There’s a school of thought that says if you want something enough, you’ll get it. And while that may work in edge cases, where the person happens to work damn hard for it too, I reckon that this approach often fails.
It’s just too easy. And it’s damaging our perception of what it actually takes to make something special happen. If the purveyors of self-help manuals knew what it took to get there, they might not buy the books.
This shit sells because they make it out to be easy. Which is doing a terrible disservice to how hard it is to achieve anything great.
I see things differently.
It’s fantastic that people want to improve their lives. But when a guru tells them they can have anything they want, what do they choose? To be calmer and zen, to be content and happy? No. They want a Ferrari, or a massive house or to be a famous millionaire.
I’m a fan of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and believe it to be a powerful way to change your mindset. But, too often, NLP is used as a way to give people the life of their dreams – which mostly includes a mansion, a harem of women and a car collection that will challenge Jeremy Clarkson’s.
If that’s you, it would make sense to first question why you want these things. Solving that problem first, might solve a LOT of other problems.
I did this. I was quite materialistic. And that was a heavy burden to carry around. But since I’ve detached myself from material possessions, I feel lighter, much happier and ultimately free.
Hmm, free. That word. That rings a bell.
Oh yeah, because that’s the reason people want money and fame. Because they believe that it’ll free them up from the shit they’re dealing with now. But speak to any rich or famous person and they will tell you that it doesn’t work like that – unless, they’re rich from peddling get-rich quick schemes or self-help courses.
Okay, so what is the alternative?
Like I said, these techniques in essence aren’t bad. When they’re applied to deeply positive outcomes they are super powerful.
Stoicism, the Ancient Greek philosophy, teaches us to detach ourselves from materialism. Throw away the desires for greater consumption and to value virtue over fame.
Stoicism is how I detached myself form material possessions. After a while you feel stupid for ever lusting after that shit anyway. The production of goods fucks the planet’s environment and makes you happy for about four days. Not worth it!
Next, my interpretation of NLP is to remove limiting self-belief and negative self-talk. Not so I can get rich. But so I can be fulfilled.
Removing that mindset frees us up to focus on our intrinsic motivations. Desiring possessions is a heavy burden. Desiring and working hard to possess skills is enlightening.
The common narrative on success needs to be flipped.
And I believe that this combination of NLP, stoicism and intrinsic motivation are the keys to fulfillment.
You’ll notice I was careful not to use the word happiness. Chasing happiness is a ridiculous goal. There’s evidence to show that the more you chase happiness, the more you push it away.
To create art, we need stress and anxiety. To create a successful business we need pain. All successful businesses cure pain, so avoiding it is counter-intuitive.
Anxiety helps us know when something is wrong. To take medication to remove anxiety means removing one of your core senses that something is wrong.
So, the goal is not to chase happiness. But if you follow a mindful philosophy of life, like stoicism, I’m sure that you will have a good one. And that is what truly matters.
CMO day job. Learning to build stuff with code. Writing, mainly about learning to build, marketing that sucks less and psychology. If you found this article useful, subscribe to my weekly newsletter, Uncommon Aspect.