How to Improve Your Life: Destroy 3 Beliefs That are Ruining It

cant hardly wait longI was making the most crucial decisions of my life on autopilot.  I didn’t realize it of course.  But I was unthinkingly ruling out courses of action or continuing with others based on my 100% certain understanding of How the World Worked.

I look back at the way I used to view people and relationships and really, the whole point of life and I’m shocked.  My implicit beliefs flew in the face of everything I dreamed of becoming.  I was sabotaging myself at the must fundamental level.  But I persisted in my poisonous beliefs because everyone else thought the same damn things.

I want to call out all the bullshit inherent in those implicit assumptions.  For some of you, this is going to sound like Martian.  Everyone you know has these beliefs.  How could they be wrong?

If history has taught us anything, it is that we can’t find justification for our actions by looking to our contemporaries. Slavery, tyranny, smoking, listening to Limp Bizkit – these things were all once judged completely acceptable by the masses.  History teaches us that “everyone is doing it,” is no justification.  It took me years to learn that, but I’m glad I did.

So don’t judge my Martian-speak by how many others understand it.  Judge it based on if it makes sense to you. Not in your gut–your gut is a whiny bitch that just wants you to fit in–but in your head.

So before diving in, please

1) Read with an open mind.
2) Don’t crowd source your world view.  Forget what is popular.  Test the new paradigms out and see what results you get.
3) If any of this resonates, promise you won’t let this just be an academic exercise.  If you find you are living with an outdated paradigm, CHANGE.  Let’s actually figure out how to improve your life.

Let’s get it on!

How to Improve Your Life:

“It is better to focus on economically viable skills like programming than things I am interested in like singing, after all money will allow me to buy what makes me happy in the end.”

People chase money.  Like really freaking hard.  If you asked them why you might get some platitude about financial security and the freedom to travel.  Deep down we know it’s BS.  Financial security is a state of being and freedom to travel comes cheap.

The reason people chase money is because they think they can buy the emotions they desire.   After all that’s what advertising has been telling us our whole lives.  A Hummer equals dominance,  a MacBook equals cool, a Breitling equals sex appeal.  In one commercial break you’ll be sold blowjob in the form of a diamond necklace, superiority over you poseur neighbors in the form of BMW, and masculinity in the form of the correct choice of LITE BEER! (Miller, duh)

things to buy

Also, if you drink the wrong Lite Beer you're a pussy

Also, if you drink the wrong Lite Beer you’re a pussy

The truth

Anybody who is selling you a feeling is full of shit.  You can’t buy dominance, or happiness, or fulfillment.  You have to learn it and live it.  Which is why we no matter what emotions we attempt to buy, there will always be more to sell to us.  We are buying illusions and paying for them with our lives.

Money is a means to an end, a damn effective one in many cases.  But it doesn’t translate to happiness.  In fact, repeated studies show that if you’re making more than 75K per year, adding more money to the mix isn’t going to make you feel any happier.

You’re gonna need something that actually fulfills.  Not prestige, not status.  I’m talking about connections with PEOPLE.

Money doesn’t buy friends.  It doesn’t even get girls.  Not for real.  You can spend your whole life accruing millions of dollars and never know what it is like to have a woman TRULY want to tear your clothes off because she WANTS YOU.  The money might get you laid.  But it is a weak substitute for connecting based on HOW UNBELIEVABLY AWESOME you both are.

Yes, work hard, yes save, yes build passive income streams.  Be proud of what you’ve earned.

But money and the products it can buy won’t deliver happiness.  Don’t trick yourself into believing hitting that next financial milestone is going to change your life in any meaningful way.

Great, so now what?

If you want to be happy, you’ve got to go straight at it.  No roundabout strategies involving tens of millions of dollars and yachts and then, POOF!  FINALLY happiness.   You’ve got to look inside and uncover what makes you happy.  When you come back with “I dunno,” you’ve got to cut through the fear and doubt which cloud your mind.   Ask yourself, “What would make I do if money were no object and I were capable of anything?

Focus on experiences, not stuff.  Studies show you’ll be way more satisfied if you do.

buy happiness

Wanna REALLY know how to improve your life?  Allow Alan Watts to walk you through it and blow your mind

The good news is that whereas money can take years and years to accumulate, when you start going at happiness by improving your social skills you are looking at seeing serious returns in just weeks or months.  And it’s pretty awesome how fast you can blow through the learning curve when you’re one of the few dudes who is even trying to learn.

So get your head straight.  Do you want the long, coma-inducing path to moderate happiness and a large bank account, or the direct, scary path to immediate fulfillment?   It’s a pretty sweet deal if you have the courage to take it.

“There is someone for everyone.”

Some people take it for granted that there is one special person out there for them.  For everybody really.  The way they see the world, everyone has a match and it is just a matter of sticking it out.  Eventually, they’ll find that one person who sees in them what so many have overlooked.

Sometimes the gorgeous girl sees something in the weird guy, sometimes the genders are reversed.  Sometimes two adorably idiosyncratic people are serendipitously introduced and a short time later change their lives to be with one another (a la Garden State).

You’ve seen it a million times in a million movies and TV shows, but the quintessential, fourth wall breaking, king of “The One” declaration is without a doubt Can’t Hardly Wait.

Allow Preston to sum up the philosophy of The One better than I ever could:

The truth

There are amazing men and women whose personality, lifestyle, looks, and attitude are combine to make them super attractive to the opposite sex.  For these people, there are literally thousands of “someones” they could be in extremely happy relationships with.  Jennifer Love Hewiit’s character in Can’t Hardly Wait is one of these people.

There are also men and women who do not take care of themselves and who do not work on improving and who do not lead awesome lives.  For some, there may be NO realistic options.  The law of large numbers says that someone will eventually be interested, but odds are it’s not going to be their first, second, or even hundredth choice.

Preston, the blonde kid from Can’t Hardly Wait who is pouring his guts out in that clip is one of these people.

In NO FUCKING UNIVERSE does the guy with no options get most desirable girl.  The sun will literally go supernova before you witness the “Stalk Her, Date Her” love arc from Can’t Hardly Wait play out in real life.

We don’t all have one perfect counterpoint.  Some get their pick of the litter and some will be alone or settle.  It’s not pleasant but true.  And we know it, but allow ourselves to buy into the Hollywood lie because it is comfortable.  It comforts us when we are alone and it comforts us when we have chosen to commit to someone exclusively.

Real life is much more complicated.

When we’re alone, it’s because we have standards that are higher than our options.  We can either work to increase our options, lower our standards, or bury our heads in the sand and pretend The One is on her way.

When we date someone exclusively, we may actually be passing up on dozens of other girls that would be a better fit.  We can break up or commit to our girlfriend while accepting that she was not designed in heaven for us.  What would be irresponsible is to delude ourselves by pretending we’ve found The One person in the world who we’re meant to be with.

What to do?

Free yourself from the comfortable lie.  Free yourself from your ex or your office crush or the illusion that Jennifer Love Hewitt is out there, ready to break up with her handsome, popular jock boyfriend if only you would write her a heartfelt letter.  Free yourself from the trap of believing that every girl you are with is the only one in the world for you.

No more waiting for Destiny to throw a gorgeous, perfect girl into your lap.  No more convincing yourself every girl you date is your soul’s better half.  Both mindsets will burn down your chances of developing healthy relationships.

We don’t have a destiny nicely lined up with the ideal job and the perfect wife.  We shape our destiny.  And we need to be active participants in that process, because otherwise we spend our whole live waiting for The One instead of improving and growing.

“Consult your friends and family for advice in pursuing what you want.”

Our friends and family love us.  So naturally we turn to them when facing big decisions.  They have our best interests at heart and they can give objective, measured advice.  When we are about to leap in over our heads, they can stop us from jumping off the precipice.  So obviously we look to them for advice at critical junctures.

The truth

Your friends and family are often the WORST sources of advice.

First off, because they are your friends and family, the advice they give will be ESPECIALLY slanted towards keeping you stable.  Not towards helping you grow and thrive.

Second, your friends and family are like everyone else in the world: they can only give autobiographical advice.  They can tell you how to get where they are or how to avoid it.  But not much more.

Say you want to do something new, something extraordinary that your friends and family may have never even seriously attempted.  Maybe you’re looking for advice starting your own business, or on quitting your job and travelling the world, or on managing an open relationship.

If they haven’t lived it, your friends are likely giving counterproductive advice, despite their enthusiasm

Your buddy who has had a girlfriend since college has no fucking clue how to manage an open relationship.  Your buddy who gets lucky every once in a while after 8 drinks has no fucking clue.  Your female friend who tells you to “just be yourself” HAS NEVER PICKED UP A GIRL IN HER LIFE.  She has no fucking clue.

Taking advice from girls re: girls is especially seductive. Because after all, THEY’RE GIRLS.  They have been hit on 10,000 times and can tell you what women are really thinking, OF COURSE they are going to know what works.

Not really.  To illustrate, imagine walking into a digital advertising firm and saying, “I have seen 10,000 banner ads over the course of my life.  Based on that extensive experience, I think I am the best person to run your advertising campaigns.”  They’d laugh you out of the damn building.

You don’t have to laugh at your female friend, but you’d be crazy to take her untried advice seriously.

Go by this rule of thumb:

Take advice only from people who have gotten to where you want to go, who have achieved what you want to achieve, who are the way you’d like to be.  Their advice will be just as autobiographical, but the biography they’ll give is one you want to make your own.

To that I add one more piece: the more a person has had to CONSCIOUSLY and DELIBERATELY learn a craft, the more value their advice will be.  If you want to get into politics, taking advice from a Kennedy or a Bush is a decent idea, but taking advice from anyone who rose from circumstances similar to your own is a far smarter bet.

Similarly, if looking for a coach, look for someone who had to learn.  If they are starting from where you are starting, got to where you want to be, and were paying attention along the way, they can lay out the entire map that will work for YOU.

And of course, if you don’t want to be like me, ignore everything you just read :-)

Check out the reader-inspired follow-up where I explore how to change these beliefs.

8 Comments

  • Jeremy 3 months ago Reply

    FUCKING BRILLIANT ARTICLE!…

    • Charlie 3 months ago Reply

      Love the enthusiasm :-) Thanks for reading!

  • AJ 3 months ago Reply

    Great article, I can tell that you’ve put a lot of thought into it. I’m sure your personal experiences have transformed in ways that your high school version could have never imagined.

    I remember when I was in love I was so blinded by my emotions that I effectively closed the door on the world. And I didn’t realize the damaging effects of this tunnel visioned existence until the relationship ended. While most people don’t stay in crazy love all the time, even normalized (and I use that normal with great reservation with regards to relationships) have a tremendous monopoly on your time and energy in life.

    And that’s the ultimate price you for the relationship. You are sacrificing your opportunities with regards to everything else in life for that sake of one individual. We are not just talking about other possible relationships, but the time taken away from learning new skill sets, traveling, meeting people outside your small social circle, and many other growth opportunities.

    So I think you’ve hit on a nerve here with your analysis of relationships, and helped me sync some of my thoughts. Thanks for a great article.

    • Charlie 3 months ago Reply

      Yeah, that’s one of the toughest things about life: it’s short and everything has an opportunity cost. Exclusive relationships compound that by limiting your ability to explore and meet new people even when you aren’t directly spending time with your significant other. I think exclusive relationships can be great for a lot of people, but I prefer to keep things open since that leads to fewer limitations (and doesn’t preclude seriously loving and caring for the girls you see).

      I’m glad I was able to write something that resonated with you. Thanks for sharing :-)

  • danielbuckley101Daniel 3 months ago Reply

    Thanks for posting – Great article!

    This is a direction my life has been taking of late and stumbling across this article (no idea how I even did) is proof that things are changing, I believe!?

    Regardless, my life is moving, It’s moving, and as I’m moving with it I’m also battling with it internally. The fear is coming in, along with my comfort zone.

    Our subconscious minds are taken over by our experiences and influences namely family, friends, what we watch, what we value, what our friends watch / value etc.

    My biggest problem is action! how to take action, now, and remove the useless crap holding me back to make way for the love and glory.

    Any advice??

  • Adam 3 months ago Reply

    Errr…. the reason I can’t have *all* the experiences I want is because I don’t make enough money. Can we stop with the tired assumption that ‘X wants more money to buy more stuff’? I’m kind of a minimalist – and yet I want money, because I’m in debt, I want to travel, I want to be able to afford to eat well (I can’t even afford good groceries–I don’t even mean eating out), and so on.

    • Charlie 3 months ago Reply

      No doubt that money is necessary for survival. And it can also make things a hell of a lot easier. In fact, I think I probably share many of your views on money.

      I’m not advocating that we shun money entirely and live off garbage. I’m advocating that we look at what we REALLY want and we see what it really costs. So many people want to be happy and they think they need a certain level of income to get there, usually just a BIT more than they currently are making. I’m saying that oftentimes money is a crutch that people lean on when they can’t explain why they aren’t the person they want to be or living the life they want to live. They use it to distract themselves from the truth: that what they want can easily be obtained with their current means if only they had the guts to go make it happen.

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