“If you want to be happy. Be.” — Leo Tolstoy

The Haunting

I’ve been haunted by happiness, it’s like trying to catch smoke sometimes, and other times I’m so happy I feel like it should be illegal, high on my own supply.

2020 has been the year I dove in the research behind happiness because if the world needed more of anything it would be some smiling faces and a little extra dopamine in that 3lbs of meatloaf we call the brain.

In this article, I’ll show you the 7 things I gave up that not only made me feel happier but things that based on my biometric feedback changed my objective data including, lowering my resting heart rate, increasing my heart rate variability, and deeper sleep.

1.) Toxic Relationships

You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.

Time to take inventory, are your friends growing you or keeping you safe inside your comfort zone. I did a quick deep dive with some pen and ink inside of a journal entry. On one half of the page, I looked at my top 5 values and goals the other half I wrote down the 10 people I spend the most time with.

Then did the dirty work of checking in on those relationships, if they weren’t growing me towards my goals or lovingly expanding my awareness then I started to do some neural pruning. It was really important to me that I not “sacrifice” those relationships out of a sense of “I’m better than you” kind of mentality. I still hang out with some of those people, I’m also extremely dedicated to myself, my work, and my family. If it’s not growing you then by default it’s killing you, stagnation is an illusion of fear that attempts to buy us time. Take action on what you intuitively know will benefit you in the long term.

2.) Excuses

Tomorrow is an imaginary world where everything is done.

If you give a mouse a cookie he’ll ask for a glass of milk, if you make an excuse for today, you’ll ask again for it tomorrow. The world is in constant evolution, we get on board and grow with it or we can put our feet in the mud and watch as the event horizon black hole of yesterday slowly consumes our present day.

When you take a deep look at your excuses you’ll see they’re all there for a beautiful reason, your brain is trying to keep you inside your safety zone, inside the known. In the known of our labels, our stories, and who our ego knows we are living is “good”, predictable, certain. I don’t know about you but I want excellent, extraordinary, amazing, incredible and belly laughs that make me worried about my pelvic bowl integrity. I’m not going to find them in excuse land.

Upgrade your excuses with awareness, write them down in that nifty journal. Fear is smoke in mirrors and awareness is a fan from my favorite fan company, big ass fans. (yes they’re a real company)

In the light of awareness, you can take inventory and course-correct towards excellence.

3.) Perfectionist Mindset

Progress over perfection

Happiness is found in the act of progress. This kind of information tends to attract high performers so let me talk directly to you here.

DON’T BE SO HARD ON YOURSELF.

Lack of flexibility doesn’t make you more resilient, it actually does the opposite, leads to burn out and my personal favorite dis-ease running around the globe “Imnotenoughititis” pretty contagious if you don’t look back at #1 in this article too.

Quick riff on perfectionism and how to heal it instantly.

  • perfectionism is programmed into us during primary school and from our parents, yes you can blame your parents for something but it doesn’t change your responsibility to change it!

  • Upgrade your thinking, we are praised for accomplishment, not for effort. That created all this perfectionist mindset that we are all suffering from.

  • PRAISE THE EFFORT NOT THE ACCOMPLISHMENT. Not only will this literally change your neurology but it’ll kill that perfectionist ass hole that tells you your not enough when you’re trying to go to sleep.

  • You’re doing amazing and don’t you ever forget it. Seriously don’t forget, have perfect memory and never make mistakes…wait……

4.) Self- Hate Stories

“I wish we lived in a brain that talked to us like a best friend instead of the worst enemy.” — Randy Haveson

Your brain is designed to keep you away from experiences that cause you physical harm or pain. Luckily our supercomputer brain processes emotional pain in the same area we process physical pain, so we avoid emotional trauma like we avoid touching hot stovetops. Seriously, lights up the same part of the brain.

Our brain will lie cheat and steal to you in order to keep you “safe” from re-experiencing those traumas. Here’s the fun truth about our thoughts, we are not them. Whenever we have those thoughts and CHOOSE to embrace them by focusing on them, then we experience them as our reality but we are not our thoughts we are the calm observer of them. Ditch the stories and simply observe.

5.) Hijacked Time

Show me your calendar and bank account and I’ll show you your future.

We all want happiness but if we look at your phone and the amount of screen time I’d say you’re lying. I know this because I was there too, I want to experience more happiness, joy and peace but I have a device in my pocket that is designed to keep you looking into the Black Mirror.

Literally, the cell phone was designed by the same company as slot machines. Give up your addiction to social media, we all have it so some degree, me too. If you really need a wake-up call, look at your screen time and on average 5 hours per day.

You’re awake for 16 hours per day, instantly knocked down to 11. Literally, 30% of your WAKING LIFE is projected onto a 6-inch screen.

Set timers on your screen time and ask yourself what kind of habits you can replace that screen time with. My favorites, reading, running, journaling, cooking, surfing, nature, meditation.

6.) Weak Boundaries

One of the biggest leaches of happiness is weak boundaries. Boundaries are essentially a tolerance for bullshit in our lives. How much you’re willing to take will then create that boundary.

Instead of screen doors that are flexible and easy to run through, create brick walls. Non-negotiable boundaries of what you will or will not participate in. The secret sauce for boundaries are to start from within, what thoughts, ideas and behaviors are you willing to tolerate. Find within and reflect out. Once we are able to lead ourselves others will respect that self-expression.

7.) Egoic Expression

Ego is fear disguised as us, it tells us sweet nothings and speaks in our own voice but it’s not you and only you know it.

The ego seeks to separate you from your ambitions, dreams, from change. Self-confidence is the cure. We find our genuine voice, our limitless expression in the silence of nature and meditation. If you haven’t begun to uncover your voice I highly recommend meditation.

The ego seeks to judge, and at our core, we know the truth that our judgments are just reflections of wounds inside our own psyche.

Bonus: Confusion

This may be the most important and hardest to explain. Fear eats happiness like I eat Boo Berries on October 30th. Fear is really good at string things up to make simple solutions extremely confusing. When you can learn to really look at the direct cause of problems instead of the symptoms your life will overflow with happiness.