Erroneous Paths Cautiously examine before expending time, energy and money
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The hordes of conflicting advice for living healthy are overwhelming. Any guru always has antagonists defending different views. The well-being field is flooded. Information isn’t bad if we reasonably know it’s reliable; unfortunately, often it’s not. After spending several decades in the fitness industry, I discovered the motivation behind producing most fitness products wasn’t fitness but sales. The happiness market is no different. People don’t buy books, rush to motivational conferences, or dispense with precious money unless the product excites. The producers, therefore, seek popularity instead of effectiveness.
Over the last century, happiness has become a stand-alone goal. The goal has shifted from ethical living to make me happy. Previously happiness was a beneficial consequence of living an ethical and constructive life. We consume products simply because they promise happiness, not because of an underlying goodness—to self or others. Suppliers fill the shelves, aisles and web pages with products that promise happiness. Instead of spending money to conduct experiments to test effectiveness, producers channel money to marketing to determine profitability—will consumers spend money, believing this product will make them happy?
Often life benefiting behaviors take time to marinate before they bloom into greater well-being. We must courageously cling to wisdom and continue forward before the blessings are received. We are easily misled.
In our demand for independence, and lost in the confusion trying to differentiate between wise and deceptive authority, we rely on feelings to guide. But emotions have pitfalls. Many actions produce immediate pleasant sensations but long term damage, while other actions creates immediate discomfort but have long term benefits.
Misinterpreted meanings extracted from the positive and negative feelings may lead us down erroneous paths. We desire a flawless guidance system so plenty opportunistic well-being specialist sells a philosophy to fit our desires, soothing our wants but failing to provide for our needs. The consumers readily gobble up the promises that demand minor mental or behavioral efforts; 19.99 + shipping and handling and your life will be better.
"Often life benefiting behaviors take time to marinate before they bloom into greater well-being. We must courageously cling to wisdom and continue forward before the blessings are received."
Changing behavioral trajectories requires effort; we must face the stubbornness of engrained habits and protective thinking. Adjusting course demands persistently forcing actions opposing the naturally inclined responses. This doesn’t feel good, demanding tremendous mental energy. We also must challenge the justifying thoughts. This doesn’t feel good; resisting chemical dependencies doesn’t feel good; listening to corrective advice doesn’t feel good; sacrificing the present for better futures doesn’t feel good—at least at first. But eventually, as new behaviors prove their worth and we recognize the benefits of those behaviors on the future. Soon the forced action produces feelings of pleasantness.
We shouldn’t simply ignore feelings that push for one action or another. Feelings offer insights of the binding connections between past and present. We don’t necessarily need an in-depth Freudian examination but bringing to consciousness associations from past experience (learning) and current encounters causing emotional upheavals may assist in avoiding faulty internal guidance. Once we recognize the obnoxious groping of mounting feelings, we can search for meaning (both internal and external), seeking connections between the present trigger and the meaningful past giving life to that trigger; but these searches must be limited only when they prove helpful. Sometimes the emotional markers from the past are hidden; fruitless searches frustrate, and create vulnerability to false conclusions. In these cases, answers remain a mystery and we must accept the disruptions. Our challenge remains to act differently than internal powers dictate, choosing more constructive paths—conduct with purposeful ends.
We want to feel good—the pleasure principle. Our emotions are an ancient guiding system. The world has rapidly changed—biological evolution can’t keep pace with social evolution. We face a complex world that outpaced our biological guiding systems. Our cognitive apparatus provides and inadequate guide to successfully navigate the complexities. We absorb learning from surroundings, gathering skills and knowledge to competitively survive. But we must reach beyond survival, also developing habits and behaviors that consider the future; not simply pleasure in the moment. Increasing complexity of industrial and digital revolutions doesn’t render emotions obsolete but does, however, place increasing demand on a more cognitive approach.
We must be skeptical of new ideas; slow to abandon proven behaviors for attractive shortcuts. Look a little deeper. Look for evidence. Ask a few questions. Are there confirming studies? Who conducted the studies? Where did the idea come from? Is the idea all-encompassing ignoring complexity? Slowing down to investigate, asking a few questions, may save us from unneeded hurts. We are human; we occasionally will be duped. Upon first contact, we may like an idea because it sounds right (it feels good), but with further examination and a few probing questions, we may discover the error, avoid wasted time and pursue a more productive course.