Weekly 3: Take control of your mood

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Idea Journal Weekly 3
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Idea Journal Weekly 3

July 25 · Issue #201 · View online

We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.


Summary: We have more control over our mood than we think. A key step to being in a positive mood more consistently is acknowledging that. This issue explores a few ideas to help you gain more control over your mood.
(~4 min read)

#1. Negative moods are natural; the key is to move on
Entrepreneur Darius Foroux writes on his blog that, “We all assume that our mood is influenced by outside factors. Things that we do not control.”
But Foroux argues that we’re more in control than we think. 
So, how do you avoid staying in a bad mood caused by external factors? And how can you generate a good mood? 
He offers the following tips: 
Managing a negative mood
The truth is, things won’t go your way all the time. 
As Foroux puts it: “Even the most wealthy, healthy, and happy people deal with the perils of humanity.”
Bad things will happen. But it’s not necessarily a given event itself that’s harmful–it’s our negative reaction that’s the problem. 
Like nearly every process that involves improving something bad, to better manage your negative mood, you must first become aware of the problem. 
Foroux recommends keeping a log of your mood for two weeks. 
You want to find out exactly what triggers your negative mood. 
Bad weather? Lack of sleep? Disrespected by someone?
This first step is all about raising awareness. 
“That’s the only way to snap out of it.”
Generating a positive mood
Let’s say something triggers a bad mood. How do you turn it positive?
First, visualize good things like positive events from the past. Get your serotonin flowing. Step back and see the bigger picture. 
Next, feel free to soak in your sorrow and feel bad for yourself. The trick is to never be stuck in a bad mood “for more than 10 minutes.”
Then, move on. For Foroux: “… what separates the positive people from the negative people is that positive folks never STAY in a bad mood.”
#2. Navigating the happiness paradox
In an interview on The Knowledge Project podcast, chess master and investor Adam Robinson says one of the key life lessons he’s learned is that the secret to happiness is to be fully engaged in your life.
He points out that if someone were to ask him during the interview if he was happy, he wouldn’t know. His attention is focused on the conversation itself, and not his feelings about how the conversation is going.
For Robinson, the paradox of the most important things in life – happiness, love, success – is that you can’t actively look for them.
“If you’re looking for happiness, you’re not doing what you need to do to be happy. If you’re looking for love, you’re not being lovable. If you’re looking for success, you’re not doing whatever it is you need to do to be successful.”
Happiness, like other desirable states, is a by-product – something that catches us by surprise.
In Robinson’s view, if you’re feeling a negative emotion like doubt, fear, frustration, or loneliness, it’s a sign that you need to redirect your attention.
Whenever Robinson is feeling such negative emotions, he asks himself: Where should my attention be right now?
The answer to that question, and his “great revelation of 2016,” is that there are only two places his attention should be: either on the task at hand, or on others.
#3. Use your enthusiasm as a guide
Entrepreneur and musician Derek Sivers writes on his blog that each of us has a compass in our gut, and it points in 2 directions:
  1. What excites you
  2. What drains you
Sivers uses the following rule when gauging the value of advice, deciding whether to pursue an opportunity, and even when navigating little, everyday decisions: whatever excites you, go do it; whatever drains you, stop doing it.
For example, say you’re being offered a job and the people making the offer are on the phone waiting for an answer. Does it excite you or drain you?
Or, you hear about some new technology, and people are saying you need to check it out. Does it excite you or drain you?
Beyond the necessities, there are very few things you must do, so it’s important to choose wisely.
In fact, whatever you hate doing, someone out there probably loves doing it. If it’s necessary, find them and let them do it.
Sivers acknowledges that this rule of following the compass in your gut isn’t perfect, and it probably can’t be applied to every situation.
But if you work towards this ideal, “soon you’ll be doing what excites you the most,” and you’ll be on the path of doing what you’re meant to do.
Quote of the week
“Choose the non-emotional response to any given situation and see how much easier your life becomes.”
- Entrepreneur and investor Naval Ravikant on Twitter
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