What is Happiness? Seven Things I Think to be True

This post was originally sent to my “Happiness Bulletin” email subscribers. Sign up here to receive that short email on life, living and happiness every Saturday morning.

Welcome to Saturday, and thank you for opening this week’s email.

Life took over a bit this week so I’ve been doing less reading and less exploring the thoughts of others. So instead this week’s email is straight from my own thoughts. [Some readers have offered me feedback that they would like a little more of my views, thoughts and experiences and a little less of the views, thoughts and experiences of others. So hopefully this week’s email is okay.]

  1. Happiness is (often unconsciously) the primary driver of every decision we make. Self-defeating behaviours are an attempt to place a balm on the suffering of the present. Even the most generous of us are driven at least in part by how good such generosity makes us feel.
  2. Happiness is both here and now, and lifelong. Go all-in on your happiness now and you place your lifelong happiness in peril. Over-invest in lifelong happiness and you risk misery here and now. Staying present here and now, and making progress towards a lifelong purpose is the best recipe for happiness.
  3. Now is all we really have. We should try our best to be mindful of the way the stories we tell about the past influence our present and to be aware that because the future will arrive, we must do as much as we possibly can at the present time to safeguard that future. So the past and the future have a major impact on now. But remembering as often as we can that now is all we really have, and to return our attention to now leaves us well placed to experience the true happiness of absolute peace of mind.
  4. The first step towards discovering our own happiness is self-knowledge. We cannot be happy until we truly know what influences our happiness. For each of us there is a unique recipe for our happiness. Our individuality is perhaps our greatest asset, and when we truly explore it, embrace it and express it, the world opens up to us. Living our life to the framework of somebody else’s recipe for happiness is almost a guarantee of unhappiness.
  5. The self and the ego are two different things. The self is our deepest truth and begs to be explored. The ego is a false second layer, one which tries to protect our true self from the suffering of shame and humiliation. Allowing our ego to influence our direction might insulate us in the short term but is sure to isolate us over the long term.
  6. The true happiness of individuals is a net gain for wider society. Happier people make better decisions for themselves and their families and lasting contributions to their communities and the world.
  7. Everything is medication. Not just medicine. Medicine explicitly triggers changes in the body through its active ingredients. But everything else we do triggers changes in the body too. The feelings of depression may well be caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, but our brains and our entire bodies are an as yet unknown collection of molecules and chemicals. Everything we do influences those chemical equations. Something as small as drinking a glass of water or standing up and going outside changes the chemical structures of our bodies and brains. When we realise this we can be proactive about managing our feelings and emotions, rather than being a slave to them or seeing them as something that can only be changed by artificial means.

Thank you for reading “What is Happiness? Seven things I think to be true”. This post was originally sent to my “Happiness Bulletin” email subscribers. Sign up here to receive that short email on life, living and happiness every Saturday morning.

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The Happiness Bulletin, #82: Flowing like water, being like water, sitting by water

This post was originally sent to the “Happiness Bulletin” email subscribers. Sign up here to receive that short email on life, living and happiness every Saturday morning.

Welcome to Saturday, and thank you for opening this week’s email

This week’s email is mostly about water.

Why?

Because water is cleansing, and life-giving. Because scientists say we are more than 60% water, and our most vital organs, our heart and our brain, are more than 70% water. Because water offers the opportunity for play and the threat of danger. Because water is the most mysterious of substances (see Neil DeGrasse Tyson bullet below).

  • A short poem by John O’Donohue
    John O’Donohue was 52 when he died suddenly in 2008. He wrote best-selling books of philosophy and spiritual development, including Anam Cara. [In the Irish language, “anam cara” means “soul friend”.]
    “Fluent” is a tiny poem about life.
    I would love to live
    Like a river flows,
    Carried by the surprise
    Of its own unfolding.
  • The philosophy of actor and martial artist master Bruce Lee, who was just 32 when he died in 1973.
    “Running water never goes stale, so you gotta just keep on flowing … Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water. You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put it in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
  • Kavanagh’s advice for happiness
    I spoke to a friend this week who said he’d met one of Ireland’s best loved poets by chance last year. He asked him, “What’s it all about? Give me one piece of advice”. The poet quickly replied with a short story about Patrick Kavanagh, the great Irish poet who died in 1967. Kavanagh spoke about not caring as the key to happiness.
    Kavanagh on “the matter of human contentment”,
    Something that I might say is the very heart of the matter of human contentment or as near as we can get. This is the secret of learning how not to care. Not caring is really a sense of values and feeling of confidence. A man who cares is not the master. And one can observe this in the matter of simple singing in the rain or in a pub. The fellows who around Christmas sing in pubs are not just chaps enjoying themselves. Enjoying themselves has nothing to do with it. They are expressing themselves. This is their art, their reason for existence. And they are usually very humble and ashamed of their own selves, for they always assume the part of some singing star or other. No wonder I squirm. I do not blame them; few people have the courage to be themselves. And when they do appear themselves it is all put on with spadefuls of bravado. It took me many years to learn or relearn not to care. The heart of a song singing it, or a poem writing it, is not caring.
    I bring up Kavanagh here because of the presence of water in his poetry, perhaps most memorably in “Lines Written on a Seat on the Grand Canal, Dublin”

    O commemorate me where there is water,
    Canal water, preferably, so stilly
    Greeny at the heart of summer. Brother
    Commemorate me thus beautifully
    Where by a lock niagarously roars
    The falls for those who sit in the tremendous silence
    Of mid-July. No one will speak in prose
    Who finds his way to these Parnassian islands.
    A swan goes by head low with many apologies,
    Fantastic light looks through the eyes of bridges –
    And look! a barge comes bringing from Athy
    And other far-flung towns mythologies.
    O commemorate me with no hero-courageous
    Tomb – just a canal-bank seat for the passer-by.

Thanks for reading.

I wish you a great weekend and week, and I’ll see you back here next Saturday.

Before I go, if you were forwarded this email and would like to get it in your inbox every Saturday morning, you can sign up for free on my website here.

Finally, if you’re online, please say hello. I’m @shanebreslin on Twitter (where I’m most active). I’m also occasionally on Instagram here, and Facebook here.

Shane

The 77 problems

I recall reading somewhere about the (possibly Buddhist?) philosophy of the 77 problems.

Each of us has 77 problems.

Solve one problem?

We receive a new one.

The objective then is not to eradicate all our problems, but to be better equipped to face the problems we have.

Net worth

The amount of money in the world is virtually infinite.

The amount of self-worth in the world is limited.

It pays to work on self-worth.

Because higher self-worth = higher net worth.

[Interested in more money, money mindset, self worth net worth content? Check out Shane’s Money Series of essays over here]

The Money Series, #1: Reframing the language of too much

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the last 2.x years of self-exploration, rebirth and expansion, it’s this.

We are, all of us, uniquely, breath-takingly different, and there’s a heartstopping wonder in the unparalleled uniqueness of our individuality.

And we are, all of us, so similar too; we share a need to be heard, and a need to be accepted, and a need to be loved, and we share deep truths, truths that go to the heart of each of us and to the heart of humanity.

[Yes, I know, that is two things.]

Things that are complex can be boiled down to simple facts. Things that are simple can uncover layers and layers of complexity. Between the black and the white there are a million shades of grey. The opposite of every profound truth is another profound truth.

But enough of the idle philosophy.

Instead let me get straight to the essential point, which is about one of the simplest and yet most complex things on earth: money.

Money, as in how it works.

Money, as in how it flows.

Money, as in our relationship to it.

Money, as in what it means.

Money, as a belief system.

Money, as in what it’s becoming, a technological phenomenon that will find itself out of the reach and perhaps even out of the understanding of banks and governments.

A blog series about money: what it is, how it works and how we relate to it

This is the first in a possible series of articles about money, written by someone who knows only how much he doesn’t know about money, someone who in the past struggled to earn good money, was unable to talk about it, rarely saved it, never invested it, and typically splurged it whenever he found himself in possession of it.

Let me start in the middle, the here and now, because the past is too big an assignment at the moment and who knows what’s going to happen next.

The here and now, today, is early autumn in the east of Ireland, a few yards from a four-lane motorway (paid for at least in part, I assume, by European Union grants), from a newly-built Applegreen service station (paid for at least in part, I assume, by venture capitalists), sipping a coffee (paid for by me with €2.60 of my money), and logging into a public wifi (paid for by me with my personal data).

I’m listening to Spotify (not paid for, although the ads are close to succeeding, primarily because I hate the ads so much, which I suppose is the point), and one of my favourite playlists (“Writing Music.”) by Holly Glenn Whitaker (earns living as: CEO of The Temper, sobriety coach, teacher, writer, speaker, podcaster and Kundalini yoga and mediation instructor, amongst other stuff; followers on Instagram: 69,000; Twitter: 2,000; Medium: 194; Value to the world: Unquantifiable).

A little about me

Perhaps it’s your first time here, and perhaps you’re wondering at this point whether this is worth sticking with this (“It is!” / “I’m biased!”).

If so, allow me a very brief introduction by way of a one-sentence bio, and a one-sentence mission statement.

One-sentence bio: I’m a writer, speaker, life and business coach, podcaster, thinker, believer, doubter and former cynic.

One-sentence mission statement: I run the Life Well Lived Project, which is just finding its feet (so far it’s a podcast, and a series of regular free emails) and its mission is to provide support, guidance and inspiration so that people everywhere can explore, embrace and express the unparalleled wonder of their own individuality and discover a life of new energy, purpose and fulfilment.

[Bonus third sentence: I believe happiness is the driver of almost every decision we make, but for the most part we’re defining happiness wrong, and the redefinition of happiness as a combination of joy and presence now and peace and fulfilment over a lifetime is my life’s work, and for all that I love American values and American energy, I blame the f***ing American constitution for the grave misunderstanding of happiness as something that needs to be pursued, a misunderstanding which has made us hustle and grind and accumulate and horde, mostly because what we’re most afraid of is finding ourselves in a place far in the future where we’re not heard, not accepted and not loved, and all the stuff and trappings we’ve variously accumulated over a lifetime of accumulating might be some sort of balm against the overpowering loneliness.]

But let’s come back to the here and now.

Thinking about the way we think about money

I’m thinking about money.

Or rather, I’m thinking about the way I think about money.

For a long, long time, whenever I thought about money, my defaults were “I don’t have enough” and “That is too much.”

And it turns out that the jump from “I don’t have enough” to “I am not enough” is not a very big one at all.

And when this seeps into all the little brain synapses and neurological pathways, and resides there as the months pass into years and the years whizz into decades, and crackles back into life whenever a $ or £ or € hovers into view, like the world’s most invincible zombie that lives inside your head, well, the effects can be pretty damn big.

By pretty damn big I mean almost everything bad: frustration, resentment, fury, anger, hatred, loathing, withering cynicism, addiction to any self-defeating activity, actual self-harm (wilful or otherwise), violence against others and suicide.

All in all, not good.

But I’m experimenting with something.

An admonition

Last week I was encouraged to reframe my language. Encouraged is a friendly word for the way it was communicated. This encouragement/advice/admonition was nothing new or unexpected to me. I first became fully aware of my default negative tendencies about two years ago.

I used to joke that whereas some people are glass half full people, and some people are glass half empty people, I belong to a third set that doesn’t care how much is in the glass because it’s probably poison. So ingrained was this way of thinking, I think I might actually have made this joke in my short speech at my wedding. But of course, it was only partly a joke. Like all decent jokes, it touched on a deep truth. My deep truth was that in any given situation, I saw no possible upsides and many possible downsides, and included in the downsides I saw was the one that admitted that there were multiple possible downsides I hadn’t considered, because things can always get much worse than we think.

The inverse law of attraction

I thought this level of cynicism was a bulwark against the worst that life could throw at me, but woah I was so wrong. When you expect crap, you get so much more of it than you really expect. [Example: I believe deep down that when I find my way to a plaza in any strange city, there’s always going to be one crackpot somewhere close, and amongst the throngs the crackpot will seek me out like the crackpot heat-seeking missile he is. And it’s always a “he”.]

Perhaps all this is prudence and realism. Perhaps it’s a defence mechanism. Perhaps it’s fixed mindset. Perhaps it’s the law of attraction working in reverse.

Whatever it is, I decided a while back that I’d had enough of it, and when I was encouraged anew to consider the default way I was using language, I decided to try a conscious experiment. To snap out of negative thinking, and where better place to start than the thing that’s been my ever present negative thought companion since I was about six years old.

Money.

But you’d be forgiven for shouting “enough of the carefully constructed sentences [thank you for noticing!] and ditch the flowery language [ah…] what does this mean in practice?”

Here goes.

Invariably, I attach negative meaning to the price tag on almost everything.

I don’t think I’m alone in this.

When I see a pair of well-cut jeans with a €130 tag, I balk. “I could never justify spending that much money on a pair of jeans! Who does that?!?”

When I see a pair of good-looking jeans in a discount clothing store with a €13 label, I balk. “Clearly these jeans are of shoddy quality and the colour will run from the denim by the first wash and the waistband will expand by the second. And anyway, surely poor kids are being exploited in Bangladeshi sweatshops to get these jeans to me in Ireland for a price as ludicrously low as this, never mind the carbon footprint they’re leaving behind, and I want no part in any of that.”

This works across the board.

Conference tickets:

  • €50: “Well, clearly I’m the product and they’re going to try to upsell me something by pulling some emotional strings NLP shit about things that self-respecting men do, and any decision I make from there will be one I regret.”
  • €500: “It’s a two-day conference! How can they justify that? They might get 1000 people in the door. That’s 500 grand! Surely they’d have the hotel for a fraction of that. Somebody’s making a lot of dough in this transaction and it isn’t me.”

Coffee:

  • €2: “What’s wrong with it?”
  • €5: “What’s wrong with me?”

Food:

  • €6 for a spice bag. “Deep-fried in oil, and I’m paying for my own future heart attack in instalments like this.”
  • €16 for a vegan beetroot and bean burger and three large helpings of delicious and nutritious salads. “I’m sure I could make this at home for a third of the price.”

A practical thought experiment about money

So here’s what I’m starting to do, or trying to start to do.

I’m trying to deploy some techniques I learned in cognitive behavioral therapy, and catch my thoughts when the negative associations about money pop into my head. [It’s a substantial job and I wonder if I can find a VA for it, but I’d probably balk at the hourly rate…]

The easiest way I’ve found so far is to force a polar opposite thought to the front of my mind.

When the thought “It’s too much” comes into my head, I’m forcing myself to think “It’s great value”, and see how this affects things.

So far it’s threatening to be transformative.

And as I have aspirations of a six-figure-plus annual income for the next 30 years of my life, and because I fully believe that those aspirations are not at all unrealistic (especially once I can add value to others at scale over the magic of the Internet — thanks Applegreen!), and because that breaks down at approximately €60 per hour of my time given a typical working year, then things can suddenly become look beautifully different.

That €1200 for a family weekend trip to Florence in Italy is no longer unjustifiable because of all the little jobs-to-be-done, but becomes astonishing value, almost unquantifiable as an investment in the continuing development and lifelong memories of our two young children, as an investment in my marriage to a gracious, patient, beautiful woman who put up with me through all the years of torment, as an investment in the expansion of my own mind.

That €2500 for a ride-on lawnmower  is no longer ludicrous, but an investment in feeling great, saving time and avoiding the hassle of endless repairs of the little overworked push Honda.

It’s not to say there are no downsides to this, of course. Seeing every big expense as a valuable investment and acting accordingly is likely a one-way trip to financial bankruptcy.

But equally, occupying the other end of the extreme, as I have for so long and as I expect many people do without even considering that they’re doing it, is a one-way trip to emotional and psychological bankruptcy.

And the latter of those two outcomes might just be the more difficult to shed — particularly as it usually comes with dire financial consequences too.

Don’t miss the rest of The Money Series

I’m not sure when I’ll write another one of these. I know I will, but I don’t know when. I’m pretty good at “will” but not so good at “when”. Would you like to get notified of any future posts in this money series? The best place is to go here and sign up for my regular emails, which will include pointers to future blog posts like this and also updates on podcasts, other writings, events and all the developments of the Life Well Lived Project. If you’d like to get in touch on social media, I’m most active on Twitter here.

Episode 19: Interview with writer and philosopher Ed Latimore on the disease of poverty, the impact of sobriety and how to be a man


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Listen to the archive

You’ll find all other episodes of The Life Well Lived Podcast are here, or at any of the following links:

Other Life Well Lived Podcast interviews you might enjoy

 

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Fear, technology and politics, and what the hell we might do about it

Fear is, of course, one of the most basic of human instincts, but the way it has been engineered by technology and politics for the powerful and the greedy threatens humanity itself.

At a primal level fear is a basic requirement for survival: the need to sustain ourselves through food, shelter, defence systems and reproduction. Anything that endangers these basic needs creates fear, and that fear creates responses in all of us (fight, flight, freeze etc.)

In 2019 in the western world, though, for the vast majority of us our basic needs are not only met but oversupplied.

This doesn’t mean that fear is removed, however. We are fundamentally hardwired to feel fear, because fear (or the responses which fear creates in us) protects and sustains us. Our brain being hardwired for fear as the most basic survival mechanism, it creates fear in us from the environments we routinely surround ourselves in now, which are completely unrecognisable not only from a hundred thousand years ago, but completely unrecognisable even from 5 or 10 years back. In the past 100,000 years, while the environments we have created around us have been totally transformed, how much have humans really changed physiologically? Not much at all, it seems.

The maneuvrings in Boris Johnson’s UK government are a potentially deadly combination of individuals characterised by callousness or cluelessness or both

The fear that we feel, an instinctive species reaction deep in the amygdala of our brains, and moving from there to some form of conscious thought in our neocortex, is at once so old—as old as life gets—and at the same time so new to the 21st century.

So what most creates fear in us now, in the today of 2019?

Both individually and collectively, it is generated as much as anything by the way the world is.

Or to put that more accurately, by the way the world is presented to us, through the Internet-connected devices that—from nowhere, over the course of a dozen years or so—have suddenly become so central to the way we do everything.

We open up Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or whatever else we’re into [a global digital report published in January this year found that on average we have 8.9 social media accounts per person], and we do so, all of us, for more than two hours a day [same report: two hours and 16 minutes per day of social media use by every person, globally].

And what are we seeing in those 136 minutes we spend on social media every day?

We are exposed, for the most part, to whatever is presented to us by the algorithm that knows us deeper than anyone in the world, even ourselves.

As Richard Seymour, the author of a new book about social media called The Twittering Machine, described it in a recent interview with Ken Early on the Second Captains podcast, for hours every day we are both writing and being written: we are writing in that we are publishing our own status updates, videos, stories and shares; and we are being written in that everything we see (and in the future, perhaps, everything we think and everything we do), is being dictated to us and for us by millions upon millions of lines of written code, carefully constructed to learn how we might respond to any given piece of content, and present us with choices based on that mass analysis.

So the algorithms know us better than we could ever hope to know ourselves. In a world increasingly influenced by social media—where Facebook, through its own platform and its multi-billion-dollar takeovers of Instagram, WhatsApp and other tools, is held to be accountable for everything from the 2016 US election result to the Brexit vote to mass ethnic cleansing in Myanmar —the algorithm is the most powerful of all constructs, and the people who create it are the all-seeing, all-powerful Greek Gods of the 21st century.

Fear, technology and politics: All human emotions -- except, of course, fear itself -- are distilled into the Facebook Like button

The full list of main human emotions — except, of course, fear itself — are distilled into a set of emojis within the Facebook Like button

And because the algorithms are designed to measure our responses, whether that’s a response of joy or one of anger, we are shown things that are more likely to generate some response.

This is why any scan of a typical Facebook news feed is as likely to show a cute cuddly cat video, “hilarious” meme or inspirational 40-second clip, alongside the big news stories of the day reduced to preferably sensationalist short clips and video and sound bites that stir emotional reaction but allow no room for any nuance or depth.

Before I get completely lost in the weeds here, you can be forgiven for asking: what has all this got to do with our happiness?

In short, I think, almost everything.

I’ve often quoted Kevin Barry, the Irish writer, who has said, “The Internet is an infinitude: it contains the best and worst of everything.”

The problem as I see it now, however, is that while it still contains the best and the worst of everything, we see or are shown little of the everything in the middle. We see no grey areas, only black and white. We see no detailed discussion over complex issues, only sensational bluster that appeals to the extremes at the far either end of the spectrum.

We see the feel-the-fear worst of everything most of the time, and the feelgood best of everything occasionally, and so many of us cannot help to judge our own mundane everyday existences as tedious at best, and unbearable and unlivable at worst.

While the opportunities created by technology are beautiful and must be maintained, developed and explored, the development of the algorithms for pure profit by capitalising on complex human emotion threatens everything that’s good.

Social media was built on the base human need for connection with other humans, but it has for the most part succeeded in eroding our attention spans, robbing us of the ability to think at length about any particular subject, and moved us around like pawns in a global game where the short-term winners are a handful of billionaire capitalists and the long-term losers are everyone, the entire population of the world, who if things continue on the current path will be stripped of their ability to be, think or act in a way that’s required for basic human self-awareness, self-expression and self-actualisation.

Real World Wall-E

In many ways we’re so close to becoming the people of Wall-E , chronically obese, carted around on self-driving seats with screens in our faces and junk food in our mouth.

The more we become locked into our phones, the less we will see of the real world, and in many ways we’re so close to becoming the people of Wall-E , chronically obese, carted around on self-driving seats with screens in our faces and junk food in our mouth.

What we have in front of us is, on the face of it, an incredible, unprecedented set of opportunities, among them:

  1. the possibility that we can reach people all over the world, virtually instantaneously, and virtually for free, provided we have a message that resonates;
  2. the ability to navigate roads we’ve never travelled on with up-to-the-second information about destination, time required and traffic or obstacles ahead;
  3. the never-before-seen chance to build personal and professional lives that are not tied to the 20-mile radius from your front door, and which can find friendships, audiences and customers all over the world, in real time.

On the other side of that opportunity, though, there is the overwhelm that comes from this new technological norm, which has been specifically designed—using devices and mechanisms that have long been in place in casinos and online gaming rooms—to addict us to always-on phone connectivity and the instant hit of the like notification.

All this has been buzzing in my brain for a couple of years, and among the defence mechanisms I’ve tried to implement include daily disconnection from the almost incessant buzz of technology (my phone is now unwelcome upstairs, and I know when I bring it there I’m on a path to a depressive dip that needs corrective action to avoid) and tangible groundedness to the earth and physical environment that surrounds me. My general success rate has been two steps forward, one step back, but even that has allowed me to see the potential damage all of this can do to my brain, and from there my entire life.

This week I experienced one of the big steps back that occasionally come my way. Over the past week I became glued to the TV screens from the Houses of Parliament in London to watch the maneuvrings in Boris Johnson’s UK government, a potentially deadly combination of individuals characterised by callousness or cluelessness or both.

I couldn’t get away from it.

I watched as Caroline Lucas of the Green Party called out the despicable Jacob Rees-Mogg for lounging full-length across the front benches and treating historic parliamentary debate with utter contempt.

I watched as Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi of the Labour Party delivered a passionate speech in which he asked Johnson to apologise for labelling Muslim women as letterboxes, accusing the prime minister of inciting a spike in hate crime.

I watched as Jess Phillips stood, visibly seething with anger, to say that she does not trust a single word that comes out of Johnson’s mouth [and apologised to the Speaker if such a condemnation might be seen as “unparliamentary”].

I watched as balanced Conservatives like Dominic Grieve and Antoinette Sandbach outlined their reasons for voting against their own Government.

All those moments were captured and uploaded as short clips to the various social media platforms, although as their reach expanded, their power was somehow diluted and diminished, because it was presented alongside the bluster and propaganda of Johnson speaking to camera and on script from the comfort of his office, in a video that will probably have been subjected to paid promotion by people with an agenda, and thus displayed to far more people via careful targeting based on people’s personal data and typical behaviours, than the organic reach of the earlier explosive moments.

When we are presented with two opposite viewpoints like these, two viewpoints that are passionately at the furthest end of the political spectrum, and when each viewpoint taken on its own sounds like it might be plausible, the normal human response is to be confused.

That confusion—the confusion of hearing all sides and understanding none, the confusion of being assaulted on all sides by noise every few minutes of every day, the confusion of being unable to take a step back and away from the storm that is engulfing almost every one of us—is something that triggers the fear deep in our brains, and from there to a rising sense of anxiety, panic, anger or shame deep in our chests.

And authoritarians, dictators and plutocrats crest the wave of that confusion, shame and fear to deliver themselves to power, where they say one thing and do another to their own ends.

I realised with a sinking feeling that the only thing really in my power to do was to switch off, and that switching off was so insufficient.

I realised that there must be a way to be balanced about all the political shenanigans of our time, a way to engage in meaningful discussion about issues that matter without reducing ourselves to snap judgments based on short sound bites that appeal to our basest fears and anxieties, all propelled our way by sophisticated code written by some of the world’s brightest minds at the behest of some of the greediest.

But while disconnecting is insufficient, it is what we must do. We must disconnect from the noise for long enough for us to look around and breathe and rediscover our sense of perspective and wonder.

And then, when we reconnect, because reconnect we must, we must strive to read and watch and communicate intentionally.

We must try to have honesty and integrity in our macro ethos and in our micro conversations.

We must try to embrace compassion and kindness and understanding, because for all our manifold flaws, people up close are mostly good people.

We must try.

The price is too big if we don’t.


Shane Breslin is a writer, coach, speaker and podcaster based in Ireland. He has spoken at a TEDx conference in Dublin and runs the Life Well Lived Project, whose mission is to provide support, guidance and inspiration to help people overcome their own challenges, embrace their once-in-history uniqueness and live a life of vitality, fulfilment and happiness. The Life Well Lived Project includes includes regular writing and a podcast series. You can sign up for free to receive regular email updates from Shane here.

Episode 18: Darren Gavin of the Mental Health Guys blog on all things mental health, compartmentalising his life, how he sees failure, success and lots more