You know how you’ll be having an argument through texts, and you just can’t put the phone down? You know how you’ll be on the internet, and someone is WRONG and you just can’t leave your seat at the computer until they see the error of their ways and realize how WRONG they are? You know how you’ll get cut off on the freeway and you just want to STRANGLE THAT ASSHOLE OH MY GOD…
You know how it feels to see your ex and they’re with someone more attractive than you?
Or maybe, depending on who you are, you see your ex and they’re with someone less attractive?
These petty emotional responses are powerful. Let’s stop pretending they aren’t. If they weren’t so powerful, road rage and soap operas wouldn’t exist.
And let’s also admit that these emotions are not always on our side. They work against us. If they didn’t work against us, well, soap operas and road rage wouldn’t exist…
I’m going to show you how you can take those pettiest of emotions and turn them into your strongest allies.
The key is to notice that this whole range of “petty” emotions are all quite binary. They are like computer language, ones and zeroes. They are all just about winning and losing. When someone cuts you off on the freeway, he won and you lost. So you’re angry. When your ex is doing better than you, she won and you lost. So you’re angry (or jealous, or whatever.)
So what do you need to do? You need to change your emotional definition of winning and losing. How do you that?
Celebrate small victories.
Here is an example.
I have a close friend who is a recovering addict. Every chance she gets, she posts on social media that she has one more day, clean and sober. Every time there is something mathematically interesting about how many days, months or years she’s been sober, she posts about it. And she celebrates it. And she expects her friends to celebrate too.
Learn from her.
She’s changing her emotional definition of what it means to win. Every time she celebrates, she’s celebrating winning. So winning is being emotionally defined for her, not as winning arguments (on the internet or in person), not as dominating other drivers on the road, not as being able to feel superior to her ex-boyfriend.
Now, winning is about having one more sober day.
You know how you procrastinate, right? You have some big, beautiful idea in your head and you can’t seem to get yourself to work on it. It’s almost like you are sabotaging yourself. You tell everyone that this big idea is the most important thing in the world for you, but when it comes down to it, here you are playing video games, watching TV, or trying to win arguments on the internet.
What’s going on?
Procrastination happens because your big idea currently exists in the world of fantasy, not the day-to-day, grimy world of reality. How do you get that big idea from the forests of Narnia to the dirty streets in front of your house?
You celebrate small victories.
You find the smallest step you need to take to get closer to your goal. You take that step. And then you celebrate it. I mean, really celebrate. Whatever it is you do when the home team wins, or when your favorite dancer on dancing with the stars wows the judges, do that. Jump up and down. Cheer for yourself. Dance a little bit. Run around the house naked hooting and hollering until your dog calls 911 and requests a mental evaluation.
Then, define the next step. Take that step. Celebrate it.
Here is an example from my own life. Making this website, Spend Smart Live Rich. At first I procrastinated. Then, I started putting in my phone’s calendar, first thing tomorrow morning, “SSLR”. And all I required of myself is that I turn on my computer, and open up the site’s editor. That’s it. As soon as I did that, I celebrated. I patted myself on the back.
Well of course, once I’ve got the website open, I might as well do something with it.
But see, the key is that I admitted that I’m no better than a recovering meth addict. I took things one step at a time. Get the website editor open. Celebrating that simple step changed my emotional definition of winning. After I got used to opening the site every day, then I increased my expectations slightly. I would put on my phone’s calendar whatever it was that I thought needed the most attention on the site. If I did any work on that at all, ANYTHING, no matter how simple, I celebrated.
As time went on, just like I can’t put this stupid phone down during a texting argument, I found that I had a hard time shutting the site down once I opened it. It had become addictive. As I kept celebrating each small victory, as the months passed, it got to the point where I was thinking about the site all the time, just like I used to think about video games all the time.
Now let’s be clear. Even if you change your emotional definition of winning, you’re still going to find that people cutting you off on the freeway makes you angry. Political arguments will still upset you. Losing at video games might still make you cry. Your friends pointless drama will still get you all worked up. Your ex is…still your ex. But what you will find is that the power of these emotional responses, which are all just about winning in the crassest way, the power doesn’t take hold of you like it used to. It doesn’t last as long. It fades now.
As you emotionally redefine what it means to win, you’ll see that your celebrations are changing who you are on a deep level. Try it. See for yourself. I think you’re going to be surprised at how much your day-to-day motivation is determined, not by your deep principles or grand ideas, but by your smallest, pettiest emotions.