Ignore the Noise

Few things in life deserve the attention we give them.

Most of the shit we concern ourselves with is rarely as important as the importance we give it. It’s just noise. It distracts us, it steals our focus and it robs us of our energy. While our attention is focused on the stuff that doesn’t matter, we lose sight of what does.

As a society, our values are being influenced by the media and advertising. The average person is exposed to nearly 5,000 ads each day! All of that advertising is working. We’ve become obsessed with wealth, material possessions, and celebrities. But these things are all just noise, and we don’t need any of it to have a happy life.

All we need to live a happy and fulfilled life is to ignore the noise and focus on what brings value to our lives. We need a purpose, not another product. We must simplify.

It’s time to focus on what’s valuable, and ignore the rest.

Other People. Stop worrying about what your friends, family, or complete strangers think about you and your life choices. The opinions of the vast majority of people you encounter in life don’t matter and have no impact on your life. Those people who do matter will love you for who you are.

You’ll worry less about what people think about you when you realize how seldom they do.” ~ David Foster Wallace

The Joneses. It doesn’t matter what your neighbors own or where they vacation. Your neighbors aren’t there for you to compete against. It doesn’t matter if they have a new car, designer clothes, or send their children to a private school. Focus on what matters to you. Stay true to your values, and never sell yourself out just to “keep up” with someone else.

Gossip. Talking shit about someone else says less about them than it does about your own flawed character. Confident people don’t need to gossip. Consider your own shortcomings and work on improving them rather than using someone else’s misfortunes to prop up your ego. Engage in more meaningful conversations.

Celebrities. Society is obsessed with celebrities. So much so that there’s now a psychological disorder called Celebrity Worship Syndrome. Why do celebrities deserve so much of our attention? The answer is simple. They don’t. We should focus the attention we give to celebrities on our family members. Do you know more about the life of your favorite celebrity than you do about your father or mother? You might be surprised by the answer.

Fashion. Keeping your wardrobe “in style” is an exercise in futility. Fashion is fickle. Avoid the trends and chose styles that are timeless. Do you remember how sexy you looked in that trendy outfit ten years ago? Dig out some old pictures and ask yourself whether you’d be seen dead wearing that same outfit today. (I’m guessing probably not.) Be stylish but don’t worry about being in style.

If none of this matters, then what does?

Happiness. Being happy doesn’t mean you’re in a constant state of joy. True happiness comes from an internal sense of satisfaction and a feeling of contentment. While buying a new gadget might bring a momentary sense of fulfillment, that feeling is fleeting and never lasts very long. This is why happiness cannot be found in material possessions.

Health. When you’re healthy, the last thing you’re concerned with is your health. The moment your health is gone, life changes. And it can happen in an instant. It only takes one diagnosis to change your life forever. Don’t take your health for granted just because you’re healthy today.

“Without health life is not life; it is only a state of languor and suffering – an image of death.” ~ Buddha

Family. Our families provide us with a sense of belonging, and are a consistent source of comfort and emotional support. And while computers have given us the ability to keep in touch more easily, nothing can replace the experience of gathering together as a family. Spend as much time together as you possibly can.

Love. Being in love is the most intimate connection a person can make. You trust your partner without question, you share your most intimate feelings with them and you allow yourself to be completely vulnerable. There is no substitute for being in love, or for being loved by another person.

Community. We share this world with more than 7 billion other people and each of us has a responsibility to the communities in which we live; to make it a better place, to look out for our neighbors, and to help those in need. We all need to do whatever we can to make this world a better place than it was when we got here. Volunteer at the local library, pick up trash while you’re out for your daily walk, smile and say “Hello” to people you don’t know.

Everything else is noise. Do your best to ignore it.

Perfectly Unsatisfied

In the quest to become a perfect version of ourselves, our focus is perpetually fixed on our shortcomings and we become obsessed with improving any deficiencies in our lives.  Like a disease, our acute awareness of imperfection begins to infect other aspects of our lives.  No longer are we focusing solely on ameliorating our own character flaws.  Now, what began as an internal aspiration to better ourselves begins to spread and affect others.

The imperfections of those around us begin to complicate our quest for a perfect life.  Our focus shifts from correcting our own character flaws to trying to correct the character flaws of our partners (children, family or friends).  We offer suggestions and innocent critiques to try to encourage them to change and improve.  Our intentions are good, yet toxic to the relationship.  By focusing our attention on their flaws, we poison the relationship.  Before long we forget all about the positive qualities of that person, our supportive tone becomes critical and our gentle encouragement turns to venom.

Our effort to create a perfect life has taken an unexpected turn and now, rather than perfection, we have become perfectly unsatisfied.  How can we pursue a perfect life without harming our relationships?

It is Your Journey, Not Theirs.  When our lives are intimately entangled with others, the boundary of individuality is often blurred and it is easy to lose our sense of self.   When you become frustrated with others, remind yourself that this is your journey. 

Lead by Example.  If you want someone to change, instead of criticizing their current lifestyle, be a model of success.  When people begin to notice a positive change in your behavior or attitude, it will influence them to improve their own life.  Share your excitement about the changes you have made!

Be Patient.  Breaking a habit or changing a lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight.  Your own transformation is the result of your desire to change coupled with persistence and daily diligence.  Be supportive and offer encouragement rather than judgement.

Watch Your Mouth.  Words are powerful and have the potential to lift a person up or tear them down.  How you chose your words affects your relationship with others and can influence their desire to change…or not.

Appreciate People for Who They Are.  Why is this person a part of your life?  Is it because they make you laugh?  Do they support you in times of need?   Maybe they share in your wild and wacky adventures or just love you unconditionally.  Stop focusing on what is wrong and appreciate them for the person they are.

Perfection Doesn’t Exist.  Not really.  Even if it did, it is the imperfections that make life interesting.  It is the challenges that give life meaning.  Try not to get hung up on perfection.  Instead, enjoy life for the gift that it is, bad breath, pimples and all.

Is the Pursuit of Happiness a Selfish Endeavor?

"Welcome to the New Year !!!" by Osvaldo_Zoom @ Flickr

For me, the greatest things about blogging is the feedback I receive from people about my articles.  It is nice to have people validate my work & thoughts with supporting comments.  What I enjoy even more are the comments from people who disagree with my sentiments.  It is from differing opinions that we are able to engage in meaningful conversation which is relevant, intriguing & insightful.

In my article How to Quit a Job I discuss quitting a job in order to pursue happiness & satisfaction in your life.  Most readers were supportive of my ideas while some questioned my networking advice.  The most interesting comment came from a reader who questioned my thoughts as being unrealistic & selfish.  I was a bit taken back by their response.  As such, I would like to really delve deep into their comment and offer my perspective on what they had to say.

When it comes to job security, I think the vast majority of people are somewhere in between absolutely loving their jobs and dreading getting up Monday morning.  Most of us may be dissatisfied with one or several aspects of our work, but much of life works that way…it will never be perfect and part of the maturity process lies in weighing the pros and cons of any situation and reconciling ourselves to make the best of what will usually be less than perfect.

First things first, there is no such thing as job security.  Anyone could lose their job for a variety of reasons, reasons beyond anyone’s control.  We are all subject to outsourcing, company bankruptcy or down-sizing.  Each of us is replaceable when we work for someone else.

I agree that the majority of people will find themselves falling somewhere in the middle of the love/hate scale when it comes to their work.  There are many aspects of most jobs that are rewarding; the feeling of camaraderie with your co-workers, the challenge of the task at hand  and feelings of accomplishment.

Despite these positive aspects of work, sometimes people burnout & are no longer happy in their careers.  These are the people to whom I speak.  Those who dread the thought of having to drag themselves through the door to make it through another day.  People who are unhappy with their work also tend to be unhappy in their lives.  Believing that “much of life works this way” is not acceptable to me.  As individuals we are solely responsible for our situations in life and telling ourselves that we do not deserve to be happy or satisfied in our lives is not “maturity”.  It is accepting defeat.  Instead of pushing for a better life, we are giving up.

Those who have a family to support will be even less inclined to take big risks by quitting a job they’re not enamored of, and understandably so.  Today’s job market is not one that encourages this kind of risk-taking when long-term unemployment or underemployment could be the likely result.

Quitting a job does not need to be risky if it is planned appropriately.  I do not endorse walking into your workplace and handing in your resignation without proper preparation.  In my article I recommend a number of ways to prepare yourself for leaving your job.  It is important to plan any major change in your lifestyle, especially in a job market as unstable as the one we are currently in.  A well-considered plan could lead to great opportunity, regardless of what the market is doing.  It is simply a matter of educating yourself about the risks involved with your pursuits & doing all that you can to ensure your success when the day comes to leave your job.

Those who have a family are not any less entitled to fulfillment in their lives.  Yes, it is true that people who have a husband/wife and/or children will need to consider the ramifications that their actions will have on the lives of others.  That shouldn’t mean that they should have to work  at a job they hate every single day in order to provide for their family.

As I mentioned above, people who are unhappy in their jobs are also unhappy in their lives.  Most people think they can seperate their work lives from their personal lives.  I disagree.  When someone has a bad day at work, it comes home with them.  If they are bringing the stress of work home with them, are they being as good of a spouse or parent as they could be?  When your child has grown, will they pride themselves with knowing their parents sacrificed their happiness in order to provide a stable life for them?  Will you grow to resent the ones you love because you convinced yourself that their lives were more important than your own?

There is a balance that can be found.  It is possible to pursue our own happiness while meeting our responsibilities at home.  Using family as an “excuse” not to seek our own satisfaction will only result in a feeling of acrimony.  A family does not mean becoming a slave to other people.  Pursuing our own happiness will result in a better family environment in the long run.  It isn’t always about “security” or money, love is the most important thing in any familial relationship.

I don’t think your statement: “Staying in a position in order to maintain respect, or any reason, is ridiculous. We should be seeking satisfaction in every way possible, including our careers.” is realistic. While personal fulfillment is great, as we grow older, most of us learn that there are more important things in life than selfish pursuit of Happiness, whatever that means, to the exclusion of, perhaps, providing as well as we could for our families.

It is interesting that seeking personal satisfaction in every aspect of our lives seems unrealistic.  Isn’t that what life is about?  We are on this Earth for a finite amount of time, time which we can never regain no matter how hard we try & for no amount of money.  Each moment that slips by is another moment gone.  Why should we accept our lives the way they are if we are not satisfied or if we are unhappy?  It makes no sense to spend life knowing that we could be doing better for ourselves, yet making a conscience decision not to. 

Is the pursuit of happiness really selfish?  Why not work at a job that provides you with satisfaction and allows more time with your children?  An afternoon with mommy and daddy is more valuable to them than any amount of money.

Using the excuse of “providing as well as we could for our families” is nothing more than projecting an unwillingness to change our situation onto our families.  Instead of analyzing the real reason we don’t pursue our dreams, maybe fear or insecurity, it is easier to use a socially acceptable excuse such as family.  Using our family as the reason we stay in a job which makes us unhappy is essentially saying that our family is the reason for our unhappiness.  “I hate my job but I stay because of my family.”

Life is short, life is limited.  We all deserve to be happy, whatever that is to us as an individual.  Maybe providing for your family is what makes you happy, but if you hate your job it doesn’t make sense to stay in it.  There are always other jobs out there and since there is no such thing as job security, there is no reason a person shouldn’t be looking for a way to earn a living which at the same time provides a feeling of satisfaction.

What I see as being selfish is blaming our feelings of inadequacies on someone or something else.  It all falls into our control.  We make the choice to pursue our goals, our satisfaction and our happiness.  I don’t think that is naive or immature.