Have you ever had a bad workout? I had a bad workout.
I felt sluggish, tired, and mentally weak. I made excuses and cut it short, heading to the locker room with fifteen sets waiting to be checked off in my training log.
I met Dale in the steam room. Dale admits that he didn’t have a great workout either. He tells me his daily goal is swim for one hour. Today he almost quit at the thirty-minute mark, but barely managed to push himself through.
I realize that I’ve seen Dale many times before, shuffling around in the children’s pool, half-walking and half-swimming from end to end, so slowly it barely looks like he’s moving. I had always assumed that beneath his swim cap and goggles, the kiddie-pool shuffler was a in his eighties or beyond. I remember thinking: I hope I’m still as active as he is, when I’m that age.
But Dale is thirty-eight years old. It’s a miracle he’s alive, let alone walking and swimming. His arms and thighs are thinner than my wrists. He has Muscular Dystrophy, and he might have another ten years if he’s lucky.
Sex used to be a joke to me.
I would tell friends that I’m in a stable long-term relationship with a girl named Tinder:
“We see each other once or twice a week, she’s not needy or high-maintenance, and somehow after more than a year, it still always feels fresh and exciting when we see each other.”
I was even planning to take a random from Tinder out for a nice dinner and buy her a fake diamond bracelet for “our” one-year anniversary.
But then the unthinkable happened. Spend enough time at the table, and you’re eventually going to lose.
There are a lot of men have never known the two greatest pleasures in life: the vulnerable, powerless joy of true love; and the vain, prideful thrill of polygynous abundance. There are also men who have always been successful with women, and have never known scarcity. Whenever a man tells you that women shouldn’t be the most important thing in life, I guarantee that they have known one or the other – scarcity or abundance – but not both.
Let me tell you the worst thing about celibacy. It’s not the physical desire. That’s kid stuff. The real pain of celibacy comes from loneliness. Regular human touch is a powerful and necessary component of good mental health, but you only notice how important it is when it’s gone.
When you’re meeting women and having sex regularly, you’re getting all the skin-to-skin contact that you need. As a result, touch has no power over you. A handshake is just a greeting.
When you’re not, you become grateful for every instance of human contact. The casual social rituals of hugs and high fives become your only connection to humanity outside of yourself.
That’s not old. But it’s also not young.
Have I made the best use of my time? Certainly not. I’ve spent years walking down paths that lead nowhere, only to retrace my steps.
I’ll spare you any false modesty. I’m proud of where I’m at today. Even my most catastrophic failures were calculated risks that I would do over. Yes, I made some mistakes in my twenties, but most were necessary consequences of an ambitious and risk-taking approach to life.
But sometimes I think about what I could have done differently. I lament the time that’s passed, and the narrowing of opportunities that comes with the passage of time. I feel envy towards talented young men, like the 19-year old author of Thirty Days To X, and I’m jealous of the extra decade they have to live, experience, and grow.
The Insanity Of Ingratitude
We all take things for granted.
I am an incredibly fortunate person. Can you imagine how many sick and dying people would kill to have my healthy body? Or how many lonely middle-aged men, who have never even kissed a girl, would trade their problems for mine? Or how many forty, fifty, or sixty year old men would give up everything to be twenty-nine again?
And yet – as the first half of this post clearly demonstrates – I am fully capable of throwing myself a pathetic little pity-party. Everyone is tempted by weakness at times.
Maybe you feel that you have a right to feel sorry for yourself. Maybe you feel that you are always the victim of bad luck and bad circumstances. Maybe you really are. But I bet you can come up with a long list of people who would love to trade places with you.
“Are you just going to stand there and feel sorry for yourself?”
This was the favourite taunt of an old rugby coach, whenever someone looked like they were about to quit.
In his view, the worst thing you could ever do was feel sorry for yourself. He saw self-pity as unproductive and self-handicapping. He was right.
Self-pity is disempowering. When you feel self-pity, you surrender to your environment. You admit your inability to rise above your circumstances, you ask for charity and mercy from the universe. You abase yourself to fate, and make yourself a slave.
Self-pity is the opposite of gratitude. It is an easy escape from any challenge that presents itself, because it absolves you from any responsibility for your condition. Choosing to feel oppressed by circumstances is the favourite refuge of the mentally and spiritually weak, which is why self-pity is the default emotional state of Social Justice Warriors.
Gratitude is power
Cultivating gratitude will cure you of any negative mindset. If you’re depressed, angry, envious, embarrassed, disappointed, indignant, despairing, or insecure – gratitude will dominate that negativity. It’s emotional penicillin.
If you’re struggling to get motivated and improve your life, gratitude will help you.
Are you going to justify skipping workouts and eating junk, while thinking about people with degenerative diseases struggling to live until middle age? No. You’re going to work your ass off to become the strongest, healthiest, most lean and muscular version of yourself possible.
Are you going to feel despair at your job prospects, while thinking about the billions of people in poor countries who would love to switch places with you? No. You’re going to leverage your strengths and build a real career.
Are you going to be satisfied with mediocre social skills and relationships, and make excuses for why you’re not doing as well as you’d like with women? Or are you going to push yourself to the next level and start having the relationships you want?
How To Cultivate Gratitude
Gratitude is a mental state that leads to positive actions, but it also works the other way – positive actions will help you develop a sense of gratitude.
Be honest: Are you a negative person? Do you complain often? Are you depressed? Quick to anger? Cruel? Fearful?
If so, you probably suffer from a lack of gratitude. There are many paths to developing a sense of gratitude , but here are a few habits that work for me:
Keep A Journal
I write a journal. Each entry focuses on two things: what I’m currently feeling, and what I’m grateful for. It’s a calming ritual and it forces me to take five minutes a day to be aware and grateful for what I have and where I’m at.
Are you homeless? Are you going hungry? No?
Stick a five-dollar bill to your fridge door to remind yourself to be grateful for the money and financial security that you have. Even if you work at Starbucks, you still have more opportunity than the vast majority of people in the world. You still own a magical device, i.e. the computer or phone you’re reading this article on, which connects you to every piece of art, music, film, literature, and education resources in existence.
Decide right now that you’re going to catch yourself feeling negative emotions in your day-to-day life, and respond to those negative emotions by consciously pushing your inner monologue towards gratitude.
Start right now
Email someone in your life and thank them for something nice they did for you. I guarantee that it will make your day better. Tell us in the comments what you did and how it went.