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Cheat Day? Why not a cheat life?

Cheat Day? Why not a cheat life?

As you can probably guess, I'm not a fan of the concept of "cheat" days, meals, etc. 

Seems reasonably logical on paper; a release of sorts after a period of intense discipline with diet or some other aspect of life. What I dislike is the psychological impact.

I see the same thing with people in how they drudge through the week waiting to be happy on Friday, or when we zoom out, drudge through weeks and months at a time waiting for a vacation or some other excuse to be happy down the road.

It's fun to let loose on a pizza or whatever after a week of chicken breast/brown rice/broccoli, but here's a wild idea- if you like pizza so much, why not pizza every day? 

I'm using pizza as an example, but whatever your "pizza" is, I'm suggesting that it's possible for you to find a way to make these things a part of your everyday life. 

Maybe it's wine. Maybe it's cigarettes. Maybe it's chocolate, or vacation, or going to the club every night. What I'm telling you, is that if you work hard in other areas, mould your life around them, there is absolutely a path for you to make these things a part of your daily life if they mean that much to you.

"Live every day like it was your last". 

How many times do you need to read these words of the sick and dying before they sink in? For most of us, we don't know when it's coming either. We don't know if this is the last healthy day we have. Do you want to spend that day eating like a rabbit or denying yourself the things you enjoy? 

I have no doubt that a major factor in the frightening rise in suicides and opiate abuse in the developed world is directly linked to the way in which we place a premium on a long life over an enjoyable life. We're addicted to extending the average lifespan with zero consideration for enjoyment of lifespan. 

And the sad irony- we have far less control over how long we live than we've been led to believe. Something like 2/3 of cancers are considered "non preventable". We have a poor understanding of the root cause of hundreds of diseases. And even in the ultra "safe" confines of the developed world, accidents or other violent ends could strike at anytime. But telling you this is not in the interest of corporations that want to sell you stuff, media that wants you to read their articles, or government health agencies that want you to listen to them.

There are no "cheat" days. This is your fucking life- get busy living it. By being greedy and trying to make your life longer, you're making it worse. 

Now how do you "cheat" every day? It takes some creativity, and takes a lot of adjusting and experimenting with yourself- or a really good life coach :)

But seriously, here's a couple ideas:

-Intermittent fasting can be a simple way for many to enjoy the foods they love every day. I eat during an eight hour window, and as long as my first two meals are clean, I can pretty much eat whatever I want for the last two. 

-Stop taking "vacations" immediately. "Travel" is different and for most is one of the greatest joys of life; I'm talking about constant jaunts to Vegas, Mexico, etc. Sink every dollar from that budget and spend it on things that enhance your everyday life at home. IMO, the money is much better spent on services like therapists, personal trainers, things like better quality food, starting your own business or on education so you can get a better job. You don't need a break, you need to feel better so you don't need a break. 

-Try and avoid the 9-5 lifestyle. It's impossible for some, but if you can, get out. It's simply very difficult to not get drawn into this endless pattern of enjoying 2 days of the week and hating the other 5. It sounds alien to many, but try and find a way where you can work a little bit every day. I try to think of it as a "Friday" lifestyle, like where in a lot of jobs you work on Friday, but only for 5-6 low pressure hours. Try and find a way to be your own boss.

-Being an absolute freak in the gym can buy you a lot of wiggle room with things like drinking or smoking. You're probably better off without these things, but if you're going to do them anyways, make sure you're working your ass off so that you can enjoy these things with a little less guilt. Denying yourself these things all week and then exploding on the weekend is probably worse for you anyways.

Whenever I think about this stuff I recall a quote from HBO's "The Wire"-

‘A life. A life, Jimmy, you know what that is? It’s the shit that happens while you’re waiting for moments that never come.’

Stop living your life waiting for an excuse to be happy. Monday is just as valuable as Saturday. If you constantly need a vacation from your daily life, something has gone seriously wrong. For various reasons, we've become convinced that happiness is a few days or a plane ride away, when it should be with us every day, every minute.

It looks different for everyone, but you owe it to yourself to relentlessly pursue calm, balanced enjoyment in your everyday life. The only thing you're cheating with a cheat day, is the other 6 days of the week.

Why you think the world is against you, and why it might be true

Why you think the world is against you, and why it might be true

I used to have some version of this running through my head. It's not an uncommon thought or idea amongst the depressed and angry to feel like there's some sort of cosmic force opposing you at every turn. Nothing seems to go your way, whether it's knocking over a glass, not getting the promotion you wanted or getting rejected by someone.

Obviously, even the most self centered or depressed would probably concede that the universe itself is not somehow against you or actively trying sabotage your happiness. But I certainly needed to constantly remind myself of this early in my recovery from depression.

In regards to getting rejected, after a rough patch in the dating scene a few years ago I can recall telling a therapist that I was actually convinced that there was what seemed like an unseen "smell" coming off me. Even with quite modest expectations, I was getting shot down with alarming frequency. The therapist rightly assured me that there was no "smell" coming off me, I was a nice, normal guy and to take it easy on myself. 

And she was right, in a sense. But I eventually realized that I did have a smell coming off me, but more inside me than out- the subtle, yet toxic stink of a person with a bad attitude. 

Despite years of self improvement, I still, fundamentally, had a bad attitude about life. I still looked at the worst in people and myself instead of the best. I thought all the time about what I didn't have instead of recognizing all the joy, wealth and opportunity that was already in my life. When you're in that frame of mind, you only see the bad. I could list a thousand different flips of perspective I've made over the years.

Our existence is largely open to interpretation. Both with ourselves and how we choose to see the world and when your attitude sucks, it's easy to write a negative narrative. This narrative about yourself and how your life sucks and the universe is against you helps to justify you not making the difficult changes you need to make (can't win, don't try). Perhaps even more damaging, it blinds you to practically solving problems.

So when you have a bad attitude, in a sense, the world is against you. 

You think you're knocking over stuff or getting rejected because you're cursed or "destined to be unhappy". Maybe you just need better pictures for your dating profile, or you shouldn't leave glasses too close to the edge of the counter. Hard to see this stuff when you're suspicious God himself might be working against you.

It is simplistic, and there are many paths to get there, but flipping your attitude from negative to positive is the most valuable thing we can do. It will allow you to overcome and thrive in ANY situation. You'll be bulletproof against the inevitable loss, pain and confusion we face in life. If you don't believe me, check out some of the writing of holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl.

You have more of a choice in this than you think. Even if you're in the grips of depression, give it a shot- try and look at your depression as an opportunity. If you get out of it like I did, you'll be able to appreciate just enjoying everyday life on a level that "normal" people NEVER could. And if you're successful, killing it at life, ask yourself why you're not willing to simply take a positive perspective on everything coming your way. If you're not, there's some deeper issues you need to look at.

Get this figured out, and all you'll see is beauty and opportunity in the world. You'll only see the people or employers that want you, not the ones that don't. Just as  importantly, you'll have a clear and rational idea of why they don't.

And you won't be wasting your time whining about what's gone wrong when for most us, when you think about it, almost everything goes right.


P.S. Check out Navy SEAL and podcaster Jocko Willink talking about his approach to difficult situations and attitude in general-





You might suck at life- and that's okay!

You might suck at life- and that's okay!

Ever wonder what makes a great athlete? It varies from sport to sport and although most would point to say, height, given the example of an NBA player, it's actually a combination of almost limitless genetic and environmental factors that determine success.

If it were simply things like height or fast twitch muscle fibers at play, we'd be able to easily predict who would be successful; ask any professional scout and they'll tell you how far from the truth it is. Being 6'10 is a good indicator, but we cannot see the myriad underlying factors that determine quality of performance or success under the bright lights of the NBA. 

Data analysis, AI, and other tools will likely one day bring us to a place where we can have virtual predictive powers in terms of who will make it, and who won't. The accuracy of scouting increases every year, as does the range of data available and the ability to analyze it. The Lebron James' of the world may start to be discovered in preschool, not high school.

So try and consider that life is, essentially, a game. The biggest one of all. How do you know, that in the analogy of pro basketball, you're not the equivalent of a person who is 5'5 AND lacks the subtle (and poorly understood) genetic and environmental gifts that can take someone to the NBA?

You may have been born into a combination of genes and environment that are poorly suited to the world we're living in. You may have been dealt the worst possible hand in poker while your peers got a straight flush. And I'm not talking about obvious things like being born with a disease or having abusive parents. I'm talking about the subtle, underlying, and again, poorly understood factors that make a person "successful" or not. It's a mystery combination we have yet to unlock.

So where am I going with all this?

I am desperately, frantically, begging people of all walks of life and levels of status to wake up- you are not Lebron James, and you're NEVER going to be. Despite all the years of shit put into your head by parents, media and marketing.

I am desperate because I see and talk every day with people being absolutely CRUSHED by the pressure to "succeed". To be "the best". Who have no "limiting beliefs" or "believe in their limitless potential". I am desperate because of rising suicide rates and an epidemic of prescription drug abuse. Pressure to succeed is killing people. It is a deadly game of musical chairs in which there is guaranteed to be far more losers than winners. 

I am begging you to let go of outcome. I am begging you to recognize that you may be 5'5 and trying to make the NBA of success in life and seeing that as your only path to happiness and meaning. The only true path to happiness is to achieve it WITHOUT success. Look inside yourself for meaning, not outside.

But many of those who have reached the top often want to give more credit to hard work than is due. Few are willing to recognize that they simply may be "better" at life or are basically genetic trust fund babies. Period. Regardless of what environment they may have overcome; I know what you're thinking- "what about person X who has done more with less than me!?". I am trying to make the point that we cannot yet see all the factors that influence outcome. Again, with the basketball analogy, you may be 5'5 comparing yourself to someone who is 6'10. We just can't see it yet.

Long story short- no matter where you are in life, stop beating yourself up. Seek happiness in other ways.

With one MAJOR caveat. You have to do your best. You have to absolutely max out your potential. You might never be Lebron James, but with every ounce of power you have, maybe you can ride the bench or have a successful college career, and have the time of your life doing so. It's not a lack of success that should concern you, only a lack of effort. Whatever you want out of life, give it your all. Don't forget that the pursuit of happiness is just as noble as the pursuit of success. Look yourself in the mirror every day and ask yourself if you're squeezing everything out of life you can. Let go of outcome and have fun.

For me of the final stages of lifelong depression lifting was letting go of the idea that I needed to achieve some sort of "success" to be happy. It is an endless mountain range in which you will simply climb one, assured happiness awaits at the top, only to find nothing and assume it rests on the next highest peak.

I recognized that certain genetic and environmental factors all but assured I would never be some sort of captain of industry or a famous intellectual. I realized that all I had to do to be happy was to be myself, and try to get the most out of a short life, every day. The outcome doesn't matter. And funny enough, once you're happy and at peace, the success your ego so craves ends up finding you anyways. 

Years ago, I used to walk by a group of guys playing basketball at the park all the time, and all I ever noticed was how terrible they were. It seemed you could watch them for five minutes and not see a single basket. Looking back, thinking of them running around laughing at each other, all I remember is how happy they looked.