We are an everything or nothing society. We either want everything now, or in our minds, we might as well have nothing.
We are never happy until we have everything we want. This is an important mental factor to be aware of in our society. It can explain a lot of behavior. I believe most people forget about it, probably because they’re guilty of it themselves..even me.
But where does this mentality come from, and what harm, if any, can it do?
Sure, some people may claim that having that mindset only pushes people to do their best all the time, and strive harder for what they want, but is this really true?
I think it sounds reasonable, but let’s take a closer look at what’s going on here.
With an all or nothing mentality, you wake up everyday, hungry for what you desire. Completely un-satiated, and that’s what is driving you throughout your day. You are running, basically, off of lack…off of a race for perceived happiness. Your “driving force” is actually motivated by being unsatisfied. Think about the work that comes out as a result of that. It has to have a negative effect.
This may seem like a normal, healthy thought process. If goal = reached, then Me = happy. But, it is not as healthy as you would think. What happens if I don’t reach my goal? What happens in the meantime UNTIL I reach my goal?
Life should always be happy. I shouldn’t live my life in high anticipation of being happy one day, which means I’m miserable until then. Sadly however, often this is the case for many people, whether they realize what’s happening or not.
Being all or nothing minded has its fair share of downfalls that can splinter into many different problems. There is just an inherent error in the logic.
If in our heads, we program happiness to only occur when something external is present..a drug, an accomplishment, ect..then we are training our brains not to be happy by just being ourselves. We shouldn’t need some external reason for happiness, it should just always be. It is our natural state.
When we were younger, happiness was hardwired into our heads. What happened? It wasn’t that we just matured. We actually flipped the switch ourselves, but our society may be at fault.
Let’s take a quick look at why this happens, and when this may have started. I think it goes back to a man named Edward Bernays, who was the father of public relations, and coined the phrase around 1919; and he also happened to be Freud’s nephew.
This documentary explains it a lot better than I could. In the video, they explain a process of transforming the American mentality, from a society that needed, to a society that wanted. I believe this plays a major role in our everything or nothing mentalities still today, because most of these practices are still used as solid foundation for mass consumer marketing and public relations.
If you want to see more watch: The Century of the Self
The result of this is not only people wanting products so they can feel better, but also that we feel worse when we don’t have something that we want. Kind of a cruel trick to pull..
If the central social drive is shifted from being content by having what I need, to perpetually wanting something else, something new, and happiness is waged on receiving everything that I want, then my happiness is forever thrown onto a string and dangled in front of me while I run on a treadmill. And, in our case, that treadmill happens to be making people money.
Our goal structure as a society needs to be redefined. I think it goes back to an amazing story quoted from actor Will Smith, where when he was younger, his father gave him the task of building a brick wall.
He said he didn’t go about it thinking he was going to build a wall, and then not be truly happy until it was all finished. Instead he said, “I am going to lay each brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid, and I’m going to do this every day, with each brick, until finally, one day, I will have a wall.”
The wall is the result of laying the bricks. Focus not on the wall, but on the bricks, and the wall will come. This is one of the best metaphors for reaching your goals that I’ve ever heard.
The emphasis on the end product needs to change. At least, the relevance we put on it should be shifted. Yes, it is important to have clearly defined goals, but if we’re not happy until those goals are actually reached, then the whole process of getting there is going to be made 1,000 times harder.
Instead, if we focus, and put all of our energy into the process, and we get happiness from this, knowing in the back of our heads that the goal will eventually get reached, and not stressing over it, and not returning a constant “goal = not done, happy = false” every time we think about it, not only will daily work be more enjoyable, but the overall outcome will wind up being a lot better in the end.
We must be happy with what we have, because only then can we truly start to build the amazing life we all hope for ourselves. It starts by being happy now. That is the only way to get the perspective needed to truly focus 100% on making our goals into reality, which is an exhilarating process..brick by brick. The answers can come now. We can start laying the bricks now.
For a results-now based society, I am sometimes surprised by our lack of ability to grasp this. I guess we feel it would just be too easy…to just be happy now. Where’s the catch? It can’t be that easy.. Actually, it can..and it is.
We have been programmed to think otherwise, and it effects our decisions everyday. You can see it yourself if you look for it.
It is definitely worth being aware of this everything or nothing mindset, especially when in a work situation, when selecting partners or collaborators, or when paired up with someone else.
This very common mental virus can have a big impact on the results we put out, and the courses of our lives in general. Ever see someone just on the ball? They’re probably happy NOW. Now you know..and if you’re not happy now, now you can change you now.
Written by: Dante Cullari Founder & President Beat-Play, LLC