258 Days of Tracking My Happiness

What Happened After Tracking My Happiness?

Read Time: 6 Minutes

A curious thing happens when you start tracking your happiness. In fact, for me, it was more than that.

It began with a simple routine of recording my happiness levels every day. I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but soon enough (and I’m not exaggerating when I say this),  my life started changing.

I’ve now been tracking my happiness for exactly 258 days.

What’s happened in that time?

1. I Became More Mindful Overall

As a person, I tend to be inside my head quite a lot and I often find myself lost in my thoughts.

After I started writing about my daily habits, my emotional state, and my daily activities, I noticed a couple of improvements:

  • First, I became aware of changes in my mood and what was causing the changes.
  • I started dealing with people a lot better. For instance, I realised that sometimes I would get snappy at people because of something completely unrelated, so when I felt that happening, I could dial it back.

Once I became aware of this, I was able to manage my response in most situations and remind myself not to make any rash decisions or say something I wouldn’t be able to take back.

2. I Could Learn From My Mistakes

Around the time I started tracking my happiness, I was trapped in a toxic relationship. I didn’t realise it at the time though, so I kept trying my best to fix things, not realising that my girlfriend did not want our relationship to improve.

Looking back, there were many warning signs: The verbal abuse, the deception, irresponsibility and lack of mutual respect. I ignored many of these signs because I wanted the relationship to work.

During this period, my happiness data indicated that I was at an all time low. Even though it was clear that it was this relationship that was causing it, I couldn’t bring myself to leave.

You can see it quite clearly in these two charts of the the worst two months:

Happiness chart Oct 2017Happiness chart Nov 2017

The charts of the worst months of 2017

average happiness nov

Quite a number of bad days in November.

Those huge dips were very significant periods and are actually the reason I became more aware of the problems in my life, and that I needed to deal with them.

You can also see how erratic my emotional state was at the time. Certainly not what you’d want to see, and are clear warning bells.

Those high points on the chart occurred only when I was staying elsewhere or hanging out with other friends and didn’t have to deal with the strain of my relationship.

Eventually, I reached my breaking point and left her for good. I had also been living in an extremely pessimistic environment up until then, and I left that too. My happiness levels started shooting upwards and began to stabilise.

Take a look at the difference in the months immediately after I made these changes – December, 2017 and January, 2018:

 

It’s quite clear that the levels have stabilised in comparison to the previous months.

Looking back on my journal from that period, it astounds me that I allowed myself to stay in that situation for so long. I could see from the way I was writing about my experiences at the time that I was completely blind to the real issues in my life and wasn’t thinking rationally.

The ability to look back and review my own thoughts provides a unique insight into the workings of my own mind at a certain point in time, and enables me to see how much I’ve changed since then. It’s almost freaky, how different I was back then.

I think if you attempt this, it will be very interesting to look back on your past self and be able to read about your own thoughts. You might be surprised at the fact that you can hardly recognise yourself.

3. I Could Better Understand Other People

It’s strange, but I’ve found that the key to understanding other people, is to first understand yourself.

Yeah, I know that sounds like I pulled it out of a fortune cookie, but noticing my own behaviour helped me become more in tune with how other people might be feeling.

If people were behaving strangely or being short with me, I was more aware that they could have many things on their plate, and that almost always, their behaviour wasn’t personal at all.

Just recently, I was having some trouble with a close friend. Our friendship had taken a strange turn and we hadn’t spoken to each other in a while although nothing obvious had happened to drive a wedge between us.

It took me a while, but I eventually decided to give them a call and find out what was going on. In just two minutes, the entire issue was cleared up! It turns out that our friendship wasn’t the problem at all, it was something personal that they were going through, so I did what I could to support them and our communication significantly improved.

Most of all, I think I learned to be more understanding and patient with others, rather than taking things personally and unnecessarily escalating things.

4. The Process of Writing Helps Me Deal With Issues

A lot of the time, people tend to find themselves in a chaotic head space when they have a lot on their plate, and I am no exception.

I found that writing about my emotional state and describing issues in detail forces me to confront them and take the time to deconstruct each problem. This usually allows me to understand the issue, and that calms the chaos in my head. It’s almost like clearing the RAM in your system.

Observing a problem seems to have the effect of making it lose its grip on me. I’m not the only one who believes this: Jordan Peterson, a well-known clinical psychologist, talks about this phenomenon and encourages the process of writing as a way to deal with unresolved issues.

I also noticed that meditation helped a lot in maintaining balance in my life. When I took a long break from meditation, my happiness levels were a little lower and tended to be more erratic.

The Strongest Link to Happiness

I started looking into the factors that affected my happiness and noticed that for me, idleness is a major cause of unhappiness. I don’t like spending my day watching tv shows, for example. I’m far happier when I’m engaged in various activities.

This is why I’ve started working on so many experiments and challenges. They are engaging and make me feel much happier. In fact, I’ve written about My Blueprint to Happiness as a result of these observations.

A major factor that leads to happiness for me is the quality of the relationships I have with people. The number of people do not matter as much as the strength of the bond I have with them.

I’ll leave you with this study conducted by Harvard and you can tell me what you think! In fact, I encourage you to try tracking happiness yourself and see what your findings are.

 

Here’s One For You:

As time passes, do you think we’re essentially the same people? Or are we completely different individuals? What is it that makes you, well, you?

the-subtle-art-book-review-mark-manson

Book Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Rating: 9/10

Here’s a book that just doesn’t give a f*ck about what you think or how you feel. It’s eye-opening, thought-provoking, and above all, brutally honest. There’s a lot of swearing in the book, but don’t let that put you off, the content is absolutely brilliant.

On his website, Manson describes the book as “The self help book for people who hate self help books”, and I think you’ll agree that it’s quite fitting once you’ve read the book. He talks about how conventional advice just doesn’t work, and compels us to learn about ourselves, question our beliefs, and start critically evaluating our situations. It lives up to it’s subtitle and certainly provides you with a bunch of counterintuitive ideas that help you find happiness.

The way Mark Manson presents his narrative was extremely relatable to me and I thoroughly enjoyed the read.

I have a simple test to determine how much I liked the book: Would I gift it to someone?

I definitely would. In fact, I’d present this book to pretty much anyone, and honestly, if you read the book and take Manson’s advice, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll be a lot happier, and you’ll be able to see things from a different perspective.

I actually enjoyed reading the book so much that I started reading Manson’s blog, which largely contributed to the material in The Subtle Art. 

Some of the ideas in this book may be stuff that you’ve thought about already, but having them laid out in such a clear manner and having thought-provoking questions shoved in your face, is a transformative experience.

My key takeaways:

  • I learned to look at my life from a completely different perspective
  • I’ve learned to question more of my thoughts and actions, allowing me to have a better grasp of why I act or react in certain ways.
  • I gained some insight into how deeply rooted some problems can be, and the book gave me a framework to deal with them.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the book to be quite existential in nature, and it really struck a chord with me in so many ways, allowing things to really sink in and make sense.

For me, this book has provided a lot of clarity in terms of relationships, understanding my own thoughts, struggles, happiness, and life itself.  I gave it a 9/10 because I felt that there were some tiny parts that were slow and slightly clunky, but it’s something that can be easily forgiven.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is up there with the best. Do yourself a favour and grab a copy. If you’ve already read it, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!

Click on the image to purchase the book. It’s an affiliate link, so I make a tiny commission off every purchase, which goes into supporting the blog! 

Netflix cease and desist email Stranger Things

Netflix’s Brilliant Handling of Unauthorised “Stranger Things”-inspired Pop-up Bar

I’d like to make a quick post highlighting Netflix’s brilliant email that the company’s lawyers sent out to fans who had decided to set up a pop-up bar called the The Upside Down, named after the alternate realm in the show, Stranger Things.

The fans who had set up the bar hadn’t asked for permission regarding the usage of the name, and the company decided to send a cease and desist email to them. Not very different to what any large corporation would do right?

Not exactly. The way they handled it was an absolute masterclass in public relations.

Here’s the email they sent out to the owners:

What I’d like to most point out is that the owners of the pop-up bar completely understood the company’s perspective and agreed to closing it down and all of this was done without the need for hostility from either side.

I wish more people resolved conflict in this way. Keeping things lighthearted even when you’re talking about something you dislike, can lead to co-operation from the other side without creating too much of a fuss.

Approaching any kind of confrontation with hostility will usually lead to the other party getting on the defensive, which severely inhibits conflict resolution.

The way Netflix approached the issue was exemplary and I believe that people can really learn something from this.

 

Specialists vs Generalists, The Polymath Ideal

A Jack of All Trades or a Master of One: Specialists vs Generalists

The common saying, “jack of all trades, master of none”, seems to imply that specialisation is superior compared to dabbling in numerous fields. It’s incomplete however, and the actual quote conveys a different meaning:

“A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one”.

A capitalist society reveres the specialist; the more specialised you are, the more valued and respected you become, eventually leading to better remuneration. That being said, specialisation certainly has its place – there are countless specialists who have made significant contributions due to their in-depth knowledge in that specific area. In the medical field, for example, specialists are virtually a necessity as the field is simply too broad for individual mastery.

Benefits of being a specialist:

  • They are able to charge higher rates
  • They have in-depth knowledge of the subject matter
  • They can allocate all of their attention and focus on one field
  • They are regarded as experts in the field, and can act as consultants

The Case for the Generalist

Polymathy is severely underrated, especially in a capitalist economy that  idolises specialisation. I am certainly not against capitalism (we will get into this discussion in an upcoming post), but I do think that this is one of the drawbacks of the system.

If you are competent in a number or fields, you are essentially equipping yourself with a variety of resources and tools. Knowledge can be transferrable, and even applicable across disciplines – an advantage polymaths are able to capitalise on.

Benefits of being a polymath:

  • Talent in various fields
  • Able to apply knowledge gained in one field to another field
  • Ability to make connections easily
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Well rounded
  • Development in multiple areas
  • Able to apply skills in a variety of situations
  • Understand systems thinking or how concepts are interrelated
  • Yeah, this list is a lot longer than the benefits of being a specialist, I’m biased

Polymaths are able to draw upon their knowledge from multiple sources, enabling them to see and make connections that a specialist would not be able to. Innovation is often a result of combining ideas, and extending your areas of knowledge often assists in the process.

Robert Twigger (a British poet, writer and explorer), in his essay “Master of Many Trades“, summarises:

The real master has no tools at all, only a limitless capacity to improvise with what is to hand. The more fields of knowledge you cover, the greater your resources for improvisation.

Famous Polymaths of the Past and Present

Widely considered the epitome of polymathy, Leonardo da Vinci clearly illustrates the point I made above. He was an influential artist, inventor, engineer, botanist, writer, and sculptor, among other things, and it can be argued that he was able to do this because he was able to apply his knowledge from one area into the next.

Other examples from the time include Galileo Galilei and Michelangelo, while modern day polymaths include Tim Ferriss and Elon Musk.

For some interesting further reading, head over to “What Happened to the Polymaths? Some Modern Examples of Homo Universalis and How to Emulate Great Thinkers“. The article poses some interesting theories as to why there appear to be fewer modern polymaths.

“Use It or Lose It”

I’d also like to highlight another point that Twigger makes, about the common misconception that it is essential for one to be naturally gifted in order to succeed in this endeavour:

The fact that I succeeded where others were failing also gave me an important key to the secret of learning. There was nothing special about me, but I worked at it and I got it. One reason many people shy away from polymathic activity is that they think they can’t learn new skills. I believe we all can — and at any age too — but only if we keep learning. ‘Use it or lose it’ is the watchword of brain plasticity.

The Overachieving Brain Surgeon

Consider this: Can a specialist also be a generalist?

Let’s look at a hypothetical brain surgeon for a second. This surgeon is an example of a specialist, but let’s assume that he or she is also a guitar virtuoso, has a decent grasp on poker and chess and happens to be an excellent swimmer. Would the surgeon be still be considered a specialist or would they now be a generalist?

Firstly, do the terms “specialist” and “generalist” only apply to attributes that are relevant to the job market? I have not found a definitive answer to this question anywhere else so far, but I’m going to say that they are not.

From my perspective, the debate about whether it is better to be a specialist or a generalist is quite irrelevant because they are not mutually exclusive. Why choose a side when you can have the best of both worlds?

What do you think? Would you rather choose a side, and if so why? I’d love to hear your thoughts!