Only 31% of Americans characterize themselves as “happy”.
For the most prosperous nation on earth with rising quality of living indexes across the board, that’s a piss poor rating. Why the fuck isn’t everyone happy?
Here’s why: happiness goes where attention flows.
The quality of your attention will determine the joy you get out of life. Period.
Sages like Lao-Tzu said it and contemporary knowledge workers like Cal Newport have proven it.
If you ruminate on despair and what’s wrong with the world, you will only see that. You won’t see that the world is a better place than it’s ever been.
It’s a better place than it’s ever been because there’s a ton a things/behaviors that our luxurious first world lifestyle allows us to indulge in.
Most of the things we have today weren’t around when your grandfather was alive, for better of for worse.
These things tend to be a double-edged sword. Many of the advancements in modern day society are fucking awesome…if used correctly. They spell disaster with a capital “D” if used incorrectly.
You use these things incorrectly to take your mind off of the present moment and direct your attention into a lesser channel.
In this article you’ll learn:
- Some of the biggest drains on your personal power, attention, and ultimately your happiness
- Why you need to reduce or eliminate them
- How to do it
If you find yourself indulging in one of these activities, you need to reduce the time you spend on them dramatically. If you don’t, you are setting yourself up for a world of unhappiness.
Social media is a incredible tool. It helps us connect with people we haven’t talked to in a while and meet new ones.
But it’s just that – a tool. When you’re done, you put it away. These days, it is close to impossible to do so for many people.
The average social media user spends 50 minutes a day on a site like Facebook. That’s just an average. Some people spend even more! Fifty minutes doesn’t sound like a lot…but it’s close to an hour. You spend 8 of them working and the other 6-8 sleeping, so….
The question to ask is… what are people doing on sites like Facebook? What do people normally do on sites like these? Let’s see…
- Scroll the news feed looking for “entertainment”
- “Like” stuff/Comment
- Stalk exes
- Creep on girls (and guys)
- Look endlessly at “highlight reel” photos
Will these activities lead to a more fulfilling life? I doubt it.
Why it destroys you: Ask yourself: when was the last time you encountered something truly groundbreaking on social media? Other than a link to a piece of content that will actually change your life, I’m willing to bet – never.
Spending massive amount of time on something that has little or no return on investment is just a step above gambling.
All of those “50 minutes” a day – they add up. Imagine if you spent that time on doing something that will make you better off in the long run? Where would you be a year from now? Five years from now?
After spending a lot of time on social media, people report the following:
- Greater feelings of anxiety
- Increased instances of depression
- Sharp feelings of envy
- Pervasive and persistent feelings of isolation
Why? People are posting cool stuff…and you (accidentally) didn’t get the invite. Now you feel like shit.
If you’re using it as a way to indulge in fantasies without doing the work, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
If you’re using social media as a “dick measuring contest”, you are setting yourself up for failure.
There will always be someone more jacked, more loaded, more handsome, while having a seemingly better life than you.
How to curtail this: You have to realize that social media plays on the reward center and dopamine in your brain. You are rewarded (validated) for posting content that other people will “like” and approve of. This can turn into an addiction quickly.
Best choice? Just don’t use it.
I had a problem many years ago where I would spend massive amounts of time on Facebook and other social media platforms.
I eventually came to the conclusion that it didn’t serve me and my long-term goals, so I stopped using Facebook, with the exception of Twitter. You may have to do the same.
But I understand that some guys can’t do this. You may need it for your job or maybe you find it a great way to keep up with friends.
That’s definitely understandable. But if you’re going to use it, you have to follow two rules:
- Don’t spend tons of time on it
- Use it as a connection tool, not a source of comparison
If you find yourself going on there too much, reduce the time you spend on the site by 1 minute each day. By the end of a month, you will have reduced your time by 30 minutes. Not bad, eh?
Don’t compare. You must focus on your own shit. Is social media going to double your income? Is it going to give you a better life. Probably not. It doesn’t matter what Sally or John does. Keep your eyes on your own paper.
Smart Phone Use
Most of us have a smart phone (Team iPhone!).
Like social media, smart phones are a great tool. Used wrongly and they’re another convenient method of distraction.
You carry your phone with you at all times (with your Facebook app). In essence, you can be plugged in 24/7! That’s crazy.
Imagine going to a restaurant and seeing a table full of people all gazing down at their phones, no one talking. It is the saddest shit I have ever seen.
What are they doing?
- Going on a social media site
- Texting a friend incessantly
- Reading a random news story
How this destroys you: Real life is not just a series of UPs. There will be periods of inevitable boredom. Every time you seek refuge in the screen of a smart phone, you’re making it easier to hide from “reality”.
Don’t want to talk to someone? Pull out your smart phone.
Don’t want to interact at a party? Pull out your smart phone.
Don’t want to feel bored waiting in line getting food? Pull out your smart phone.
This constant stimulation decreases your ability to stay in present moment and accept life for what it is.
It becomes a habit to run away from your problems instead of facing them head on. It may seem like something soooo small and insignificant…but how you do one thing is how you do everything.
Soon, small challenges become big ones all because of your inability to cope with them.
How to curtail this: Limit your smartphone use. When you feel yourself becoming really bored – embrace it.
When you begin to embrace boredom, you start to develop a greater sense of present-moment awareness. This present moment awareness will help you cultivate your attention which will in turn determine your happiness.
When you’re in a conversation with someone, give them your full attention. Don’t use your phone as a “shield” to try and deflect any awkwardness. It’s a part of life. Embrace it.
How you do one thing is how you do everything.
Spending time at a bad job
If there’s anything worse than wasting time, it’s wasting time at a “bad job”. A bad job meets these criteria:
- Little room for advancement or growth
- Lack of respect from peers and management
- Uninspiring work environment
- Little to no opportunity to engage in challenging and stimulating work
Why this destroys you: We spend a majority of our waking hours thinking about, planning for, and doing work. If your work life is complete shit, chances are the rest of your life is on the way there…if it’s not there already.
Keeping a job that doesn’t push you“just so you can pay the bills” working with bullshit co-workers is one of the most soul-destroying things you can do to yourself.
How to curtail this: If you’ve fallen out of love with your job, start scanning around to see what’s available. If you have a passion you want to explore and make a business out of, take the risk now while you have low overhead. Chances are you have no kids and no mortgage.
You have a HUUUUGE advantage over the person knee deep in a career with 2.5 kids and a house he can barely keep payments on.
Life’s too short to stay in a shitty job doing work that won’t get you your dream life.Life's too short to stay in a shitty job doing work that won't get you your dream life. Click To Tweet
We all hate that guy who just goes on and on about how his life sucks. He drains the joy out of the room and always carries around negative energy.
He bitches about the weather. He bitches about the government. He bitches about how he was such a “nice guy” and the woman he pined for sidelined him.
Why this destroys you: Complaining does three things to your mental state:
- It puts you in the victim position, making you powerless
- It shifts your attention away from what’s going right to what’s going wrong
- It pushes away people who would be willing to help you
How to curtail this: Being a complainer isn’t something you fix overnight. It requires a whole paradigm shift that’s beyond the scope of this article (I would know, I used to be one). BUT… you should realize that most of what happened in your life was your fault. You may not have directly affected it, but you are responsible for your reaction to it.
Realize that complaining is a habit. Like any habit, it can be changed.
You may not have been dealt a “fair hand” but…get over it. Life is tough for everyone.
Your self-destructive tendencies push people and good situations away from you.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory and can be summed up in one quote.
“The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”
Getting addicted to drugs isn’t an overnight process. It’s something that’s used as a coping mechanism to push away that word called “reality”. It starts as a way to “cope”, then it becomes an addiction.
I’m not just talking about “hard” drugs either. Weed is a drug and so is alcohol. The former is more of a psychological addiction.
You think that person who’s smoking cigarettes or popping pills dreams of becoming a drug addict when they’re 5?
Doing drugs don’t happen in a vacuum. You affect your relationship to your friends, your family, and your employers/employees. Billions of dollars in productivity are lost each year to drugs.
Everything affects everything else.
Why this destroys you: All drugs have one thing in common: they cost money. You aren’t going to get free drugs unless you’re a hot girl and even then, the dealer will expect some “extra” favors.
The ROI just isn’t worth it.
How to curtail it: If you find yourself unable to deal with an addiction and want out like, yesterday – get some help.
There’s tons of resources around. You don’t have to deal with these problems alone. If you’re in the United States, here’s a list of substance abuse counselors. You can select them by state.
You can also go to a therapist or even a twelve step meeting if you want to connect with others.
This one will be pretty controversial. Most guys love their daily “sessions”. But we have to address the pink elephant in the room.
If you’re a frequent watcher of porn….. I’d recommend you put a stop to it.
I’m not really that interested in the “morality” or the “ethics” of watching porn (whole other discussion) but the effects on concentration, attention, and present-moment awareness.
Internet porn use is a dimmer switch on your motivation, your productivity, and your ability to connect with others. This sounds crazy, but here’s why…
Why it destroys you: The brain of people who watch porn are eerily similar to the brain of drug addicts. This is because like drugs, porn works heavily on the brain’s natural reward system.
The inclination of the human being is to procreate. THAT is what motivates us. When you’re watching porn, your brain thinks you have sexual access to the woman on the screen.
But you’re just watching two other people have sex.
Unlimited access to a vast variety of women doing stuff your girlfriend or wife would never do sounds great until you realize that it’s like a mirage in the desert.
Why would you bother giving attention to a real life woman when you have a collection of women at home?
Here’s just a few symptoms of regular porn use:
- Inability to get it up (erectile dysfunction)
- Objectification of women
- Disinterest in real life sexual encounters
- Decreased motivation in real life endeavors
- Coolidge Effect (need a greater variety and type of stimulus to “get off”)
Any of this sound familiar?
In general, repeat porn use is like using hard drugs. The craving, the isolation, the feeling of helplessness when you are addicted is all too familiar to those who use.
It gives you waaaaay too much dopamine for absolutely no reward. It’s a great way to fuck your brain up.
Porn use (especially for guys) is accepted and even encouraged (!) in modern society. There’s no real space for men to talk against this without seeming “weird”.
How to curtail it: In Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, there’s an overlooked chapter about “sexual transmutation”.
It’s actually one of the most important parts in the book. In today’s hypersexual climate, it’s seen as “prudish” or “antiquated”.
Here’s the truth: without sexual energy, there would be no life in the universe. It’s the reason I’m here. It’s the reason you’re here.
A good way to channel this energy is to quit porn for good and use it towards engaging in the real world. You may think that it doesn’t affect you. If that’s so, go one week without it. If you feel cravings and urges to watch porn…then sorry, you’re addicted.
There’s communities like the NoFap movement where guys do a “90 day reboot” to sexually reset their brain. During the reboot period, many guys have reported the following:
- Increased energy
- Increased motivation
- Increased self-discipline
- Increased desire to talk to women
- Increased feeling of “oneness with life and others”
- …and loads more
If you’re looking for purely “scientific” proof on why you should quit this bad habit, you won’t find it. But if you’re willing to accept anecdotes from tons of men who are saying the same things (most who have never met by the way), then you’ll see why this is a good idea.
Try it for yourself.
Eating terrible food
The world is slowly waking up to healthy ways of living…but it’s not fast enough. As of recent, the obesity rate in the US has actually risen. The obviously contributes to a wide range of potential health problems.
Chronic fatigue, nutrient deficiencies, and a vast variety of the diseases that we suffer come down to two things: diet and exercise.
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is made up of a bunch of foods that are high in sugar, salt, and white flour (the “three white poisons”) while also being incredibly processed.
Most Americans also sit most of the hours in their day, with little exercise afterwards.
As you can guess, this is not what the doctor ordered.
Why this destroys you: Junk in, junk out.
You can’t sit on your ass eating Oreos and expect to get shredded.
You can expect to get sick more often and have less energy.
How to curtail this: Our ancient ancestors were engineered to eat and to move a certain way and…we still have their DNA.
This is why we develop problems from sitting down a majority of the day and not exercising. This is why we develop problems from not eating a similar diet.
The Paleo Diet and the “primal living” movements follow this methodology. It’s not an end-all-be-all diet, but it’s a lot better than the baseline.
If you find yourself shoving shit down your throat on a daily basis, you’d be well off following this diet or most of the things on it.
These are just a very, very small selection of things that drain your ability to be happy. If you find yourself having problems in one of these areas, fixing just one of them will change your life to a massive degree.
All of these “habits” divert your attention away from the blessing that is your life. When you divert your attention away from that… that is when unhappiness results.
Human beings have a natural inclination to seek out what’s wrong instead of what’s right. It’s built into us.
But that doesn’t give you a free pass to throw your hands up in the air and say “fuck happiness!”, like a rebel without a cause. Start taking charge of your life and stop letting these unconscious behaviors run your life.
Are you going to do it? Let me know in the comments.