Is this helping me?

A few years ago, James Altucher taught me something that helps calm dark and anxious thoughts.

Life wasn’t easy at the time. A cruel twist of fate had me walking past my new ex-girlfriend’s road almost every day after work. Grim visions of mistakes and arguments would envelop me as I passed, blackening my mood for the rest of the evening.

To stop this, James told me that every time I caught myself thinking negative thoughts, stop and ask, “Is this helping you right now?”

Almost always, the answer is ‘No.’

It takes some effort to remember to do this when we’re swept up in a storm of thoughts, but it becomes easier with time. To create a bigger gap from the tempest, we can follow up with, “What is useful to think about right now?”

Every time we do this, we save ourselves from a little unnecessary suffering and we train our brain to be more positive in future.

Do it enough, and eventually you’ll barely need to do it at all.

Be careful who you cuddle

Some words that transformed my life came from Jim Rohn:

“You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

If you’ve spent time with other humans, you’ve probably noticed that they tend to ‘rub off.’

Maybe it’s a facial expression or how they speak. We think it’s funny or cool, so we try it out later for ourselves. It gets a good response and it sticks.

This is why groups of close friends usually share similar opinions and mannerisms. It’s one of the things that makes a tribe a tribe. 

But this ‘Law of Averages’ goes deeper.

If you average out the salary of those same five people, you’ll find that it’s almost exactly your salary. It’s terrifyingly close.

We like to think we’re unique, individual, autonomous creatures, but we’re enslaved to our environment and chained to the people around us.

Surround yourself with people you want to be like. Seek out people who push you to be better and listen to people who challenge your mindsets.

And be very careful who you cuddle.

Who invited Eeyore?

You don’t need me to tell you that life can be pretty bleak sometimes.

All the great philosophers from Cicero and Buddha to Louis CK have nailed it: life is suffering.

Ironically, it seems that the reason that life is suffering is to keep us alive.

There’s a little old nut-shaped part of your brain called the ‘amygdala’ that controls how you feel about stuff.

The amygdala is that miserable, mean, pessimist we all have inside us.

It’s our own little Eeyore living in our heads, seeing the bad side of everything, scared at every turn; certain that taking it will turn out for the worst.

It’s the reason that we have a negativity bias, and tend to see things as threats.

But guess what?

It’s also the source of our compassion and empathy.

That’s why the best way to stop your anxiety and depression is to help someone else with their problem — no matter how large or small.

You distract your Eeyore by helping other people with theirs.

It works every time.

eeyore sitting down looking sad

Don’t break these promises

Everything in life is an agreement.

Whether that means we’re agreeing that it’s bad to kill people, agreeing on the price of a coffe or agreeing to drive on the same side of the road — it’s all an agreement.

And the stories we all agree on are what we collectively call ‘reality.’

The most powerful kind of agreement you can make is to yourself.

Unfortunately, it’s these promises that we break more than any other.

Every time we say we’re going to do something and we don’t, we lose trust in ourselves. 

Even if nobody else hears the promise, we feel it when we break it. It hurts our brains and we get weaker. It fractures our identity.

Just like every time we back up our word with action, we get a little stronger. We become a more consistent person.

Back yourself up today.