Why big changes are so big

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My last six weeks of being 31 years old were glorious. Easy and beautiful. I had been a pessimist since I was a kid (most of that time without realizing it) and then in late August, something clicked and I no longer saw things in terms of their downsides. It was dramatic and almost effortless and I can’t fully explain how it happened. I just got used to thinking about what I want, and catching myself whenever I started thinking about what I don’t want. It worked.

It wasn’t mania or self-delusion, just a clean, consistent sense that at any moment life is good enough to smile about, and it’s only getting better. My surroundings looked the same but felt different. It was a very different mental landscape, which happened to make much more sense than the one I was used to.

My six-week cruise in a state of near-effortless optimism ran aground somewhere around last Wednesday. There were several factors. The weather changed. Indian summer became cold and nasty overnight. I was stuck in a small town again, which tends to make me a bit loopy.

But it was hubris that sunk me. Optimism felt self-sustaining, and so I kept up cruising speed, even while I eased up on my vigilance around cultivating positive expectations and weeding out negative ones. I steamed on with the smugness of the Titanic’s captain. Unsinkable! I thought. I fell asleep in a deck chair with a smile on my face and a cigar burning in my hand. 

I lost track of a few important things, got a bit down, and the dominos started toppling. In a few days my state of mind went from grateful and unworried to cynical and powerless. I hadn’t felt like that in a while. It was alarming. I hit rock bottom this morning, on my birthday.

So I fell off the wagon (if you’re still following my mixed metaphors) but I know the trail well now, and it’s not that hard to catch up with it. I see this incident as a minor shakeup in the long-term, but it sure was a dramatic one.

It led me to an interesting discovery about making major changes: any way of living is really just an interdependent network of habits, and when you make a big change a lot of those connections get broken. Replace a habit or two, and one thing doesn’t necessarily lead you to do everything else you need do in order to stay relatively on top of your life. After a shift there will be holes in the network at first. You need to put all your habits back together again.

In my case, I learned it takes a different set of social habits and working habits to be a functional optimist than it does a functional pessimist. Shifting your thinking habit — from giving more weight to negative thoughts, to giving more to positive ones — is still the crucial change, but it isn’t the whole job. All the supporting habits need to be adjusted. This is what makes a big change big. Not the thing you have to change, which might only be a single habit, but what else you have to move around to make it a stable fit in your life.

For example, getting my writing done was always driven primarily by a fear of feeling bad about not doing it. When I stopped taking fearful thoughts so seriously, life was a lot less stressful, but it was a lot easier to fall behind without feeling like something’s really wrong.

So wading into new territory, even unarguably better territory, means you don’t always know how things are going to come together. If you’ve been doing the same thing for years, even if it doesn’t work that well, at least it works poorly in a predictable way. Shortfalls may be common but blunders are rare.

Having some experience with both sides now, I know without a doubt that optimism is a better fit for me. But that means there is a necessary phase of rebuilding. I have to learn a different way to do everything I do that doesn’t depend on fear or worry, and in the mean time there will be some leaks while I learn the new ropes. I’ve made some social gaffes. I’ve neglected some of my friends. I’ve let my physical fitness go a bit. And I’ve published fewer words recently, something some readers have rightly called me on. I wasn’t going to publish this week either. Too cranky.

This “shakeup” phenomenon is probably a major reason why it’s so hard for human beings to make a lasting major change in life, even if it’s clearly in a better direction. Change the way you do something, and in other areas what used to work might not work anymore.

Say you decide to become less of a homebody. You become active and outgoing and life begins to bloom in ways it never had before, and maybe you suddenly find your relationship with your homebody spouse doesn’t work so well anymore. And so you have to decide how to readjust. Maybe it calls for another dramatic change. In the long run maybe that’s the best thing for you. But it can create some intense short-term friction between the moving parts of your life, enough to scare you back to your still-warm old ways.

I already know that how you feel in life (the tone of your moment-to-moment life, as I talked about in this post) isn’t so much dependent what your situation actually is, but rather on the perspective you currently have about it, the emotional momentum you attribute to it. I was really grumpy this weekend, but that’s just a temporary dip in tone. The content is outstanding, just like it was last week.

But on a day when by 9am 60 people have wished you a happy birthday, when you have thousands of attentive readers, when Metafilter picks up your article, when you know you’ll go to bed warm and safe like every night, when you have two eyes, two arms, two legs, a loving family and Thai food on the way — then you know that if you don’t feel good, it’s only a perspective issue and nothing else.

Perspective comes and goes. I’m still grumpy and behind in my writing projects. But it’s my birthday and it’s Thanksgiving and I’m rich in all the things that matter.

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Photo by Brunkforbraun

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{ 39 Comments }

Joy October 8, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Happy birthday. I can totally relate to the mood changes brought on by the change of season. Every year I look forward to spring because I love all the fresh fruit and veges and YUM fresh asparagus! But I forget that it gets really, really windy here in spring and the constant battering does my head in, so before long I’m wishing it were still winter.

This spring I’m in the last stages of training for an ultramarathon and hating all the hours upon hours I have to spend out there in the wind getting buffeted about. I’m very quickly finding myself falling off the “I love running!” bandwagon. Thanks for the reminder that it’s all just a matter of perspective. I’m working hard at getting my positive perspective back!

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Leul October 9, 2012 at 12:13 am

Im looking forward to see how your life changes with your new mindset in the next coming months, best of luck and happy birthday!

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It Calls Me Onanon October 9, 2012 at 1:59 am

Hello David,

I see an issue with the method you’re using to resolve your slip-up.

Habits form out of a root problem and their function only serves to mechanize the problem. Identifying a pattern in the purposes of your habits (or what function they serve) takes examining the character of the habit–what is the habit responding to and in what way did the habit respond to it? You begin to realize that changing the nature (pessimistic vs. optimistic) of the habit isn’t working towards eliminating the problem, just rearranging the mechanism. The thing being fueled is the habit of applying pessimism vs. optimism in the first place. Projecting such values on the outside world is inherently subjective and only serves to crystallize the way you respond to external stimulus. Crystallizing your perspective leaves you blind to the unaccounted-for circumstances of the future. It takes an absolute resolution to applying an objective perspective to obtain perspective and therefore resolve in any given situation.

As for seeking value in the comfort of applying subjective, temporary fixes like an optimistic view point, I’d have to ask what the validity of doing that is in the first place. For what purpose does it serve? Is it a preservation of a particular mood? Why would one need to preserve something that is intrinsically a by-product of the ‘self’?

The self is not immutable. It’s an illusion created that defines the pattern our senses provide us and our notions of it act to preserve it and they predispose us to safety and comfort. It’s in the change of our perspective on ‘humanity’ and the way a being should function that real, lasting resolve happens. It’s difficult and feels like you’re going to lose everything you’ve ever felt sentimental for, but then you remember that it’s the habit of feeling sentimental at all that prolongs the issue of subjective emotional responsiveness. I’ve found that there really isn’t a logical justification for it that answers to the objective understanding of our existence.

You’ve just got to be serious about finding resolve, ‘cuz if you’re not you’re going to keep opting for the feel good drug…err habit… of the moment.

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David October 9, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Clearly it is much more complex in your mind than it is in mine. I know what I need to do.

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It Calls Me Onanon October 9, 2012 at 10:09 pm

“It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.”
-Albert Einstein

…Or as you might say it,
“Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

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Scott October 13, 2012 at 8:47 am

I struggle to see what this comment really has to do with this post. I mean, David did touch on positive vs negative points of view, but also stated that that wasn’t the end goal, but merely something along the way. You have to change how you approach things, habits, perspective.

You take his clear and simple writing and turn it into diluted intellectual babble! I’m not saying this is a bad thing, if this is the way that you would like to approach things, that is your right! You seem to be quite the academic, and I’m impressed by your analytical mind. However, David makes very clear points about making your life state better. Perhaps every post isn’t about contemplating our existence in the universe, but he makes plenty of good points about being human. How to get along…realizing things about your self…putting your best foot forward…we all have these problems…etc.

I value the discussion of what the self is, and more theory about the mind and our existence, I think that is absolutely fascinating. I just think you missed the point of what David was posting about, and how he distills thoughts down to something that speaks to us all in our experience. Part of that experience is wondering what we are, and who we are, etc, but for the practical application…it’s about how we make peace with ourselves and the world, and how we can live our life from a positive and pleasant place. Naturally this has value in and of itself, without the necessity to methodical analyze each piece of the theory!

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Scott October 13, 2012 at 8:48 am

P.s. happy birthday David!

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Scott October 13, 2012 at 8:49 am

(Belated)

It Calls Me Onanon November 16, 2012 at 4:42 am

I’ve decided that I would like to confront this comment as a problem. I spend a lot of time on problems, a lot longer than most people, all the while considering its perspective and testing it out, much like David’s experiments. I’ve read and deconstructed David’s general outlook on things, or what the professionals might call his “psychology-ical degreeification.” I’ve also read and deconstructed your comment and have decided that it’s actually irrelevant to the discussion.

The point of my post was that based on the way David handles his problems, he shows that he doesn’t demonstrate a solid understanding of the logic behind why his slip-ups happen the way they do. He doesn’t really understand the science behind himself and his articles tend to be more like a reaction to what’s happening and a temporary fix. Here’s why I think that:

David relies on his subjectivity (or his own personal narrative) to detail what the past 6 weeks of being 31 was like. “Glorious.”

That subjectivity is already a big no-no if you’re looking for someone who has any claim on wanting to help on the issue of human fallibility. Just by the nature of his goal to be a “better human” he doesn’t have grounds to talk about “practical application,” or else he isn’t really talking about being a better human. He’s talking about a human that’s more adept at methods of avoiding/displacing responsibility of being itself in order to subsist.

Subjectivity just discriminates by imposing the biased conditions that should be examined. It’s a “reasoning”, a “bargaining”, of what aspects of the chain-of-events-that-is-“life” one chooses to observe. If you want to help people, you’ve got to start by busting the idea of the “status quo”, or, common understanding about how people function and start talking about real ego-shattering observations. You’ve got to start talking about how there’s a “why” and a “how” behind the biases people have and that they can deconstruct all of their subjective views on things in order to find clarity and acceptance. Seeing the full, objective truth makes you far less likely to commit genocide and other hateful acts. Typically though, people avoid answering to the objective truth by hiding in their subjectivity, justifying seeing things the way they do because of their self and some sort of perceived authority that’s supposed to come with that ego.

David’s reasoning for why one habit needs to be exercised over another (pessimistic outlook vs. optimistic) isn’t addressing his subjective bias/discrimination problem. It isn’t even a wise decision on what is imperative to examine in any given situation. The reason why he slips into pessimism in the first place is because he practices subjectivity and it ebon flows between what he desires and doesn’t desire. He goes on to passively assert that these feelings are something people are inherently subject to and respond to. They’re not. This is just the intrinsic truth of the way humans mechanically work and not just the “theory,” by the way.

He avoids thinking about the source of his “temporary dips in tone.” The source is how he is actively proceeding to understand the things happening around him. He’s stuck with an orientation provided by the way his parents understood the things happening around them. It’s also the culture he grew up in, the people he knew and the things that those influences validated in him. He avoids “thinking about it and consequently owning up to the responsibility he has to acknowledge and disregard it” by changing the focus to the circumstances happening in the moment and how those things affect him. This leads to all sorts of convoluted rationalizations about how the situation needs to be readjusted and how he needs to cater to a different set of “perspectives” or habits that validate his belief—he’s already went ahead and validated his initial world-view. He tries to progress by making commitments to perform certain ways; he doesn’t pursue understanding and indefinite change in order to find a lasting resolve. Commitments fall apart when we are tired, hungry, or any whim that doesn’t provide a larger benefit than primal satisfaction, really. His tendency towards making commitments explain why he is a creature of habit and the biases he avoids addressing explain why he excuses these habits as interwoven facets of humanity that need to be dealt with as independent problems, “interdependent” of one another.

What happened when I expressed to David that his method of dealing with his slip-up problems was ineffective as detailed by a trend in his past choices? He rationalized through his personal “commitment” bias why his method “will work.” He dismissed the confrontation I posed about the pattern in his actions by using the same logic he derives his “solutions” from. He goes on to excuse-away the circumstances when his method HASN’T worked, leaving him subject to those “dips in tone.”

No, he doesn’t make points about being a better human. He makes points about a self-coddling indulgence that isn’t about observing the objective reality that he has integrated a faulty “bias” into. It isn’t about actually wondering “why do I even do this thing as a homo-sapien?” His method is about finding a way to feel GOOD, circumstantially, over feeling BAD. It is picking and choosing what to pay attention to and worrying as little as possible about where his logic comes from and what it has to do with his actions; Nothing much to do with the fundamental truth about himself or activating on an objective understanding about life. It’s “get rich quick” schemes disguised as self-help.

A human with something to offer is a human with a very intimate understanding of herself and where her insecurities came from in the past. She doesn’t have the impulse to indulge in these things anymore because she’s addressed the root of them. That way of thinking is just… invalid.

Is it not clear how David’s method of dealing with problems is actually substantially more complicated and unwise to itself than what I suggested? He says that habit A is connected to habit B, which is connected to habit C, which is connected to habit D, but if you change habit A you have to change habit B, C and D-Z because they all come from behaving a certain way and you don’t know what all these habits are, but when you find out you have to institute something different. Oh, and by the way, good luck on knowing what “different” is. Oh well, deal with the unknown, temporary dips as they come! After all, “perspective comes and goes.”

All I suggested was to be aware of an objective reality (by thinking about things from a “not-subjective” point of view—like how we see ants and describe how they interact with various aspects of the world!).

Examine and ask questions about your “homo-sapien” reactions to the objective reality (“how strange, I make up stories that I should be “happy” and that this thing I am choosing to look at is a “good” thing. Wait… what is ‘good’ anyway and why am I preoccupied by this particular thing?!).

Finally, diagnose a pattern that you see in all your reactions to things (“All of these things result from me thinking about myself!!! There’s no reason to take myself seriously when I can observe things objectively and take action; I remember I learned how to think from my parents because THEY thought that way themselves!”).

Because you’ve addressed that problem, you will NEVER hold yourself subject or victim to individual habits again. You have “shut off” the source of the water coming out of a hose instead of putting your finger in front of the nozzle to try and divert all the separate water flows. You don’t have to make a commitment to holding the nozzle in a specific way. The “tone” or intensity of the water won’t change on you, either.

Big changes are BIG because of how people have learned to interface with life. We are simultaneously the interface and the onlooker. Typically, people don’t think of all life that is outside of themselves as a static piece on the chessboard. Do that and you’ll understand that it is observable as it is and will only work one way and it is your responsibility to see it truthfully.

As for your comment being irrelevant, you’re very much a person of standard convention. You don’t stray from the average person’s perception of humans and of existence. You look at it from an outsider’s point of view, from someone who sees it as a spectacle and hasn’t actively done research or observed the nature of things around you. As a result, you consider these observations theories. From the sounds of it, you’re also an anti-intellectual who indulges in self-coddling. You practice superficial rituals, like the “commitments” mentioned above and ultimately don’t realize any truth about yourself. I suppose that’s why you’re here, looking for David to shed some light on what you can’t figure out and never having any qualms about what he says because you haven’t got it figured out yet. You’re not here for the discussion and so you’re comment is irrelevant.

I’d love to hear from David about this. I’m here for the discussion and for progress.

It Calls Me Onanon November 16, 2012 at 6:15 am

I should say that I’m only addressing this article and a few others that deal with this particular issue–David’s personal theories on dealing with things. I find the articles that provide information like in “Why we f*ck” absolutely riveting and full of truthful observations.

That’s the type of hard truth that needs to get around for people to “get it.”

Annie October 9, 2012 at 3:59 am

Happy Birthday :D (you grumpy sod)
xx

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DiscoveredJoys October 9, 2012 at 4:34 am

Your’e almost there…. Yes, leading a more optimistic life is about your perspective of events and the habits to support your new perspective. But there is also another subtle influence on your perspective – the nature of the people you know.

In ‘Connected’ by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler they make the point that negative people tend to connect with negative people (and their friends and friends’ friends) but positive people tend to connect with positive people (and their friends and friends’ friends) .

It is possible that the new positive you needs a new positive setting to display its best features – and that will help you maintain your new habits. Do you have to dump certain people? Only in the worst case. Normally you can reduce your exposure to the moaning minnies and build up your exposure to people with a positive outlook.

Positive, happy, birthday.

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Donna October 9, 2012 at 5:28 am

‘Eeyore: It’s my birthday, the happiest day of the year.
Pooh: Your birthday?
Eeyore: Of course. Can’t you see all the presents?
Pooh: Nnno.
Eeyore: Can’t you see the cake, the candles, the pink sugar?
Pooh: No.
Eeyore: Neither can I.
Pooh: Oh. Well, many happy returns of the day, Eeyore.
Eeyore: Thank you, Pooh. But we can’t all, and some of us don’t.
Pooh: Can’t all what?
Eeyore: No gaiety, no song and dance, no “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush”. But don’t worry about me, Pooh. Go and enjoy yourself. I’ll stay here and be miserable, with no presents, no cake, no candles.
Pooh: Eeyore, wait right here.’

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Have a hug from a big fan :)

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nrhatch October 9, 2012 at 6:46 am

Happy Birthday, David.

Once we start to apply a more optimistic approach to life, the challenge shifts from “seeing the good” to maintaining our positive perspective . . . even when faced with the daily challenges of life.

Best of luck knitting it all back together.

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Jamie Flexman October 9, 2012 at 7:18 am

Having recently entered my 30′s I know all to well how grumpiness feels, but it’s okay. I like to think of it as a new way of expressing myself. :-) The older I get the more optimistic I actually get too.

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yliharma October 9, 2012 at 8:11 am

Your problem is not about being pessimistic, it’s about being driven by fear and/or shame. I’m reading an astounding book about this (sorry, it’s written by an Italian psychologist and it’s not translated…) and beginning to understand how I keep doing the same things and attracting to me the same things because of this being “locked” in a cage of (for me) shame.
Anyway…happy birthday David! Keep writing, even if it’s not every week :)

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David October 9, 2012 at 8:06 pm

>Your problem is not about being pessimistic, it’s about being driven by fear and/or shame.

The example I used was related to fear-driven behavior surrounding my writing, but it was only one example of the difference I experienced. Optimism jives much better for me socially and creatively and makes for a better moment-to-moment emotional experience.

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Karen J October 16, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Hey, yliharma ~
That book sounds very interesting. When you write to the author or publisher suggesting/requesting an English translation to broaden it’s availability, you can count me in the folks who’d like to see it!

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Karen J October 16, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Oops – used the wrong “its” -

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Ivo October 9, 2012 at 8:12 am

“.. and I’m rich in all the things that matter” yes!!
happy birthday!

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meg October 9, 2012 at 9:14 am

Many happy returns of the day, David!

The optimism/pessimism phenomenon is one I have also had experience of recently, and it does indeed feel like a sea change in perspective. I’ve also experienced the unsettling shake-up when it seems to have disappeared on me–twice, in fact. But it passes, and life resumes a rosier cast. The more often it returns after a shakeup, the more likely I will form the habit of having faith in it. That, in turn, will reinforce the optimism.

What I think is happening is a drive toward a balanced perspective. Spirit tends toward optimism, intelligence tends toward pessimism (and I wish I could find the link to the research site that reported the results of assessing optimism and pessimism in people who describe themselves as being, by varying degrees, spiritual or non-spiritual, and by intellectual aptitude, but there was a remarkable difference between the two). Anyway, both elements are essential parts of the human psyche, and when both are allowed to be in play, we are more fully human.

The initial impact of the optimism is a bit like a high, and all on its own is fraught with problems as much as the pessimism, as you have discovered (and I did too). Give it time. What I see coming for you (and I hope for myself) is a simultaneous engagement/detachment in one’s relationship with the world: true compassion.

Many, many happy returns.

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David October 9, 2012 at 8:08 pm

>Spirit tends toward optimism, intelligence tends toward pessimism

I have no studies here, except my own experience, and it seems to be true.

I always appreciate your insights Meg. I love when you comment.

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Travis Keenan Tiffin October 9, 2012 at 9:34 am

The last line was so simple and yet one I forget all too often, it brought a tear to my eye. ‘Rich in all the things that matter.’ Indeed, so am I and am grateful for the reminder. Happy Birthday! :-)

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Juan October 9, 2012 at 11:43 am

Kinda belated, but “Happy Birthday, David!”.
I guess this is the process of growing up, not only in physical sense, but in mental state as well..
I used to be in such a mental state of mind as well.
As you go along life, things change, the way of thinking changes as well. It can become better or worse, but as long as you do not stay stagnant for too long, you will get over that hurdle eventually. I am not saying to stay put and become lazy. I mean, to use your time and energy wisely to think of your next steps before taking the next one.
I am still trying to get there, hope you succeed as you wish and move on!
Have a great life!

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steph in berkeley October 9, 2012 at 1:55 pm

I have to admit I was sort of waiting for a fall after your optimism post…not because I doubt it’s a great and realistic way to approach life, but because balance always comes knocking—but you nailed one of the greatest barriers to change…those other habits and parts of one’s life that aren’t in alignment must be addressed in order to sustain a major change. Thanks for noticing and pointing it out. That’s what you do best ;)

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Anthony October 10, 2012 at 6:23 am

Love the article David. It really resonates. My habit change is to try to live a continuous life and start restarting it. When I have been doing this for a while I tend to think that all my problems are over and I can relax. However, the fear caused by the knowledge that I am going to backslide sometime soon drives me to get more done each iteration. This sounds similar to your situation. I now realsise that my goal is to beat the restart habit and develop the surrounding habits that go with it.

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Nitya October 10, 2012 at 11:18 pm

Don’t stop writing , whatever you do, though you may slow down if it becomes all too much. ( you have my permission. Ha ha).
I’m not always motivated to respond, but I’m always extremely motivated to read what you have to say and how you say it.
Hope you enjoyed your birthday.

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skipsarge October 11, 2012 at 4:20 pm

I’m one of your many silent minions, printing out your posts for my sweetheart in the bathroom’s “library” basket, and leaving them on the reading shelf at work.

If you ever run for Buddha, I guess I’ll vote for you… mmm, untiil we meet on the road… ;-)

In my search for happiness, it seems at the moment that if happiness comes from within, there are 2 possibilities:
1.
Happiness is a an internal object, a state or condition that can be found and lost, like a mental/emotional lucky rabbit’s foot, or Peter Pan’s “happy thought.” The trick would be to change it, or yourself, from something such that it can come and go, to something that always stays. Is it possible to train hard and long enough to finally accumulate enough quantity or quality or intensity of “something” that you cross a tipping point into a permanent quantitiy or quality of happiness?
2.
Or, happiness in #1 above is valid in its lesser realm, but it’s not possible to freeze such a volatile flame into a permanent state. The alternative is that another, overlooked flavor and depth of happiness is something that already always is, just like the sun covered by clouds, or obscured by the earth’s rotation, or by the back of my closed eyelids. This would have to be what you ARE, not what what you continually and moment-to-moment are BEING or trying to be better (spouse, employee, road warrior, happy thought, sad thought, bored though), not what you experience as volatile external OR internal events. Being so overlooked, the trick would be to persist with gazing again and again through the clouds, the eyelids (okay, the metaphor falls apart with the rotating earth), until that overlooked, the what-you-are place you’re looking from, is experienced, unobscured. Like when you finally see the face and vase in the optical illusion you can never miss them again. If there is enduring happiness to be found, it must be from something like this, something that you don’t strain or reach for, but something you relax and sink back into the armchair into. That must be why those koans work, from exhaustion by paradox… you have to burn out all the “relaxation muscles”!

Anyway, that’s the theory I’m paradoxically pursuing now, because after 6 decades, the other ones don’t deliver.

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It Calls Me Onanon October 11, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Hmm… That sounds similar to the observation I tried communicating above. If I were to compare it to your example of trying to be an objectified thing like a “happy thought, sad thought”, it would have to be that I tend to ask what the validity of trying to project those subjective values into the world is in the first place. What does it offer? Why would one need what it offers when it’s just a by-product of the notion of a ‘self?’ and the self is just an illusion. It’s like calling ‘time’ a permanent state, when really it is just a series of consequences happening that create the illusion of time passing. For example, our bodies don’t wither away with ‘time’; it’s because of various biological processes taking place. There isn’t a logical reason to project those things that isn’t subjective and self sustaining.

“Like when you finally see the face and vase in the optical illusion you can never miss them again.”

Think of that as an objective perspective. You see the faces but understand that it is just an illusion you create. The understanding that isn’t obscured is the one that sees the illusion and understands their view on it but also the reality. You realize that it is trying to reconcile the faces at all that doesn’t have a reason other than because you want it to appear. What is the validity of doing that? Is it for you? What does it do? All I see it as doing is providing a crystallized way of looking at other things in the world as faces, when I could just be looking at the blotches and understanding that they are just blotches and that I don’t need the faces at all. I can just understand why I saw them in the first place (because I’m a human and identify faces through pattern recognition) and be content with the world around me. No need for happiness, sadness, anger, or any other subjective, internal motivation to change the world. I have realized the true nature of the self. The “overlooked, the what-you-are place you’re looking from.”

At that point you just crave knowledge. Knowledge about why we see the world the way we do. And change. I crave change. You realize that most things are man-made and are really just ways of manipulating the conditions around you and are really just aiding in your stagnation of the self instead of your growth and acceptance of the way things are.

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Julie October 13, 2012 at 10:29 am

yes…appreciation and acceptance, that’s what it seems to be coming down to…for me anyhow. thank you for the well written article.

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Jan October 15, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Happy b-day David! Been reading your stuff for a month. I think it is awesome because I can relate in so many ways.

As for this article I would also like to think, and do believe, it is a perspective issue. However we should keep an open mind that it could also come down to being a chemical issue.

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Scarlett October 16, 2012 at 12:33 pm

I guess there is hope for some. I’ll just be happy to make it through today or any day for that matter. Happy belated one, anyway.

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Karen J October 16, 2012 at 1:29 pm

“If you’ve been doing the same thing for years, even if it doesn’t work that well, at least it works poorly in a predictable way.”
Ding!Ding!Ding!

Beautifully useful post, as usual, David.

Hope your birthday-week has been excellent in many many ways!

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Kristine October 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm

It’s my birthday in 3 days. Thank you for this. Seriously :)

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David October 21, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Happy early birthday!

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Raven October 30, 2012 at 1:53 am

You ever wonder if there’s something boring about easy and beautiful?

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Todd Waldorf November 14, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Over a year ago I quit my job at . I wasn’t rich or anything, but the bills were paid and I had enough money to play with. I was ridiculously unhappy and then I quit and moved to Australia a year. For months I found myself feeling optimistic. I mean, really like I had taken life by the horns. “I am in control of my own destiny.” It felt liberating, but why didn’t it stick?

It’s like my attitude needs maintenance. Regularly I feel the necessity to remind myself of the reasons that I have to be happy; the same old chatter – health, friends, travel, courage. It’s difficult though. Doubt creeps in. I don’t have the security of the job. I don’t know what I will do tomorrow. Right now I am in New Zealand house-sitting. It’s beautiful here. I enjoy it. I have many reasons to be happy, but there is still a pang of uncertainty that creeps in and it injects the pessimistic doubt of my choices.

One thing that has helped me is continuously saying out loud what I am thankful. Even the simple stuff. Just hearing myself express that gratitude has a positive impact. Telling myself that I am thankful, and hearing those words, actually makes me feel that way.

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Kate Bowditch December 8, 2012 at 8:57 pm

David…new to you and would like to use this article on my blog en toto…my blog is “Turning Towards Happiness”. I like your insights, and it’s great to hear someone who doesn’t just “intend” happiness, or optimism, but you see it sort of as a choice that needs to be tended. I’m a hypnotherapist who specializes in trauma, crisis and depression so your words are a call to others who read my stuff to read your stuff, too—that it’s not just this lady who feels that happiness is a creative exercise. Kate

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Zaire June 10, 2013 at 10:51 am

Hi David!
I was just doing a fair bit of blogging myself discussing about how the past one and a half months had been for me after I took on a different perspective. Then I got bored and decided to browse through archives. It was sheer coincidence that brought me to this article and how apt an article it is! I was thinking about how much longer can I keep this up. Will this optimism dissipate especially since I’m about to embark on a stressful new task ahead. There’s still many things I couldn’t figure how to deal with now that I lack a sense of fear (e.g. fear of being late forcing me to be punctual) and with new challenges ahead, I am mildly concerned about how I can continue fulfilling my promise to myself to be a more positive and in the present person. Then I saw this and I feel more encouraged. Back in the present now and happy again :D

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