It is all too easy today to get trapped in an endless cycle of disappointment. We reach for things to fill the gap inside of us that leaves us feeling like we aren't enough. It's time to fight back.
Welcome to The Pleasure Trap
The day-to-day grind.
Prepping for a client meeting, doing anything in Excel, shopping for groceries, doing the laundry.
These common but necessary daily experiences are dulling. They suck the excitement out of a life that we crave to be exciting. We dream of lives of adventure, growth, and happiness. We dream of escape. But we can’t; we’ve got responsibilities. We’ve got bills to pay.
So in those in-between moments when we aren’t doing things that we are obligated to do, we rush to fill the gap with things we love to do.
We rush to fill the gap with pleasure. We spend our weekends at the bar or club and all the booze that comes with it. We binge on sugar. We right swipe and left swipe until our thumbs have carpal tunnel. We take refuge in porn and one-night stands.
These experiences are fun in the moment, they are inherently momentary.
The pleasure is gone the moment the experience ends, which is why we find ourselves doing the same thing over and over again. Day after day, weekend after weekend.
Getting caught in the pleasure trap.
We’ve become addicted to external pleasures as our primary source of happiness. These fleeting pleasures give us a hit of dopamine and then disappear, leaving us feeling the same or even worse than before.
And that’s because we’ve been told these are the things that make us happy, again, and again, and again. Mostly from marketers who are invested in keeping us addicted to pleasure.
Coke’s slogan is literally “Open Happy.” This has made me crazy for years. Don’t get me wrong, an icy cold Coca Cola is delicious, but it’s not “happy.” Or at least the type of happy we all really want to experience.
This is a recipe for disaster. It keeps us on a hamster wheel of pleasure, like a drug addict, constantly running after these moments of little-h happiness, hoping that with enough of them, they will string together into one big, lasting capital-H Happiness.
Deep down we know it won’t work; we just don’t know what else to do. Without an escape route, we return to what we know.
We’ve become dependent on pleasure for our happiness. We're caught in the pleasure trap.
[bctt tweet="We’ve become dependent on pleasure for our happiness. We're caught in the pleasure trap. " username="beyourbestme"]
Breaking into Real Happiness
Escaping the trap.
How do we get out of this trap? How do we move forward on solid ground towards capital-H happiness in a way that sticks with us? A happiness that doesn’t go away even when our life circumstances change.
How do we maintain our happiness when our boss is an asshole, and we’re in a fight with our boyfriend, and we've got to go to this stupid networking event tonight that our friend is dragging us to because he didn’t want to go alone?
This is what we need to find out.
Some amazing psychologists have been working on this question for years now. They sometimes disagree about what exactly constitutes capital-H happiness, but they know a thing or two about how to take meaningful steps towards it.
To skip forward to the conclusion, it has nothing to do with feeling that your boss unfairly passed you over for a promotion, or that your girlfriend is mad at you for something you didn’t do, or how fat you feel, or that your friend was a dick at the bar last night.
It has nothing to do with how epic that concert you went to last weekend was, or how big your bonus was this year, or how hot that guy you’re sleeping with is.
Happiness has everything to do with your attitude towards those things.
The science says...
You see, about 50% of your happiness is based on your genetics. You can’t control this piece.
About 10% of your happiness is based on life circumstance. Those things I mentioned above – your salary, your relationship status, your weight, your job.
But 40% of your happiness is about what you do with what you’re given. It’s about your attitude to towards all the shit that life throws at you.
[bctt tweet="40% of your happiness is determined by how you handle the shit that life throws at you, not the shit itself" username="beyourbestme"]
Think about this. We spend almost all of our time trying to improve things that can only make us, at most, 10% happier.
How much time do we spend on improving the way we view the world and how we handle what life throws at us? Almost none.
And yet, we know this is a backwards approach. We know life circumstances don’t matter as much as we act like they do. we’ve seen it in real life.
We know that there are billionaires who have everything they could ever want, yet they are suicidal. Meanwhile, there are people earning less than a dollar a day who are happier than almost anyone we’ve ever met.
Clearly, something is off. Clearly, we are not getting it right.
We work extra-long hours to get a big promotion. We save up thousands of dollars for an always-too-quick vacation on a fill-in-the-blank Caribbean island.
And yet we never focus on the little things we can do every day that make a lasting impact on our happiness.
Taking control of your attitude.
There are a few basic habits, that we hear about time and time again, that we consistently neglect because we doubt the science or because we just “don’t have the time. We’re busy.”
Look. We’re all different. The things that make your life a happy one are different than what makes my life a happy one. But we know that our attitude about our circumstances is the thing that makes us happy in the first place.
As Charles Swindol said in his poem Attitude:
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.
Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do.
It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home.
The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.
We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.
And so it is with you... we are in charge of our attitudes.
As we come around to this idea of looking internally for happiness instead of looking externally, we start to find a handful of things that have been proven to make us happier.
Foundational habits of happiness.
There are daily practices that can lay the foundation for a sustainable happiness. To a lot of people, they may seem pointless, but to anyone who does them, they are the tip of a spear towards making some powerful changes over time.
What are those things? Well, a few are:
Gratitude, mindfulness, managing negative thoughts.
As Tony Robbins, a man who has coached Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mother Teresa and more says, “Trade your expectation to appreciation, and your whole world changes in an instant."
Many of these ideas about the importance of attitude and mindset have come into the mainstream recently, and yet, they seem soft. We hear them, but we don’t listen because it sounds like a bunch of new-age gluten-free granola.
But listen up; the science is in. These practices work. Don’t let the gurus and spirituality hucksters scare you away from tried and true ways that you can dramatically improve your life.
And the good thing is they work whether you’re a billionaire tech entrepreneur or a subsistence farmer.