subscribe to the RSS Feed

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Overly Happy

Posted by Tim Stobbs on February 11, 2016

Given the amount I talk about happiness on this blog, you might assume I live a charmed life with a constant smile on my face but that isn’t true.  In fact, when you consider happiness from a evolutionary point of view being constantly stung out in a good mood would likely ensure your species didn’t survive.  After all without fear or worry, your offspring might be lunch for something else which is hardly productive to a species long term survival.

In reality, my life is fairly good most of the time, but it also has its ups and downs just like yours. For example, last year I had a bit of a down period of a few months where I was just utter disengaged from my work.  I didn’t care about my work at all and really didn’t want to be there.  Being in that frame of mind for too long started to eat into the rest of my life and the end result was obvious: I wasn’t that happy for a few months.  Not full on depressed, but definitely down.

Yet shouldn’t I be happy with my life?  Well people might consider my answer should be yes, but you also have to consider that  the constant pressure from everywhere to be happier and improve yourself.  This isn’t to say I don’t like some degree of self improvement, but with happiness our culture seem bloody well obsessed with it.  Don’t believe, do a Google search for ‘happy’…I got 2.4 billion results.  Or if you want to refine things a bit search “how to be happy” and you will get 639 million results.  Given the amount of research, books and other media on the topic we should all be walking around with a permanent smile on our faces. Yet we still aren’t happy all the time.

So what’s the problem? Well basically we can’t stop feeling the negative emotions in life.  We still feel fear, greed, envy, and yes even the dreaded sad emotion.  But that is actually a good thing. The fact of the matter is your negative emotions are there and they do serve a purpose.  You actually need them to help define the other positive emotions like happiness.  It’s like trying to define zero without the one in binary or vice versa.

We aren’t meant to be happy all the time, so it is okay to stop trying to feeling happy constantly.  It’s like we all got addicted to being happy and we all collectively on the constant search for a our next high from it.  Yet that kind of thinking can be dangerous to your long term well being.  For example, as you can start to overeat to feel better, watch too much TV to feel better and then over time feel bad that you got fat and don’t do anything in you life but work and watch TV.  Your quest for happiness ended up with you being unhappy because you didn’t consider the long term cost of being too happy.

In the end, you should adjust what you are doing in your life when you do get down for a period of time.  That is a healthy thing to try, but we shouldn’t be a constantly evolving trying to get just a few more minutes of each day of being happy.  Oh, I got 49 minutes of happiness at work today, that was better than 45 last week. That isn’t healthy, so my advice is find that point where you have enough happiness in your life.  That you generally feel fairly good about the world, but still have your bad days too and then stop trying to be happier. Life is meant to be lived, so don’t spend it overly trying to improve something that is already just fine the way it is.

So do you feel pressured to be happier in your life? If so, how do you deal with it?

Getting Everything You Want

Posted by Tim Stobbs on January 13, 2016

So over the holidays I was a bit shocked to realize I literally got just about everything on my wish list.  The only missing items were socks and a bottle of scotch (which no I didn’t go Boxing Day shopping for instead I waited to almost the new year to buy when the stores were less busy…oh its official my scotch is now as old as my career at 15 years *grin*). I think it helps that my wish list in the first place was small, but it did occur to me that despite getting just about everything I wanted I wasn’t suddenly like ten times happier.  In fact, things went on very similar to how they went on before over all for my happiness.  Within a week I wasn’t any much happier than when I got it all.

That of course is a minor example, but the same thing does end up applying to those that have sudden windfalls of money.  The lower amount you might easily miss it, but the effect does kick in regardless of how much you win (yes even the poor soul that will win the $1.5 billion dollar lotto in the US).  Because of one very simple little fact: money doesn’t change who you are.  In larger amounts it just more obvious to see your personality based on your spending.  So if before you have a windfall you can’t keep track of your spending and suck at understanding you taxes, then afterwards it will be the same.  Just you will buy bigger things and not keep track of them and get even more confused on your taxes.  The shift just may be more obvious with a sudden windfall of money.  Feel free to search out a few documentaries on this fact, they tend to be rather interesting to see how someone can blow through several million dollars in less than five years.

Saving to retire early is a very similar process, it just takes longer to have it happen and smaller amounts.  So before having a lot of savings, I tended to value quality items and not buy cheap things that break easily.  I also tended to keep things until they actually break or can no longer be used.  And now with over $400,000 in investments, I tend to buy things that last and avoid cheap crap that breaks easily. And despite it all I still tend to save money, even when I really don’t have to it.  For example, most of the time I don’t spend all my spending cash in a month.  Savings is a habit with me that I fully expect not to really break even when I don’t have to do it anymore. Why? Because something always comes up…good or bad and the cash is usually handy to have at that point.

This isn’t to say you never change, because saving for retirement has changed me. Just not my core values and beliefs in life.  Rather I just seem to become more of myself as I get older and have more saved.  I dislike kissing ass to people in charge and I even dislike it more when I’m in charge of something.  Now I just be honest with people and tend to push the edge of what would be socially acceptable when someone is trying to make themselves look good or be impressive.  I’m not mean about it, but I just won’t put up with it. Or the fact, I tend to judge people less for their spending choices now.  I get some people REALLY value that annual trip to Mexico, so if that is what they love so be it.  I just personally don’t have that much interest in it (or more precisely I don’t get going to the same location every time).  People just value different things and that is okay.

In the end, you can get everything you want in life and be happy or miserable because the money or things really don’t matter too much.  It’s what’s going on in your head that matters the most.  So yes, please save something for your retirement, but more importantly ask yourself what exactly you plan to do with it.  Start a business that you had in your head for years with no pressure of making a profit.  Or perhaps learning some skills you never had time for.  In short, you need a why…why am I doing this…without that it’s just a big old pile of money.

The Broken Mind

Posted by Tim Stobbs on December 14, 2015

Every once in a while I have a conversation with someone where I find myself looking at them like they are an alien. I just don’t understand their point of view or thought process to arrive at their conclusion.  This likely has something to do with the fact I really don’t consider myself much of a consumer anymore.  After all from a typically consumer point of view their spending tends to focus on: buying tickets, shopping or eating at restaurants.  Of course from the other side of the conversation…I know they see me as the one with the broken mind.

In fact, they would be a fairly accurate statement: I am broken.  I took a hammer to my assumptions in life and smashed them to bits and then rebuilt my view of the world over a number of years.  I won’t lie…it hurt like hell.  After all it is sort of mind blowing to realize just how much money you spent over the years on stuff that you can’t even remember now (for example, think back to to last time you ate out then go back two more times prior to that…what did you order?  I have no idea either).  Or the fact, despite our desire for control we really have almost none in our lives.  I can control what goes on in my head, but after that my level of influence drops exponentially with ever inch away from my body.  Or realize you did certain things because you thought you needed to but no one if fact cares about the size of your TV.

The advantage of smashing up your mind is you get to determine what actually matters to you and then plan your existence around that.  The start of this may seem easy after all you can focus on what matters most to you.  Yet over time you run into a particular paradox feedback loop.  Your first decision wasn’t aligned typically with your last decision as such to fully optimize the your life you need to go back and align all your previously choices.  Yet by changing your choices you also change the context of those choices, which then requires further adjustments to other choices.  In summary, you realize you can NEVER have a perfect life since when you change any given thing you can have unintended changes to another part of your life.  Change is an endless circle that can never be finished.

This is an important lesson to learn in life.  Since once you have let go of perfection, you can embrace life as it is rather than endlessly wanting more to get closer to being perfect.  In Matrix talk you learn…there is no spoon. Perfection is an ideal illusion with no grounding in actual reality.  Reality is about seeing the world as it is rather than what you want.  So I can stop buying crap since I know it will never make me perfect in any way.  I will never have the perfect: hair, outfit, shoes, or room…instead I have what I have and I can either love it or get rid of it.  Any other choice is really just a waste of time and/or money (which by the way is really the same thing since your money is just the accumulation of previous time devoted to making money or for investors utilizing other people’s time to increase your accumulation of money).

In the end I have let go of perfect and are trying to live more in the world as it is.  It isn’t always easy but it does help a lot with the holiday stress…I don’t worry about the perfect gift but rather just one I think they will like.  How do you let go of perfection?