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Hacking Happiness.

Posted 10-18-2012 at 02:06 AM by WNxProphecy
Updated 10-18-2012 at 02:10 AM by WNxProphecy
Hello! It's currently 12:06AM, 10/18/2012, and I'd love to welcome you to another self-improvement themed blog post. Here's paragraph of back story before we delve into the meat 'n taters.

Up until early this year, I had a very good job. Starting when I was just 20, I got hired for a company that offered a roof diagramming service to insurance companies. Basically, we would use a combination of aerial and satellite photo's to create a 3D model of a roof, giving the contractor all the necessary info for many repairs and jobs without the hassle of sending someone up there with a pitch gauge and tape measure. This was the first job I ever had. I am not bragging, but it is important for perspective; I was 20 years old, I worked from home, I made an average of 700-900 dollars a pay check, and could expect occasional bonuses from 50-200 dollars. That was me, 20, more money than I knew what to do with, and with a dream job I was too jaded to truly appreciate. Many things happened during that time, my dad died, I moved out, I started my weight loss odyssey, and began fighting my depression with meds and therapy.

Fast forward 2 1/2 years, I've been laid off, I'm back to living with my sister, and I work the same number of hours, being paid literally half as much, and doing work that's much harder than before. However, my happiness has been a constant. I'm here today to talk at you all about what I do to stay happy, what has worked with myself, some of my friends, and honestly believe could work for you. I'm here to talk to your about how to hack happiness.

First let us define happiness, disambiguate it from joy, pleasure, and other things we often confuse for happiness. Joy is winning an important match. Pleasure is harder to determine as it can take on many connotations, it can be the touch of a lover, or the first pull on a freshly loaded smoking device, pleasure can be anything that feels good from an outside source. Finally there is amusement, which is what you and I most likely have in common, a similar source of amusements. Primarily, I'm talking about videogames. People will refer to amusements as hobbies, but what they are there for is to amuse you and distract you from your day to day life. None of this is bad or wrong! Healthy people have all of these things in their life, however, they mistake none of it for HAPPINESS, they realize it's transience, and it's novelty. What happiness is... I don't know how to say it. Others have said it better. In a Ted.org talk, a German science professor turned Buddhist Monk described it as a default state of hopefulness and contentedness. It is what you return to no matter what. It is your default state. If after a long hard day if you come home and feel it all slip away, feel hopeful about your future and are content in both the long and short term, you are a happy person. Depression, which I am brutally familiar with, is the inverse. You can have the best day ever, but it won't matter, in the end you return to your default state of unhappiness, despair for the moment and dread for the future.

So, how to be happy? Is it as simple as saying it? Some people believe so. However making a decision is usually pretty easy, all the turmoil that leads up to you deciding however is not. Simple should never imply easy. Shooting a breast feeding mother is simple, good sight picture, good trigger pull, good shot placement. A simple process, but not easy. While this is an over blown example, it exemplifies (hurrdurr) my point. So I think everyone at some point in their life has simply decided to be happy or sad. Day to day you do it without thinking it. An impulse comes in and you seem to have an automatic response to it, negative or positive. Example... I work in retail, having a really shitty customer start causing problems is automatically registered as a negative response, however if I am cognizant of this process, I can view it as a challenge to be over come. Call this framing, we will return to it later. And I believe there have been more important times in our lives where we've all decided how to handle a situation, positive or negative. In my darkest day, the bottom of my depression, the final second before I hit the bottom of my fall and started the bounce back up, I decided that;

A) There was nothing fundamentally wrong with me, I am just a man
B) I have done nothing wrong, I deserve happiness as much as anyone else.
and C) True happiness requires work and honest effort, there is no way to cheat that (But there are shortcuts!)

Lets talk about the mechanics of happiness. Just understanding how you become happy is a head start on a lot of people in the world. To be happy you need easily quantifiable goals. In addition, they must be 'flow' goals. A flow state is a frame of mind you enter where the challenges you are being presented with are challenging enough to require above average effort from you, but easy enough to be accomplished. The phenomena is real and proven. Athletes call it being in the 'zone'. Flow state applies to short term and long term as well. In the simplest of terms, happiness is putting yourself into a long term flow state. You should have a goal in life that everyday you can measure your progress towards it. It must be something that you are capable of doing all on your own, regardless of the outside world.

For me, the first one was getting my GED. I studied everyday, I was able to mark my goals by the number of practice tests I finished, and my goal had a clear end, getting my GED. Once I did that, the next state was finding a job. So much harder to measure progress in that goal, and to be honest I did regress a bit into depression until I found my job working from home. The next goal was losing weight. Very clear and concise winning and losing parameters there; Lose weight = win, failure to lose weight = loss. I'm in still in that flow today.

What effects does this simple mindset change have on your life? It changes you in infinitely small ways. Before I started taking the right actions everyday to advance myself and become a better person, I was insecure. If a girl turned me down, it was all my fault. If a job didn't call me back, it's because I am stupid and untalented. If I failed at a physical challenge it was because I was fat and weak. This, in broad strokes, was my internal dialogue. Then I just stopped caring. I cared only for my goals and let that dictate my happiness. Did that remove me from the world and make me an antisocial prick? NO! It connected me to the world.

I grew from within. Problems around me fell away as I worked on myself and just myself. I stopped trying to control everything and just started, everyday, trying to become a better person. Bike a few more yards up this hill than yesterday, get a few more shelves stocked than last week, be a more compassionate person and help somebody. Instead of involuntarily tearing people down, I began to build them up. As I became powerful, I wanted to show everyone they could be powerful to, and would give praise as often as I could. Instead of taking value from other people and things, I began to be a giver of value to other people and situations. I wanted everyone's life to be better after they met me, even if that just meant being the nicest cashier they met that week. Little goals! Big rewards!

So lets review, step one to hacking happiness; Set goals that you can achieve and quantify your progress towards. Good, simple, straightforward yes? But remember, simple does not imply easy. Remember when I said in my mission statement about happiness that true happiness requires effort and work? It is true. Sometimes you have to try hard to improve, sometimes, most times, it's so much easier to be idle and passive. But you have to stick with it until being a person who is constantly improving is your default state, not someone who is idle and passive. You have to exercise your willpower to be happy! I realized this just a few months ago that the often exercise of your willpower leads to happiness a lot of the time! Do the shit you need to do, do not sit there thinking about how much it will suck, don't ADMIRE the suck! Just do it! Exercise dat der willpower and get off your ass. Will it be hard? Fuck yes! Will it pay off? I don't even need to tell you it will, you and I both know it does.

[URL="http://warriornation.net/Forum/blog.php?b=1285"]The blog will be continued in another post, character limit and such.[/URL]
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