Many of you reading this are probably feeling lost in life and a little depressed.
You feel or know there is something big in life for you, but the hard part is figuring out what that is. You find yourself thinking for hours a day, while at work, while at home, before bed, when you wake up.
You sort of feel like a leaf in the wind, or someone floating in a boat in the ocean without any sails – you’re just at the mercy of the seas.
… This tends to produce a lot of internal unhappiness.
At least for me it did. I found it really hard to get motivated or work hard if I had no idea where I was going.
I’ve argued many times that the reason why 20 somethings are so prone to depression and unhappiness is because we think a lot, too much, which keeps us in the realm of thinking, rather than in the realm of action which delivers results and clarity.
The problem is that when you tell people “Hey, I have this fantastic thing that will change your life” they LOVE hearing about it (e.g. meditation), but they HATE doing it. Almost no one does it. You can have them spend $500 and still most of them won’t do it.
Fortunately, I figured it out. And I’ll keep it short.
The 3 second exercise
Part of the reason I love the book Flow so much is because when you enjoy your work (and your life), your mind turns off.
You get focused on the present, and you magically find yourself happier than usual. That’s because flow-producing activities naturally engage us and focus us. We tend to think when things aren’t going well, right?
Whether it’s your day job, your relationship, or your life – when it’s awesome you aren’t thinking. You’re living and enjoying it.
You’re only thinking during sex if something is going wrong or you don’t know what you’re doing, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to get into flow, and some of us may be stuck in a shitty job/life for the time being.
It may just be one of those phases we have to suck up.
It may just be one of those time periods where we’re going to have to tough it out and put one foot in front of the other.
In other words, it may just be a time period that won’t be fun at all, and there’s no way around it.
When I first came back to this country after uprooting myself, I spent entire WEEKS thinking.
About the past: “Oh man that year was amazing! I can’t wait to go back. See my friends. Travel more.”
About the present: “What the fuck am I doing here? Why did I even come back?”
About the future: “How can I escape? Maybe I should move back. I don’t really have friends here and don’t want to make friends here. I don’t really know what I’m supposed to be doing… maybe I should just find a new job and stuff?”
And it produced a lot of internal unhappiness. I didn’t get answers in my life. I didn’t get clarity. Solutions didn’t magically materialize. My mind dominated me.
So that’s when I tried an interesting exercise.
If that’s you, here’s the exercise that will save you:
Rather than having yourself sit on a cushion and meditate (which would have a similar effect, but I know you won’t do it), do this two part exercise:
When you catch yourself thinking (about ANYTHING) throughout the day, label the thoughts in two ways:
A. Future or past
B. Positive or negative & how it feels
So for example, you’re at work, and you hate the shit out of it. You keep thinking about the future when you’ll be an entrepreneur and you’ll be able to quit. Label it.
Thinking about the future. Positive. Feels good.
In reality, it’s much more valuable for the opposite.
People with intense negative internal dramas will quickly realize how much they are sabotaging themselves.
For example, some of us have this nagging fear that something will go wrong. We think about it 100x a day.
You’re at work, bored, and you imagine your girlfriend cheating on you. Everytime you’re bored, it comes up because you’re insecure.
Thinking about the future. Negative. Feels bad.
Or maybe you’re thinking about the past – the last year when you had the best year of your life.
Thinking about the past. Feels positive, but sad.
What this does is creates a sort of model of your own internal drama.
You’ll start to learn (when you do this 100x a day) what kind of thoughts are going through your head.
You’ll realize that you have negative shit running around all day in your head.
You’ll realize you are loaded with self doubt and negativity. You’ll realize that you keep having this bullshit irrational fear of your significant other cheating on you, or your boss firing you.
Most importantly, you’ll realize how utterly stupid this internal drama is – even if it’s positive! They’re all useless. Positive or negative – both useless.
When you see thoughts arise… label them. Future or past. Negative or positive.
A clear mind that can take action is a 20 something’s best friend.
Why this is pure awesomeness
The 20s are hard and sometimes depressing because you don’t know which way to go.
Many of us already know this to be true, and are otherwise sitting in lives we didn’t want, lives that we don’t feel are our own. It’s kinda like this: “the hell am I doing here? I didn’t CHOOSE this life. It just happened.”
One of the underlying threads in all the emails I get from people is that we’re constantly trying to THINK our way out of things instead of taking action.
… and thinking often leads to lots of unhappiness. Still following?
This mini exercise in meditation will go a LONG way towards catching those repetitive thoughts in your head and will make you realize who you are underneath it all.
Sometimes you realize you’re really insecure.
Sometimes you realize you’re overconfident or entitled in your thinking.
And sometimes you realize you’re defeating yourself before you’ve ever begun.