“Here is a list of 15 things which, if you give up on them, will make your life a lot easier and much, much happier”, claims the author of 15 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy. I expected a solid piece of advice but instead got a few unrealistic stencil-type cliches. I also promised to one of my friends on FB to tear the whole article apart – which I will try my best to do below :). As a cherry on top of the cake, I’ll also pitch in a few of my own suggestions on a happy life. They may not be perfect, but at least they seem to be more rational, sound and effective. Here we go (original article segments in italics):
1. Give up your need to always be right. There are so many of us who can’t stand the idea of being wrong – wanting to always be right – even at the risk of ending great relationships or causing a great deal of stress and pain, for us and for others. It’s just not worth it. Whenever you feel the ‘urgent’ need to jump into a fight over who is right and who is wrong, ask yourself this question: “Would I rather be right, or would I rather be kind?”Wayne Dyer. What difference will that make? Is your ego really that big?
Ehm… no. My ego is healthily self-doubting, thank you. But I do disagree.
You see, while in some instances this is a sound advice, it is only applicable to the small things in life. And for shorter stretches of time. Oh and the false dichotomy of “either right or kind” deserves a specific mentioning: one can be both right AND kind, or neither, too. Or one of the two and something entirely else. This isn’t a legitimate choice. Way to start an article – with a logical fallacy…
Anyway… Say that you have a not so bright rebellious teen growing up. Or a not so savvy spouse. And you’re the thrifty one on the bunch with a lot of know-how. Are you obligated to cave in to stupid stuff of theirs? If you don’t, does it automatically imply there is no possible way of telling them what is the right thing while maintaining kindness? The list of situations really goes on and on even on the macro-scale of daily interactions. Did that cashier accidentally put extra items on your bill? Oh but you’re right to point it out and maybe argue, but you should rather suck it up, smile, pay extra and go? This simply doesn’t work. By default accepting everyone’s ideas – especially wrong ones – is exactly what lets stupidity reign, robbing the world of intellectual advancement, accuracy, progress, knowledge and mutual understanding.
People who are misinformed make wrong judgments and decisions. Repercussions of those are often very grave for many others involved. Sharing accurate information and pointing inaccurate is just one way of PREVENTING harm. I’m not even going to mention implications of hand-waving at issues of “greater truth”. Flat earth, anyone? Oh and yes – some people TODAY claim to believe that. And that there are witches who need to be burned alive. And that homosexuality is a choice and/or a disease to be fought somehow. Should I go on?
Even in a regular situation, sucking up every time someone is incorrect only builds frustration and misunderstandings.
Solution: instead of blindly nodding to every piece of inane bullshit, accepting it gladly and forgetting it ever happened, realize that this “whatever rule” only applies to a tiny portion of human interactions. In other cases, summon all your niceness, kindness and facts and present them to the other party in a friendly manner instead. This encourages dialogue, shows you have a spinal chord, spreads important accurate information and generally advances learning. Keep your emotions at bay though – don’t get too agitated, and never, EVER start off by personal attacks or demeaning remarks. In that case all your interactions where disagreements may occur will be civil and mutually satisfying. If you manage to, however, run into someone who is deaf, blind and screaming and kicking at anything that may correct their inaccurate point of view – go ahead lose them. Such people aren’t worth keeping and wasting time on in the first place. Oh and all of the above applies to factual parts of any arguments – emotional cases and opinion-based discussions unsubstantiated by facts live in their own realm and have different rules, where “you don’t always have to be right” is a much more sane advice than elsewhere.
2. Give up your need for control. Be willing to give up your need to always control everything that happens to you and around you – situations, events, people, etc. Whether they are loved ones, coworkers, or just strangers you meet on the street – just allow them to be. Allow everything and everyone to be just as they are and you will see how much better will that make you feel. “By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond winning.” Lao Tzu
Let’s allow everyone to go ahead be what they want to be and thus do whatever the fuck they want – murder, rape, theft, lying, genocide, witch-burning, abuse, torture and reckless driving – YAY!
Errrrm – nay. Accepting reality for what it is at a given time is one thing – and I fully support it. It’s the “ok, so here’s how it currently is” mindset I’m completely for. But the next step is critical evaluation of each given process, situation, action, circumstance and consequent decision of the best tactic. To keep this short, instead of letting it all “just be as it is” – which is by the way the exact same lame defeatist attitude that slaves were encouraged to maintain back in them days and the poorest of the world are encouraged to embrace even today, ahem – I prefer a different approach:
Solution: Have the strength and courage to change things you can change. Have patience and acceptance for things beyond your control (like weather). And spend your entire life on cultivating wisdom that would allow you to distinguish former from the latter.
3. Give up on blame. Give up on your need to blame others for what you have or don’t have, for what you feel or don’t feel. Stop giving your powers away and start taking responsibility for your life.
Oh, but of COURSE it is I who is to blame for the ginormous economic disparities of the world, every single disaster and misfortune that ever strikes me, and the fact that my spouse is hitting and abusing me and my bankers are defrauding me out of my savings – how could I possibly have EVER thought otherwise!!!
Meh… Nope. One issue is blameshifting and responsibility-shifting for the things one truly controls – and those are self-deception at best, I agree. However, being able to properly recognize those who are responsible for something (yes, that includes oneself and blind chance, too) is a crucial skill for social cohesiveness and problem-solving. Otherwise this leads to “blame-the-victim” mentality we all know the fruits of.
Solution: instead of focusing on blame, focus on responsibility and objective assessment of who is/was/will be responsible for something and how. Trying to stick to objective reality is a better guide than a blanket amnesty to every scammer out there. Definitely look at yourself first when something isn’t working – see if you can figure out whether maybe something you do is preventing you from your goals. But don’t carry the weight of the world on your own shoulders either – you control a lot in your life, but a lot of your life controls you, too. It’s a push-pull game that never ends, so adopting either extreme strategy (“I’m 100% responsible for everything” or “The universe is against me”) is equally misguided. Sometimes those you blame ARE the ones responsible – and there should be no ‘zen’ rule preventing you from calling them on their criminal activities or otherwise antisocial behaviors.
*(note: ‘antisocial’ means someone deliberately breaking established rules and laws of the society. The word you should use instead when you use this one is ‘Asocial’ – a person shying away from social interactions)
4. Give up your self-defeating self-talk. Oh my. How many people are hurting themselves because of their negative, polluted and repetitive self-defeating mindset? Don’t believe everything that your mind is telling you – especially if it’s negative and self-defeating. You are better than that. “The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive.” Eckhart Tolle
Being one’s own cheerleader is great, but perpetual pink shades are self-deception just the same as perpetual dark ones.
Solution: be your own friend and try to objectively assess your strengths and limitations. See if you can turn your ‘bad’ traits to your advantage and polish up the ‘good’ ones. Accept yourself for who and what you are right now. Only then can you proceed to working on making yourself even better.
5. Give up your limiting beliefs about what you can or cannot do, about what is possible or impossible. From now on, you are no longer going to allow your limiting beliefs to keep you stuck in the wrong place. Spread your wings and fly! “A belief is not an idea held by the mind, it is an idea that holds the mind” Elly Roselle
That’s inspiring but I won’t want to see someone trying this stunt at the top of a cliff – at least not without proper equipment. Which they’d check a few times over first. Ever heard of Darwin awards? Those people grossly overestimated their own abilities. Also read up on Dunning-Krueger experiments…
Solution: humans are amazing and can do great stuff. However, simply believing you’re amazing and can do anything won’t get you off the couch. Actually putting the EFFORT into ass-lifting is what MAY get you somewhere. So next time you have a huge aspiration – make sure you proceed as fast as you can to the practical stage of making it happen, instead of simply believing in yourself – while clicking through channels. It’s hard work, too, not just self-confidence alone that gets you to greatness and miraculous achievements. Dream big – dream VERY big. And then go right ahead start taking baby steps towards it.
6. Give up complaining. Give up your constant need to complain about those many, many, maaany things – people, situations, events that make you unhappy, sad and depressed. Nobody can make you unhappy, no situation can make you sad or miserable unless you allow it to. It’s not the situation that triggers those feelings in you, but how you choose to look at it. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking.
While this is by and large my own philosophy in many ways, I’d see you preach this to people who are affected by SAD, depression and other conditions (including diabetes, hormonal issues, bad diets and foods, polluted environment etc etc etc etc) – that their state of temporary (or permanent) misery is their fault.
Solution: as a general rule of thumb, do try to remember that your own reaction and take on certain things (like, say, someone calling you names) is, indeed, very much in your hands. And yes, it helps to not sweat the small stuff. However, you’re not a robot – you’re a human. Go ahead get offended and complain every now and then – there’s nothing wrong with it and it’s therapeutic. One caveat though: if you complain about something, then DO something to change it. If you’re just sitting there spitting out complaints on everything but do nothing – you’re indeed wasting oxygen. And your life.
7. Give up the luxury of criticism. Give up your need to criticize things, events or people that are different than you. We are all different, yet we are all the same. We all want to be happy, we all want to love and be loved and we all want to be understood. We all want something, and something is wished by us all.
So I take it we shouldn’t criticize slavery, human rights violations, the (you guessed it) witch burnings, hate crimes and the millions of RETARDED and plain dangerous ideas held and enacted by anyone on this planet? Hells to the no, I’m not staying silent – and neither should you!
Solution: most definitely DO criticize! There is no betterment without criticism, no progress, no advancement of knowledge, and this stupid idea that just because all people have equal rights, all their ideas, however retarded they may be, deserve equal merit and respect is, well, STUPID. It wastes collective time we all then have to spend trying to dig through the bullshit and deal with consequences of ignorant recklessness – time we could otherwise divert to something much more constructive. Speaking of constructive: if you criticize, do so constructively. Explain what causes the criticism, offer possible options for a solution, and don’t make it too personal. But “giving up criticism”? That’s an equivalent of bringing “heil, Hitler” back in fashion!
8. Give up your need to impress others. Stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not just to make others like you. It doesn’t work this way. The moment you stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not, the moment you take of all your masks, the moment you accept and embrace the real you, you will find people will be drawn to you, effortlessly.
That’s probably the most sound piece of advice so far. Staying true to oneself is important, and pleasing everyone – impossible.
9. Give up your resistance to change. Change is good. Change will help you move from A to B. Change will help you make improvements in your life and also the lives of those around you. Follow your bliss, embrace change – don’t resist it. “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls” Joseph Campbell
Everything is good in moderation, and everything is good when it is appropriate to circumstance. Being generally flexible is, indeed, a very good trait. Make sure though you don’t lose yourself in the process. Also, if you have a family or a relationship – build rituals. Excitement is one thing, but oddly enough routine activities and regular rituals keep the families/partners together, too, and are a very important part of relationships. It’s about striking the balance.
10. Give up labels. Stop labeling those things, people or events that you don’t understand as being weird or different and try opening your mind, little by little. Minds only work when open. “The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer
I don’t see the relevance of the quote to the point… More importantly, to “stop labeling” means to go insane in 5 minutes. Literally. Our brain processes immense amounts of information and it HAS to label and lump it all into categories (otherwise you’d have to figure out what that creature is every time you see another type of a dog – all over anew).
Solution: “open-minded” doesn’t mean you have to accept (and respect) every piece of bullshit you encounter. Stay critical, demand evidence for claims and ideas. Otherwise your open-mindedness will cost you a big deal – of time, money and potentially even health. In other words, there’s open-minded, and there’s “my brain is an open trash bin that anyone can throw any garbage into”. Focus on ideas worth learning about – not EVERY little thing that sounds fun and ‘open-minded’ just because it’s new, fancy or hasn’t been properly tested yet.
Same with people. Yes – being generally respectful and courteous pays off, but I will not suggest trying to sweet-talk a junkie or a thug in a dark alley into being your friend. I’d suggest to RUN and scream. Even in more social settings – keep your human radar running. If you sense something is off – it most often is. Excuse yourself and leave the person. Better to come off as occasionally rude than end up as a popsicle in morgue or with a few bad memories uncalled for.
11. Give up on your fears. Fear is just an illusion, it doesn’t exist – you created it. It’s all in your mind. Correct the inside and the outside will fall into place.
“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt
Yeah – and stand in front of that approaching train…
Solution: fear, in case someone is unaware, is a SURVIVAL tool. It’s necessary for life. It’s useful. Yes, it does often glitch as a system – but that’s kind of the point: one needs to know when fear is rational, and when it isn’t. In addition, the bravest people are not fearless ones. Fearless folk are often the ones who die too young – because they were too reckless for safety measures. Bravest folk are those who DO experience fear, then assess the real danger, take necessary precautions and then, if necessary or desired, confront the situation. So instead of trying to fight fear itself (and unless it’s a phobia or other extreme condition, trying to eliminate fear itself is counter-productive), it’s better to act like truly brave people (see above).
12. Give up your excuses. Send them packing and tell them they’re fired. You no longer need them. A lot of times we limit ourselves because of the many excuses we use. Instead of growing and working on improving ourselves and our lives, we get stuck, lying to ourselves, using all kind of excuses – excuses that 99.9% of the time are not even real.
Ay-man. That’s one point I fully back.
13. Give up the past. I know, I know. It’s hard. Especially when the past looks so much better than the present and the future looks so frightening, but you have to take into consideration the fact that the present moment is all you have and all you will ever have. The past you are now longing for – the past that you are now dreaming about – was ignored by you when it was present. Stop deluding yourself. Be present in everything you do and enjoy life. After all life is a journey not a destination. Have a clear vision for the future, prepare yourself, but always be present in the now.
Sorry but naaah. Let’s start with the past… Hell no I won’t give up a single day of it! My past is what made me be ME, it defines me! It is also my personal huge library of experiences and references to both learn from, think back to and smile, draw strength from and grow from! WTF is this advice – to give up my entire identity? I’ll pass.
Solution: do NOT give up on the past! Respect it, treat it as a treasury of knowledge, learn from it, cherish the best parts of it – without dwelling in any of it though. Remembering the past is essential (and if people actually learned history, too, and FROM it – we could avoid about 60% of all problems we’re facing as a world, too). What one shouldn’t do is escape into the past, cling to it or let it determine everything in their daily lives. Refer to your past occasionally when needed, don’t live in it. Live in the present, plan for the future – I agree with that part. But letting the past go may backfire – it’s more sane to let go of the deep emotional attachment to the past, or maybe some of the traumas, but definitely counter-productive to throw out the exact precious thing that makes you who you are altogether.
14. Give up attachment. This is a concept that, for most of us is so hard to grasp and I have to tell you that it was for me too, (it still is) but it’s not something impossible. You get better and better at with time and practice. The moment you detach yourself from all things, (and that doesn’t mean you give up your love for them – because love and attachment have nothing to do with one another, attachment comes from a place of fear, while love… well, real love is pure, kind, and self less, where there is love there can’t be fear, and because of that, attachment and love cannot coexist) you become so peaceful, so tolerant, so kind, and so serene. You will get to a place where you will be able to understand all things without even trying. A state beyond words.
It’s hard to believe someone has gotten attachment so wrong… I’m sure a mother giving birth to a baby may love it very, VERY much, but if she doesn’t feel attachment to that baby – she won’t deal with having it around for too long… And just generally – it’s not attachment that is the problem. It’s extreme cases of it.
Solution: it’s actually POSSESSIVENESS, jealousy and desire to control other people that stem from fear. Attachment is the warm and fuzzy thing we absolutely need as humans. We just need not to overdose on it – that’s all. Throwing it away, however, just because it may be dangerous in higher doses is as sane as banning oxygen because in higher doses it may be toxic and lethal. Learning to appreciate someone/something while it’s in one’s life and letting go when it has to leave – THAT is the trick. Avoiding attachment altogether, however, is avoiding the most basic part of being a human, a mammal even, giving up on the social glue so to say. If everyone detached themselves from everything, the entire structure of empathy and cooperation would collapse and we’d be all perfectly detached and perfectly extinct very soon.
15. Give up living your life to other people’s expectations. Way too many people are living a life that is not theirs to live. They live their lives according to what others think is best for them, they live their lives according to what their parents think is best for them, to what their friends, their enemies and their teachers, their government and the media think is best for them. They ignore their inner voice, that inner calling. They are so busy with pleasing everybody, with living up to other people’s expectations, that they lose control over their lives. They forget what makes them happy, what they want, what they need….and eventually they forget about themselves. You have one life – this one right now – you must live it, own it, and especially don’t let other people’s opinions distract you from your path.
What if that inner voice is telling you “you have to kill that neighbor”?.. Ok this is a bit extreme, but for one thing, not everyone even HAS an inner greater calling, and not every one of those callings is attainable and/or desirable.
Solution: it is definitely great to find one’s true passion and course and follow it. However, other people’s opinions can help to correct the course (or simply to gain more certainty for one’s own), discover new ways and options to it, shortcuts, little mistakes and otherwise be very useful. Again, pleasing everyone and listening to every stupid idea isn’t wise, either. Also, realize that maybe you don’t have a particularly strong calling – and that’s perfectly fine, too! World needs all kinds of people – people who are driven inside, and people who follow course. People who set trends, and people who simply get the job done.
More than focusing on a calling, focus on the sense of inner balance and peace – with yourself, people around you, your environment and your activities. And no, it’s not ALWAYS your own attitude that needs to be tweaked internally for that balance to remain – sometimes external factors need to be tweaked. Also, remember you’re not a robot. Silly attempts to always feel great and happy are, ironically, exactly the attitudes behind the developed world’s rather rapidly growing dissatisfaction with just about everything…
Basically, having read all this, I have one thing to say: don’t fool yourself – stay real, stay true, work hard if you need to achieve something, consider constructive criticism, know your limitations and strengths, and realize that the world is never black and white and no simplistic advices will ever get you anywhere far.