Emotional Independence

Emotional independence

What are some effective ways we can overcome “situational happiness” and instead begin to develop our own deeper sense of “emotional independence,” despite what our current life situation may look like.

Emotional independence is a process in which we learn how to exercise greater control and will-power over our internal states.

The opposite of emotional independence is “situational happiness.” Situational happiness is when we depend on external circumstances in order to provide us with joy and well-being. We crave our “external world” to be a certain way, and if we don’t get it then we are left disappointed and unhappy. Those who learn to cultivate emotional independence (especially dedicated meditation practitioners like Buddhist monks), find out how to find happiness that is independent of these external conditions.

Some of the most common things we become dependent on for happiness include:

  • Excessive eating.
  • Alcohol and drugs.
  • Movies, TV, music, video games, the internet, and other entertainment.
  • Sex.
  • Shopping and consumerism.
  • People.
  • Pets.
  • Wealth and money.
  • Traditions and routine.
  • Etc.

These are all desires that we can develop a near-addictive personality toward. Of course, someone can develop an addictive personality toward nearly anything, but of course that doesn’t make any of these habits necessarily bad. Only when can no longer exercise these habits in moderation, and we begin to depend on them to enjoy ourselves, do these habits turn into a problem. Then, we are emotionally dependent on them in order to live a fulfilling life.

For example, if you always need to eat McDonalds, watch videos on YouTube, play videogames, or be around Person A to feel good about yourself, then what happens when you can no longer get your fix? If you’re truly addicted, you will begin to experience withdrawals. Then, the pain and suffering you feel from not being able to satisfy all these desires becomes that much worse.

Like a junkie, you may even go through desperate and unhealthy measures to reclaim that short and temporary high. But you can’t keep chasing temporary highs all your life. Happiness needs to be rooted in something deeper, not simple sensations of pleasure and pain.

The best method I know for minimizing these desires and increasing our capacity for intrinsic happiness is meditation and the development of equanimity.

Equanimity is a non-reactive acceptance of our circumstances without judging them as necessarily “good” or “bad.” It’s usually seen as synonymous with “being calm and relaxed,” but equanimity actually penetrates deeper than that.

Instead of having our strings pulled by every little thing that enters our lives, equanimity allows us to take a step back and accept things for what they are, without always feeling like we need to “react” to something or “fix” it.

Achieving complete equanimity and acceptance is something that can probably only be achieved if you meditate for years and years, but luckily there are a few things we can do to begin experiencing the benefits of equanimity in our own lives:

  • Start meditating. Even practicing something simple and easy like the 100 Breaths Meditation can do wonders for cultivating a less reactive mindset.
  • Accept things you have no control over. We cause ourselves so much unnecessary stress by worrying about things that are outside our sphere of control. The quicker we can accept them and move on, the better off we are.
  • See the bigger picture. This is a reframe I write about a lot (most recently I mentioned it in my article “Social Anxiety and CBT“). I feel that when we put things into a “big picture perspective” we often find that the things that irritate us the most aren’t such a big deal after all.
  • Stop and take a breather. When we don’t have equanimity, we become very impulsive. We react to things without ever taking a step back and thinking about them. There’s a technique in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) called STOP that provides a great buffer between our thoughts and our actions. The more “buffer” we have between our actions, the less reactive we become.
  • Practice, practice, practice. You won’t develop an impenetrable attitude overnight. This stuff takes a lot of practice and a lot of failure. Most likely, you’ll still get frustrated at that crying baby on the bus, or when you spill your drink, or when a deadline at work begins approaching. It’s near impossible to be completely non-reactive to your circumstances, but with practice you can become less reactive – and that can make a big difference over time.

Following these simple guidelines is a great way to combat situational happiness and develop some emotional independence. By doing these things, we begin to take greater control over our internal states, and that can often be a lot easier than trying to always fulfill external desires.


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Motivated By The Taste of Success

Success


When we focus on what we have already accomplished throughout our lives, it often becomes easier to continue making progress. Our past experiences become a motivational tool. And once we get a taste of success, we develop an appetite for more.


If there is one thing I’ve learned since studying and practicing personal development, it’s that no matter where you are on this path, it is filled with many success and failures. Growth is rarely a linear process. Instead, it’s dynamic. Sometimes you’re going to see your efforts crumble right in front of your eyes, and other times you’ll see your efforts come to full fruition. Often the better you manage your failures and hold onto your successes, the more motivated you will be to continue further with your endeavors.

For example, one aspect of my life I’ve been trying to improve on is exercising more often. I haven’t become a health nut yet, but I’m starting to see improvement – and it’s motivating me to keep going. In fact, there’s been a couple times over the past month where people have commented on my “more fit” physique. I know I still have a lot more room for improvement, but it’s inspiring to get that kind of external validation because now I know that I’m doing something right.

Another thing I’ve been trying to work on more is making a viable income from The Emotion Machine. I really enjoy writing about these kinds of topics and it’s been my goal over the past two years to try and turn this into a way of making a living. For two years I wrote new content several times a week and experienced very minimal success when it came to making money; I experimented with advertising, affiliate marketing, and even trying to offer my own services, but nothing “clicked” right away. Instead there’s been a lot of trial-and-error involved, and the good news is that I’m finally beginning to see some success – and that too is motivating. I’m not making a living yet (I’m only 22 and still living with my parents), but now I at least have some money to splurge on some new clothes and music equipment. I haven’t had spending money in awhile, so it’s nice to finally look into my bank account and see something there.

Both of these “success stories” aren’t anything spectacular, but I recognize them as part of something that will continue to grow – and there is a power to that perspective.

Before I had any success with health or business, my attitude was much different. I was coming from a place of desperation. Sure, I liked exercising and working on this blog, but a part of me was dependent on seeing immediate results. I fell for the myth of overnight success, and when I wasn’t getting results right away I quickly got frustrated and started doubting myself. Luckily I remained faithful and persistent during these dark times and now I’m beginning to see it finally pay off.

And now that I’m seeing results in these domains of my life, I feel a weight beginning to lift from my shoulders. My desperation has turned into inspiration. Now I know that I can overcome obstacles. Now I know I can experience success if I really work at something. And now I also have some positive history to draw confidence from and continue to build off of.


“The reason people give up so fast is because they tend to look at how far they still have to go instead of how far they have gotten.”

Anonymous


I believe this quote really hits the crux of the message I want to send out right now. Once you begin making progress in your life you should cherish it, no matter how small or minor you think that progress is. Because reaching big goals is really nothing more than reaching a bunch of small goals over and over again. And when we recognize the value of reaching these small goals, we can motivate ourselves to accomplish some tremendous things in the long haul.


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Social Networks and Personal Accountability

personal accountability

Having supportive family and friends can sometimes make all the difference in our success. Supportive social networks provide personal accountability, which motivates and inspires us to stay dedicated to our goals. Without these supportive social circles, it can become incredibly more difficult to make the changes we need to succeed in our lives.


It can often be tough to exercise personal accountability without a supportive social network there to accompany us. We may have the will to change something about ourselves – like quit smoking or play less video games – but the people we surround ourselves with can cause us to cave in and continue our old habits.

It’s important to recognize just how powerful our environment can be when influencing our behavior. We like to believe that we are the sole determiners of our actions, but the truth is there are many external factors that can shape who we are and what we continue to become.

Behavioral psychology suggests that sometimes in order to effectively change our habits we sometimes need to change our environment and our relationships first. This is because certain environments and relationships can become a psychological trigger; we become conditioned to respond to the same patterns over and over again, and it can be incredibly difficult to break that pattern through will-power alone (some people can do it, but most people can’t).

However, there are a number of online and offline alternatives that people can turn to if they are looking for a supportive social network:

  • Only talk with supportive family, friends, and/or coworkers.
  • Find a local group in your community (if there isn’t one already, consider starting one).
  • Participate in online forums or message board.
  • Start a mastermind group (between 3-10 people who are currently pursuing similar goals and interests).
  • Connect with people on social media like Twitter or Facebook (links are to my personal accounts, feel free to connect with me).

These are some of the options you have when first trying to develop a supportive social network. As times goes on, social networks tend to build off each other organically. You meet someone at a mastermind group, they become a good friend, then they introduce you to 2-3 other people. New relationships begin to build and they continue to feed off each other from there. It’s a domino effect – the hardest part is often just getting started.

3 Questions To Assess Your Social Networks.

There are important questions to ask yourself when evaluating whether or not your social networks are really helping or hindering your personal development. Some of the questions I ask myself every now and then include:

Do I surround myself with people who support my interests and goals?

It is really tough to achieve your goals when the people around you don’t support you, or, at worst, actually try to get you stop pursuing your goals. Some people are just indifferent to your goals because they are too occupied with themselves. Other people might actually want you to fail, maybe due to envy, jealousy, or fear.

Despite these social obstacles, we can often replace them with more supportive relationships. As I suggested above, there are many online and offline alternatives where we can begin to find individuals who support our interests and can encourage us to pursue our goals. Focusing more on these relationships can provide us with the motivation and inspiration we need to fuel our endeavors.

Are there people out there calling my bluff?

Okay. So we share a goal with a friend, family member or coworker. They then respond with a polite smile and tell us, “Good luck!” Of course, we appreciate the kind gesture. We may even feel a temporary high from it – but is it enough to provide accountability and motivation?

Probably not. If someone is going to offer you true accountability, then they need to at least check up on you periodically and make sure that you are taking active steps to get closer to your goals. When you’re feeling down, they should be able to inspire you to keep going. And when you’re succeeding, they should be able to encourage you to go even harder.

That is why it is best to match up with like-minded people who share the same goals. For example, if you have 1-3 other guys that want to start going to the gym more often, then you have a support network where you all motivate each other to follow through on your goals. Now it becomes a team effort – and that can help you deal with the burden of going solo and having to motivate yourself all by yourself.

Positive relationships like this can become positive triggers that motivate you to do the work you need in order to achieve your goals. Fostering relationships like this can greatly improve your personal development.

Am I learning from feedback and criticism?

Even individuals who don’t hold you accountable on a consistent basis can still provide value to the pursuit of your goals. Anytime you get feedback or criticism on something there is an opportunity to learn from it. When people provide you with sincere compliments, then you know you are doing something right. And when people provide you with sincere criticism, then you can try to use that criticism to improve yourself.

Of course, not all feedback is created equal. Some people’s opinions can mean more than others. If someone is commenting on your online business, then it is probably better to listen more to those who have already succeeded with an online business, rather than a family member who may not understand how one works. It’s important to listen to all advice but still be able to distinguish the good from the bad.

If your social circle isn’t capable of providing you with good advice (maybe you want to excel in something that none of your family or friends have experience in) then it is crucial that you begin reaching out to others who can hold you to a finer degree of accountability.


Are positive relationships necessary for personal development?

No, they aren’t always necessary, but often times they make things a helluva lot easier. Success often leaves clues, and when we surround ourselves with the right people, we often learn much quicker than we would all by ourselves. There is no sense in re-inventing the wheel.

In addition, the accountability that a loyal friend can provide is often irreplaceable to when you have to hold yourself accountable. It just helps to have someone call you up every other week and discuss your progress with you.

If you don’t yet have an accountability partner to provide that, go out and find one. And if you’re having difficulties socializing more and building your network (whether online or offline) I strongly recommend Sean Cooper’s Shyness and Social Anxiety System. It comes with a guide called “How To Build A Social Circle From Scratch” that will teach you everything you need to know on creating richer relationships and a more supportive social circle.

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4 Ways to Reframe “Approach Anxiety” When Meeting New People

approach anxiety


It’s perfectly natural and normal for many people to feel anxiety when first meeting someone new – whether it’s a guy or girl at a bar, a new boss or coworker, a new friend of a friend, or even just a stranger in public.

This kind of social anxiety is often known as approach anxiety. It occurs when we want to meet someone new and build a healthy relationship with them, but we are too worried or afraid to do it – usually due to a fear of rejection or embarrassment.

Often times, these fears and worries stem from our beliefs and our perspective.

However, we can learn how to “reframe” these situations – by looking at them from a new perspective – we can better motivate ourselves to act in more life-enhancing ways.

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Cancel Your RSVP to the Pity Party

pity party


Sometimes having a pity party is a lot easier than accepting responsibility and trying to make a conscious change in our lives.

While I like to give ourselves permission to feel negative every now and then, a pity party is when we become addicted to these toxic emotions, and this can greatly inhibit our self-esteem and personal growth.

Listen. I understand that people feel bad about themselves every now and then. That’s normal. We all go through times when we make mistakes, we embarrass ourselves, we don’t live up to our expectations, or disappoint others. And I truly believe that giving ourselves permission to feel negative emotions, every now and again, is a necessary element of emotional intelligence.

The problem with negative emotions is that we sometimes become addicted to them, like a drug. We become so conditioned and attached to our frustrations, our anger, our sadness, and our guilt, and we begin to depend on these feelings in order to feel alive.

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