Today I was talking with my friend, Hayden. One of the things I like about talking with Hayden is that he probably has more insight into my life than I do. He'll often describe something I do or think in a way that I'd never thought about it, which then gives me something to ponder for a few days, weeks, etc.
Ironically, he's also the one who recommended the two books that made me adopt the MaxDiet, even though he doesn't follow it himself.
Today he asked me if I ever feel like crap.
He asks me this every few months, maybe because he doesn't really believe me.
And it's true. I definitely have a range of how I'm feeling, but it ranges from "really good" to "incredible". Never okay, never bad.
I've written a bit about this before. A year ago I wrote about how I never get angry. The ladies in my life at the time then started a riot in the comments and everyone started defending being angry.
I felt a little bit vindicated when I read The Power of Now, which basically said the same thing WAY more eloquently. Actually, I only read the beginning of that book because I found it way too boring, even though the message was awesome.
But this is different. Besides not feeling angry, I also never feel depressed or inadequate, or anything like that.
Hayden's explanation, which I think is right, is that I set my own standards. That's probably a nice way of saying that I really don't care what anyone thinks about me.
And I can see how in today's society it could go the other way. If you look at TV shows, advertising, or movies, there are clear messages being sent.
You're supposed to get straight As at a top school, get a high paying job, buy a sportscar, find your perfect spouse, buy a house, wear cool clothes and be beautiful like me, go on vacation in the Caribbean, and have kids. And that's just by the time you're 30.
Do these things, the legend says, and you will be happy.
There are two problems with this message.
First, this isn't the path that most people can or want to go down, when it comes right down to it. People don't meet the perfect girl. They get sidetracked on their own projects. When bombarded by this message, though, people get that nagging, "I'm not on track anymore" feeling.
Second, when people DO get that Porsche Boxster, the $100k salary, and their first mortgage, they aren't happier. They're only as happy as they've always been. Maybe less because the dream is gone.
"I worked that hard for THIS?"
I forget who said it first, but a phrase really stuck with me.
"You can never get enough of what you don't want."
In other words, if you go after society's standards, you will NEVER reach happiness. I've seen this so many times over.
However, when you change your definition of success to one that's a lot more appropriate, like, "success is when I spend all or most of my time doing what Iwant to do", it's easy and FUN to be successful.
Some people might call this lowering your standards. That's a poor way of looking at it. Maybe you aren't going to work 80 hours a week to afford a BMW lease, but you are going to spend more time scuba diving and reading. Which is better? Whichever one YOU want to do.
In my case, I'm essentially homeless. At one point I bought a house and two cars. Now I have no cars, no house, and actually no posessions that don't fit in my backpack.
By society's standards, I'm WAY less successful. By my standards, which are the only ones I care about, I'm way more successful. I'm seeing the world, learning, and becoming less materialistic.
As a result, I feel great about myself. I'm doing what I want to do. I'm happy. I feel no pressure from anyone, because I don't care about their expectations of me.
But don't bad things happen to me? Aren't some days better than others?
Sure. Yesterday, for example, I got almost no work done. Even though I'm in Bangkok, I didn't really go out and see the city. In terms of my standards it wasn't a great day.
It's important to learn acceptance. Eckhart Tolle talks about how any anger is the act of not accepting "the now", as he calls it.
Most days are full of me doing the things I want to be doing. Once in a while, like yesterday, I drop the ball. So I accept it. I'm not perfect.
I focus on the positives, too. While I didn't go out and see much, I did go get some coconuts in a new area of town, and that was interesting. I started writing this post. I had some good meals and spent some time with my friends.
And hey... I'm ALIVE. The joy of being alive and having been given the chance to live life will always trump everything. You could string 400 terrible days together and I would still be happy because I am alive. Everything else is a blip on the radar.
To sum it up, three ways to always be happy that work for me:
1. Disregard anyone else's expectations for you (including parents and society) and do what you want to do, Do it openly, honestly, and proudly. You have one life, and it is yours only. So enjoy it.
2. Accept that bad things will happen, but even if they do there is SO MUCH GOOD going on that they are irrelevant. You can consider them, act on them, but shouldn't be affected by them because there is too much good to ever justify not feeling great.
3. Think every day about how lucky you are to be alive. Any one of millions of sperm could have reached your mother's egg, but you were the one that made it. Trace that probability back a few generations and realize that EVERYTHING you have is a total gift. It is nearly impossible that you would be born, but you were. Is something like having your TV stolen REALLY enough to offset feeling great because you're so lucky to be alive?
When I bought a house ten years ago, I also bought place settings for six and silverware for twelve. Then I developed a minor fascination with bone China and bought settings for eight. I probably had four dozen glasses. About once a month or so, all of these dishes would be piled up in and around my sink, begging to be cleaned. I didn't have a lot of dinner parties-- I just hated doing dishes so much that I'd procrastinate until washing became a full day event. Those days were some of my least favorite.
A few days ago, I was doing the dishes for the six of us that ate dinner. There were pots, pans, plates, serving utensils, and glasses. The works. For the first time ever, I found myself enjoying doing the dishes. I could appreciate the warm water on my hands and the shine in the pot when it was clean. When I washed everything that wasn't dishwasher safe, I started handwashing the things that could have just gone in the dishwasher. It wasn't fun exactly, but it was so enjoyable that I actually found myself looking forward to washing the dishes the next day.
Work has become the same way. I don't love all aspects of it equally, but when I wake up and know I have a tough day ahead of me, I feel great. Pant of it is that I know the day will end with a nice chunk of progress made, but most of it is the actual act of working. I love it. I can't wait to face off with a bug that's been bothering me for weeks, trace it through all of our code, and fix it. It's relaxing, like an internal Swedish massage.
My friend Constance wrote me an email today. She was talking about me with her sister and some friends, describing my hyperfocus on work, learning, and other productive things. An excerpt from her email:
I'm really tired. I want to sleep! But I'll do it in a little while. So now...
My day was good! I had fun making exercises and reading a few blogs here. I think something just changed. About myself, about how I see things. I don't know, it's weird.
I'ves just read about the self-compassion. If you want, you can check it out here. It's just that... you can think in a certain way since always, but in a moment, everything you believed in seems to be wrong. And that's the time when you must have an open mind. You can't say no to knowledge.
So yeah, I'm feeling really inspired haha. Today was my second class at my english course! I have a different teacher because we were too many in one class, so they divided us in two. I'm a little dissapointed because I had already made a friend, and now I don't know anybody. Again.
I don't know... sometimes I think I think too much haha. I want to do so many things with my life... But I just dream... and do nothing. But I'm trying to change that part of me. I want to do the things that I love, I want to be happy. This is my first day in this never ending road. And I feel really good.