Given that you only have one life, you should deliberately design it to make you as happy as possible.
This should be common sense, yet most people don’t ever take time for this. Many live from weekend to weekend. From vacation to vacation. Always looking forward to that next escape, instead of simply living a life they don’t need to escape from.
Call me naïve but I believe most people would prefer to live in a world where they are truly happy most of the time. They just have no idea where to start. So they follow someone else’s design.
I’ve read a couple of books on “Lifestyle Design” in the past but while they were motivating reads I found them not very useful. Most of them focused on building a random business and investing lots of time in it to be free “later”.
If you’re anything like me you’d rather want to know the answer to the question: “What steps can I take right now to get closer to living the life of my dreams.”
Another problem I had with those books was that they often pick external circumstances as the main source of your happiness.
As an alternative, this post will explain how to build your own personal ecosystem of positive emotions. And you can start doing it today, even if you literally have nothing in your life at this point.
It’s a long read. So feel free to print it out and take it with you to kill some time on one of those long, boring limo drives and private flights (or on the crapper, if you’re not exactly the glamorous type)
The Four Layers of Your Ecosystem
What the entire world you live in, does in fact revolve around you?
That doesn’t mean you’re the most important person on this planet. In the bigger picture of things, you’re just a small, forgettable speck of dust. (Sorry, didn’t want your ego to explode after that first sentence 😉 ) But in your reality, in the part of this world that you experience (and the only part you can verify truly exists), you are always at the center of the experience.
Just like with planet earth we can look at your personal “world” and say that it has 4 distinct layers to it.
- The “Inner Core”
- The “Outer Core”
- The “Surface”
- The “Exosphere”
When you want to create a perfect world for yourself, you have to work on every one of those layers.
Layer 1: The Inner Core
If you want to create that perfect reality for yourself, you start with the core first. Building anything on top of an unstable foundation is a sure shot way to see it all collapse and crumble down later.
In other words: To change the world outside of you, you need to change yourself first.
The good news about this: You don’t need to wait for anything to start working on that part. You don’t need money. You don’t need permission. You didn’t need “more time”. You already have yourself with you wherever you go, so you can start immediately.
The first thing to start optimizing is your own inner psychology, even if you think you don’t have any serious problems. Every one of us has issues, even when they’re minor.
Your mind is the filter through which you experience everything in this life. So even if you live the most epic life on the outside, if experience those things through a negative or unhealthy filter, you won’t stay happy long.
Every situation you are in, or everything that “happens to you” will always be interpreted by you before you feel any emotions towards it. Your feelings will be dictated by your habitual reactive patterns that you developed throughout life. Your beliefs about the world will give meaning to anything you hear, see or experience. The things that feel like the end of the world to you, could be a minor annoyance for somebody else. Even though they are the same things.
For this reason before starting to focus on anything outside of you, take a good hard look at yourself and find out some of the things about your thinking process that currently aren’t serving you well.
For example: If you get jealous and feel bad every time your lover is out alone, that’s a problem. You can say “it’s just who I am” or “it’s only logical because people are unfaithful when given the opportunity”. But if you really want a happy life you simply have to fix it. Because no matter who you’re with, at some point they will spend a few hours away from you 😉
Find out these things about yourself. We all have lots of them. You don’t need to fix them right away. But at least identify them so you know what to work on. Ask yourself questions like:
• What negative or unproductive beliefs do I hold about the world or people in general?
• What type of situations make me really angry or sad? And can I identify exactly when that start?
• What do I stress or worry about too much?
• In which situations do I place responsibility on the other person, giving me the feeling that it is just “happening to me” and “I can’t do anything about it” when in fact I always have a choice?
• What external resources do I “abuse” to make myself happy when I’m not? (Validation from other people, junk food, porn, etc.)
These are just examples of course, I could write a book full of questions like this but then again other people already have so if you’re really interested you can always dig deeper into this yourself. Or get a good therapist. Something I’d recommend to even the most mentally healthy people in the world.
The main points to consider in this layer are:
• People’s actions or random events are not the things that are making you feel bad. Your emotional reaction to them are. Figure out those patterns and get rid of the unproductive ones.
• Find out how you help co-create those situations through your own behavior (or self-fulfilling prophecies) and stop doing that.
• Learn to love who you are. Know what you value most in people and live up to those values. Don’t disappoint yourself constantly. And if you do, forgive yourself. Always be the best version of yourself you can possibly be, regardless of how bad people treat you or the circumstances get.
• A pessimistic attitude will never make you happy, even if you disguise it as just being a realist. (Want proof? Try not complaining a single time for 48 hours and watch your life change. Yes that means not even in traffic 😉 I did this 2 years ago and it was a big eye opener. Don’t take my word for it, just try it. If you’re not even willing to try not complaining for as little as 48 hours I think that already teaches you something about your current mindset😉 )
• Learn to be happy sitting alone in silence doing nothing for a while, simply by doing it repeatedly. Once you’re ready to do that you have your stable foundation to build that “Youtopia” on. Before focusing on all the things you want to make you happy, make sure being YOU already makes you happy.
The second aspect of core layer is the physical component. Getting into some decent shape and health.
It’s all very cute when people say “I don’t care if I’m a little bigger, I love myself the way I am”. But don’t buy into the idea that it is somehow “shallow” to say being overweight is less desireable than being in shape.
I know I’ll get a lot of shit for this from politically correct people but I’ll say it anyway: Being fat is a handicap. That doesn’t mean it’s ugly or bad. It definitely doesn’t mean that being anorexic is better. But objectively, it means that if you weigh too much, it has an impact on your freedom to do stuff.
Don’t believe me? Walk around all day with a backpack full of weights. You can put it any way you want, but that extra weight makes it harder for you to do things that are easy for people who weigh less. Just like a lack of strength, energy or flexibility would be a handicap too.
In order to have as much personal freedom as possible, any handicap you weren’t born with is one to get rid of if possible.
You don’t even need to be “fat” or “super thin” to be handicapped, 90% of the people in our modern society could do a lot better with a very small effort. The accepted standard for health is just so ridiculously low that we’ve all grown okay with it. “Everyone else is treating their body like crap so why would I become one of those weird “extreme” people who rather eat nasty fresh vegetables than this delicious piece of I-don’t-even-know-what’s-in-there”, right?
I know many people will hate me for that opinion, but think about this: If your life was a highway and you were out of shape, you’d be driving a shitty car. And if you’re eating junk food you’d be feeding it shitty gasoline as well.
Your life is not a highway though. It’s a rocky road full of obstacles, bumps, mountains to climb and other people coming from all directions without looking at you or the road. So safe to say a shitty car with shitty won’t get you very far. Even if it still looks good compared to all the other shitty cars your surrounded by. If you want to do cool things in your life, make sure you have everything under the hood to do it or you’ll crash and burn. If not now, then in 20 years.
Most people know that they “should” do this but have some reason why they can’t. Here are the two most obvious ones:
“I can’t go to the gym because I have no time.”
Answer: When you work out it gives you lots of energy, allowing you to get more work done in the time you still have. So doing this every day will actually save you time.
“I can’t eat healthy all the time because pizza is too delicious.”
Answer: “I can’t be faithful all the time because pussy is too delicious.” How do you feel about me saying that? Do you think it’s true? Or is it just a cop-out for not having enough respect/discipline/willpower?
I’m giving some tough love here. But I think the “car on the highway” example makes it obvious that being in top mental and physical health should be our number one priority before attempting other things. Any of the other stuff you want to do or places you want to go in your life you’ll have to do with your mind and body. If they’re not up for it, you won’t do it. Simple as that.
So if you’re not already getting that area of your life handled, start right now. Really, stop reading and start doing. We’ll get to the next layer in your next limo/private jet/toilet break 😉
Layer 2: The Outer Core
This layer has 2 aspects to it as well:
• The people you choose to surround yourself with
• How you treat those people and relate to them.
How to Surround Yourself with the Right People
If you look the 5 people you spend most time with, are you currently hanging out with them out of habit? Or can you pinpoint exactly why they are the perfect friends for you?
Have you ever defined what you perfect friends would look like? Would you recognize them when new ones came in your life?
To find out what kind of friends you’d want to have in your ideal dream life, simply list the character traits you appreciate most about the people close to you. Then list the ones you generally despise in people and replace them with the opposite on your list. (If for example you hate liars you just list “Honesty.”) Lastly, list some you haven’t met in people before would find pretty neat.
…I know you just read that and didn’t write down an actual list, so this sentence is here to remind you to stop reading and make that list first 😉
As an example, here’s a few of the things I’ve found I value most in friends:
• Positive/radiant/fun to hang out with
• Challenging, able to give and take constructive criticism
The kind of friendships I love are the open, honest ones where we each love the other for who that person is yet also recognize their potential to keep growing. A bond where we both feel loved and accepted but won’t let the other person stagnate in life, fool themselves or stop growing.
Now take another look at those 5 people closest to you. Do their character traits resemble the ones from the list you just wrote down? Do they exhibit any traits that are the opposite of the ones on your list? Because then it might be time to reconsider why you’re friends with them in the first place. The fact that you would be alone without them is not a good enough reason.
If you want to live a life that makes you consistently happy it’s important to have strong personal boundaries here.
At the moment, are you still tolerating people in your life who possess the exact opposite traits of the one on your list? Then stop doing it now. Have a zero tolerance rule for bullshit from anyone, including yourself.
Here’s some examples of how I turn some of the traits on my list into practical personal boundaries:
• If you give compliments to my face, but complaints behind my back, you are out. (Honesty)
• Do you treat people different because of their ethnicity / gender / sexual preferences ? Done talking. (Intelligence)
• Do you tell me I should give up on my dreams, become realistic and get a day job? You’ll see me running for the hills because that mindset is contagious 😀 (Supportiveness). At the same time if you’re able to show me all the weak spots in my plans for life and urge me fix them without discouraging, I’ll love you deeply for it. (Tough love/constructive criticism)
If this seems pretty radical to you that’s because it is. It also makes perfect sense: If you accept people to treat you in ways you don’t like, then people will keep treating you that way. It’s super obvious but it’s amazing how many people don’t put this into practice. Just stop accepting it, be willing to walk away and people will stop doing it.
I don’t accept any drama in my life anymore and guess what? I don’t ever get any drama anymore.
Not even the slightest, tiniest baby-bit of drama. I can’t even remember the last time I had a fight or even a heated discussion with a friend. The people who like drama simply don’t like me anymore. And the people who hang with me are drama-free. I fixed that in just a couple of months.
If you are one of those people who just found yourself saying “Easy to say for you, Pepijn! I’ve been not accepting drama for years but all these other bitches just keep fucking with me regardless. I have to uphold my rep” then think about this:
Do you enforce that personal boundary by expressing your anger towards the people who cause the drama? If so you are, in fact, adding to the drama yourself.
Anger and (verbal) aggression are part of the drama. You literally help to keep it going, so the people who look for drama know they can get it from you by treating you bad. Zero tolerance means not tolerating it from yourself either. This means calmly expressing your boundaries: staying unreactive and just stepping aside to let the situation go and not spending a second thinking about those people again.
An important point here is that people will not respect boundaries you don’t live up to yourself. I am often 5-15 minutes late and I’m known for it. That means it would be very unfair of me to expect from other people that they arrive sharply on time. Unless I’m ready to change my own behavior and be sharp myself. Being fair is not even the question here, the lesson is: If you don’t even respect your own boundaries, why would people take them seriously?
Also realize, that one positive trait does not make up for all the negatives. If you have to say about someone that he has “a positive side as well”, that’s an indicator he is probably not a good person.
What About Loyalty?
If you have a “friend” that makes you feel bad every time you are with them: Loyalty is not a good choice.
I’m not saying it is a bad value to have. But if loyalty is precious to you, you have to know exactly why you are staying loyal to a certain person.
Shared memories from long forgotten times are no reason to cling to a friendship that doesn’t make you happy. That’s like staying loyal to a job you despise just because you’ve been working there for a long time. In general the only thing you want to be loyal to is the happiness of you and the people around you. That means if people no longer act as the kind friends that would make you happy, you shouldn’t stay loyal to them for long.
Is it a terrible thing to drop people like flies?
Yes it is terrible and unruly and wrong, ask the dog who gets beat by his owner every day 😉
There is a grey area of course. Sometimes a real good friend can be going through a bit of rough patch in his/her life (depression/addiction, etc.) That means that (s)he might temporarily be a less ideal friend to you. However, it doesn’t take much to realize that this is because of the situation and not a permanent change. If the same would happen to you, I’m sure you’d want a shoulder to cry on, a big hug and someone to help you back up.
In this case it’s the right thing to do to be there for your friend as much as possible and help them get back on the rails again.
On the other hand, sometimes people get so stuck in negative thinking that there is no way you can help them anymore. They are now subconsciously using their problem as a means for attention and would rather drag you down to their level than have you help them back up again.
Ask yourself if the time and effort you invest in this relationship is actually helping the person. Can you see they are making consistent tangible progress no matter how deep they are right now? Are they appreciating what you do for them? Are you making them happier when you’re there or are they just dragging YOU down? In the second case it is clear that relationship is not very productive.
Besides: if you’re not really helping them, then what are you trying to do? Why put all that effort into trying to get someone out of a situation that they don’t want to get out of? If someone would rather complain than get out of their situation, let them complain to someone else.
I’ve been on both sides on this equation and I still stand by this advice. Give them a chance to feel how bad they need to pick themselves up again. Or they’ll just get comfortable in their little helpless pity pool and you’ll be the one refreshing the water, keeping them unhappy by trying to make them happy. I really could’ve used some tough love from my friends over the years. None the less, I’m still very grateful to everyone who cared enough to comfort me 🙂
Remember that you are being loyal to their long-term happiness. If you allow them to stay stuck in that cycle you are doing the exact opposite.
Trying to separate the friends in need from the energy vampires and focusing your effort on the right ones is something you need to do for your own happiness as well. You don’t have to deliberately cut ties with these people, just keep improving your own happiness and they will become disgusted by you to the point that they start to hate you because you’ve become “different” from who you were. One less source of negative energy for you 😉
If this all sounds very harsh and selfish, think about this:
The happier and fulfilled YOU are, the more energy you have left to make other people happy who do appreciate it and use your help to change their situation.
Also, because you’re doing this, everyone you hang out with now automatically know that you genuinely like them because else you wouldn’t be spending time with them. Seems like a more honest way and loving way of hanging out, don’t you think?
Some more food for thought:
If you really had the most amazing friendship you wouldn’t even have to think about being loyal to each other. You would just stay together because it would make everything better 😉
There are billions of people on this planet and only a couple of decades in your life. Why spend those few precious years around people who are no perfect match for you when there are at least millions out there who are?
If (and I hope not), you realize after reading this that all your friends are losers who treat you bad but you keep them out of fear of being alone… Then go back to fixing your “Inner Core” layer until you realize being alone is not the worst thing there is. That terrible aloneness is at the same time, an exciting big empty canvas to paint your beautiful new life on, whatever you desire. You are completely free.
If I hadn’t been willing to spend some time having very little friends instead of hanging out with people who were unsupportive of the direction I was heading in I would never have met some of my best friends because a) I’d have no time for them and b) I wouldn’t have reached out to meet new people.
This really paid off big time for me as I now have some close friends who fit the idea of a “perfect friend” I had in mind . A standard I previously thought didn’t exist in real life. Did I leave behind all my old friends? No, I still hang out with the ones that matter, and my bond has become stronger with them because consciously reminding myself of what exactly I love about them has increased the appreciation I feel for these people.
If, however, you find yourself completely alone after going through all these steps, then it’s time to take responsibility and build this part of your “perfect world” from the ground up. Get out there and give yourself a chance to meet new people and those people a chance to meet you.
Realize it’s not weird to message someone to let them know why you think you 2 would get along and invite them. It’s also okay to talk to someone on the street you don’t know. They might not be okay with you talking to them, but who would want to be friends with someone who hates making new friends, right? 😉 Just make sure you respect their right to choose to react that way.
Since you already know the character traits of your ideal friends, it would pay to stop and think for a second in which places you are most likely to encounter those people.
While it’s true that you meet some of the coolest people in the most unexpected places and ways, it does pay to think about demographics here and to frequent the right places.
If you want intelligent friends it won’t be very productive to socialize at a Donald Trump rally. Find out where the kind of people you love might be, go there alone and start socializing. Get to know them and stay in touch with the ones you like. You’ll meet some cool people in no time! It’s a little scary at first, but one of the most rewarding things to teach yourself.
How to Relate to Those People
While up until now I’ve been mostly talking about letting the right people into your life and keeping the wrong ones out, it’s equally important to think about what kind of friend YOU are to those people.
In general, you should give what you want to receive here.
Need a hug or pep-talk sometimes? Great, we all do.
Now here’s a more important question:
How often do you give people a hug or a pep-talk? Do they know you are that kind of person? Don’t be the kind of friend that’s only there when (s)he needs something.
This is the part where you look at all those things from the list you made and first and foremost strive to be like that yourself before you judge anyone else. Be the friend you would want to have for other people.
Even from a selfish perspective this should matter to you. Because people tend to give back the kind of treatment they receive from you. If you’re a dick, people are a dick to you. If you express your love, people will tend to express it back. If you just stand there and do nothing, people won’t talk to you very often.
This is one of the parts where the 1st and 2nd layer of your “Youtopia” are tied together. You have to be the kind of person you’d like to hang out with so you can be that perfect friend to yourself. If not, you will never be happy whenever you are alone.
Another way in which these layers are tied together is that any conflicts or problems you experience in your interactions with other people, are simply reflections of the inner conflicts within yourself. They literally point you to parts of yourself that you have not found peace with yet, and that’s why it upsets you so much.
Treasure these moments though, because they are golden opportunities to find out what you need to work on to become happier.
It’s important to keep your perspective as the core of your life experience and whenever an interpersonal problem comes up, recognize your own role in it instead of being quick to blame the other. Does that mean it’s not their fault? I’m not saying that. It’s not even a matter of “shared responsibility”. You are both “100%” responsible for your own experience here, and you need to recognize that in order to get along.
I know a guy who has literally has 0 friends. Okay, maybe one and a half who urgently need to read this article 😉 I personally truly believe that deep down he just wants to love, be loved and do good like all of us. If that’s true, then why did it had to come to this?
If you were to talk to him you’d be tempted to believe what terrible assholes all his friends have been to him and feel sad for him to have become a victim of so many bad people over and over and over again.
But there is also another possible explanation: That it’s exactly this “victim mentality” of constantly thinking people don’t mean well and treating those people like one would treat assholes in return is what’s driving them away.
If you get into fights with everyone you know sooner or later, or they all leave you at some point, then you really have to start looking yourself in the mirror. Recognize the problem is probably with you and take responsibility for everything you dislike in your life at the moment.
Another example: Do you frequently find yourself complaining that your friends are boring? Could be true, but here’s another alternative: Maybe you’re no fun yourself. After all, you’re here whining and complaining when you could be initiating the fun this very moment.
It doesn’t feel good to realize these things about yourself, but it’s the first step to a happier life.
If you keep acting the same way and getting negative results, maybe it’s time you start acting differently
So to recap this second part and give you some time to wipe (I’m starting to realize not a lot of limousine driving private plane-partying celebs are probably reading this):
• If you don’t already have the raddest bunch of friends in the whole wide world right now, stop reading and go meet some strangers in the right places. Life’s too short not to.
• Like ya homeboy Jeebus said: “Make sure you treat everyone you meet the same way you want to be treated. Unless you are seriously into hardcore S&M, in which case I’d advise you to get consent first.
In short: Get yourself the kind of friends you deserve, and make sure you truly deserve them 😉
Layer 3: The Surface
This layer is the part of your “Youtopia” that is tangible to other people as well. The actions you take, the part of your world that would be visible to other people if someone were to spy on you 24/7.
This is the part of your life most “Lifestyle Design” resources focus on. Running your business or doing your job in a way that gives you as much freedom as possible to do all the crazy stuff left on your bucket list.
No rules are set in stone here. Maybe you’re the type of person who wants to work on his business 100+ hours a week and derives a lot of joy from it, great then do that! If you want to quit your job and travel the world then do that too. Lots of people have done it before. If you’re the type that would rather be a subordinate and obey someone else’s orders, then that’s perfectly fine as well (and we should go on a date ASAP).
Figure out what kind of work would make you happy and how much of it. Find a way to make it work so that you can sustain yourself because where there is a will, there is always a way.
Decide how you want to spend your free hours. It’s fine to have a bucket list, but when would you want those things? Start with the ones you like to experience right now and make sure you set aside the time and/or resources to do it. There’s probably some other items on that list that are more of a “someday/maybe” thing. So you can leave those be for a while. Just don’t procrastinate on living the life you’d want to live. You might have a good reason to justify why it’s not possible right now. But as a great friend once pointed out to me: you could just as well replace all those reasons with [INSERT BULLSHIT EXCUSE HERE] 😉
I know a lot of people -including me- like to talk about the importance of constantly leaving your comfort zone and they are right, but let’s all be honest here. No one wants to spend their entire lives outside their comfort zone all the time (plus, “being outside your comfort zone” would ironically become your new comfort zone 😉 )
Some days all you want to do is just “chill and coast for a while”. So for those days, let’s figure out what your ideal comfort zone would look like 😉
A little exercise I did that really changed the way how I live my life was this one:
Take a sheet of paper (or a page in your diary if you have one) and write down the following sentence:
“If I were to wake up tomorrow, have the most perfect day I could possibly have and die the next morning, how would that day go?”
Don’t censor yourself or spare any details, really get into it. Imagine how every moment would feel, look, smell, sound and what you would do to make the most out of it (the sexual parts are usually pretty fun to imagine). Keep writing for an hour if that’s what it takes.
Then the next day, instead of planning your day the way you usually do, re-read the journal exercise you did.
There’s probably a lot of stuff in there that you can do today if you want to. It’s obvious that you have to do those 😉 Hell, do them every day if you’d like that.
Before I did this exercise I was working hard every night and only hanging out whenever my to do list was empty. But when I re-read my perfect day realized I wanted to spend most of my evenings surrounded by people I love. So I “disciplined” myself to stop working at a certain hour and go be social. Unless in that moment I truly know work will make me happier.
There may be some things in there that are not really possible right now. You can work towards those as clear goals. But while you’re doing that, it can be helpful to ask yourself: What would that moment give me? How would it make me feel? Why do I want it so much?
Once you’ve done that you can start to identify other things that would give you a similar sense of fulfillment that you can already do right now.
If you structure your days so resemble your perfect day while also working hard towards your future goals and leaving your comfort zone on a regular basis to avoid turning that perfect day into a “perfect prison”, you’ve pretty much got the key to spending your days in the most satisfactory way possible IMO.
Your long-term goals are also an important part of this layer. Know what they are and keep them in sight at all times. Know why you are doing what you are doing. If you don’t have clear goals it’s easy to trick yourself into thinking you’re working when you’re just answering some e-mails, having meetings or doing some creative work that’s not going in a particular direction.
Nobody likes to do meaningless work. So know what you want to accomplish in life, what you want to contribute to this world and the lives of others so you can make sure you’re actually working towards something and not just spinning around in a hamster wheel all day. Then, find a way to measure your progress to make sure you’re not spinning around in a hamster wheel all day while looking at some fancy goals.
What do you want to accomplish in this life? Where do you want to live? In what ways can you make other people’s lives better? What legacy do you want to leave behind? If money didn’t matter, what kind of work/output would still excite you? If you don’t know that yet, you just found your first goal, namely: Answering those questions for yourself, and putting yourself in as many different situations as possible that can help you with that.
As with the perfect day exercise, it’s really important to also know WHY you want something in the first place. Say it is one of your goals to own a Ferrari. That’s a pretty “large” goal for a lot of “regular folks”, but not impossible. It will take some work though, so before doing the work ask yourself why you want it.
If the answer is that it will “get you all the girls” or that it would make you feel cool, it might be a much better investment of your time to just learn to become better at flirting or get that validation from yourself instead of needing it from others. This will make you feel good as well and save you A LOT of money.
If on the other hand you want that Ferrari because you just love the feeling of driving that type of car then by all means go for it. And think how you can get that feeling right now by maybe leasing one or buying a cheaper, similar car. Just make sure you’re being completely honest with yourself about your real intentions 😉
You don’t need to censor yourself here. No one is looking over your shoulder. You can go as unrealistic or politically incorrect. Your goals are your goals and you’re the only one that needs to think they are okay.
Now let’s take a deeper look at how this layer ties together with the first two:
The outer world you experience will once again be a mirror image of your Inner Core. If you view the world, people, or humanity in general in a very negative way you will experience a very negative reality. If you feel incompetent on a personal level you will probably feel hindered in doing business the way you would love to as well.
You can have all the money, sex and fame in the world, if you feel deeply frustrated about the world or the people you encounter, you simply won’t be able to live a happy life.
It’s hard to believe that when you are currently experiencing a lot of negative things in your life, but I can personally vouch for it that when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at start to change.
The way you look at the world is one big self-fulfilling prophecy because it creeps into all your behaviors, emotions and thoughts in a very subtle way.
From a very young age (2-3 years) I’ve constantly experienced and witnessed mistreatment, abuse of authority, negligence, dishonesty, unprovoked violence, coercion, ignorance, people with good intentions doing bad things and avoiding responsibility, etc. This settled me up with a very negative worldview. I hated the world, society, and people in general. Of course living like that made me extremely depressed. It took me a very long time to get out of that point of view. But I can tell you that the bigger part of it was changing my own perspective, because that was the only thing in my power to do.
Does that mean I now act as if those things don’t exist?
Of course not, that would be just as ignorant, but instead of reacting to those things in a way that’s rooted in fear or anger which would basically turn me into the exact things I was fighting against, (“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” – If you don’t know what movie it’s from you need to watch it) my reaction to those things is now rooted in love, empathy and compassion.
This, among others has led me to:
• Opening up my eyes to all the positive things happening in the world
• Treating people better in general
• Not giving those less desirable things the power to mess with my mood, without denying their existence
• A drive to spread a positive message myself in hope that it can save some people of having to go through what I have been through.
• Sometimes getting into a situations that confirms my old negative worldview and reacting differently, leading to a better resolution. This feels very healing.
Changing your worldview is not an easy task. And it might even be helpful to get professional help if you don’t succeed in doing it yourself. It’s a constant process of introspection but it’s totally worth it.
I think the best way to start is by doing these 3 things:
1. Take a little time every night to really feel grateful for the abundance of cool things you’re already experiencing in your life. Deeply appreciate them instead of constantly focusing on what you still lack. It’s good to have a drive for progress and change, but don’t forget to celebrate what’s already good right now. Even if you have nothing besides your health and the fact that the sun will rise again tomorrow, even those or not things to just take for granted.. Feel how nice that actually is to have. Some people don’t.
2. When you encounter a situation where you find yourself complaining about something, ask yourself: Is there a different way of looking at this? Is there a way for me to understand this without having to like it? If I can’t in anyway, is there a positive way of bringing change here without having to resort to the exact same behavior I despise from them? Recognize your “frustration” triggers early and see what you can learn from them to change yourself. Let your initial heartbreak lead you to inspiration for positive action.
3. For your own integrity and to reduce inner conflict: Don’t support people who do the things about the world you hate. For example:
• Do you despise the way humanity at large is impacting the climate? Try to minimize your contribution to the degree possible. If you’re not even willing to stop contributing to it then you’re part of the problem. (Not preaching to you to stop eating meat here. Just telling you that you should not do things that actively support what you’re against. )
• Do you get angry with the tailgaters behind you and that guy in the BMW driving too slow in front of you? Guess what buddy, you’re always one of the two. Let it go 😉
See this part as the exact same thing as treating your friends like you want them to treat you: Acting as if you want the rest of the world to act.
Your relationship with the world is just like any other relationship: Nurture it with care and it will make you happy, treat it like it’s worthless and you’ll get yourself a lot of drama that could have easily been avoided.
We’ve got one more layer to discuss and I’ll keep that one as short as possible, because I’m starting to wonder if you still have enough bathroom breaks in the day to read this thing 😉
Layer 4: The Exosphere
In case you noticed that as this article went on it required more and more input from you: this final part you will almost write for yourself entirely.
Even though I’m extremely rational in the way I look at the world I’m also very curious and I feel like over these past few months my interest in spirituality and mysticism started increasing. However, I think telling people what to believe instead of giving them the tools to figuring out life for themselves is one of the most dangerous things we can do. So that’s why this last part will contain very little direct advice.
I believe that there’s 4th layer to the world you live in and that it is your spirituality. This doesn’t have to be religious. But it is the part where you relate to existence as a whole.
I feel like when you start exploring this area of your reality, you come full circle and start to realize that there was no real difference between all those layers in the first place. That your inner psyche, the people around you and the outside world are basically all different ways at looking at of the same greater whole. They are valuable perspectives to take on so you know what to start working on. But in the end any change you make influences all the other parts in a synergistic way.
Even if you’re not interested in anything even remotely spiritual, I think it pays to answer a couple of questions for yourself to get this 4th layer handled:
• What bigger meaning can I personally attribute life?
• In what way do I feel connected to the things (people, animals, nature, culture) that surround me?
• How am I moving in relation to the natural “flow of life”? Does it feel like I’m swimming against the current or does everything flow nicely? Why?
• When looking at things from an extremely large perspective (say, looking at different galaxies from above), what does it reveal to me?
• When looking at things from an extremely small perspective (say, atoms), what do es that reveal to me?
• How do those things change the way I look at life in general?
If the answer is that it all means nothing, that’s fine as well and a very valid perspective. If it’s a bible full of amazing advice that totally turns your life around that’s fine as well. Just don’t let it get into the wrong hands or it will be abused to molest little children and let people blow themselves up in public places 😉
Do with it what you want, but exploring deeper ways to make sense of all the confusing complexities of this world could be the final icing on the happy cake that your personal “Youtopia” has become (or the pin-up jumping out of it if that’s more your thing).
I know this was a long read. So I want to thank your time, your patience and the extra gas for your limo or the extra toilet paper you had to buy. But most of all I sincerely hope it helps you to build a life where you get out of bed every day thinking how great it is to be able to live another one. And getting excited about all the cool things you want to do with it.
Reading this alone won’t fix things for you, and it’s very much a waste of all that time if you don’t do anything with the ideas you found here.
So now it’s time for you to get off the pot and start making shit happen! (That expression didn’t turn out very well, my apologies.)
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