I’m going to tell you a story one of my mentors told me long ago. I never forgot it or its lesson.
There once was a woman whose husband passed away. Her grief was unimaginable. She suffered from depression, anxiety, and extreme amounts of stress.
She went to therapist after therapist, and even a few doctors. No one could help her. She was still frightened and distraught. Many of these folks wanted her to take medication, but on the advice of her friends she resisted.
She kept trying to find answers to her unhappiness and failed. Finally, she decided to start taking prescription meds but only after seeing one last therapist.
She found herself in his office the next day. He calmly asked her what her problem was. She immediately started venting about her sadness, loneliness, depression, anger, and fear about her husband passing away. She became more and more upset as she continued to talk.
“How angry are you right now?” he asked. “Like on a scale from 1 to 10?”
“Oh my god!” she screamed. “An 11! A 12!!!” She proceeded to talk about how furious and sad she was, getting even more upset.
He suddenly interrupted her and said, “See this?” He held up a box of matches, the strong, old-school kind (not the kind you tear from a book). He dumped them out on the table; several hundred of them.
“Please put all of these matches back in the box,” he instructed.
She looked at him oddly but complied and started putting the matches back in the box. It took her a few minutes during which he worked quietly on his laptop.
When she was done, she handed the box back to him. “Ah, thank you,” he said. “But I’m very sorry, you did it wrong. I need you to put all the matches away but with the match heads all facing the same way.” He dumped all the matches back on the table again and handed her the box.
She snorted and grumbled something about him being an asshole, but she complied again, and started putting the matches away. This time it took her quite a while, almost ten minutes. Finally, she proudly presented the box to him with all the matches facing the same way.
“Thank you,” he said. “But this will not do. See, the match heads need to be facing the strike zone, and these are facing the cardboard side. Please do it again, and make sure all the match heads are facing the strike zone.” He dumped them out on the table again.
“What?” she asked. “What the hell is the point of all this?”
“If you could just please put all the matches back in the box,” he said calmly. “All match heads facing the strike zone, please.”
She glared at him, grumbled, but again complied. Ten minutes later she was finally done and handed him the box.
“Wow!” he said. “You did this perfectly! Thank you so much!”
Then he asked her, “Are you mad?”
She paused and blinked. Suddenly, to her surprise, she realized she wasn’t mad anymore. Before she had a chance to answer, he asked her, “Are you sad?” Again, she was surprised to realize that she really wasn’t that sad anymore either. Almost all of her negative emotions had just… vanished. This man had succeeded in helping her where so many had failed. And all he did was have her put some stupid matches in a box.
In my books and at my other blog I’ve talked about how men are more susceptible to oneitis when they don’t really have anything going on in their lives. If all they have to their day is going to their bullshit corporate job, farting around on social media, then eating dinner and watching Netflix, it’s far more likely for them to get struck with oneitis when a really pretty/cool girl comes along. But if instead a man has strong, exciting goals, lots of interesting projects he’s working on, and perhaps even a Mission, the odds of this happening are much less.
This actually extends past oneitis and into happiness itself. When you sit down and work on something it actually reduces (or sometimes completely eliminates) lingering negative emotions. The actual motor activity and psychological focus directs you to the thing you are working on and away from whatever is making you angry, sad, stressed or whatever.
Working on something actually makes you happy. It doesn’t even have to have lots of meaning. Doing something like writing fiction, painting, working on your car, building a Lego set, working in a garden, and so on will actually help you eliminate negative emotions.
Double this if the thing you’re working on has great meaning for you. Working in my businesses brings me immense joy, purpose, happiness, and pride. This is why I can work every day and never feel stressed (and I never do, at least not since embracing Alpha Male 2.0 lifestyle models; I was stressed all the god damn time back when I was a beta male). I’m very busy and I’m one of the happiest men I know (if not the happiest).
Even when I’m not working in my businesses I’m still “working.” I’m just not working on my businesses. In the mornings when I exercise, I’m “working” on my new fitness goal of becoming a real athlete. If I spend time with Pink Firefly, I’m “working” on building and maintaining the most important relationship in my life. If I’m traveling, I’m “working” on hitting my for-fun travel goals or my five flags project. If I’m completely taking time off, I’m “working” on playing war games or being the GM for tabletop role-playing games with my friends and family (right now we’re playing an RPG called Savage Worlds; it’s the shit!).
I’m always working on something. That’s why I’m so happy. Or at least, it’s one of the reasons.
It’s the opposite of working on something that makes you feel negative (angry, frustrated, stressed, sad, lonely, etc). That would be things like fucking around on the internet, yelling at people about politics on social media, watching Netflix, sitting around drinking or smoking with your buddies, jerking off to porn, and so on.
If you do these things, your negative emotions will either stay just as strong as they are, or worse, will increase because these things don’t involve working on anything. You’re just idling, and you know what they say about idle hands.
I’m not saying watching a show on Netflix, or having a beer with your buddies, or debating gay marriage on the internet are things you should literally never do. These things have a time and a place. But that’s my point; these things have a time and a place. Most guys in the modern era, and probably most men reading these words, are doing these things every fucking day, all the fucking time. That’s why you’re angry and I’m not.
If you’ve been feeling down lately, all you need to do is find a project and start working on it. Almost immediately you’ll feel at least a little better. If you can’t come up with a project with meaning right now (like starting your own Alpha 2.0 business, visiting a distant country, losing some weight, and so on), then fine, go out and buy the biggest Lego set you can find and build the damn thing (yes, I’ve done this). Do something. Work on something. Reduce your “fuck-around time” to a few hours a week and spend the rest of your time working on something.
You won’t believe the difference it makes in your life.
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