Tag Archives: Purpose

Why Are We So Mean Online?

Human beings have a tremendous capacity for evil, cruelty and meanness, and a lot of times, they consciously choose to be that way.  Even good people have mean moments.  They know exactly what they’re doing, but they do it anyway because being cruel makes them feel good.  As with anything in life, the higher up the ladder you are, the more haters are going to unload on you.  If you raise your head above the crowd, somebody’s going to come around with a sword and even you out.    

One of the most prevalent examples of this is seen in how people talk to each other online.  People use the Internet as a place where they can spew their vitriol, show their muscle, and have momentary feelings of power and superiority.  They check every five minutes to see how many people “like” them or how many “friends” they have.  Then, they vent their frustrations and post mean comments to each other because they are jealous about what they see other people accomplishing.  A lot of them want to believe they’re special.  If anyone – a friend, neighbor, or family member – criticizes them or says otherwise, their egos get deflated and they attack.

But why are people so nasty online in particular?

One of the main reasons is that their faces can’t be seen.  A social interaction on the Internet is not 1 percent as intimate and fulfilling as interacting in person, and therefore, many people hide there.  It’s easy.  Looking somebody square in the eye and saying something mean is a lot harder to do.  It takes a very particular kind of person to be able to do that without turning red.  In general, when you’re making eye contact, it’s tougher to be your most base self. 

Another explanation for why people are so cruel to each other online is because they are bored.  When you spend a ridiculous amount of hours just browsing and surfing the web, eventually you’re going to need some drama or stimulation. So, hey, why not randomly attack somebody and see if you can get a rise out of them?

If you find yourself getting caught up in someone else’s mean behavior online, my solution is simple: get a life!   Do you seriously think it’s useful to waste your life spending hours on the Internet?!  The Internet is not a life – it’s instead of life. 

I think our ability to use the Internet for information and important communication is an amazing technological feat.  However, just like having one glass of wine after dinner is fine but getting fall-down drunk is not, the way you use the Internet matters.  The big problem is that it’s being used for terrorism, bullying, and destroying people’s reputations, not productivity.

Death by Suicide at an All-Time High

I recently read an article  which stated that suicide has now surpassed car accidents as the number one cause of injury-related death in the United States.  From 2000 to 2009, the suicide death rate went up 15 percent.  That blew my mind.  It’s scary to think that so many people are finding it necessary to deal with their pain in an irreversible way.

Interestingly enough, the literature shows that people are committing suicide for the standard reasons: substance abuse, mental illness, a family history of violence, depression, etc.  So why is suicide on the rise?

Suicide basically stems from a person’s lack of hope for the future.  They are convinced that things won’t change or get better, and they feel helpless, hopeless, and worthless.  They hate themselves, feel like a burden on others (especially when the person is older), and have an “everybody would be better off without me” kind of attitude.

What the person doesn’t realize is that they still have a lot to offer.  That’s probably one of the most important considerations in giving someone hope: they need to believe that they are valuable.

Where there is community, familiarity, bonding, and connections with community and family, you’re going to find a lower suicide death rate.  One of the problems we have in our society as it has evolved is that the morality of obligations and sacrifice has pretty much gone by the wayside.  People are up, out, and gone.  I think the dissolution of our families and community has a lot to do with the increased instances of suicide because people feel helpless, hopeless and isolated more than ever. 

Years ago, if someone’s barn burned down, everybody within 50 miles would come with wood, nails, paint, and food.  They would set up shop and rebuild that person’s property.  If there was a death in someone’s family, the community pulled together.  People lived close to each other and very few had to go it alone.  Kids were more surrounded by family and other kids in reasonable neighborhoods.  Yes, of course there were still jerks, but you were able to survive things much better because you felt like your back was always being watched.

Even though there have been many advances in medicine and technology, a lot of people today are feeling lonely, desperate, hopeless, and helpless.  Little kids are growing up in homes where their parents get divorced, bring other boyfriends and girlfriends into the picture, and shack up.  People make some babies here and other babies there, and they don’t even bother to give their kids a mother AND a father because they don’t feel like their kids need that.  As a result, a lot of kids are growing up without intact, supportive families.  It’s interesting that when a kid or teenager commits suicide, people often attribute it to bullying rather than looking at their family or community dynamics (abuse, hostile home environment, etc).  They are trying to pin the wrong tail on the donkey. 

It’s very sad that more and more of our fellow human beings are feeling so tragically lost.  I think kids these days don’t have a lot to look forward to.  When I was young, your future was, more often than not, clear and secure in your mind if you finished high school.  You either got a job or went to college.  After college, you either got a job or went to graduate school.  Somewhere along the line, you got married, had a family, and built ties with extended family and neighbors.  Sure, the future had some bifurcations and you needed to make choices, but for the most part, things were pretty clear.  You knew you were going to get a job and have a family.  

Nowadays, kids grow up not knowing if they are going to be able to have either one.

The teenage years are messy to begin with.  Teens have a lot of pressure to succeed, and they desperately want to fit in.  If a kid feels they have no support, especially at home, it’s tough for them to be hopeful. 

I think many articles about suicide leave out a large part of the truth because it is bound to offend somebody.  Truth is often excised from information today because as a society, we’ve made “not offending anybody” the highest priority.  However, I find it offensive that we don’t deal with things openly and honestly because people are paying a price for it.  For example, here are some common misconceptions about suicide.
 
Do I feel that suicide is ever justified?  Yes, I do.  If a person is terminal, not getting any better, and suffering from intolerable pain, I think it is cruel to keep them in that position.  Denying someone an alternative, peaceful way out when they are going out anyway doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.  However, in any other situation, I do not think suicide is justified.  There’s a way out of everything, except death.   

If you have even a NOTION that someone is suicidal, call 911 and have them hauled off for a 72-hour hold with a psychiatric team to figure out what needs to be done.  Many times, the person doesn’t give much indication, or everyone is too busy to notice.  Sometimes it’s even a little bit of both.  But, if someone mentions suicide, you need to take it seriously.

In addition, if someone you know takes his or her own life, you have to remember that the person who kills themselves ultimately takes full responsibility for their death – not you or anyone else.  I’ve worked with so many parents and spouses who believe they should have known.   However, unless you’re psychic, you may not be able to know. 

The one thing you can do is reconsider the atmosphere you have at home and the support you give your family, friends, and people around you.  We’re losing that sense of connection and purposefulness that comes from forming bonds between each other, and we need to get it back.

How to Be Happy

I think you have to be on a valium drip to be happy all the time.  For the sake of full discloser, I’ll tell you that I’m certainly not happy every second of the day.  However, your motive should be trying to be happy.

Being in a good mood or having a peppy personality is not a disposition you are born with or without.  You have options and choices, which I’ve proved many times on my radio program.  I’ve had so many callers who were initially negative, but by the end of our discussion, they were laughing.  What happened?

Their mood changed.

Your level of happiness is a learned skill.  A lot of you come from a background where your family was warm, happy, cheerful, and supportive, so you’ve learned those skills.  However, some of you haven’t.  Some of you are just too lazy to learn them, or you have been given too many perks for being mopey.  For me, I grew up in a house where everybody was always annoyed.  My parents didn’t walk around being cheerful and pleasant.  So, I didn’t learn those skills.  Nevertheless, I sure learned how dangerous the world could be by just watching them arguing and complaining.  It was horrible.

So, what are some of these skills?

First, you can only have one thought at a time.   I had a caller who was beaten by his dad all the time while he was growing up.  He had come to associate physicality with something bad.  On the air, I had him close his eyes and go right back into one of those experiences where his dad was beating him.  You could hear his breathing change.  But then I asked him to think about his wife sitting next to him and imagine her touching his face softly.  He started tearing up.  We did this back and forth three times to prove that he could put his head anywhere he wanted to.

He learned that he needed to have only one thought in his mind at one time, and that’s true for all of us.  You decide what your thought is going to be.  If you start thinking about all the horrible things that might happen, then they may happen.  However, if you put your thoughts toward how you are going to handle something, you can immobilize your fear.

Another essential part of being happy is to think positively.  The negative stuff gets replaced when you see the outcome positively.  And it’s also very important for you to sometimes take your brain out of an action and allow your body to do what it knows it needs to do.  For example, when you’re having sex with your spouse, your body knows what it needs to do.   That’s why I tell people to fantasize and go wherever they want to go.  Just disengage your brain.

In order to be happy, you also need to be motivated about something.  This is where being a maniac comes into play (I think the happiest people are maniacs, and I don’t mean it in a psychiatric sense).  You have to be a maniac on a mission.  What is it you want to make happen?  When you dive into something with a lot of energy, optimism, and commitment, your life will be happier.  People without a purpose are not happy people.  Wishy-washy people are never happy and they are not successful.  You have to be able to take risks and make decisions.  If you take a risk and you fail, then you take another risk.   If you take a risk and it was a mistake, then you repair it and do it again.   You have to have strong ambitions about something (and I’m not talking about making a lot of money – that usually doesn’t work).

You also need to have the gumption to make changes from where you are now.  A lot of people like to stay in their comfort zones or in their familiar surroundings.  A lack of familiarity makes them uncomfortable, and a lot of times people try to stay comfortable even if it’s bad, stupid, or destructive.  But just because you’re familiar with something, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get anywhere with it.

Lastly, you have to be tenacious.  Life requires persistence.  The people who are ultimately successful at being happy are the ones who can delay happiness.  For example, people who shack up do it because they want the gratification of having a relationship without the work of building one.  They think, “I want my gratification now.  I don’t want to work slowly in a respectful, modest way and take my time.  I want sex now.  I want to feel like I’m intimate and committed now.”  However, that’s when everything blows up.  Kids who grab the marshmallow are not the happiest – the ones who earn it are.

If you want to be loved, you have to earn it.  Jumping in bed instantly, shacking up, and being ridiculous doesn’t earn love.  If you want to be loved, you’re going to have to take the time to build love, awe, and respect.  People who are impulsive and refuse to delay gratification just can’t keep plugging.  That’s why their relationships and their businesses don’t work out because it takes years sometimes with no gratification whatsoever to build something that can sustain itself.  If you look at orthodox versions of various religions, it’s no surprise to see practices like couples not holding hands until after they’re married.  They delay physical gratification to learn about each other and become more mature.  They earn their relationships, and THEN they get the cherry on top.

Can Life Be Balanced?

I would venture to guess that many of you do not balance work and the rest of your life in a healthy way.  There is all kinds of research suggesting you don’t.  About 80 percent of working people experience on-the-job stress and about half of them need help managing stress.   Considering that stress is the number one health problem in the U.S. today (and one of the main factors contributing to heart attacks), work/life balance should not be taken lightly.

I want to discuss some ways to keep a stress-free work/life balance.  Of course, it’s very personal.  We all have different lives, different priorities, and different types of jobs.  But it doesn’t matter.  There are certain concepts that are universal.

The first thing you always have to do, which a lot of you don’t want to admit but really must, is that stress a) takes years off your life, and b) diminishes the quality of your health.  It’s not something you can just ignore.

Get your priorities clear.  Do something as simple as making a list of all of the responsibilities and obligations you have in a week, or a day.  Just make a list.  Right now, pull out a piece of paper and start making one.  Don’t list things in order; just list ALL the things you’re responsible for.  Then decide what is really the most important to you.  If you put your family first, then you will be able to turn down a promotion if you realize that the extra money isn’t going to be worth it to you.  If it’s your job, then you will focus your entire life around your work, and you can say “bye bye” to free time and fun activities with loved ones.  There’s always a choice, and each of us has to make it.  When you set priorities, you should prepare yourself for the consequences of the choices and be OK with them.  If you’re not OK with them, then you really haven’t made the choice.
 
Next, don’t try to focus on too many things at the same time.  You may want to be a fabulous parent or cook, have the hottest body around, spend tons of time with friends, complete 14 different projects around the house, do charity work, visit with family, etc.  But you can’t do it all!  Sorry!  You’re basically going to have to make some choices.  You have to prioritize your activities, learn how to compromise, and let people know the limits of what you’re willing to do so you don’t get all crazed.  Just do one thing at a time.  For all you Type-A personalities, this is something you’re going to have to learn because the result of doing a million things at the same time leads to stress, low productivity, over-exhaustion, and burnout.

Whatever it is you’re doing, you should be in that moment and no place else in your head.  I have learned this lesson quadruple times over when learning to shoot pool (which I still contend is the most difficult thing I do in life).  With the tip of a stick, I hit one ball, which then has to move and hit another ball at just the right angle to put it in the pocket.  If I don’t hit the ball exactly in the center, or don’t move my body, it won’t work.  I have missed straight shots by 6 inches because my head was someplace else.  It is amazing to me how much learning to shoot pool teaches you about life.  I realize when I’m deciding which ball to hit, how to hit it, and where the cue ball should end up, that better be the only thing on my mind.  I can’t be thinking about my program, my hair, my family, or the dogs – I can’t be worrying about anything.  To put it simply, I have to invest everything I have right into that moment.  It’s called “focus.” 

So, when you’re with your children, with your spouse, or at work, that’s where your head should be.  No matter where you are and what you’re doing, that’s the only place your head should be.  That’s what cuts down on stress.  When you’re trying to subdivide your attention, you don’t do anything well, and that’s stressful in itself.

Cut out unnecessary activities.  Unnecessary activities clutter your schedule and steal precious time from the activities that you need to do and truly enjoy doing.  Sometimes you folks waste a lot of time in front of the TV, or you spend a lot of time on social media nonsense.  Once you get your priorities clear, it should be easy for you to spot what’s unnecessary.   A curtain has to come down between the activities you love to do and the things you need to toss.  That recently happened to me.  I dropped an iron curtain and cut an activity out of my life.  It freed me up to do other things. 

Protect your “non-work” time.  Your free time is an asset that you should protect at all costs.  When we work, we usually have a certain number of hours allocated to working.  For some reason when it comes to free time, we forget how important it is.  It won’t bring you extra income, it won’t get you a promotion, but it will make you a happy and balanced person. 

A good 30 years ago, a major metropolitan magazine section was going to do a whole profile on me and all of my activities, which there have always been many.  When the piece came out, one of my competitors went on the radio the next day and boasted that they did not fritter time away with such activities, but only focused on work (as though that were a good thing?!).  I thought that was hilarious because your non-work time is really important to your self-esteem, your well-being, your health, cleansing your mind, and having fun.  Life is not supposed to be just a work farm.  Enjoyment in life is part of living.  It makes you a more well-rounded person, and it’s better for your physical health as well as emotional health. 

I am ferocious about protecting non-work time. It’s sacred time for me, the same way work is sacred time.

Declutter.  The more junk you have around your house, on your desk, or even on your schedule, the more projects you immediately envision ahead of you.  When you start panicking, “Oh my gosh, I have to do that and that and that,” you have too much clutter.  Declutter your schedule by getting rid of unnecessary activities.  Also, declutter some part of your house every week.  I recently spent time going into my knitting/sewing room, tearing it apart, and putting it back together.  The projects had piled up to the point that I couldn’t work in there anymore (when you go into a room and see 10,000 things to do, more often than not, you’re just going to turn around and walk out).  But now that I’ve straightened up, I can work in the room again.  Cleaning and straightening up is not the most fun thing in the world, but when it’s done, it looks pretty.  And now I’ve even started a new project in there, which I could not have done in the midst of the clutter.

Be great at your job.  One of the secrets to a good work/life balance is actually appreciating the work you do.  If you absolutely hate what you are doing then you probably will be off-balance.  Even if there are a lot of things you don’t like about it, if there’s at least something you do appreciate, then you’ll be able to produce results and generate ideas.  However, if you’re not doing the work you feel you were meant to do, you had better shift.  If you have a lot of responsibilities or don’t have the freedom to make the shift, then you’re probably going to have to re-prioritize in your mind and make, for example, your family the most important.  In that case, work will shift to protecting, preserving, and providing for your spouse and kids.  And that’s something you can do well and take pride in. 

As you can see, it really all comes down to this: work/life balance is just about attitude and making choices.  

Finding Your Passion in Life

If you are bored or not happy in life, the key is having a passion.  If you want to transform your life and feel meaningful on the face of the earth, you need to have a point to your life.  It could be your job, your career, or your hobby, but it needs to be something that you are simply absorbed with.  And I’m not talking about obsessive-compulsive: I’m talking about a passion, something you love doing.

I talk to so many young people in their 20s immersed in some very sad state, going nowhere, and feeling a lot of pain and confusion about life or a relationship.  I typically ask, “What’s your dream?”  I’m amazed at how almost 100 percent of the time I get nothing back.  Children are not being brought up anymore to imagine there’s a point to their lives and something they are talented at that they need to commit themselves to.  Their job should be to maximize it, respect it, be patient with it, water, fertilize, grow it, and let it bloom.  People who do that are typically not depressed, sad, exhausted, or bored.  There is something about a passion and a purpose that makes people live longer.  When people give up on life, they usually give up on living in a general sense.  So, it’s really important you know what your passion is.

How do you find your passion?

One cute way is to ask people who know you, “What do you think is my thing?”  A lot of times you will ignore what you have a knack for because you grew up in a family where somebody said it was stupid, or you figure you can’t be great at it and you definitely can’t make money with it.

I have a number of passions, and they really save me when bad things happen.  My biggest passion is my radio program.  I’ve been doing this for a span of 35 years.  I can’t imagine not doing it.  Sometimes people say, “Don’t you just want to retire so you will be able to do whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it?”  Well, I sort of do that now because my radio program is my biggest passion.

I feel very fortunate to be able to exercise my biggest passion.  And it was by total accident.  I was off being a scientist when one day, I decided to call into a radio program.  They liked what I had to say so much that I was asked to be on the radio show once a week for a year.  I then decided I ought to know more about what I was talking about so while I was teaching full time, I enrolled in a marriage and family therapy program at USC.  It was then I discovered something I never knew before: I had the ability to hear and put things together in a way which proved valuable in helping people with their problems.  I didn’t know I had that in me.  It wouldn’t have occurred to me, but I wonder if people who knew me then thought so as well.

So, I came upon my passion accidentally.  And of course, I’ve added a million other things, and the crafts I go crazy over.

Additionally, using your passion to contribute to the well-being of others is seemingly simple and not very complicated.  For example, the daughter of my friend who just recently died is going to start a charity association where women who are dealing with cancer can go to beauticians to have their hair and nails done to make them feel better.  It’s a small thing, it will never be made into a movie, and most people won’t even know about it, but other human beings will be made happier.  I think that’s huge.  It’s like ripples in the water – if you make one person happy, that in turn affects the people in their own house, and then those people impact others, making them happier.

I found a list of 15 questions that you can ask yourself to help discover your passion and life’s purpose:

Simple Instructions:

  • Take out a few sheets of loose paper and a pen.
  • Find a place where you will not be interrupted. Turn off your cell phone.
  • Write the answers to each question down. Write the first thing that pops into your head. Write without editing. Use point form. It’s important to write out your answers rather than just thinking about them.
  • Write quickly. Give yourself less than 60 seconds a question. Preferably less than 30 seconds.
  • Be honest. Nobody will read it. It’s important to write without editing.
  • Enjoy the moment and smile as you write.

15 Questions: 

  1. What makes you smile? (Activities, people, events, hobbies, projects, etc.)    
  2. What were your favorite things to do in the past? What about now?     
  3. What activities make you lose track of time?
  4. What makes you feel great about yourself?
  5. Who inspires you most? (Anyone you know or do not know. Family, friends, authors, artists, leaders, etc.) Which qualities inspire you, in each person?
  6. What are you naturally good at? (Skills, abilities, gifts etc.)
  7. What do people typically ask you for help in?
  8. If you had to teach something, what would you teach?
  9. What would you regret not fully doing, being or having in your life?
  10. You are now 90 years old, sitting on a rocking chair outside your porch; you can feel the spring breeze gently brushing against your face. You are blissful and happy, and are pleased with the wonderful life you’ve been blessed with. Looking back at your life and all that you’ve achieved and acquired, all the relationships you’ve developed; what matters to you most? List them out.
  11. What are your deepest values?
  12. What were some challenges, difficulties and hardships you’ve overcome or are in the process of overcoming? How did you do it?
  13. What causes do you strongly believe in? Connect with?
  14. If you could get a message across to a large group of people. Who would those people be? What would your message be?
  15. Given your talents, passions and values. How could you use these resources to serve, to help, to contribute? (to people, beings, causes, organization, environment, planet, etc.)