How to Have Flat Abs, Better Sex and Rule the World in 8 Easy Steps

abs_flickr_walt-stoneburner

The covers of most men’s and women’s magazines have similar headlines: get great abs and have amazing sex.

From the looks of it, these two issues have been recycled over and over (with some other stereotypically gender relevant articles thrown in) on every Men’s Health, Maxim, Cosmo and Glamour cover since the dawn of time. In fact, I’d bet that if we could get a better translation of cave drawings, they would read something like “Grok get flat belly; make girl Grok moan with joy.”

And we keep buying them. We keep buying this lie that these things will make us happy. I’ve had washboard abs (past-tense) and I’ve had some pretty phenomenal sex. Neither one made me a better person; neither one completed me or made my life more fulfilling.

We chase this idea of “I will be happy when…”

I will be happy when I have a new car. I will be happy when I get married. I will be happy when I get a better job. I will be happy when I lose five pounds. What if instead we choose to be happy—right now?

If you can read this, your life is pretty awesome.

Setting aside our first world problems and pettiness, if you are online reading this, you have both electricity and wifi or access to them. Odds are you are in a shelter of some sort, or on a smart phone (and then kudos to you for reading this on the go). Life might bump and bruise us, it may not always go the way we plan and I know I get frustrated with mine, but here’s the thing

You are alive.

Because you are alive, everything is possible.

So about those eight tips…

1.  Stop believing your bullshit.

All that stuff you tell yourself about how you are a commitment-phobe or a coward or lazy or not creative or unlucky? Stop it. It’s bullshit, and deep down you know it. We are all insecure 14-year-olds at heart. We’re all scared. We all have dreams inside of us that we’ve tucked away because somewhere along the line we tacked on those ideas about who we are that buried that essential brilliant, child-like sense of wonder. The more we stick to these scripts about who we are, the longer we live a fraction of the life we could be living. Let it go. Be who you are beneath the bullshit.

2.  Be happy now.

Not because “The Secret” says so. Not because of some shiny happy Oprah crap. But because we can choose to appreciate what is in our lives instead of being angry or regretful about what we lack. It’s a small, significant shift in perspective. It’s easier to look at what’s wrong or missing in our lives and believe that is the big picture—but it isn’t. We can choose to let the beautiful parts set the tone.

3.  Look at the stars.

It won’t fix the economy. It won’t stop wars. It won’t give you flat abs, or better sex or even help you figure out your relationship and what you want to do with your life. But it’s important. It helps you remember that you and your problems are both infinitesimally small, and conversely, that you are a piece of an amazing and vast universe. I do it daily; it helps.

4.  Let people in.

Truly. Tell people that you trust when you need help, or you’re depressed — or you’re happy and you want to share it with them. Acknowledge that you care about them, and let yourself feel it. Instead of doing that other thing we sometimes do, which is to play it cool and pretend we only care as much as the other person has admitted to caring, and only open up half-way. Go all in — it’s worth it.

5.  Stop with the crazy making.

I got to a friend’s doorstep the other day, slightly breathless and nearly in tears after getting a little lost, physically and existentially. She asked what was wrong and I started to explain and then stopped myself and admitted: I’m being stupid and have decided to invent lots of problems in my head. Life is full of obstacles; we don’t need to create extra ones. A great corollary to this one is from The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz : Don’t take things personally. Most of the time, other people’s choices and attitudes have absolutely nothing to do with you. Unless you’ve been behaving like a jerk, in which case …

6.  Learn to apologize.

Not the ridiculous, self-deprecating apologizing for who you are and for existing that some people seem to do (what’s up with that, anyway?). The ability to sincerely apologize — without ever interjecting the word “but” — is an essential skill for living around other human beings. If you are going to be around other people, eventually you will to apologize. It’s an important practice.

7.  Practice gratitude.

Practice it out loud to the people around you. Practice it silently when you bless your food. Practice it often. Gratitude is not a first world only virtue. I saw a photo recently, of a girl in abject poverty, surrounded by filth and destruction. Her face was completely lit up with joy and gratitude as she played with a hula hoop she’d been given. Gratitude is what makes what we have enough. Gratitude is the most basic way to connect with that sense of being an integral part of the vastness of the universe; as I mentioned with looking up at the stars, it’s that sense of wonder and humility, contrasted with celebrating our connection to all of life.

8.  Be kind.

Kurt Vonnegut said it best (though admittedly, and somewhat ashamedly, I am not a Vonnegut fan):

There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—”God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

Kindness costs us nothing and pays exponential dividends. I can’t save the whole world. I can’t bring peace to Syria. I can’t fix the environment or the healthcare system, and from the looks of it, I may end up burning dinner.

But I can be kind.

If the biggest thing we do in life is to extend love and kindness to even one other human being, we have changed the world for the better.

That’s a hell of a lot more important than flat abs in my book.

Previously published by Be You Media Group.

 

Photo credit: Flickr/Walt Stoneburner

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Comments

  1. This list is full of awesomeness, I’m especially fond of numbers 1 through 8.

  2. Cameron Conaway says:

    Brilliant work as always, Kate. This is worth printing out and putting on the fridge.

    • Kate Bartolotta says:

      Thanks Cameron. I should probably do the same for myself…or at least the part about not believing the bullshit.

  3. Thank you so so much. I needed this today. I had a terribly long workweek and was wrapped up in all my bullshit. If I am alive anything is possible. You changed my life today and I thank you for that.

  4. Great article! I wish that there were more magazine articles that paid attention to the type of issues that you mentioned in your list of eight tips.

  5. By happenstance, I’ve gradually found myself doing more and more of these things… This is great advice and it works.

    There are a couple of gaps, though:

    9. Be aware of your values and pay attention to how (or how not) your choices and actions are compatible with them.

    10. Listen.

  6. This is what it is to be a practicing Buddhist. I have been learning all these things through my study of Buddhism through the writings of Mathieu Ricard, Jack Kornfield, and the Dalai Lama.

  7. The list is great, they are all great points to live by.

    But I have to question about how the author got to the list and why it wasn’t just presented as “8 Rules to Live By” or something like that.

    I think it’s entirely possible to want washboard abs, to purchase media designed to help you get them, and to work hard on achieving them, without ever thinking “I’ll be happy when I have washboard abs.” It seems entirely possible to think “I’m perfectly happy now, but I’ve always wondered if I could have washboard abs, so I’m going to challenge myself to develop them. Even if I fail, I will get joy from challenging myself and knowing that I did my best.”

    When we characterize why other people are seeking out certain goals in an overly negative light (e.g. “He only wants that because he thinks it will make him happy”), it actually steals their agency and their humanity. We assume they are lesser people, and we are superior, because their motives are so flawed as to keep them from the happiness that we so easily revel in.

    So, wouldn’t it have been just as effective to say “Here are 8 great rules to live by!” without first generalizing that the major consumers of Men’s (and Women’s!) magazines are to be pitied?

    • Kate Bartolotta says:

      Hi Mike,

      The list is my own…I would think that was apparent from the rest of the article.

      I think you’ve misunderstood the premise a bit. I’ve worked in the media for quite awhile and the idea here was to point out a ploy often used to sell magazines, and take a closer look at it. I didn’t separate out people that are goal-oriented as to be pitied or as being lesser, but instead am encouraging all of us to re-evaluate our perspective.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

  8. I love this list, it actually made me pretty happy. I am one of those people that have put themselves in a corner by labeling myself, I do not open up to people a lot and to be honest sometimes I just want to be alone. I think a lot and that leads to me creating problems that arent there. I know I can be so much more but seem stuck. I think choosing to be happy would go a long way to help

  9. Thanks Kate, Great writeup!

    Was actually on the lookout for great(er) abs (no comments on the better sex bit), but reading through your piece makes these pale into insignificance.

    So, how does I dig myself from under years of my own bullshit?

    Thanks

  10. Aaron Anderson says:

    Great article, Kate! A perfect reason why The Good Men Project should put more information about legitimate issues regarding men’s health since no one else is doing it.

  11. #9. Learn that no-one actually care.

  12. Toshina Crockett says:

    Thank You :)

  13. Sam Thomas Tuchin says:

    you, my dear, are an absolute genius.

  14. Beautiful, Kate. Thanks! You sparked a thought for me regarding men and sex.

    That is: If she would JUST have sex more often, our marriage would be just fine!

    Using your words:
    “What if instead we choose to be happy—right now?”

    I could have used that advice a few years ago.

    What if a man CHOOSES to believe and demonstrate to our partner that joy, happiness, acceptance, love and respect are not strictly by-products of sex? How sexy is that?

    I’ll admit, simply “choosing” this belief and mindset isn’t always easy…just like many items on your list.

    But choosing the opposite is absolutely no fun at all.

    • Hi Steve

      You are so right when you say this:
      ✺”If she would JUST have sex more often, our marriage would be just fine! Using your words:
      “What if instead we choose to be happy—right now?” I could have used that advice a few years ago. What if a man CHOOSES to believe and demonstrate to our partner that joy, happiness,
      acceptance, love and respect are not strictly by-products of sex? How sexy is that?”✺

  15. With just these basic rules, men could set the world to rights! Love this website.

  16. Hey Kate,
    Don’t know who you are but I love your thoughtful writing!

  17. Valter Viglietti says:

    “[I] stopped myself and admitted: I’m being stupid and have decided to invent lots of problems in my head”

    That’s GREAT and AW(AR)ESOME! :D
    You’re on the right path to enlightement. ;)

    BTW, I never had visible abs, but I had awesome sex with several partners through my life.
    Abs are not necessary for great sex (though they can help), communication, chemistry and intimacy are.

  18. Thank you Kate

    Your article turned up at the right time for me. I watch people who are angry because they are sad and sad because they feel they don’t have what they want in life, many people in this state spread angst to others.

    I wish I could send this article to everyone who is feeling bitter – we can choose to find the light in every thing instead of seeking the darkness.

    I will forward on this article, who knows it might just reach someone at the right time.

  19. LOVE THIS! Thank you, Diva! Here’s to empowering great men!

  20. Mark Mullen says:

    Love it. Love You. Oh, so true. One of your best, Kate : )

  21. I would like to mention, if you’re going to apologize, be sincere about it. So many times, people give snarky, sarcastic apologies. I hate that.

    In before someone replies with “Well, sorry you’re offended, Draconian!”

  22. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    I have fat abs, have great sex, and am an astrologer. So I guess I’m part way there. I loved this article.

  23. Happiness truly is a choice. I chose to be happy no matter what, many years ago.

    I choose to not have sex or any sexual interaction of any sort with another person or even solo.

    Yes, I have firm flat abs that took a ton of work, take work to maintain after bearing 4 babies. Am single, choosing to stay single. Working hard for a strong, healthy body is for me. Not to attract men, not for show, not for great sex. Just for healthy body, healthy mind, happiness.

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