25 Things I Wish I Knew in High School

I don’t have any regrets in life. I would not go back in time and change anything for fear that it would alter my current reality. I like to think that I drive through life looking mostly out the windshield rather than just using the rear-view mirrors. That said, there are some things I have learned in my life that I wish I had known in high school. Having known these things, I believe, would not have necessarily changed my path through life, but rather allowed me to deal with circumstances with more calm and poise than I have in the past. So here we go… 25 Things I Wish I Knew in High School.

1. You become what you think about most of the time. So monitor your thoughts.
2. The only thing you can control is yourself and your choices, not others.
3. Your friends may not necessarily share you values, so be willing to make new ones.
4. Know that you are not thinking clearly unless your thoughts will lead to a positive outcome for you and you loved ones.
5. Building disciplines now will lead to a life of freedom.
6. The pain of a breakup will not last forever, although you think it will.
7. You family wants you to do well, but may not understand what drives you. Show them by communicating clearly what you are doing and why.
8. Don’t think local. Think global.
9. Be careful whom you take advice from.
10. Seek out mentors rather than jobs.
11. Training your body now will help you for the rest of your life.
12. Alcohol, weed and cigarettes can destroy self-discipline, so be mindful of these substances.
13. Start to build multiple flows of income.
14. Do not go out and “get a job.” Instead, learn how to live and get financial independence.
15. Start developing a philosophy for how to live now! Hard times will come. You will need a philosophy of how to deal with them.
16. Everyone has value. Don’t disregard or underestimate someone. They may become your friend or you may do business with them years later.
17. The highest ideal is individual liberty. Don’t forget that, but don’t waste time lecturing others about it.
18. Never say, “I can’t afford that.” Instead, “How can I afford that?”
19. Be humble but confident. Don’t let your ego control you.
20. Believe you can do anything you set your mind to do, and never, ever let anyone tell you can’t.
21. There is nothing you can’t do if you take enough actions and educate yourself on the right strategy.
22. Don’t operate from a place of scarcity. Your biography is not your destiny.
23. If you want something, give it away first. If you want friends, be friendly. If you want love, give love. If you want recognition, give it first. If you want happiness, be grateful.
24. Sometimes the girl sitting next to you in math class will become the love of your life, your soul mate, your queen. So treat her better all the time.
25. The best revenge is massive success. The best revenge is to “not be like them.”

There you go. These are 25 things I wish I would have known in high school that I know now. Had I know these things would my life be different today? It’s impossible to tell. I will say this: while I can’t go back in time and teach my younger self these lessons, I’m eternally grateful that I have discovered them now. I guess the one thing time affects for all of us is perspective, if you allow it to. Time has given me incredible perspective and I don’t take that lightly. I’m curious, what would you teach your younger self?

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Superhero Abilities

As an employer, investor, husband and father I’ve had enough experience in life and business to recognize there are certain traits that people possess which pretty much ensures success in whatever they do. Admittedly, there are other desirable traits and certainly most people do not possess every single trait I’m about to list. However, in my dealings with other business owners, athletes, investors, employees, coaches, you name it—just about every successful person has some of the following traits that allow them to achieve their desires. I’m going to refer to this list as Superhero Abilities. Please keep in mind that these abilities are in reach of everyone, not just the heroes of the screen and comics. So let’s begin…

Courage–I believe that courage is the most important trait that anyone can possess. Without courage, no other trait or ability matters. One must have the courage to begin a journey before he or she can employ any other abilities. Fear is what stops most people from achievements and fulfillment. Courage is what allows us to overcome fear and move forward despite the fear. I have found that courage can be developed through repeated action, and your successes will add to your courage. If you find yourself anxious or afraid, keep moving forward and focus on your achievements, not your failures. Courage is something we all possess, like muscles. Maybe it’s time to exercise it.

Faith—The capacity for faith, to see what is not there yet but what could be, is something that most children have. Yet, it seems to be beaten out of us as we get older. I think creativity is really just a form of faith. The creative person imagines what could be, and perhaps what should be instead of the status quo. This is really just another way of saying we believe in something that doesn’t exist yet or we just can’t see. That’s what faith truly is. We are all born with faith, but the best place to start building faith is in ourselves. We must believe in our own abilities, even though we may not see them yet.

Problem Solving Abilities—Life is a series of events which we interpret through our lens, or “blueprint” of how life should be. We all have expectations of how life should be and when life doesn’t equal those expectations, we get pain. When life goes the way we think it should, we get pleasure or happiness. What most of us realize very early in life, however, is life is filled with obstacles, incidents, and environments that we must figure out a solution for because what is happening in our lives is not something we necessarily like. Therefore, people in all occupations should become incredible problem solvers. The ability to solve problems not only brings personal fulfillment, it is also one of the most desirable traits that employers and partners look for in business. If you want to be highly sought after, become a great problem solver.

Reason—The ancient Greeks spoke of reason as the one tool that humans have over other animals. What is reason? As humans, we have the ability to examine our own thoughts, emotions and actions and decide whether what we are thinking, feeling or doing is serving us in our lives. While we cannot control what thoughts creep into our mind, we should all develop our ability to use reason as to how we will act in response to these thoughts. The ability to reason is what gives us power over ourselves. Humans are not subject to animal instinct if we use reason.

Negotiation—Much of our experience in life comes down to how we interact and engage with other people. I think that life is a fine balance of delivering value to others so that you can get what you want as well. Therefore, all of our interactions with others is a negotiation of sorts. We are always negotiating how we will spend our time, where we will go, what we want in return for our labor or investment. We are even in negotiation when we are trying to decide what to talk about with others. Indeed, the ability to negotiate is a very powerful ability. I strongly suggest you exercise your ability to negotiate. I think you will find it will serve you well.

Persistence—The ability to keep going, to get up after falling down, to keep on keeping on is an ability that cannot be overstated when talking about a successful life. As I have already pointed out, life will no doubt deal you a series of problems. Until you figure out how to solve them, the ability to persist is what will drive you forward toward your goals. It has been said that Thomas Edison tried and failed over 10,000 times before he succeeded in creating the electric light bulb. Without his persistence, and the persistence of other great people throughout history, where would we be today? Without persistence, where will you be?

Compassion—Seeing life from another human’s perspective is a vital skill to have in life. I believe we owe to it each other as humans to develop compassion for the human condition. This condition is one of nature, and nature is not always kind to living beings, just as living beings are not always kind to one another. Kindness and cooperation is how our species thrives. Without compassion for others, true cooperation is not possible. This is especially true in relationships. Develop a capacity for compassion and watch your life transform as you begin to focus on how to deliver value and kindness to others. If you can do this, I promise the rewards will come back to you in orders of magnitude.

Curiosity—In order to unlock the secrets of the universe we must be curious. Great inventors, scientists, and philosophers all have one thing in common—curiosity. They are all curious to find out “why”? Why does something work the way it does? Why does someone act the way they do? Those who ask “why” have begun the process of discovery. I think the “meaning of life” itself is to discover what we are capable of, what the universe is comprised of, how we can help others, how we can overcome obstacles. All of these discoveries start with curiosity. All learning comes from curiosity.

Hunger–What separates the truly great from the average? It can be summed up in one word: hunger. Those who truly excel in anything have one trait that others do not, the hunger to do better and become better. It’s really that simple. Hunger demands that we keep looking to find food. But the truly great don’t stop when they find the food. They stay hungry. They don’t settle. The never stop trying to become better. Hunger keeps the lion moving and taking action. Humans are not much different in this regard.

Discipline—This ability must be learned and developed if any of the other abilities mentioned are going to be utilized. The lack of self-discipline is the leading cause of failure in any endeavor. As the great philosopher Epictetus stated, “No man is free who is not master of himself.” Indeed you must become the master of yourself, your body and mind if you are going to be truly free. Therefore, discipline = freedom. By becoming the master of ourselves, we allow ourselves to develop these Superhero abilities.

Do you possess any of the above abilities? You may just be a superhero and not know it yet. Are there a few that you must have not discovered inside yourself yet? With a little patience, discipline and training, you can develop these abilities that will allow you to thrive. There’s only one thing left… what will your Superhero name be?

In health,

Sean

Things I Have Done Right In My Life

Like most, I’ve spent a great deal of time and energy focusing on all the things that I’ve messed up in my life. I’ve made incredible mistakes and I’ve made them often. Some believe that failure, specifically failing fast, is the key to greatness. I don’t think that’s always true. Sometimes we don’t know why we fail exactly. We may think it’s one thing and it could be that actually we did multiple things wrong. Therefore, learning from failures is possible, if you know the exact reason why you failed and don’t repeat the mistake. However, I would urge warning about focusing on or celebrating failures. Focusing on what you’ve done wrong can take you into a very dark place and keep you there for a long time, maybe permanently.

So, while it’s possible to learn from failure, I think it’s far more beneficial to take a look at what you’ve done right in your life. Making a list of your victories allows you to see if there are any patterns you can recognize and repeat. It’s also good to remember all that you are capable of and have achieved. Therefore, while I admittedly have been somewhat down after reflecting on all my failures and mistakes, I decided to write out a list of what I have done right. Your list will be very different, but for the purpose of transparency for this exercise, here is what I came up with:

• I married the right woman
• I dedicated myself to her
• I’m obsessed with seeing her grow as a person
• I had children with her
• I’m dedicated to raising a family
• I’ve taken big risks that have paid off
• I’ve read at least two books a month for the last 10 years
• I’ve met new people and treated them well so that my network has grown
• I’ve traveled more than most
• I’ve studied philosophy
• I’ve studied biomechanics and biology and used them to build a business
• I’ve written regularly to keep my communication skills sharp
• I’ve stayed fit most of my life
• I’ve stuck with things even when they were hard
• I’ve quit certain things when I realized they didn’t work for my life
• I’ve kept my mind open to new ideas
• I’ve resolved disagreements quickly
• I’ve reasoned with myself to change my state when needed
• I’ve had confidence that I could make things work
• I’ve enjoyed money, but saved it as well
• I’ve thought of others’ perspectives in business
• I’ve created things that others value
• I’ve kept informed about events that affect me
• I’ve been able to calm my mind when needed
• I’ve been able to produce the energy to get things done
• I’ve been obsessed with learning
• I’ve been a person of character
• I’ve given to others and charity
• I’ve given my wife resources she needs to grow
• I’ve valued her freedom
• I went to college and graduated without debt
• I kept my eye on work while attending college
• I’ve seen the big picture without ignoring details
• I’ve had incredible fun
• I’ve invested money for the future
• I’ve not let myself get too comfortable in life
• I’ve focused on the good more than the bad
• I’ve focused on what I can give rather than what I’m getting
• I’ve cared about others and their needs without forgetting my own
• I didn’t give up when diagnosed with a vicious disease
• I’ve focused on building up my strength

What have you done right? I suggest you make a list of your victories. They will give you fuel and strength to power through the year. Take a few minutes and focus on how awesome you are!

In health,

Sean

20 Things You Must Try

Trying and experiencing new things is really what makes life incredible. While we all need some level of certainty in life, it’s the variety that truly makes it worth living. Here is a list of 20 things that I believe everyone should experience in their lifetime.

1. Do some sort of physical challenge–Marathon, obstacle course, Iron Man, fitness competition, bodybuilding or physique show. Test yourself at least once in your life. Who knows? You may fall in love with it. You will surely appreciate your body and what it is capable of.
2. Learn to shoot a gun, bow, or crossbow. Marksmanship is a very useful skill and may come in handy one day. Target shooting is even an Olympic sport. It’s much more difficult than it looks and it may put you outside your comfort zone and force you to grow as a person.
3. Visit a foreign country where your native language is not widely spoken. Learning how to communicate with others from a completely different culture is a very fun and exhilarating experience. It will surely make you grow as a person and expand your understanding and compassion for others.
4. Learn to drive a car. This may seem obvious, but the most recent generation has the least percentage of licensed drivers than the previous ones. With Uber, Lyft and even self-driving cars all around now, don’t let yourself lose out on one of the most important rites of passage an adult can have.
5. Meditate every day for a month. Great leaders, historical contemplatives, and many successful business people all have one thing in common–they have some sort of reflection ritual in which they allow themselves to detach from their thoughts and analyze what they’ve done and where they are going. Call it prayer, reflection, meditation–all of them are practices that force one to calm the mind. Numerous studies show the health benefits from meditation.
6. Practice a martial art. Not only is it physically demanding, marital arts can be an incredible practice for self-confidence, strategy and resilience. Knowing how to defend yourself and others is also very useful.
7. Fall in love. You may have yet to truly fall in love with another. I suggest you allow yourself to experience what it feels like to put another’s needs, desires and hopes before your own. Falling in love is the greatest feeling in the world and though a relationship may not work out, the capacity to love is a huge part of what makes us human.
8. Join a social club or gym. Get out of your house and go to a place where like-minded people are doing what you are doing. You will meet new people, make new friends and though cooperation you may even achieve great things… together.
9. Stay a night in a very fancy and expensive hotel. If you have never done this, you will be amazed at the level of attention to every possible detail associated with your experience. From the architecture to the customer service to the bar to the bathroom–everything is focused on you. Sometimes, that’s exactly what you need in life. Plus, you may meet exactly the right person you need in your life at that moment. You never know in a nice hotel.
10. Get into a debate. How do you know what you believe is true or if it’s serving you well in life? You will only find out by having to defend those beliefs logically against someone else doing the same. A healthy debate will sharpen your mind and increase your ability to communicate well with others.
11. Take something that changes your mental state. It can be as simple as a glass of wine, a pre-workout drink or an herb…but… WARNING: don’t do something stupid or get addicted to something unhealthy or illegal. However, I believe it is very important to understand that there are different states of consciousness and how you act while experiencing them. Likewise it’s important to educate yourself on substances that alter your mental state and their effects on your body. More information is always better than ignorance. BE SMART!
12. Perform for others on stage. I love the stage. I love delivering entertainment to others. This thought may scare you to death. Good. Get out of your comfort zone and experience what it’s like to perform on stage. You may love it. You may hate it. But hey, at least you did it.
13. Hold a newborn baby. If you want an experience that takes your breath away and allows you to examine the beauty and fragility, hold a newborn baby and look into their eyes. It may be the most beautiful experience in your lifetime.
14. Go to an art gallery. Experience the stories told by humans through their expression of making art. There is so much history, so much beauty, so much emotion. A good art gallery is an incredible adventure. Don’t miss out on it.
15. Learn a choreographed dance. This is really just another way of making art, but the challenge of learning a dance is not only physical and mental, it can also be very emotional. It will give you a healthy respect for professional dancers and performers. Plus, it might be incredibly fun.
16. Write a book, journal or blog. The written word is very powerful. It can be used to pass along stories, entertain and teach others, make something official. It is how many people best express their thoughts. Organizing your thoughts and writing them down makes the invisible visible, and that is something truly amazing.
17. Start a side business or invest in a company. “Wages will make you a living. Profits will make you a fortune.” – Jim Rohn. Experiencing what it’s like to put your capital to use in the marketplace to deliver value to customers in the hope of returning a profit is probably the most stress-filled, anxiety-ridden experience you will ever face. There are so many variables. So many unknowns. So much riding on the line. I’ve heard that its like staring into a dark void and jumping in. But like Space Mountain in Disneyland, it’s the most exciting ride because it’s fast and you can’t see what’s coming. That’s the marketplace, and it’s responsible for nearly everything we have in our lives from food to technology.
18. Give to charity. This is something that I feel has been somewhat overlooked in our society. Charity used to play a big part in communities, but now many look to the State to deliver services to the poor and disabled. They figure they are already being taxed for these services. While that may be true, I would argue there is nothing in life more satisfying that contributing beyond one’s self. Charity is an expression of your capacity to love others. It’s a vital part of our humanity.
19. Handwrite a personal letter and mail it to someone. The handwritten letter, even the physical mail, may seem out of style today, but I can assure you, there is something very, very special in receiving a handwritten letter from another. Try it. Though, if you haven’t physically written in a while, maybe work on your penmanship beforehand.
20. Get a philosophy for your life. I believe how your life turns out has more to do with your personal philosophy than what happens externally to you. You may not be able to control external events, but having a strong personal philosophy will allow you to control what those things mean to you. Philosophy can help you understand yourself, others, history and the world around you. It can be used as a set of rules for how to live and how to go after and get what you want in life. Think of philosophy as the set of the sail and you are the boat. Want to go further? You have to set a better sail, or refine your philosophy. Personally, I’ve been heavily influenced by the Stoics, Christian, Libertarians, Classic Liberalism, Austrian Economics, Humanism. I would say that from these schools of philosophy, I have developed my own philosophy, my own set of guidelines, rules and lenses for looking at the world and interpreting meaning. I can’t overstate the importance of having a strong philosophy in life. I will however offer a warning: test how useful your philosophy is by reflecting daily on your actions and thoughts. If you can sleep at night knowing that you have done your best to fill your potential and have not trampled the rights or property of others, your philosophy is likely working well for you. If not, it may be time to refine it. I personally have refined my philosophy at least four times in my life. I plan on doing it more as I grow as a person.

So there it is. 20 things I believe every one who is capable should do. What’s on your list?

In health,

Sean

For Auld Lang Syne

The New Year is upon us!!! What was awesome about your 2016? What didn’t work out so well for you? The questions you ask yourself and the evaluations you give to those questions will determine the quality of your life, not just for this new year, but forever. Most of us ask questions that trigger bad answers. Ask: Why am I fat? , your brain will say: “Because you’re lazy”. The reason for this, is because most of carry around our past failures with us. Instead, carry your victories with you. Ask better questions if you want better results. What are you proud of? What are you juiced about? What makes your feel good? Those questions will get you unbelievable results in the gym and in your life.

Sometimes it helps to think about areas of you life like fitness as if it were a car being driven along the road. What type of car do you want to drive? How fast are you reaching your destination? Do you have enough fuel? I like to remind people they are always driving somewhere, but often they’re looking in the wrong direction. While the rear view mirror is very useful, if that’s all you’re looking at while driving……CRASH!!!! Make sure you check it to see what’s behind you, but focus on the windshield so you can see what lies ahead. And what a bright future it can be if you let it.

Auld Lang Syne the tune many of us hear during the New Year was written in 1788 by a Scottish poet named Robert Burns. You know the tune, but do you know what it means? Auld Lang Syne means ‘for days of old’. The poet was talking about “talking a cup of kindness” for days of old. The song instructs us to think fondly of our past, not take our defeats with us. In other words, it’s good to reminisce, but only if you’re focusing on what was good and what you can  be grateful for.

So let’s change your focus in 2017 to your victories and not your defeats. Focus on what you love and not what you fear. Focus on your goals, but focus more on the reasons you want to achieve them. Remember, success leaves clues. Find out what you want, then figure out who has done it before you and get some coaching.

So what’s your real goals for 2017?

-Sean Covell

Conquer Fear Forever

What’s the biggest problem in your life right now? If you are like most people I know, the “problem” that you have probably isn’t as bad as the fear you have from what you believe will be the result of your problem. Sure, you may have a legitimate obstacle in your life, standing in the way of your desired outcome, but it is the perception of your problem, the fear you have that may be a bigger problem. In other words, people fear a certain outcome before it has even happened, causing them anxiety, worry, nervousness, even depression (the fear that you lack agency in your life, that you have no control over what happens to you or what you do about events in your life). All of these emotions are just fear manifesting itself. Stress is another code word for fear. We feel stressed because we fear something is not going to happen as we like it. I’m going to reveal a big secret here–fear is only possible because of… attachment. 

            Fear always results from feelings or beliefs of attachment to something or someone. Attachment to success leads to the fear of ridicule. Attachment to loved ones leads to the fear of loss or death. Attachment to wealth leads to the fear of poverty. Attachment to a career or project leads to fear of loss of that work. Attachment to a relationship or romantic partner leads to the fear of adultery or rejection. Attachment to beauty and youth leads to a fear of old age. Attachment to a certain outcome leads to the fear of failure and ridicule. Attachment to your own life leads to a fear of death and discomfort. Above all, attachment to things that are not in our control leads to the fear of lack of fulfillment and eventual disappointment. It is clear, to me at least, that fear is only possible with attachment. This leads us to the inescapable conclusion that the answer to conquering fear forever is to remove any attachment that we have in our lives. Right? Right… easier said than done.

As social beings, we have the natural tendency to allow ourselves to feel attachment to others. We develop attachments to things and people and develop strong emotional ties to them throughout our lives. While strong relationships and physical objects that improve our lifestyle are necessary, attachments to people, outcomes and objects is not necessary, nor do I believe it is healthy. Yet, most of us do it anyway. Opinions differ on why this occurs, but I believe, as do many philosophers and psychologists, that we form attachments because of a perceived lack or void within ourselves. The belief that we are not enough leads us to feelings of attachment. Feelings of loneliness, worthlessness, and emptiness are all terms we use to explain the void. Therefore, the only way to avoid attachment that leads to fear is to accept that we are the void. Loneliness, emptiness and the like are natural to the human experience and you do not need to validate yourself with anyone or anything else. When we accept something, we can stop running from it and begin to reason as to what is in our control and what is not.

There are some tools that exist to help us deal with attachment and eliminate the fear that holds so many in prisons within their own minds. The most powerful, in my opinion, comes from the ancient Stoics who used negative visualization–daily meditation on the impermanence of all things and people. By constantly reminding ourselves that “this too shall pass”, we keep from becoming overly attached because nothing lasts. The beauty of impermanence is that is can remind us that life is short, so how we spend our time matters a great deal. Relationships with others can become stronger using this technique too. If you remind yourself that every moment matters, you will be less likely engaging others in triviality, choosing instead to savor every moment with that person. The most important aspect of negative visualization is that it reminds us that we truly do not own anyone or anything, including our own lives. Everything is on loan to us. We are the void. We have nothing. And someone who has nothing has nothing to fear.

The other most effective tool for controlling attachment and therefore fear is developing the ability to recognize what you have control over and what you have no control over. In modern society with the abundance of food choices, you mostly have control over your diet. Therefore, you have some control over your body and physique. You do not, however, have control over whether someone is leaner or more attractive than you. Thus, envy, jealously and the fear that you are not enough is irrational because you cannot control others. Another external factor that humans have a tendency to form attachment to are the outcomes of events. Take a sporting tournament. You may believe that you have control over how you train yourself and therefore how well you will do in the tournament. You may then develop certain expectations for the outcome of the tournament. However, whether you win the tournament is actually outside your control for the reason that you have no control over others and how well they have trained for this event. Therefore, developing an attachment to winning the tournament should not be the goal, but rather focusing on performing as well as possible. By focusing on what is in your control (your performance), rather than what is outside it (the outcome of the tournament), you may in fact win the tournament. Most people develop anxiety and nervousness from competition. By realizing that you only have control over yourself, you will spare yourself the fear of failure and disappointment that comes from attachment to an outcome. The irony here is that by focusing on your performance alone, you are more likely to win the tournament than allowing yourself to become anxious or nervous.

Fear is something that all humans battle throughout life because it is in our nature to form attachments. By remembering that we own nothing and that even our own lives are on loan to us from nature, despite our best efforts to increase our lifespan and quality of life, we can allow all attachments and the fear that accompanies them to fall away. Additionally, by reasoning what is in our control and what is not, we can better focus our energy and time on what we can work to improve, rather than allow ourselves to worry over external events. (Hint: if you look closely, there is always some control you have in any situation, starting with your beliefs about the situation.) My hope is that these tools are of some use to you while navigating through life. Remember, these tools, (negative visualization and reasoning what you have control over and what you do not) are always at your disposal. They are sitting in your tool bag at all times. Whether or not you decide to use them is up to you. As I often remind my wife, most projects that fail do so because the proper tools were not used. I hope this is not your fate.

Be Negative!

The Importance of Thinking Negative

 

Despite popular belief amongst my family, friends and employees, I am not a very positive person. Actually, I don’t believe in positive thinking–believing that everything will always work out because you want it to be a certain way. No, the truth is that you don’t get what you want in life. You get what you tolerate. You get your standards. Bad stuff happens all the time, even to good people. That’s the way of the universe. Don’t ask me why. I wasn’t included in the board meeting during the master plan to create this reality. I have a belief that nature is clueless and could care less about your desires. You operate in nature, not the other way around. Sure, you can alter nature slightly, using your mind and body to invent and create things that improve your standard of living, but I think it’s always best to be mindful of the reality of nature. Hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquake, fires, accidents– these are all a natural part of life. No amount of positive thinking is going to make all that go away.

So do we walk around moping all the time and murmuring about how hard life is? Absolutely not! Though I don’t believe in positive thinking, I do believe in accurate thinking–seeing things as they are, but not worse than what they are. For some odd reason, humans have the tendency to create stories about occurrences in everyday life that lead to the conclusion that all hell will break lose, or that no one will love us, or we will never be enough. Accurate thinking, or what the Stoics called Reason, is a tool unique to humans and we can use it to examine the world around us, and make choices that positively affect our lives. Conversely, only thinking about things in a positive way hinders us from being able to correctly identify obstacles and formulate plans to overcome them using reason. What I’m contending here is that seeing the downside to a plan, being able to negatively visualize an outcome is an incredible tool for preventing pain and can actually help you grow as a person. Moreover, not being blindsided by some negative event may allow you to maintain tranquility. I believe the ability to identify possible problems is a crucial part to survival.

Is the glass half full or half empty? This question missed the entire point. Reason would tell us that the glass is filled to half of its capacity. The glass is halfway filled up. This type of thinking is not new. In fact, it’s thousands of years old. The school of philosophy called Stoicism and it’s teachers spoke about using reason to control your emotions and maintain tranquility. Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius also suggested that we use negative visualization as not only a way to identify possible problems before hand, but also to better appreciate the things and people we have in our lives. Here, these philosophers argued that in addition to seeing things as they are, rather than how we’d like them to be, we should also envision the worst-case scenario on occasion. Why? Suppose that in your interactions with others, you envision that this is the last time you might see them because something terrible will happen to you or them. How will you treat them? Will you yell and roll your eyes at them like some of us do? What are the thoughts that will enter your head? Will they be thoughts of malice and hate? Or will they perhaps be thoughts of regret? Regret that you didn’t make more of the time you had together.  What of your possessions?  By imagining you may lose them all, you may develop a better appreciation for what your already have rather than seeking pleasure in acquiring new things.

The point of this exercise is to remind us that eventually there will be a last time for something. Our time is limited and that what is makes it special. Pretending that every time you kiss your wife or kids is the last time may sound depressing, but let me suggest that engaging in this practice radically changes the way you act towards people. By constantly reminding ourselves that our lives are on loan to us and that everything we have will come to and end, we can become driven to do the things that really matter. Also, the way we act towards others will become more positive because few want our last memory of something to be negative-so we being to cherish the relationships that mean something to us even more. Thinking about the negative in this situation can actually cause us to become happier and more fulfilled.

In conclusion, being constantly cheery while ignoring problems is no way to go through life. Happiness is not necessarily our default emotion. Our brains were not designed to make us happy. They certainly can, but their primary purpose is to evaluate the world around us and help us identify obstacles and the solutions to them. Our brains are wired for survival, not necessarily joy. So, if you don’t wake up happy or walk around with a permanent smile, don’t worry. You’re not abnormal. Just be sure that you see things as they are but not worse than what they are. Walking into your garden and chanting “there’s no weeds” will not make the weeds go away. But by thinking “positively” and ignoring them, they might just grow right up over your feet. See things as they really are, not better than they are, not worse than they are. Once you know the reality, you can begin to improve it. And remember too, that we all fated with a death sentence. We all have very limited time. So spend it wisely!

 

In Health,

 

 

Sean