If they can do it, so can I!

If they can do it, so can I!

That’s what I thought when I started my education and the tutors welcomed us.

Those were cool people. Full of energy and passion for what they did. And as you’ve probably noticed, when something is inspiring, there’s always a certain element of passion involved.

But they were regular people. Like you and me. Like the rest of us. In their mid-20’s.

And they just happened to have found their right little spot in life.

… Which I hadn’t, and which I didn’t until much later.

But that’s beside the point here. Which is, if regular people can do something, so can I.

Of course, we all know another, more popular version of this phrase:

If I can do it, so can you!

What’s the problem with this one?

It’s that whoever says it is projecting his or her own standards out onto others.

Which can be — and more often than not IS — a sign of confidence in that person’s skills. It’s meant as a “you can do it”-kinda mini-peptalk. A swift, loving kick in the derrière of someone who we’d like to see succeeding.

But when we say something like that to other people, we’re rarely in alignment with what’s going on for them. We rarely have a clear picture of how they perceive their own abilities and standards.

Motivation, therefore, shouldn’t come from someone else. It needs to come from oneself. From within.

Otherwise, it’s not a matter if being inspired to take action, rather than feeling intimidated and overwhelmed.

Something along the lines of, “I could NEVER be like that guy; he’s WAY more energetic and go-getting than I’d feel comfortable being.

 

If they can do it, so can I, thought Tony Robbins, every day.
Picture may or may not be related.

So if there’s one piece of learning, one single sentence, that I’d like you to take away from me, it’s this.

If they can do it, so can I.

Because it’s that exact same little idea that I got when I set out to become an entrepreneur. When I started following thought-leaders. Reading blogs. Subscribing to newsletters.

Because what I noticed was that the people I was following weren’t superhuman in any way.

They had quirks; they had flaws. Some seemed a little socially awkward. Some seemed to have noticeably low self-awareness in certain areas.

Some said and did things which pretty much contradicted certain tenets of that self-development which is so important and prevalent amongst entrepreneurs.

They were regular people. — Who’d just happened to have found their right little spot in life.

… Which, of course, involved having acquired the abilities to set up a successful online business.

But still. Setting up an online business isn’t something magical and esoteric. It’s a learnable skill. And if they can do it, so can I damn well do it.

Because if it’s important enough, there’s nothing that regular people can do that one can’t learn and do oneself.

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Increase your self-belief with 3 simple questions

Increase your self-beliefTo increase your self-belief is, by definition, to increase your confidence.

Confidence is about believing in yourself. In fact, that’s pretty much the definition right there.

And I submit that we need confidence to be successful in whatever we’re doing. Because otherwise, you’re not gonna be able to accomplish very much worthy of mention in this one life of yours.

If you think that you’ve heard that before, it’s probably because people have found this to be true time and time again. So, how can you increase your self-belief, then?

Well, whatever you’re doing, there’s three things you should ask yourself…:

1. How does this align with your values?

Because, if it doesn’t really, then that probably has something to do with it. Because our confidence is always in a dialectic relationship with our commitment to whatever it is we’re doing.

Therefore, your level of commitment at any given time is largely a product of how whatever it is you’re doing is aligned with your values. If it’s not, you’re not gonna be engaged with it.

And if you’re not engaged with it, it’s not really gonna matter to you. And if it doesn’t really matter to you, how do you think your level of confidence is gonna be like?

Not exactly very high, yeah?

And I’m not talking about everyday routines that you can do perfectly well without necessarily being passionate about it, like doing the dishes or checking your email. I’m talking about bigger, ongoing endeavors here.

Checking your phone first thing in the morning is NOT the way to increase your self-belief.
But of course, if you’re a downright FB-status update-reading PRO, then who am I to argue?

So whatever your current job or project is, make sure to ask yourself how it align with your values. If it doesn’t align with your values, you might wanna reconsider your engagement with it.

But if it does, move on to question number two…:

2. What do you need to believe in this even more?

Is it knowledge?
If yes, exactly what kind of knowledge?

Is it skills?
If yes, which skills do you need to improve?

Is it habits?
If yes, what specific habits would be good to cultivate?

Or is there something you need to cut out of your life?

 

Increase your self-belief by cutting out instant gratification
Mnaaaaah…

Question number 3 will probably come as no surprise:

3. With the above in mind, what specific actions can you take right now to increase your self-belief?

– If there’s a book you need to read, what’s stopping you from finding it on Amazon right now?
– If there’s some specific info you need, what’s stopping you from looking it up on Wikipedia right now?
– And if there’s a certain skill you need to develop, what’s stopping you from googling any courses or meetups near you right now?

Et cetera.

You have all the information in the world at your fingertips. I mean, chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re online, yeah?

There’s ALWAYS, NECESSARILY something you can do to increase your self-belief. And everything else you might be telling yourself is exactly just that:

Something you’re telling yourself.

It’s only true if you keep on insisting upon being right about it. And where does that leave you?

Yeah, I’ll just answer that one: It leaves you in a place where you don’t have to take action because you’re allowing yourself to feel confused and overwhelmed instead of focused and empowered.

And believe me: That’s not exactly an attitude that’s gonna have you believing in yourself anytime soon.

In the immortal words of Steve Perry:

Don’t stop believin’.

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Personal growth and confidence: Why chaos is a necessary condition

personal growth and confidence necessarily involves a certain element of chaos.Anyone who’ve worked with personal growth and confidence will recognize how we, in principle, let chaos itself into our lives by doing so.

For us humans, the world is, essentially, unpredictable.

There’s always the risk of getting run over, getting mugged, getting struck by disease, cardiac arrest, lightning, natural disasters, and whatnot.

(Yaaaay! This is FUN already!)

Now, this doesn’t mean we should be scared of stuff happening to us all the time, — let alone scared of anything at all. People who are governed by fear don’t really go places in life, true or true?

But we need to be aware of one rule that all too few people seem to be keeping in mind…:

The more you work on your personal growth and confidence, the more chaotic and unpredictable your life will be.

Think about it.

Growth, as they say, happens outside our comfort zone. Hypothetically, if we only do the things we’re used to, if we metrically follow one routine with no variations, we don’t learn and grow. We stagnate.

 

Personal growth and confidence does come at a cost.
Which, admittedly, CAN have a certain charm to it.

But it’s when we push ourselves along that proverbial extra mile that we put that strain on ourselves which is crucial in growing and learning.

If you wanna be able to lift more weight, you gotta start by taking just one more rep when you’ve got the routine down, and gradually increase the load.

If you wanna earn more money, you gotta spend time — and possibly money — to educate yourself so you’ll qualify for bigger positions or higher-profile clients.

If you wanna learn a new language, you gotta put in the hours, possibly buy lessons or courses, and put yourself in situations where you get to use the language.

And it’s when we go those new places that things become chaotic and unpredictable. It’s when you transcend your routines that you’re essentially going into as of yet unknown territory.

Not because chaos is a necessary condition in pumping another two pounds of iron. That in itself is pretty predictable.

But because personal growth and confidence tends to open new doors for us. In fact, that’s kinda the whole point, isn’t it??

I mean, why would anyone build confidence or learn any new skills if it wouldn’t increase certain opportunities for them, right?

If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting the results you’ve always gotten. But when you try something new, you’ll start getting new results.

Now, of course there’s a certain inertia in personal growth and confidence building. Every beginning is hard, as they say. And this is exactly because of the friction that arises when moving into said unknown territory.

 

Personal growth and confidence awaits you where dragons lie.
Huh huh huh… “Friction.”

The good thing is, for the most part by far, this friction is all in our minds. No matter what you set out to do, in all likelihood you’re gonna be more than fine.

In fact, if you really, truly want it, you’re probably only gonna get stronger and more confident.

ACTION ITEM:

– Think of one area of your life in which you need go an extra step to get to the next level in the nearest future. This might be your career; your personal life; your social life; your relationship, etc..
– When you’ve found that one area, write down at least three specific actions you need to take.
– This week, set aside one hour to do the most important of these actions.

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What’s YOUR frustrated dream?

Tell me your frustrated dream, and I'll show you a way out of your problems.Behind every problem lies a frustrated dream”.

This fine little quote was coined by English philosopher and consultant Peter Lang. And the way I see it, it neatly sums up a huge part of what not only coaching, but also confidence is all about.

This way of looking at things, Lang calls “positive reframing”. And it simply means to focus on, well, the bright side of life.

 

If not a frustrated dream, Brian's life was, indeed, brimming with frustration.
(Incidentally, if you don’t know this reference, you HAVE no life.)

Now, I’m betting someone out there will try to think of exceptions to this theory. For example, you might call a broken foot a “problem”. And then what would be the frustrated dream accompanying it?

Well, like I’ve said before, behind everything we do, there’s a certain intention of feeling good. By attaining pleasure, and/or avoiding pain. And in the case of a broken foot, our intention is simply to be able to walk normally, and painlessly.

And of course, in this example, calling the intention a frustrated dream might be a stretch. But that’s not the point. The point is that we’re able to switch our focus from a perceived negative outcome or circumstance to its underlying constructive, positive wish or intention.

Now, on a scale from ‘confident’ to ‘non-fident’, can you guess where a mindset like this might be??

That’s right: The confident thing to do is focus on one’s desired outcome, or goals.

 

No frustrated dreams on this picture.
Sure, that and some cold ones.

Whatever we focus on tends to grown within our awareness, yeah? Pretty much the definition of focus, right there. So, if we focus on the roadblocks instead of the positive outcome ahead, our lives will become more roadblocks and less positive outcome. Pretty simple, right?

Well, however simple it is, we humans have a sorry tendency to focus on the downside of things. And it’s simply the way our brains are wired. But we have the power to circumvent that way of thinking to our advantage.

Yes: We obviously have to take care of our problems. If you’d kept walking on that aforementioned broken foot, boldly and defiantly ignoring the pain, things’d probably get pretty messy for you anytime soon.

But the point here is to make the outcomes our major focus, not what’s stopping us from attaining it. If we focus on the positive outcome instead of the roadblocks, our lives will become more positive outcome and less roadblocks.

So ask yourself…

What’s my frustrated dream??

Why is it frustrated? What might it take to unravel some of the frustration? And what is it that I really want?

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What’s my intention?

What's my intention? Go ahead and ask yourself that question. Be open to the answer.Yeah, ever stop and ask yourself that? Exactly what’s my intention here?

Because lemme tell ya, there was a time where asking myself that question could’ve saved me oceans of pain and struggling.

It’s no secret that my life used to be kind of a mess. I’ve spent years basically jerking around — on both major and minor scales — only to discover things that don’t exactly serve me well.

Not once did I dare to ask myself that question, What’s my intention with this?

And I use the word ‘dare’ deliberately. Because deep down, I knew there was this part of me that needed to hear an answer. Because basically I needed a purpose.

But that part of me was scared, man. Scared of hearing the truth, and scared of change.

So I did my best to treat that pesky question like a distraction, and drowned it in what later turned out to be the real distractions — galore.

 

What's my intention of distracting myself? Only to avoid the bitter taste of waking the Hell up.
Kinda like this, but including alcohol, women, and shame.

The question works on many levels:

Am I out to find flaws here, or am I rather seeking to understand?

Will doing this thing provide me with long-term value, or simply instant gratification?

Am I striving to be the best possible version of myself at all times, or am I settling for something around level ‘acceptable’?

If you keep asking about your deeper intention for every answer you get, they all point towards nothing less than your intention in life itself.

*** SPOILER ***

And waddya know: It’s all about feeling good.

That’s right: Whatever we do, we do it because there are benefits to it. Even if only perceived ones. And even if we undertake strenuous tasks. It’s all about feeling good at the end.

Or, in the case of yours truly anno 2009, feeling good right away.

What's my intention of partying? Well, granted, sometimes, it's simply to have fun.
… And I’m not gonna lie: Those few hours CAN be hella fun.

Because confidence and self-awareness tend to go hand in hand, I’ll safely go all-in and submit that there’s a tendency among people with higher levels of confidence to continually ask themselves what their intentions are in what they’re doing.

And I think it’s fair to say that it’s something we could all benefit from, and that we should all be doing.

Go ahead. Ask yourself, What’s my intention here? Where am I going with this?

While the answer, of course, is ultimately about feeling good, you’ll ideally get some more focus and direction in your life.

Let me know how it works out!

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The benefits of having a bucket list

Benefits of having a bucket listNot being a native English-speaker, I don’t always know every English expression out there. So it was only last year that I came upon the term ‘bucket list’. But what are the benefits of having a bucket list?

For those of you who don’t know either (here’s to hoping I’m not the only one!), the ‘bucket’ in ‘bucket list’ refers to the expression ‘kicking the bucket’.

Y’know… Croaking it. Pushing up the daisies. Buy the farm. Bite the dust.

Die.

In other words, your bucket list is the list of things you wanna do before you kick that proverbial bucket.

… And what does this have to do with confidence? As always, thanks for asking.

As long as I’ve studied confidence, success, and self-development, I’ve seen a strong correlation between one’s amount of confidence, and the way one sets goals for oneself.

Indeed, show me someone who have no goals at all, and I’ll show you someone who’s treating themselves way less confidently than what’s good for them. Well, either that or they’ve somehow reached Nirvana.

These guys have absolutely nothing to do with the benefits of having a bucket list.
No, the other one.

Of course, just because you have a bucket list it doesn’t mean you’re treating its items like goals, per se. Indeed, you could’ve just written it down once upon a lazy afternoon only to let life get in the way and forget all about it.

But if you’ve never determined anything you definitely wanna do before you die, then what might be the chances of you pursuing it??

That’s right. So there’s one of the benefits of having a bucket list, right there.

And here’s another thing:

The more specific your bucket list, the more chance of you actually pursuing its items rather than just letting it slide.

Ever heard about the concept of setting SMART goals? The idea is that whenever you decide upon doing something, you’ll increase the likelihood of it happening manifold by making sure it’s Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

For example, if someone’s goal is to ‘lose some weight’, it’s neither.

But if someone wants to lose 10 pounds of body fat in 6 months by abstaining from processed and sugary foods; eating vegetables and lean meat every day, and doing at least 30 minutes of cardio Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays…

Yeah, that’s pretty SMART.

No, you can't have candy if you wanna lose weight.
These all count as vegetables, right?

I try to live by the concept of SMART goals.

So, one of the benefits of having a bucket list is that you set yourself up for actually accomplishing what you want in life. And this says a lot about one’s confidence.

But it definitely goes the other way, too. The more you accomplish of what you want in life, the bigger your confidence will necessarily grow.

ACTION POINT:

If you haven’t got a bucket list, make one right now.
It doesn’t have to be meticulously detailed. Just take 1/2 hour to jot down 10-20 things you wanna do in your life, big or small.
If it helps, try to look at your life in different areas. E.g., what do I want when it comes to career, living, travel, sports, health, relationships, family, creativity…? Etc..

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Raise your awareness, raise your confidence

If you raise your awareness in the critical areas of your life, you clear the path for growth and confidence.In the world of self-development you often hear people like Tony Robbins and Bob Proctor advising you to how to raise your awareness, and talking about how to do it. But why are we so seemingly obsessed with raising our respective awarenesses?

There’s a quote by C.G. Jung that says, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” And I think this holds the key to understanding the purpose.

See, a lot of people — far too many if you ask me — get stuck in life because they tend to focus on the uncontrollable negative circumstances that happened “to” them, rather than becoming aware of what they can do themselves to change those circumstances.

And by the way, I put the word “to” in quotation marks because uncontrollable things don’t happen “to” us. Because there’s nothing inherently personal about accidents and tragedies. Shit happens. It’s simply that kind of planet. If we wanna move on, we just have to deal with it.

And if you’ve decided that you wanna deal with those circumstances instead of letting them get to you, this is where you gotta make the unconscious conscious. This is where you gotta raise your awareness.

If your dream is to make it as a singer, but you sing outta key, you gotta be aware of the pitch of your voice. Unless you wanna end up the next Florence Foster Jenkins — at best.

If you’re unaware of what technical qualifications it takes to get your specific dream job, you’d have to be extremely lucky to somehow acquire those skills AND nail the job interview.

And if you don’t raise your awareness around how you affect other people, chances are you’re not gonna make very many friends.

If you want friends, you better raise your awareness about how you affect other people.
Apart, maybe, from imaginary ones.

I could keep making examples, but you get the point.

If you don’t raise your awareness in those key areas, you’ll get more and more frustrated about stuff happening “to” you, eventually ending up like one of those “excuse-makers”.

You know, the people who will spend more energy letting you know about why they allegedly “can’t” do Y. — Instead of figuring out, for example, how to approach Y by doing X or Z instead.

The sad reality is, though, that if your barrier isn’t within your frame of consciousness you literally can’t overcome said barrier. If you’re not aware of something you’ll be lucky to change it by a fluke, if at all.

If I asked you to give me a quick recap of Ulysses, you’d pretty much need to have actually read Ulysses at some point. Or at least somehow gotten a recap yourself.

And if I asked you to name me the one biggest reason why you’re not working on your dream right now, you’d have to at least give it some thought before answering. You’d have to consult your personal experience to gather mental data.

In other words, you’d have to raise your awareness around it.

Okay, but how does confidence follow from heightened awareness?

Well, I’m not saying that confidence will necessarily follow as a natural consequence thereof. Certain sensitive people might become self-aware about certain unfortunate personal traits and then initially feel embarrassed about them.

When you raise your awareness, you might discover something embarrassing. Don't be discouraged!
Aaaaaawwwwwww…

But the more you’re aware of yourself, the more you have the potential to make lasting change. And you can’t grow into the person who’ll live your dreams if you don’t become aware of what’s holding you back.

And furthermore, higher awareness isn’t necessarily a means to an end; it’s an end in itself.

Like knowledge. Like experience. Hell, like laughter.

So by all means, raise your awareness in those critical areas of your life where you need to change. And, indeed, become aware of where you need to change.

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Facing your fears: Here’s why you need to do it

Facing your fears is also about doing what's necessary, no matter what.Facing your fears can be hard, and you all probably know it.

In fact, show me someone who claims to have fear of nothing, and I’ll show you defence mechanisms at work.

But does our fear serve us?

Most of you could probably be tempted to say conclusively no, knowing perfectly well how this is about confidence, empowerment, and, obviously, facing your fears. But here’s where it gets a bit tricky.

As H.P. Lovecraft said, fear is the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.

And when it came to fear, he was spot-on.

Fear is what’s kept us and our primal ancestors from getting into potentially harmful or fatal situations. The logic of biology is to sustain life. Therefore, we have a built-in alarm, widely known as the amygdala. So the amygdala is, essentially, what’s kept mankind alive for millions of years.

The problem is that for only a matter of a few millennia, we’ve advanced exponentially, and just totally out-civilized the conditions of our aforementioned primal ancestors. We no longer live in small hunter-gatherer tribes out in the wilderness. There are no rivaling tribes or hungry predators.

But our physical — and, hence, neural — advancement hasn’t kept up to speed! And basically, this is why we get anxious about certain things. Things of which we can’t fully embrace the implications, or, indeed, towards which we just feel an instinctive, knee-jerk apprehension, repulsion, or concern.

Our amygdala perfectly shuns what might progress us, and it only likes what feels safe and secure. For example, twiddling around on Facebook instead of studying. Playing Minesweeper instead of doing that report. We’ve all been there, gotten the t-shirt, etc., right?

Facing your fears isn’t just about roaring with derisive laughter as you gaze audaciously into Death’s horridly cancer-pale eyes. It’s about feeling secure — to an extent where you’re absolutely convinced that you’re gonna be fine.

Really, it’s about feeling confident.

Yes, we might step out in front of a drunk driver this weekend. Or the company we work for might go tits-up. It’s that kind of planet. Birth doesn’t come with a safety guarantee!

… But if we give our energy to the ridiculously minuscule odds of anything like those things happening every day, what kind of life are we gonna get?

But wait a minute! Doesn’t that mean that you don’t need to be facing your fears at all?? LOL!

Well, like I’ve said before, we “shouldn’t” do anything. We don’t “have” to do anything. But…

If you wanna live a confident life, you need to be facing your fears.

This means, if you want that job, you gotta prepare for that interview. And you gotta go into that interview head high, beaming ear-to-ear, because you’re gonna be set on owning that interview.

It means, if you want that six-pack, you gotta hit that gym and work up that sweat, several times a week. You gotta eat that broccoli (stop whining; it tastes great, and it’s healthy), and you gotta stop eating all that chocolate and pizza.

It also means, if you wanna live your dreams, you gotta be honest with yourself; find out exactly what they are; set aside the necessary amount of hours; cut down on whatever’s taking up your time and energy; and you gotta make a commitment to yourself to never quit, no matter what.

But those aren’t fears LOL!

On the surface level, it might not seem like it. But what lies beneath each of these examples is a deep-rooted fear of more tasks, responsibilities and esteem from other people — and maybe even from oneself. It’s all based in what I call non-fidence, and non-fidence is a product of fear.

Non-fidence, of course, is the antithesis of confidence. And confidence is the antithesis of fear.

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Are you grateful for what you have?

You can't focus on what you don't have, when you're grateful for what you have.You can’t focus on what you don’t have when you’re grateful for what you have.

I came upon this quote in a blog post by T. Harv Eker — a man who helps entrepreneurs like me dominate the world. So naturally, I listen to what he has to say.

Now, I don’t know for sure if Harv came up with the quote originally. (In fact, I’m pretty sure Tony Robbins also has a saying along those lines.) But it’s really not that important. What’s important is the message.

Being grateful for what you have takes you to a state of appreciation and calmness. And those of you who practice meditation will immediately see a resemblance.

But furthermore, those of you who practice meditation might also recognize a certain principle in how one, positive state of mind doesn’t allow the persistence of another, negative state of mind.

When you’re truly, deeply grateful for what you have, you’re not focusing on any lack or need there might be in your life.

(And yes, both meditation and being grateful for what you have ARE necessarily positive states of mind. In fact, find just one person who practices both regularly because it makes him or her feel worse.)

Okay, so what’s so great about this?”, you might ask. Well, the thing is, what we focus on is how our lives become.

People who are obsessed with never having enough money for this-and-that don’t GET enough money for this-and-that.

I know this firsthand, because I’ve been that guy for way many more years than anyone would need to.

And get this:

Even if we consider ourselves to be driven away from what we don’t have, our subconscious minds don’t get it. Our subconscious minds don’t GET a negative!

Go ahead: Don’t think about a blue elephant right now. A blue elephant is the last thing that should be on your mind. Whatever you think about, just DON’T think about a blue elephant.

… Yeah, we all know the example.

So it’s when we cultivate a mindset of gratitude and abundance that our subconscious mind starts to look for more abundance to be grateful for.

Now, let’s say, for the sake of simplicity, that there’s two kinds of people in the world: Those who cultivate a mindset of gratitude and abundance, and those who cultivate a mindset of scarcity and lack.

Can you guess which group might be more confident, and which one might be less confident??

Attaboy.

Non-fident people, as I call it, tend to let their happiness depend upon getting new things. And I’m sure we’re all familiar with the idea that “things are gonna start to look up for me whenever I’ll get that [degree/job/car/house/relationship/whatever]”.

And then what happens? Well, either we get it or we don’t. And if we don’t, we immediately go into a state of disappointment and blame it all on NOT getting what we want.

… But if we DO get it…

Well, we might be happy. At least for a while.

But have you noticed how that happiness just never lasts? How you seem to think that you need to chase the attainment of one new thing after the other?

That’s because for some reason, you can’t be grateful for what you have. And as long as it’s like that, you’ll never be truly happy or truly confident.

Well okay, but what if I need to focus on my goals to attain them??”

Of course you do. — And you should. Eyes on the prize. But you’ll never get there if you come from a place of lacking and needing; you’ll only create more lack and need.

Paradoxically, we need to detach ourselves from our goals. We need to be happy without them.

This can be a bit of a mind-twister, I know. Especially if your goal is to increase your confidence. How can I be confident if I’m not confident, right?!

The good news is, even if being grateful for what you have doesn’t come natural to you, it’s a learnable skill.

Treat whatever confidence you DO have like you just treated that blue elephant:

Focus on it. Keep focusing. And be grateful for it. In time, it will, necessarily, expand.

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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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