The Power of Feelings

MY LIFE WAS forever changed with the birth of our son Cayden in 2015 and again with our second son Ashton in 2019. Both boys came into this world via cesarean section. But Cayden's story is a little different because his was an emergency C-section. At the time I didn't really think much of it, but several years later that moment has helped define for me the tremendous power of feeling good and to what incredible lengths we'll go to get it.

It was ten o'clock on a Wednesday night when Brittney's water broke. After arriving at the hospital we quickly learned that her contractions were just beginning and with almost no sign of dilation. Nervous and excited all at the same time, we settled into what was beginning to look like a lengthy stay.

Nearly twenty-four hours later and with our progress still moving at a snail's pace, Brittney was given Pitocin to help induce labor. To witness this event is like watching someone go from being almost completely relaxed to having their uterus hardwired to a Tesla's charging station in a matter of minutes. After a few hours of that excitement came the epidural. Now I knew this was a shot to help ease the discomforts of labor. What I wasn't prepared for was the five-inch needle that I was about to witness threaded through Brittney's spinal cord. But all was good and it allowed her some much needed rest for the excitement that was still to come.

The next morning and thirty-six hours after arriving at the hospital it was finally time to start pushing. Again, no big deal on paper but watching a woman try and push a full-term baby out of a hole the size of an egg would be like a man trying to poop out a nine-pound bowling ball. It just doesn't seem possible. This went on for two hours before the doctor was called in to prepare for Cayden's birth.

By the time she arrived there was a growing sense in the room that something was not quite right. First she checked the progress of the baby's movement but he seemed to be literally stuck in the birth canal. You could even see his brown hair a mere inches from daylight. Next the doctor had Brittney push intensely for another few minutes followed by a brief break while she checked the vitals of mom and baby. It seemed both of them were presenting signs of undue stress from the lengthy ordeal so she asked for one more round of pushing before making the call. We're going to have an emergency C-section.

Within minutes Brittney was rushed out of the birthing room and down the hall to an emergency operating room. I was escorted into an adjacent area where I was handed a new wardrobe more befitting that of our impending situation and given a two-minute rundown of what was about to happen. Next thing I know I'm sitting to the left of Brittney's head while the anesthesiologist monitored her vitals from just behind us. What I witnessed next will be forever euphorically burned in my memory. To see your wife, who is completely awake, have her innards pulled from within, as well as a baby, then put back together in just a matter of minutes as the entire staff chats away about their plans for Saturday night, has got to be one for the record books. Or at least mine anyways.

But then I held Cayden. Completely perfect in every way. I found myself overwhelmed with love, shaking with excitement and utterly exhausted from the lengthy ordeal. I thanked everyone in the room a hundred times as the doctor and nurses were busy working through their accountability checklists. They do this to make sure that every single item that came in that room is going to come back out. Down to the last piece of gauze. This prevents anything from accidentally being left inside mom. But in the end I was left with a beautiful baby, a healthy mommy, and one hell of a good feeling.

So why do we intentionally choose to go through such an insanely intense ordeal as childbirth? And in some cases many times over. It is all because of one singular thing and one thing only if we're telling the truth. It makes us feel good. Really good. Not only does it make us feel good mere moments after often intense suffering, but having a child has the potential to make us feel good for our entire lifetime. Seems like a significant payoff for a couple days of intense stress. If the good feelings somehow disappeared then I would wager the entire human population would wither away in just a few short years. But it does make us feel good, so we keep on doing it and have so for many a millennia. Again because it makes us feel good. Every other reason comes after that.

I believe it is of the utmost importance that we begin to realize exactly why we do some things and avoid others. If we can comprehend the real reason why we pursue certain experiences then I believe we can start to consciously self navigation our day. Once you know the truth of your behaviors you can then start to move either towards that which makes you feel good or just as easily away from the people, places, and things that make you feel bad. And for me I've found it to be the only form of motivation that actually works long term. Because it's rooted in the foundation of who we really are. Human beings that were born to do one thing before anything else. To feel.

FEELINGS OVER CIRCUMSTANCES

One can easily fall into the trap of allowing perceived circumstances to become more important than feelings themselves. Too often, we decide that a change of circumstance is needed before we can feel good. Whether it is growing a business, falling in love, buying a bigger house, losing weight, quitting a bad habit, or anything you can imagine, that we have decided we need first.

However, if we begin to focus on feeling good today instead of the desired circumstances of tomorrow, we might just find the two are actually completely intertwined in the long run. The difference may seem insignificant at first but that tiny shift towards feeling good can have astounding results down the road. Here is an example: if you wake up tomorrow and focus on healthy activities that feel good for you instead of just losing weight you may find that in a year's time that swimming and eating smoothies actually makes you feel good and is something you want to keep pursuing. Or you could wake up, skip the feelings altogether, and jump straight into keto and yoga only to discover after that same year you hate keto and loathe yoga. Which not only makes you actually feel bad but no closer to your desire to lose weight. It's the shift towards feelings that makes all the difference.

FEELINGS COMPOUND OVER TIME

Obviously feelings are the the foundation for feeling good. If you don't know how you honestly feel at any given moment then how in the world can you tell if you're feeling good or bad? And if all you really want in life is to feel good then it seems that being able to identify feelings is paramount. The same way your palate matures the more you taste wine, the power of your feelings multiplies as you practice them. It might make little difference when you're talking about simple things like taking a shower or driving to work, yet the influence they will return when faced with much larger situations later on can be enormous. It is often when looking back, sometimes many years later, that we can see clearly the value and wonder of feeling good or the damage of feeling bad and the imprints or scars they have left on our lives.

To say this concept is difficult to appreciate when it comes to actually changing our lives is understandable. We often dismiss feelings because they really don't seem to make much difference with regards to our dreams and desires. If you acknowledge one feeling today, you're still not a great parent. If you recognize two honest feelings tomorrow you're business is still not a success. You could catch every single feeling you have next Tuesday and still be the same asshole you were on Monday. We express a few feelings here and there, but they never seem to really impact our lives so we remove them and then slip back into our robotic and often apathetic habits and routines. Sadly, because the results can take longer than we want, the feelings slide back down on our importance radar. If you neglect your job duties today, which may make you temporarily feel good, you probably won't get fired. If you forget to encourage your children tonight, which might also lead to a brief good feeling, they will forgive you. But not forever.

If you wait to to start practicing feeling until next week then no big deal. A single week of not feeling is easy to dismiss. However, when we neglect feelings, week after week, year after year, by simply doing without feeling, talking without feeling, and planning without feeling, our now small problem can easily exacerbate with often catastrophic results. It's the constipational-like emotional build-up of a multitude of missed feelings--over often a lengthy period of time--that ultimately leads to unforeseen dilemmas.

The power of feelings can be easily seen if you move your hand just a few inches in the wrong direction while attempting to, double ahem, a moment of self pleasure. Look, I apologize if that caught you off guard. But let's be honest, we all do it, it produces a great feeling, and is a superb example of how important feelings really are. If you begin a trip to orgasm land and ignore what feels good vs what feels bad, you risk ending up frustrated and exhausted. Or, what happened to me many moons ago. Believing something is wrong with you and that the whole thing is a hoax. And no amount of lotion is going to make up for not letting your feelings guide one of life's most amazing personal adventures. In order for everything to end with pleasing results, you absolutely must let your feelings guide the experience.

Similarly, a slight acknowledgement in feelings can begin to guide your day towards a better destination. Choosing one or two activities that feel good a day might seem unimportant in the moment, but over the span of an entire lifetime these choices could determine the difference between a life that feels mostly good and one that feels mostly bad. Happiness is merely the product of many feel-good moments.

With that said it doesn't really matter how happy or unhappy you are right now. What truly matters is if today's feelings are preparing you for a lifetime of feeling good. So it's much more important to pay attention to your current feelings than with the overall happiness of your present life. If you have the best job in the world but no good feelings to enjoy it, then something is wrong. If your feelings don't change, I doubt you'll have the job for long, or worse, the job won't have you. Conversely, if you're life stinks today but are working daily towards feeling good, then you're on a path towards feel-good  freedom--even if it's taking longer than you want.

Your overall happiness is a delayed reaction to feeling good. Your bank account is a delayed reaction to your feel-good spending. Your health is a delayed reaction to your feel-good diet. Your brain power is a delayed reaction to your feel-good learning. Your marriage is a delayed reaction to your feel-good moments together. You'll eventually achieve exactly what you've been feeling all along.

If you want to see what your life will look life over time all you need to do is look at the tiny feel goods or feel bad's in your day and then see how they will multiply ten or twenty years down the road. Are you feeling good about your spending each month? Are you feeling good about your health each week? Are you feeling good about your relationships and where they are headed? Slight nuances like these are what could eventually define your future happiness.

Time + current feelings will magnify what your future might look like. It will grow into whatever you fuel it with. Feeling good makes time your friend. Feeling bad makes time your enemy.

Feelings will always be a two-sided dilemma. Feeling bad can hurt you just as easily as feeling good can help, which is why understanding the difference is essential. Seems simple, but knowing your feelings and how to use them within the realms of your natural like's and dislike's is necessary to achieve the best life possible.

FEEL-GOOD INVESTING :: FEEL-BAD INVESTING

FEEL-GOOD INVESTING:
Feel-good activities. Investing in one task that makes you feel good may not mean much on any given day. But compound it over a lifetime and it could become a way of life. The more you can accomplish while feeling good helps to keep your brain free of the misery of feeling bad, which usually doesn't lead to more activities that make you feel good.
Feel-good learning. One day of learning something that makes you feel good may not turn you into the next Einstein or Master Sommelier, but committing to learning in a way that feels good can be an invaluable tool towards overall happiness. Furthermore, each thing you learn that makes you feel good not only teaches you something new but also continues to kindle the fire of learning for a lifetime of learning. Better to feel good learning for a lifetime than to feel bad learning for a month.
Feel-good relationships. Feel good people make people feel good. People project whatever you're feeling back at you. Seek out relationships that make you feel good and cultivate those like they were your own child. Over time you'll have a circle of people in your life that continually make you feel good more often than feel bad.
FEEL-BAD INVESTING:
Feel-bad activities. Doing things regularly that make you feel bad. Arguing with your boss, wife, or children. Over indulging in Chardonnay before breakfast. Too much time on social media. Not sticking up for yourself after being hurt. By themselves these feel bad's aren't going to have you running away to stick your head in the ground. But if they compound over months or years, these minor hurts may develop into much more serious mental, emotional, and or physical feel bad's.

Feel-bad learning. Just because you're Italian doesn't mean you have to love making pasta every Saturday night. Maybe you're more a mac n' cheese kind of gal. If you've tried learning Northern-Taiwanese Mandarin for three years and still hate it. Stop, move on, try a British accent instead. Start looking at learning through your own feel-good set of eyes on not what you think you should be learning or what someone else has been leading you to believe. What you don't want is your feel-bad learning to compound to the point where your learning becomes a turn off. If learning is fun, you'll pursue it your entire life.

Feel-bad relationships. This was one of the first things I began working for myself because I knew it was a big one. I made a list of all the relationships in my life that I interacted with on a regular basis. If they made me feel bad on a regular basis then I began limiting the amount of time I spent with them or simply removed them from my life if possible. What amazed me was how much time I was spending, maybe seventy-five + percent, with people that made me feel bad more often than not. As I often say, hurt people hurt people. A steady stream of feel-bad relationships will not only aggravate and hurt yourself but soon you'll begin spreading the very thing you're trying to avoid.

FEEL GOOD IN REAL LIFE

Imagine you and your best friend take up golfing for the first time. You've got the clothes. You've got the clubs. There's a couple of ice cold beers waiting for you in the golf cart. You're ready to hit your first drives three-hundred yards straight down the fairway.

Your turn to start swinging . . .

You miss the ball completely.
You miss the ball again.
You dig a hole beneath the ball large enough to plant your Taiwanese for dummies book.
You miss the ball again.
You hit the ball. It goes backwards.
You hit the ball, in the water.
You hit the ball. The ball hits the cart and spills your beer. You blame your friend for breathing too heavy.
You hit the ball and watch in horror as it flies at 211 mph towards an unsuspecting grandpa enjoying what may now be his last experience on earth.
Twelve lost balls later.
You hit the ball. The ball flies semi straight for eighty-five yards. You scream hallelujah and high-five everyone within thirty feet. It feels good.

Your friends turn . . .

First swing the ball flies two-hundred-and-seventy yards straight as an arrow towards the pin.

At some point a feel good approach to life will start to make sense but the learning curve is different for everyone. Some get it almost instantly while others may need a few feel-good golfing lessons so to speak.

Learning anything new takes time and navigating your life while trying to check in with the often invisible feelings takes time. But it's really no different than other important habits we've taken time to incorporate into our lives. We tied our shoes without a second thought this morning but many years ago the task took some time to master. Then one day, voila, easy peasy. Even fairly intricate daily tasks like putting dinner on the table which requires planning, shopping, prepping, serving, and cleaning up. Again done everyday and with almost no thought at all. Try giving that task to your five-year old and see how well it goes. The feel good of feeding your family just needed a little time and space to become nearly automatic behavior.

Similarly, learning to check in with your feelings may appear to make little difference until they start to work a little magic in your life. In the beginning of any highly valued adventure there is often a period of frustration. You expect to sing through your day with good feelings as your friend and bad feelings as your enemy only to find the first few days, weeks, or months, a little weird. Like this whole feel-good idea is a big waste of time. It's the exact same with almost all firsts in life when you think about it. Most worth-while actions attempted are a little odd in the beginning.

This weirdness logic is one of the main reasons why it is so hard for many people to make feeling good a healthy routine that lasts. We address a few of our feelings, fail to witness real change by noon, and then quit. You say, "I've been watching Downton Abby all week, so why aren't I any different than before? In fact now I just feel guilty for spending so much time indulging in myself." Once the seed of doubt about the power of feelings starts to take root, it can be easy to let feeling good become a distant memory. In order for those precious internal seeds to produce fruit, all feelings both good and bad, need enough sunlight so-to-speak to be felt. However, the payoffs mentally, physically, emotionally, realtionally, and even spiritually can be spectacular.

What matters most in the beginning is accepting the fact that your feelings are one of life's greatest commodities and have been so since birth. Maybe spend a week or two just thinking about the concept and see if it feels right. Or not. If our feelings are valuable we'll make time for them. If they aren't, we won't. It's that simple. It just takes a little time to rewire the brain to actively pursue feeling good in a world so full of feel bad's.

If it becomes frustrating trying to focus on feeling good and not feeling bad, isn't because you're not capable. It's probably because you were never taught it or you're not quite ready to trust a beautiful part of yourself that may have been dormant for some time. Stressing about not finding happiness despite working hard on your feelings is like being angry that your first golf shot didn't land in the hole. Your time hasn't been wasted but trust takes time in all areas of life if you think about it. But once you're regularly able to navigate a day based on your feelings there's a good chance you'll never look back.

As the day closes in when this feel good approach to life starts to make sense, you might notice something new developing. People around you now seem a little different, perhaps even complete strangers. At first you can't quite put your finger on it, but then it becomes clear. You can now often tell if other people are feeling good or feeling bad.

I find it to be very similar to the instincts of a parent when it comes to picking up on their own children's feelings. It sounds strange but when you think about it, it actually makes perfect sense. The more in-tune we get with our own feelings, it's only natural that we would begin to pick up on others as well. And the benefits of this can be beyond phenomenal. Imagine if you knew within minutes instead of hours, days, or never that your boss or co-worker was having a bad day. What if you could suddenly tell that your wife was feeling good, hence now might be an appropriate time to show her those new diesel RV photos. Or better yet. You're courting a new relationship with someone, which can be a maze of confusion for anyone. Imagine being able to pick up on the subtle nuances of someone's feelings, both good and bad, and then react to them in real time with the appropriate response. To be able to decipher if a relationship is going in a positive or negative direction is really only a matter of reading feelings. And the sooner we know the feelings of ourselves and those around us, the better for everyone involved.

Good things can take some time. And the seed of many feel-good decisions start small and grow from there. As choices to feel are repeated, feel-good roots begin to take hold forming the foundation upon which a better life can now be built. The work in moving away from feeling bad can be difficult because oftentimes the dysfunctional roots are deep and well established over many years. While the work of feeling good is, in many ways, more like returning to a childlike state where feeling good is second nature.

Will you be able to move away from feeling bad and move towards feeling good? Why do some people get stuck in feel-bad behaviors while others thrive in the freedom and truth of simply feeling good?

FEEL GOOD SYSTEM OVER GOALS

We've all heard it a million times. Maybe two. If you want to get ahead in life you need to set attainable goals. Bla bla bla boring zzzzz zzzzz.
My entire life I was taught this and I actually bought into it for far too many years. Nothing against goals. I freaking love goals! But how often do they really work? If you're anything like me, the number of failed attempts far out ways the successes. However if you build the right feel-good system into your life, not only will the goals take care of themselves but you may find you've been setting the goals bar far too low in the first place. Trust me. On the rare occasion when I did reach a goal, I began to notice that it was my system of incorporating good feelings into the equation that was actually making all the difference. A feel-good system not only knows your true inner goals; but they also have the power to reach or even greatly surpass them.
Are goals and feeling good really that different? Goals are simply what you want to achieve in life. Check. A feel-good system is the mechanism by which you reach the pre-desired outcome or goal. And one the most powerful tools you own to help you achieve them is, you guess it. Your feelings.
Think it would feel good to start a successful business? A feel-good system is the way to pick the business, iron out the details within, and keep at it long enough to see some desired results.
Maybe it would feel good to finish a triathlon? Again the right feel-good system will provide the solid foundation you'll need for such an adventure. A feel-good system for eating, training, as well as recovery which you'll need for many months prior to even attempting a triathlon.
Want to learn a new language? Yup. You guessed it. If your system isn't backed by feeling good it's unlikely you'll get past, "This language-o el-suck o!"
So then do goals or dreams really matter? Of course they do. But would you achieve them if you merely focused on a solid feel-good system? What if next January you threw out the goals and instead focused on a system that made you feel good. Would the old goals be met? Would the results come?
I believe so. I also believe your feelings have the power to make your old goals pale in comparison to what you're actually capable of.
To have a successful restaurant you need to make money, but does that money magically appear by staring at the cash register all day? Not a chance. Instead you focus on the food, the service, the wine list and if the system is good--the profits come. Better yet if the system doesn't feel good, you may not open up a restaurant at all. So are goals pointless? I think they can help set a very general tone of what you want out of life. But it's the applicable system and the potential for feeling good that is ultimately going to work best long term. So less time on goals and more time on a feel-good system of getting there. Otherwise you're faced with the same set of frustrations that plagued me for years.
1. FRUSTRATED HALF THE TIME . . . OR MORE
Being goal focused instead of feeling good focused tends to only lend itself to one group. Too often we assume that the winners in life, sports, work, marriage, can be credited with their lofty goals. While at the same time ignoring the rest of us who had the exact same goals but somehow didn't prevail.
Every winemaker hopes to be the next Lafite Rothschild. Every wife wants a happy long-lasting marriage. So if both fortunate and unfortunate people have the same objectives or goals, then it's not the goals that's truly differentiating those at the top of the ladder from those at the bottom. Or look at it this way. It wasn't my goal of being a father that propelled me into the stratospheric club of parenthood. Not once but twice. I had always had the goal of one day becoming a father. However it was only when my wife and I implemented the feel-good system of shagging like rabbits during ovulation that we actually achieved our parental dream.
2. NOT FRUSTRATED . . . BUT ONLY FOR A MOMENT
Your blood pressure is through the roof so you become determined to fix it. Your goal is to get yourself heart healthy. You head to the supermarket, buy every vegetable in sight, then back home to make the world's largest salad and dig in. You will actually be heart healthy. At least for the next few hours. However, if you're back at the donut shop the next morning, which caused the problem in the first place, you'll soon be watching yourself grow in the mirror again just hoping for another burst of supermarket motivation. You end up pursuing results instead of a feel-good system to back it up. Worse yet, it becomes nearly impossible to achieve anything when the system you are using makes you feel bad during a majority of the journey.
Accomplishing a goal only impacts your life for a very short amount of time usually. That is the confusing part about goals vs feeling good. We believe we need to focus on the desired results when what really needs our time and attention is a feel-good system to help get us there. Create the right feel-good system for you and the goals will fix or adjust themselves accordingly.
3. FEEL GOOD TOMORROW BUT MISERABLE TODAY
Circumstantial, goal, or destination thinking usually goes like this: "When I finally get what I want, need, or achieve, then I'll be happy." The downside to this kind of mindset is feeling good in the moment almost always takes a backseat to the overall goal or achievement. This frustration could easily top my list the one thing I have struggled most with in life. Once I'm a successful musician, then I'll be happy. After our restaurant gets in the Michelin Star guidebook, my life will be good. When my marriage is perfect, then it'll be enjoyable.
Another problem with goals which used to really frustrate me. Either you eventually achieve your goals and feel good or you don't and then feel bad. But what about all the hundreds or thousands of hours in between the goals? It seems like a lot of missed opportunity for feeling good. Plus, the odds of life actually playing out in the exact way you've per-determined is not only unlikely but nearly impossible in my experience.
But a feel-good system just might provide the answer. If the journey to victory becomes extraordinary then the destination of success becomes a daily win. And that is the makings for a better life. Anytime your living through a feel-good system there's a chance for success; in the moment. Also a feel-good system has the flexibility to evolve just as your real life's circumstances most certainly will.
4. FEELINGS ARE SMARTER THAN GOALS

One of the things I loathed most about doing music full time was the day after performing a concert. Talk about a swing from feeling great to awful. One night I'm high on life from the excitement and energy of the crowd. Goal achieved of making others feel good for a living to nearly depressed the following morning. Sitting alone in a sterile hotel room with a warm beer for breakfast wasn't even considered during goal setting three years prior. Once the goal is achieved then what? This is why I found life after achieving a goal, even the next morning, to be such a difficult path to navigate.

The reason to build a feelings-based system is to help keep you in the game of life no matter what the outcomes may be along the way. Your feel-good system is much smarter than your goals in that way. Again it provides an adaptable system, based on feelings, that continually changes in ways goals cannot. Plus it's just more fun. And something that's fun is something you'll enjoy doing day in and day out.

THE FEEL GOOD SYSTEM

If you find yourself feeling bad over life's curve balls and failed attempts, then the solution could be the shift to a feel-good approach. Unhappiness is merely the bi-product of not feeling good. Happiness doesn't rise to the level of your dreams. But your happiness will fall to the level of the system upon which those dreams are built. If you are feeling good daily a better life stands a chance. If you are feeling bad daily it's like running the race of life with your shoes tied together.

Indulging in a feel-good system is something that is very important to me. Perhaps you've already guessed that a feel-good system refers to a series of daily feel-good activities that, over time, grow into an overall feel-good life. But feeling good isn't just about feeling good in the moment. A feel-good system is only part of a much larger feel-good picture. Just as feelings are at the core of what we were meant to experience in life, a feel-good system is necessary to tap into the full potential of our feel-good creation.

If feeling good is the foundation of a good life, then each feel-good moment is a building block contributing to your overall well being. In the beginning, these small changes in behaviors may seem insignificant or even silly. But soon that silliness begins to multiply, instilling confidence in continuing to invest in focusing on feeling good. It's like becoming addicted to something you were actually built to be addicted to; feeling good. This is the meaning of a feel-good system--a regular series of activities that are easy to accomplish, but also a great source of emotional, physical, and even spiritual power. And this feel-good power will only compound over time if it's given the right amount of time and space to flourish.

THE POWER OF FEELINGS RECAP

  • Honest feelings are the foundation for a feel-good system. Attaining one feel-good activity each day will grow over time.
  • A feel-good system can be confusing. Remember feeling good will work for you while feeling bad will work against you. In the beginning of any highly valued adventure there is often a period of frustration.
  • At some point a feel-good approach to life will start to make sense but the learning curve is different for everyone. Learning to trust your own feel goods can take a little time.
  • A daily feel-good system is a part of a much larger feel-good life. Just as good feelings is at the core of what we were meant to experience in life, daily feel-good activities are necessary to tap into the our full potential.
  • Your feel-good system is much smarter than your goals. It provides a more adaptable system, based on feelings, that continually adapt and change in ways goals cannot.
  • Happiness doesn't rise to the level of your dreams. But your happiness will fall to the level of the feel-bad or feel-good system upon which your dreams are built.
CONTINUE . . .
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