My sister told me about a date she went on recently. When she very politely said that she didn't think they were a good match, the guy went nuts and said all sorts of rude and outlandish things.
Poor guy. He almost certainly knew that he was digging an even deeper hole by saying the things he said, but his mental state was so bad that he couldn't help it. What would it be like to live in that brain?
He's an extreme example, but I don't think it's all that common for people to really have nice clear minds. The more I talk to people the more it seems like everyone has insecurity, doubt, anger, jealousy, fear, or other negative emotions lurking about a lot of the time.
It's one thing to feel these things occasionally. If a bear suddenly charges at you and you don't feel fear, that would be very strange. But you should not be living daily life with these emotions in your brain.
I think of it like a house. When your house is clean and organized, it feels light and easy to be there. Even doing a frustrating task might not be that stressful because of the nice environment. But if your house is cluttered and dirty, everything feels stressful, even things you like to do. The same is true for your mind-- if you can maintain a positive mental environment, you are well suited to deal with anything.
Because this is not something that is frequently talked about, my guess is that a lot of readers will fall into two different categories. Many will read this and say, "Yeah, obviously. Why bother writing about it?" and others will say, "That's impossible. Everyone has these negative things churning around. It's how life is."
If you're in the latter group, though, you're wrong. I know many people, including myself, who have very positive mental environments. Even if your life is objectively difficult, you can have a clear mind. It will certainly be harder, but the benefits are even greater.
How do you do it? There's no easy prescription, but let's talk about a few different tactics that can combine to create a good mental environment.
1. Detach yourself from your identity
Turmoil is created when we have a strongly held belief in our identity and something happens that contradicts it. Instead, have no identity. You are you, period. Or think of yourself in terms of what you do, rather than what you are. Ronda Rousey was doing great while her identity of "best fighter ever" wasn't challenged, but as soon as it was challenged, she fell apart. If she had thought of herself as "Ronda Rousey, someone who fights as hard as she can", maybe she wouldn't have spiraled into depression when her identity vanished.
2. Don't create unhealthy comparisons
If you had to come up with someone who is doing way better than you on things that matter, could you do it? I could, and I bet you could, too. Could you find someone who is doing way worse? Of course. That tells us that comparisons are useless. You can always find someone better or worse, so comparisons are not valid data. But most people treat them as though they are. They get jealous when people are doing better, or they feel insecure because it appears someone else has something figured out that they don't.
If you must compare yourself, compare yourself to people just a little better or just a little worse than you. They're the ones with whom you have the most in common. What's the better person doing that you can copy? What's the worse person doing worse that you can continue to avoid?
Better yet, don't compare yourself. It's not a very useful tool.
3. Forgive yourself but push yourself to do better
Have you ever failed at something? Me too. Everyone has failed at something, so it's pointless to beat yourself up when it happens. Why would you punish yourself for something that is certain to happen? When you fail, immediately acknowledge that it's okay to fail and is not a judgment on you (or your identity). Then think about what you could have done differently that would change the outcome in the future.
4. Look for things to be grateful for
I'm filled with overwhelming joy at some point on most days. Last night I flew from New York to Las Vegas and was overwhelmed with gratitude for being able to fly. I was looking out the window, thinking about how I get to sit in this flying living room, and I couldn't believe my good fortune. Most days I think about how great my friends are and how lucky I am to have them. Same with my family. Sometimes I'll just be drinking a glass of water and I'll think about how great it is that water is available to me.
Everyone has good things in their lives. May as well make them work for you by fully appreciating them and letting them keep your mind happy.
5. Think about your death
When I read the Ancient art of Joy, a book on stoicism, I found that I already did just about everything in the book. The one big exception was contemplating my own death. Now I do it all the time. I imagine that I've just died and I try to imagine what the world would look like.
I like this practice for a few reasons. First, it puts everything in perspective. I really hope that I find my match in a girl and get to experience a big part of my life with her. I also really hope that I get my own airplane, preferably soon. But, really, it doesn't matter. I'm going to be dead some day. All that will really matter are the positive impacts I've had on other people. And even that only matters to a degree since they will also die someday.
Second, it makes me realize that dying isn't so bad, and it's the worst thing that could happen to me. Life would go on, the world would still be an amazing place, and everyone who knew me would be quite sure that I died happy and wouldn't have changed anything.
So when I begin to worry that maybe Cruise Sheet won't be successful, I immediately think, "Doesn't matter. I'll die someday anyway."
6. Think about your birth
I know I always harp on this, but it's a big deal to me. Statistically speaking, you should never have been born. The odds of your ancestors all procreating at the exact right times is virtually zero, so you've won the biggest lottery of them all. You get to be alive. Personally speaking, I find anything short of constant gratitude for life to be disrespectful. It's like winning a billion dollars in the lottery and complaining about having to hire a taxi to go pick up your check.
That's not a judgment on others-- everyone is entitled to their own perspective, but the instant I start thinking any negative thought I immediately think, "You should never have been born, but you were. You are so lucky and life is so good that you have nothing to complain about."
7. Understand that a clear healthy mind will make your life better
Having a clear mind becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Things just go better when you don't have any mental impediments in the way. So even if you totally disagree with my thoughts on how great life is, and you think your life is hard and awful, you may as well try to have a positive clear mind anyway. Because if you do, things will go better. And when things go better it's easier to have better mindset, so the cycle continues.
I write about topics like this a lot because I think that they are very important. In my own life I try to create change around things that have a lot of leverage. If I sleep better, everything else in my life improves. Similarly, if I keep my mindset at a 10/10, everything just goes better. It's not a panacea, but it does have very far-reaching effects.
I'm not sure how I can convince people who don't believe me to try it, but I wish I could. If you don't think that it is possible for you to have a clear and positive mindset, I'd challenge you to try some of the stuff I wrote about for a month. If I'm wrong you can feel good because you proved it, but if I'm right you can have a better life. Step one might be getting rid of the identity of someone who struggles or isn't happy or is a victim.
Photo is some clover I saw when I was in Seattle. I've always wanted to find a four leaf clover, but never have. I look every time.
In reference to relationships, I have found that people start out a relationship with their best personality. The "charming period" is a time when a person wants to get along and be happy and easy to get along with. The "Real" person (personality and true identity) pops up slowly after they think you are not going to run for the hills when you get a taste of their true personality. If you have any reservations about a person or that they are hiding their true personality in the beginning, find the first excuse to escape the relationship. The deeper and longer you stay around the person, the more you get caught up in their web. It gets harder and more emotional drama to exit the relationship once expectations are set.
A friend asked my yesterday why I do so many crazy things. What's my raison d'etre? He mentioned a few specific examples, and I had reasons for each, but those reasons weren't similar to each other. I've been thinking about it since then, though. Is there some universal motivator that's behind everything I do? If so, knowing what it is might be useful.
The more I think about it, the more I think that I don't do very many crazy things. At least not when you consider the scope of crazy things I could do. When it comes down to it, I think that my search space for actions to take is just a whole lot broader than most people's.
For example, sometimes I think about where else I could park my RV. I rent a spot now, but I know that eventually market forces will cause that space to be used by something more profitable. So where will I park next? I think about parking on the street again, the easy choice. Then I think about driving across the US and parking it in New York. I think about leaving it a few hours away at my mother's house and not even living in it anymore. I think about just going on the road and not staying in one place.
Then I think about moving to Japan for a year, or buying a tiny house in Las Vegas. Living on the island for the six months it's warm per year would be an interesting experience. The thought even crosses my mind to pick some random city somewhere in the world and disappear to it without telling anyone. I think about living on a cruise ship perpetually.
So, everyone's got an identity. What you think you are, what you identify with, how you'd describe yourself.
This identity thing is a big deal in terms of how you see the world. If there's a clash between the world and your identity, you'll probably favor your identity over the world.
That's... not good, but it's almost everyone. A few people seem to dissolve their identity, or base it around a rather robust principle (like truth, in the pure abstract unfiltered form) - but that's incredibly rare.
So okay, you've got an identity, it affects how you react to the world, and if the world and your identity comes into conflict, your identity is probably going to win. That's not necessarily a good thing, but it's how things are.
Given that, it's really important to not have an "oppositional identity" - that's where you define a big part of who you are as what you're against.