Last year a blockbuster article entitled “10 Things You Need To Stop Doing Today To Be Happier” exploded on the Internet. It was a fun read, but all the advice it gave was dead wrong.
In fact, every single article that tells you what you should stop doing is bad for you.
It’s a sad, but bloggers exploit your fears by writing so many articles about what you should stop doing.
How Bloggers Exploit Your Fears
The truth is, we’re drawn to the negative like we’re drawn to a car wreck on a highway – we can’t stop slowing down to check out.
In fact, we’re genetically programmed to search out the negative.
As Michael Lewis describes in The Handbook Of Emotions, evolutionary psychologists have come to the conclusion we evolved to focus on the negative for survival reasons. Miss thousands of happy smiles and pretty flowers and you’re still around to reproduce. Miss one big truck coming at you on the highway and it’s genetic suicide.
How does this relate to bloggers? Well, they’ve discovered the same thing that news shows have known for a long time. Good news doesn’t sell.
Compare these two possible article titles: “6 Ways You Can Improve Your Sex Life.” and “6 Embarassing Mistakes You’ve Been Making In Bed.” Which one are you more likely to read? Yep, you’re much more likely to check out the second one with the scary title.
This is why so many popular articles tell you what you should stop doing.
What Chocolate Can Teach Us About Success
Our focus on the negative is useful for potentially life-threatening things like car accidents, but what about the everyday thoughts and activities that we’re told to avoid in all those articles about relationships, diet, exercise, career success and dating?
In non-life threatening situations, our genetic programming is bad for us. When we focus on negative goals it produces negative results.
Why? Chocolate has the answer.
James Erskine, Senior Lecturer in Psychology and Behavioral Medicine at the University of London told one group of dieters not to think about eating chocolate, while giving no particular instructions to a second group.
Telling dieters, “Do not think about eating chocolate,” sounds like good diet advice right?
Erskine’s research shows that when people are told they should not think about eating chocolate, they end up eating way more chocolate than dieters who are given no instructions about chocolate cravings.
Why is this so?
The Pink Elephant In The Room
Let’s try a little thought experiment to discover how this works.
Do not imagine a pink helium balloon in the shape of an elephant floating in front of you. Do not see that pink elephant balloon swaying backwards and forwards in front of you. Do not become aware of the seams on the elephant balloon where the balloon creases a little under the pressure from the helium inside.
And most importantly, most certainly do not imagine small silver stars on that pink, helium elephant balloon.
As I asked you not to imagine those things, what did you see?
You saw a pink helium elephant balloon with silver stars in front of you.
Your Brain Cannot Think In Negatives
The reason you saw that pink elephant balloon is because your brain cannot think in negatives. In order to understand a sentence like “Do not imagine a pink elephant balloon,” your brain first has to see a pink elephant balloon. That is the only way it can make meaning of what it hears.
Your conscious mind, which uses symbols such as letters and numbers, can work with negatives, but your unconscious brain, which mostly runs the show, cannot.
The Bad News About Bad Advice
The article, “10 Things You Need To Stop Doing Today To Be Happier” gave ten pieces of bad advice. Here are the ten things it said, “You need to stop doing today”:
- Stop complaining
- Stop judging
- Stop avoiding fear
- Stop being so hard on yourself
- Stop being negative
- Stop caring what other people think of you
- Stop worrying about the small stuff
- Stop needing to be right all the time
- Stop blaming others
- Stop living in the past or future
It’s all good advice. I agree with every point.
But for the unconscious mind, this is just like telling dieters to stop thinking about chocolate or asking you not to imagine a pink elephant balloon. It has the exact opposite effect of the one intended.
The more you pay attention to the negative advice in that article, the more you’re going to complain, judge, avoid fear, be hard on yourself, be negative, care too much about what others think, worry about the small stuff, need to be right all the time, blame others and live in the past or the future. It most certainly won’t make you happier.
So, if you want an unhappy, unsuccessful life, then keep reading and sharing these alluring lists of things you should stop doing.
Or, if you would prefer to be happy…
Focus On What You Do Want
Now that you understand the dangers of focusing on what you don’t want, I can share with you the secret of the one and only thing you should stop doing forever: Stop focusing on the things you don’t want.
Yes that advice is tongue in cheek, as by now you know that me telling you to stop doing that is bad advice.
So what can you do? Instead focus your goals on what you do want.
As I covered in The Hero’s Journey – Embracing The Dark Side, it’s essential that we acknowledge and work through negative emotions, otherwise positive thinking can become another form of denial, but our goals should be framed in the positive.
10 Things You Can Start Doing Today To Be Happier
Consider the ten things the ‘happiness’ article said you should stop doing. Here are ways you could shift that damaging negative advice into useful positive advice. I also offer suggestions for how you can achieve those positive goals.
|Instead of trying to stop…||Focus on developing…||Using the guided meditation…|
|complaining||appreciation||How To Feel More Love And Appreciation|
|judging||love and compassion||Become More Loving And Compassionate|
|avoiding fear||building self-confidence||Transform Your Fears and Self-Confidence Made Easier and Easier course|
|being so hard on yourself||self-acceptance||How To Love Yourself|
|being negative||find out what you really want||(I’ll publish a guided meditation for this in the next couple of weeks)|
|caring what other people think of you||self-acceptance||Transform Shame Into Self-Acceptance|
|worrying about the small stuff||relaxation||Relaxation Response Meditation and Unwind Your Mind|
|needing to be right||compassionate||Compassion Meditation|
|blaming others||accepting others as they are||Become More Loving And Compassionate|
|living in the past or future||living in the present||How To Release Sadness And Grief will show you how to let go of past wounds and the From Neediness To Abundance program will teach you how to live in the present while creating an abundant future.|
Discover Your True Desires
Once you get clear on your true desires and motivations, you will move toward them with much greater ease and success.
I’ll publish a new free guided meditation soon that will lead you to explore anything you want to stop doing and discover your real uderlying desire at your deepest subconscious level. This guided meditation will help you crystalize exactly what you really want… so you can focus on the right things and move towards them with greater ease and success. Make sure you register below to get a notification when I publish the new guided meditation.
And please, stop reading and sharing articles that tell you what you should stop doing.
Just kidding. Instead, please start focusing on what you really want and sharing articles that show you how to do that. Like this one, for example.