Ep. 115: Life Is Both Good And Bad

    On this week's episode, we talk about the duality of life, the good and the bad. Life is always going to throw curveballs at us and we need to deconstruct the idea that we need to be happy all the time. Owning our dissatisfaction and working toward goals that allow for small wins will help us be more fulfilled.
    We also have a Find Your Path challenge in October: Sign up here www.quitterclub.com/mindset
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    Show Transcript:
    Friends. Welcome to another episode of lessons from a quitter. I'm so excited. You are here. Thank you for all of the wonderful feedback that you have been giving me on the podcast. I'm so glad you like it because clearly there's nothing that I love talking more about than mindset. And so I'm going to keep doing it and I will be sprinkling some interviews in the coming weeks, but for now you're stuck with me just talking. So I hope you like it. Before we jump into this episode, I did want to say that if you want to dive a little bit deeper, I am doing a three-day challenge next month, that is going to incorporate the stuff that we're learning on the podcast, and really talk about how you can work on your mindset. So you can get unstuck and onto the path of your dreams.
    So that is going to be in the beginning of October and you can sign up at quitter club.com/mindset. I will put that link in the show notes in case you can't write it down. I'm so excited about today's episode, and I'm hoping that it helps relieve a little bit of this pressure that we tend to put on ourselves. Today's podcast is entitled. Life will always be both good and bad. I want to talk about this belief that we have, that it's better there than it is here. That we're going to get to someplace that all of a sudden we're going to be happy all the time. And it's a lie. And we're going to get into that as a recap, if you're just tuning in today, the last three episodes were a three part series where we started diving into why mindset is so important, how to start managing your mind by being able to observe it and really start thinking on purpose and how to notice and process your emotions.
    So if you're just tuning in, you may want to start with those. I mean, you can still listen, but that gives you a good context of what we're going to be talking about. But today I want to talk more specifically about one of the biggest lies that we've all just adopted, which is that we have to be happy all the time. Maybe it's not explicitly told to us, and I'm not really even sure where we came up with this, but we all have this expectation that there is some possible life out there where you can be happy all the time. And I just want to tell you that is not true. Life is always both good and bad. It does not matter what your circumstances are and having this belief that you have to be happy all the time causes us so much damage for a lot of reasons.
    One is that we don't know how to quote-unquote, get happy, right? It's not something you just pick up. And so we start chasing the closest thing that we can find towards happiness, which is pleasure. And so we spend so much time indulging in pleasure, hoping that it will bring some happiness and it might give you that dopamine hit. That feels really good, but that feeling is fleeting. Oftentimes we're worse off, right? When it wears off because we feel terrible about overindulging in pleasure. Now we might overindulge with food or alcohol, Netflix, social media, shopping gossip. It doesn't matter, right? There's a million different ways where we get that hit of dopamine and we want to feel worse. So we keep engaging in it, but we want to feel better. And so we keep engaging in it, but then we end up feeling worse. And our entire capitalistic culture is literally based off of that desire and that need to want to feel good.
    So we're taught, or we're constantly marketed to that. Like if you get the latest Apple product or if you buy that purse, or if you treat yourself with food or, you know, you go and get that spot day, then you're going to feel happy. And you might for a short period of time. Now, I'm not saying that you shouldn't indulge in pleasure. I am not at all. You know, I think there is definitely a place for it. And I think that as long as you know, that it's not going to last that you buying that thing is not going to all of a sudden change all of your problems. Then by all means buy the thing you want to buy or indulge in the thing you want to indulge in. Or, you know, trust me, I love me a good cup of coffee or a glass of wine or food.
    And I do indulge in it, but I don't expect it to fix all of my problems. And I think what happens is we indulge in thinking that this pleasure is just going to make us happy. It just doesn't, it's not the way it works. Another reason it's so damaging is that we are constantly chasing things outside of us to be happy, right? In the second part of that three-part series that I talked about on the podcast two episodes ago, I talked about how the facts outside of your circumstances don't cause your feelings, your own thoughts cause your feelings. And this is why it's so important to really understand that concept. Because we walk around our lives, thinking that we just have to change something outside of us in the world, we have to change our job or the relationship or the amount of money we have.
    And then I'll be happy. Think about the feelings that you thought you would have when you were, where you are right now. Like when you were working towards whatever profession you're in, you thought you would obtain a certain level of feeling. That's why you went after it. When I was going to be a lawyer, I thought I would feel confident and smart and accomplished, happy and prideful and secure and powerful and rich and all these other things. And I did feel a lot of those things at certain times, but I also felt like a fraud and dumb and exhausted and stressed and frustrated and bored. And I wish I had known this then that like, that will always be a part of whatever you're doing. And that is okay. Right. I think I was under this misconception that once I became a lawyer, then I would have my life together and everything would be wonderful and everything would be great.
    And I would be so happy. And when I wasn't, I was consumed with shame. That's the thing that leads to is that we become consumed with the idea that there's something wrong with us because we now have the thing we thought we wanted. We bought the house with the picket fence, we got married to the guy. We got whatever job we thought we wanted and we're still not happy. So what is wrong with me? And I just want to offer you this. There's nothing wrong with you. Nobody is ever happy. All of the time intellectually, we understand this. We all know that like money and fame doesn't bring happiness. Cause there's tons of famous rich people who are depressed, right? And we all know that happiness isn't reserved for a certain status, but when we're in our own lives, we get stuck in our own situation.
    And we think something's gone wrong. Like something is wrong that I'm not living happier right now. Right? Nothing has gone wrong. The human experience, every single person's human experience is both good and bad. There is this psychological phenomenon in psychology that they call the hedonic treadmill. And it's basically an observed tendency in us humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness, despite either major positive or negative events in our life. So they have studied lottery winners and also people who had horrific accidents and became like paraplegics or who went through horrific fires. And it changed, you know, the way they look and what they were able to do. And with all of these people, they found that after a certain time period, they returned back to their regular level of happiness. Now we've all experienced this hedonic treadmill, every single one of us, right?
    You thought that you wanted that raise to be happy, or let's say even the job that you had, like so many of us, if you told our younger self that we would be making X amount of money, we would think like, Oh my God, I would be rich. Right? We would be so thrilled. And maybe you are thrilled at first. Like you get that raise and it's a high, right? You have that dopamine hit. You're super proud of yourself, but we all know what happens. You become accustomed to that money. It now becomes part of your regular lifestyle. It becomes your normal state. It doesn't make you any happier. Every one of us has experiences, whether it's with the car we buy or the house we buy, like we're super stoked about it in the beginning. And then it just becomes regular life. And the problem is that we think we shouldn't return to that.
    Like we think there's something wrong with us because we should stay at that heightened level of happiness, but it's not the way our brains are built. And if you think about it, this is such a beautiful defense mechanism that our brain has built in because every one of us knows that this life is unfair and it is full of tragedies. And every one of us will experience loss. And some of us will experience way more than our fair share of hardship. And if your brain could not rebound, if it could not move past that and find happiness, again, all of us would kind of perish in despair and depression because this life is hard. And so your brain has created this way, that it just brings you back to a certain level of happiness. And that's amazing. And I think all of us really want it as a defense mechanism.
    We don't want to be stuck in grief or in sadness or depression, but we just don't want it when it comes to positive things. We want to be able to stay at that heightened level. And I think when you can start, it's all fleeting, all of it, happiness, sadness, it comes and goes in waves. None of it is meant to stick. It's just not the way the human experience is. And that's okay. They've actually studied that this hedonic treadmill is apparently evolutionarily. They've studied the hedonic treadmill and they've come up with a, I guess, hypothesis that we were evolutionarily wired for this because for the people that stayed too happy, like they didn't get back to the same set point. They became complacent, right. Which is not good for us evolutionarily. If you're just happy and you don't leave the cave to go find food, you're going to die.
    So there's something in our drive to constantly want more. It keeps us alive. Now, obviously in modern society, things have changed and we're not going to die if we don't keep striving. And so we've kind of taken it a little bit too far, maybe to the other extreme where we're constantly achieving, but it's part of the way our brain is wired. There's this quote from st. Augustine. And in the quote, he says, desire, hath no rest. And obviously we all realize it's true. Cause we don't just stop desiring things. Like once we have the one thing we move the goalposts. And I think that the key is just learning. That is normal, that it doesn't stop and it's not meant to, and there's nothing wrong with you. It's not that you're ungrateful or that you constantly want something else. It's the way that your brain is wired.
    And it's a really beautiful thing. So then the question I think becomes like, what does that happiness set point? And can you change it to be more happy? And in positive psychology, they focus a lot on whether you can actually increase your level of happiness. And there's a lot of good indications that you can. And I truly believe that you can. I think with things like gratitude practices and shifting your focus, you absolutely can't. But I want you to understand that you're not changing it from your circumstances. You're changing it from your thoughts. So you don't need a new job or a new house, or to make more money, to be happier. You need to work on the thoughts that you have and managing your mind to get to that set level. And I think there's a difference in understanding that you can change your set point.
    You can change your baseline level of happiness to maybe be a little happy and you still will not be happy all the time. There's a level of toxic positivity out there in the world right now that is borderline insanity, right? To think that you should always be thinking positive thoughts is crazy. Cause it's just not the way the world works. And you don't want to be thinking positive thoughts when horrible things are happening or when there's, when you want to have a negative emotion. And so we're not going to talk about, you know, that set point and how do you increase it because there's tons of studies out there and we can get into that on another episode. I just want you to understand that even if you can increase that, sure life will still always be both good and bad. You will never be happy all the time.
    We just convince ourselves that the grass is greener, right? We think that if we find that purpose or we find that passion or whatever it is, then I'll be happy. And we have this idealic version of our future self. We think that like somehow someday I'm going to wake up and I'm not going to have petty problems. I'm not going to get mad or yell at my kids. I'm not going to get, let down or disappointed. When I feel like I, you know, my friends didn't include me. I'm not going to get jealous or insecure or frustrated ever that day is not going to come. Ever. Now you can definitely learn to manage your negative emotions and I highly that you do. And I think that you can decide what you're going to focus on with drama in your mind. You're going to focus on and what doesn't really deserve your attention.
    But I want you to know that regardless of all of the work that you do, negative emotions are still going to be a part of your life. They will always be there. Fear, disappointment, sadness, embarrassment, frustration. It's a whole normal, there's no escaping and you shouldn't want to escape it. In the last episode, I talked about how to process it. It's just a physical sensation in your body. It's telling you something. And so there's no need to get rid of it. And I think that's the best news because you can stop trying to be happy all the time. We can stop thinking that this thing outside of us, that we don't control in the world needs to happen in order for me to be happy. Because even if that thing happens, there's still not going to be happy all the time. Now, when I talk about this with my clients, a lot of times I get the question like, then what's the point of me changing my career.
    If I'm not going to be happy, then why would I go through all this? That's a great question. I think first is acknowledging the, you don't have to. I want to take that pressure off of you. You can be happy in the career that you are in now. I wish I had these tools when I was a lawyer, because I know that I could have had such a different experience in managing my stress in putting up boundaries, in finding the parts that I loved about it, and really focusing my energy on things that I could change versus things that I couldn't. Those are all things you can do and you can be perfectly happy. And then you can choose to leave. Not because you're desperate to fix something outside of you or outside of thinking that it's going to fix your life, but you can choose to leave because you want to try new things because we're literally wired to grow.
    And when we're doing the same thing over and over again, our brain goes a little crazy. So you're choosing to see what else you can accomplish. You're choosing to see what else peaks your interest. You're choosing to try something new, not because you need it to fix you. And you can make that decision from a place of calm. And that decision ends up becoming so much more powerful. And the best part is, is that you don't put the pressure. That the next thing is going to fix you. An analogy I love to give. When we talk about career change is talking about dating and marriage, because I think it makes it much clearer. If you think that you have to marry somebody in order to feel whole or loved, if you think that you can't feel happy or loved being by yourself and that once you find a significant other, then you will always feel happy and loved.
    Marriage is going to be a rude awakening, right? Everybody that's married knows that marriage is both good and bad. No matter how I deal. Like marriage, no matter how in love you are with your spouse. There's always going to be good and bad feelings. And if you're desperate to change that circumstance so that you can feel a certain way, you'll be chasing it forever because the circumstance doesn't cause your feelings. If you think about it, like there's so many people who might literally be loved by tons of people in their life, family, friends truly do love them, but they don't feel loved, right? There's a lot of people who don't feel like they're lovable or they don't feel loved. They feel very lonely. And it's because of the thoughts that they are not lovable. It's not that there is nobody out there that loves them.
    It's because of the pain and suffering that they're creating in their own mind, by having stories about whether they are lovable or not. And so if you have worked on your own thoughts and you know that you're a hundred percent lovable and worthy and are happy in your life and you know that you can be happy, whether you are single or you're married, then you might choose to seek a romantic partner because you want to experience it. You want to experience life with somebody else. You will approach it differently. Maybe you just want, you want to experience the intimacy of a romantic relationship, but you will feel loved regardless of what happens in that relationship or not. You don't need that other person to make you whole, it's the same thing. When you're thinking about a career, your next job is not going to make you whole, no matter how passionate you are, no matter how much you love it.
    This happens all the time with people who have a passion. Let's say you're an artist or a singer or whatever. And people think like, that's the thing I want to be doing. And then they start doing it and they ended up hating that thing. Or they say like, I didn't want to make it into a business. Right? It's not because they actually hate the task. Like that was their passion. It's that they didn't manage their mind around it. And they thought that just doing that thing all the time was going to make them happy. But it's not because life is always 50 50. And I see this all the time with my clients. I see it with other people. And it happened to me where if you think that you have to move from job to job in order to be happy, you're going to keep changing jobs.
    And you're going to keep being miserable. When I was at a big law firm, I thought I don't like this type of work. If I go to the government and I work on a issue that I'm very passionate about, then I'll be happy. And I did just that. And I was still miserable. And then I thought, well, I don't like law. I need to quit law. And entrepreneurship sounds super interesting. And I jumped in and I started a photobooth company and I was still miserable. And it wasn't until I started realizing that none of that stuff was going to fix how I felt, the reason I was feeling so miserable was because with each job I was bringing the same thoughts, right? I had the same people, pleasing tendencies. I had the same intense need for external validation. I had the same lack of boundaries that kept me overworked.
    So it didn't matter if I changed the circumstance. And I think when I started realizing that no matter what I was going to do, even this job that I have now that I love, it's always going to be both good and bad. I don't resist it as much. Now I do think that the good and bad can change. So let me explain. I think our personalities are wired a certain way. And so certain jobs are going to be more enjoyable or the bad emotions that you're going to have are going to be different. So for instance, for me, maybe as a lawyer, I might, my negative emotions. Might've been feeling stressed and bored and unfulfilled and you know, all this other stuff and my negative emotions now running a business might be frustration when I don't know how to do things or rejection when people don't buy the things that I sell or embarrassment, when I put myself out there and I'm choosing those negative emotions over feeling stressed and feeling bored and feeling unfulfilled.
    So I do think you can have different negative emotions. And I do think there is a point in trying to figure out what are the things that light you up and what are the things that you're naturally good at? And what are the things that you don't, you know, have to work so hard at. I just want you to know that even when you choose that, like even when you find the thing that you love doing, there's going to be negative emotions and nothing has gone wrong. A lot of times we think like once I jumped to that, then I won't feel these negative emotions. And when we do, we think there's something wrong with me. I can never be happy. And that's just not the truth in any thing that you do, there will be both good and bad emotions. So I just want you to know that it will always be good and bad and you don't need to change your job to make it all better.
    You need to change your thoughts. And even when you do, it will be bad. There will be negative emotions and you will learn how to process them and nothing has gone wrong and everything is normal. And if you want help, figuring out how to change those thoughts, I would love to help you. As I mentioned in the beginning of the show, I am doing a three day challenge. That's gonna dive deeper into how to get unstuck way using your mindset and how to start shifting your mind so that you can go after the dreams that you want. So if you want to sign up for that challenge, but a quitter club.com/mindset, and I will see you on the next episode. Thank you so much for listening. I can't tell you how much it means to me. If you liked the podcast, please rate and review us on iTunes. It'll help other people find the show. If you want to connect or reach out, follow along on Instagram and Facebook at lessons from a quitter and on Twitter at Twitter podcast, I would love to hear from you guys and I'll see you on the next episode.