“A man is as unhappy as he has convinced himself he is.” ~Seneca
There are 2 complementary ways to learn how to do anything, whether it’s driving, playing a sport, a musical instrument, starting a business or becoming happy. One way is to learn what to do and how to do it. The other is to learn what not to do and how to avoid doing it.
We can learn how to drive a car, for instance, by learning how to adjust speed and steering to external conditions, how to successfully negotiate a three-point turn, and how to parallel park and end up within walking distance from the curb (what to do).
But we also benefit by being told not to enter off ramps, to resist the urge to cut morons off and to stop putting our blinker on a full 10 seconds after we’ve already hit the brakes to make a sudden right-hand turn into a parking lot (what not to do).
We can likewise learn how to be happy (what to do) and what misconceptions about happiness still percolate to the surface of the culture (what to avoid doing). This post is meant to identify the potholes and detours and debris along the path to a happier life.
So drive carefully …
10 Easy Steps to a Rotten, Miserable Life
Step #1: Focus on the Negative
Pay more attention to the mosquitoes than the forest. Pay more attention to the sand in your pants than the beauty of the beach. Pay more attention to the toys on the floor than that you have a house with a floor. Pay more attention to others’ weaknesses than strengths. Pay more attention to what you don’t have than what you do.
Note that every rainbow is PR for the bad weather that preceded it, every smile hides a secret and every good deed has an ulterior motive.
And while you’re at it, pay attention to the fleeting moments of happiness because they won’t be much more than that.
Step #2: Waste Time
Watch lots of TV. Don’t learn anything new. If something educational comes on, turn the channel fast to prevent accidental learning. Be passive. Don’t try. Follow the course of least resistance.
Play lots of video games and spend hours and hours on Facebook checking out what friends are eating and wearing and what time they’re going to bed. The point is to stagnate.
Step #3: Lose Control
Get angry easily and bent out of shape at the drop of a hat. It’s your life, after all, so do what you want to do and say what you want to say to whomever you want to do and say it. No one can stop you! Let it all hang out.
Don’t worry about manners or restraint or others’ feelings. Self-control and willpower are passé, after all.
So blurt out whatever is on your mind. Say it with heated passion—no matter the impact it may have on others. Don’t consider how it may hurt or offend.
It’s you’re right to say whatever you want when you want because you want in whatever language, volume and tone you’re in the mood to say it! Don’t worry, I’ve heard happiness is overrated anyway!
Step #4: Jump to Conclusions
Know you are right with absolute certitude. Defend your position loudly. And if a good point seems to undermine it, go on the attack with a vicious personal assault on their character and motive.
Don’t let silly little things like facts or evidence get in the way of forming a solid impenetrable opinion on everyone and everything.
Butt in and chew out and dominate and bully your way to the top. It’s your birthright to get what you want for no other reason than that you want it. I just hope you also truly want the unhappiness that follows quite naturally here.
Step #5: Look in the Mirror with Contempt
See the warts and wrinkles and ignore or discount the miracle of your life. Second guess your motives (and assume the worst in others while you’re at it). Trust no one—yourself least of all.
See the mud and muck in your life, even if it means looking past the good you’ve done and your praiseworthy qualities.
Hold absolute perfection as the only acceptable standard by which you harshly judge yourself and believe that anything short of that standard is proof of incompetence, worthlessness and deserving of your contempt.
No matter that you would never hold anyone else to that standard … anywhere … ever.
Step #6: Hold a Grudge
When someone offends you, think about the offense all the time. Talk to others about it. Complain about it. Ruminate in it. Obsess over it.
Never forgive and never forget. Get even. Never give them a chance to hurt you again, even if at the cost of your own peace and happiness.
Step #7: Sulk
Pity yourself. Why talk when you can whine? Take life personally. Drag yourself around, keeping your eyes cast down, your thoughts low, your mood wet and cold and tepid, your breath shallow, your mouth pulled into a long foreboding frown.
Don’t go anywhere. Don’t do anything. Stay out of the sunlight. Draw the curtains. Shut the blinds. Lock the doors. Throw away the key.
And accept the fate that will mark you for the rest of your miserable life as a badge of dishonor.
Step #8: Have Shoddy Character
Lie, cheat and steal. Be grumpy and angry and selfish and proud. Take advantage. Be a bully. Push people around. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do, no way, no how! Don’t learn from mistakes or grow from experience or overcome obstacles.
Don’t bend. Stand rigid, immovably obstinate in the face of what’s right. Ignore values, compromise character and throw virtue out the nearest second-story window.
In the process, get rid of self-respect as well because you won’t have much of it left after that.
Step #9: Be Irresponsible
Take responsibility for nothing and no one, including, perhaps most of all, yourself! Blame the government, your parents, the weather, the culture, the economy, your birth order, inferior genes, God, atheists, the runaway Courts, the useless President, that no-good Congress, ants, termites, fleas and flies.
Character counts … for nothing! Doing good to others is the playground for chumps. Accept nothing from no one while blaming everyone else for your lot in life.
Step #10: Live in the Past
Free yourself from the tyranny of the moment. Live sometime else. Never now, experiencing the moment as it unfolds.
Instead, project yourself into the murky future or the foggy past and worry and wish and regret your life away.
Fill your heart with regret over what might have been. Hold onto the past. Never forget. Live in your history. Condemn yourself to the pages of what was, while fearing what might be while avoiding what is.
For extra points, fill your heart with anxiety for all the possible (even if improbable) mishaps, failures and betrayals of the future. Live in your anxiety by never visiting the present.
Bonus Step #11: Isolate Yourself
Shun friends. Make no time to socialize. People are jerks anyway and will likely stab you in the back when you least suspect it.
So stay away. Be rude and offensive just to make sure no one ever, in a weak moment, invites you out for lunch.
Social networks and support groups and BFFs are for losers and co-dependents and crutch-dependent lamos.
So lose your friends and celebrate your loneliness alone. Serve no one. Like no one. And barricade yourself in your own misery.
Last Words on the Matter:
Happiness is the byproduct of how you live, what and how you think, your attitude and beliefs and what you do with your life. But so often, even for those of us who have a pretty clear picture of the parameters of happiness, we still end up driving off the cliff from time to time.
This post, then, was all about presenting the map of where happiness is not so as to provide the reader with an accurate (and hopefully entertaining) anti-map, a map that shows everywhere we shouldn’t be and shouldn’t go.
If you ever find yourself lost somewhere on the anti-map (and you inevitably will), take note. Then take action to change the obstacle into an asset that builds happiness rather than undermines it.
In avoiding the potholes of happiness, we can better avoid the jarring misalignment that occurs when driving under the influence of ignorance.