I was talking to some of my friends who are very success oriented. They attended top 20 colleges and have well paying jobs in finance, law and consulting in New York City. They’re undoubtedly in the top 1% of 25-30 year olds in the U.S in terms of intelligence, income and job prestige. They’re hungry. They want more money, more toys and more prestige. In our discussion of goals and desires, it’s pretty clear cut. They want to earn several millions of dollars, have a mansion on Long Island and a second home somewhere south by the beach. They also want a smoking hot wife, a country club membership and a couple exotic cars. Who doesn’t want this incredible life? If you were to poll America and ask them the question if they had 3 wishes and there was no limit to those wishes (with the exception of improbabilities such as immortality, flying, etc), I’m sure much of America would use their three wishes on exactly this dream lifestyle. The money, the houses, the cars and the babe. It’s what Hollywood and 5th Avenue is selling us too. This all sounds and looks incredible. Just imagine yourself with all of it, it feels euphoric.
Self help and personal development love to prey on peoples desires and promise them this perfect life with all the toys. The greatest irony of all is that we’re really not after these “things” in and of themselves. If you go a step deeper, and you ask yourself the better question of, “What are these things going to give me?” It cuts straight to the chase and gets at the heart of the matter. What these things give us is a state change. A new emotional state. Whether it be peace, joy, love, significance, happiness, passion, excitement, or all of them together, all we’re really after is an emotional state. There is something known as the hedonic adaptation or the hedonic treadmill. It is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes. This is the lottery winner effect in action. Lottery winners have a highly elevated level of happiness and joy for some finite period of time after winning the lottery, however they soon return to their old baseline level of happiness and life satisfaction. And ironically, they all seem to blow their winnings too. I am not trying to persuade you that the money, the cars, the home and the girl is not worth having, yet I do know that if you chase those things in and of themselves- you will be miserably disappointed once you get them. That is why you see a lot of billionaires chasing their second billion. It’s the hamster wheel. They’re chasing an emotional state that is dressed up in the costume of some external achievement (money, status, possessions, etc.) They are achieving to be happy, rather than happily achieving. You don’t have to get on the hamster wheel of success and waste your next 40 or 50 years slaving away in misery with the hopes of someday having the dream life and being able to finally relax. Hell, why would you want to spend the peak years of your physical existence doing something you hate? For what? To make all this money- so you can buy things you don’t need so that you can impress people you don’t even like? It is irrational logic, that goes over the head of some of the worlds most intelligent people. The ego in our country has grown to preposterous proportions. Hell even lower class people are starting to prescribe to the same lifestyle and they don’t have the money. Dave Ramsey said it best, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” We are literally chasing things thinking that they are going to deliver on our happiness. They might make us happy for a day, a week or maybe, just maybe a year. But after that, the feelings will be gone. What we’re really after is a set of emotions. For some people it might be love, joy and peace. For others it might be adventure, excitement and passion. That all comes down to your values. In this discussion, we’ll get to the bottom of how you can be massively successful and feel good each and every step along the way.
The model in place from our materialistic society is achieve and you will be happy. It is inherently a do–>have—>be model. What the more effective and enjoyable model that is available to you is happily achieve or BE–>DO–>HAVE. Since the thing we’re mainly after is the emotional state, why not just experience the emotional state right now? In this moment? Then you’ll be feeling good and the irony is that it turns your probability of actually achieving the success, status and possessions from a long shot to a pretty good probability (at least a coin flip, if not greater).
The current culture lives in the trance that in order to feel good and have positive emotions, I must have something or do something. This is the core belief that must be broken and then applied to your life. The better belief, held by the most successful and fulfilled individuals on this earth is “I don’t need a reason to feel good, I can feel good for no good reason”. They don’t look for the external environment to give them the emotion they are looking for. They bring that emotion to the environment, and therefore impact whatever environment they enter- whether it be the field, the boardroom or the learjet.
This one distinction is the difference between a life of slavery and a life of freedom. The ability to internally manage your emotional state and create the emotional states you desire within yourself- independent of the feedback you may be getting from the outside environment.
Now it is time to see what emotional states you’re really after. You have listed out all of your goals- which are probably resemble possessions, relationships, accomplishments- things external to yourself. Now go through each item and ask yourself the question- what emotion is this thing going to give me? Maybe it’s peace, maybe it’s a sense of significance, maybe it’s love. It might be multiple for each goal. Whatever it is, write down the emotional state next to the goal.
Now you should have a list of several emotional states. This is really what you are after. These are the emotions- that if you lived in on a consistent basis- you would be incredibly happy and fulfilled AND not to mention, you’d be incredibly successful too. So successful that you would be able to have all the prestige, possessions and external goals on your list.
Picture what your life would look like if you lived in all those emotions each and every day. The peace, love, passion, joy, humor, excitement, curiosity, etc. What would your life look like? What would be the quality of your relationships? How much fun would that be?
Most people then take the logical step- if only I can condition myself to live in those emotions 24/7- then I can have the “perfect” life and really get everything I want. I’ve come to this conclusion on several occasions. The issue with making this jump is that it is kind of like trying to eat a 30 pound turkey in one big bite. It’s not attainable that way. It is going to have be broken up into smaller chunks. And these chunks will have to take the form of rituals.
These rituals are nothing more than a priming mechanisms that will get you into these “positive” and desired emotional states on a daily basis. And the more you get into these states- the easier you will access them in the future. Studies on neuro-plasticity (Rick Hanson is one guy who studies this) show that neurons that fire together- wire together. The emotions we spend most of our time living in literally form easily accessibly neural pathways in our brain. Most people have a dirt road to happiness and highway to negativity. Through these rituals, we are rewiring our neurology and creating a super highway to happiness, joy, fun, love, etc.
And then the compound effect starts to come into play. The first month or two you might not notice a huge improvement in your state. However the longer you stick with the practices, the positive emotions begin to compound and generalize to your entire experience in the world. Imagine where you’ll be after 1 year, 3 years, 5 years of such daily practice. It is just like going into the gym and lifting weights. When you go in there every day, it is no longer difficult to lift heavy weights- it gets easier and easier. What we’re doing here is building emotional muscle.
Now for the practice. Here is one simple practice that you can begin with, and if you stick with it every day for weeks and months- your life will start to shift. You will no longer be a slave to what happens out in the world- you are mastering your own internal state.
Select an emotion you want to consistently live in. Maybe it’s an overall sense of joy and cheerfulness. Select two 30 minute time periods in your everyday that you will work on this. Maybe it is 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon/evening. Now you can live your normal life and your normal schedule- you don’t have to go anywhere different or do anything different. All you have to do is commit yourself that for these two 30 minute time periods- you are going to focus on living in a state of joy and cheerfulness regardless of what happens around you. Take it on as a challenge. Imagine that there is no external world around you that can steal your bliss. Picture yourself with an invisible force-field around your body that keeps in all the joy and shields all the negativity. If you can successfully spend a total of 1 hour (these two 30 minute sessions) in that state of unyielding joy and cheerfulness- you will be amazed how it can transform your life. You no longer will be a slave to the erroneous beliefs that “X happened, so now I feel Y”. This is the first step to self mastery and self actualization. Treat these sessions like workouts. Have fun with them and commit yourself to them.
Then once you have a series of these successes behind you, it will start to bleed into your identity. You will see yourself as a joyous person. And this is where life starts to get fun. You begin to have complete 100% access to the control panel of your emotions. You show up to the meeting, the hot date or game and now have the absolute tools to kill it. You can have the money, the cars, the house and the girl- I’m not trying to dissuade you from that. What I am providing you with is the best strategy to get all that stuff and be happy doing it. There’s no need to slave over it. Hell, it’s not the money that’s going to make you happy anyways- It’s who you will become that makes you happy and fulfilled. And by mastering your inner emotional world and your internal communication- you will be very satisfied with the person you have become. This is what self actualization is all about. Plain and simple. Remember- State and Rituals, State and Rituals. Repetition is the mother of skill.