“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
If somebody had told me what I’m about to tell you when I was a teenager, my life could have gone down a completely different path. Recently I received a message where I felt it necessary to reveal some of my life’s struggles in order to help nail home some serious points. My response became lengthy in an effort to address the question, and resultantly, this article was born.
Question: “How do I become happy?”
Happiness comes from earning (and it must be earned) the privilege of thinking positively about yourself. People are oft unhappy because they are mad at themselves for being undisciplined, or because they aren’t succeeding as much or as quickly as they believe they should (an ambition-success mismatch).
I’ve been depressed on and off numerous times in my life and the root of said misery derived from two core character flaws:
– A lack of self-discipline:
Self-discipline never came easily to me because my attention span sucked and I didn’t have a strict upbringing. By being allowed to do what the hell I wanted as a kid, I formed into an adult with an ingrained lack of self-discipline. My training (or lack of it) meant I’d almost always default to the path of least resistance.
Of course parents who don’t provide an orderly upbringing suck, but blaming their inadequate parenting for your faults doesn’t achieve anything actionable. As an adult, you have to take responsibility for disciplining yourself.
Why is discipline so important?
Self-discipline is essential if you want to be somebody worth a fuck. If you lack it, this should be the very first thing you work on. Nothing else can fall into place without it.
There are a million and one bullshit seminars and books out there looking to make money out of your insecurities by promising to make you confident. 99.9% are nonsense. As P.T Barnum said “there’s a sucker born every minute.” (the relevant law of power can be found here.)
The truth: only you can make you confident.
Disciplined people are confident people (not necessarily egotistical) because they’re proud of what they do. When you know you’re putting the work in, a by-product of your efforts will be pride. Pride translates into self-confidence, confidence translates into charm, and it’s an upward spiral from there on. But everything starts with discipline – everything. Discipline is the root of success as much as 3 is the root of 9. If you are not someone blessed with a natural irrational confidence, this is how you get confident.
– Being overly analytical:
I’m naturally prone to analysis paralysis because I have an analytical nature. Once you achieve a reasonable amount of self-discipline, you can catch yourself in the act of procrastination and force yourself to act.
Other than procrastinating, the other problem with being overly analytical is it allows you to see all the negatives in the world (there are many, everywhere, daily) and the sheer volume
can will bog you down if you’re not careful.
If you are intellectual, your analytical faculty will apply a negative filter to life because you are prone to cynicism, over-thinking, and in turn, inaction. These traits are a hotbed for depression, and depression destroys productivity. I think I just described every intelligent underachiever that ever lived – knowing so much, yet doing so little.
I had to find my own way in life like most dudes who didn’t have a firm hand to guide them in their youth. I was devoid organisation, impulsive. I’d cram my studies in near the deadline instead of starting 3 weeks in advance and going at a comfortable pace. I’d bum around with “friends” (other directionless “average people” looking to fill their time) instead of taking up meaningful hobbies: a sport, instrument, foreign language or martial art. This is a mistake I will never let my own kids make.
I had to waste a lot of time to figure out it was precious, because when you’re a directionless loser you don’t value yourself nor your time. You’re always trying to find new ways to squander it on meaningless crap because you have no goals. And if you have goals, you lack the drive that comes from discipline to stick with the regime needed to make them reality.
I was one of those guys who dreamt big, but held myself back. And through repetitive complacency, a most irrational fear took root. Inaction would breed fear until I had lost all momentum. And without momentum, you’re at risk of depression. In the words of Einstein:
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
I’ve always known what I’ve had to do, come to think of it nobody has actually ever told me I’m stupid, but intelligence isn’t enough. Intelligence doesn’t make you immune to character flaws, it doesn’t guarantee work ethic (discipline does) and it threatens happiness (stimulus overload.) An idiot who attacks life reaps more of its rewards than an idle intellect spectating from the sidelines.
My laziness made me unhappy; I had become my comfort zone’s prisoner.
Upon introspection, I eventually came to realise everything I’ve just said. The analytical ability came in useful for something, it allowed me to psychoanalyse myself and determine cause and effect. My weakness became a strength, alongside what I learned from the red pill, it allowed me to make the mindset shift necessary to reprogram myself.
I was unhappy because I knew I wasn’t living up to my potential. The source of my unhappiness stemmed from the anger and discontent I harboured for being less than my best. The chasm between who I was and who I thought I should be was vast. But for a long time I wasn’t cognisant enough to realise that this was the source of all my woes, including brief bouts of depression.
It’s great that you’ve found the red pill, but if you’re stuck in your head and you lack discipline, you’ll never go beyond reading. And when your life doesn’t improve, if you’re not self-aware of why it hasn’t, you’ll blame the red pill for your lack of success rather than take responsibility for your own (lack of) success.
The red pill will not fix your life, it is just a tool. How you use it will determine if you manage to refashion your life into something you can be proud of. How does the saying go? “A good workman never blames his tools.” The red pill is only a tool. Knowing isn’t enough, you must do. And where you fail, you must take responsibility for your failures. If the red pill isn’t working for you because you haven’t changed your approach to life, that’s your fault, nobody else’s.
To get ripped, you actually have to lift. To earn more money, you actually have to work your butt off. To get girls, you actually have to approach (or put pictures of yourself ripped on Tinder.) But you get my point. Knowledge is pointless without application, if you have to repeat one phrase from the entire article to yourself, it should be this. If you are too scared to do new things, you’re a prisoner of your comfort zone like I was. And if the timid body language I spot in my day-to-day is indicative of anything, I think a lot of you are in this situation. You’re just silently ashamed of it.
So how did I find happiness? I accepted myself in spite of myself. And this is how people who realise they’ve fucked up find happiness. The problem with unhappiness is it destroys your productivity and sociability. Miserable people are nihilists that don’t see a point in doing anything. They don’t attract people who could improve their lives because their negative energy acts as a repellent.
If you are depressed, you don’t sleep well and you don’t have the energy to do anything. You don’t want to socialise and you bomb social interactions because your energy level is in the gutter; the whole world feels like a chore. And when the world feels like a chore, you can’t build the life you want to have for yourself.
I found this first step crucial to overcoming unhappiness. Let me say it again:
I accepted myself in spite of myself. I stopped beating myself up for being a loser and started praising myself for doing what I could to build myself.
Even if I don’t have the level of success/stature the ridiculously high standards of my ambition demand of me, I accept what I have and who I am as long as I do my best. Because your best is all you’ve got, to demand more than that is to dangle yourself a carrot that is constantly snatched away.
I enjoy the journey of becoming slightly less shit everyday, I enjoy the grind, the struggle, the hustle. You have to in order to get anywhere. And if my best isn’t enough, so be it. I will try something else. I’m fine with being imperfect.
I accept failure as an inevitable part of life, it’s better to fail because you’re not good enough than fail because you’re scared you won’t be good enough. Anything is better than giving up. To quote Winston Churchill:
“Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
Ambition is useless if it serves to depress you for not achieving it. Ambition (goals) need incentive (to avoid being a loser.) Most people think that the goal will bring happiness. And it does when you first achieve it. But that doesn’t last. Lasting happiness lies in self-acceptance, all other forms of happiness are fleeting.
A clever thing I did was turn my fear against itself. The fear that used to imprison me is now the same thing that drives me. I never got rid of my fear, I just inverted it. Rather than let my fear of leaving my comfort zone destroy my potential, I used my fear of being a loser to motivate myself and start taking action where I was once avoidant. I’m far more scared to be a loser than enter conflict or experience an awkward social situation. Making fear work for me, works for me.
Most people are unhappy for one of two reasons (possibly both):
– They’re slobs squandering their best resource, their time. If you slob it up for a month you may be happy because you enjoy the moment’s pleasures. But when a year passes, then two, and you catch even a moment to look back and compare yourself now with who you were then – and you’re not better than that guy – you’re the same guy or worse yet, you’re inferior to him, that shit is going to hit you like a ton of bricks. You are going to be miserable because you’ve let yourself down.
– Their ambitions far exceed their stature and their lack of status causes them to put so much pressure on themselves that they can’t even breathe and just enjoy the simple things. The sun on their face, the air on their nose etc.
I was afflicted by both. You may be afflicted by either. If you are afflicted by neither, yet you’re still unhappy, you’re either surrounded by toxic people or lonely.
If you’re unhappy but you’re not a loser:
If you are successful yet still unhappy, there’s a good chance you’re an overachiever who feels like nothing is ever enough. Your ambitions are undoing you. Your dissatisfaction means you’re always in a hurry, instead of enjoying the grind.
The problem with that is once you get “there,” it won’t be enough. Because you haven’t learned to be happy, you’ve only learned to be successful. If you can have money, independence, a decent body, high IQ/skills and a good job yet still are miserable – it’s because you haven’t learned to accept yourself. Success isn’t the problem, you have plenty of it, a lack of self-acceptance is at fault.
One has to accept their efforts, that they’re doing what they can. That doesn’t mean get lazy. You’re “only” human, not every minute of every day is going to be 100% productive. You are not perfect, just because you are successful, you’re not perfect. If you hold yourself to impossible inhuman standards, you will always hate yourself (whether you realise that or not) and as such you will be unhappy at your core. Forgive yourself for your weaknesses and work to overcome them rather than hating yourself for having them.
If you’re successful and comfortable with yourself, yet still unhappy, you’re probably lonely or surrounded by terrible people.
Look for good friends, they make life less shitty. Everything is better with good company, loneliness can be just as debilitating as laziness. If you are prone to loneliness, I’d caution against going full monk mode, it will only make you worse. Take 2 days off a week to socialise and recharge.
Many men waste their life looking for the right woman, but whilst good friends can last a lifetime, women rarely do. True friends look out for your interests, women look out for their own. True friends are rare, as most are only interested in what they can get from you or use you for. A true friend is a family member who doesn’t share your blood, is loyal, cares about your progress, and is there for you in tough times.
Do they care about your problems? Do they make time for you in your time of need? No? Not a friend. Everybody else is an acquaintance regardless of what they call themselves.
SIDE NOTE: I keep getting asked to list the books on my “Books For Men” page in order of importance. I can’t do that because the order of importance depends on the individual person’s weaknesses.
You need to be able to identify your weak points, and prioritise improving on them first.
For example, should you be exceptionally scrawny or fat, you should buy Starting Strength. If problems at work are getting you down, The 48 Laws of Power is what you want. If you are a timid guy who doesn’t know how to assert himself, you’ll want No More Mr. Nice Guy.