happiness

Weekend Reading #5

As usual, here's a dose of the good stuff for you to digest over the weekend.


Hacking Happiness: Why Your Personal Data Counts and How Tracking it Can Change the World - John Havens

I read a lot of books about happiness/positive psychology so I'm a pretty critical (I want to say "consumer" but if you read this book you'll know why I hesitate at that word...) reader. John has done something with this book that is a much more refreshing and interesting look at what it means to strive for happiness in a world soaked in technology and data. Also worth checking out is the non-profit John has started, Happathon. I had the pleasure of having a phone call with John earlier this week and he is working on a lot of great stuff to make the world a better place. Check out this book and keep John on your radar -- he's making good things happen.

The Ancient Wisdom Project

I'm not sure who turned me onto this site/project, but I'm glad they did (I think it might've been Cal Newport?). Anyway, the basic idea is that the author does a series of 30 day experiments in which he commits to "practicing, studying, and reflecting on a single philosophy or religion with the hopes of personal growth." I love the concept behind the project. I've only read the first couple of his articles on Stoicism but I'm looking forward to getting further into it.

It Was Me All Along (available for preorder) - Andie Mitchell

I had the pleasure of meeting Andie a few months ago when we invited her to speak at the TEDx event I was co-organizing. One of our planning team members recommended we reach out to her because she knew Andie from college and was familiar with her story (thanks Susan!). Turns out, Andie is a phenomenal speaker. Her talk ended up being one of my favorites of the day. In addition to being a great speaker her upcoming book, It Was Me All Along, is now available for preorder. If it's as good as her talk then it'll definitely be worth your time.

[youtube=://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-q7SVJYaO0&w=854&h=480]

What was the best thing you read this week? I'd love if you'd share it with me on Twitter (@samspurlin) or in the comments below.


If you like this stuff -- books about happiness, articles about personal development, and inspiring talks -- then you should consider signing up for The Workologist Newsletter. Once a month I send subscribers a recap of what happened on TheWorkologist.com over the past thirty days and an article expanding on the best idea I had this month. As a thank you, I also give you a free copy of my e-book that shows you how you can work a little bit better by paying attention to some of the research that has come out over the past few years.

Photo by Katherine Lim

The Simple Truths of Happiness from the Dalai Lama

There are few people in the world as qualified that people turn to for advice and insight on happiness than the Dalai Lama. As the living spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, the Dalai Lama has seen and lived through the dislocation of his country and people. Despite the difficult events he has lived through, most people would agree that it is impossible to not feel happier after being in his presence. He will tell you that happiness is the purpose of life and that "the very motion of our life is towards happiness." In this book, The Art of Happiness, the Dalai Lama expounds on day-to-day anxiety, insecurity, anger, discouragement and other difficulties common to all human beings. In a series of conversations with Dr. Howard Cutler in Arizona and India as well as excerpts from a speaking engagement in Phoenix, the Dalai Lama provides interesting insights into the problems that we all face.

I read this book a long time ago and on top of simply recommending it, I thought I would pick and expand a few quotes from the text that spoke to me. Each of these ideas is resoundingly simple yet speaks volumes to attaining happiness. 

  1. "I believe that happiness can be achieved through training the mind.": I think this quote is incredibly optimistic and hopeful. Many of us operate under the assumption that our happiness is dictated by outside circumstances; when I get the raise I'll be happy or when I get accepted into this top-ranked university I'll be happy. The beautiful thing about this quote is that if you believe it, you have complete control over your own level of happiness. It may not be particularly easy to develop that mental discipline or control, but it's attainable through practice and training. Removing the external control of our happiness and placing it within something we can control, our own mind, is absolutely huge to achieving lasting happiness.
  2. "Unhappiness...comes to each of us because we think ourselves at the center of the world, because we have the miserable conviction that we alone suffer to the point of unbearable intensity.": It is easy to shut the world out of our thoughts when we are unhappy. Our focus turns inward until we can only see our own sorrows and situation; our perspective narrows. If we can train ourselves to prevent this narrowing at times of difficulty our unhappiness will lose its acuteness. Most importantly, I think this quote speaks to the power of letting other people help us in times of sorrow and difficulty.
  3. "It's the very struggle of life that makes us who we are. And it is our enemies that test us, provide us with the resistance necessary for growth.": If we lived in a world without difficulty, without enemies, nobody would grow. You can't grow your muscles without resistance-- that's why hockey players will skate with weights on their feet during practice. That's why you read difficult books and that's why difficult situations provide the greatest opportunity for growth. I like to interpret the "enemies" in the above quote in very broad terms. I don't really think I have any enemies in the true sense of the word but I do have plenty of goals, events, and situations that can provide the same resistance as enemies. They are enemies of my own choosing, but they still spur me toward growth. Cherish your enemies, your difficult tasks, and anything that pushes you out of your comfort zone.

The book continues to expound on these, and many other, ideas. As I read it, I think what struck me the most was that even though the Dalai Lama is a spiritual/religious leader, his advice on attaining happiness is rational and based on solid observation. As somebody who doesn't put much stock in any kind of organized religion, I wasn't sure if the Dalai Lama would have much to say that would resonate with me. However, there is nothing religious about training our minds to respond to stimuli in a positive manner, broadening our focus to other people in times of unhappiness and embracing the difficult aspects of life while using them as a basis for growth.

 

Developing an Autotelic Personality, or, How to Enjoy Everything

Imagine deriving the utmost enjoyment and pleasure out of nearly every aspect of your life.  Listening to music, doing dishes, talking to a friend, cooking a meal, or doing errands--what if you looked forward to all of these activities equally? In Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, he describes a type of person with an "autotelic" personality.  According to Csikszentmihalyi, "The term "autotelic" derives from two Greek words, auto, meaning self, and telos meaning goal.  It refers to a self-contained activity, one that is done not with the expectation of some future benefit, but simply because the doing itself is the reward." 

Engaging in autotelic activities is what many people describe as "flow."  Think back to a time you were doing something you loved and really got wrapped up in the project.  You probably lost sense of time and you felt challenged, yet capable, of handling whatever you faced.  This is the making of an autotelic experience and the more of these occurrences we can have, the greater enjoyment we can get out of life.

FINDING THE FLOW STATE

Some activities are conducive to entering this flow state.  For example, athletes and surgeons both report high levels of autotelic experiences while they partake in their professions.  The true test of an autotelic personality, however, is being able to enter that state of flow even while doing things that many people consider boring.  A person with an autotelic personality can take something as mundane as mowing the lawn and turn it into an opportunity for growth.  Therefore, the argument that developing an autotelic personality will directly impact your quality of life is quite easy to make.  Deriving true enjoyment out of every aspect of is the key to separating the quality of our lives from external (and therefore uncontrollable) forces.

Becoming somebody with an autotelic personality is not something that can be done overnight.  It must be actively practiced until it becomes part of your personality.  The rules are very simple and can be broken down as follows:

  1. Setting goals: To experience flow you have to have clear goals to strive for.  This includes massive lifelong goals to something as small as figuring out what to do this afternoon.  An autotelic personality can make these decisions with a minimum of extra effort which allows her to focus energy on attaining that goal.
  2. Becoming immersed in the activity: An autotelic personality will give all of his or her attention directly to the task at hand.  Being in control of your own attention is one of the most powerful skills a person can develop.  A wandering or constantly distracted mind is a the mercy of every passing stimulus and therefore attention is spread and diluted.
  3. Learning to enjoy immediate experience: Our bodies and minds have incredible capabilities of enjoyment.  Gaining control of your mind opens an individual to experience almost anything and derive joy.  Every taste, smell, sound, thought, and observation can be the anchor of immediate enjoyment if we take the time, focus, and effort to experience it.

We all have amazing capabilities to control our level of enjoyment in everything we do.  Practicing the steps to developing an autotelic personality is a very concrete way to improve the quality of your own life. As Csikszentmihalyi writes, "Only direct control of experience, the ability to derive moment-by-moment enjoyment from everything we do, can overcome the obstacles to fulfillment." 

What can you do today to derive enjoyment in your life? 

Want to learn more about flow? Robert Wall of Untitled Minimalism interviewed me for his podcast and we spent most of the time talking about flow. Check it out here.

Values Don't Make Your Life Better

For years I have been an advocate of articulating values as a logical first step when improving your life. I've written about it over and over and have used it as a starting point with most of my coaching clients. While it has always seemed to work decently well I've discovered I'm a little uneasy about using this method. The logic is that if you can articulate and describe what you truly care about, what I've been calling values, you can start doing things to make those more salient in your life. It's a simple enough idea that also seems logically sound. The problem, however, is that actually drilling down to your true values is not easy to do. There are multiple factors working against this kind of approach, including the fact that the whole idea of values is kind of fuzzy to begin with. I can say I value Family and you can say you value Family and the mental picture we're each drawing may be completely different. We both know what we mean and are happy with the description, but it's not the same thing.

THE CASE AGAINST VALUES

Another major stumbling block when it comes to articulating values is the fact that there are powerful societal forces that say you should value certain things. I believe it was in Tim Brownson's book, How to Be Rich and Happy, that he described a situation where a husband and wife did a values articulation exercise at the same time. When Family didn't appear in the husband's top 3 values and it did in the Mrs' there was obviously a major point of contention. That may be a little bit of an unusual situation, but think for a moment about the things that society says you're supposed to value. Family is definitely one of those values that's supposed to be on everyone's short list. Other people feel significant pressure to include Faith/Religion, Freedom, Friends -- the list could go on. The point I'm trying to make is not that it's bad to value these things, but to merely ask how likely it is we are truly describing our values when we feel societal pressure to value certain things.

I think there is an underlying metaphor that we can examine between values and passion. I'm not sure I can go a day without hearing or reading the advice about "finding a passion." I used to be a purveyor of this piece of advice as well. Until I figured out it's basically pointless. The belief that everybody has a particular passion waiting for them somewhere in the world and it just needs to be uncovered like a treasure under a rock is not helpful. Therefore, the dominant activity when trying to uncover or find this passion seems to be flitting from activity to activity, from rock to rock, looking for that elusive passion that will fix all your ills. There's a driving force that if you don't like your situation then you just haven't found your passion yet. I've since decided that this line of thinking is mostly fallacious and that "finding" is the wrong verb to use when describing passion. Instead, we should talk about "developing" passion. The focus is on action and practice. I feel the same way about values. The traditional way of thinking about value places little emphasis on actual action, just like the quest for finding a specific passion. Values shouldn't be discovered but developed over time, like passion. Both of these constructs need a radical overhaul.

VALUES --> ACTION, OR, VALUES <--ACTION?

The underlying assumption that I think most people make (and I have, too, for a long time) is that our actions follow our values. That we act the way we do because of the things we value. This seems logically straightforward. However, what if the relationship between values and action is more bidirectional than believed? In fact, let's think about the directly opposite view. Instead of our values driving our actions, what if the way we act drives what we value? That we think we value Family not because we've decided that Family is very important to us but because doing nice things for your family makes you feel good (both in the short and long-term) and therefore you associate doing nice things for your family as the "value" Family. The driving force in this relationship is the action, not the value.

I think personal development should be a very tangible activity and the ephemeral nature of values has bothered me for some time. There has to be a better way to think about living a life that makes you happy. Today, I'd like to propose a new line of attack in personal development: Instead of trying to articulate your values, articulate the activities that make you feel both "good" and "bad" in the short and long-term; systematically cultivate and seek the activities that make you feel good while cutting out the activities that make you feel bad. With this new approach we can now focus on action, on practice, and on progress instead of sitting idly and searching our memories, feelings and "values" that describe the way we feel. In the end, you can have the most perfectly articulated values but what actually matters is what you do. Action is the greatest manifestation of value, so let's shift our attention to how we can create more of it in our lives.

IDENTIFYING THE GOOD

As human beings we are hard wired to seek pleasurable experiences and sensations. Delicious food, clothes fresh from the dryer, sex -- all of these produce pleasurable sensations. Are these the types of things you should be seeking out under my new value-less paradigm? Not quite. While there's nothing wrong with pleasurable sensations themselves (provided they aren't harming you or anyone else in the long-term), we are searching for a more nuanced definition of "good." A helpful starting point when trying to articulate the types of activities and behavior that we're after is to think about a day where everything seemed to go "right" and you went to bed feeling satisfied and happy. For me, it probably means I worked hard and made progress on work that mattered to me, had some kind of physical activity, interacted with the people to whom I'm closest, meditated and challenged myself in some way. That is the type of day that makes me smile as my head hits my pillow, exhausted, at the end. While I was working hard on a difficult project or working out I probably didn't feel euphoric like I might be when eating a thick slab of chocolate cake. The immediate gratification wasn't there, but the long-term benefits I knew I was cultivating by not procrastinating and by keeping myself healthy far outweighed the momentary discomfort.

You may have an idea of similar activities that make you feel fulfilled and aligned when you do them. Some sort of physical activity and eating healthy are common activities that seem to find their way on to people's "good" lists frequently. What other activities make you feel this way? If you're having trouble coming up with ideas, there's something you can do to make this process easier. For the next few days you need to become more mindful of how different aspects of your daily activity make you feel. There are numerous times throughout most days where I find myself saying, "Man, why don't I do this more often?" That's a good sign that I've just found an activity that I should try to systematically build into my life in a more robust way. On the flip side, there's usually numerous points throughout most days where I find myself saying, "This sucks. I never want to do this again." Again, this is the sign of an activity that I should actively try to remove from my future experience. It's not easy to remember to be mindful but the more you practice it, the better you'll get at it. If it's easier for you, you could spend a few minutes at the end of the day identifying the times and activities where you felt really good and bad in the past 24 hours. Write those down and after a week or two you should have a good list to work from.

Another route you can take for identifying the activities and actions that you'd like to build into your life is to look at people you admire and identify what seems to be making them feel good. The problem with the approach I described in the previous paragraph is that you're limited to the scope of activities in which you already partake. That's no good. Obviously there are a myriad of possibilities that exist beyond your current realm of experience. Looking to people you admire can give you ideas of activities for inclusion on your own list. Obviously, you can't just adopt other people's approaches without testing them for yourself. It's possible that something your friend finds fulfilling and "good" is quite the opposite for you. It's up for you to give it a try and make that decision for yourself, though.

BEYOND HEDONISM

The obvious trap that must be avoided is lapsing into a hedonistic focus when it comes to identifying the activities that make you feel good. Hedonism is a school of thought that argues pleasure is the only intrinsic good. A hedonist does everything they can to maximize pleasure while minimizing pain. There are lots of possibilities of things you can do that will make you feel good in the moment such as eating four chocolate chip cookies or not working on a difficult project. In the short run, both of these choices may maximize pleasure while minimizing pain. How does my new approach to personal development sans values differ from pure hedonism?

The key term that I fail to use in my definition of good while hedonists latch onto with authority is "pleasure." A hedonist's primary focus is purely on pleasure. Pleasure is characterized by good emotions and sensations without too much concern about long term ramifications. In my approach to personal development, you're searching for activities that go beyond pure pleasure and tap into more long lasting sensations of "good." That's not to say that some of the activities you identify as positive components of your life aren't also hedonistically oriented. However, it's unlikely that the full roster of your good activities will all be hedonistically relevant. For example, lifting weights or running is something I've identified as an activity that makes me feel good. In the short term, when I'm actually sweating and breathing hard, I rarely feel like that final rep or final half mile is adding a lot of pleasure to my life. If I were a hedonist, it's unlikely that I'd partake in activities like that, even though I know they are good for me in the long run. While it may be difficult in the moment, I know the importance of staying physically fit and I know how good I feel after a strong workout. When seeking out the activities that you want to cultivate more mindfully in your own life, try to identify whether you're looking for immediate gratification or long term happiness. The more you can build your life around doing things that will benefit you in the long term and not just the short, the better off you'll be.

ARRANGING YOUR LIFE

The whole point of this entire shift in ideology is to place the focus squarely on concrete actions that have improved your life in the past or you have a strong suspicion may improve your life in the future. At the same time, you're systematically removing actual events and actions that have been detrimental in the past. The net result of this addition and subtraction should be a noticeably happier life that coincides more directly with what you actually care about. One caveat before moving forward is that this approach requires a decent amount of mindfulness to pull off successfully. Essentially, you need to be able to step back from your immediate experience often enough to notice what your emotions are when you partake in different activities. This serves as the backbone of this system and without it your lists are going to be flimsy and meaningless.

To begin, take a week where all you do is go on living your normal life while carrying a small notebook and a pen with you throughout the day. Your only job is to pay attention to what is making you feel good or bad as you go about your business and to write it in your notebook. This is going to feel weird at first, I know. There's no reason you need to stop doing whatever your'e doing to whip out your notebook and make a note, but try to just pay attention to how you're feeling when you do different things and make a note of it as often as possible. At this stage of the game, you're just trying to get a rough idea of the activities you want to cultivate and those you want to rip out by the roots.

After you've done this for awhile you should have two lists; one full of activities and events that make you feel good about yourself and one full of activities and events that make you feel bad about yourself. Now, take a few moments to look at your lists and add any other activities that you may not have experienced in the past week but you know they are something that's super positive or very negative for you. Helpful questions at this point include, "What makes me feel good whenever I do it?", "What should I do more of?", "If I had the time/money/energy, what would I do more of?", and "Lots of people seem to enjoy running/working out/eating a paleo diet/eating a vegetarian diet/volunteering/whatever -- should I try that?" As you can imagine, do the same thing with the negative components as well. You want to flesh out these lists as much as possible so they are salient and exciting.

The obvious next step is to begin making space in your life to incorporate some of the activities from your good list as much as possible. Depending on the content of your list, that will obviously look differently for different people and activities. The key is to make yourself commit to a handful of these activities as explicitly as possible. Put them on a to-do list, break them into smaller tasks, leave yourself notes around the house reminding yourself to do them -- whatever it takes to build more of these events into your life. In order to make this a sustainable change, however, you should try focusing on only a small subset of these activities at first. You're only going to set yourself up for failure and disappointment if you try to cram the entirety of your list into every day, or even every week. Some of the activities on your list are probably habits that wouldn't hurt to instill into your daily life, but some of the other ones are probably done no more frequently than weekly or monthly. I like to actually set some time aside at the beginning of the week to actually look at my lists and decide which positive activities I'm going to try to do over the next several days and which activities I'm going to actively try to remove.

Looking at and working with your good list is obviously a little bit more fun than thinking about all the things you do that you hate. However, I've found that removing bad habits and activities from my life is almost more rewarding than filling my days with activities that make me feel good. Take a look at your schedule or routine and identify where you can remove items that are on your negative list. For many people, possibilities include waking up too late to feel calm and collected in the morning, eating tons of fast food, spending money on stuff you don't need (or really want) and other hobbies or activities that bring little or negative value to your life. Again, just like with the positive list, you can't do everything at once, especially if you're dealing with habits. Pick one that you'd like to eradicate and focus on it exclusively until you've changed or removed it to your satisfaction. This isn't a race -- take your time and do it right.

CONCLUSION

I've covered a lot of ground in this article to essentially make a simple point; the more you do things that make you feel good and the less you do that makes you feel bad the better you'll feel about yourself. For a long time I advocated that the best way to figure out how to live a more meaningful and positive life was to take a long and hard look at your values. I've always had trouble with that approach because it's hard to wrap your mind around values separate from the influence of society at large. Instead, rooting your decisions in what you'll do to improve your life should be based on experience. Nobody except you knows what makes you feel good. Nobody except you knows what makes you feel bad. If you can mindfully identify which activities produce which emotions within you, you can systematically build your life around those activities (or around removing those activities).

The Many Paths to Happiness

How do you define happiness? It's definitely something we think we understand but is very difficult to define.

 

Some positive psychologists don't even like to use happiness as a measurement and replace it with well-being, life satisfaction, or some other measure that is supposedly more specific or easier to measure. Regardless of whether you're going to use "happiness" as a topic of research, I think it's important to have a good understanding of what it actually means. Knowing what it is means we have a better chance of finding it for ourselves.

To that end, there's three ways I encourage you to think about your happiness -- through meaning, through pleasure, and through engagement. Christopher Peterson, Nansook Park, and Martin Seligman developed a questionnaire that aims to measure the various paths that people take to happiness (see the paper here).

MEANING

One way many people find happiness is through aligning their life with some higher purpose or meaning. Religion fits that description for some people. For others, it's the pursuit of a social ideal or the support of some type of organization. People who feel highly connected to their work and view it as a calling are likely to score highly in this subscale. Aristotle's concept of eudaimonia, or being true to one's inner self, is a concept that aligns closely with a life of meaning.

If you identify highly with this path to happiness, you probably feel like your life serves some kind of higher purpose. Your choices tend to take into account other people and how they will be hurt or benefit from your actions. You're likely to believe that your life has a lasting meaning and what you do matters to society.

PLEASURE

Hedonic pleasure, or the accumulation of positive feelings, is another path on the route to happiness. This is the philosophy that was supported by people like Epictetus, Aristuppus and later used as the philosophical core for utilitarianism (the greatest good for the greatest number of people). A life of pleasure is concerned with the summation of all positive and negative events in an individual's life. Many people initially think of pleasure when trying to articulate happiness.

If you score highly in a life of pleasure, you enjoy doing things that excite your senses. You seek out euphoric activities and anything that will be physically pleasurable. You'd be very likely to agree with the statement, "Life is too short to postpone the pleasures it can provide."

ENGAGEMENT

Lastly, another path to happiness is spending time on activities that produce a sense of engagement, or flow. Flow is the timeless state that many people slip into when they're actively engaged in an activity that requires so much involvement and concentration that they lose self-consciousness and become completely immersed in an activity. Many athletes describe it as "being in the zone," but a life of engagement is available to anyone doing almost any activity.

If you identify most closely with a life of engagement, you'd agree with the statement that while you're working or playing you're very often unaware of time. You'd be likely to seek out situations that challenge your skills and abilities and you often lose yourself in the day to day activities of living.

WHAT'S THE BEST PATH?

As you were reading the descriptions of the three different paths to happiness, I'm guessing you had a gut reaction as to which one was "right." At least, one may seem "more right" than the others. However, the three researchers who developed this scale discovered that people who scored highly in all three subscales were also the people who scored highest in other life satisfaction scales. Evidently, utilizing only one path to happiness is not as effective as cultivating all three paths to as great extent as possible.

When I completed the survey for a class that I'm taking, I wasn't terribly surprised by my results. I scored highest in meaning, followed by engagement, with pleasure bringing up the rear. All three of my scores weren't as high as I'd like them to be, but the order in which they appeared made sense to me. Even though I'm non-religious, I do believe that the work I do has meaning to the world and that I try to be in the flow state as possible. However, it's apparent to me that I'm forgoing some of the benefits of a life of pleasure and therefore giving up a completely viable path to happiness. There are things I can do, such as learning how to savor experiences, that gets in touch with what it means to live a pleasurable life.

If you read the paper and filled out the scale (which is kind of confusing, but I can't seem to find an interactive version of it anywhere online), did your scores surprise you? Even if you didn't fill out the scale, what do you think your scores would have shown you? What path to happiness are you currently neglecting and what can you do about it?

A good starting point for your personal development is identifying which path toward happiness you're neglecting and to figure out ways to make it a more prevalent part of your life. Living a meaningful life, finding ways to be engaged, and seeking out pleasurable experiences are all equally valid ways to increase your own happiness.

Edit -- The lovely Lori emailed me to say that she found a resource for taking this test, and others, online. If you click this link and scroll to the bottom you'll find the "Approaches to Happiness Questionnaire," which is the one I'm referencing in this article. Thanks Lori!

Three Reasons We Like Reading Common Sense Advice

Let's face it, a lot of what I write about (and Everett and Leo and Tim and Steve and Jeffrey) is common sense. In fact, there is very little written out there in the genre of personal development and simplicity that is truly groundbreaking material. Of course, sometimes I read something that feels like it is completely new but upon further reflection I can almost always categorize it under I-feel-like-I-knew-this-but-it's-nice-to-be-reminded. I'm not saying this to bring down the other writers I mentioned (or even myself). In fact, I think they are doing great things by taking those pieces of common sense and repackaging it into something that seems much less common. My point is to ask why it is that the basis of this field seems to be common sense and yet people still love reading about it?

  1. It gives us a sense of control: Reading something that you already knew, at some level, gives me a sense of control. Think about it, if you read or learn something that is completely separate from your experience and beyond your level of comprehension, you are unlikely to feel very good about it. The basis of learning is being able to tie new information to information we have already learned. Much of the "lifehack" literature is a rehash of our own experiences. We've all felt what it's like to be in "the zone," even if only for a few minutes. Almost all of us can remember a time we threw out a bunch of old stuff and felt better about it afterward. Common sense is within each of us and therefore is familiar.
  2. It is usually very easy to implement: Please note that I did not say it is easy to implement well or consistently. However, almost every piece of lifehack advice can be very easily implemented at least once. Check your email only twice per day? Sure, any of us can do that for a day. Reading advice that makes you think, "Well that doesn't seem too hard-- I can do that," can be very empowering. You can spend thirty minutes reading blogs like Zen Habits or Lifehacker and have a full list of things that you can immediately start doing without too much effort.
  3. It can create a huge change in the quality of our lives: Not only is the information at least vaguely familiar and easy to implement, it can create a huge change in our lives. If this point was not true then I doubt I would be writing this blog right now. If people are successful in implementing some of what they read in the personal development genre then chances are they have experienced a positive change in their life. That experience can become intoxicating and people embark on a search to find that next piece of lifehack advice that will give them the same "high" as before.

All three of these reasons for enjoying lifehack advice are not bad in their own right. The real problem comes when I begin thinking that reading about changing my life is the same thing as actually doing it. As long as I'm able to accept that reading about personal development can be valuable research and not actual development in itself, I don't see the harm in enjoying it. I know that I truly appreciate those that take the time to read what I have to say here but if this website ever became such a distraction as to keep them from applying what they read I would tell them to delete my RSS feed immediately.

Common sense is common. Applying common sense is very rare.