fulfillment

What’s in Your Bag of Shit?

I was listening to Neil Strauss the other day on Tom Bilyeu’s youtube interview series called “Inside Quest” and something he said really stuck out to me. He said that we all carry around a “bag of shit” or in other words- some story we’ve made up about our unworthiness or how we’re unlovable.  Then we operate and interact with the outside world looking for evidence to add to our “bag of shit” and to support our dis-empowering story we have made up about ourselves.  We will even fabricate and alter certain events through our own skewed perceptive filter just to support our story and give us a sense of certainty that we are right. We then often times use this “bag of shit” we carry around with us to motivate us to achieve more, acquire more or to hunt for the perfect spouse or partner.  We really believe that if we get that prized possession or relationship- then we will finally be enough, lovable or feel good about ourselves. Some people spend their whole life seeking the very thing they believe will help them let go of and forget about their “bag of shit”.  The irony is that as long as you are holding onto the bag of shit and keep your inferiority saga in the recesses of your mind, nothing and no one will ever give you the feelings of being enough or being lovable. 

 

The only way to free yourself from this trap is to let go of your bag of shit and to become aware of the narrative that is running your life. The old story is driven by fear, lack and scarcity. If you don’t believe you are enough right now, no amount of money, fame, relationships, or anything outside of you will ever be able to give you the feelings of security, significance and love you are seeking. Those external rewards only magnify the relationship you have internally with yourself. If you love yourself, feel worthy and have a loving and compassionate relationship with yourself- then you will have healthy and loving relationships with others, money, possessions, etc. 

 

What is largely running people in our world is an error in self definition. A major error. A colossal mistake in perception and judgement. People use money, relationships, power, status, jobs, religious affiliation and much more to define themselves. They create a fictional game about how their person-hood and self worth is tied to their success or effectiveness in one or more of these areas. The issue with this approach to defining yourself is these external things are largely, if not completely outside of our control. One of my favorite authors, Robert Greene says that we only have control over 5-6% of what happens in our world and experience on this earth. ONLY 5-6%. He also affirmed that the way to best impact our world is to only focus and exert our energy in that small window (5-6%) of where we actually have control. Therefore if we maximize our focus, attention and energy to improve and affect only what we can control, then we will be able to change our circumstances and impact the world. Where most people go wrong is they spend the majority of their time, attention and energy on the 94-95% of things that are 100% outside of their control. This leaves them powerless and victims of their circumstances.  Therefore if you are going to define yourself and base your identity on your job, relationship, status or any external thing, you are due to be a slave to circumstances, others and the world. As Joe Donnelly says, 

 

“You can either be the CEO of your own life or you can be life’s employee”. 

 

I am not proposing that you say “hell with it” to creating a business, forming relationships, making money or seeking things externally. I am just warning you of the trap of being attached to those external things. And more importantly the emotional death you will experience if you tie your identity to them and sell your soul for them.  I have been in relationships where I put my girlfriend up on a pedestal and derived my sense of self from being her boyfriend. At first it was an exhilarating rush of oxytocin, but it soon became pure slavery. Obligations, ownership, and expectations within the relationship crippled my ability to do anything else in the world and to feel like I was living my true purpose. 

 

What I am proposing is balance. Like the Samurai warriors of ancient Japan, they embodied balance probably better than anyone. On one hand they were very masculine, tough, hard-driving and resilient. They were some of the toughest and most skilled warriors in the history of the world and they protected their villages by killing and eliminating the enemy. Yes this was their rigid and strong masculine side. However they did not live 100% of the time on this side of their nervous system. They also had a feminine side, which was more flowing, compassionate and flexible. They would write poetry, dance, play the flute and make love to their wives. They intuitively understood that they needed to balance their lives and their nervous systems in order to be the most fulfilled, the happiest and healthiest they could be. 

 

If they lived 100% of the time in their masculine warrior motif, they would have died much younger. The cortisol would have be firing at all times and this inevitably would have decreased their lifespan and diminished their overall level of life satisfaction. Conversely they innately knew that operating in the feminine side of their nervous system was going to give them fulfillment and rejuvenate their soul and spirit. 

 

All too often today we see individuals lack balance. They are all Type A power, strength and aggression. Sure they might achieve some pretty great success, but at what price? At the price of their enjoyment and fulfillment on this earth?  Then we see others who operate on the other side of the dialectic. They are accepting, flowing and peaceful. Yet they have no drive and contribute very little to the world. Finding the middle of the paradox is a way to strike a balance and achieve both the science of success and the art of fulfillment. 

 

Life is the most hilarious and ironic teacher around. We set a goal and we invest everything into that goal, only to find out that once we actually attain the goal, that the very goal/prize itself is not what we really wanted after all. Here are some higher values that I believe are the things we are really after:

 

1. Flow– a level of presence, creativity and mindfulness of enjoying an activity/interaction just for the sake of engaging in it. 

 

2. Contribution– the secret to living is giving. PERIOD. Nothing lights up and energizes the human spirit like giving and serving a fellow man.  Depression, anxiety and all forms of mental health impairments vanish when one looks to give and contribute.

 

3. Growth– I don’t care how many friends you have, how successful you have been- if you are experiencing progress in your life- you are dying. What does the Bible say? “Where there is no vision, the people perish”

 

4. Who we become. It is not the accolades, money, possessions that truly fulfills us at the end of the day, but it is rather the person we have to become in order to solve those problems and achieve those goals. The ultimate satisfaction in life is complete 100% CONGRUENCE. Living in alignment with your values is the ultimate fulfillment. 

 

 

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The Ultimate Guide to the Money, the House, the Cars … oh and the Babe (and why this is not what really we’re after)

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.  

 

When Success is the Ultimate Failure

You wouldn’t be looking at this if you were 100% content with you current life and circumstances. And I’m not sure that ever becoming 100% content with your life is a recipe for success, fulfillment and happiness. By being 100% satisfied and content with your current life, there is no room for growth and progress. And inside all of us, I believe, is the need to grow so that we have more to give. Our yearning to grow and to give are the needs of our spirit and the soul. This is why I believe if you aren’t growing, you’re dying. How often do you hear about successful and wealthy corporate executives who retire and move down to Florida with the intention of doing nothing but relax, that die soon thereafter. It’s an amazing phenomenon. They literally within a month or two of retirement. Our nervous systems weren’t built to sit on the beach and drink pina coladas all day.  We were built to be constantly improving and growing ourselves so that we have more to give to others (whether it be the ones we love, the community we live in or the rest of the world).  Another place where this shows up is in depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety are great signals. They typically manifest themselves as a result of a neurotic and intense self focus. People who are clinically depressed as well as those who suffer from anxiety (the co-morbidity between anxiety and depression is high) have mastered focusing their attention on themselves and their problems.  As a metaphor, people who are depressed are literally running a negative tv commercial about themselves and their problems on repeat- over and over in their mind. They spend virtually none of their attention and focus on helping others or getting outside of their narrow view of the world. Anxiety is much of the same.  This is why people commonly say that depressed and anxious people should spend time around those who are less fortunate. Additionally, Dale Carnegie in his book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living affirmed this idea when he wrote, “A good deed, said the prophet Mohammed, is one that brings a smile of joy to the face of another. Why will doing a good deed every day produce such astounding efforts on the doer? Because trying to please others will cause us to stop thinking of ourselves: the very thing that produces worry and fear and melancholia.” And there is a stark difference between the ‘pleasing’ he is talking about and ‘people pleasing’. People pleasing comes at the expense of one’s own happiness. People pleasing is being an emotional hostage to others and allows no room for free self expression.

 

Many people initially enter the self help and personal development world because they are hungry for more success- whether it be money, relationships, career success, power, possessions, etc. They then seek strategies and methods for achieving these external goals. I have no problem with success driven individuals. Success is a noble goal. However I think what many of these success seekers fail to understand is that just by getting the money, the car, the house, the girl or their perfect physique- this will not lead to happiness and contentment in and of itself. What leads to true fulfillment is not what we get or achieve, but who we become as a person. Interviews with numerous 80 and 90 year olds’ who are on their death beds have consistently affirmed this overlooked distinction. Jim Rohn always affirmed this by saying, “The major value in life is not what you get. The major value in life is what you become”.  Have you ever achieved a goal that you had wanted so dearly and once you got it you asked yourself, “Is this it? Is this all there is?” The pleasure and enjoyment derived from the money, the possession, or the actual goal that was attained is a temporary high. It might last a day, a week or a month, but soon thereafter you will return to your default state of existence and only be left with the person you have become. This is why people who win the lottery see only a momentary spike in their level of happiness and then return to their default level soon thereafter. Unfortunately lottery winners almost always find a way to lose all their winnings and return to their default financial level too. This is not a coincidence. Money is nothing more than a symbol for the amount of value we are able to provide as a human being.  And most people choose to chase money directly and never focus on the value they are providing to others. Most people seek external goals for the possession of the prize in and of itself, when in reality the quest for the external goal is a journey that is going to require them to grow, develop and improve themselves in a way they never expected. Such a journey is going to be rewarding not because of the prize that is sitting at the end of the road, but because of the person they will have to become to get to the finish line. Enjoyment is found in the journey. The end result is a pleasant reward temporarily, but the ultimate fulfillment is found in who the seeker had to become to get there. 

 

Understanding these distinctions is crucial for your own journey toward greater success and fulfillment.  Many spend their entire life climbing one latter, only to realize that it is resting against the wrong wall.  The question you should be asking yourself is not what external goal you think will make your life better, but rather who you must become in order to be satisfied and fulfilled. Step into your 80 year old self and look backwards. This exercise of evaluating your current path from your 80 year self is about operating out of the context rather than the content. Most people make huge life decisions based on what is the easiest or most comfortable route in that moment. They inherently sacrifice long term success and fulfillment for short term comfort. Its kind of funny, people spend more time planning their next vacation then they do planning the rest of their life. 

 

This post is not to sway you away from going after your goals and dreams, rather it is to awaken you to the fact that the goals themselves are not going to be the things that provide the ultimate enjoyment and fulfillment.  The person you are to become en route to your goals is the ultimate prize. The actual goal is just the cherry on the top and a great symbol to remind you of the person you have become. Understanding this simple yet commonly overlooked premise of personal development can literally save your life. Failure is not the ultimate failure. Failure is temporary. The ultimate failure is reaching your ultimate goal and still not being fulfilled.