Ugh, what a stupid, simplistic title. And yet when I was about to nuke everything in my world, how come nobody told me these simple things?
Instead: we get filled with self-help porn:
“Be more productive”. “Gain muscle in your arms”. “Make five million tomorrow”. “Be a minimalist”.
Or…cheer up! Or…buckle down!
There’s only “better” and “not better”.
Better compared to what? Better towards what goal?
I have no answer. Everyone is different. We all suffer from the disease of being human. There are a thousand cures but no antidotes.
Does any of the below work?
*Yes. It works for me. I will be better today. But with effort. Because I have to do these ten things.
1. THE ALIEN TRICK. This is the main trick for me that works. And it’s stupid. Skip ahead if you want.
I imagine I’m an alien and every day I land on a new planet in a new body with no memory of where I was yesterday and no idea why I’m here today. Right now I woke up in a body in Miami. It’s foggy and blurry. I have to figure out: am I in a city of ghosts? What are those lights moving in between the bodies of gray blue waves. I take a deep breath. I have no worries because tomorrow I will be in a new body.
No envies. No worries. Only new things to explore. I just have to figure out and do my mission today. That is a relaxing feeling for me. A relief.
2. SAY NO. People ask me: what can I write ideas about. Here’s an idea: write the list of ten things you will say “NO” to today.
I’ve given you one thing below: say “no” to news. You can also say no to people, to meetings, to events, to things in the distant future, to some of your universe of possibilities. You can say no to people who make you feel bad about yourself. To people who backstab you or make you feel anxious in any way.
But, you might say, “I have to pay the bills. I have to work with a boss who I hate.” Ok, but say “NO” to saying one more word to him than you have to. Fine-tune your “No”. “NO” is a beautiful musical instrument you learn how to play.
The consequences are never as bad as you think. The benefits are:
– more energy
– you don’t do things you don’t want to do
– you save the “opportunity cost” of engaging in activities that take their toll on you
– the cliche “life is short” means NO becomes greater in importance every single day of your life.
If you hoard your NO’s then on your deathbed the only thing you will have left is “No” and you will regret never letting them all out.
3. ASK QUESTIONS. But don’t have answers. A question opens a world of possibility. The universe is not one place but a spectrum of possibilities. I don’t say this in a pseudo-quantum-mechanics way. It’s just true. There’s no one answer that’s correct. If you ask people how World War I started you get ten different answers. If you ask people: paleo or low-calories? You get ten different answers.
If you ask yourself, “will I be success?” there are many, many answers. Many possible universes. You get to choose which one you will land in.
Be ok with no answers. That means you get to explore. And to guess. And to speculate.
Answers are the death of possibility. The graveyard of intuition and creativity. Just ask more questions.
4. SLEEP 8 HOURS: To be relaxed and well-slept gives energy to have ideas, to execute on ideas, to surprise a loved one, to take advantage of opportunities. And it’s fun to dream.
5. NO NEWS: Nothing in the news will make your life actually better today. Most news is reported by very bad reporters who are encouraged to use scare tactics to keep you in submission and slavery (i.e. reading the vomit they throw up in your mouth).
6. DON’T MAKE YOUR SH*T DIFFICULT. Life is better when your sinuses are clean, when your arteries are clean, and when your digestive tract is clean. Think of the opposite. Imagine stuff stuck in your digestive tract. And imagine it stays stuck, and it gets putrid. And you get sick. And it’s still stuck. And more toxins stick to it. Eat stuff that will flow better. So you feel better.
7. WATCH SOMETHING THAT WILL MAKE YOU LAUGH. Worry will never solve tomorrow’s problems. It will only take energy away from today. So do something that is the opposite of worry. Laugh. It’s hard to tear yourself away from the addiction of worry. But please try.
Yesterday I watched some “Louis CK”. The day before I watched an old clip of Jonah Hill doing standup. Then I compared a Zach Galifianakis standup from 1999 to 2006 to see how he improved. Just 30 minutes. Laughter releases a hormone, oxytocin, which makes you feel better. Like you are having a mini-orgasm. That’s not so bad, right?
8. CARE, BUT DON’T WORRY. Let’s say you want to do something that will improve your life. Like write a novel so you can get rich and famous and work from home. Do the things that show you Care about it, but don’t worry about the outcome. For instance, work on the novel, but don’t get anxious: “this sucks!”. The anxiety will never help. But care moves you close to the universe where your novel goes from imaginary to reality. Worry never does that.
Caring is like water. Your static and miserable life is a rock. Care drips on the rock every day and eventually the rock dissolves. Tiny small doses of Care.
9. TALK TO SOMEONE YOU LIKE. We have three needs in life: need for connection, need for achievement, need to relax. (Freud only says the first two but he was a coke addict). When you talk to someone you like, at least once a day, you have a chance to satisfy all three of these needs at the same time.
10. GRATITUDE. I apologize in advance. I feel now it’s almost a cliche to put it here. Everyone says it. But I think most people miss the REAL point. Gratitude is not “good” or “bad” just like “hearing” is not good or bad. Gratitude is not an emotion. Or a thought. It’s a sense: like seeing or tasting or feeling.
When I worry about money, or my daughters. Or Claudia. Or what someone says or does or whatever, I look around me and replace those worries with gratitude. Then every small thing around me glitters for that moment.
Gratitude focuses the blur of life for a split-second, so I can Care more clearly, so I can accomplish my alien mission.
I don’t want to write too many more self-help things to be honest. I was really depressed and broke and lonely. Then I got better. Then I got worse. Then I get better again. Many times.
Sometimes things work. But sometimes they don’t. It’s a daily practice. Practice never makes perfect. But practice makes “better”.
Sometimes the darkness inside is so deep I can’t see out of it and it’s a deep nothingness I can’t get out of. Sometimes the light shines through everything.
I like to keep the lights turned on but to do that you HAVE to keep the batteries charged.
Claudia and I have a book coming out in July, “The Power of No” that people will like because it solves the one problem I have always had, how to say “no” when it’s really difficult because of an addictive need to please everyone.
In “Choose Yourself!” I wrote about The Daily Practice which may or may not work for people.
I know it has made me millions and gotten me healthy, even after I’ve been suicidal and bankrupt. Not once but many times. And now I practice it every day. It works.
And then I have other books coming out but maybe unrelated to self-help. Or maybe I won’t do other books. I can’t know tomorrow.
Nobody really pays attention to advice they read anyway. They sort of discover these things on their own. Me too. I have to re-discover them every day. I write posts like this not for anyone else, but for me. These are the things I WILL do to be “better” today. And if later I get depressed and anxious and worried, I know I can look for the ghosts in the fog, and wonder what new and wonderful alien dimension I will be landing in tomorrow, and how grateful I am at this chance to live forever in a world of curiosity.
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photo: (altered) Flickr/Robert Baxter