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Self-Development Wagon #1: Sentimentality vs. True Happiness

Update, Dec 5, 2012: Added the Marble Jar Metaphor.
Update, June 11, 2013: Updated many of the examples, added the beliefs concept, redid the Marble Jar Metaphor to more accurately reflect how it works.
Update, June 15, 2013: More typo fixes, even more on beliefs.

Disclaimer: This guide will not automatically make you happier or better at solving your own problems. In order for it to work, you must practice it: understand that there's an area of your life you must get a grip on, that only you can get a grip on (although others may show you how, only you may take action), and that you can do it, even if your initial results end in failure.

Note about the length: If the following looks lengthy, here are some things to ease your mind: this is almost everything I learned to reach emotional stability, so it would do you good to absorb its ideas. You may read the short version for a general idea of where the rest of it is going so you'll know where you are in the journey through. You don't have to read this in one sitting: set aside ten minutes and read it one section at a time. If you complete the section, move on to the next until time runs out, then set aside some time later to repeat this until you finish it.

The Short Version:

Happiness is not having absolutely no problems, because that is just impossible: the universe is cruel and unforgiving, and even still, problems test your emotional and mental limits to help you learn and grow. Rather, a key to happiness is *HANDLING* problems and KNOWING YOU CAN HANDLE PROBLEMS. Denying your problems does not work, and neither does giving up. What you can do is change your physical approach to solving a problem (what you do about it), or change your mental approach to solving a problem (how you think about it).

Other key points:
-To be human is to constantly improve. Don't think you are weak seeking help, because everyone is weak by default: it's how we were put here. In fact, the best of us constantly improve and never stop.
-Your problems are not personal: everyone suffers. The universe is not out to get you: it's out to get us. It only seems like it's out to get you because you know your problems more personally and everyone else has been working to solve the same problems. Your problems are also not permanent: if you work on solving a problem, you will solve it. Your problems also do not affect every area of your life: there are still things you can control.
-You can't *make* people like you. Liking is a mutual thing, and if you treat people like a "resource" and/or "responsible for your happiness," they will feel used, and nothing feels worse than being used. Remember: they suffer the same problems.
-Wishing for something won't make it come true, but it gives you a hint on what to do to achieve what you want. If you focus on what you want, you eventually figure out steps on how to achieve it.
-Finally achieving the thing you think will solve your depression will not cure your depression: you'll still be you, but you'll now have that thing. Rather, there's a greater chance that you're depressed because you lack the skills to achieve it or you have an unhealthy short-term way of achieving an otherwise healthy long-term goal.
-You can either focus on the problem or the solution, and it is better to focus on solutions so you can solve your problems. To focus on the problem is to wallow in learned helplessness. If you're problem-oriented, you focus on limited resources, but if you're solution-oriented, you focus on resourceful and are able to use what you have in a much better way.
-Everything you do is to gain pleasure and avoid pain. Your brain works with your body to determine what's pleasure and painful by observing what is around at the time you experience these feelings (repeatedly), but if it sees the wrong thing (repeatedly), it can link up the wrong associations. We do this for our survival, and each person maps out their associations individually. To confront somebody else's associations is to confront their survival method.
-The best way to go about a problem is to take action against it instead of wallowing in self-pity. Some problems will be out of your control: in that case, deal with the fallout. If you cannot control anything, you can observe the situation and learn from it or reframe it into something that mentally works for you, i.e. you reinterpret the negative situation into something that can benefit you: not a delusion, but look for the positive (or something that could be positive).
-Your negative emotions are not necessarily bad: while they feel bad, they're in internal compass for you to take action. You can remedy them by answering them (check the list below).
-List your goals, ask why you want to achieve these goals, and ask what kind of person you need to become to achieve these goals, and you'll have some semblance of an idea of how to achieve happiness. The goal is often just the motivation to develop you into the person you ultimately need to be.
-Success doesn't come over night: like all of your associations, it must be conditioned into your nervous system. Everything you learn builds on itself over time. Imagine that every one of your behaviors stems from a jar of marbles: the jar represents what you believe is true about life, and the marbles are every past experience, person you've talked to, book you've read, and even things you've imagined. To change the behavior, you have to take out all of the marbles in one jar and put them in a new jar. However, if even one or two marbles are left over in the previous jar, a janitor (your nervous system trying to protect itself) will most likely put all of the marbles back. You know you've officially adopted the new behavior when it takes no willpower to even start using it, and you know you've conditioned when you link more pain to going back to your old ways than not doing the good work you've been doing.


The Long Version

Introduction

The most dangerous thing you can think is, "Do good, and good things happen." That implies that if you just do enough good things, like keep your chin up, deny your problems, wish all the bad things away, and become the knight templar in pointing fingers at bad things, you will automatically avoid the problems in your life, but this is not true. In fact, not only do some people do good things and get punished for them, but some people do horrible things and come out on top. What causes both of these is how both groups handle life: specifically, the former group relies on wishful thinking, and the latter relies on action. Of course, there are good people who take action and eventually accomplish good things, and there are bad people who think of the criminal lifestyle in an idealistic light, then reality punches them (or, rather, shoots them) in the face.

In this post, I'd like to dispel the common myths about how to achieve happiness, and then outline a much healthier way to achieving it. These are all concepts I learned to beat depression and become emotionally stable, so I know they work, and I wish to help you do the same.

The Fantasy Myth and the dangers of sentimentality.

"I don't believe in affirmations. An affirmation asks you to go to your garden and say, 'There's no weeds! There's no weeds! There's no weeds!' I've got news for you, pal: you got weeds and they're going to take your garden. You also can't see it worse than it is: you can't go to your garden, see the weeds, and see it as an untangleable mess that you can never fix. The key is to see things as they are and then make them better: you go into the garden knowing you can handle the weeds, pull them out, and get ready for more weeds, because there will always weeds. Weeds are a fact of life. In fact, you need the weeds to help you grow. So, enjoy taking the weeds out so you can plant some new seeds for happiness sooner."
-Anthony Robbins

I am not an optimist. The most dangerous thing somebody can do is idealize sentimentality: to dream of a conflict-free life with absolutely no problems whatsoever. Perhaps it's this that led me to the hatred of Sues and Stus: that somebody will whisk us away from our troubled life to a fantasy world where we're surrounded by people who automatically like us and where we win every battle. When you break this concept down, it implies the following horrible, self-defeating ideas:

Horrible Implication #1: If you seek help, you are considered "broken" or "weak." After all, who wants self-help unless they didn't need it in the first place? The truth is everyone is broken by default and the best people constantly work to improve themselves. You were born with no knowledge on an alien world with no instructions, mostly taught by experience from people who were put there under the same circumstances. Even so-called experts have their blind spots and weak areas (in fact, this very guide was updated half a year later with many new ideas). If you are broken, so what? Everyone either has a weakness or overcame that weakness, and we love stories of people who overcame adversity. Look at Teddy Roosevelt: once a weak, scrawny kid with asthma, he bulked up, took up boxing, trained daily, read daily, led his Rough Riders into battle, became the first president to star in film (playing a lumberjack, no less), opened the Panama Canal, got a peace treaty between Russia and Japan for a while, and delivered a three-hour speech after getting shot. He died in his sleep, still improving himself with a book under his pillow, and his Vice President said, "Death had to take him sleeping: if he was awake, he would have put up a fight!" Nearly every great figure in history studied, studied, and studied how to improve, and the people they studied from studied, studied, and studied how to improve, regressing back infinitely. For example, Martin Luther King constantly studied ethics, religion, the Quakers, and Gandhi for non-violent protest, Gandhi was a law school grad who studied world religions to develop a philosophy of peace, and even Jesus was a Jewish scholar who studied the Torah from a young age, staying behind in a temple on a family trip to Jerusalem (now that's humanity for you: even the Christian Messiah strayed from his parents on vacation), and those writings are a culmination of thousands of years of deconstructing comparative religions/philosophies of civilizations up to the earliest Mesopotamians. Going even further back, all of those were based around a bunch of cavemen learning to survive through trial and error. To be human is to endlessly improve.

Horrible Implication #2: You are somehow "special" compared to everyone else's problems. Although there are people with way, WAAAY worse backgrounds or circumstances, you somehow are the only one who deserves special treatment. The truth is everyone suffers. A key Buddhist principle is that life is pain, but it also believes that pain can be escaped through right living habits. But what about the more successful people? Sadly, you don't know their problems, but you know yours because you're you. If you did find out somebody else's problems, you'd find they have most of the same ones, but they developed different ways about solving them, so of course they'll be more successful because they know what to do and they do what they know. Don't think for a minute that your problems are only for you because "I've had it worse than everyone else," or, "God hates me," or, "I must've been wired differently," because you are wrong: you share everyone else's pain, you're wasting/ignoring the gifts God did give you, and you're wired just like everyone else. I especially want to emphasize the last one, because as we'll learn, everyone is wired to avoid pain and gain pleasure, and just as easily as you can wire pain to living in a happy and resourceful state of mind and body, you can wire pain to negative and depressed thinking. If everyone else can learn something, so can you if you copy their ideas regarding that skill and mindset.

Horrible Implication #3: People are an impersonal resource designed to help *you* and only *you*. Their job is to like you unconditionally. The truth is these same people have the same want for love, appreciation, and acceptance. There's nothing people hate more than feeling used: it means the person they thought that liked them really just saw them as a tool: a means to personal gain. Again, these are the same people who suffer, feel fear, shyness, embarrassment, and have trust issues, just like you. Some of them have handled it in healthy ways and they're considered the friendliest people, and some other them have handled it in unhealthy ways and they're a bunch of jerks, but a great majority of them have not, and they're shy, socially awkward, or inwardly troubled. If you truly want people's attention, give others attention first. In the words of Stephen R. Covey, first seek to understand the other person's point of view, and then you can be understood.

Horrible Implication #4 It is better to wish problems away than actually face them. This implies if you don't have enough friends, don't bother learning social skills or breaking the ice: just run away to a world where you can make friends! If you're having trouble concentrating, don't bother shutting out all distractions or practicing concentration: just wish you had better concentration. The truth is wishing is just your mind's way of telling you, "Maybe you should actually do something to know you can do this!" The reason some people think the Law of Attraction, the idea that wishing for something hard enough makes it happen, works is because it's the wishing alone that makes it so, but no: rather, when you focus enough on something, you eventually figure out what actions you have to take. For example, "I wish I had better time management skills. What's wrong with my time management skills? I have trouble focusing and I have too much on my plate. What can I do? Do the things I can do for now and figure the rest out later, and perhaps instead of getting a book on time management, I can get an audiobook to listen to while I'm driving/working to save time." A wish may give you the direction (or at least a possible direction: not every path is the right one, but you won't know until you take it), but it is figuring out what to do and taking action that makes the wish come true. (Note: I've applied the concept to everything else I've faced, my time management skills at the time of the guide, and I just used it to fix my sleep schedule with amazing results.)

Horrible Implication #5: By far the worst of implications, once you understand how everything works or once you finally achieve the thing you want, nothing bad will ever happen again. This is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. IT'S BEYOND WRONG!!! In actuality, if you already had *everything*, as if you were financially/emotionally/biologically secure, you could go anywhere and do anything, everyone loved you by default, you were known by everyone, and you had given everyone everything, you would go mad with boredom. There's nothing left to do! You've already done everything! All you can do is rest, fall asleep in your grand kingdom, and now wage a mental battle of boredom that cannot be fought: even if you win, you're now emotionally dead, and you have to battle to find happiness still. It's for this reason we hear of people who are born with everything eventually resort to drugs and kill themselves while those who have nothing and pull themselves up out of the hole on their bloodied fingers stay successful without selling their souls first.

This final implication needs its own sub-notes. For example, look at all of the celebrities who wanted to be famous and loved by everyone, got it, and then got depressed because they still weren't happy. Then you got the guys who become millionaires, and rather enjoy their riches, they guard their riches, feel poor, and end up depressed. I know too many people with an unrealistic goal, they get depressed because the goal is unhealthy/destructive, they achieve it, and then they still feel unhappy in the end: they never become happy, always looking for that next "thing" that will "solve all of their problems." The bad news is actually getting the thing you want is not going to solve everything. The good news is becoming the person you need to become to get the thing you want will make you happy: you'll grow in many different areas, you can enjoy this thing as a benefit rather than the end-all-be-all, and you can help others along the way.

To use myself as an example: when I was little, I wanted to go to Space Camp, and when I was in fifth grade, I got to go to Space Camp, and while going to Space Camp led me to my love of Directing, Acting, Improv, my creativity, and my interest in helping people (our final project was to present an orbital colony for funding, and I helped direct it, act in it, and more), it ended, and it never did teach me emotional stability, social skills, how to overcome shyness, how to stop being competitive, how not to live in comparison to somebody else's life, and so on. I graduated high school early and I got out of a rather horrible school life, but I never learned how to survive in the outside world. Achieving anything is but a step towards making life easier, but not without problems. Although writing is my art, craft only makes it easier: I still have to write it, but I have more confidence in what to do, which I will detail after wrapping up this section.

Escaping into fantasy does not work. If you are on fire, you don't simply wish you weren't on fire or deny that you're on fire: you scream for help, and if nobody helps you, you stop, drop, and roll, and if that doesn't work, you run for the nearest bucket of water or fire extinguisher. Wishing only gives you a direction: action makes it real.


Happiness is how you handle problems.

The title of this section sums it up. People idealize me as having no problems, but that is far, FAR from true: I've had it rough and I still have it rough, but my ways of handling problems have changed greatly over the last five years, and I'm going to share them with you.

The Concept of Belief

All of the ideas you are going to learn *START HERE*. Nothing else will stick without this one core concept. Every time I failed a counseling case, it came down to not using this. Every time I got my point across to people, it came down to using this. All of your changes in opinion, beliefs, and your deep convictions begin HERE.

In life, everything happens: you've had a number of things happen to you, a number of stories you've heard from others, books you've read, news and documentaries you've seen, and even things you imagined. Some of them were good experiences: you took these good experiences (or at least experiences that got you results) and bad experiences (or at least things experience that did not get you results), and then built ideas you've had into feelings of certainty known as beliefs. These beliefs become your autopilot: you know how it was in the past, so you know things will continue to work that way in the future. You know that if you turn a door knob, regardless of whether or not you've seen it before, you know you can turn it left or right or push in or out to open the door. When the knob breaks or doesn't operate like you think it should, you lose certainty and freak out. If you weren't certain your house was going to stand, you wouldn't stay in it. If you were certain something was going to get you rich, you'd do it. Beliefs are responsible for everything you do.

However, there is a major, MAJOR downside to beliefs: you never question the stories behind how you developed your beliefs because they're automatic, you look for more experiences to validate they are true, and any attempt to make behavioral changes will grind against your beliefs until your willpower runs out and you slide back. This is why it's hard to change through willpower alone: even if your willpower lasts for years, it eventually runs out if you don't change what you feel certain is true/right at a gut level. Although you can try to be intellectual about your problems, thinking, "I should do this," or, "I should change that," it won't fix anything until you change the belief.

It's also why two people can experience the same event, but take different meaning from it. For example, two people get fired from a job. The first one interprets this experience to mean, "I should have worked harder. Next time, I'll learn more." The other may think, "I'm so stupid. I should never work hard again. I'll never amount to anything." Even now, as you read this, you're thinking something based on this beliefs concept. You could think, "This is interesting," and it'll tell your brain to absorb the information. Or, you could think, "That second person is just like me. Life is so unfair," and beat yourself up, making you feel worse. You could also think, "I'm just like the first person," and notice all the good you've done in life, but maybe miss the point of the message. Or you could think, "The second guy is just like me, which I find interesting: it seems like this guide was written for me, so if I use it, I can probably improve myself!," and you might learn with much more enthusiasm. Since everything is possible, it doesn't matter what belief is true: just pick the ones that help you grow and help others.

The Nightmare/Dream Method: Whenever we make changes in life, it's often at a moment we associate more pain to staying the same and more pleasure to changing (more on this later) that we cement our change. For me, my ultimate carrot-and-stick is knowing that I will suffer more if I go back to my old depressed ways and I will benefit from solution-oriented thinking (more on this, too). When we don't grow or stretch on our own because we have that gut-level feeling that change would mean more pain, God shows up and says, "Hey, you need a little growth!" In this case, the situation is going to be so painful and so humiliating, not changing would mean more pain than changing, but these experiences happen at random and may not even give you the right beliefs: you could get into a situation where your weak opinion that people are nice gets ruined in one fight, and you develop a strong belief that all people are rotten monsters.

Examples of behaviors vs. beliefs:
Behavior: Whining and complaining to get attention.
Belief: If I wallow in depression or sadness, people will flock to me and help me.
Changing the Behavior First: You decide to find solutions, but a nagging voice inside says, "If you change, you'll be lonely. If you help yourself, nobody is going to support you. You'll be miserable if you're happy, so the only way to be happy is to be miserable." You end up believing these self-contradictory statements, and at the first setback, you not only change back, but your brain rewards you neural connections for going back. Then, you end up feeling horrible for reverting to this self-defeating behavior.
Changing the Belief First: You want to adopt the belief, ""I must learn to deal with my own problems and learn to connect with others." Another voice appears and says, "If you keep whining and complaining, you're only going to feel much worse. You have to get things under control." Now the other voice is muted and unbelievable. As a result, you'll do anything, even in the face of failure and opposition, to do whatever you can prove to yourself the belief, "I must learn to deal with my own problems and learn to connect with others."

Behavior: Disassociating from those who drink or smoke.
Belief: Anyone who smokes or drinks are morally corrupt and should not be associated with.
Changing the Behavior First: You decide to strike up some conversations with smokers or drinkers. You may even think they're nice people, but you feel horribly uncomfortable and that inner demonic voice says, "You're talking to monsters. Their niceness is a facade: they're lying, untrustworthy, and horrible people. You must hate them to be a good person." So, you keep your guard up, and the first moment you see them engaging in smoking or drinking, you "know" they're evil and break off contact. Then, you end up feeling horrible for reverting to this self-defeating behavior.
Changing the Belief First: You want to adopt the belief, "Smoking and drinking are a behavior that is totally separate from one's morality." The inner voice now says, "Okay. So they smoke and drink. That's fine. It's not like they're bad people." The other voice grows quieter and quieter, and you end up making friends with people who smoke and drink. You may even run into a few smokers or drinkers with questionable personality, but now you know that morality and smoking/drinking are entirely separable. Perhaps this new experience gives you a new belief: "I can hang out with smokers and drinkers without picking up their habits since I believe it'll be bad for my body. What others do with their bodies is their business."

Behavior: Getting angry whenever anyone disagrees with your opinion.
Belief: "I know more about life than anyone else! I'm surrounded by idiots!"
Changing the Behavior First: You listen to other people's opinions, and you may even do what they say, but there's that voice again, telling you, "This is far below you. You're working for idiots. Nobody knows better than you. You are the one who knows better, not them. Show them your true intelligence: belittle everyone's opinion and force your own!" So, you look at the stupidity in everyone, and as soon as somebody disagrees with your opinion, you revert back to your old behaviors. Once again, you end up feeling horrible for reverting to this self-defeating behavior.
Changing the Belief First: You want to adopt the belief, "Everyone has a reason for the way they think." Now you hear the new voice say, "They may not be your standards, but they had to arrive at that conclusion somehow. What could you teach them and what could you learn from them?" The other voice goes silent, and even when people develop the most ridiculous reasons to criticize you, you look for the good in them.

Or this real life example...

Behavior: Unable to sleep at night, unable to wake up in the morning.
Belief: "Unless I'm full of energy, I can't wake up. Unless I am seriously tired, I can't sleep."
Changing the Behavior First: I've done everything I could physically to change my sleep state. I tried through willpower to stay awake during the day time, but there was that voice again that said, "You're getting very sleepy. Take a nap: it'll help you feel more awake. You need all the energy you can get, because after all, you have so much to do and so little time." So, I'd sleep, lose all my time, and feel worse. I've even wasted about $1000 in medical costs trying to do sleep studies and taking medication, but in the end, I had no energy in the day and no ability to sleep at night.
Changing the Belief First: "I can wake up the first thing in the morning and get the energy to sustain myself during the day. I can also drain myself down to go to sleep at night." In the methods I'll describe coming up, here's what I did: I recalled every moment I woke up quickly, those Marines hopping out of bed and getting dressed in the first minute of morning, how much more time I'd lose and what I'd miss out on if it kept up this way, and how much more time I'd have if I adopted that new belief. Then, the next morning, I hopped out of bed, did my exercises to wake myself up, and I've been having all sorts of energy ever since. I occasionally hear the old voice, but I know if I keep this up, it will go away forever. Luckily, I know how much I'll lose if it keeps up, so I'll never go back.

So, to change your behavior or how you feel, you must change what you believe is true or possible, and to do that, you'll have to gut out your old experiences on an emotional level, link serious pain to this disempowering belief on an emotional level, look for other people who accomplished the thing you want to do or look at past experience where you might have made progress on an emotional level, and then start taking actions to ensure you feel good about this new behavior on an emotional level. The key is to change what you associate in your gut about the things you believe: NOT your behaviors, because changing a behavior without the reason why you do it will just make you fall back.

Imagine all of your beliefs are giant jars of marbles, and you have a bunch of empty jars with all sorts of labels on them that you don't use: there is a jar for just about every idea, but you need your marbles for your beliefs. The marbles are all made of how you interpret your past experience, information you've gotten from others, and even the things you imagine.

You have small jars labeled "opinions": they have a few marbles in them, and you only use them to take minor actions. When someone violates this opinion, you only feel a little pain: your brain goes into survival mode because it "knows" life does not work that way. However, opinions are quite small and you can easily remove the marbles out and kill the opinion. To kill an opinion (which is quite easy), find evidence to prove the opinion wrong on an emotional level, link up pain and idiocy to keeping the opinion (instructions coming up) then simply find how this new opinion can benefit you.

You have medium-sized jars simply labeled "beliefs": they're significantly larger and hold much more/larger marbles, and it requires more emotional energy to take them out. Here, much larger pain is associated when they're violated: you'll become legitimately angry or sad when this belief (and the values it brings) is violated. You'll take more action to validate a belief than an opinion: you'll feel uncomfortable when someone has a different opinion, but you'll disassociate from those with different beliefs. To change these, you'll need to go a bit further: you'll have to remove every single reference, associate tons of pain to keeping the belief, find tons of new references to fill a new jar, and then associate tons of pleasure to keep it.

Then you have giant dunking-booth-sized jars labeled "convictions": they overshadow every belief you have, and it requires substantial, intense amounts of pain to destroy these. When someone violates these beliefs, you will take MASSIVE, MASSIVE, MASSIVE action to uphold them, even if it involves actions others don't approve of. For example, if you had the opinion that abortion was wrong, you might be disgusted at the sight of a planned parenthood, and if you had a belief that abortion was wrong, you'd disassociate with pro-choice people or even picket, but if you had a conviction, you would bomb a planned parenthood and kill others. Someone with a bad conviction will kill others and feel overjoyed for doing it because they "know" they are "doing the right thing." In fact, one key to insanity is having a conviction that the rest of the world is crazy and you are "the only sane man/woman," and you must go on a crusade to prove everyone else wrong, even if it's something like proving the world is flat, proving any amount of fast food leads to obesity, proving that even the slightest exposure to any form of sexuality (even in non-sexual situations like artistic or comic nudity) will turn even righteous and moral people into bloodthirsty rapists with no morality. BAD CONVICTIONS WILL DESTROY YOU AND SOCIETY.

However, GOOD CONVICTIONS LEAD TO GOOD RESULTS, GREATLY BENEFITING YOU AND OTHERS: if you had a conviction to help others, you'd contribute more and love more; or if you have a conviction to always find a way to improve or make the best of things, you'd do anything to ensure you always turned things around. Where bad convictions are often about proving others wrong, good convictions are reasonable: others can get behind them because they make sense, they're noble, they've probably been done before in history to one degree or another, and they benefit more than just some wackjob's crazy ideas.

Keep in mind that crazy does not mean difficult: it'd be difficult to make theme parks as extravagant is Walt Disney wanted to make them, but he did it; freeing a country through non-violent protest is difficult, but Gandhi did it; convincing a nation at a time of racial inequality that all people are created equal was difficult, but Martin Luther King Jr. and a great number of civil rights leaders did it. You cannot convince people the world is flat: we have overwhelming proof it is not, and it would not benefit society by knowing this "fact." You cannot convince people that fast food will automatically lead to obesity: restaurant food has just as many calories and bad ingredients, there are plenty of healthy people who eat fast food, and it's not about whether or not the food is fast, but how much you eat of it. You cannot convince society to shun sexuality (even minute things you mistake for sexuality) as a form of ungodly sin against nature: there are a number of great, moral people who are married and have children (do the math), as well as celibate criminals; a lot of nudity is often portrayed as comic or artistic; there was even a nation that outlawed any form of sexuality, and its population dwindled to zero since the population wasn't growing. Sadly, any of you who disregarded the bad convictions "know the truth," but I'm afraid that between a bad conviction and reality, reality always wins, and until you realize just how wrong you are, you will suffer intense, immediate pain.

One last thing about beliefs: A BELIEF DOES NOT MEAN LYING TO YOURSELF!!! When it comes to simple things, there are things all of society can objectively agree upon: "2 + 2 = 4," we live on Earth, these letters form words and sentences, pressing a button with a function will perform that function. You cannot believe "2 + 2 = Apple," we live on the planet Zugolobob, that people will understand, "sprek narp flabble tibiwinks," just because you understand it, or pressing F2 on your keyboard will make a monster come out of your screen. With these things, we know that's not true because we can repeat them over and over again and keep getting a result that proves otherwise. However, when it comes to behaviors, morality, and feelings, anything is possible. For example, in a society where communism is the norm, of course they "know" it will work because they have a hardworking society, and capitalism is only fooling itself with its free market economy where only the rich get richer, while in a capitalist society, they "know" their system works because they have a hardworking society, and communism is only fooling itself because nobody has to try hard to make any money. However, both sides are only looking at these things from their point of view via beliefs.

In your own life, this is the same case: you may have a lot of knowledge in a technical skill, but you might be bad with people. I used to the be the same way: art never changes, but people do. You know the technical skill is objective: do the same thing every time, you get the same results. However, you believe that if you do the same thing with each person, you not only get different results, but you get negative results. You then develop the belief, "People are unpredictable and always hate me." Then, you might misinterpret this guide, skip the upcoming instructions for how to change a belief (or maybe you'll even do them, but incorrectly), and adopt the belief, "Everyone likes me or should like me." NO THEY DON'T: YOU'RE LYING TO YOURSELF BECAUSE YOU'VE DONE NOTHING TO MAKE THEM LIKE YOU!!! In order to get better with people, you must adopt the belief, "I can learn to get better with people." This looks at things realistically: you may be horrible with people now, but you will get better with use of effort, knowledge, and practice. As I said, you will not lie to yourself: the belief empowering beliefs are grounded in reality.

So, how do you move the marbles? You change them with a nightmare and a dream.

This is the method I use to change any belief I want. It works like this.

1. Remove ALL of the marbles from the old jar/destroy your certainty about the belief. You believe something is true because you have past experience to prove it true, but we are not our pasts unless we live there. In fact, most of our past experiences are distorted and skewed towards our perspectives with grossly misinterpreted facts. Didn't you have something you believed five years ago that you'd be embarrassed to admit? We all do, but we believed them at the time. So, instead of waiting five years, lets make an improvement now: create doubt for your disempowering beliefs by finding experiences that directly contradict your current beliefs. Get passionate about it: get in a good position, take some deep breathes, and get excited about prying out all of the supports that keep this self-destructive behavior alive. Also, pry out all of the past experiences by looking at the situation objectively, not just distorted to make you the "good guy." LEAVE NO PAST REFERENCE ALIVE!!! If you still feel like your belief is true, keep going: notice how you changed since you first developed the belief, notice how ridiculous it is in the long run, notice how other people act and operate. Question it to DEATH. If there is even one marble left in that belief jar, the next steps won't work: you must no longer believe in this idea, even if it makes some sense on a gut level in a, "This is the only thing I know!," sense.

Note: If you leave even one marble in the old jar, the janitor (your nervous system) may hop in to intervene and move all of the marbles back: it knows it shouldn't be there, so it'll do what it can to "prove to you" that all of the marbles belong there. The same applies when filling new marbles: what does not strengthen from an opinion into a belief will revert back to merely an idea.

2. DESTROY THE JAR WITH A SELF-INDUCED NIGHTMARE./Associate massive pain to maintaining this belief.: Once you understand how ridiculous this disempowering belief is, it's time to destroy the need for the jar. To do this, imagine the consequences holding this belief will do to your life in the most vivid, real, emotionally-powerful way you can. Imagine this problem is permanent, affects every area of life, and is limited to only just you. It's permanent because you refuse to let go of it, it affects every area of life because either the individual problems are seeping over or you're giving it more attention than it deserves. Make it real and make it hurt. Imagine what you'll lose and make the pictures in your mind brighter and more vivid, make the sounds louder and worse, make the feelings so intense you'll want to scream. Keep making it worse and worse until you have no choice but to change. If you feel mildly or even overtly depressed thinking of this nightmare, and perhaps you even think you've gone far enough, THAT'S NOT ENOUGH AND YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG: the pain has to be so bad that to not take any more action to solving this problem will cause immediate and unbearable pain.

3. Find the opposite belief and start filling it with the initial marbles you need./Get a new empowering alternative that satisfies the old belief's needs. Find the opposite of what you once did, but also look for something that gets your needs met. Whatever you do, it's more-than-likely to gain one of these six needs:

1. Certainty: The need to know what you're doing is correct. You need some to survive, but too much paralyzes you. A good way to achieve this is through good strategies, but a bad way is by never doing anything: if you never make choices, you never risk uncertainty (nor enjoy success).
2. Uncertainty: The need to accomplish through uncertainty. You'll need to satisfy this to achieve, but too much/too little may make you easily bored. Some get it through making more choices, watching movies or listening to music, or learning more things, or perhaps they do drugs, break things for fun, or troll people to see where it leads.
3. Significance: The need to know your life is important/valued. Often confused for love. You can gain significance through helping others, or you can show off your problems to gain it.
4. Love: The need to connect with others. Too much need for this leads to loneliness. Luckilly, it's easily satisfied: love others. You don't need significance to gain love.
5. GROWTH: The need to constantly improve. If you satisfied all of the other needs but are not growing, you feel stagnated and start falling back. In nature, what does not grow, dies.
6. CONTRIBUTION: The need to give back to others and leave a lasting impact. If you satisfied your needs but are not giving back, you will ultimately lose everything else in time. In nature, what does not contribute is eliminated.

So, if you had a belief, "I must whine to gain attention," you'd change it to, "I can gain the attention of others by being interested in them, not me: I need to be more proactive about my own problems." Then, find all those past experiences where you did this and feel good about finding them. Find examples of others who do it and how they do it, and you can follow in their footsteps. Fill the jar until it reaches Belief size, otherwise it's only an opinion, and opinions can be destroyed.

4. GROW THE JAR WITH A DREAM/Associate massive pleasure to maintaining this new empowering belief. With enough references to get you started, you might feel pretty good knowing you're on the path to a better way of life, but it won't stick unless you feel absolutely compelled to do whatever it takes to live by these standards. You may have killed the old belief, but it'll come back if you don't have something to replace it with. Now it's time to enter a dream state: your problem is no longer permanent, it's no longer affecting every area of life, and you can learn how others solved it. Make it bright, vivid, and real: experience the great feelings of now handling this problem and amplify them infinitely. Imagine what you'll do, what you'll accomplish, how much easier life will be, what other traits you'll adopt, and beyond. Again, if you merely stop at "good enough," IT WON'T WORK: you may only stop when you feel so absolutely compelled to act that you'll do whatever it takes to learn this new belief.

5. DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO CEMENT THIS NEW BELIEF INTO HABIT.: By this point, you have the old belief as the ultimate tool for punishment and your new belief as a reward: now you just need to understand how to do what you want to do. A strong enough why often leads to the how, and your brain will start picking up on how to accomplish what you want (discussed later). Once you know what you want and start taking action (because until you do, you haven't changed yet), you'll face challenges: you're going to screw up, you're going to fail, and you're going to make mistakes because you'll be doing some new behaviors. If you failed the previous steps, you'll likely default back to the other belief, but if you did this properly, you know that failure is not an option: to resort to your old ways will lead to immediate pain now and in the future. So, just keep changing your strategies until you finally get what you want, and you'll eventually succeed. You might say, "I've tried a million things, and that didn't work," and I'll say, "NAME THEM!" You might say, "I tried a thousand things!" NAME THEM! "A hundred things?" NAME THEM! Eventually, you might admit, "I did one or two things that didn't work, then just gave up." You didn't get strong enough reasons to adopt the new belief; that, or you need to adopt these three beliefs:

1. "Unless I take action and do something about my changes, nothing will change."
2. "I must do the changes. Others may guide me and help me, but it is my emotions, my brain, and what I do with them that control how I feel and act."
3. "I can change. It might not be immediate, and what I know now may not be enough to get me to what I want to go, but I can learn. If I fail, I will learn. If something doesn't work out, I will learn. If my strategy doesn't work, I'll change my approach as many times as I have to until it does."
4. "My problems are not permanent. I will solve them in time."
5. "My problems are isolated incidents: even if one area is wrong, I can still control everything else."
6. My problems are not personal: if everyone else can learn something, I can, too, if I have their standards, beliefs, and strategies."

How many times must you change your approach? AS MANY TIMES AS IT TAKES. If your first plan doesn't work, change your strategy. Don't repeat the same strategy in a different way or different circumstance and think you've changed your approach: it must be RADICALLY different. If that doesn't work, change it again. If that doesn't work, change it again. If that doesn't work, change it again. If THAT doesn't work, change it again. If THAT doesn't work, change it again. If THAT doesn't work, change it again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again AND AGAIN UNTIL IT DOES!!!

However, we cannot get to this point until we adopt the rest of the ideas and principles listed in Part 2.
Giant Update - June 11, 2013: Added the Beliefs concept and new examples, redid the marble jar metaphor.

Part 2: [link]

If you see any misspellings, point them out so I can fix them.

Additional reading:
Spaztique's Guide To Dealing With The Rough Times: [link]
A Metaphor for Dealing With Depression: [link]

For the next guide, I might go over Artistic Unity or Social Skills. Comment on which one you'd like to see next.

Fun fact: This article has enough information to fill a $50-$100 eBook. Most of these eBooks just regurgitate information, and none of them update with your comments or questions. I don't believe your well-being should have a price tag, so as a courtesy of the Walfas Station Wagon, I'm giving it to you for free.
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:iconmr-wang:
Mr-Wang Featured By Owner Jun 10, 2013
To be honest, I might seem like a fun guy, but... I guess a reality is, "Mr. Wang" is a mask of a different person, the one I am outside the computer. I feel like I'll be needing the Self-Development Wagon for this summer to try and better myself as a person. Be laid back. Be sociable. Be adaptable. Be happy. It's come to my attention I've been hurting people dear to me.

Sometimes I ask why you bother, Spaztique, worrying for the welfare of the internet people, helping them with their troubles. I never considered myself to have good moral obligations to help people with problems like this because I'm not good with problems like these, or helping them out of their jams. But then something hits me and it makes me glad people like you are out there nonetheless.
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:icondaggett-walfas:
Daggett-Walfas Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012
"Over time, you mind and body have..."
"Over time, your mind and body have..."

"...step towards  achieving that previously-listed base goal?"
There is a double space after "towards".

Other than those insignificant mistakes, this was extremely well written and insightful. Thanks a million, Spaztique!
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:iconspaztique:
Spaztique Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks, and thank you for pointing out those misspellings.

To go back to the concept of how to be human is to endlessly improve, what's funny is that as well-written as you say this is, I actually just read Chip & Dan Heath's "Made To Stick," and it turns out I could have made it even better. The idea of the book is that people have a thing called "The Curse of Knowledge," where once they understand a complex subject, they forget what it was like to not know it and fail to explain it to others who don't understand, either. Basically, it's the same concept that you know what you know because you're you, but it's hard to know what other people know because you can't read their minds, and while I do my best to avoid that, there's always room to avoid that better. For the next guide (which will either be over Artistic Unity or Social Skills), I plan to employ the teaching/explaining techniques I learned from that guide so I can, to allude to the jar of marbles metaphor, get people to move more marbles from one jar to another.

Once again, thanks for reading/commenting/pointing out the misspellings, and I hope this helps you.
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:icondaggett-walfas:
Daggett-Walfas Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012
You're welcome, Spaztique.

Well, I suppose that when you wrote this, and I can tell, that you put in effort. And just like you said about the room for endless improvement and "The Curse of Knowledge," you might have been able to be more effective with the effort used, had you read Chip & Dan Heath's "Made To Stick" before writing this. But this is, like everything else and how you probably view your essay, is a learning experience. And by no means do I want to make it sound like this lengthy essay was ineffective or subpar; in fact, I thought it was very clean, clear and I don't think you really read anyone's mind. Well, besides some peoples' minds wishing they could find a concise guide like this. haha But all joking aside, I think you did a great job teaching this lesson. And even if you think it might have been better, a success is a success. And that is what this is. A success.

(Sorry if that was a bit cluttered. I'm not the most coherent sometimes. xp)

Yes, I did help me out and I am planning on putting some of those principles in action. Not later, but now!
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:iconsupermario1550:
SuperMario1550 Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I only read the short version but I hope that means I understand the point. Thanks for this guide.
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:iconfestasim:
festasim Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012
This essay has been both very interesting and enlightening for me. I can relate very well with some of the problems exposed here, and know I know better how to deal with them, or how to see them in a different way. I always tried to supress some emotions of mine to let me think objectively, but know I know that things like these aren't easy at all. I learned too that I should try better to relate with people, try to understand them and how to interact with them, since this is one of my main problems, I don't know very well how to deal with people. I thank you, Spaz, to have shown me the way. I can say that if we'll become, or better, when we'll became better people, it will be also thanks to you. We can make the WSW a better place with the effort of everybody.
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:iconishingoyabuki:
IShingoYabuki Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Student Digital Artist
I fight for happiness and I am aware of my problems since time ago, as I said, I fight for them everyday, for me, there is no pleasure without pain. I'm always aware that I have to fight for whatever goal I have to achieve and I like always to help anyone with their problems by at least listening to them.

Thanks a lot for this guide, Spaztique. I look forward to the next one.

(By the way, I dunno if it's a typo or anything but the last line in the description is written as "I'VE giving it to you for free." isn't it I'M? Or is it written like that in this case?)
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:iconbarbakki:
barbakki Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I feel a lot better now thanks to your guide.
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