle on your situation.

#2 Eyes on the prize

Whatever you do, working towards a meaningful goal is a powerful motivator. — One that is all too unfamiliar for most non-fident people. If you have a clearly defined goal, the easier it is to take action. And the more clearly defined your goal is, the easier it’ll be knowing exactly what to do.

But whether or not you have one such goal, ask yourself things like, “Will this choice bring me closer to where I wanna be in life?” “Does this choice align with my values and my identity?” “In one year, will I be happy I made this choice?”

#3 Set a deadline

Something that gives analysis paralysis so treacherously favorable conditions is when time isn’t really an issue. If it has no consequence to us whether we do or decide something within a certain time frame, it’s so much easier to give it second priority than deal with it. Which makes perfect sense.

On way of getting around this in casu analysis paralysis is to decide on a deadline. And, of course, treat it like any deadline that you wouldn’t wanna miss.

Imagine having to explain to your boss why you didn’t make it. Or much better, make a bet with a friend or acquaintance.  — If you don’t keep your deadline, you owe them $100. (Optionally, use the person who provided the outside perspective!)

The deadline should depend on the magnitude of your decision. The smaller the decision, the closer the deadline. But in any case, make it close enough to motivate yourself to get busy!

#4 Take babysteps

What often seems scary about making decisions for non-fidents is the element of commitment. We tend to be somewhat afraid of losing control; of letting the choice “take over”, and “invade” our life and identity.

This is the aforementioned fear talking. And it’s actually possible to shut that fear up just enough to get going — by taking action on a minimal basis.

We should feel that we’re making progress. — Because otherwise, we’re probably not. We should still be hearing the faint whispers of our fear. But if we take babysteps instead of hurling ourselves head first out into a new direction in life, a mere whisper is exactly what it will be.

#5 Support and honor your choice

Whatever you choose to do, you will have a reason for doing so. Even if it’s a result of tossing a coin. Your final choice would not have been an option if it hadn’t had any value or benefit to you. So focus on these values and benefits.

Furthermore, prepare for what people might say. Try to entertain any possible objections people might have beforehand. Tell them about why this is important to you; about what you’re trying to accomplish. And, if nothing else, tell them that you simply needed to make a decision and get on with it.

#6 Remember: You can always go back

I know: This one might seem a little counterproductive, seeing as how this is about moving onwards and not looking back. But many non-fident people will find comfort in remembering that any choice isn’t final.

Unless you’ve quite literally jumped from somewhere high (for whatever reason), most choices are fairly easy to undo.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t honor your choice or put your back into making it work. You totally should, because that’s a just cool mindset to nurture. But if you find you’re clearly headed down a totally wrong path in your life, there’s nothing wrong with turning around and going another direction.

Whenever you find yourself struck by analysis paralysis, just remember: It’s better to make a mistake and learn from it than not do anything at all.

… And by all means, do quote me on that.


Sources:

* http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/hyperactivity-in-brain-may-explain-228954; http://www.thecrimson.com/column/who-what-and-wyatt/article/2013/2/22/Wyatt-depression/

** http://assets.csom.umn.edu/71496.pdf; http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/images/application_uploads/Lyubomirsky-PositiveAffectBenefits.pdf

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Is it true that we can choose how we react?

We can choose how we react to our circumstances. -- Depending on our level of awareness.It is often said that we cannot choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we react to it.

While the idea itself is probably way older, the above quote is often ascribed to the Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus (55-135 C.E.).

Specifically, he stated the following:

Our opinions are up to us, and our impulses, desires, aversions – in short, whatever is our own doing. Our bodies are not up to us, nor are our possessions, our reputations, or our public offices, or, that is, whatever is not our own doing.

What does this have to do with confidence and empowerment? Only pretty much everything.

See, I’ve found that the most basic difference between a confident and a non-fident mindset is the awareness of optional reactions. Like I’ve written about before, confident people have a mindset of abundance, possibilities and proactivity. Whereas non-fident people have a mindset of scarcity, limitations, and re-activity.

When we become confident, it’s because we shed our fears. This allows us to see possibilities where we used to see limitations and obstacles. And this, in turn, makes actively and consciously choosing what to do so much easier.

It’s when we’re confident that we can choose how we react.

However, this means that the saying of Epictetus isn’t 100% true.

Partly because non-fident people can’t always choose how to react. Because, non-fidents tend to look at life as something that happens to them rather than something which they’re able to influence. Therefore, their awareness of their available options are at a general low — often equaling zero.

Our level of awareness, then, determines to what extent we can choose how we react.

Furthermore, I see several patterns indicating that we can — to a certain degree — choose what happens to us.

Again, this highly depends on our level of confidence. Because the more confident we are, — and, hence, the more proactive we can be, — the more we’re able to set ourselves up to succeed.

The more we’re able to adjust our habits, our environment, our mentality, and our network of people to our advantage, the more we increase the possibility of great things happening in our lives. And the more confident we are, the more we’re able to do this.

If I could decide ONE quote, ONE piece of learning for you to take with you from me, the above might very well be it. Because this is the essence of what confidence does to us. Not only does it mean that we can choose how we react; it also enables us to build that future of happiness and success that we secretly yearn for. And, of course, it allows us to feel worthy thereof.

So, while he did make a name for himself, Epictetus might essentially have been too Stoic for his own good. 🙂

We can observe in highly confident people how having great confidence affects us. How it allows us to create our own realities. And how it really does mean that we can choose how we react.

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Do I have a choice?

Do I have a choice? Depends on how you look at it. So look at it the confident way!Do I have a choice?

Man, there’s a question that’s been bugging me for years. And I know it’s been bugging many of you, as well.

It’s a question closely related to the matter of confidence. Because confident people have a mindset of abundance, possibilities and proactivity. Whereas non-fident people have a mindset of scarcity, limitations, and re-activity.

Confident people not only see a variety of options to choose from when making choices. So they rarely, if ever, pick the wrong option; and they always find a way back out if they do.

Non-fident people, on the other hand, rarely see many options — if any at all. Therefore, they tend to think of themselves as victims of circumstances.

But what exactly IS a choice? Exactly how free IS our will?

Do I have a choice, for example, in what to eat for dinner tonight?

Oh, Hell yes. I have TONS of options. And if I don’t stray too much from the theme of normal, human food, my choice isn’t gonna make a whole lot of difference.

So that outcome can be based on factors like personal taste (certain dislikes etc.), impulsiveness (sudden cravings), and specific circumstances (the local store is out of rice).

But do we have any genuine control over these factors? We might affect them to a certain degree. We might eat something out of necessity if we’re in a hurry. Or because we have nothing else left and can’t afford anything ‘till payment’s due.

We might go to the other end of town just to try that new burger joint. We might eat vegan if we’re visiting a vegan couple.

So, are those choices? Or, are they more like actions influenced by inner and outer conditions? Read on as you ponder this.

Another example: Do I have a choice in writing this article or not?

I could not do it. I could just slump on the couch, open a beer and watch House of Cards. Which, admittedly, I do feel like doing. But I also like writing, and I find this topic interesting. So I genuinely DO want to write this article.

Writing not only brings me joy; it makes my wonderful readers come back, and it keeps the search engines happy when done consistently. So I’ll do it now, and then have a beer and watch House of Cards later.

That’s my priority, then. Based on both urgency and pleasure — the latter both short and long-term.

Does that mean I have less mobility in making a choice like that? Again: Read on.

Last example: Do I have a choice in picking a career?

Oh boy.

We’re often told that we can “be anything we want”, but the reality is often quite another. A buddy of mine wanted to be a pilot. — A dream that would never come true because of his astigmatism. So he became an engineer, which allowed him to do something with relevant similarities.

So, is that a choice? Or is it rather a decision influenced by inner and outer conditions?

Me, I wanted to be a musician — something I gradually slipped out of due to more reasons than I can or ought to get into here. So I became an entrepreneur, because it has the same elements of freedom and creativity that appealed to me in music.

Again: Is that a choice? Did I actively choose to let the whole music thing just… slide??

And conversely, if someone is fixed on one job or career from the beginning, then gets that job or career and never changes course, is THAT a choice?

If those are both equally valid choices, then how are they not like each other at all??

The counterpoint here is basically the same all along: There are always options, but whatever we end up doing simply depends on a variety of factors.

If we follow this logic to the end, it’s impossible not to consider determinism at some point.

So, do I have a choice? Yeah, kind of.

One of the problems here is our idea of free will. And, like I’ve said before, while we do have a will, it isn’t free. It’s conditioned.

Part of this problem is that the idea of free will is deeply ingrained in our idea of making choices. Even the word choice, rather than the word act — or, indeed, re-act, — seems to suggest there’s more going on than simply a lifelong series of actions.

For the purpose of this article, I’ll get back to what I said in the beginning about confident people and the way they think.

See, the more we think in making choices, the more confident we get. And, conversely, the more confident we get, the more options we tend to see, and the better we become at prioritizing.

And for all intents and purposes, that’s what we want. Because that’s what benefits us.

Do I have a choice? Maybe, maybe not. It’s an interesting question, but it’s not important.

What’s important is being confident in one’s thoughts and actions, and acting in accordance with one’s values. What’s important is making one’s decisions on a solid foundation.

And it’s more important to make decisions in the first place than to not make them. If we don’t decide for ourselves, life itself will just bounce us around at its own convenience.

And with that, I’ll conclude this article. Indeed, do I have a choice not to?

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Why is taking the first step so hard?

Taking the first step can seem scary. Take it anyway.If you’re anything like I used to be, you’ve been held back by your current problems for more than a matter of months. You’ve wanted to be taking the first step. But… How??

We do this for several reasons. Some more evident than others.

For example, if lack of confidence is holding you back, there’s probably several by-problems affecting your entire predicament.

You might feel too tired; stressed; hurt; overwhelmed; too frightened. Or your fear might be an inner, hidden one which manifests as apparent laziness and comfortability.

Maybe you don’t know how to plan your time. Maybe you prioritize wrongly. Or maybe you don’t feel comfortable in making the right choices.

The right choices are different from everyday ones like choosing what to wear, what to eat, when to sleep, what to read, etc.. For the most part, those make but small differences in our lives.

Conversely, making the right choice is the last thing anyone does before permanently changing their life for the better.

The right choice has will and focus behind it. A will to go in a certain direction; a focus on the direction itself.

Now, those things in themselves don’t make any choice “right”. (I’m sure a lot of murderers had will and focus too…) But any right choice will necessarily encompass will and focus.

Then, why is making the right choice so hard for people with low confidence?

I’d like to be able to present a simple, yet surprising reason here. But the fact is, people are different, and so are their sources of low confidence, respectively.

Some might not know what they want. Others might, but may then be too scared of failure and humiliation. – Or even of the responsibility and exposure following a successful completion.

Whatever it is, here’s the good news:

While taking the first step might seem hard, the first step matters less than you think.

So what really matters is that no matter how you feel, you go ahead and do it anyway.

Yes, it’s scary. But you can do it.

Consider how great musicians and speakers get nervous before going onstage. Hell, great artists are among the world’s most notoriously depressed people.* But they do it anyway.

I’m not making you feel bad about yourself. I’m saying, whatever you want to do CAN be done.

And if you don’t know what you want, you won’t find out by wallowing in inactivity, but by getting out and gathering new inspiration.

Remember: You can always change directions. If you’re stuck somewhere, you probably won’t evolve. But whatever new place you go, you’ll learn new things to help you further on.

All you gotta do is to be taking that first step to get going.

ACTION ITEM:

1) Write down your three biggest values, your three biggest strengths, and your three biggest interests.
2) Take the biggest one from each category, and write down three possible ways of combining the three into something you’d like to do.
3) Pick one.
4) Write down the three first things you can do to make this happen.
5) For the next three days, do one of these things.
6) Repeat point 4) to 5).

Congratulations: You’re taking the first step.


Sources:

* https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181877/; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10203964

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