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1. The Virtue of Boredom – When we think of the actions and behaviors that will have the greatest impact on our lives, we tend to imagine them as being these momentous epiphanies in our lives—i.e., highly emotional and exciting events.
But usually, they are quite the opposite. Quitting alcohol will probably change your life more than climbing a mountain. Exercising three times per week for a year will likely be more impactful to your mood and self-esteem than an expensive seminar. Blocking social media on your devices during the week will make you far more productive than any productivity hack you find in a book.
This stuff seems kind of obvious and maybe that’s part of why we don’t do it. We put it off and put it off and put it off, and finally, when we get sick of ourselves, we think, “It’s time to change!” and then we look for the most drastic and intense thing we can possibly do when really, the change was simple all along.
I think there are two reasons we’re bad at accepting this. The first is that the exciting stuff is more marketable, so it’s what you and I hear about more often. Drinking kale juice and doing push-ups? Fuck that. Let’s sell the house and live in an RV.
There’s a psychological effect where the more severe an action is, the more we assume everything will change in our life once we do it. But this is an illusion, a trick of the mind.
The other reason we struggle to accept this is that we like the idea that there’s some cosmic secret out there, waiting to be discovered. It’s exciting! It gives us hope. It helps us stomach the drab, repetitive days that are inevitable in life. We don’t want to admit that they are inevitable. So we chase after the next life-changing illusion.
There’s a virtue in boredom—and not just in tolerating it, but learning to embrace it. It’s where real value is created in life. And it’s where the most value is experienced as well.
2. Chasing Happiness Makes You Unhappy – I may not get everything right, but when I do, I make sure to rub it in everyone’s faces.
One of the more controversial claims in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck was that the cultural obsession with happiness and well-being drives us further away from happiness and well-being. Well, it took almost six years, but the science caught up. You’re welcome.
A new study found that, in fact, people who highly value the feeling of happiness are less likely to achieve it. The problem isn’t happiness itself—obviously, we all want to be happy. The problem is when we make happiness a value—a primary goal on which we focus most of our efforts—that’s what takes us further away from it.
As always, the key to happiness is to find something more worthy of our efforts than happiness—i.e., something to sacrifice for.
3. Social Isolation Makes Us Stupid – I suppose one silver lining of the pandemic this past year is that it has created a lot of great opportunities for fascinating psychological research. One such study came out last month that found that social isolation caused by lockdowns makes people dumber.
No, seriously, it makes people perform worse at cognitive functions such as basic problem-solving, learning new tasks, memory recall, time estimation, and more.
We’ve long known that the human mind relies on social connections to function properly. Face-to-face social contact maintains our mental and emotional health the same way changing the oil in your car or cleaning all the crap off your hard drive keeps them running smoothly. It is necessary for our brains to function properly.
This is another reason why I think the remote-work hype train might derail a lot faster than most imagine this year. Not only do endless Zoom meetings feel worse, but the science now suggests that they tangibly are worse. We perform worse. We think worse. And we certainly dress worse.
Until next week,