Your journey towards freedom begins when you acknowledge and take comfort in the ubiquity of bullshit and the cornucopia of flavours that it comes in. Look around you, it’s everywhere and everybody has it: the taxi drivers haggling with their insurance salespeople as they suffer amidst the cacophony of the mid-afternoon traffic; the loveless couple trying to reinject ‘meaning’ into their relationship over a stilted conversation and a soggy latte; the octogenarian on the tea-stained but plush leather seats as her aged fingers struggle to come to terms with the challenges of her new smart phone and she begins to feel out of place in a world that seems to be crumbling before her very eyes (it is, but we’ll save that for another time).
Or what about the barista in the coffee shop hovering listlessly over another pile of mangled garbage as the crumbs of Joe Public’s lunchtime snack stand at their feet as a trail to nowhere in particular; the students studying for exams that they don’t really care about, forcing themselves to remember things that they don’t really need; the empty rules that your boss asked you to follow because he couldn’t come up with anything creative for you to do? The queue in the post office; the mad man that screams out the word of the Lord in the coffee shop and distracts you from your latest opus; the ex-partner that knows the deepest, darkest secrets of your holiest of holes but won’t even return your calls anymore?
Or maybe we can take a whiff of something much simpler: The boredom that you feel from time to time; the pain that you feel every so often; the disappointment; the shattered illusions, the craziness and the horror of it all? Everywhere you look; the same endless malady: reams upon reams of bullshit spewed out in reaction to the inherent meaninglessness of our existence and humanity’s quest to fool itself into believing that it all matters. Life’s great circus carries on without the music yet the monkey beats the drum.
Alas, the ‘Truth’ may be elusive but one thing is almost certain; during our time on earth, as we plod our way through the symbolic theme park of the shopping centres and the office blocks, as we try to fill our time with the empty tasks that we have somehow plugged ourselves into the constant serving of, none of us will be able to escape the stench of bullshit for very long. We’re all knee deep in it, many of us are drowning, and there is nothing we can do about it…
Or is there?
What if I told you that there was a quick and painless cure for the majority of the bullshit in your life? What if I told you that with the right attitude and the right training you could create a bullshit free life for yourself and never have to waste time worrying about the inconsequential ever again? What if I told you that you could deprogram yourself and reclaim control of your intellect and your emotions so that you could be free and happy in a perfumed world of your own design?
I’m sure the cads amongst you would insist with a smirk on your face that I was peddling my own unparalleled flavour of bullshit, but I’m also sure that if you are able to clench your nostrils and follow me into the night, we will learn to see things differently so that, when the dawn arises, things will no longer smell quite as pungent and our short lives will be better in the long-term.
Perfume #1 – Life in the social realm is a constant fluctuation between acceptance and rejection… Forget about both and your bullshit quota goes down considerably.
Whether instilled in us through culture or whether instilled in us thanks to the devil of our genetic programming, the majority of, if not all, human beings grow up with an addiction to the Class A drugs of approval, appreciation, and acceptance. We tend to spend our teenage years looking for ‘somewhere to belong’, chasing after acceptance and a sense that we are ‘seen’ or understood by those around us, finding people that share our values and our ambitions, and building our tribes so that we can make our ways through our lives with a smile on our faces, knowing that we are one of the many, that we matter, that people get us.
This is all well and good, we are social creatures after all, and so to thrive instead of merely survive we need to reach out to the world around us and to contribute to it whenever possible. Problems arise, however, when we convince ourselves that the strokes we get for performing actions are more important than the actions themselves, when our motivation for action becomes the perceived outcomes of these actions alone, not our internal drive and the powers of self-acceptance over self-esteem (see Personal Revolution #54: Self-Acceptance / Self-Esteem).
From time to time, we may find ourselves doing things that we don’t really feel a need to do, or even want to do, purely to be accepted or given kudos by those around us. Sometimes we censor ourselves so that we won’t be rejected. Sometimes we hide ourselves and live as a mask because we don’t know how to make our true inner connect with the other outer. Every time we do this we are reaching out to put our happiness in the hands of another, and, more often than not, we are also asking them to smother our palms with bullshit.
How do these Class A addictions add more bullshit to your daily grind? The more that you pretend to be something that you’re not, the more people will come to you with things that are out of synch with your basic values and vision for your life. The more you say ‘Yes’ and are afraid to say ‘No’ because you don’t want to lose the approbation that you’ve garnered or think that you’re entitled to receive, the bigger the pile of bullshit that people throw your way becomes. Can you blame them for adding to the pile that you have to shovel through if you keep saying ‘Yes’ to it? Of course not. The main source of bullshit in your life is you. It’s time to sort yourself out.
If you want to decrease the amount of bullshit in your life then you have to learn to say ‘No’ to it. You have to be able to distinguish the tasks and actions that are likely to contribute to the self-directed and chosen process of your own goals and actualisation, versus those empty tasks that distract you from the tedium and loneliness of existence in itself, but which essentially leave you in stasis or, at best, caught up in the hamster wheel of your own inaction and lack of determination. To say ‘No’ to bullshit you have to know what is worth saying ‘Yes’ to, and the easiest way to find clarity in this respect, is to know your values and build a purpose around them that you can give to yourself and the world as a gift.
Perfume #2 – Remember: there is an inverse relationship between the amount of bullshit that is thrown your way and your own dedication to your personal purpose and life’s mission…
A simple Truth about life in the social realm is that you get what you tolerate. If people keep coming to you and importuning you with favours that you don’t really feel like doing but do anyway, if things keep going ‘wrong’ and you keep ploughing onwards with a doe-eyed smile upon your face, and a platitude or two to smooth over the discomfort that you feel, then chances are that you’re inviting bullshit into your life. When an unwanted guest marches through the doors as though he owns the place it’s usually because you have failed to set clear boundaries and demonstrate how unwelcome he is.
Maybe this bullshit haunts your days because you have the Class A addiction, already discussed, to be approved of, appreciated, or accepted and so you take on more than you can healthily handle, maybe this bullshit is attracted to you because of the expectations that you carry about the world, what life is, what’s it’s supposed to be, and what it has to offer, or maybe you’re simply too passive and so instead of swimming through life’s ocean of ups and downs to eventually reach the island of yourself, you instead leave yourself out and empty awaiting to drown, treading water as you search desperately to cling onto something lasting, but only ever reach out for bullshit that seeps between your fingers and pollutes the ocean of your life as you flail around desperately trying to keep you head above the water.
The best way to stop yourself from drowning is to stop treading water and to move in the direction of your highest, self-directed purpose. The only way to escape the ocean of bullshit is stop trying to reach outside of yourself for something to cling to and to stand instead on the internal dinghy of your core values, to make these values valuable to as many other people in the world around you as possible, and to dedicate yourself to the process of paddling a little closer towards the bullshit free future that you know you belong in.
What are you core values? They are the values that have been ingrained within you for as long as you can remember, perhaps truth or creativity or justice, or anything else from the ‘higher level’ of human consciousness. Whatever these values are, assuming you can dedicate yourself to a process of action that will bring more of them to the world, they are your ticket out of the swamp and the quagmires and into the lakes and the oceans. Get your thinking cap on, get creative, and get away from the bullshit that a life lived only as a matter of contingency will end up smothering you with.
Ask yourself: What are you planning to do with this short period of time that we call ‘your life’? If you don’t have your own plan then you will end up playing the role of pawn in the grand plans of somebody else and, more often than not, the only parts of the plan that they will delegate your way are the bullshit parts that they don’t want to do themselves. Maybe this will take the form of you scanning barcodes as your soul turns in on itself, maybe you will be tinkering with templates for websites in a robotic manner, maybe you’ll be calling people up and reading a script as you try and line somebody else’s pockets and belittle your own will to live. Whatever bullshit you are currently facing, most likely it is drudgery on hyper drive and does little if anything at all towards moving you in the direction of your Self, your world, and your potential. The cure for escaping it is simple: start to build and work a process that moves you in the direction of these things, not away from them.
When we talk about ‘bullshit’ here, we aren’t talking about ‘problems’. Problems are an inescapable facet of reality and you will face problem after problem regardless of your social status or success in the world. The difference is that whereas you can turn your problems into learning opportunities and use them to pivot into the future that you are building for yourself, bullshit, as a general rule, takes the form of somebody else’s problems passed on to you with absolutely no investment of your time.
‘Bullshit’ is the nonsense that you have to deal with because you are currently too passive in the world, the cost of this passivity being the dwindling of the most precious resources that a human being has; your time and your growth. Every time you partake in the bullshit of another then you’re missing the opportunity to focus on your own process and at least compound your learning on itself so that you can grow into yourself and offer something of lasting value to the world, instead of just the mechanical tasks that will eventually be performed by a robot.
Perfume #3 – As a general rule, if you aren’t learning to cultivate the skills, qualities, or values that you need to become the best possible version of yourself then it’s ‘bullshit’…
Life is short, the clock is ticking, and every moment presents you with an opportunity to either move closer to yourself and your vision for the future, or further away from it. Though we can’t spend literally every second of our lives doing something ‘purposeful’, we can ensure that the majority of the time we have is invested in our future and not merely just spent on coming to terms with the past or distracting ourselves in the present, when we could be both enjoying it and growing in it.
If you want less bullshit in your life you have to be comfortable enough with your values to build upon them and to take action after action, day after day, towards building upon what has already been built and eventually having something that will stand strong for all and everybody. This is your purpose: your values made valuable to others; knowing it means that you can make the right choices when opportunities present themselves and that you have something else to turn to when life gets more tumultuous than you might like.
Look back over your life at the highs and lows you have already ridden out and ask yourself what values were being honoured or dishonoured in those periods. The most emotionally intense periods of our life will always be the ones that reveal the most of who we are at core, show us what is most important, and what we are truly ‘about’. Where these values come from is less important than how they can be used and so, once we have familiarised ourselves with these values, we are able to build processes and take actions around them that will connect us to the other human beings around us on the deepest possible level and make our lives more ‘meaningful’ in the long run.
The cure for bullshit is to build meaning into the structure of your life by choosing a value-based purpose and dedicating yourself to the action necessary to realise it.
If your life is currently not as satisfying as you might like it to be, if you lack energy and vivacity, if you are lost in the quagmire of somebody else’s bullshit because you are a pawn in somebody else’s plans, then chances are that you need to do two things: 1) know your values by looking back at the highs and low points in your life and asking what values were being honoured or dishonoured, 2) working a process around these values that will allow you to take purposeful action towards bringing more of them into the world. Once you are able to do these two things, your life will become more ‘meaningful’ as you begin to interact with others that share similar values and as you take actions that compound on themselves day after day to make more of yourself and your values in the world.
When we know our own purpose and have dedicated ourselves to it, the bullshit on our plate is upgraded from being a meaningless investment of our time to becoming a simple problem or part of reality that can be dealt with as a learning opportunity and move us into the skills, qualities, and even virtues that will connect us to the present with purpose and carry us into the future and our potential.
Choosing and knowing your own purpose is one of the best things that you can do for yourself as it brings focus to the rest of your life, even the challenges, obstacles, and detours that will present themselves along the way. When you know your purpose your relationships with others will improve because you will be able to act with more focus and intentionality and you will be less dependent on others to add meaning to your life. The cure for bullshit is knowing your values and living them; everything smells better when you’re living your own life and not the life that you’ve been told you have to live.
List of Values
What are you going to build for yourself?